Saturday, July 28, 2007

Why Civil Unions Aren't Enough

Why Civil Unions Aren't Enough
By Greta Christina, Greta Christina's Blog
Posted on July 28, 2007, Printed on July 28, 2007
There are plenty of reasons why civil unions really aren't equal to marriage -- even if the rights and responsibilities spelled out in a state's civil union law are identical to marriage in every way.

There are legal reasons why they're not equal -- marriage is recognized in every state and indeed every country, while civil unions aren't; so the rights and responsibilities don't necessarily travel with you when you leave the state that granted them.

There are emotional reasons -- marriage is an institution/ ritual/ relationship that has existed for thousands of years, one that has tremendous resonance in our culture in a way that civil unions simply don't. And there are moral reasons -- as history has born out, separate but equal is pretty much by definition not equal.

But if none of those convince you, here's a really good practical one.

As of right now, five months after New Jersey's Civil Union Law took effect, at least 1 out of every 7 civil-union couples in New Jersey are not getting their civil unions recognized by their employers.

One out of 7 is 14 percent.

If 14 percent of married couples in New Jersey were being denied full, legally-guaranteed marriage benefits by their employers, there'd be outraged stories on every news source in the region, and quite possibly rioting in the streets.

And actually, it's probably more than 1 out of 7. The 1 out of 7 figure comes from 191 complaints reported to Garden State Equality (out of 1,359 civil-union couples) -- and chances are excellent that not everyone who's having problems is reporting it. And before you ask -- no it's not just one big bad company that's skewing the results. According to Garden State Equality, the 191 cases involve close to 191 companies.

So civil unions aren't just legally unequal to marriage; they're not just emotionally unequal; they're not even just morally unequal. They're unequal in the most literal, practical sense of the word. Even in the state where the civil union is the law, people in civil unions are not being treated the same by their employers as people who are married.

I get that civil unions are a big step forward. There are times when I'm astonished by the fact that "well, same-sex marriage is out, but civil unions would be okay" has become the moderate position on the issue, maybe even the moderate- to- conservative position.

I get that they're better than nothing -- heck, six out of seven civil-union couples in New Jersey are getting their benefits, and that's not trivial. And I get that, the Supreme Court being what it is right now, it may not be the best strategy to put same-sex marriage to a test on the national level until we get some new faces on the bench.

I'm just saying: It's not the same. It's not enough. And I am disinclined to pretend that it is. This fight will not be over in this country until same-sex marriage is legal and fully- recognized in all 50 states. You can put nice cushions in the back of the bus -- but it's still the back of the bus.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Where the Dems stand on Gay Rights

Where They Stand: Part One
Our forum primer on how the Dems see GLBT issues.

by Jennifer Vanasco,

For the first time in history, the major candidates from a major political party – Democrats, of course – will be gathering in a public forum to discuss gay issues in front of an audience of gay people.

The forum, called “The Visible Vote ‘08" and sponsored by LOGO (which owns 365Gay) and HRC, will be broadcast from Los Angeles on August 9 – already, GLBT’s from around the country are submitting video questions.

A significant amount of information is already out there about the candidate’s take on the issues. Before you send in your questions, do a little prep work: here, in two parts, is a round-up of what the Dems have said they believe.

Part One, below, will focus (in alphabetical order) on Hilary Clinton, Mike Dodd, John Edwards and Mike Gravel; Part Two, next Friday, will put the spotlight on Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson.

We bullet the issues that are easily quantifiable—a candidate’s stance on marriage, for instance—and then try to sum up in a paragraph or two some of the nuances.

What will they say during the forum? Print out our round-up before you watch The Visible Vote '08 and see if they are consistent with their histories, or if on that historic night, they decide to break new ground.


Equal Marriage: Voted twice against the Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage (called the Federal Marriage Amendment, or FMA). If the amendment were enacted, it would have restricted marriage to a man and a woman. It may also have restricted civil unions and domestic partnerships. However, during her husband’s administration, she supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage.

She seems to both oppose same-sex marriage and an amendment against it, which, in political circles, is considered a compromise position.

She is on record as supporting civil unions.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Has supported ending the policy since 1999. Recently defended Pres. Clinton’s implementation of DADT as “an important first step.” She has also said that DADT “hurts all of our troops and this, to me, is a matter of national security.”

Hate Crimes: An original co-sponsor of the bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to groups protected by hate crimes legislation.

ENDA: Has committed to passing the federal law outlawing employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. She says she will introduce a measure extending benefits to the partners of federal employees.

HIV/AIDS: Co-sponsored legislation to bring Medicaid coverage to low-income , HIV-positive Americans. Pressed for full funding of the Ryan White CARE Act, an increase of $236 million.

Transgender Issues: Signed the GenderPac Diversity Statement affirming that they do not discriminate in hiring when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Supports including gender identity and expression in both ENDA and hate crimes legislation, though as late as last fall, she did not support trans inclusion in ENDA.


As early as 2000, Clinton supported full domestic partnership benefits for gays and lesbians, back before Civil Unions were really on the table.

She also supports full rights for gay parents, including adoption rights. She was not a co-sponsor of the Uniting of American Families Act, which would provide same-sex partners with the same immigration benefits as legal spouses, but she supports the legislation.

In October 2006, she said, “I believe in full equality of benefits, nothing left out. From my perspective, there is a greater likelihood of us getting to that point in civil unions or domestic partnerships, and that is my very considered assessment.”

In her position paper on gay rights, Clinton says, “The LGBT community will always have an open door to a Clinton White House.”


Marriage: Supports civil unions but not marriage. Voted for the Defense of Marriage Act.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Calls for the repeal of DADT.

Hate Crimes: Voted yes to add sexual orientation to the definition of hate crimes; strongly supportive of expanding hate crimes to include GLBTs.

ENDA: For the prohibition of job discrimination by sexual orientation.

HIV/AIDS: Worked for significant HIV funding in Connecticut; introduced the Children and Family HIV/AIDS Research and Care Act of 2004 which expanded the Ryan White CARE Act to focus more on children and teenagers from low-income families.

Transgender Issues: For the inclusion of gender identity and expression in ENDA and hate crimes law.


Dodd has stayed fairly quiet on LGBT issues, letting the more popular candidates draw fire. This inexperience shows, perhaps, in the confusing response he continues to give when asked to distinguish between marriage and civil unions. He talks about how much he loves his daughters and then says, basically, that if they were gay “they ought to be able to have those loving relationships sanctioned.” Then he immediately follows with: “I don’t support same-sex marriage.”

He says he supports his home state of Connecticut’s new civil unions, but that marriage “is between a man and a woman.”

However, as the author of the Family and Medical Leave Act, he supports including domestic partners/civil unions in the definition of family.

Dodd has been very outspoken in his support for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, telling a group of firefighters in March: "There have been plenty of soldiers who have served in the military who were highly respected and revered and were gay and lesbian. It should be realized that we need every good person in the armed forces we can get, and that the idea of excluding for an orientation is ludicrous."


Marriage: Supports the repeal of DOMA and the federal recognition of same-sex civil unions, which, he says, should carry all the benefits of marriage, including expansion of Social Security benefits and the Family and Medical Leave Act. He told HRC, “Gay marriage is an issue I feel internal conflict about and I continue to struggle with it.”

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Supports the repeal of DADT; believes service members should be treated equally and in a way that promotes national security, without regard to their sexual orientation.

Hate Crimes: Co-sponsored hate crimes legislation that included sexual orientation.

ENDA: Co-sponsored ENDA when in the Senate; called for stronger federal accountability when it comes to discrimination.

HIV/AIDS: Co-sponsor of the Ryan White CARE Act. Told HRC, “There is an urgent need for more resources in the fight against HIV/AIDS.” Supports more funding for research and universal health care.

Transgender Issues: Supports the inclusion of gender identity and expression in ENDA and hate crimes legislation.

Comment: One of the most interesting aspects of John Edward’s presidential campaign is actually his wife, Elizabeth Edwards. Elizabeth Edwards has come out in full support of same-sex marriage, which reportedly surprised her husband.

John Edwards has been upfront about the internal conflict he feels around gay marriage; it is the only issue in which he is not in line with HRC’s stated agenda, though he supports full marriage rights, including gay adoption and equal tax law, if the result is called “civil unions.”

In a June 2007 CNN debate, Edwards said, “My wife Elizabeth spoke out a few weeks ago and she actually supports gay marriage. I do not. But this is a very difficult issue for me. And I recognize and have enormous respect for people who have a different view of it.”


Marriage: Unequivocally supports same-sex marriage and opposes the Defense of Marriage Act. If marriage can’t pass the Congress, supports full domestic partnership/civil union benefits.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Told college students in June that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ should have been gotten rid of 20 years ago.” Declared in a press release that it is unconstitutional, and said that if he were president he would issue an executive apology to GLBT soldiers who had served while in the closet. Called for General Peter Pace’s resignation after the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called homosexuality immoral.

Hate Crimes: Fully supports inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

ENDA: Fully supports.

HIV/AIDS: Supports increased funding for the Ryan White CARE Act, increased funding to assist low income HIV/AIDS victims.

Transgender Issues: Opposes any laws or measures that discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression.

Comment: Sen. Mike Gravel, a dark horse with very little in his campaign war chest, has room to be a bit of an iconoclast, and he is. In a press release, the former Senator from Alaska spelled out very progressive views on gay and lesbian rights, including full marriage and the repeal of DADT. He also says that he opposes any state or national constitutional amendment that restricts the rights of the LGBT community.

He has said that “love between a man and a man or a woman and a woman is beautiful.”

And in the Huffington Post: “As long as our nation deprives gays and lesbians of basic rights, including marriage, we have not fulfilled the promise of the Declaration of Independence guaranteeing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all Americans.”


© 2006

Friday, July 27, 2007

Chuck and Larry emits tolerance on gay marriage

Buck stops at "Chuck" on gay marriage issue

By Gregg Kilday
Friday, July 27, 2007; 3:18 AM

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Within the U.S., same-sex marriage might be legal only in Massachusetts. When the subject comes up in political debates, most major politicians are quick to duck and cover.

But if Adam Sandler's comedy "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry" proves anything -- beyond the fact that Sandler hasn't lost his knack for turning out mainstream comedies -- it's that the multiplex crowd, though it might be squeamish about gay sex, isn't scared off by the sight of men exchanging rings. That was demonstrated when the Universal release opened at No. 1 last weekend with North American box office sales of $34.2 million.

Now, no one has ever accused Sandler of being a social crusader. Although he has been gay-friendly in the past -- his 1999 comedy "Big Daddy" included a gay male couple without making too much fuss about it -- Sandler aims right down the middle of the road with his comedies, which he produces through his Happy Madison Prods. with his producing partner Jack Giarraputo. (Sandler isn't averse to taking risks, but he saves those impulses for his more serious dramatic turns such as "Spanglish" and "Punch-Drunk Love.")

"Chuck" is no exception. Right off the top, the movie establishes Sandler's character as a regular guy, a Brooklyn firefighter whose free time is divided between pickup basketball games and warding off the attention of the ladies. When his buddy Larry (Kevin James) proposes that the two pose as gay to score domestic-partnership benefits, Chuck's first response is to sputter, "You mean like faggots?"

But as Chuck and Larry's masquerade encounters anti-gay discrimination, that attitude changes. By film's end, Chuck is lecturing a crowded courtroom against the use of the f-word. The movie ends with a surprise gay wedding that has most of its characters applauding.

Not that the movie isn't strewn with gags that are likely to make gay audiences cringe. The straight characters seem obsessed with the mechanics of gay sex, and the gay characters -- who pop up at an outlandish costume ball -- are outfitted, quite literally, like butterflies in heat.

Still, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation gave the movie, on which it was invited to consult, its qualified endorsement, noting that "some stereotypes and anti-gay slurs are employed" but that "the overall message of the film is still one that stresses the importance of family and acceptance." Mike Vissichelli, president of FireFLAG/EMS, an organization comprising New York's gay firefighters, said that "The 'coming out' process in the movie mirrors what I, and many of my colleagues, have gone through on the job."

"Chuck" isn't really advancing a social agenda, though. Its success is more reflective of changing attitudes. A Gallup poll released in May found that 46% of voters now approve of the idea of gay marriage. Even more striking, 62% of voters younger than 35 approve, and that's a big enough piece of the demographic pie to ensure a major studio success.

If anything, "Chuck" shows how Hollywood evolves to keep up with the times. Nearly 40 years ago, the comedy "The Gay Deceivers" spun a tale about two straight guys who pose as gay -- to escape the Vietnam-era draft -- but it was relegated to the sidelines. In 1982, Ryan O'Neal played a straight cop camping it up as gay to investigate murders in "Partners," but Paramount was so nervous about the premise that the movie poster depicted O'Neal's cop aiming a gun to his head in a supposedly comic pose.

"Chuck" simply invites gays into Sandler's brand of human comedy -- it might be broad and crude, undercut with a big dose of sentimentality, but it's also all-inclusive.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

If You Want to be Leader, You Can't Be Afraid to Lead

If You Want to Be a Leader, You Can't Be Afraid to Lead

Evan Wolfson
Thu Jul 26, 5:37 PM ET

On Monday in the first-ever CNN/YouTube Democratic Presidential debate, Americans directly challenged candidates to address the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. The questions posed by people sharing their stories and truly looking for answers were clear and concise. The candidates' answers, on the other hand, while affirming, were still incomplete and unconvincing, leaving voters unclear as to why those who say they are for "equality" are not, in fact, supporting that equality under the law when it comes to the simple and cherished freedom to marry.

Ironically, the record shows that the candidates' timidity is unnecessary, as Americans are ready to accept leadership on this question.

Mary and Jen in Brooklyn, New York asked a direct question: "If you were elected president of the United States, would you allow us to be each other?" Rep. Dennis Kucinich gave a clear and powerful affirmative (former Senator Mike Gravel also shares this stance, but wasn't offered an opportunity to respond). The others who answered all professed their support for equal protections for same-sex couples, but then offered Mary and Jen not the freedom to marry the candidates themselves have enjoyed, but other legal mechanisms that fall far short of marriage. In their aspirations, the candidates got the 'what' right--equality, but when it came to their policy positions on the 'how' -- ending the denial of the freedom to marry to committed same-sex couples -- they fumbled.

While marriage, under U.S. law, is a civil union, "civil unions" or "domestic partnerships" are not marriage, and do not provide what only the freedom to marry does. These alternative legal mechanisms have deliberately been created both to approximate and withhold marriage itself. Six years since the first civil unions (in Vermont), and with several states (California, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, and Vermont) now having gone down the non-marriage path, real-life application has shown that such separate alternatives do not provide equality in either the intangible or tangible protections, security, clarity, and respect that marriage brings.

The only way to end discrimination in marriage is to do just that -- end discrimination in marriage, not create a parallel and unequal thing for some committed couples and their kids.

The second question came from Rev. Reggie Longcrier, a pastor from Hickory, North Carolina. "Most Americans agree it was wrong and unconstitutional to use religion to justify slavery, segregation, and denying women the right to vote," said Rev. Longcrier. "So why is it still acceptable to use religion to deny gay Americans their full and equal rights?"

Senator John Edwards concurred that it is wrong for "any of our faith beliefs to be imposed on the American people when we're President of the United States." He then talked about his "enormous personal conflict" on the marriage question, and referred to his "journey on this issue." In this, Senator Edwards aptly captured the rethinking many fair-minded Americans are experiencing as gay and non-gay family-members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers invite conversation about who gay people are and why marriage matters. I am a big believer in encouraging people on these "journeys" to fairness, as described in my book, Why Marriage Matters.

However, none of what Senator Edwards said answered the basic, and correct, question posed by Rev. Longcrier. Since the Senator rightly agreed that using "religion to deny gay Americans their full and equal rights" is wrong, and also believes, he says, in the provision of all legal rights and responsibilities, then why doesn't he support the freedom to marry under the law?

Senator Edwards was not the only candidate trying to have it both ways. Senator Barack Obama gave perhaps the most frustrating answer of all. Dodging the moderator's reminder that interracial couples, such as his parents, were denied the freedom to marry as recently as 40 years ago, Obama skipped over legal marriage rights, the question at hand, and invoked religious rites of marriage, an entirely different matter: "Now, with respect to marriage, it's my belief that it's up to the individual denominations to make a decision as to whether they want to recognize marriage or not. But in terms of, you know, the rights of people to transfer property, to have hospital visitation, all those critical civil rights that are conferred by our government, those should be equal." Surely, Senator Obama is well aware of the difference between civil marriage, a legal status established by our government which confers those very civil rights of which he speaks, including the rights to property transfer, hospital visitation, etc., and religious recognition of marriage, which each religious institution already determines for itself. Why doesn't he support non-discrimination in the government's issuance of legal marriage licenses?

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson's answer was perhaps the most revealing. Asked about marriage, he took a pregnant pause and sidestepped by saying that he wanted to work for "what is achievable." While this tacit support for marriage equality, similar to a position offered by Senator Hillary Clinton in October 2006 is welcome, people should not have to parse to figure out where their leaders stand; that's not leadership. And, of course, note to all politicians: an end to exclusion from marriage is achievable, if only enough supporters of equality would actually start achieving. See Massachusetts.

Americans are hungry for, and respect, candidates who speak up for what they believe. As public opinion continues to move toward greater support for gay people's freedom to marry, tellingly, political leaders who have voted right on marriage have, in fact, been elected and re-elected:

To date, every state legislator, including those running in conservative districts, who voted to support the freedom to marry and ran for re-election won. Even state legislators who evolve from opposing to supporting the freedom to marry win; in Massachusetts they showed a 100 percent re-election rate.

A report published by the Human Rights Campaign after the 2004 election found 94 percent (604 out of 640) of state legislators nationwide who voted in 2004 against discrimination were re-elected in the 2004 election.

Open-seat races with both a pro-marriage and anti-marriage candidate have most often resulted in victory for the pro-marriage candidate. Pro-marriage candidates won a vast majority, 71 percent, of the races, and none of the pro-marriage candidates lost their races because of their stance on the freedom to marry.

The public's journey on marriage and gay people's place in society gives candidates another reason to show courage. Americans continue to move in the direction of equality, with opposition on marriage equality lower than many believe. Perhaps most important for the candidates and their nervous consultants, a March 2007 Newsweek poll of nationwide adults found a strong majority, 59 percent, of Americans would not vote against a presidential candidate if she or he strongly supported full marriage rights for same-sex couples. According to the Task Force, one in five Americans live in states which offer some type of recognition and protection to same-sex couples -- virtually none of which existed just seven years ago.

In his newly released book, already popular among Democratic presidential candidates, The Political Brain, author Drew Westen asserts, "If you want to win elections, you can't assume your values. You have to preach them. If one side is running on values and the other side is running from them, it isn't hard to figure out how the electorate will start thinking, feeling, and talking about values." The values here are equality, fairness for families, commitment and love. Most of the Democratic presidential candidates affirm their belief in these values, but stop short of preaching or implementing them when it comes to policy.

The American people deserve leaders who aren't afraid to lead. The good news coming out of the CNN/YouTube debate was that the Democrats all talked about equality (the Republicans will have their turn, but so far none comes close) - and Americans like Rev. Longcrier and Mary and Jen are not going to stop prompting them to do better when it comes to action, not just talk. Ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage is the clear and correct answer to the question of how to achieve equality. What's more: it is achievable. Candidates who say they want equality (and the votes of those who believe in equality) should be prepared to live up to their values and lead the way.

Copyright © 2007 All rights reserved. The information contained in Huffington Post commentary may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior written authority of

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ireland to get civil partnership

Ireland To Legalize Gay Civil Partnerships
by Newscenter Staff

Posted: July 25, 2007 - 5:00 pm ET

(Dublin) Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern announced Wednesday that his government will bring in legislation giving same-sex couples the same rights as married pairs.

The legislation would be similar to Britain's civil partnership law that gives gay and lesbian couples all of the rights of marriage except the name.

Ahern said he would push through the legislation "as soon as possible".

"This Government is committed to providing a more supportive and secure legal environment for same-sex couples," he said.

The announcement comes at the Supreme Court prepares to hear a case involving same-sex marriage rights and five months after a private members bill that would have allowed civil unions was defeated in Parliament.

The court case involves Ann Louise Gilligan and Katherine Zappone an Irish couple who were married in Canada and want the marriage recognized at home. (story)

Last December a lower court ruled that the marriage cannot be recognized under the constitution.

The private members bill was introduced by Labor Party justice critic Brendan Howlin and was modeled after Britain's civil partner law. At the time Ahern said that the bill equated civil partnerships with marriage and after warning the legislation would be rejected by the Supreme Court Parliament his government voted against the measure.

But Ahern conceded that same-sex couples need legal protections.

Since then Ireland's LGBT community has pressed the government to act.

Two government committees have recommended civil partnerships but without many of the rights of marriage, including the right of couples to adopt children.

Recent public opinion polls show that 84 percent are in favor of some recognition of same-sex couples while 53 percent would allow gay couples to marry.

© 2007

NM Gays Can Marry in Mass.

NM Gays Can Marry in MA!July 25th, 2007
» Post A Comment
New Mexican homos may want to consider a trip to Massachusetts. From GLAD (not GLAAD) via gay mama blog Mombian:

Because New Mexico’s laws do not prohibit marriage between parties of the same gender, there is no impediment to New Mexico same-sex couples marrying in Massachusetts.

…The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, via the Department of Public Health and Registry of Vital Records and Statistics, issued a corrective notice to all Massachusetts city and town clerks authorizing them to allow same-sex couples from New Mexico to apply for marriage licenses.
Equality New Mexico celebrates the decision, but reminds readers, “it’s not just a political gesture, but rather is about taking on all the responsibilities, legal obligations, joys, and wonder of being married

CT gets new Family Institute leader against same-sex marriage

New Leader At Family Institute
A Former Liberal, State Native To Head Campaign Against Same-Sex Marriage

By DANIELA ALTIMARI | Courant Staff Writer
July 26, 2007

His grandfather was a New Deal Democrat who idolized FDR and his great-uncle was a New York intellectual who moved in radical Socialist circles. In high school, he marched to protest the arms race and in college, he was president of the campus Democrats - a high point was meeting Bill and Hillary Clinton.

But in law school, Peter Wolfgang's world view shifted. He began reading conservative writers, his connection to Catholicism deepened and he grew increasingly disillusioned with the pro-choice philosophy of his liberal friends.

The spiritual and political journey Wolfgang set off on a decade ago has brought him to the top of one of the state's most prominent conservative groups. This month, he took over as executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, which is leading the charge against same-sex marriage in the state.

Wolfgang's steady voice and earnest, scholarly demeanor are markedly different from the in-your-face style of his predecessor, Brian Brown, who has been the group's public face since 2001.

Brown, who hails from Orange County, California, predicted that Wolfgang's Connecticut roots will serve him well in the land of steady habits.

"Peter has connections around the state," said Brown, who is leaving to take charge of a new group dedicated to fighting same-sex marriage at the national level. "He's very much a go-getter and he's in this for the fight."

Wolfgang, 37, is the son of a Catholic woman of Portuguese heritage and a secular Jew from Hartford's North End. A native of Manchester who graduated from American University and the University of Connecticut Law School, he now lives in Waterbury with his wife, Leslie, and their four children.

After reading a newspaper column six years ago about the family institute, Wolfgang e-mailed Brown. He was a stay-at-home dad at the time and wanted to get involved.

Soon, he was hired as the institute's public policy director. His wife quit her job and began home-schooling the children.

"I had just been through this intellectual journey and I wanted to do what I could for the conservative cause in Connecticut," Wolfgang recalled. "I knew it would be an uphill battle."

Wolfgang was a frequent visitor to the state Capitol.

He lobbied in favor of one bill that would have required parents to be notified if their underage daughter seeks an abortion and another that would have established an electronic registry to keep sex offenders off the Internet.

But it is same-sex marriage - what he calls the family institute's "signature issue" - that has consumed most of his attention.

This being Connecticut, it has at times been a lonely crusade, despite the large crowds and diverse base of support he has helped to assemble.

The family institute lost a major battle in spring 2005, when the legislature passed, and Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed, a bill legalizing civil unions in the state.

This year, a same-sex marriage measure made it through the judiciary committee, but did not come up for a vote in the House and Senate after supporters concluded it probably wouldn't pass this year. However, they vow to try again.

"There is this real sense of a state government that has somehow lost its moorings, that it doesn't represent the people," he said.

He says he is gratified by the scores of people who have called and written.

"We get calls all the time: `Thank God you're out there,"' he said.

The courts may decide the matter: Eight gay and lesbian couples have filed a lawsuit seeking the right to marry. The case is pending before the state Supreme Court.

Whether it is attained through the courts or the legislature, supporters say same-sex marriage is inevitable. They cite polls that show most young people favor permitting gays and lesbians to marry.

Wolfgang disputes that view. "I would offer myself as Exhibit A," he said. "If you had asked me 15 years ago if I was in favor of same-sex marriage, I would have answered yes. But you grow, you mature, you have life experience that gives you perspective."

In coming months, he intends to start a youth wing to promote conservative activism.

He also intends to broaden the group's focus on other issues, such as promoting fatherhood and protecting parents' rights to home-school their children, though fighting same-sex marriage remains the main mission. (Anne Stanback, who leads the gay rights coalition Love Makes a Family, declined to comment on the leadership change at the family institute.)

Wolfgang draws enormous strength from his religion. He grew up "an Easter-and-Christmas Catholic" but that changed when he was attending law school.

Leslie Wolfgang, a former atheist, was converting to Catholicism, and her experience led him to embrace a more conservative form of the faith.

He recently moved into Brown's office, located in the institute's Buckingham Street headquarters.

The room is mostly bare: Brightly colored crayon drawings created by his children adorn one wall. A print of George Washington, kneeling in prayer before his horse in the snows of Valley Forge, hangs on another.

The scene depicted in the painting probably never happened, Wolfgang said. But he likes it anyway.

"It shows Washington recognizing a higher power," he said. "It captures the proper balance of faith and politics."

Contact Daniela Altimari at

Copyright © 2007, The Hartford Courant

Mich. SC rules against taxpayers challenging same-sex benefits

Mich. SupCt rules against taxpayers challenging same-sex benefits
7/25/2007, 11:09 a.m. ET
The Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled against 17 taxpayers who filed a lawsuit challenging the Ann Arbor school district's same-sex benefits policy.

The justices agreed the citizens cannot proceed with the suit, though some disagreed over the reason why.

The case involved whether the taxpayers followed the proper procedure to stop Ann Arbor Public Schools from offering benefits to gay couples.

The state appeals court dismissed the case in 2005 and ruled the taxpayers didn't "demand" that the district stop providing the benefits to gay partners before filing suit, as required under state law. They had sent letters to school board members asking them to stop the policy.

The high court's majority said the taxpayers did enough to challenge the policy but still ruled the plaintiffs lacked standing, or the right to sue.

The broader issue of same-sex benefits stems from a 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment making the union between a man and a woman the only agreement recognized as a marriage "or similar union for any purpose."

The Supreme Court will hold oral arguments on the constitutionality of same-sex benefits in the next term.

Ohio gay marriage friends, foes hail domestic violence ruling

Gay marriage friends, foes hail domestic violence ruling

Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio's domestic violence laws do not conflict with the state's ban on gay marriage, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

In a 6-1 decision, justices rejected the argument that the domestic violence law is unenforceable in cases involving unmarried couples because it refers to them as living together "as a spouse."

The ruling was applauded by gay rights and civil rights groups, advocates for domestic violence victims and, in an odd confluence, the anti-gay marriage group that had sided against them in court.

Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger cast the lone dissenting vote.

The decision came in a case in which a man accused of assaulting his live-in girlfriend argued he could not be charged with domestic violence because the ban on gay marriage, adopted as a constitutional amendment in 2004, prohibits the state from assigning legal status to unmarried couples.

Chief Justice Thomas Moyer said in the opinion that the domestic violence law included many groups and that describing people's living arrangements isn't the same as assigning them legal status.

"(I)t is a person's determination to share some of life's responsibilities with another that creates cohabitation," Moyer wrote. "The state does not have a role in creating cohabitation, but it does have a role in creating a marriage."

Lanzinger argued that the majority misinterpreted the amendment "thus saving the statute from being declared unconstitutional."

"Using the term 'living as a spouse' within the definition of 'family or household member' clearly expresses an intent to give an unmarried relationship a legal status that approximates the 'effect of marriage,'" she wrote.

Groups in and out of the state lined up Wednesday to applaud the ruling. The decision was being closely watched for the precedent it could set for a dozen similarly worded bans. Ohio's is among the first state Supreme Courts to interpret any of the bans passed after Massachusetts allowed same-sex marriages.

Ohio's amendment was regarded as among the broadest passed by 11 states in 2004 because it bans same-sex civil unions and denies legal status to all unmarried couples and gay marriages.

Ohio State University law professor Marc Spindelman said the decision signals the court's intent to interpret restrictions imposed by the marriage amendment carefully.

"Although the court didn't say so in just so many words, it effectively promises that the marriage amendment will be read in a way that's conditioned on reason not inflamed by the passions of traditional morality," he said.

Citizens for Community Values called Wednesday's decision a "win-win-win" for domestic violence victims, county prosecutors and gay marriage opponents, despite having filed a brief siding with the legal arguments of Michael Carswell of Lebanon, the man accused of abusing his girlfriend.

Thomas Eagle, Carswell's attorney, expressed disappointment in the ruling. He said the case can't be appealed, and Carswell now returns to Warren County to face the charges against him.

A Warren County Common Pleas judge dismissed a felony domestic violence charge against Carswell after he argued the section of the law under which he was charged conflicted with the new marriage amendment. The charge was reinstated by an appeals court. Wednesday's ruling upholds the appeals court's decision.

"I'm very glad the Defense of Marriage amendment isn't going to be used to tear apart the domestic violence statute because, to be honest, I voted for the amendment and I would vote for it again," Warren County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel said Wednesday. "I think the two can be reconciled."

CCV lawyer David Miller said the group had two purposes for getting involved in the case: to protect the amendment's definition of marriage "which prohibits counterfeits like civil unions and domestic partnerships, and ... to protect individuals from domestic violence."

But Jim Madigan, an attorney for the gay-rights legal firm Lambda Legal, said he believes the ruling will give proponents of domestic benefits for same-sex partners ammunition in future court cases.

The American Civil Liberties Union-Ohio, Ohio Domestic Violence Network and others joined the chorus of those hailing the ruling.

"Ohio's highest court has said 'no' to a system in which unmarried victims of domestic violence would have fewer rights and protections than married victims," the network's Leslie Malkin. "Today's ruling reinforces the notion of justice for all."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

VT legislature sets up commision to test gay marriage

Legislative commission to test waters on gay marriage

July 25, 2007
Legislative leaders announced this morning that they have formed a commission to study how Vermonters feel about gay marriage.

House Speaker Gaye Symington and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin said the commission will hold six meetings across the state and report back to the Legislature by the end of the April 2008.

“It is time to ask whether it is in Vermont’s interest to continue to maintain a separate legal status for same-sex couples,” Symington said.

Vermont in 2000 became the first state to establish civil unions, allowing same-sex couples the same rights and privileges as heterosexual married couples. Since then, others states have followed suit and Massachusetts has legalized same-sex marriage.

Former Rep. Tom Little of Shelburne, who chaired the House Judiciary Committee that created civil unions, will chair the 10-member commission

Gay Marriage issue key in 105th NY District

Gay marriage issue key in 105th race
Candidates Amedore, Kosiur seeking Assembly seat differ on how they would vote on same- sex legislation

By PAUL NELSON, Staff writer
Click byline for more stories by writer.
First published: Wednesday, July 25, 2007

SCHENECTADY -- Both candidates for the 105th Assembly District say they are opposed to gay marriage, yet how they would vote on same-sex legislation could provide a deciding point for some voters in the special election next week.
George Amedore Jr., a Republican, said he is against same-sex unions. But Ed Kosiur, a Democrat, said he would put aside religious beliefs and vote in favor of same-sex legislation.

"I do not support same-sex marriage," said Amedore, who said he's been married for 17 years and has three children. His comments came during a meeting with the Times Union editorial board Tuesday. "I believe marriage should be between one man and one woman," he said.

Later, Amedore, 38, a GOP newcomer, said through a campaign spokesman that he supports health benefits for partners of gay and lesbian state employees but believes private companies should make the decision for themselves.

Proposed same-sex legislation has passed in the state Assembly but has not come up for discussion in the Senate. From the Capital Region, Assemblyman Ron Canestrari, D-Cohoes, and fellow Democrats Jack McEneny of Albany and Paul Tonko of Amsterdam voted for the measure, while Democrat Robert Reilly of Colonie, Republican Minority Leader James Tedisco of Schenectady and independent Tim Gordon of Bethlehem voted against it.

It's Tonko's seat, which represents most of Schenectady County and all of Montgomery County, the two men are vying to take. Tonko left the seat to take over as president and CEO of the state Energy and Research Development Authority.

The special election is Tuesday.

Tonko has been stumping for Kosiur, who is married with three children and said he would support the legislation.

"If it does come to a vote, I will vote that way because that's the way the majority of my constituents want me to vote," said the 51-year-old Democratic Schenectady County Legislator. "I have to vote according to the way my constituency feels."

Libby Post, who lives in Menands and is a nationally syndicated columnist on lesbian and gay issues, said Amedore is "not in tune with the electorate."

She lauded Kosiur for his stance.

"I think he generally wants to reflect the will of his constituency and that's laudable," Post said.

Seattle's gay marriage policy gets challenged in court

Seattle's gay marriage policy gets challenged in court


Associated Press

A California organization has asked a court to throw out Seattle's policy of recognizing gay marriages of its workers.

The Pacific Justice Institute says Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels went beyond his authority in 2004 when he ordered city departments to provide equal benefits to employees married by governments that license same-sex marriages.

At issue is whether Nickels used language in his order and accompanying press release to effectively sanction gay marriage. The institute says it's an issue that is at odds with the state's ban on gay marriages.

A lawyer for institute ... Matthew McReynolds ... appeared before a three-judge state Court of Appeals panel today. McReynolds said it was the institute's position that this goes way beyond employee benefits and Nickels was just using this as an opportunity to undercut the state Defense and Marriage Act.

Representing the city, lawyer Phil Brenneman countered that Nickels' policy was limited to employee benefits.

One of the three judges on the appellate bench took issue with the discrepancy between the limited scope of Nickels' executive order and his broader public endorsement of gay marriage. Judge Stephen Dwyer says Nickels was misleading the public in terms of what he was trying to accomplish.

The Pacific Justice Institute is described as a conservative, non-profit legal defense group specializing in religious freedom and parental rights.

(Seattle Post-Intelligencer; not for online use in the Seattle area)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

YOU Tube debate and same sex marriage

YouTube presidential debate blazes trail
Amateur inquisitors on home video ask Democratic candidates about everything from global warming to the birds and the bees.
By Mark Z. Barabak and Michael Finnegan, Times Staff Writers
July 24, 2007

Embracing the Internet in all its brashness and irreverence, eight Democratic presidential hopefuls differed over Iraq, Darfur, same-sex marriage and more offbeat issues in a lively Monday-night debate driven by dozens of amateur inquisitors.

A mix of serious policy talk and sophomoric humor, the session sponsored by CNN and YouTube broke ground in style and content. The candidates responded to more than three dozen homemade videos — including a query from a snowman asking in falsetto about global warming — among nearly 3,000 submitted from around the world. (The candidates told the snowman they favored a more vigorous U.S. response.)

The unusual format drew the candidates out on matters rarely discussed at the presidential level, such as their children's sex education and the willingness of at least some to work in the White House for minimum wage.

Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut joked that after a career in politics, they couldn't afford the pay cut.

The two-hour session, on the campus of The Citadel military college in Charleston, S.C., also included a few sparks, in particular over the war in Iraq. But perhaps the most noteworthy aspect was the freewheeling format and the lively session it produced: something much more akin to a game show — complete with commercial breaks — than anything Lincoln or Douglas might have imagined.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a University of Pennsylvania expert on political communication, called the program a milestone in the history of presidential debates. The humor in several videos inspired interest in topics that might otherwise bore viewers, she said, and so did the images of real people asking about actual troubles in their lives. "You're less likely to lose track if you get the memory hook of the visual question," she said.

The candidates, standing at identical lecterns, watched the videos on a giant screen to their right. The questioners appearing on-screen were alternately earnest and silly, scripted and nervously unrehearsed. They wore ball caps and sunglasses and sprinkled their questions with uhs and ums, the way people normally talk.

Whether it was the physical remove of the questioners or the uninhibited nature of the Internet, the format made for a number of unlikely moments, such as when the candidates were asked by a Planned Parenthood worker in Pennsylvania whether they had ever discussed sex with their children using "medically accurate and age-appropriate information."

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, the only candidates to respond, said they had. "We've taught our younger children when they were young how to look for the signs of wrong touching … inappropriate touching," Edwards said. "And we've taught our children as they got older all — I think using medically appropriate terms — all that they needed to know to be properly educated."

A video from two young women in Pennsylvania put candidates on the spot by asking whether they would be willing to be paid minimum wage as president. With two daughters to educate, Dodd responded, "I don't think I could live on the minimum wage." He called for an increase to "at least $9 or $10."

Edwards, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska each said they would work for the minimum wage. Obama chimed in: "We can afford to work for the minimum wage because most folks on this stage have a lot of money." Turning to Dodd, he joked: "You're doing all right, Chris, compared to, I promise you, the folks who are on that screen."

Many of the questioners were unusually blunt, even belligerent. The mother of an American soldier deploying to Iraq for a second time suggested Democrats were cowering, fearful "that blame for the loss of the war will be placed on them by the Republican spin machine."

Clinton responded by saying Democrats had "tried repeatedly to win Republican support with a simple proposition: that we need to set a timeline to begin bringing our troops home now."

The war in Iraq dominated much of the evening, as it has at previous debates.

Obama delivered one of his sharpest jabs of the campaign when Clinton defended her recent inquiry to the Pentagon on ways to end the war. Unlike Clinton, Obama opposed the U.S. invasion from the start.

It was "terrific" that Clinton asked the Pentagon about its plans, Obama said. "I also know that the time for us to ask how we were going to get out of Iraq was before we went in, and that is something that too many of us failed to do," he said. The partisan audience applauded. Clinton was expressionless.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson called for "all the troops home by the end of this year, in six months, with no residual forces." Biden mocked Richardson's proposal. Raising his voice, Biden said it would be impossible to remove all U.S. forces in less than a year — "it's time to start to tell the truth." He said Richardson had "better have helicopters ready" to evacuate thousands of civilians along with U.S. troops, or else leave them behind "and let them die."

The candidates also differed over Darfur, an exchange made all the more poignant by a videotape featuring aid workers and children at a refugee camp.

"Before you answer this question," the candidates were challenged, "imagine yourself the parent of one of these children.

"What action do you commit to that will get these children back home to a safe Darfur and not letting it be yet another empty promise?"

Richardson replied, "America needs to respond with diplomacy." Clinton agreed. Both ruled out the deployment of U.S. ground troops.

Biden endorsed deployment. "Where we can, America must. Why Darfur? Because we can," he said, adding that unless the U.S. acted militarily, "those kids will be dead by the time diplomacy is over."

Not every question was posed to every candidate, so it was not always possible to draw distinctions.

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio was the only candidate to endorse same-sex marriage, which came up in a video from "Mary" and "Jen" of Brooklyn, who coyly asked the candidates if they would allow the two to be married — "to each other."

Dodd spoke for many on the stage when he endorsed the concept of civil unions and made a strong pitch for gay rights but stopped short of endorsing same-sex marriage. "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman," Dodd said.

Edwards agreed. Noting that his wife, Elizabeth, supports same-sex marriage, Edwards reiterated his opposition but added, "This is a very, very difficult issue for me."

Kucinich was also the only candidate to endorse payment of reparations for slavery. "The Bible says we shall be and must be repairers of the breach, and a breach has occurred, and we have to acknowledge that," he said.

Obama used a more personal question a few moments later to reflect on race relations in America. A university student from Kansas asked the senator — whose father is a black Kenyan and mother is a white Kansan — about suggestions he is not "authentically black enough."

Obama answered to laughter and applause: "Well, you know, when I'm catching a cab in Manhattan in the past, I think I've given my credentials." Turning serious, he said: "Race permeates our society. It is still a critical problem.

"As president of the United States, my commitment on issues like education, my commitment on issues like healthcare, is to close the disparities and the gaps, because that's what's really going to solve the race problem in this country," said Obama.

Clinton answered her own version of the question. Asked whether she was feminine enough, she replied, "I couldn't run as anything other than a woman."

Later, in response to a question about how a female president would be received in the Muslim world, Clinton ticked off a number of countries that have elected female presidents — including Germany, Chile and Liberia — and added, "It would be quite appropriate to have a woman president deal with the Arab and Muslim countries on behalf of the United States of America."

Clinton drew laughter with her answer to a question from an Illinois Democratic precinct worker about concerns that "with Bush, Clinton and Bush again serving as the last three presidents, how would electing you — a Clinton — constitute the type of change in Washington so many people in the heartland are yearning for?"

Clinton responded: "Well, I think it is a problem that Bush was elected in 2000. You know, I actually thought somebody else was elected in that election."

In keeping with the evening's edginess, Biden offered a caustic response to a Michigan man who asked a question while cradling an assault-style rifle that he referred to as his "baby."

"I tell you what, if that's his baby, he needs help," Biden said to applause. "I don't know that he's mentally qualified to own that gun."

Later, Biden added, "I hope he doesn't come looking for me."

Mixed into the debate were a series of Web videos produced by the campaigns. Dodd's featured an interviewer asking him, "What's with the white hair?" — with a white hare positioned prominently in the foreground. Dodd responded, deadpan, that his snowy mane might be due to his hard work in the Senate.

Biden took a more solemn approach, with an ad-style video on Iraq that highlighted his vow "to end this war responsibly so our children don't have to go back."

Obama's video, with rock music in the background, showed quick clips of him before crowds of supporters, saying, "We're tired of fear, we're tired of division, we want something new."

Clinton's ad, a series of hand-lettered signs, ended with one suggesting "Sometimes the best man for a job is a woman."


Editorial on UPS

What 'brown' could do for marriage equality
Monday, July 23, 2007


THE LEGISLATURE took a politically safe step away from embracing marriage equality last fall. The state Supreme Court unanimously ruled gay and lesbian couples in New Jersey were entitled to all the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. A majority on the court ruled it was up to the Legislature to determine whether to call those unions marriage or something else. Not surprisingly, the Legislature went for something else.

The Legislature said "no" to marriage and "yes" to civil unions. Since that law took effect on Feb. 19, 1,359 couples have been civil unionized. According to Garden State Equality, 193 civil-unionized couples have reported that their employers have refused to recognize their unions.

Lambda Legal, which argued the same-sex marriage case before the state Supreme Court, says more than 100 couples have contacted them about having difficulties with employers not recognizing their rights to spousal benefits. Lambda Legal is representing two same-sex couples who have been denied spousal benefits from United Parcel Service.

In a letter to one of the UPS employees seeking spousal benefits, UPS wrote: "... New Jersey law does not treat civil unions the same as marriages, and the (UPS benefits) Plan requires a dependent spouse to be a spouse as defined under applicable law."

Yet the state Supreme Court specifically instructed the Legislature to provide all the same rights of marriage to same-sex couples. By not calling it marriage, legislators opened a large gaping wound.

David Buckel, senior counsel with Lambda Legal said, "The blood is still flowing."

Buckel said self-insured companies like UPS are not prohibited by the Defense of Marriage Act or the Employee Retirement Income Security Act from offering equal benefits to same-sex couples. Discrimination is an option. "It's their choice," he said. UPS offers benefits to same-sex married couples in Massachusetts. They also offer them to non-union civil-unionized couples.

UPS is saying its union contract is subject to collective bargaining and that any change in benefits for union members would require negotiation. But the state Legislature defined civil unions as equal to marriage. Call them spouses or call them partners, in New Jersey it's supposed to be same thing.

It's not. As former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Deborah Poritz said in her dissenting opinion in the same-sex marriage case: Language matters. Calling "marriage" a "civil union" codifies inequality.

Enter Governor Corzine. On Friday, he sent a letter to Michael Eskew, chairman and CEO of UPS, urging him to extend marriage equality benefits to all UPS employees. Corzine wrote: "Apart from any purely legal considerations, the provision of employee benefits to civil union partners on the same terms as spouses would be more than a symbolic gesture of your company's commitment to eliminating discrimination. Spousal benefits are a key element of the financial and physical well-being of working couples and their children."

Corzine is right. But as Buckel noted, "Not every couple will get a letter from the governor."

Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, also applauded Corzine's letter while emphasizing that more and more New Jersey civil unionized couples are being denied spousal benefits. "It's an epidemic," Goldstein said.

There is little hope for a cure in the near future. Speaking to The Record's editorial board on Wednesday, Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, D-Camden, stated his personal support for marriage equality. But he also was adamant that no changes in the language of the state's civil union law would be forthcoming in the Legislature.

It remains a politically charged issue. Last year's closely fought U.S. Senate race may have prevented Corzine from publicly supporting marriage equality. Democrats did not want to galvanize Republican and conservatives. This year's 120 open Legislative seats have the same chilling effect on marriage equality. Next year there's a presidential election. It's always an election year. It's always going to be difficult to do the right thing, the just thing -- to call it marriage.

Buckel said, "With inequality comes inequality." That's what's happening in New Jersey.

Michael Purdue, president of Teamsters Local 177, which represents the UPS employees, said, "We would not refuse an improvement to the health care plan outside of negotiations." The only thing that is blocking civil-unionized UPS union employees from receiving spousal benefits is UPS.

If UPS can guarantee delivery in 24 hours, it could guarantee benefits to these employees in an equally short time span. It should not require the governor's intervention, Lambda Legal, or collective bargaining. "Brown" needs to go lavender.

Alfred P. Doblin is the editorial page editor of The Record. Contact him at

Gay union foes vow to target legislators.

Gay-union foes vow to target legislators
By Maria Sacchetti, Globe Staff | July 24, 2007

Backers of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Massachusetts said yesterday they will not attempt to place the issue on the ballot in 2010, confirming that the soonest the issue could go before voters is 2012.

But they vowed to campaign in 2008 against lawmakers who have blocked their efforts and said they would launch a new campaign in the future. On June 14, state lawmakers rejected a proposal to let voters decide whether same-sex marriage should be banned.

"We acknowledge that our support in the current Legislature is weak, but our support among the people is tremendous," said Kris Mineau, spokesman for and president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, one of several groups that supported the constitutional amendment.

"This campaign is far from over, believe me," Mineau said. "Some of these legislators will go away, but we will not."

In 2004, the state's Supreme Judicial Court ruled 4 to 3 to make Massachusetts the first state to allow same-sex marriage, touching off a heated battle involving thousands of people on both sides.

Gay-marriage opponents collected about 170,000 signatures on a petition to let voters decide whether marriage should be defined in the constitution as a union between a man and a woman.

The measure required the support of at least 50 lawmakers in two consecutive sessions to qualify for a statewide referendum. At a January constitutional convention, the proposed ban drew 62 votes. But last month, it was approved by 45 votes, five fewer than needed.

Mineau said his group decided not to file paperwork for a new signature drive by the Aug. 1 deadline because it would have to seek approval from the same Legislature.

The group vowed to publish voter guides and urge its members to unseat lawmakers who opposed the amendment, especially those who campaigned in favor of a gay-marriage ban, but changed their minds.

After the June vote, Secretary of State William F. Galvin said the issue could not be placed before voters again until at least 2012.

MassEquality, a coalition that supports gay marriage, said that the opponents' announcement yesterday signaled that support for the referendum was "weak and dwindling."

MassEquality campaign director Marc Solomon said he hoped that lawmakers would be able to focus on other issues, such as education and health care.

"The handwriting is on the wall," he said.

However, Solomon said same-sex- marriage proponents would also be out in full force in the 2008 elections.

"Over 200,000 members of MassEquality will be there to strongly support every legislator who voted in support of equality," he said.

"We've been there every step of the way."

Maria Sacchetti can be reached at

Gay advocates send shoes to Senate

Gay advocates send shoes to Senate


(Original publication: July 24, 2007)
NYACK - A group of young activists is calling on New Yorkers to clear their closets of old sneakers, stilettos and Oxfords and send them to the state capital.

The old shoes are being packed and shipped to Albany to the office of New York state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, carrying a message in support of a bill that would allow same-sex marriage.

"We're saying walk a mile in our shoes and then perhaps you will be less likely to stymie the progress of this marriage-equality bill," said Matthew Nelson, a member of Soulforce Q, the young adult division of Soulforce, an organization that promotes equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Eight activists from Soulforce Q have made Nyack their base over the past week, planning and coordinating trips throughout Rockland and Westchester to try to gain support for their Right to Marry Campaign.

They have canvassed communities -including Nyack, Tarrytown, Chappaqua and Irvington - asking people to send their shoes to Bruno along with a message asking him to support the bill.

"We want to inundate his office with these shoes to send a message that he needs to allow this to go the Senate floor to be voted," said Nelson, co-director for Soulforce Q's South Bus, one of four Soulforce buses traveling throughout the state.

Nelson did not know how many pairs of shoes had been sent because the team had encouraged people to send them as individuals.

They approached people at church services, parks and community events, giving them cards to tie to their shoes, with Bruno's address and room for their message.

The Soulforce Q team has also met with local elected officials or their representatives urging them to support a bill that would allow gay couples to marry.

The Assembly passed legislation June 19 that would give same-sex couples the same legal status, benefits and protections that heterosexual couples have. The bill was proposed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

It awaits action in the state Senate, but Bruno, R-Brunswick, has said he opposed same-sex marriage.

Soulforce members and other gay-rights activists believe he will prevent the bill from coming to a vote.

Nyack Mayor John Shields, a local leader in the fight for same-sex marriage, said he thought New York state was on track to allowing marriage equality. He said he hoped Soulforce's work helped get the word out to the public - and to Bruno.

"We hope this encourages him to act as a leader in the Senate and to promote rights for all New Yorkers," said Shields, who plans to search through his closet for an old pair of shoes to send upstate.

Massachusetts is the only state that allows same-sex marriage. Other states, including Connecticut and New Jersey, allow civil unions.

For more information, visit

Monday, July 23, 2007

Washington State Implements Domestic Partnerships

Law lets couples be "partners"
By Andrew Garber

Seattle Times staff reporter

OLYMPIA — The thing that strikes Charles Fuchs most about the new state law extending a cluster of rights to gay and lesbian couples is the fact that the law exists at all.

"When we grew up as children it would have been unthinkable for this kind of thing to take place," said Fuchs, 63, a retired Seattle college English teacher. "It was nowhere on the radar screen."

And yet today, Fuchs and his partner of 27 years, Richard Jost, will be among dozens, perhaps hundreds, of couples rushing to Olympia to sign up under the state's domestic-partnership law, which went into effect Sunday.

The law gives gay and lesbian couples some of the rights granted to married couples, including the right to visit a partner in the hospital, inherit a partner's property without a will and make funeral arrangements.

To qualify, the couples must file an affidavit of domestic partnership with the Secretary of State's Office.

Unmarried heterosexual couples in which at least one partner is 62 or older are eligible as well. Lawmakers say older heterosexuals were included because they face the possibility of losing pension rights and Social Security benefits if they remarry after a spouse dies.

It's uncertain whether opponents will protest outside the Secretary of State's Office today. Gary Randall, president of the Faith and Freedom Network, a Christian political organization, said his group has no plans to demonstrate, but that doesn't mean it approves of the new law.

"I'm disappointed and I don't think it should be happening," said Randall, who considers the law a steppingstone to gay marriage. "I think it deteriorates society. Over time it takes away from what is the most important cornerstone of society, and that's marriage between a man and woman."

The Secretary of State's Office, expecting a large crowd today, urged couples last week to mail in their affidavits instead of showing up in person. The plea is unlikely to sway many.

"I need to go," said Rachel Smith-Mosel, who plans to show up with her spouse, Sandy Mosel, and their children. "Our friends will bring their kids, too. It's so important for our families to feel the excitement."

For many, though, the celebration will be tinged with anger that lawmakers did not grant gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.

Sandy Mosel, who is Canadian, noted that she and Rachel are legally married in Canada, but the certificate has no legal weight in Washington. "I'm a full person in Canada, but when I cross the border I'm less than that," she said.

Washington's new law extends only a handful of the rights — dealing with health care and death — granted to heterosexual married couples. For example, married couples have the right to not testify against each other in court. That right isn't extended to gay and lesbian couples under the new law.

"It's like signing up for second-class-citizen rights," Mosel said.

David Hopkins, of Seattle, has similar feelings. His partner wants to register, but Hopkins is resisting.

"It's a slice of a loaf when you should really get the whole loaf," he said. "I'm willing to wait until I'm admitted to the set of citizens who have full civil rights. I don't perceive this as giving me full civil rights."

State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, lead sponsor of the law in the Legislature, acknowledges that it doesn't go as far as many people want. That's true for him as well.

"We consider this a step toward marriage," said Murray, who plans to register with his partner today. "This isn't an end."

Murray and a coalition of several other gay lawmakers plan to introduce bills in the future that would establish additional rights for gay and lesbian couples — incrementally moving toward full marriage.

Randall, with the Faith and Freedom Network, said his group will fight the effort. They've formed a political-action committee and plan to back candidates who oppose gay marriage.

"We are working tirelessly to regroup and get set for the battle to come. Gay marriage is going to be at the forefront," said Randall, who argues that most Washington voters oppose gay marriage.

"I do not think they'll stand for it," he said. "I believe they will vote people out of office based on that issue."

Some gay and lesbian couples may not want to register under the new law.

Equal Rights Washington, which lobbied for the law, says it could actually create problems for certain couples.

For example, people in the military may not want to register because the state list is public information and could violate the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that excludes known gays from serving.

"It's extremely ironic that people who are in harm's way, who most need these protections, are unable to avail themselves," said Joshua Friedes, a spokesman for Equal Rights Washington. The group cautions some couples, in which one partner is a foreign national without permanent legal status, that registering could jeopardize their ability to stay in the country.

Friedes said some visas are granted with the condition that the person does not intend to stay permanently. Registering under the domestic-partnership law could be interpreted as an intent to stay in the United States.

Despite its flaws, the law is still a significant accomplishment, says John McCluskey, 71, of Tacoma. He and his partner, Rudy Henry, who've been together for 48 years, plan to register.

"Twenty years ago if you had told me there would be a law that would do this, I'd have told you 'you're crazy,' " McCluskey said. "It's a great step forward, as far as I'm concerned."

Fuchs agreed. One of the biggest things the law will do is show the public at large that gay and lesbian couples represent a broad swath of society, he said.

"This not only is a recognition that there are gay people, but that gay people can have healthy families and lead good lives," he said.

Who plans to register with his partner of 48 years

Assemblywoman Sayward's Son Talks About Being Gay

Politics of the heart
Assemblywoman Sayward's son talks of growing up, living as a gay man

Sunday, July 22, 2007 2:05 AM EDT

WILLSBORO -- As a gay man, Glenn Sayward feels he has the best of everything.

He knows how to change a distributor cap or an alternator on a car, and yet his partner does not mind sitting with him through a two hour fashion show.

But because New York does not recognize their marriage as legal, he cannot enroll his partner on his health insurance policy.

So Ben, his partner, works a full-time job to pay for health insurance when he could be doing other more meaningful things.

"It would be really nice," Sayward said. "He would be able to take care of my grandfather. That (is something) somebody needs to do."

Glenn's homosexuality is common knowledge in Willsboro, a town of 1,903 people in northern Essex County.

Glenn, the son of state Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, R-Willsboro, flies a gay pride flag in the front yard of his house.

The painted brick colonial on the bank of the Boquet River has been in the family since around the time of the American Revolution, except for a period of about 10 years.

More than 200 people from the town attended Glenn and Ben's

wedding in their backyard - a gala event in August 2004 with a Greek theme presided over by a local minister.

Guests wore togas and Greek gowns.

Co-owner with his sister of The Village Meat Market, Glenn Sayward volunteers at the local high school as a class adviser.

Last year, Glenn and Ben were chaperones on the senior class trip to Cancun, Mexico.

"My son and his partner have stood up for babies when they were baptized in our little town," said Assemblywoman Sayward.

Basically, the assemblywoman said, they are treated as any other couple.

"To all of my other children and my grandchildren, it's just Uncle Glenn and Uncle Ben. That's just how it is," she said.

Last month, the family's story gained statewide notoriety when the assemblywoman told it in an emotional appeal just before the Assembly voted on a bill to legalize gay marriage.

The bill passed the Assembly, but did not pass the Senate.

The assemblywoman views the issue as one of civil rights.

A marriage license entitles a couple to 27 different rights, such as access to health insurance and retirement benefits and the right to make decisions about health care and property.

The state and some other employers allow domestic partners to be covered under health insurance policies, but the employee has to pay tax on the value of the domestic partner's premiums.

"They call it imputed income," the assemblywoman said.

A nephew who works for the state, she said, pays $210 per month in federal and state taxes, based on the value of his domestic partner's benefits.

Gay and lesbian couples can adopt children, Glenn Sayward said, yet the state won't recognize the relationship as a marriage.

"They scream morality and stuff like that," he said. "Well if two gay men can adopt a child, it would be nice if they can give a child one name or something like that."

The assemblywoman has grappled with the issue for years.

"And I knew - I knew that my little boy when he went off to kindergarten was not the same as the other little boys," she said.

Asked how she knew, Sayward said it was simply a mother's instinct.

The son, in a separate interview, said, "Something was different in kindergarten, and not really knowing and growing up and sort of just figuring things out on my own."

In the summer after 11th grade, he told his friends he was gay, and they accepted it, Glenn Sayward said.

The mother accepted it when she read books and magazine articles that linked homosexuality with genetics.

That acceptance came after the son graduated high school and enrolled in college.

"He'd come home and we'd cry and we'd talk and we'd cry and we'd talk," she said. "So we were going to change and he was going to pray and I was going to pray. So I read all the books that the priest gave me and we were going to do great things, but it doesn't work."

Ultimately she came to a realization.

"And that really was when it started working, when I told him you have to be who you are," she said. "And he no longer needed to experiment with drugs or anything else because he was feeling better, or at least about himself."

Glenn Sayward said he has a rich life in many ways.

He manages the market and has a side line in catering, making enough money to collect Adirondack art.

His yard is full of flowers and plants of virtually every variety.

Gardening is his way of relieving stress, he said.

He was a foster parent to three teenage boys, one of whom he raised from age 12 on.

"I've got one that has graduated college and another with one year left, and I can't wait for grandkids," he said.

Glenn Sayward said he was proud his mother spoke in support of the gay marriage bill.

"It wasn't until the third (newspaper) article came out that I had people start coming in the store and say, 'Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know you had it that tough growing up,' " he laughed. "And I was like, 'No it's alright. It really is. What can I get ya?' "

In hindsight, he said, growing up gay wasn't that much different from other children and adolescents who did not fit in.

"I got picked on because I was gay, you know. My ears were too big. The kid that sat next to me was too fat," he said. "Kids are cruel, you know. That's just the way it is."

The assemblywoman has taken some political heat for taking a position on gay marriage.

The Conservative party likely will not endorse her for re-election because of her stance on gay marriage, said sate Conservative Chairman Michael Long.

"I don't see how we in the Conservative party can move ahead with any candidate

who supports that issue," he said.

Local party leaders will decide whether to endorse someone other than Sayward in 2008 or go without a candidate on the party's ballot line, he said.

Several letters to the editor of The Post-Star in recent weeks suggested she may face opposition from within the Republican party next year.

Sayward was one of only four Republicans in the Assembly who voted in favor of the gay marriage bill.

Republican leaders said while they disagree with Sayward's stance on gay marriage, she has been a tireless advocate for property tax reform and economic development.

"For all the good she's done, I give her a pass on that," said Warren County Republican Chairman Michael Grasso.

"The public wants someone who stands up for what they believe in," said Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco, R-Schenectady.

"This issue was a personal issue for Teresa," he said. "I disagree with her on this one."

Assemblywoman Sayward said the majority of calls and letters to her office since the vote have been favorable.

"If you talk to anybody under 30 years old, it's no big deal," she said.

Although the gay marriage bill passed the Assembly, it is not expected same sex couples will be lining up to get marriage licenses in New York any time soon.

In order to become law, a bill must be passed by both houses of the legislature and then signed by the governor.

If, or when, there may be enough support in the Republican controlled state Senate to pass a gay marriage bill is hard to tell, the assemblywoman said.

Perhaps, she said, there would be support if the terminology in the proposed law is changed from marriage to civil unions.

"I think that's the biggest hang up people have," she said.

"It better be only a year or we're going to have to move to Vermont," Glenn Sayward said, letting out a big belly laugh.

Turning serious, he said the Assembly passing the legislation was a victory.

"It's a start," he said. "And I may not be around to see it. I hope I am."

The assemblywoman said she raised awareness by taking a public position on the issue.

"And ironically, I have been to a couple of functions where I had a father come up to me and say, 'I've never really been able to really talk about my daughter and the fact she is a lesbian.' And he said, 'You know, I feel ashamed of myself and I'm going to be advocating for her.' "

Corzine Enters Dispute with UPS Over Who Is a Legal Spouse

Corzine Enters Dispute With United Parcel Service Over Who Is a Legal Spouse
NEWARK, July 20 — Gov. Jon S. Corzine of New Jersey sent a letter on Friday urging United Parcel Service to provide the same benefits for civil union partners as it does for married couples, intervening for the first time in the question of whether companies are appropriately following the state’s mandate for equal treatment of same-sex couples.

The letter stemmed from complaints made by a truck driver for the company who has been unable to get health benefits for her partner after they became one of the first New Jersey couples to obtain a civil union. In February, the state became the third in the nation to authorize civil unions.

“The provision of employee benefits to civil union partners on the same terms as spouses would be more than a symbolic gesture of your company’s commitment to eliminating discrimination,” the governor wrote. “Spousal benefits are a key element of the financial and physical well-being of working couples and their children.”

Company officials said on Friday that they had not received Mr. Corzine’s letter, and that the question of providing benefits to the driver, Nickie Brazier, is tied up in the legal complexities of a continuing contract negotiation with her union.

But beyond the specific situation at the company, the governor’s letter hinted at the possibility of a broader battle that advocates for same-sex couples have warned about since a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling last fall saying that all couples must be treated equally, but leaving to the Legislature whether to achieve that through same-sex marriage or civil unions. Without marriage, the advocates say, many companies — either willfully, or because of the resulting legal confusion over how to define “spouse” — will not treat same-sex couples equally.

Andrew Koppelman, a law professor at Northwestern University and author of the book “Same Sex, Different States: When Same-Sex Marriages Cross State Lines,” cited two pressing issues as states wrestle with the evolving definitions of couples: “tangible benefits” and “symbolic approval.”

“If you read the New Jersey statute, it gives couples all the same rights and responsibilities and benefits” as heterosexual couples, Mr. Koppelman said. The objection that gay couples have is that civil unions are “different, and by implication, inferior to heterosexual unions.”

Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, a statewide gay-rights organization, said that to date, 193 of the 1,359 couples who have registered for civil unions in New Jersey have reported to him that their companies are not recognizing their unions, though none have yet filed suit to challenge the law. “Companies are offering a gazillion excuses,” Mr. Goldstein said. “The law says civil union partners should be treated as spouses,” he said. “It doesn’t say they are spouses.”

Some companies, particularly those that are self-insured — like 51 percent of New Jersey businesses — contend that federal law creates obstacles to providing equal benefits. Some cite the federal Defense of Marriage Act, while many others, including United Parcel Service, refer to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. The act, known as “Erisa,” pre-empts state laws and allows self-insured employers to choose how to define “spouse.”

“Erisa doesn’t say that companies have to discriminate,” said David S. Buckel, a senior attorney at the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, who is representing Ms. Brazier. “Their argument is that Erisa gives them a choice. The question is, will they make the right choice?”

A spokesman for United Parcel Service, Norman Black, said the company had a policy of extending domestic partner benefits to all of its employees, but had been advised by its lawyers that it could not give such benefits to employees represented by the Teamsters union under a contract that does not expire until next summer.

In May, the company wrote to Ms. Brazier, saying that the company could not provide her partner, Heather Aurand, with health benefits because the state of New Jersey “does not currently recognize same-sex marriages.” Ms. Brazier’s health plan, the company said, provides benefits to her “legal spouse” as defined by state law. “In summary, you cannot add Ms. Aurand as a spouse because New Jersey law does not treat civil unions the same as marriages,” the letter concluded.

Mr. Buckel, of Lambda Legal, said when he read the letter from the company, “I fell off my chair.” For advocacy organizations, there was no better evidence of the limitations of the civil union law than the company’s letter.

But in his response to United Parcel Service, Governor Corzine disagreed, arguing that New Jersey’s law in no way prevents the company from providing benefits. “New Jersey law intends that civil union partners be viewed as partners under all facets of New Jersey law and that a reference to ‘spouse’ in a legal context, including in a contract, embraces civil union partners,” he said.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Judge rejects bid to drop civil rights charges in Mass.

Judge rejects Cirignano’s bid to drop civil rights charges
by Ethan Jacobs
Bay Windows
Monday Jul 16, 2007

Larry Cirignano, executive director of Catholic Citizenship, gives a statement to police after allegedly pushing Sarah Loy at a VoteOnMarriage rally last December.
Worcester District Court Judge David Ricciardone issued a decision July 13 rejecting Larry Cirignano’s motion to dismiss the civil rights charges against him in connection to his alleged assault against a same-sex marriage supporter. Cirignano is facing civil rights violation and misdemeanor assault and battery charges for allegedly shoving Sarah Loy last December at Worcester City Hall, during a rally against same-sex marriage held by Cirignano was a speaker at the rally, and when Loy entered the VoteOnMarriage crowd with a sign announcing her support for same-sex marriage, Cirignano allegedly shoved her out of the crowd and onto the pavement.

Cirignano’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the civil rights charges, arguing that Loy had no right to enter the VoteOnMarriage crowd with her sign because it ran counter to the message promoted by the VoteOnMarriage demonstration. Among the cases cited by the attorney was the 1995 U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that the organizers of the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade were free to ban a gay and lesbian group from marching because the group’s message conflicted with that of the parade organizers.

In his decision Ricciardone rejected that assertion, arguing that Loy’s right to express an opposing viewpoint is protected by the state and federal constitution. He said police may keep opposing groups separate at rallies to promote public safety, and he made no determination about whether or not Loy had crossed a boundary line set by police.

"In holding her sign at the rally here, the complainant was simply expressing a view contrary to that being generally supported. This is speech which is clearly and unassailably protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and by the Massachusetts Bill of Rights," wrote Ricciardone. "To conclude otherwise would allow the group that arrives at the city licensing office first to censor the free expression of speech in a particular area of the city at any given time. This is an unsupportable proposition under constitutional law."

Cirignano will be back in court August 20, and Tim Connolly, spokesperson for Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early, Jr., said there will be a trial date set at that hearing.

Copyright Bay Windows. For more articles from New England's largest GLBT newspaper, visit

Judge Grants parental rights to lesbian partner in Oregon

Judge gives parental rights to lesbian partner
Posted by The Oregonian July 16, 2007 13:48PM
Categories: Breaking News
A Multnomah County judge has ruled that the lesbian partner of a Portland mother is entitled to legal parental status.

"This decision is a tremendous win for Oregon's families, our children and our basic Oregon value of fairness," said John Hummel, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, the state's largest gay rights groups.

The ruling follows two major victories for gay rights supporters this spring when the Legislature approved laws banning discrimination against gays in work and housing and giving same-sex couples most state benefits of marriage through legal domestic partnerships.

Jeana Frazzini, 34, sued the state last year after her name was stricken from the birth certificate of a baby delivered by her lesbian partner, K.D. Parman, 32.

Married fathers, even those whose wives become pregnant through artificial insemination as Parman did, automatically get legal parental rights. The couple argued they were unfairly denied that privilege because of their inability to marry.

Multnomah County Circuit Judge Eric J. Bloch ruled Friday in the couple's favor. He wrote that the state Constitution bars denying rights to one class of citizen that are given to another. He also said the domestic partnership law, which takes effect Jan. 1, will solve the inequity for Frazzini, Parman and their two children.

But opponents are challenging the domestic partnership law by collecting signatures to refer it to voters in the November 2008 election. A group called Defense of Marriage and Family, AGAIN! and its supporters have distributed thousands of petitions statewide. Marylin Shannon of Brooks, a former Republican state senator and spokeswoman for the group's chief petitioners, questioned the judge's decision.

"The judge reached way out there," she said. "(Frazzini and Parman) have a remedy. All they have to do is adopt the child."

Her group must collect 55,179 signatures by Sept. 26 to refer the law to the ballot. If they succeed, the law will be suspended until the November election.

If voters reject the law, then Frazzini will be left without the parental status the court ruled she is entitled to. It is unclear what happens then, said Mark Johnson, an attorney helping defend Frazzini and Parman, during a news conference Monday.

For now, the partners, who have been together 10 years, said their court victory gives them a lift.

"We're finally on the road to having legal recognition for the whole family," said Frazzini, holding their 1-year-old son, Griffin. "When you have kids, you want to do everything in your power to care for them and keep them safe."

- Bill Graves

Gay Christians Reclaim the Bible

Gay Christians Reclaim the Bible
by Kilian Melloy
EDGE Boston Contributor
Monday Jul 16, 2007

The Bible has been used, early and often, to attack civil parity for GLBT people, especially in terms of marriage equality. But other points of view are possible, say gay-friendly congregations.

A Boston Globe article from last November addresses this topic, quoting Rev. Jeff Miner or the Jesus Metropolitan Community Church.

"Most people think that the attitude of gay Christians is, ’Who cares what the Bible says?’ when in reality, we care deeply what the Bible says," says Miner, a pastor with the GLBT-friendly, Indianapolis-based church, who led a forum on the issue last November at the Arlington Street Church.

Continued Miner, "We think there are a lot of powerful, affirming things that are in the Bible that have been ignored."

Miner and co-author John Tyler Connoley wrote the book, or at least a book, on the subject; in 2002, The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-Sex Relationships was published by the Jesus Metropolitan Community Church.

Miner and Connoley look at both Old and New Testaments for source material to bolster their argument that not only are GLBT people God’s children, too, but that in fact they are exactly who and what God intended for them to be.

The authors cite the passage, "Wherever you go I will go," a promise made in the Old Testament by Ruth to Naomi, is, say Miner and Connoley, is a commitment made in the context of a same-sex relationship.

And in the New Testament’s Gospels of Luke and Matthew, when Jesus heals a centurian’s "servant," the man in question, say Miner and Connoley, may well be more than that to the centurion.

Said Miner, "That story’s often preached about in straight churches, [and] nobody bothers to mention that the Greek word used to describe the sick man is the word used in the ancient world to describe your same-sex partner."

Miner and Connoley have not kept hold of their faith out of complacency; far from it. Both struggled with issues of faith and sexuality, with Connoley enduring two years trying to become an "ex-gay."

Last November’s forum was a direct response to "Love Won Out," a gathering at the Tremont Temple Baptist Church that was put on by the Colorado Springs-based anti-gay group Focus on the Family in 2005.

"Love Won Out" purported to offer hope (and instructions) to religious family members for "converting" gays into straights.

One of the forum’s organizers said that it was the 2005 event that gave him the idea to bring Miner and Connoley to Boston with their message of inclusion and divine love. Instead of protesting outside the church, as a throng of others did, Arlington Street Church member Sam Gloyd went into the Tremont Temple Baptist Church to hear the message of "Love Won Out."

The result was painful. "I wasn’t just traumatized, I was re-traumatized, because for 40 years of my life I lived this trauma of feeling like I was unacceptable to God," Gloyd said.

Continued Gloyd, "So it was inspiration from that conference that sort of spurred me on to say we need to offer some alternative voice to this hateful message that’s masked in love."

Tremont Temple Baptist Church pastor Ray Pendleton also had his say in the Globe article.

"The Biblical view of sexuality is pretty clear," Pendleton said. "It says that genital sexuality is to be expressed between a man and woman in the context of marriage, period."

Adopting the "love the sinner and hate the sin" mode often employed by anti-gay religious groups, Pendleton added, "When you look at what the Bible teaches, the Bible doesn’t talk about orientation; the Bible talks about behavior."

But it’s the behavior of heterosexual Christians that concern some people. The Globe article quoted Pam Garramone, executive director of Greater Boston Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, which sponsored the forum at the Arlington Street Church.

Garramone related how she had received a phone call from a distraught mother whose husband had exiled their daughter from the family home for being a lesbian.

Recounted Garramone, "She said, ’My instinct is to love and accept her, but I can’t because my church won’t let me.’"

Continued Garramone, "That’s the kind of parent who needs to hear this message--you don’t have to choose your child over your religion."

A follow-up forum slated to include religious leaders from other traditions is expected to take place later this year at the Arlington Street Church.

Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

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