Iowa churches protest ruling on gay marriage
Iowa churches protest ruling on gay marriage The Associated Press - 10/29/2007
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - About 1,200 people from local churches held a prayer rally to protest a judge's ruling overturning the state's ban on gay marriage and urged the Iowa Supreme Court to overturn the ruling.
The rally was held Sunday at the Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church, where people joined hands and sang in unison to the civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome."
"This is more than a political battle," said the Rev. Keith A. Ratliff Sr. of the Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church. "This is a spiritual battle."
Polk County District Judge Robert Hanson ruled on Aug. 31 that the state's law that reads that marriage is only between a man and woman was unconstitutional and ordered the Polk County recorder to allow same-sex couples to marry.
The next day, Hanson stayed his ruling while the case is appealed to the state Supreme Court. Only one couple was able to marry before Hanson suspended his ruling.
A final ruling could take up to two years.
The case is expected to spur debate over whether the Legislature should begin drafting a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Republicans have renewed their call for a marriage amendment. Gov. Chet Culver and other Democrats say the state should wait for the Iowa Supreme Court to rule.
Monsignor Frank Bognanno of Christ the King Catholic Church in Des Moines said Iowa could become a haven for same-sex couples to marry if strong measures aren't' taken to oppose gay marriage.
"This is not going to be a mecca for same-sex marriages," Bognanno said.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Iowa churches protest ruling on gay marriage
New Jersey Civil Union Law Has Fallen Short in Its First Year, Commission Is Told - New York Times
New Jersey Civil Union Law Has Fallen Short in Its First Year, Commission Is Told
By TINA KELLEY
NUTLEY, N.J., Oct. 24 — Jodi Weiner, an electrician from Montclair, said that when she tried to get health benefits for her partner of nine years, she was told that her union’s plans did not cover civil unions. It was only when she mentioned that they had been married in Massachusetts that her partner was able to get benefits.
“The words ‘civil union’ were not good enough for Sally and me to get equality in New Jersey, but the word ‘marriage’ is,” she said at a hearing of the Civil Union Review Commission last month. “We can all talk about how the civil union law is supposed to work just like marriage. But in my case and others, it doesn’t work that way in the real world.”
In the last month dozens of couples spoke at three hearings of the commission, which was created by the State Legislature to monitor the effectiveness of civil unions. The hearings came a year after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that gay and straight couples in New Jersey should have the same legal protections.
Three of the seven justices said gay couples should be able to marry, and four left it for the Legislature to decide. Lawmakers voted in December to allow civil unions, and since then, about 1,900 gay couples have had their relationships formally recognized by the state.
But most of those who spoke at the hearings said that civil unions had not provided the protections they had hoped for. Many of them asked the commission to call on state officials to pass a marriage equality law in New Jersey, which would make it the first to legislate such a solution. (Massachusetts allowed gay marriage in 2003 in accordance with a court decision.) Referring to last year’s Oct. 25 Supreme Court decision in Lewis v. Harris, Cindy Meneghin, a plaintiff in the suit, addressed the commission Wednesday night here in Essex County.
“It is not a happy anniversary, and it never will be, until the state of New Jersey fulfills that legal mandate and gives us the full equality of a marriage license,” she said.
Under state law, civil union couples are supposed to get the same legal rights as married couples. But Steven Goldstein, a member of the commission and chairman of Garden State Equality, a statewide gay advocacy organization, said that 364 couples had told his group they had been denied benefits that married couples get. Six couples have filed formal discrimination complaints with the state.
Even if New Jersey allowed same-sex couples to marry, companies whose benefit plans are covered by federal law would not have to extend coverage to same-sex spouses. But in Massachusetts, most of those companies have done so anyway, said Tom Barbera, a labor leader in Massachusetts for the past 30 years.
“Employers also understand that without the term ‘civil union’ or ‘domestic partner’ to hide behind, if they don’t give equal benefits to employees in same-sex marriages, these employers would have to come forth with the real excuse for discrimination,” he told the panel at its first hearing, in New Brunswick. “Employers would have to acknowledge that they are discriminating against their employees because they are lesbian or gay.”
In Vermont, which started allowing civil unions in 2000, couples are continuing to report legal problems and trouble obtaining benefits, said Beth Robinson, a lawyer there who has represented same-sex couples.
“We know in a civil union regime, the burden of inertia favors discrimination,” she said. “An employer who wants not to discriminate needs to amend itself. An employer that wants to keep on discriminating simply needs to do nothing.”
The 13-member commission, which includes representatives from the attorney general’s office, the Department of Human Services, advocacy groups and others, is expected to report the results of the hearings to Gov. Jon S. Corzine and the Legislature by the end of the year, Mr. Goldstein said.
Several people who have obtained civil unions, including a number who work for the state, said that they had had no problems getting benefits for their partners. But they called for a marriage law to erase the stigma of what they consider second-class status.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a Trenton Democrat, said he planned to reintroduce a marriage equality law soon. He said if the Legislature does not act, the State Supreme Court may need to consider whether civil unions have created full equality in the state.
“I think there has been more and more acceptance and understanding that gay persons should be able to share the same matrimonial happiness as any other traditional couple,” Mr. Gusciora said.
Mr. Corzine, through a spokeswoman, Lilo Stainton, said on Wednesday that he would sign a marriage equality law, but would like to take up the issue in 2009, to avoid a national spotlight for the state during the presidential election next year.
Asked if he felt civil unions were working, he said through Ms. Stainton: “The answer is, yes, they’re working out in the sense that people have rights that they did not have previously and are treated equally under the law. Whether there is a sense of full recognition of their connection with their partners is a fair question — but the bigger issue with regard to civil unions or marriage rights is a federal issue.”
Assemblyman Richard A. Merkt, a Morris County Republican who said he would oppose a bill on marriage for gay couples, criticized the commission for not including anyone skeptical about civil unions. “A lot of people who favor retaining the law as it is basically feel disenfranchised by the entire process,” he said. “I consider it to be a complete waste of time.”
Few critics spoke at the hearings. One, Len Deo, told the commission here that a poll commissioned by his organization, the New Jersey Family Policy Council, showed 61 percent of state residents believe that same-sex couples have the right to live as they choose but do not have the right to redefine marriage for the rest of society.
Some straight residents testified at the hearings as well.
“When there’s discrimination against any group of people, endorsed by the government, we are all diminished,” said Lucy O’Brien of Montclair, who has three sons, one of whom is gay.
Posted by Michael at 8:34 PM
Poll: Marylanders Support Civil Unions, Still Reluctant On Gay Marriageby 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: October 26, 2007 - 5:00 pm ET
(Baltimore, Maryland) A new poll shows that support among Maryland voters for civil unions has grown to almost 60 percent, but when asked about same-sex marriage a slight majority continue to be opposed.
The Washington Post poll, published Friday, found that 57 percent of voters would approve of lawmakers allowing gay and lesbian couples to form civil unions in the state.
Thirty-nine percent were opposed.
But on the subject of same-sex marriage, 44 percent said they would approve, with 51 percent opposed.
The Post poll found that opposition to same-sex marriage was strongest among older voters and people who frequently attend religious services.
Among those who rarely attend religious services, 61 percent support gay marriage and 73 percent support civil unions, the Post reported.
Among those who attend services at least weekly, only 25 percent support gay marriage and 37 percent support civil unions.
Fifty-five percent of voters under the age of 40 support same-sex marriage, and 64 percent said they would support civil unions.
But among those 65 and older, only 30 percent support gay marriage and 44 percent support civil unions.
The survey is likely to attract the attention of state lawmakers.
The issue of recognizing gay and lesbian relationships fell to the legislature last month when the Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision and upheld the state law barring gay and lesbian couples from marrying (story) but said that lawmakers could consider ways of recognizing same-sex pairs.
In two states which already have civil unions - Vermont and New Jersey - efforts are underway to amend the laws to permit same-sex marriage.
Earlier this month, Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch, a Democrat, said he was in favor of civil unions. (story)
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D) has said he would fight such a bill and Republicans in both houses are touting a potential constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage and civil unions.
Maryland's largest LGBT civil rights organization, Equality Maryland, says that civil unions are not an option and that it will hold out for marriage legislation.
"Nearly half of Marylanders are there on the issue of marriage equality," Executive Director Dan Furmansky told 365Gay.com
"With a bit more patience and work on our part we're going to move the the populace in favor of full legal equality."
The Post poll of 1,103 Maryland adults was conducted by telephone Oct. 18 through 22 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Virginia and Michigan Join to Defend Against Vermont Civil Unions: May go to US Supreme Court
Virginia and Michigan Join to Defend Against Vermont Civil Unions: May go to US Supreme Court
Case could result in pro-gay state dictating marriage laws of all other states
By Hilary White RICHMOND, Virginia, October 26, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Marriage advocates and the attorneys general of two states are joining forces to prevent an attempt to force one state to comply with the same-sex civil union laws of another. Two conflicting court cases could see the same-sex civil partnership laws of Vermont enforced in Virginia, a state that does not recognise such arrangements. A mother currently living in Virginia left the lesbian lifestyle and the relationship she was in with another woman in Vermont. Now the other woman in the relationship is attempting to use the courts to force the state of Virginia, a state with constitutional amendment defining traditional, natural marriage, to grant her “parental” visitation rights. Traditional marriage advocates are calling the case the first of its kind in the US where the laws of one state are directly pitted in a lawsuit against the same-sex partnership laws of another. Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller were formally registered under that state’s same-sex civil partnership laws in Vermont. While in the relationship, Lisa Miller gave birth to a daughter, identified in court documents as IMJ, conceived by artificial insemination. The court files dissolving the civil union named IMJ as “the biological or adoptive” child of the “civil union.” Miller has since left the relationship and the lesbian lifestyle after converting to Christianity and has moved with her daughter to Virginia, a state with no recognition whatever of same-sex unions and that has a constitutional amendment upholding the definition of natural marriage. In June 2004, the Vermont court awarded Jenkins “on a temporary basis, parent-child contact” with IMJ. The following July, after Virginia passed its Marriage Affirmation Act confirming natural marriage as the legal definition, Miller successfully petitioned the Virginia court to award her sole custody of IMJ, who is now five years old, and asked the court to declare Jenkins’ claims to parental rights to be “nugatory, void, illegal and/or unenforceable.” In response on July 19, 2004, the Vermont court declared that it continued to have jurisdiction over the case, ruling that it is “unaware of any proceeding available in a state that does not recognize a civil union” and insisted that its temporary order for Jenkins’ visitation rights be followed in Miller’s new home in Virginia. The Vermont court later held Miller in contempt for refusing to comply with the visitation ruling. In an appeal by Miller, the Vermont Supreme Court upheld the original decision and awarded Janet Jenkins parental rights over Lisa’s biological child. Miller’s ongoing case is being pursued in the Virginia Supreme Court, represented by the Liberty Counsel, a public interest advocacy group. The situation in which one state’s court has demanded that another state recognise a homosexual domestic arrangement that has no legal reality in another state, is unique, says Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law. Staver said, “One state should not be allowed to write the marriage policy of another state and export same-sex unions beyond its state borders. Regarding same-sex civil unions, what happens in Vermont must stay in Vermont.” If the Virginia Supreme Court decision clashes with the Vermont Supreme Court, the case will go directly to the United States Supreme Court. A standard tactic of the homosexual activist movement has been to urge the use of such cases to bring about changes of laws in other jurisdictions . When Canada passed its legislation creating “gay marriage”, one group recommended gay partners get “married” in Canada and then use the courts in the US to force legal recognition of the arrangement. The Liberty Counsel is arguing that Virginia has the right to define its own marriage policy, and a Vermont same-sex civil union “becomes invisible” at the border of Virginia. The Virginia attorney general’s amicus brief in the case asks the Virginia Supreme Court to rule that the same-sex civil union laws of Vermont are void in Virginia. The Virginia brief is supported by another from the attorney general of Michigan, a state that also has a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Anti-gay voter fraud on video: Massachusetts woman earns up to $1200 a day scamming citizens into signing a homophobic petition. | ProudParenting.com
Anti-gay voter fraud on video: Massachusetts woman earns up to $1200 a day scamming citizens into signing a homophobic petition. ProudParenting.com
Thu, 10/25/2007 - 2:23pm
Massachusetts voters are being fooled into believing they are signing a petition about grocery store products, but a conservative group is actually gathering signatures - in a bait and switch scam - to ban same-sex marriage.
The Massachusetts Family Institute is responsible for the petitioning.
MFI's mission is posted on it's website:
"Recognizing that healthy families are indispensable to the preservation of a strong and free society, the Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI) is dedicated to strengthening the family and affirming the Judeo-Christian values upon which it is based. Established in 1991, MFI is a non-partisan public policy organization dedicated to strengthening families in Massachusetts. MFI engages in research and education on a wide range of public policy issues to strengthen the well-being, health and safety of families - its individual members and the collective unit."
Watch the news video, to see how the group gains support for its mission.
Posted by Michael at 3:30 PM
New Jersey Officials Urged to Pass Marriage Equality Bill
Article Date: 10/25/2007 By Chrys Hudson
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the New Jersey Supreme Court decision in Lambda Legal’s lawsuit seeking marriage equality for the state’s same-sex couples.
To recognize that anniversary, Lambda Legal Executive Director Kevin Cathcart, a New Jersey native, recently sent a letter to New Jersey Governor John Corzine, Senate President Richard Codey and Speaker Joseph Roberts urging them to pass a marriage equality bill.
The letter reads as follows:
"October 25, 2007, marks the one-year anniversary of the landmark decision in Lambda Legal's lawsuit Lewis v. Harris unanimously declaring that same-sex couples must be treated equally under the law. That decision started New Jersey on the road to marriage equality. I am writing to say that the time has come to reach our final destination – it is time to establish equality in New Jersey and allow same-sex couples to marry just as other couples can.
"When the New Jersey Supreme Court referred this matter to the Legislature, it did so on the grounds that the Legislature should have the first chance to decide how to correct the inequality same-sex couples faced. Marriage would fulfill the state constitution's promise of equality. But the Court left the door open for other options, at least for now, and the legislature has thus far chosen a civil union law.
"But now a year has passed since the Court ruling and there is clear evidence that the civil union law does not work: By creating a separate status for same-sex couples, the government has invited others to discriminate against them and some, sadly, have taken the invitation. And even where same-sex couples appear to have the same concrete benefits that married couples do, they do not have the security and dignity of being able to explain to their children, their neighbors, or their children's teachers that they are married. Civil unions are a discriminatory label that renders same-sex couples different and inferior and no amount of tinkering with the rules and benefits can erase that stain of inequality.
"Since the law passed, Lambda Legal has worked directly with over one hundred individuals who have called us seeking help addressing unequal treatment or disregard for their civil unions. Garden State Equality counts scores more. Often we confront the civil union law's failure in employers' denial of family health insurance. One such employer was United Parcel Service, or UPS. While UPS read the specific terms of the law and still reached the wrong conclusion, most New Jerseyans will never read the law. Instead, they know gay people were denied marriage, and they take away a discriminatory message from that. That is the common denominator of the matters we've handled at Lambda Legal: the civil union law invites discrimination.
"Of course neither UPS nor anyone else should take New Jersey's invitation to discriminate. But of far greater importance, New Jersey's government should not be inviting the rest of New Jersey to discriminate in the first place.
"We are grateful for the Governor's letter in support of Lambda Legal's clients in our successful legal action against UPS. But same-sex couples in New Jersey cannot walk though life with their Governor on one side and a lawyer on the other. Same-sex couples and their families should not have to fight these battles over and over.
"I was born and raised in New Jersey and I am proud whenever my home state sets an example, as it has in the past, for fairness. On this first anniversary of the Lewis v. Harris decision, I am writing to urge you to fulfill the state's constitutional promise of equality and enact a law to allow same-sex couples to legally marry."
Source: Lambda Legal Press Release
© 2007 GayWired.com; All Rights Reserved.
Church of Sweden Backs Gay Marriage / Queerty
The Church of Sweden found itself conflicted yesterday. Religious leaders gathered to discuss whether or not to support a parliamentary bill neutering marriage. That is, making the legal language gender neutral to allow same-sex marriage. Had the Church of Sweden rejected the move, they would be forced to stop legally-sanctioned marriages all together.
Rather than give up those blessings, officials voted 161-74 to back the gay-inclusive laws. Whether that support will stick, however, remains to be seen. Despite the split, Archbishop Anders Wejryd seems optimistic, telling The Local:
I think the type of discussion we have had contributes to our cohesiveness. It has been an honest discussion that shows our great willingness to live together within the church. So it doesn’t worry me.
I am not of the opinion that everybody in the church should agree with each other. We have to be mature enough to live with a variety of opinions.
If only all Christian denominations were so understanding of difference. And, yes, we’re talking to you, Anglicans.
The Bay Area Reporter Online Episcopal diocese OKs blessings for gay couples
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Elected representatives of the Episcopal Diocese of California voted overwhelmingly in favor of two resolutions last weekend that support LGBT people in the church.
The first resolution concerned blessings for same-sex couples. Until now, there hasn't been a specific service for same-sex couples who wanted their unions blessed by the church. Now, there are three.
The vote Saturday, October 20 established set rites for same-sex couples and puts them on an equal footing with heterosexual couples, said Tom Jackson, president of Oasis, the LGBT ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of California.
"Now we have services we can use," Jackson said. "We don't have to make one up each time."
The diocese consists of San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, and Marin counties, and part of Santa Clara County. The diocese, which has 27,000 members, has offfered blessings for same-sex unions for 30 years.
The diocese's commission on marriage and blessing developed the three rites, which are accompanied by biblical texts. The rites were adapted from The Book of Common Prayer's "The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage;" "Marriage Liturgy, Second Form," from A New Zealand Prayer Book ; and "A Rite for the Celebration of Gay and Lesbian Covenants" from the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada.
The diocese's bishop, the Right Reverend Marc Handley Andrus, who is straight, has been a strong supporter of same-sex couples. The commission on marriage and blessing was formed under his direction.
Both resolutions were passed with voice votes and had strong support from straight allies, Jackson said. No counts were taken. The votes were part of an annual convention held at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral .
Episcopal churches across the Bay Area can immediately start using the rites, Jackson said.
The diocese also passed a resolution by the Reverend John Kirkley calling for more support of LGBT members of the church. The resolution was a response to recent events in the Episcopal Church nationally.
In 2003, openly gay Gene Robinson was elected as the Bishop of New Hampshire. That helped lead to a call from some Anglican Church leaders for the Episcopal Church to stop authorizing same-sex unions and stop allowing lesbians and gays to take high positions in the church. The Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion.
The House of Bishops, a meeting of 150 bishops from around the country, responded in September with a controversial decision lang=EN that largely gave the Anglicans what they wanted.
Kirkley's resolution read, in part, "[the] Diocesan Convention deplores the lack of access to adequate pastoral and ritual care for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in large parts of the Episcopal Church and the refusal of the majority of our bishops to make provision for it, and calls upon the House of Bishops to publish guidelines for such care."
Jackson said he hopes to organize people around the two "milestones" in preparation for the church's general convention in Anaheim in 2009.
For more information, visit http://www.oasiscalifornia.org/.
Austrian government plans registered gay partnerships- from Pink News- all the latest gay news from the gay community - Pink News
Austrian government plans registered gay partnerships- from Pink News- all the latest gay news from the gay community - Pink News
24th October 2007 16:17PinkNews.co.uk writerAustria's Justice minister today released draft legislation that will grant lesbian and gay couples the right to register their relationships.The proposed "registered partnerships" will be put before the country's Parliament by the end of this year. The Social Democrats (SPÖ) won the most seats in the January 2007 election but not enough to rule outright. They entered into a "grand coalition" with the conservative ÖVP, or People's Party.SPÖ Justice minister Maria Berger's proposed new partnerships law will be considered by a bipartisan working group. The People's Party announced earlier this month that it would support civil unions similar to those in Switzerland. Ms Berger said that her proposals were separate from marriage, though registered partners will share many of the rights of married couples. Austria has provided co-habiting same-sex couples the same rights as co-habiting straight couples since 2003, following a ruling by the European Court of Human RightsAdoption rights will not be extended to gay couples in today's proposals. Predominantly Roman Catholic, Austria has an equal age of consent and gay people are allowed to serve in the military. Before today it was the only one of the 15 pre-enlargement EU nations not to have moved towards some legal form of recognition of same-sex partners.
Posted by Michael at 10:31 AM
Southern Voice Online
House leaders delay ENDA voteBush advisers recommend veto of billBy LOU CHIBBARO JR. Oct 23, 3:11 PM
Democratic leaders announced they have decided to postpone a vote in the House of Representatives this week on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA.
The announcement came several hours after the White House issued a statement saying that senor advisers have recommended that President Bush veto the gay rights measure if Congress were to pass it.
ENDA supporters were quick to say the postponement had nothing to do with the White House veto threat, but reports surfaced giving separate reasons why House Democratic leaders chose to put off a vote on the bill for at least one week.
Drew Hammill, press secretary for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), issued a statement saying House Democratic leaders were working to “develop an accurate count” of the number of House members willing to vote for an amendment that would restore transgender protections to ENDA.
“We do not anticipate that this process can be completed this week,” Hammill said in his statement.
Hammill was referring to a decision by gay Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc), made with Pelosi’s consent, to introduce an amendment restoring a trans inclusive provision to the bill that House Democratic leaders took out. The leadership said it chose to move ahead with a gay-only version of the bill after it determined there were not enough votes to pass a trans inclusive bill.
Democratic strategists have said voting on the trans provision separately in the form of an amendment would allow supporters to move ahead with a gay-only bill if the Baldwin amendment is defeated.
Other reports surfaced indicating Pelosi postponed a vote on ENDA to clear the House agenda this week for an immediate vote on a new version of legislation to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as SCHIP. President Bush vetoed the SCHIP bill earlier this month and supporters fell short of lining up enough votes to override the president’s veto.
“We’re hearing they plan to bring up SCHIP this week and this will displace ENDA and other bills,” said one source familiar with ENDA, who asked not to be identified.
Hammill could not be immediately reached for comment on whether House leaders chose to place SCHIP on the House agenda ahead of ENDA.
If Congress passes ENDA, Bush’s senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill, according to the statement issued today by the White House.
The one-page statement, among other things, says provisions in ENDA “purport to give federal statutory significance to same-sex marriage rights under state law,” a development, according to the White House, that would conflict with the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.
The statement represents the first time the White House has released an official position on the gay rights measure, which calls for banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The bill was scheduled to come up for a vote in the House this week before House Democratic leaders postponed the vote.
Supporters of the bill have said its marriage-related provision is limited to banning employment discrimination based on marital status in states where same-sex couples cannot legally marry. Under the bill’s marriage provision, employers could not require that a person be married or eligible to marry as a condition of employment except in Massachusetts, where same-sex couples can legally marry.
ENDA’s marriage-related provision has mostly been overshadowed by a controversy within the gay and transgender community over whether the bill should include protection for transgender persons. House Democratic leaders withdrew an earlier version of the bill that included trans protections after determining there were not enough votes to pass it.
A coalition of more than 300 gay and transgender groups on the national, state and local levels have called on Congress not to pass the current version, H.R. 3685, saying lawmakers should wait until enough support could be found to back transgender protection before bringing it up for a vote.
Pelosi last week gave her consent to a request by Baldwin to introduce an amendment on the House floor to restore trans protections to the bill. The Baldwin amendment would open the way for an unprecedented, up or down vote on transgender rights in the U.S. Congress.
The White House statement makes no mention of the transgender issue.
“The bill raises concerns on constitutional and policy grounds, and if H.R. 3685 were presented to the president, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill,” the statement says.
The statement is considered by White House observers to be less forceful and definitive than other veto threats, in which the White House has said the president had already decided to veto a particular bill.
Most gay activists and supporters of ENDA on Capitol Hill have said they expected the president to veto ENDA regardless of whether it included transgender protections.
“H.R. 3685 is inconsistent with the right to the free exercise of religion as codified by Congress in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA),” the White House statement on ENDA says.
It notes that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act bars the federal government from “substantially burdening the free exercise of religion except for compelling reasons” and only in the “least restrictive” means possible.
“H.R. 3685 does not meet this standard,” the statement says. “For instance, schools that are owned by or directed toward a particular religion are exempted by the bill;” the statement says, “but those that emphasize religious principles broadly will find their religious liberties burdened by H.R. 3685,” the statement says.
The statement says ENDA’s authorization of federal civil damages against states or state entities over employment discrimination “may violate states’ immunity under the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
Similar to criticism raised by opponents in Congress, the White House statement says language in the bill barring employment discrimination based on someone’s “perceived” sexual orientation is “imprecise” and would “encourage burdensome litigation.”
The White House statement says ENDA’s marriage-related provision would conflict with the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which defines marriage as a union only between one man and one woman under federal law.
“The administration strongly opposes any attempt to weaken this law, which is vital to defending the sanctity of marriage,” the statement says.
Supporters have said many state and local laws ban discrimination based on marital status and that the ENDA provision would not conflict with DOMA.
Posted by Michael at 10:12 AM
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
White House Warns Of ENDA Veto
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: October 23, 2007 - 4:00 pm ET
(Washington) In its first statement on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which would protect gays and lesbians in the workforce the White House said Tuesday the bill is likely unconstitutional and that if it passes in Congress the president's senior aides would recommend vetoing it.
"[The bill] is inconsistent with the right to the free exercise of religion as codified by Congress in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)," the White House said in a statement.
The House is expected to vote on ENDA, along with an amendment that would extend protections to include gender identity on Wednesday.
The White House raised what it called two examples of how ENDA would violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
"For instance, schools that are owned by or directed toward a particular religion are exempted by the bill; but those that emphasize religious principles broadly will find their religious liberties burdened by H.R. 3685. A second concern is H.R. 3685’s authorization of Federal civil damage actions against State entities, which may violate States’ immunity under the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."
The administration also said that ENDA was result in unnecessary litigation.
For instance, the bill establishes liability for acting on “perceived” sexual orientation, or “association” with individuals of a particular sexual orientation. If passed, H.R. 3685 is virtually certain to encourage burdensome litigation beyond the cases that the bill is intended to reach."
In addition the White House said that provisions of ENDA "give Federal statutory significance to same-sex marriage rights under State law. These provisions conflict with the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman. The Administration strongly opposes any attempt to weaken this law, which is vital to defending the sanctity of marriage."
The threatened veto is the latest in a series of problems ENDA has encountered.
It originally included all members of the LGBT community, but the bill's author, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) removed gender identity fearing the legislation might not get out of committee.
The move angered most LGBT rights groups, many of whom accused Frank of selling out transsexuals.
Nevertheless, the revised bill passed the House Education and Labor Committee last week on a 27 - 21 vote. (story) Several committee Democrats, including presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich refused to support the measure without the inclusion of protections for trans people.
Following the vote Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) proposed an amendment that would reinstate gender identity and secured the support of House leadership to introduce it Wednesday when ENDA reaches the floor. (story)
Frank and Baldwin are the only two out members of Congress.
Friday, Frank announced he would support the amendment and said he would lobby for its passage. (story)
ENDA, as currently worded, would make it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in hiring, firing, promoting or paying an employee.
There are, however, some notable exceptions. It does not cover small businesses, churches and the uniformed members of the armed forces.
The White House concerns suggest that ENDA could be used against faith-based agencies and to seek domestic partner benefits from employers.
The threatened veto is the second against LGBT legislation before Congress. The other is the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Act.
That legislation has passed the House. The Senate version passed as an amendment to a military spending bill. The two versions are now in conference.
Posted by Michael at 4:43 PM
Larry Craig scandal should cue gay rights debate -- Newsday.com
Larry Craig scandal should cue gay rights debate
BY BRETT KRUTZSCH
Brett Krutzsch is an administrator at New York University and a freelance writer. His essays about gay life have appeared in The Advocate, New York Press and The New York Blade.
October 23, 2007
Larry Craig's much-anticipated interview with Matt Lauer last week brought the country's attention back to the senator's airport bathroom scandal, arrest and unfulfilled promise of a resignation. I, however, am reminded of the incident every time I enter a public rest room. I first noticed a shift in lavatory climate when I attended the U.S. Open this summer with my boyfriend, just a few days after news of the Idaho senator's arrest broke. We entered the men's room and overheard three presumably straight guys uttering warnings to each other: "Be careful if anyone taps their foot next to you," and, "I'd keep my head down at the urinal if I were you." When they saw us walk in together they shot looks to one another that, to me, said, "On guard, fellas. There are two of them" - as if we had taken a break from the Roddick match to find sexual partners in the loo. A few weeks later, I was at a happy hour when an inebriated colleague made a poor attempt at a joke, saying, "Don't try pulling a Larry Craig on me," as we entered adjoining stalls.Before Craig's arrest, neither my partner nor I had heard of foot tapping as a sort of gay Morse code. Now, with constant attention given to the scandal, the stereotype of queer men as hypersexual predators is once again in the public consciousness. Obviously, I can't deny that some men seek sexual encounters with other men in public rest rooms and parks. Jim McGreevey, former governor of New Jersey, acknowledged in his memoir that while he was in the closet he often sought sex in communal places.Heterosexuals are able to freely flirt at Starbucks, the gym and at work. But in many U.S. towns and cities, gay men and lesbians don't feel comfortable making advances in such environments, for fear that homophobes will assault them. Many flock to gay bars to meet other queer people, but those in the closet - especially politicians, clergy and men with wives - can't risk being seen in such locations. Closeted individuals seek sex through more covert channels, relying on eye contact and suggestive signals. But to believe that some gay men look for sex in rest rooms simply because it is risky or exhilarating is a misread of many situations. Such encounters are a symptom of living in a country that views homosexuals as second-class citizens. If lesbians and gay men could get married, adopt children more readily or, at the very least, show affection in public without fear, more gays would live their lives out of the closet. Until being gay is seen as a viable, healthy and acceptable life, Americans will continue to hear about men looking for physical intimacy in rest stops and airport bathrooms. In his interview with Lauer, Craig asserted his innocence and heterosexuality. Regardless of his sexual orientation, I believe the senator committed no crime. Even if he had given signals indicating that he wanted sex, he didn't expose himself or engage in lewd behavior. Straight men who catcall or wink suggestively at women typically are not arrested for openly flirting, nor is such heterosexual behavior the premise of undercover police operations. Craig's arrest wasn't just an attempt to frame a politician; it was a statement to gay men and lesbians that we should keep our personal lives hidden because our sexuality is apparently disgusting and criminal.If all that comes from this scandal is debate over whether Craig should resign or discussion of how this affects the Republican Party's reputation, our country has missed an opportunity to recognize the marginalization of gays and lesbians. It's sad to think that there are people with such deep levels of fear and loathing about their sexuality that they allow themselves the intimacy they desire only when anonymity is possible. The real lesson from the Larry Craig debacle is that, without complete equality, gays with internalized homophobia will continue to lead false lives while seeking extramarital same-sex partners. I wish for them the appreciation and contentment I've found in being gay. And I pray our country makes gay rights a priority - if for no other reason than we can all have peace and solitude in the bathroom.
Copyright © 2007, Newsday
Posted by Michael at 10:34 AM
The battle for gay marriage will be fought in the states- from Pink News- all the latest gay news from the gay community - Pink News
Analysis: The battle for gay marriage will be fought in the states- from Pink News- all the latest gay news from the gay community - Pink News
22nd October 2007 23:30Eddy EvansIf you believe some of the hype out there you might think that 4th November 2008 will be a turning point in the long campaign to achieve equal human rights for America’s gay men and lesbians. The mutual love-in that was the Logo Democratic Presidential "gay" forum this summer was more reminiscent of a sofa-style chat with Oprah than a fully-fledged political battle of ideas. When rank outsider Dennis Kucinich announced that "I love all of you" in his final comments I feared the "debate" would descend into spontaneous collective rendition of Over the Rainbow accompanied by panellist Melissa Etheridge on acoustic guitar. Fortunately, viewers were spared that fate but the message was clear; Democrats love the gays, or at least they say they do. By contrast there was no Republican "gay" debate. Every GOP candidate declined to take part. The conclusion looks simple. If America chooses a Democrat in 2008 then gays and lesbians will be celebrating while if a Republican wins the White House we can expect more of the same after two terms of George W Bush. There is some merit in that conclusion. I think any impartial political analyst would agree that the political agenda of gay and lesbian rights in the United States stands a greater chance of being advanced with a Democrat taking the oath of office in 2009 rather than a Republican. But there are a myriad of influences that will determine the ability of a President to bring about change, and in fact on many issues the leader of the free world will be utterly powerless. There are three factors that will be paramount in determining whether those who have dreamed of a Democratic President bringing reform will have their hopes dashed or their aspirations realised. The Congress, the states, and a slightly less tangible factor, political will, will be crucial. As the current incumbent is experiencing, without a majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate it is a tough, if not impossible, challenge for the President to achieve anything of substance in the domestic arena. The latest approval ratings for President Bush are 31 per cent, while those for Congress languish even lower at 22 per cent. The GOP appears to many to be disintegrating amid scandal and an unpopular war, but history shows us that America has a tendency to elect a Congress that opposes the President. The Democrats are confident of holding on to the House and Senate but few disagree that they have failed to capitalise on the wave of public support that swept them to power last year. Without a strong majority in the House and Senate a Democratic President will have only a limited leadership role to play on domestic issues and may lack the ability to persuade the Congress to push gay rights to the top of their legislative agenda. The United States of America is a federal republic. Unless powers are explicitly granted to the federal branches of government, they are reserved for the states. One of the most politically sensitive issues in America in the last decade has been gay marriage. None of the likely nominees from either party are supporting this cause. While Democrats have signed up to civil unions, this is ultimately a battle that will be fought state-by-state and not in Washington D.C. Neither the President nor the Congress has the power to impose gay marriage or civil unions on the fifty states that make up this federal republic. President Bush's efforts to amend the constitution banning gay marriage may be lifeless, but the idea that a President could single-handedly bring gay marriage to the United States is similarly dead in the water. Thirty-nine states ban same-sex marriage with state constitutional amendments approved by public referendums. The federal Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) prevented federal recognition of same-sex marriages and allowed states to refuse to recognise gay marriages performed elsewhere. DOMA was passed overwhelmingly by Congress in 1996 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. While Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards all favour repealing Section 3 of DOMA and allowing the federal government grant the federal legal benefits of marriage to same-sex couples on the state level who are married, such as those in Massachusetts, only Obama and Kucinich support the repeal of the legislation in its entirety. Finally let us consider that least tangible but perhaps most powerful of factors, political will. It has been flattering to see the Democrat candidates openly court gay voters and equally enlightening to see Republicans refrain from anti-gay rhetoric on the campaign trail so far. Yet when the new President takes office, the question remains whether the pursuit of gay rights can realistically be at the top of their in-tray. The Clintons have deep scars on their back from the ill-fated effort to end the ban on gays in the military in 1993. The messy compromise of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" left the Clinton White House weakened after just months in office and having wasted valuable political capital. If Hilary Clinton or one of her Democratic rivals wins the Presidency their hard-nosed political judgment may steer them away from a potentially destructive collision with conservative opponents at a time when the country is crying out for a uniter and not a divider. Let's also not forget the 800lb gorilla in the US political system; the courts. You can guarantee that any attempt at reform will prompt so-called family values activists to employ an army of lawyers to fight their battle in the courts at state and federal level. Expect to see them walk up the forty-four steps of the Supreme Court at every opportunity in an attempt to have any changes deemed unconstitutional. The Court has taken an increasingly conservative direction with the justices nominated by the Bush administration, and ultimately has the power to strike down any law, state or federal. There is still plenty of reason for optimism if a Democrat wins and maybe not the despair that many felt in 2004 if a Republican claims victory in the race. If President Bush vetoes the Matthew Shepard Act on hate crimes or the latest Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), then resurrected versions may stand far more of a chance under a Democratic Presidency - assuming of course the party can maintain control of Congress. The news on the Republican side may not hold too much to fear for gays and lesbians. The GOP frontrunners are a liberal-leaning New Yorker who supports civil unions, an Arizona senator who once denounced evangelical preacher Jerry Falwell as one of America's "agents of intolerance," a former Governor of Massachusetts who once claimed in a 1994 Senate race that he would be a stronger supporter of gay rights than Ted Kennedy and a non-church going former actor who champions states' rights (and tacitly their right to introduce gay marriage) who recently told Fox News "we ought to be a tolerant nation."That is not to say the Republicans are likely to mount a campaign with any overt support of gay rights issues but a rollback to the Bush '04 agenda emboldened by solid backing from the evangelical Right seems unlikely.Demands for a constitutional amendment barring gay marriage appear to have fallen off the political radar. The GOP frontrunners know they have to promote a moderate, less divisive vision to present an electable alternative to the unpopular later years of the Bush Presidency. The evangelical movement is not dead and buried by any stretch of the imagination but it is already feeling marginalised in the 2008 nomination process. It also looks at if the era of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" may be coming to an end regardless of whether a Democrat or a Republican is commander-in-chief. It may not be the first priority for a new President fearful of a conservative backlash, but change could be inevitable. The reality of a shortage of troops to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the experience of other countries – including most countries in Europe as well as Israel, Australia and Canada – who allow gays and lesbians to serve openly, may bring change for pragmatic reasons rather than any commitment to equality. Rudy Giuliani cannot realistically favour reform of the current policy if he wants the GOP nomination, but he has used a form of language that does not rule it out. It was the military who were at the forefront of the battle to stop President Clinton lifting the ban in 1993, but many former generals including John M. Shalikashvili, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, now support an end to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Polling the voting intentions of gay and lesbians can be notoriously difficult but most indicators show strong support for Democrat candidates, and for Hilary Clinton in particular. It will be heartwarming for many of us to have the most powerful woman or man in the world as a supporter. A message of tolerance and acceptance from whoever wins next year will be a welcome change for many LGBT Americans who felt alienated by the Bush administration, but the evidence of the recent past clearly demonstrates that warm words are not enough. When Bill Clinton was elected many gays and lesbians rejoiced at the prospect of a new beginning with a champion in the White House. Having an ally may make us feel good but it does not bring legislative change. The euphoria of Clinton's victory was short-lived after the disastrous handling of the efforts to end the ban on gays in the military, his inability to gain congressional support for ENDA despite his strong personal backing, and his endorsement of DOMA. The Clintons enjoy huge support from prominent activists but his legacy in terms of advancing the rights of gays and lesbians is mixed regardless of his good intentions. In 2008 the gubernatorial, congressional, and state legislature elections may prove to be more important for the rights of America's gays and lesbians than whoever triumphs in the race for the White House. The power to bring about change does not reside in the Oval Office. It is in the hands of lawmakers and judges in the nation's capital and across the fifty states that make up the United States of America.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Garden State Equality - New Jersey's political action organization supporting LGBTI gay rights: "Zogby Poll: Six months into New Jersey civil unions, voters say change "
By 63% to 31%, New Jersey voters say they’d be fine with the state legislature upgrading civil unions to marriage equality.
By 72% to 21%, New Jersey voters say state legislators would be in no electoral danger if they enacted marriage equality.
By 61% to 29%, New Jersey voters say they expect the state to enact marriage equality within just a couple of years.
Zogby asked the baseline question – do you favor marriage equality versus civil unions – in two ways. Results are 48% to 45% for marriage equalityin one question, 48% to 30% in another.
And a significant 35% of respondents said they would be less likely to dobusiness with a company that denies equal benefits to gay employees. 20% said “much less likely.”
As New Jersey marks the six-month anniversary of the civil unions law on Sunday, August 19, a new statewide Zogby Poll shows majorities of voters favoring changing the law to full marriage equality for same-sex couples. The poll of 803 New Jersey voters was taken from August 8th through 10, 2007, with a margin of error of +/- 3.5%. Though Garden State Equality commissioned the poll, Zogby collected the data independently.
With news organizations reporting on the failure of the New Jersey civil union law to consistently provide equal rights to same-sex couples – and with statistics showing the law failing at least 1 in every 7 times – the poll asked:
“If public officials in New Jersey come to the conclusion that civil unions for gay couples have not worked to provide equality under the law, and that the way to fix the law is to give gay couples the same right to marry as heterosexual couples, would you be fine with that or would you be upset by that?” 63% responded “fine with that,” while only 31% responded “upset by that.”
The poll also provides key political information to legislators for when they consider changing civil unions to marriage equality. The poll asked:
“Which of the following do you think is most likely to happen to legislators if they were to allow gay couples to marry? Those legislators would not be reelected, or nothing because people care about other issues more.” 72% said nothing would happen to legislators, while only 21% said legislators would not be reelected.
In response to the question, “Regardless of where you stand on the issue of allowing gay couples to marry, do you agree or disagree that gay couples will be allowed to get married in New Jersey in a couple of years anyway?”, 61% agreed, while only 29% disagreed.
The poll also asked the baseline question testing support for marriage equality versus civil unions in two different ways. When voters were asked: “New Jersey allows gay couples to enter into civil unions but not marry. Do you agree or disagree that New Jersey should give gay couples the same freedom to marry as heterosexual couples?” 48% supported marriage equality, while 45% opposed it.
But when voters were asked: “Which of the following comes closest to your own point of view: (A) If gay couples want to marry, let them. It will ensure equality and will not affect marriages of heterosexual couples anyway.(B) Allow gay couples to enter into civil unions, but not marriage. Allowing gay couples to marry will hurt the institution of marriage.
(C) Do not allow gay couples to marry or enter into civil unions,” 48% of voters supported marriage equality, 30% supported civil unions but no more, and 20% supported neither marriage nor civil unions for same-sex couples.
The difference between the two questions may have been the concept of marriage for gay couples hurting the institution of marriage, the primary argument of marriage-equality opponents that New Jersey voters clearly reject.
“Regardless of whether any public official supports marriage equality or wants to maintain the state’s failed civil unions law,” said Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State Equality, “no official in New Jersey can credibly say that marriage for gay couples is a divisive issue in the state. Even voters who oppose marriage equality are ready to accept an upgrade of the state’s civil unions law to real marriage equality.”
The poll also asked questions unrelated to civil unions or marriage equality. The poll asked: “I am going to read to you a list of public figures. Regardless of whether or not you agree with them on the issues or how well they have performed their job while in office, please tell me for each if you personally like them. For example, would he or she be the kind of person you think you would like to have a cup of coffee with?”
Poll copyright © 2007 by Zogby International and Garden State Equality.
Posted by Michael at 10:28 PM
Campaign confirms U.S. Senate candidate Neal is gay
Published: Oct 22, 2007 10:39 AM
Modified: Oct 22, 2007 10:47 AM
Campaign confirms U.S. Senate candidate Neal is gay
The Associated PressCHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Jim Neal, the Democrat who is running to challenge U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, is gay, a campaign spokesman confirmed Monday.
Neal spoke publicly of his sexual orientation over the weekend during an online discussion organized by a liberal blog, spokesman Thomas Mills said.
In response to a message on BlueNC.com asking whether he was gay, Neal is quoted a saying: "I am indeed. No secret and no big deal to me - I wouldn't be running if I didn't think otherwise."
He continued: "I'm not running this race to make some social statement. I'm running to lead in the Senate for the voters in NC - something Sen. Dole has not done."
Neal is a fundraiser for 2004 presidential candidates who has never run for public office. He is the only Democrat who has announced he will run next year against Dole.
The head of a Chapel Hill corporate financial advisory firm, Neal announced Oct. 4 he would seek the Democratic nomination. Neal, 50, was previously married and has two sons. He didn't mention his sexual orientation at the time of the announcement.
Other Democrats have declined to get in the race, including Gov. Mike Easley, Attorney General Roy Cooper and U.S. Rep. Brad Miller. Two state legislators announced this month that they wouldn't get involved in the race.
Democrats contend Dole is vulnerable for re-election next year because of her support for the war in Iraq and a poor showing by Republicans when she led the National Republican Senatorial Committee in the 2006 elections. A Elon University poll a few weeks ago put Dole's job approval rating at 50 percent, with 25 percent who disapproved.
Other openly gay candidates have won local elected office in North Carolina. State Sen. Julia Boseman, D-New Hanover, was elected to the General Assembly in 2004.
Former Superior Court Judge Ray Warren, who also is gay, announced in 2001 that he would seek the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms. But he later dropped out of the race ultimately won by Dole.
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Posted by Michael at 5:24 PM
TheHill.com - Perkins: Giuliani supports marriage amendment
Perkins: Giuliani supports marriage amendment
By Sam Youngman
October 20, 2007
Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, told The Hill Saturday that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) would support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
Perkins said Giuliani told him in a private meeting that if the Defense of Marriage Act appeared to be failing or if multiple states began to legalize same-sex marriages, then he would support the constitutional amendment.
Giuliani did not mention the amendment or the issue of gay marriage during his address to the Values Voters Summit, but that position could win him favor with some social conservatives who view the former mayor warily.
Perkins said that was not enough to assuage his concerns about Giuliani, but “it was nice to hear.”
Former presidential candidate and conservative leader Gary Bauer told The Hill in a brief interview that Giuliani gave a good speech, but the glaring omission of marriage issues was telling.
“To come into a crowd like this and not mention marriage was, I think, a colossal mistake,” Bauer said.
Bauer added that he, Perkins and other social conservative leaders have been meeting with the GOP candidates as they have been addressing the conservative crowd, and after this weekend, they will “release” the leaders to make endorsements as they see fit.
Bauer said he would continue to work with all the campaigns.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was the last GOP presidential candidate to speak to the crowd Saturday, and he was far and away the best received.
Huckabee’s speech at times felt more like it should have been delivered in a Sunday morning sermon than at a political gathering, and the crowd seemed to appreciate it.
Huckabee denied taking indirect shots at his opponents when he said that some have taken more positions on social issues than Elvis had waistlines.
The former governor made a strong appeal to the social conservatives gathered even though their leadership has been less than enthusiastic about his candidacy.
“I don’t want us ever to let expediency or electability replace our principles as the new values,” Huckabee said. “I do not spell G-O-D, G-O-P. Our party may be important, but our principles are more important.”
The former governor said after his speech that he was not suggesting any kind of third-party split, and that he is “not supporting it, advocating it and would not be a part of it.”
Huckabee said he does think supporters of Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who withdrew from the race Friday, will come to his side.
“I do think that many of his people will come with us, especially in Iowa,” he said.
Posted by Michael at 5:13 PM
Stations Face Fines Over Use Of Bush Anti-Gay Shillby 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: October 19, 2007 - 5:00 pm ET
(Washington) Two broadcast companies are facing FCC fines totaling $76,000 against two broadcast companies for failing to tell viewers that programs in 2004 featuring conservative columnist Armstrong Williams were sponsored by the Education Department.
Williams was hired by the Bush administration to promote its so-called marriage initiative that would have banned same-sex marriage in the Constitution and to promote the No Child Left Behind Act.
Williams (pictured) was paid nearly a quarter million dollars in 2003 by the White House to promote the President's agenda in his columns and nationally syndicated talk show. (story)
Williams did not reveal the existence of the contract even as he expressed his support for the agenda on the air.
The Federal Communications Commission says the two companies, which own multiple stations, violated sponsorship identification rules by not revealing Williams' financial relationship.
Sonshine Family Television Inc., owner of WBPH-TV in Bethlehem, Pa., is liable for a fine of $40,000 for airing five episodes of "The Right Side with Armstrong Williams."
The shows aired on 10 occasions in the first half of 2004 and included Williams speaking about the education law.
Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. of Baltimore was hit with a proposed fine of $36,000 for airing an episode of "America's Black Forum" in September of 2004, which also included Williams talking about the legislation.
The Sinclair stations involved are WABM-TV in Birmingham, Ala.; KSMO-TV in Kansas City, Mo.; WVTV-TV in Milwaukee, Wis.; WUXP-TV in Nashville, Tenn.; KOCB-TV and WEAR-TV in Pensacola, Fla; WPMY-TV in Pittsburgh; KABB-TV in San Antonio; and WTWC-TV in Tallahassee, Fla.
The FCC said it began investigating following a complaint from Free Press, a public interest media watchdog group, and "several thousand other complainants".
The attorney-general reportedly is also looking into the relationship between Williams and the White House.
In 2005 the Government Accountability Office launched its own probe and concluded that the Education Department engaged in illegal "covert propaganda" by hiring Williams without requiring him to disclose that he was being paid. The Education Department's inspector general also reviewed the Williams deal.
Williams is a former aide to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In a column following the 2004 election Williams linked gay rights advocates with organized crime.
"Despite the rhetoric that you hear from the homosexual Cosa Nostra, the lack of support for the gay marriage amendment has nothing to do with prejudice," he wrote.
"It's not about trying to dictate to adults what they should do in the privacy of their own homes. Let's be clear about that. Opposition to the gay marriage amendment isn't about disallowing homosexuals the same basic rights we extend to everyone else. It is about recognizing that marriage between man and woman is the bedrock of our society. It is about the citizens of this country saying, en masse, that they are unwilling to deconstruct certain basic and essential norms in our culture and society."
After Williams was exposed the White House pulled the plug on the operation, but sources close to the investigation say that Williams did not return any of the money, nor did the administration request it.
After Williams was exposed two other cases came to light where the administration hired journalists to promote its agenda in the guise of unbiased commentary and news.
Syndicated conservative columnists Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus were paid by the administration to promote the marriage initiative.
In 2003 Gallagher testified before a Senate subcommittee in support of a constitutional ban on gay marriage but failed to mention she was on the White House payroll. (story)
McManus, whose syndicated column, "Ethics & Religion," appeared in 50 newspapers, was hired as a subcontractor by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Posted by Michael at 4:50 PM
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Woman testifies that Catholic Citizenship leader assaulted her :: EDGE Boston
by Laura Kiritsy Bay Windows Thursday Oct 18, 2007
On the second day of the trial of former Catholic Citizenship Executive Director Larry Cirignano on misdemeanor assault and battery and civil rights violation charges, Sarah Loy, the victim of the alleged assault, described her confrontation with Cirignano to the jury. She said that during a Dec. 16 rally for VoteOnMarriage.org at Worcester City Hall calling for an end to same-sex marriage she was part of a group of people protesting the rally. Holding a MassEquality sign calling for "No discrimination in the constitution," Loy walked through the crowd of VoteOnMarriage supporters, stepped in front of the podium, and turned to face the crowd."I walked through the crowd. I wanted the crowd to see the message on my sign," said Loy.She told Worcester County Assistant District Attorney Joe Quinlan that after standing there for a few seconds holding her sign, she felt a pair of hands lay a firm grip on her shoulders. She turned around to find Cirignano, who had been a speaker at the rally and who was one of the lead organizers of the signature drive for the petition to place the VoteOnMarriage constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage on a statewide ballot. She said he told her in an angry voice that, "I had to get out of here now, get out of here right now."Loy said with his hands on her shoulders Cirignano began pushing her backwards through the crowd for about five or six feet before she fell back onto the ground, landing on her side. When she looked up from the ground, Cirignano was nowhere in sight. Loy told Quinlan she was crying after the incident and told police on the scene that she wanted to press charges against Cirignano.On cross-examination Cirignano’s attorney, Michael Gilleran, tried to paint a very different picture of what happened that day. He argued that rather than pushing Loy backwards, Cirignano held her from the back and escorted her out of the crowd. He said Loy fell not because Cirignano pushed her but because she tripped on someone else’s foot."Isn’t it a fact, Ms. Loy, that Mr. Cirignano put his arm on your back and escorted you into the crowd, then you tripped on a girl’s foot ... and you fell?" asked Gilleran. He showed her a photo of a woman in a purple jacket standing in the crowd at the rally and asked her if she tripped over her foot. Loy replied that she had not.Gilleran further alleged that she was starting to pick herself up from the ground when a group of fellow same-sex marriage supporters gathered around her. At that point Gilleran claimed that she intentionally went back down to the ground and began to cry. Loy denied that this was true.Other witnesses for the prosecution corroborated Loy’s story that Cirignano had shoved her to the ground. Richard Nangle, a reporter for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette who covered the rally and wrote about the incident, testified that while he was covering the event he saw one of the speakers, who he later learned was Cirignano, approach someone in the crowd."What I saw was someone approach the person who was pushed, push her, her head hit the ground, and he immediately turned [and] ran back to the podium," said Nangle.He said he was standing about six to eight feet away from Loy when the altercation took place. He said he went up to Loy after she hit the ground and found that she was crying."She had burst into tears. She was clearly extremely upset and hurt," said Nangle.The Rev. Aaron Payson, a local Unitarian Univeralist minister who had attended the rally to demonstrate his support for same-sex marriage and his opposition to VoteOnMarriage, also testified that he witnessed Cirignano push Loy."I actually observed a woman being forced backwards through the crowd and being pushed to the ground. ... I observed [Cirignano] push her at which point she fell to the ground," said Payson.As he cross-examined each of the prosecution’s witnesses Gilleran argued that none of them were close enough to Loy to see what actually happened. In Nangle’s case he also alleged that Nangle had tried to promote the story to his own advantage, giving interviews about the incident to other papers.Gilleran called one witness, Massachusetts Family Institute President Kris Mineau, at the start of the day’s proceedings, taking him out of turn to accommodate Mineau’s travel schedule. Mineau, the lead spokesperson for VoteOnMarriage, said he was speaking at the podium during the rally when Loy walked to the front of the crowd and held up her sign towards the audience. At that point he said he saw Cirignano walk over to Loy to escort her from the crowd."I saw Mr. Cirignano come diagonally across. I don’t know particularly how he did it in terms of, he was prodding her, moving her, to get her back from the crowd. That’s all I saw," said Mineau. He said from his vantage point on the podium he could not see the alleged confrontation.Asked by Gilleran whether or not he knew Cirignano to be peaceful by reputation, Mineau responded, "My knowledge of his reputation is he’s a very peaceful man."During his opening statement Quinlan said that Cirignano’s actions during the rally were a direct attack on Loy’s right to free speech."Sarah Loy decided to exercise her right of free speech, a right that all Americans enjoy, and she decided to do it in silence with a sign," said Quinlan. He said that because she exercised that right she was "grabbed, pushed, and knocked down by this defendant sitting here before you."Gilleran, during his opening statement, said that he would produce witnesses who would dispute the prosecutor’s version of events and prove Cirignano’s innocence. He held up a photo to the jury showing two women in the crowd at the rally, one in a purple coat and the other in a red jacket."They will come and tell you exactly what happened," said Gilleran.He also said the jury would learn about Cirignano’s past work as an advance man, working to set up political events. Gilleran said part of Cirignano’s training in this work involved learning to do crowd control, including a technique called "catch and release" in which a person puts his forearm onto someone else’s back to forcibly move them out of a crowd. Gilleran said Cirignano used this technique on Loy "and nothing more."The trial against Cirignano is not the only legal action springing from the incident at the December rally. Last month Shari Worthington of Worcester filed a criminal complaint against Loy for disturbing a lawful assembly. In her complaint, Worthington said she applied for the permit for the VoteOnMarriage rally on behalf of the Massachusetts Family Institute. There is a hearing scheduled for that complaint Oct. 29. Worcester County District Attorney Joe Early, Jr.’s office petitioned Worcester District Court to delay the trial against Cirignano until after that hearing on that grounds that placing Loy on the witness stand in Cirignano’s trial could force her to give testimony that would incriminate herself before the hearing on her criminal complaint; that request was denied. Loy declined to comment on the criminal complaint to Bay Windows.Judge David Despotopulos and the attorneys for both sides spent the first day of the trial, Oct. 16, hashing out a number of questions relating to how the trial would be conducted. Gilleran made a handful of motions before jury selection. He asked for the sequestration not only of witnesses but of everyone else in the courtroom, arguing that many of the attendees of the trial had close ties to the witnesses and that it was vital that they be ordered not to discuss the proceedings with witnesses outside the courtroom."Otherwise it is a back door to violation of the [sequestration] order" on the witnesses, argued Gilleran. Despotopulos rejected this motion. He also rejected a motion from Gilleran that would have kept Loy from entering the courtroom even after she had given her testimony as well as a motion that would have barred Early’s office from including evidence of Loy’s physical injury following the alleged assault.The judge also heard a request by Neil McGaraghan, an attorney for the Telegram and Gazette, that Nangle not be forced to testify at the trial. Nangle was subpoenaed to testify by Early’s office. McGaraghan argued that there were other eyewitnesses to the incident and that forcing Nangle to testify could harm his credibility as an impartial reporter, particularly if on cross-examination he was asked his personal opinion about the subject of the VoteOnMarriage rally, same-sex marriage."You then without a doubt have a supposedly neutral reporter having to reveal private feelings about the matter," said McGaraghan. (During his testimony, Nangle was not asked about his personal beliefs about civil marriage rights.)Quinlan responded that the prosecution wanted to call Nangle as a witness both because he was allegedly in closest proximity among all the eyewitnesses to the alleged incident and because he is the only eyewitness not affiliated either with Loy or with Cirignano.On the second day of the trial Despotopulos denied the Telegram and Gazette’s motion to quash the subpoena against Nangle.Since the incident Cirignano has stepped down from Catholic Citizenship and relocated to Virginia. He has told reporters, including Bay Windows, that he is leading another conservative Catholic advocacy organization, but he has not identified that organization.While Cirignano no longer resides in Massachusetts, some of his former allies in the fight against LGBT rights attended the first day of the trial to show their support. Most notably Brian Camenker, founder of the anti-LGBT group MassResistance, attended, and he chatted with Cirignano in the hallway of the courthouse during a recess. MassResistance has urged its members to support Cirignano and provided extensive information on the case, including copies of briefs, on its website.The trial is expected to wrap up on Oct. 19.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Lesbian Lawmaker Offers ENDA Compromise
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: October 17, 2007 - 9:00 am ET
(Washington) The only openly lesbian member of Congress says she will propose an amendment to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to restore gender identity protections.
The removal of protections for trans people from the act, known as ENDA, has split the LGBT community like no other issue in more than a decade.
Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) says she has secured an agreement from the Democratic leadership to introduce the amendment next week on the House floor, after the bill moves through the House Education and Labor Committee on Thursday.
ENDA, was authored by Rep. Barney Frank and originally contained protections for trans people. Earlier this month Frank removed them, saying the legislation which he has been fighting for for most of his political career would not pass as long as it included gender identity.
Republicans and a significant number of Democrats called the term confusing, unenforceable, and could lead to "cross dressers being allowed to teach in schools". (story)
The bill was pulled before it was scheduled to go to committee, rewritten, and submitted again.
Frank last week said once the gay and lesbian portions of the bill were passed he would work to have transsexuals added. Only the Human Rights Campaign supported the tactic.
Nine other major LGBT groups announced their opposition (story) and by the end of the week the number had grown to almost 300.
Friday, at a meeting between HRC, other LGBT groups and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Pelosi gave assurances that once ENDA becomes law and as soon as there is enough support for amendments adding back in the protections for transsexuals that version would also be presented.
The tactic was acceptable to HRC but rejected by the other major LGBT rights groups.
Baldwin's proposal appears to be acceptable, however, to those groups who formed an umbrella organization called United ENDA.
"Clearly, our preferred strategy is to pass the original ENDA out of committee." the groups said in a joint statement.
"However, if we are faced with a non-inclusive bill following the committee vote, we will work with Congresswoman Baldwin to repair ENDA to include protections on the basis of gender identity."
The groups, which includes National Stonewall Democrats, also said they expect Pelosi and the House leadership to "actively support the Baldwin amendment."
Any form of ENDA is likely to meet with opposition at the White House.
The Bush administration has been silent on the legislation, but on another LGBT rights bill - the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Act - it has threatened a veto.
That measure has passed the House. The Senate version passed as an amendment to a military spending bill. The two versions are now in conference.
The feuding over ENDA comes at a difficult time for Democrats heading into the 2008 election where it is counting on a united LGBT vote.
Posted by Michael at 9:48 AM
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Gays differ on marriage fight
As lawmakers on both coasts debate marriage rights for same-sex couples, the issue stands at the top of many LGBT activists' agendas. But not all. Some say this focus on same-sex marriage actually works against their advocacy on other queer issues.
Queers for Economic Justice Executive Director Joseph DeFelippis is critical of the recent focus on gay marriage. His New York-based nonprofit seeks more affordable housing, access to health care, employment and education for economically disadvantaged LGBT New Yorkers.
"The movement for gay marriage has been a disaster," DeFelippis said.
DeFelippis criticizes the way marriage equality advocates have framed the debate, with their talking points and other public comments.
New York transgender activist Melissa Sklarz added that the marriage debate fails to take into account the everyday reality of many LGBT people. She said she feels LGBT urbanites, in particular, are focused on more basic issues than marriage rights.
"For many people in the LGBT community, the ability to survive is always a struggle," she said. "The issue of survival transcends the issue of security."
Equality Alabama board member Howard Bayless shares concerns about basic survival. LGBT activists in his state have focused on anti-hate crime legislation since three Alabamans brutally murdered gay resident Scotty Joe Weaver in Baldwin County in 2004. Equality Alabama's primary mission is to legalize same-sex marriage, but Bayless says the marriage debate has also allowed his organization and others like it to enhance advocacy for other issues, like fighting hate crime.
"The movement's focus on marriage is providing a vehicle for us to come out at work and to our families and become active in the political process," Bayless said.
Gay marriage's history
The marriage debate began in earnest in 1993, after a Hawaiian judge ruled the ban on marriage for same-sex couples violated the state's constitution. Then-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who now chairs the Democratic National Committee, signed the country's first civil unions bill into law in 2000 after the state's Supreme Court ruled in favor of three same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses.
Connecticut, New Jersey and New Hampshire have since followed suit, while Massachusetts remains the only state where gay and lesbian couples can legally marry. The state's Supreme Judicial Court issued its landmark Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health decision in 2003, when a lesbian couple sued the Commonwealth for denying the women a marriage license. California lawmakers twice passed a marriage bill but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it in 2005 and again Friday.
Advances in the marriage rights movement, especially the Goodridge decision, have sparked a backlash. Voters in 11 states approved constitutional amendments to ban marriage for same-sex couples in 2004. Courts in New York, Washington and, most recently, Maryland have ruled against gay men and lesbians who've sought the right to marry in their respective states.
A small but significant faction of LGBT activists has questioned the efficacy of focusing on marriage. More than 250 leaders across the country urged gays and lesbians to look beyond marriage equality in the statement, "Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for Our Families & Relationships," released in July 2006. DeFilippis says activists should focus their time and resources on access to health care and other efforts he concludes would generate more tangible results.
"These are more winnable fights than this one has turned out to be," he said.
Freedom to Marry Executive Director Evan Wolfson staunchly defends the gains gay marriage advocates have made. He dismisses criticism that same-sex marriage has been championed at the expense of other issues.
"We care about all aspects of our lives," he told Gay.com in a recent interview. "We are fighting for full inclusion and equality."
Equality California Political Director Seth Kilbourn pointed out that his organization sponsored nine pieces of legislation in addition to the marriage bill Golden State lawmakers approved earlier this year. These include protections for LGBT students and a proposal to allow registered domestic partners to file joint income tax returns. Same-sex marriage rights are just one piece of Equality California's overall agenda, Kilbourn said.
"We are advocating generally for equal treatment under the law in people's lives," Kilbourn said.
Equality Maryland Executive Director Dan Furmansky conceded that efforts to defeat amendments against same-sex marriage have depleted LGBT political resources in recent years. He told Gay.com in a recent e-mail that LGBT organizations "cannot afford" to focus on any single issue. Furmansky maintains, however, that the fight for marriage rights remains vitally important.
"We as LGBT advocates must keep fighting for the protections of marriage because these protections will help millions of Americans in immeasurable ways," Furmansky said.
DeFelippis and others remain skeptical.
"We have a much broader and exciting and creative vision for our families than reflected in the narrow marriage rights movement," DeFelippis said.
Monday, October 15, 2007
CA Governor Signs Six LGBT Bills, Secures Protections for LGBT Youth
Monday, October 15, 2007
CA Governor Signs Six LGBT Bills, Secures Protections for LGBT Youth
EQCA-Sponsored Bills Create Safeguards for All Youth, Entire LGBT Community
SACRAMENTO - Six bills protecting and supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Californians were signed on Friday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The governor put his signature on six of eight bills sponsored by Equality California this year, including two youth measures that provide important protections for students and LGBT youth. Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed similar youth bills last year.
"While we are very pleased the governor signed the majority of EQCA's bills this year, we are extremely disappointed that he vetoed one of the most important bills the Legislature sent him," said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. "Despite his veto of the marriage legislation, the six bills that were signed will improve the lives of millions of LGBT Californians and their families."
EQCA sponsored a record 10 pieces of legislation in 2007, the most comprehensive agenda ever sponsored by a statewide or national LGBT organization. All 10 bills were passed by the Legislature. The governor vetoed AB 43, legislation that would have given same-sex couples in California the right to marry. He has yet to take action on SB 518, which would create essential protections for LGBT youth residing in California's juvenile justice facilities.
The two youth bills the governor signed include the Student Civil Rights Act and the Safe Place to Learn Act. The Student Civil Rights Act (SB 777), authored by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, protects students from harassment and bullying in public schools by making sure teachers and school administrators fully understand their responsibilities to protect youth. The Safe Place to Learn Act (AB 394), authored by Assemblymember Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, further strengthens youth protections by ensuring that the state's nondiscrimination policies are rigorously enforced.
"We appreciate the Administration's willingness to work with Equality California, key legislators and the community this year to ensure protections for LGBT students," Kors said. "Equality California urges the governor to sign EQCA's third youth bill of 2007, a high-priority measure that will protect LGBT youth in the juvenile justice system."
As part of a multi-year overhaul of the state's civil rights laws, EQCA sponsored the Civil Rights Act of 2007 (AB 14), authored by Assemblymember John Laird, D-Santa Cruz. This bill bans discrimination in government services based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Combined with three other nondiscrimination bills that were signed into law during the past four years, the Civil Rights Act of 2007 gives Californians the most comprehensive civil rights protections in the nation.
With the bills signed into law today, California's registered domestic partners will be able choose a common family name when they register with the state. The Name Equality Act (AB 102), authored by Assemblymember Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, also makes it easier for a husband to take his wife's last name upon marriage. Earlier this week the governor signed a measure that simplifies the process for domestic partners filing their 2007 state income tax returns next year by creating a simple worksheet to calculate their joint income from their separate federal returns. This legislation was necessary because federal law does not treat California domestic partners equally to spouses. The Joint Income Tax Filing Implementation Bill (SB 105) was authored by Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco.
EQCA also sponsored the Fair and Equal Taxation for Surviving Partners Act (SB 559), authored by Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego. That legislation reverses discriminatory tax increases for domestic partners whose partner died before a 2006 law went into effect protecting them against unfair property reassessments.EQCA's two resolutions call on the federal government to recall the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and to strengthen the nation's hate crimes law to include sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. The resolutions are authored by Sen. Kehoe and Assemblymember Mike Eng, D-Monterey Park, respectively.
"I am extremely proud of Equality California's staff, board, countless volunteers and the many lawmakers and allied organizations who have worked tirelessly on advancing these bills" Kors said. "California continues to set the example for the rest of the country in enacting protections for all people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. We have demonstrated that by moving forward as a united community we can achieve extraordinary results."
For more information about EQCA's sponsored legislation, visit the online Legislative Center .
Equality California is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to achieve equality and civil rights of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians. Please visit our website at eqca.org.
Posted by Michael at 10:58 PM
SU to extend tax benefits to same-sex couples - News
USen SU to extend tax benefits to same-sex couples
By: Dan Scorpio
Posted: 10/15/07The Syracuse University Senate endorsed a proposal to change the university's marriage benefits policy at its Oct. 10 meeting, a step forward for same-sex couples within the SU faculty.The Senate Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Concerns presented the proposal to USen after more than a year of reviewing the old policy.The motion passed easily through a voice vote."The Senate body was overwhelmingly in favor," said USen recorder Teresa Gilman.The proposed policy changes will extend healthcare and tax benefits to couples with same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships. Previously, these relationships did not qualify for the same benefits as opposite-sex marriages.Under the old policy, couples were required to show proof of their relationship to receive benefits. New forms of registration, such as domestic partnership and civil unions, are available now but were not before.Thomas Keck, assistant professor of political science and a member of Senate Committee on LGBT Concerns, said the current policy has been in place since 1995."The university had received some complaints about the policy," Keck said. "It seemed dated, and we felt it was prudent to review it."Keck's committee worked with the Office of Human Resources and met regularly to discuss changes to the policy."We went through careful deliberations because of the complexity of the issue," said Neil Strodel, associate vice president-chief human resources officer. "There's more work needing to be done."Now endorsed by USen, the proposed changes now await action by the chancellor prior to implementation."The university will move forward at the direction of the chancellor and will build upon the work of the LGBT Committee," Strodel said."We are supportive of these proposals and now will be looking for specific ways to implement," said Chancellor Nancy Cantor in an e-mail.SU is not the only university to make changes regarding marriage benefits. Sixty-nine other colleges and universities offer similar benefits for domestic partnerships, including the State University of New York system.The LGBT Committee also plans to gather more information about benefits policies at private corporations."We want to learn from others," Strodel said.Assistance from outside consultants is a possibility as well, Strodel said."Now it is a question of how the implementation process is carried out," assistant professor Keck said. "The chancellor and administration have to do what needs to be done to implement the proposal."Despite the fact that same-sex marriage is not legal in most states, including New York, Strodel said there is nothing interfering with the law in the new policy."We will maintain our policy within the legal parameters of New York legislation," Strodel said.Keck said these changes, if enacted, would advance SU in terms of LGBT rights compared to most universities his committee studied."This evaluation was prompted by a change in the landscape of LGBT rights," he said. "This would strengthen SU's reputation as a diverse, family-friendly benefits provider."
© Copyright 2007 The Daily Orange
Same-sex marriage on state's agenda - Top Stories - (HometownAnnapolis.com)
Same-sex marriage on state's agenda
County will be at center of legislature's marriage debateBy LIAM FARRELL, Staff Writer
Published October 14, 2007
When the Court of Appeals overturned a gay marriage ruling last month, it made sure to say the General Assembly could still take up the issue.
And two Anne Arundel County legislators will be seizing that chance for different sides of the debate.
Del. Ben Barnes, D-College Park, will sponsor a bill to allow gay couples to have civil marriages.
"(The court's decision) is their legacy, not ours," Mr. Barnes said this week. "The court failed to act with courage and conviction and it absolutely opens up an opportunity to act."
The legislation will be focused on granting gay couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, Mr. Barnes said, such as pension benefits, health care coverage, and hospital visitation rights.
Religious organizations would not be required to perform any marriage service for homosexual relationships, the delegate said.
"It is completely about treating different classes of people equally under the law," Mr. Barnes said. "When government gives rights and privileges, we have to do it uniformly."
Whether the bill could pass the Senate is questionable because Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., D-Calvert, is an opponent of civil unions.
But other powerful politicians are supportive of expanding rights.
Both Gov. Martin O'Malley and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Annapolis, support civil unions - a different classification than civil marriages - for homosexual couples, although gay rights activists are quick to caution creating that new legal class could still endanger or limit their marriage benefits.
Mr. O'Malley will meet with Equality Maryland, an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, in the next few weeks to discuss the issue, spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said
"(Mr. O'Malley) will advocate for civil unions bill … (so) all Marylanders are treated equally under Maryland state law," Mr. Abbruzzese said.
But on the other side, Del. Don Dwyer, R-Glen Burnie, plans to file a bill to create a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriages and civil unions.
Such legislation, if passed, would have to be approved by voters.
"This issue is so important, the people of the state have to be able to vote on it," said Mr. Dwyer, a vociferous opponent of same-sex marriage.
Mr. Dwyer put a similar bill in during the last General Assembly session. Although it received an unfavorable report from the House Judiciary Committee, it was supported by every other Republican delegate in Anne Arundel County: Bob Costa, Ron George, James King, Nic Kipke, Tony McConkey and Steve Schuh.
But the delegate doubts any marriage bill on either side of the debate will come out of committee because many politicians do not want to deal with such a controversial issue.
"As long as we don't act one way or the other, politicians aren't put at risk," he said. "I'm willing to lay my service on the line."
The problem with same-sex marriage and civil unions is that the government would be giving rights based on private sexual behavior, Mr. Dwyer said - behavior that could then be taught in public schools as normal.
"It shouldn't be taught to the children of my constituents in a public setting," he said.
Maryland's gay marriage case - also known as Frank Conaway, et. al., v. Gitanjali Deane, et. al. - came to the Court of Appeals of Maryland after the Circuit Court of Baltimore City found the state's Family Law Article violated the Equal Rights Amendment to the Maryland constitution.
The Family Law Article says "only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this state" while the ERA says "equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged or denied because of sex."
Although the case was about gay marriage, much of the majority and minority opinions are dedicated to the intent of the ERA.
In the majority opinion, written by Judge Glenn T. Harrell, Jr., the court holds a ban on gay marriage is not a constitutional violation because it applies equally to both sexes - i.e., a man cannot marry another man, and a woman cannot marry another woman.
Sexual orientation does not constitute a "suspect or quasi-suspect classification," the majority opinion states, because the gay community has enjoyed an "increasing political coming of age;" there is no scientific or other evidence homosexuality is an "immutable characteristic;" and same-sex marriage is not a fundamental right like heterosexual marriage because it is not linked to procreation and, therefore, human survival.
Because sexual orientation does not meet that test, the Family Law article is only given a "rational basis review." Under that term, the court can only overturn a law if the government's actions were irrational and it is assumed the state acted constitutionally even if some inequality has occurred.
Ultimately, the majority opinion finds Maryland has a legitimate public interest in encouraging heterosexual marriage because it is "uniquely capable" of producing children.
"We are unwilling to hold that a right to same-sex marriage has taken hold to the point that it is implicit in the concept of ordered liberty or deeply rooted in the history and tradition of Maryland," the majority opinion states.
But the majority's opinion is very "myopic" when it comes to its interpretation of the ERA and the importance of marriage, said Jana Singer, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law.
Allowing men and women to be considered as classes is contrary to the purpose of state and federal protection laws that are meant to safeguard people as individuals, Ms. Singer said.
That point is echoed in a dissent written by Judge Lynne A. Battaglia, who decries the majority's opinion as supporting a "separate but equal" society.