Uruguay set to legalize gay civil unions
11:32 a.m. November 29, 2007
MONTEVIDEO – Uruguay will legalize civil unions for homosexuals and heterosexuals next month, making it the first Latin American nation to treat gay and straight couples alike, a lawmaker said Thursday.
Deputies in the early hours of Thursday passed legislation allowing gay and straight couples to form civil unions after living together for at least five years.
The Senate has already approved the measure.
“This recognition of the legal status of couples ... recognizes the legal status of homosexual couples, which gives it a completely new dimension,” said Edgardo Ortuno, a member of the center-left ruling party.
Before it can be applied, senators must consider the law again because some revisions were made to the document. Ortuno said he expects it to take effect by mid-December.
Under the law, couples will be granted rights related to social security payments, pensions, inheritance and parenting. To gain these cohabitation rights, couples must register the relationship with authorities. They also will be able to register the end of a union.
Gay civil unions are allowed in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires and in Mexico's capital and in Coahuila state. Uruguay's law would be the first nationwide measure.
Gay marriage would remain illegal in Uruguay, a small South American country known for its secular streak.
Uruguayan senators voted this month to ease abortion laws, although the country's president has vowed to veto any legislation that seeks to decriminalize abortion.
(Reporting by Conrado Hornos; Writing by Helen Popper; Editing by Xavier Briand)
Friday, November 30, 2007
Uruguay set to legalize gay civil unions
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Gay Marriage Good For Maryland Economy Impact Study Showsby 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: November 28, 2007 - 5:00 pm ET
(Baltimore, Maryland) As pressure mounts on Maryland lawmakers to legalize same-sex marriage a study released Wednesday a University of California think-tank shows that allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed would have a positive economic impact on the state.
A second study shows there are more than 15,000 same-sex households in the state.
Both studies were conducted by the Williams Institute, a national think tank dedicated to the field of sexual orientation law and public policy, at the UCLA School of Law.
The impact study shows that although there would be only a small income tax benefit to the state, revenues from same-sex weddings would be about $94 million per year, providing a major boost to Maryland businesses and the state economy. This spending could generate approximately $14 million in tax revenue over three years, the institute said.
The report also found that extending marriage rights to same-sex couples would reduce the State¹s expenditures on means-tested public benefit programs by about $1.5 million annually.
The institute said that about 7,800 of Maryland¹s same-sex couples would marry if permitted.
In its report on families headed by gay and lesbian couples the institute used data from the latest US Census.
"In 2000, there were 11,243 same-sex couples living in Maryland. By 2005, the number of same-sex couples increased to more than 15,600," the report said.
There are more than 178,000 gay, lesbian, and bisexual people - single and coupled - currently living in Maryland.
Approximately seven percent of adopted children in Maryland live with a gay or lesbian parent, the institute found.
The City of Baltimore reported the most same-sex couples at 2,118 - or about 1 percent of all coupled households.
The report found that same-sex parents have fewer economic resources that married parents.
"Individuals in same-sex couples in Maryland are more likely to be employed than married individuals: 80% of individuals in same-sex couples are employed, compared to 70% of married individuals," but "the median household income of same-sex couples with children is $41,100, or 45% lower than that of married parents."
The issue of recognizing gay and lesbian relationships fell to the legislature in September 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.
Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch, a Democrat, has said he is in favor of civil unions but not marriage. (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.
A public opinion poll released last month 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.
Indiana Voters Do Not Support Marriage Ban EDGE Boston :: News :: National
by Steve WeinsteinNew York Editor-In-ChiefTuesday Nov 27, 2007Support for a ban on same-sex marriage has dipped below 50 percent in a state that typifies the nation’s heartland. A survey conducted by the Indianapolis Star newspaper and WTHR, a local television station.The poll, which was based on 600 respondents, found that the number of Hoosiers who want to see a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriages at only 49 percent. That number represents a drop of 7 percent from a similar poll taken a few years ago. The state’s Legislature has taken up such a ban, but it wasn’t voted into law; however, the lawmakers are expected to take it up again next year. The head of the state’s major gay -rights group, Indiana Equality, greeted the new poll with satisfaction, saying that it showed "the tide is turning." The counterpart at Advance America a conservative group forwarding the amendment, countered that the state’s voters still favored such a measure. Indiana joins 43 other states in already banning gay marriage. But 30 states have a constitutional amendment on the books. Supporters of gay marriage believe that the state’s voters are more concerned with bread-and-butter issues like property taxes, education, crime and job retention to worry about this issue.
Monday, November 26, 2007
S.F. Chamber of Commerce supports same-sex marriage
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, November 24, 2007
A court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in California would improve the business climate, says the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.
The organization endorsed arguments filed in the state Supreme Court by Levi Strauss & Co. of San Francisco and a group called Out and Equal Workplace Advocates. Out of more than 40 briefs submitted in the case by civil rights and religious groups, legislators, law professors, local governments and others, the Levi Strauss brief is the only one from a business.
Support of marriage rights for gays and lesbians is "consistent with our organization's advocacy of policies that are inclusive and contribute to business' ability to attract and retain a diverse, talented workforce," Steve Falk, the chamber's chief executive, said in a statement this week.
The Supreme Court is reviewing lawsuits by groups of same-sex couples and the city of San Francisco claiming that state law, which defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman, violates the California Constitution.
A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled in 2005 that the law violated the fundamental right to marry the partner of one's choice and also discriminated on the basis of sex. A state appeals court overturned that ruling in October 2006, saying the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage could be justified by tradition and by the fact that domestic partners in California have the same rights as spouses under state law.
The state's defense of the marriage law before the high court acknowledges that California has a policy of equality for gays and lesbians but contends it is satisfied by laws establishing domestic partner status and banning discrimination in jobs and housing.
Religious conservative groups have mounted a separate defense of the law, saying children are better off with opposite-sex parents. Leaders of those groups are also gathering signatures on proposed ballot measures that would amend the state Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage and benefits for same-sex domestic partners.
The court has received the final series of written arguments in the case but has not yet scheduled a hearing.
The Levi Strauss brief endorsed by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce steers clear of legal precedents on marriage cited in other filings and instead argues that equal rights for employees are good for business.
"Eliminating marriage discrimination in California would send a message that California promotes acceptance and equality, thus enhancing the ability of California businesses to compete nationwide for top talent," said the brief, submitted in September by attorney Jeffrey Webb.
"Highly sought-after workers in same-sex relationships may now choose to work and live in Massachusetts and Canada where they can legally marry instead of California."
Webb said businesses made similar arguments against state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage in Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. The Indiana amendment was blocked in the state Legislature in April. The Ohio and Wisconsin measures were approved by state voters.
The California Supreme Court case is titled In re Marriage Cases, S147999. E-mail Bob Egelko at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Michael at 4:39 PM
Pets can get insurance at PBCC, partners can't
By KIMBERLY MILLER
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 24, 2007
The pets of Palm Beach Community College employees will qualify for discounted group medical insurance beginning in January, but domestic partners are still barred from receiving similar benefits.
School officials sent a memo last week explaining the new voluntary pet benefit available via payroll deduction through the private company Veterinary Pet Insurance.
Full-time college employees can receive a 5 percent discount on services because of the college's enrollment in the program, which covers dogs and cats, but also hedgehogs, frogs, guinea pigs, geckos, iguanas and sugar gliders - small flying mammals native to Australia.
In August, PBCC trustees voted down a proposal to allow the domestic partners of full-time employees to receive insurance benefits. The plan wouldn't have cost the school anything because it pays employee premiums only, not those of dependents.
The college buys insurance through a state consortium, which allows each school to decide whether to offer domestic partner benefits.
Rand Hoch, president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, said it is wrong for the college to put the medical needs of pets above those of the human loved ones of employees.
"The fact of the matter is puppies are covered, partners are not," said Hoch, who sent a letter to PBCC President Dennis Gallon requesting the domestic partner plan be put before trustees again in January. "It's the same benefit; neither costs the college a penny."
The pet insurance benefit did not require trustee approval.
Grace Truman, PBCC spokesman, said the pet insurance is not part of the employee benefits package, and she draws a distinction between the group discount through VPI Pet Insurance and human health insurance.
She said the pet insurance is the same as other group discount items available to college employees such as 12 percent off Dell computers, 15 percent off on bouquets from 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, and a $40 membership to Sam's Wholesale Club.
"There's really no comparison," Truman said about the pet insurance and domestic partner insurance. "We get discount offers from companies from time to time and we pass them onto employees without our endorsements."
Truman said she expects the domestic partner benefit plan to come up in the next year or two as college benefit packages are reviewed.
A tie vote of the trustee board killed the proposal in August. The board typically has five members, but had a vacancy at the time of the vote.
Truman said trustees weren't concerned about costs to the college, but potential long-term increases for employees because of additional enrollees in the group plan.
Also, both Gallon and Ellen Grace, PBCC's director of human relations, are advocates of domestic partner benefits. Gallon made the recommendation to add the insurance plan in time for an October open enrollment period.
The United Faculty of Florida supports domestic partner benefits, and several state universities and colleges offer them.
Broward Community College, Miami Dade College, Florida Keys Community College and Hillsborough Community College offer domestic partner benefits.
Private universities including the University of Miami, Nova Southeastern University in Davie and Lynn University in Boca Raton also have plans.
Just two of the state's public universities, the University of Florida and Florida International University, provide domestic partner benefits.
In 2004, Home Depot added an insurance plan for domestic partners after facing criticism from a national gay rights group about its already established pet insurance benefit.
Hoch hopes Palm Beach Community College takes a similar route.
"A PBCC announcement that employees could insure their pets being made a mere 90 days after the PBCC announcement that employees could not insure their domestic partners is an affront to employees with domestic partners," Hoch said. "Hopefully, the college's trustees will act promptly to address this absurd inequity."
Posted by Michael at 11:58 AM
Philly mayor officiates at first same-sex commitment ceremony - NewsFlash - PennLive.com
The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia Mayor John Street has presided over his first ever same-sex commitment ceremony.
Ryan Bunch and Micah Mahjoubian exchanged vows inside City Hall on Saturday. Mahjoubian has worked in the mayor's administration for the past eight years and asked Street to officiate.
Street says he agreed because Mahjoubian is his friend.
Mahjoubian says that while the state does not recognize gay marriage, Street's action "lends legitimacy" to the ceremony. He says that was important to the couple, whose commitment was witnessed by about 125 people.
Protesters opposed to gay marriage met the couple outside as they left City Hall. Unfazed, the two drove off in a convertible with a sign that read, "Just Married."
Posted by Michael at 11:46 AM
Supporting male-female union urged Wilkes-Barre News timesleader.com - The Times Leader
Area priests will ask parishioners to get behind a traditional-marriage amendment to the state constitution.
REBECCA BRIA email@example.com
Priests throughout the Diocese of Scranton will appeal to parishioners this weekend for support of a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
The Roman Catholic Church is heading a campaign to encourage state lawmakers to support an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would not allow legal recognition of what the diocese calls “non-traditional alternatives to marriage.”
The letter from Bishop Joseph F. Martino will be read at all Masses tonight and tomorrow.
Philadelphia Mayor John Street is scheduled to officiate at a gay commitment ceremony today at Philadelphia City Hall. While the commitment will have no legal recognition by the state, opponents of same-sex marriages are concerned that gay civil unions may eventually become legal in the state.
“Still, there is always the danger that court challenges to overturn it (Defense of Marriage Act) will occur,” Martino writes in the pastoral letter.
Twenty-seven states have passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as a legal union between a man and woman. Pennsylvania is not one of them.
A proposal to amend the state constitution may be made in the state House or Senate. It must be approved by a majority vote in both chambers, before the question is put to the voters in a statewide ballot referendum.
“In nature, God created male and female to get married, not male and male,” said the Rev. Vincent Dang, pastor of Holy Family and St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic churches in Sugar Notch.
Amending the state constitution would provide a legal foundation to keep marriage limited to one man and one woman and maintain a healthy balance in nature, Dang said.
In the letter, Martino asks all Catholics to contact state lawmakers to urge passage of the amendment.
A past issue of The Catholic Light suggested Catholics access the Pennsylvania Catholic Advocacy Network at pacatholic.org where users of the Web site can send messages to state lawmakers. Other sites included in the article with the same purpose are Pennsylvania for Marriage at pa4marriage.com and youranswermatters.com. Personal visits with legislators were also encouraged.
The Rev. Roger Griffith, a minister at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Dallas, said the Presbyterian Church takes a similar stance on the sanctity of marriage.
“Although the Presbyterian Church does not celebrate Christian marriage as a sacrament, our (church) constitution defines marriage as a covenant through which a man and a woman are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship,” Griffith said. “In a service of Christian marriage, a lifelong commitment is made by a woman and a man to each other publicly witnessed and acknowledged by a gathered community of faith.”
House Bill 2381, the Marriage Amendment Protection Act that would ban same-sex marriages and civil unions, passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on June 6. The Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee passed a weakened version of the bill which took out wording prohibiting civil unions. But the Pennsylvania Senate dismissed the original bill on June 21. Because the same version of the bill was not passed among the General Assembly, it failed.
Rebecca Bria, a staff writer for The Dallas Post, can be reached at 970-7436.
Posted by Michael at 11:38 AM
Pastor wants marriage defined- NJ.com
Friday, November 23, 2007
By JASON LADAY firstname.lastname@example.org
VINELAND -- A local pastor has asked city council to send a resolution to the state Legislature defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman only.
City Council President John Barretta later said he would open the issue to the public for discussion at the next council meeting on Nov. 27, and bring the resolution to a vote on Dec. 11.
-->Chestnut Assembly of God's Rev. Ralph Snook addressed the council at Tuesday night's special meeting, asking them to "send a message" to state politicians as gay rights advocates and many state legislators are pushing for a Marriage Equality Law.
"It is an upsetting development, and unfortunate that they are choosing a lame duck session to bring the issue back up," said Snook. "I am asking you to influence the state legislature. All we want is for the issue to be placed on the state ballot for the people to decide."
The reverend expressed fears that "redefining" marriage would open doors to future laws recognizing polygamy and "relationships between adults and children."
However, Cathy Rabbai, a member of the Cumberland County Human Relations Commission, said the issue is about civil rights.
"Sometimes the fear we have of a certain group of people shackles us in our judgments," said Rabbai. "This is about civil rights, and gay couples having equal rights with straight couples."
Rabbai added that the fear of pedophila in regards to gay marriage is unfounded, as "most pedophiles have actually been heterosexual, and this is well documented."
The council discussed Snook's request at a work session following the special meeting.
According to City Solicitor Richard Tonetta, the resolution would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman, while supporting the civil rights of gay couples entering into civil unions.
"I agree fully with the wording of the resolution, but I question our authority to make any real difference by passing it," said Councilman James Forcinito. "I disagree with the concept behind it. If it were to go to a vote, I'd vote for it, but, of course, it will be non-binding."
Councilwoman Barbara Sheftall recommended the issue be opened to public comment, as the resolution is sure to stir up debate.
"I think we need input from the public at large before we make a decision on this," said Sheftall. "People should have the opportunity to make a comment."
The New Jersey Legislature in December 2006 passed the Civil Union Act giving same-sex couples "substantially all of the rights and benefits of marriage," according to a formal opinion issued by state Attorney General Stuart Rabner in February.
The law also created the Civil Union Review Commission responsible for investigating how the law is being enforced. So far, thousands of same-sex couples who have entered into civil unions have reported they are still being denied benefits by their employers.
The commission in October conducted three hearings in which many stated they want the state legislature to pass a Marriage Equality Law.
Gov. Jon Corzine has previously stated, through spokesmen, he would sign such a law, and would take up the issue in 2009 in order to avoid the national spotlight during next year's presidential election.
Posted by Michael at 11:33 AM
Monday, November 19, 2007
Thompson backs state bans on same-sex marriage
By GEORGE BENNETT
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 16, 2007
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Cautioning against a federal solution to the controversy over gay marriage, Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson on Friday applauded a Florida group for "taking care of business at home" by seeking a statewide ban on same-sex marriages.
Thompson, who along with other GOP hopefuls has aggressively courted social conservatives before Florida's Jan. 29 primary, spoke to a Florida Family Policy Council dinner audience of more than 300.
The group is trying to get a referendum on the 2008 Florida ballot defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman and forbidding recognition of any other type of union "that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof."
Thompson said the controversy over the definition of marriage is "a totally judicially-made problem" and drew applause when he blasted judges who "make it up as they go along."
In a break with some social conservatives, Thompson does not support a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage. But he supports an amendment that would allow states to recognize such marriages only if they are approved by voters or legislatures rather than judges. Thompson's amendment would also specify that no state would have to recognize a same-sex marriage approved in another state.
While not specifically addressing the issue of a federal marriage amendment in his remarks Friday, Thompson told the group that the federal government is a "weak partner" that should not be relied upon.
"The best solution begins at home, and let's keep it that way," Thompson said. "That's why it's so important that people in this room and others that have joined you are doing what you're doing with this marriage amendment here in the state. You're not waiting for somebody else to take care of it. You're taking care of business at home where you are, where you live."
Thompson, who was endorsed this week by the National Right To Life Committee, told the audience that although he had a consistently anti-abortion voting record as a United States senator, his views on the issue were "abstract."
That changed, he said, when his wife became pregnant with their daughter, who is now 4. After seeing a sonogram of his daughter, Thompson said, his opposition to abortion "became a matter of the heart as well as the head."
Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, attended the event and said beforehand that he's not ready to endorse Thompson or any other candidate.
Thompson campaigned earlier Friday in Pensacola. He is scheduled to attend a fund-raising breakfast this morning in West Palm Beach.
Does the Bible always tell us so? - Nashville, Tennessee - Sunday, 11/18/07 - Tennessean.com
By BILL FRISKICS-WARRENStaff Writer
Scholars cast doubt on scriptural anti-gay bias
The Bible says that eating shrimp is an abomination and that working on the Sabbath is punishable by death. Not even the most devout Christian, though, thinks twice about ordering the shrimp scampi or checking their office e-mail from home on a Sunday afternoon.
Biblical literalists know that the customs and circumstances that gave rise to such injunctions were rooted in historical and cultural contexts very different from our own.
So why do so many Christians cling to the handful of Scriptures that cast aspersions on sexual relationships between people of the same gender? Why, when scholars tell us that these passages have nothing to do with sexual orientation as we've come to understand it, do some people continue to use Scripture as a club to judge and condemn?
"We have a long history of looking to the Bible to confirm our prejudices," said Daniel Karslake, director of For the Bible Tells Me So, a new documentary that explores these questions and looks at how this biblical heavy-handedness is tearing families, congregations and denominations apart.
Screening Nov. 19 at Regal Green Hills Cinema, Karslake's film focuses on how five Christian couples have struggled to reconcile their biblical faiths with the homosexuality of their children. Black and white, rural and urban, conservative and liberal, the families he profiles include those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and embattled Episcopal Bishop Eugene Robinson. Gephardt's daughter Chrissy is lesbian. Robinson is the openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire.
"I wanted to focus on straight, Christian parents of gay kids," he said. "The two things aren't mutually exclusive. You can be a faithful, godly person and still embrace your children for who they are."
The 'clobber passages'
The use of Scripture to justify discrimination began long before the current dispute about what the Bible does or doesn't say about homosexuality.
"Stronger texts in Scripture were used to justify slavery," said Ellen Armour, professor of theology at Vanderbilt Divinity School. "And in the case of same-sex sex, especially among men — and I think it's worth noting that that seems to be the focal point of the controversy — we're talking about just a few small verses."
Known as the "clobber passages," these six or seven Scriptures are commonly cited as evidence that God condemns homosexuality.
Probably the best known is Genesis 19:1-5, the text in which God sends a pair of angels in the guise of men to verify the cruel custom of gang-raping strangers practiced by males in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The passage is not about homosexuality as such but about the shameful treatment of visitors.
When Jesus rebukes Sodom and Gomorrah in Matthew 10:12-15 and Luke 10:8-12, he condemns them for inhospitality, not homosexuality.
Pronouncements decrying prostitution in the first books of Corinthians and Timothy likewise are not about sexual orientation but about the exploitation of underage males, a practice tantamount to what we now call human trafficking.
These Scriptures address ritual wrong as opposed to something innately immoral, said Dr. Laurence Keene, a Disciples of Christ minister interviewed in Karslake's film. Nowhere, in fact, does the Bible say anything, much less condemn, loving and committed partnerships between same-sex adults.
"Paul never contemplated the monogamous, long-term sexual relationships that take place among people today," explained Jack Rogers, former moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
"There is no analogue for our contemporary understanding of sexual identity in the Bible, neither for heterosexuals nor homosexuals," added Armour. "It's simply not there."
Perhaps no American denomination has had to confront issues of Scripture and social norms as starkly as Episcopalians after the split that occurred over Robinson's appointment.
Responding to how the church has dealt with ministering to homosexuals, Pamela Snare, the Canon to the Ordinary of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee, cited a resolution from the Lambuth Conference of Anglican Bishops, held in 1998. The document states that, "the Conference, while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation." Snare characterized the resolution as an attempt "to be faithful to Scripture and to the fact that homosexuals are children of God."
A 'fear of otherness'
The phenomenon of biblical literalism is only a recent invention, and along with it, the practice of "prooftexting" whereby verses of Scripture are taken out of context and used to frame and defend certain fears and biases.
Unlike biblical exegesis, which involves the careful examination of Scripture in its historical context to understand what it means and how it might speak to us today, prooftexting manipulates what Christians believe to be God's word by allowing preconceived notions to color it. When done from the pulpit, it can amount to theological malpractice, depriving lay people of the chance to engage the Scriptures at a deeper, more informed level.
Armour is especially interested in what lies behind this misuse of Scripture. "What is it that's made sexuality the issue that (a) mobilizes certain portions of the Christian community to get out and vote and to get politically active in a way that nothing else apparently does and (b) becomes the line in the sand that's threatening to split denominations?"
Much of it, she suspects, has to do with the way that many people understand Christian identity. "In the United States at least, it seems to me that heterosexuality has been conflated with what it means to be Christian, and I would say that's a case of idolatry."
Lurking behind this idolatry is the fear of the other.
Gay men and lesbians in this way have become the latest in a long line of societal outcasts that extends from Jews to African-Americans all the way back to the lepers of Jesus' day.
"It's our dark underside in America," said Armour of this fear of otherness. "For all of our talk of 'Give us your tired, your poor, your hungry,' and of being the melting pot and being multicultural, we don't do it without an awful lot of scapegoating and an awful lot of requiring that you fit in by being just like us. This is simply the latest of it to pop up."
Love and justice
One peculiar form of theological harm is the distinction that some heterosexuals make between "loving the sinner and hating the sin."
"You can't hate such a complete part of me and still love me," Karslake said. "Straight people can't imagine not being straight, but they can't accept that the same thing could be true of gay people. They think that it's different with gay people, like it's somehow a choice."
Henry Blaze, pastor of Progressive Baptist Church in Nashville, tends to agree. "I don't think you can truly embrace the other and be able to recognize God in the other without seeking to understand them," he said.
The cruel irony, as For the Bible Tells Me So depicts, is that casting gay people out of church doesn't just alienate them from their own spirituality. It also robs straight people of faith of the chance to get to know and understand vast numbers of their Christian brothers and sisters.
All of which, Armour believes, points to the need for a new theology of sexuality, one steeped in the values of love and justice, not hatred and exclusion. "I think you can make a case for (love and justice) as a broad theological imperative, certainly in the Hebrew Scriptures and picked up again in many of the New Testament texts, and certainly picked up by Jesus," she said. "That was what his first sermon was all about. Sexual relationships should be judged not on legal grounds but on how they manifest justice and love."
Karslake's documentary represents a crucial step in this direction. After a gay teenager in Iowa saw a segment of what served as the de facto pilot for the project, he sent the filmmaker a note of thanks.
"Last week I bought the gun, yesterday I wrote the note, last night I happened to see your show on PBS," he wrote. "Just knowing that someday, somewhere, I might be able to go back into a church with my head held high, I dropped the gun in the river. My mom never has to know."
Posted by Michael at 8:09 AM
Gay demographics could reshape electoral landscape - Opinion - USATODAY.com
By Gary J. Gates
On Desperate Housewives recently, Susan finally realizes her new Wisteria Lane neighbors Bob and Lee (both men) are not just business partners, and exclaims, "Oh, that's super! Yeah, I've seen a lot of cable, so I get it. You're just great."
New analyses of Census Bureau data suggest this scene is playing out increasingly across this nation as same-sex couples become more visible in even the most conservative neighborhoods. What remains to be seen is whether politicians understand what this means.
(Photo — “Desperate”: Tuc Watkins, left, and Kevin Rahm play Bob and Lee. / By Ron Tom, ABC)
Since 1990, the Census Bureau has tracked the presence of same-sex "unmarried partners," commonly understood to be lesbian and gay couples. From an initial count of about 145,000 same-sex couples in 1990, the 2006 data show that this population has increased fivefold to nearly 780,000 couples. The number of same-sex couples grew more than 21 times faster than the U.S. population did. So either gay recruitment efforts have succeeded, or lots more lesbian and gay couples are "coming out" on government surveys.
As a demographer, I say it's the latter. In a 1992 survey by the University of Chicago, 2.8% of men and 1.4% women identified themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Ten years later, a National Center for Health Statistics study pegged that figure at 4.1% — almost one-and-a-half times more men and three times more women.
Meanwhile, support for gay people grows. In the late 1980s, Gallup polls found about 30% of Americans thought "homosexual relations between consenting adults" should be legal. A May 2007 poll finds this figure has risen to 59%.
If it's no surprise that Americans are becoming more comfortable living among openly gay men and lesbians, the Census data do pack a wallop that politicians ignore at their peril. Since 1990, the number of self-identified same-sex couples in Mountain, Midwest and Southern states has averaged a sixfold increase. Compare that with the more liberal East and West Coasts, where increases have been less than fourfold.
Mountain states such as New Mexico and Colorado now rate among the nation's "gayest" states, ranking 2nd and 9th in the concentration of same-sex couples. Utah, where President Bush received more than 70% of the vote in 2004, has moved from 38th in 1990 to 14th in the most recent rankings.
Red to 'purple'
Political pundits say many of the Mountain states will be battlegrounds in 2008 as they transition from red to "purple." Small wonder, then, that Arizona recently became the first state to reject a voter referendum to limit marriage to male/female couples. More generally, changes in the number of same-sex couples might be a leading indicator of which historically red states are trending purple.
The bellwether state might be Utah. In 2005, Salt Lake City approved a benefits program for lesbian and gay couples. Identifying openly as gay no longer represents an honor code violation at Brigham Young University. And, perhaps most striking, the state now has three openly gay state legislators. That's one more than in the U.S. Congress. Shades of purple?
In the past few elections, strategists used voter referendums and rhetoric against marriage rights for same-sex couples to mobilize religious conservatives. This "wedge issue" strategy banked on widespread discomfort with gay and lesbian couples that is clearly eroding.
As a gay demographic tidal wave empties the closets in some of the most conservative states, any notion that the rights of same-sex couples and gay men and lesbians are somehow separate from those of mainstream America looks politically iffy at best. In fact, using the gay and lesbian community as a political wedge might just wedge candidates into a losing corner.
Gary J. Gates is a senior research fellow at the UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute and co-author of The Gay and Lesbian Atlas.
Posted by Michael at 7:55 AM
Saturday, November 17, 2007
New York leader wants gay marriage within two years- from Pink News-
The Governor of New York has said that he wants a Democrat controlled state Senate to legalise gay marriage as one of it's priorities in 2009.Eliot Spitzer made his remarks on Wednesday at a fund-raising event for the Senate Democratic Committee in Greenwich village, where guests had paid up to $10,000 to attend.A witness told The New York Post that Governor Spitzer said: "One of the first things we're going to do when [Senate Minority Leader] Malcolm Smith is [majority] leader is gay marriage."His words were met with applause, the witness added, by the crowd of Senators, Democratic activists and lobbyists, who were assembled in the library of the West 13th Street home of the creator of HBO's prison drama Oz Tom Fantana. Unlike many of the Governor's speeches, no recording was made of the event.Another witness, an elected official, reported that while he couldn't remember the exact words of the Governor, he had indicated that he would follow the State assembly's Lead of passing the first ever gay-marriage bill. Gay marriage is still a highly contentious issue in New York. A May survey by Siena College found that while 43 percent of New Yorkers are in favour of it, 47 percent are still against.Spitzer's spokeswoman, Christine Anderson, denied the Governor had said gay marriage would be a top priority. The cheers, she added, had been for his mention of the Assembly passing a gay-marriage bill.John McArdle, spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, told The New York Post: "This is Governor Spitzer promoting another divisive issue and it indicates that his priorities are all wrong." Spitzer repeatedly endorsed gay marriage during his election campaign last autumn but had said that it's adoption wasn't a top priority
Friday, November 16, 2007
Expert sees hope for legalizing gay marriage in China -- china.org.c
Expert sees hope for legalizing gay marriage
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On April 16, 2007, more than 200 gay men came to a hospital located in northern Beijing for free sexual health examinations, the first volunteer medical consultation focused on homosexuals in Beijing. Most of the examinees were aged in their 30s, and there were also some retired people and university students.
"About 90 percent of Chinese people believe that homosexuality will exercise no influence on job selections, which exceeds the number of 86 percent in America. This is a noticeable progress and it may mean more tolerance towards homosexuality in China,"said Professor Li Yinhe, a sociologist focusing on sexology with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Many experts believe that the tolerance of homosexuals has indicated progress in social civilization in China. There are about 30 million homosexuals in China, based on academic estimates. The higher a person's position in the social hierarchy, the more likely he or she will be tolerant; to accept homosexuality is very common among white collar-workers with a good income in China, said Li.
Love between people of the same sex was regarded as a crime 20 years ago and a mental illness as little as 10 years ago in China. Often, the social pressure for same sex couples does not come from the public, but rather their families, as most parents aren't ready to accept their children as homosexuals.
Qiao Qiao is the owner of a lesbian bar in Beijing. "I knew that I liked girls when I was a teenager, but I always constrained my emotions. I could not talk about sex with my parents and it was impossible to tell them I was a homosexual," Qiao said.
Qiao's mother unexpectedly found out her daughter was lesbian after she had a romantic fling with a woman she met in a bar. Her parents were surprised and could not understand, and even opposed to Qiao's love affairs at the beginning, but later they understood their daughter and showed their acceptance.
"I can understand the feelings of parents. Many of them believe that raising children is essential to support them in their old age, which is a Chinese tradition," said Mr. Sun, who works for a media company.
However, as advances are made in science and technology, more and more homosexual couples are choosing to have children. Qiao and her girlfriend have tried artificial insemination, and although they were not successful they will continue to try.
As a researcher on homosexuality, Li Yinhe is leading the call for legalizing gay marriage with many proposals and she is the interest representative for the minority of homosexuals in China.
"There are no extreme moral opponents against homosexuality in China, so it is easier for the same sex lovers in China to claim their rights than in the Western countries, and China is always making progress,”"said professor Li.
(China.org.cn by Yang Xi, November 14, 2007
The 'M' Word Matters - NJVoices: Carla Katz
Posted by Carla Katz November 12, 2007 7:03PM
This column was written for the website Politikernj.com and can also be found at http://politickernj.com/m-word-matters-13957
This Sunday's New York Times lauds Governor Corzine for his support of same-sex marriage even though he has said that he wants to wait until 2009 to avoid muddying the political waters of next year's Presidential race. Dr. Martin Luther King said it best when he said, "justice delayed is justice denied." While I, too, praise the Governor for his support on this issue, I think he is dead wrong to postpone equal protections for all in deference to politics.
As New Jersey debates when to enact marriage equality -- whether in 2008, as activists want, or 2009 as the Governor wants -- three factors predominate over the political and legal landscape.
First, the civil union law is, as our state's civil rights director said this week, a failure. In seven hours of testimony at the recent New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission hearings, nearly 100 couples and other expert witnesses spoke about the failure of the civil union law to provide the equal protection that marriage provides. There were even stories about civil-unioned couples, who because they weren't married, were having difficulty visiting one another in the hospital.
Second, calling same-sex relationships "marriage" would make an actual difference in New Jersey. Experts from Massachusetts testified that the Bay State is seeing none of the problems in same-sex marriages being recognized that New Jersey is seeing in getting civil-unions recognized. The real world, and its employers in particular, respects marriage in ways it does not respect civil unions.
Third, the Governor is wrong on the politics. It is clear that conservatives will try to make "gay marriage" an issue in 2008 to whip up its base. But they will do that whether New Jersey passes a same-sex marriage law or not. And unlike in 2004, when the same sex-marriage issue was hot Presidential political fodder despite a dearth of state laws, Americans are in a state of feverish discontent over the Iraq War and the wrong direction in which our nation is headed. Those issues are way more likely to prevail. We saw signs of that in the 2006 Congressional elections, when attempts to demonize "gay marriage" felt flat.
The truth is, same-sex marriage is not a 'gay' issue. It is a civil rights issue, pure and simple. It is, and should be, as important to those of us in the 'straight' community as any other civil rights issue. Time and again, the United States Supreme Court has announced that marriage is a fundamental, constitutionally protected right of all citizens. I emphasize the word "all". One need not even support the concept of marriage sanctioned by the church or the state to defend the rights of same-sex couples to marry. Defending that right simply means being in favor of equal rights for all.
In 1947, the California Supreme Court struck down that state's ban on interracial marriage while 48 states still prohibited Blacks and whites from marrying. It took twenty more years, and a bloody civil rights movement for integration and voting rights, until the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia unanimously struck down all interracial marriage bans in the country. Thirty years later, some consenting adults can still not marry other consenting adults.
Our country has at least 1,138 federal laws "in which marital status is a factor." The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution makes denial of rights or benefits without substantive due process a violation of the right to equal protection of all citizens. Yet, despite the passage of a civil union law in 2006 granting equal protections to gay and lesbian citizens, same-sex couples in New Jersey continue to be denied the rights and benefits that straight couples enjoy.
If we are honest, we cannot say that civil unions in New Jersey are 'just as good' as marriage or even 'good enough.' In addition to the overwhelming evidence presented at the Civil Union Review Commission hearings, newspapers across the state have conducted independent investigations of how the civil union law is working. All the investigations arrived at the same conclusion: The state's civil union law is not providing same-sex couples the rights and benefits that marriage would. History, therefore, has proven the dissenting justices in the October 2006 N.J. Supreme Court decision that led to civil unions to be correct. "The word 'marriage' in itself," the dissenters wrote, "conveys tremendous importance and advantages." Yes, the "M" word matters.
In Lawrence v. Texas (2003), the Supreme Court held that the right to private consensual sexual conduct was a protected right under the Fourteenth Amendment and noted that "moral disapproval does not constitute legitimate governmental interest under the Equal Protection Clause." Advocates, as well as opponents of marriage equality believe this ruling paved the way for subsequent decisions invalidating state prohibitions on same-sex marriage.
New Jersey should lead the way. As marriage is indeed a 'fundamental right' and a civil right, then marriage equality for all New Jersey's citizens should be the law. Enactment, and justice, should not be delayed, not even for one more day
Anti-gay marriage sign draws fire Southport businessman's viewpoint upsets some Tiers residents. November 13, 2007 By Ray Fingerrfinger@stargazette.comStar-Gazette
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Zoom Photo RAY FINGER/Star-GazetteThis sign, placed in a window about a month ago at Auto Home and Family Insurance Center in Southport, makes it clear where business owner Rick Piper stands on gay marriage.
With conviction as firm as his handshake, a Southport business owner has put up a sign at his insurance agency to take a stand against same-sex marriages in New York state.But some people say they are appalled by the sign and call it discriminatory.Rick Piper, 56, owner of Auto Home and Family Insurance Center on Broadway, put a sign in the window of the business about a month ago that says "Save the kids -- Say no to gay marriage in NY." He is very clear about his reason for doing it."It's sin, that's all," he said, alluding to passages in the Bible against homosexuality. "It's not so much about how I feel about it. It's not an issue with me. It's an issue with God."While the state Senate is not expected to act on the issue anytime soon, the state Assembly voted 85-61 earlier this year to legalize same-sex marriage."I don't think many people know about it," Piper said at his office Monday. "Hopefully, it will help them to know and they can make up their own mind."Several people who have seen the sign said they don't feel it is proper for a business."This is America, and everyone has a right to freedom of speech and whatnot, but in front of a business is a little much," said Breanna Moyer of Elmira. "You can't tell me that they don't have gay customers, and they're discriminating against them. By God, they don't have a problem taking their money from them."A member of First Church of the Nazarene in Corning, Piper said he did not discuss his decision to put up the sign with anyone, nor did he pray about it. He just knew that same-sex marriage is wrong, and he had to stand up and be counted, he said."It doesn't have anything to do with customers," he said of his decision. "God says it's wrong, so there's not that much there for me to guess about. I believe it."Even so, he has heard comments about the sign that have been probably about 98 percent positive, he said.Progressive Insurance, among the companies that Piper represents, also had nothing to do with the sign."These are clearly the beliefs of the agency and are not shared by us," said Leslie Kolleda, a spokeswoman for the company, based in Mayfield Village, Ohio."Independent agents are not employees of any company. They represent multiple companies," she said. "Progressive happens to be the largest distributor of car insurance through independent agents."Julie Martinez of Elmira said the sign is not professional."It's just horrible," she said. "I hope they go out of business, to be honest with you."The sign's reference to children really upset Martinez, who points out that homosexuals can also be good parents. "I've seen it. A lot of my family and most of my friends are gay. They're very good parents," she said.That was a sentiment shared by Noel Kratzer of Elmira, who describes herself as gay and a drag king who performs at Club Chill and Angles in Elmira."Honestly, there are a lot of gay couples that are saving kids who don't have homes, who don't have anything. So we are saving kids," she said."I felt like it's a really big slam toward us," Kratzer said of the sign. "It's discriminating. You wouldn't post signs about black people or a person of another race."Why would you want to lose business over something that doesn't even really concern you?"This is not the first time Piper, whose has been in business at the site for 10 years, has put up a controversial a sign. Others have included a sign to stop partial-birth abortions, he said.While efforts were unsuccessful Monday to obtain comment from First Church of the Nazarene in Corning, the Rev. Gary McCaslin, pastor of First Baptist Church of Painted Post, offered his thoughts:"The problem with using the Bible that way is that the Bible was also the primary document used in the advocation of slavery, and also to keep women out of the voting booths," McCaslin said."We've moved beyond that, so it's time we moved beyond using the Bible as a weapon in the issue of homosexuality also."
SignOnSanDiego.com > News > State -- Groups jousting over gay rights in California
By Bill Ainsworth
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
November 12, 2007
SACRAMENTO – In the battle over gay rights, this fall was supposed to be a slow period, almost like a political time-out. Both sides were expected to spend the next few months preparing for a California Supreme Court decision on whether to overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
Instead, it's been anything but quiet.
Gay rights advocates are spending millions of dollars on a television advertising campaign to promote same-sex marriage.
Religious conservatives, meanwhile, have launched a referendum drive to overturn a new law that they say will promote homosexuality in the schools.
Both campaigns illustrate the frustrations and successes each side has experienced.
During the past few years, gay rights advocates have persuaded the Democratic-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to pass many laws expanding protections against discrimination and adding benefits and responsibilities for same-sex registered domestic partners.
This year, Schwarzenegger signed seven of eight bills advocated by Equality California, a leading gay rights group.
But the group's top priority – same-sex marriage – has proven elusive.
Last month, Schwarzenegger vetoed a same-sex marriage bill for the second time in three years, saying that voters or the courts should decide whether to legalize same-sex marriage.
Religious conservatives applauded the governor's action, but they complain about his support for expanding gay rights.
“He's got a split personality,” said Karen England, executive director of the Capitol Resource Institute, which opposes the new gay rights laws. “We are disappointed.”
England's organization and other like-minded groups are trying to overturn the most significant gay rights law signed this year, Senate Bill 777, sponsored by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica.
The bill received little attention on its journey through the Legislature. It states that “no teacher shall give instruction nor shall a school district sponsor any activity that promotes a discriminatory bias” against people based on sexual orientation.
Social conservatives argue that it opens the door for major changes in school instruction.
“This will mean getting rid of 'mom and dad' in textbooks or adding homosexual couples,” England said.
Seth Kilbourn, political director of Equality California, which sponsored the law, strongly disputed England's interpretation.
Kilbourn said it “clarifies and reinforces existing laws that protect students” against harassment and discrimination.
Placing a statewide referendum on the ballot is a tall order. Opponents must collect more than 400,000 valid signatures by early January. Qualifying an initiative can cost as much as $2 million.
As gay rights advocates keep a wary eye on the referendum drive, they are busy with their own campaign, featuring ads, house parties and a Web site to boost public support for same-sex marriage.
In 2000, Proposition 22, which bans same-sex marriage, won approval from 61 percent of voters.
Polls have shown increasing support for same-sex marriage in recent years. Still, the latest nonpartisan Field Poll showed that 51 percent oppose same-sex marriage, while 43 percent favor it.
Geoff Kors of the Equality California Institute said the campaign can change minds by conveying the distress that same-sex couples suffer from being denied a chance to marry.
“In California, we are really at a tipping point,” Kors said. “People have thought about this intellectually but we want them to think about it emotionally. We want to talk to people about love and commitment.”
The ad his group is broadcasting shows a bride-to-be who just can't seem to make it to the altar. First, she breaks a heel, then is grazed by a tree branch that takes her veil. Finally, she is tripped.
The ad asks, “What if you couldn't marry the person you love? Every day, gay and lesbian couples are prevented from marrying.”
Ron Prentice, president of the California Family Council, which opposes same-sex marriage, questions the effectiveness of the ad.
“When push comes to shove, people really have a discomfort level with giving marriage to the homosexual community,” Prentice said.
Prentice also said that the gay rights advocates realize that the sight of same-sex couples marrying is unpopular. He believes that is the reason the ad features a heterosexual couple.
Kors rejected that view, saying the campaign is targeting heterosexuals to get them thinking what it would be like to be denied the chance to marry.
Opponents of same-sex marriage still are pondering a new ballot measure aimed at strengthening the state's ban. Proposition 22 requires that marriage be between a man and a woman. But because the proposition enacted a statute rather than a constitutional amendment, it is more susceptible to legal challenge.
For the past two years, opponents of same-sex marriage have sought to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot. They have been hobbled by fundraising problems and a split over strategy.
The California Family Council and other groups want a ballot measure focused solely on banning same-sex marriage.
Another organization, VoteYesMarriage.com, wants an initiative that prohibits same-sex marriage and rolls back rights for same-sex registered domestic partners.
Fundraising for both efforts has fallen short, in part because the ban on same-sex marriage deprives the groups of the sense of urgency that might inspire donations.
Larry Bowler, spokesman for VoteYesMarriage.com, believes funding will pick up next year because he contends that the state's high court is “highly likely” to allow same-sex marriage next year by overturning Proposition 22.
In an e-mail message, Bowler said that his organization is waiting for a donation of $1 million from a “generous soul who passionately believes in natural marriage between a man and a woman” before it starts gathering signatures.
Prentice said that the California Family Council and other groups are also ready to launch an initiative, if the California Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage.
“Right now, we're in a wait-and-see position,” he said.
Longtime California political analyst Tony Quinn believes that a court decision to legalize same-sex marriage could create a backlash.
Consequently, Quinn argues that the best strategy for proponents of same-sex marriage is to launch a ballot measure campaign in a few years. If polling trends continue, he said, a majority of Californians will favor same-sex marriage.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Gay Marriage Ban Halted In Puerto Rico / Queerty
Senate Votes Against Gay Rights, House Holding Off
There’s some mixed news out of Puerto Rico this morning. The Island’s Senate voted to approve a constitutional ban on gay marriage, but the House put off its vote until next year:
Jose Aponte, President of the House of Representatives, put the breaks on a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages in the island as well as civil unions even for straight couples but said that the House would take up the issue in the next legislative session which begins on January 5th of 2008.…It was a small ray of light for LGBT-rights advocates in the island who were dismayed by the degree of support that the [measure] drew in the Puerto Rican senate last night securing its passage. The final tally was twenty senators in favor, two against, one abstention and four other senator absent (the measure needed 18 votes to pass).
At least one approving senator admitted to voting yay in exchange for other legislative passage. Gay activist Pedro Julio Serrano call the Senate’s decision “a disgrace for our history”.
Posted by Michael at 12:12 AM
Study: Same-Sex Couples Becoming More Visible In All Parts Of Countryby 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: November 5, 2007 - 9:00 am ET
(New York City) Gay and lesbian couples have become more visible in all areas of the country but the biggest increase is in areas of the country considered the most conservative according to a study issued Monday.
The report, prepared by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, is based on recently released data from the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey.
It shows that the number of same-sex couples in the US has quadrupled since 1990 - growing at a rate 21 times that of the population.
Increases, the report says, have been the most dramatic in the Midwest, Mountain, and Southern states.
The Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy advances law and public policy through independent research and scholarship.
"Clearly, more same-sex couples are willing to openly identify themselves as such on government surveys," said Gary Gates, Senior Research Fellow at the Williams Institute and author of the study.
"A combination of growing social acceptance and migration to the South and West means that same-sex couples are becoming increasingly visible in the most politically and socially conservative parts of the country," Gates said.
Conservative regions where George Bush Sr's support in the 1992 Presidential election exceeded his national vote average all had above average increases in same-sex couples since 1990, the report shows.
Conversely, regions where Bill Clinton's support was above his national vote average all had increases of same-sex couples below the national average.
The Williams Institute study also found that state recognition of same-sex couples was inversely related to increases in the number of same-sex couples reporting their relationship.
From 2000 to 2006, states that created formal recognition of same-sex couples had below average increases while states that prohibited marriage between two people of the same sex experienced above average increases in same-sex couples.
States that brought voter referendums about marriage equality experienced even higher increases.
"The fact that same-sex couples are becoming more visible in areas where legal recognitions are scarce shows that campaigns against gay rights might have a limited shelf life," said Gates.
"As gay and lesbian people come out, we know that their neighbors and friends become more supportive of their rights."
Utah typifies this demographic pattern, said Gates.
In rankings of states by their concentration of same-sex couples, the study finds that Utah is the biggest mover from a ranking of 38th in 1990 to 14th in 2006.
Gates also noted that the study provides implications for the political picture as the US prepares for the 2008 elections.
"It may very well be that these changes in the number of same-sex couples offer a 'leading indicator' to assess which historically conservative states are destined to become more 'purple' in upcoming elections," he said.
"If so, keep an eye on Utah. Salt Lake City has passed legislation to formally recognize same-sex couples and BYU no longer considers being gay to be a violation of its honor code. Perhaps most notable, the state now has three openly gay officials in its state legislature. That's one more than in the US Congress."
Other findings from the study include:
- East South Central states of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee saw a combined increase in same-sex couples of 863% from 1990 to 2006.
- Mountain states of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Montana, Utah, Nevada, and Idaho had an increase of 698%.
- Same-sex couple increases were 55 times larger than population increases in the Upper Midwest (Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin)
- Three cities (among the 50 largest) showed decreases in same-sex couples from 2000 to 2006: Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Detroit. In all three cases the cities lost same-sex couples while surrounding counties showed large gains.
Posted by Michael at 12:01 AM
Monday, November 12, 2007
Amendment banning same-sex marriages closing in on ballot spot in November 2008
Opponents stress that measure could affect straight couples
By ANNA SCOTT
A constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Florida is closing in on a spot on the 2008 ballot, triggering a political battle that could sway voters in a presidential year.Florida4Marriage, the group pushing the amendment, has 597,000 signatures and needs only 13,000 more to put it before voters.Proponents of the ban are heartened by polls showing that the amendment has a good chance of getting the 60 percent of votes necessary for passage."People intuitively understand why marriage should be between a man and a woman," said John Stemberger, head of Florida4Marriage. "This campaign is not a shot in the dark."But the issue is more complicated than it sounds.Same-sex marriage is already illegal in Florida, because it is a state that adopted the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Writing that into the state constitution would prevent state judges from overturning the law to allow gay marriage, as the state Supreme Court did in Massachusetts.But in some states, bans similar to the one proposed in Florida have opened the door to lawsuits challenging all domestic partnership benefits.In Florida, some cities, including Tampa, Gainesville and Miami Beach, have domestic partner registries, where unmarried couples, gay or straight, can sign up and be allowed to share health insurance benefits in government jobs, and also receive medical cards allowing each other to visit in the hospital.In Southwest Florida, such benefits are only offered in the private sector, which has not been challenged under the bans in other states, but which opponents of the ban say is possible.But when the amendment passed in Michigan, an appeals court ruled that because of the amendment, local and state government offices could no longer legally allow same-sex couples to share benefits such as health insurance. That case is before the Michigan Supreme Court.Opponents of the amendment in Florida say the same thing could happen here in government offices where domestic partnership benefits are offered, and that even private-sector businesses could be open to lawsuits.Hoping to imitate the success in Arizona, the only state to vote down the gay-marriage ban, opponents of the amendment are focusing on the the potential for those kinds of lawsuits, not the polarizing issue of gay marriage.Organizers are courting straight couples in committed relationships to help convince voters to turn down the amendment.Their central message is that the amendment could prevent all unmarried couples from receiving the benefits or protections that married couples receive, and that it could bring financial hardship to seniors especially."Voters need to be aware that this issue isn't limited to having to do with gay and lesbian people," said Derek Newton, leader of Florida Red and Blue, a nonpartisan group formed in May to fight the ban. "Anyone who's not married or at some point in the future may not be married, this is going to impact them."The Florida Red and Blue campaign features Wayne Rauen and Helene Milman, senior citizens from Sunrise who have been together for 24 years but are not married, because then Milman would lose her late husband's pension.Stemberger, head of Florida4Marriage, said the campaign is using a "scare tactic.""They can't talk about gay marriage because if they did they would have to discuss the public policy merits and there aren't any," Stemberger said. "What they did in Arizona is a very pathetic strategy of scaring senior citizens into losing their benefits. That has nothing to do with anything."The obscurity lies in the language of the amendment, which reads: "Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized."Stemberger argues that challenges to domestic partnerships are unlikely because the amendment is close enough to the current Florida state law banning same-sex marriage. That law was previously used to challenge domestic partnership benefits, but the court ruled in favor of protecting the benefits.A legislative analysis of the amendment said a relationship that was the "substantial equivalent of marriage" was ambiguous and could lead to lawsuits to overturn domestic partnership benefits.The issue has split top Republican presidential candidates. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he firmly supports a ban. But former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he thought it is unnecessary, but would support one if several states tried to legalize gay marriage."I don't think we need a constitutional amendment at this point," Giuliani said at a Fox News debate in Orlando last month.Gay marriage has also been a challenging issue for Democrats. When Sen. Hillary Clinton is asked whether she supports gay marriage, she says she prefers to think about it as being "very positive" about civil unions.Florida Red and Blue has raised more than $1 million since it formed in May. That is twice as much as Florida4Marriage has raised in two years.The bulk of contributions to Florida4Marriage came from the Florida Republican Party, which has not made any donations since Gov. Charlie Crist took office this year. Crist signed the Florida4Marriage petition in favor of the ban, but earlier this spring said the GOP was wasting its money on the effort and urged the party to spend on other priorities.Supporters of the ban hope to get a boost from a $75 per ticket fundraiser on Nov. 16 in Hollywood, where Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson will be headlining.That the issue could spike the number of voters, particularly conservative voters, at the polls makes opponents more anxious to defeat it."To defeat it in the South in a presidential election year will have ripple effects," Nadine Smith, president of Equality Florida, told Democrats at the party's state convention last month. "It's a wedge issue in a battleground state in a key election year."One side effect of the Florida campaign against the amendment is that some homosexuals feel slighted because the message is not centered on promoting positive opinions of gay marriage, but rather showing how heterosexual couples would be affected."It's a little sad," said Bryan Worthington of Venice, president of the local Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered caucus. "If there were no way to link the effects of this amendment to straight people, then it would pass in a heartbeat. But we have to do what it takes, and it will end up affecting the rights of all people, gay or straight."Others are worried that, regardless of how many straight people have a stake in voting against the amendment, voters will still view it as a gay issue and that it will strengthen opposition to gays and their lifestyle.Joel May, a Sarasota architect who married his partner three years ago in Canada, lived in Colorado in 1992 when that state passed a constitutional ban on gay marriage. He said the backlash against gays was immediate."I knew people who were beaten up, and I had swastikas carved into my car because it had a rainbow sticker on it," May said. "It was open season."He moved to Sarasota for what he saw as a "live and let live" atmosphere, and he is afraid a campaign to ensure gay marriage will never be legalized in this state has the potential to threaten that."When you set up an atmosphere of hate or segregation or discrimination, or separate-but-equal, this is what you're doing," he said. "No one can convince me otherwise. I've seen it."
BBSNews - US House Fleetingly Passes Historic Protection for Gays and Lesbians
Thursday, November 08 2007 @ 02:07 AM ESTEdited by: Michael Hess
But Not by a Veto Proof Margin
BBSNews Blog 2007-11-08 -- A partial and probably fleeting victory of sorts was won yesterday by gays and lesbians in the US when the House of Representatives passed ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The act is necessary given that about thirty states have no laws protecting gays and lesbians from being fired based upon their sexual orientation. Virginia, the state where Dick Cheney's daughter resides with her life partner Heather Poe and their new baby has an anti-gay marriage law, and according to the LAMBDA Legal Defense Fund has no private employment protections against discrimination against sexual orientation or gender identity, and no law against public employment discrimination against sexual orientation.
BBSNews file photo of a Gay Marriage Rally outside Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington on May 1st, 2004. James Dobson, the founder of an extremist evangelical group claimed famously at the anti-gay rally inside the stadium, "If this [gay marriage] happens, the culture war is over and everything associated with it is lost."
Image Credit: J. Coyle. Used with permission.
For those that continually write us about how being gay is a choice, and that gay people choose to discriminate against themselves by choosing "unnatural" or "immoral" or a "heathen lifestyle" and all the other unprintable epithets, and for those tempted to write and weigh in with their low opinions of people who prefer facts over religion based hysterical bigotry, as always we refer you to the American Psychological Association (APA) who answers authoritatively the questions of whether being homosexual is a choice and whether some sort of intervention or "therapy" can change who humans are sexually:
"... human beings can not choose to be either gay or straight. Sexual orientation emerges for most people in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience. Although we can choose whether to act on our feelings, psychologists do not consider sexual orientation to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed ...
... Even though most homosexuals live successful, happy lives, some homosexual or bisexual people may seek to change their sexual orientation through therapy, sometimes pressured by the influence of family members or religious groups to try and do so. The reality is that homosexuality is not an illness. It does not require treatment and is not changeable."
Get over it.
ENDA has been watered down a bit from where it was, because protections from transgender citizens were removed to make the bill more palatable even for Democrats who are usually assumed to support equal rights for all Americans. Reuters reports:
"Democrats had initially sought transgender protection. But many backed off when they realized they did not have the votes, and feared transgender coverage could sink the bill."
The report continues outlining that President Bush will likely veto the bill because the White House believes that being gay or lesbian is "subjective" and it would be confusing to figure out how to enforce such a law. That may be true for the GOP, the country knows they have an inordinate amount of gay citizens in every corner of Republican life and politics but they try to ignore them so effectively that they cannot truly fathom a gay, lesbian or transgender person when they actually come face to face.
And of course the Republicans are upset that extremist right-wing Christians, in particular religious institutions and churches would no longer get to fire people simply based upon their sexual orientation. They hate that. The extremist right-wing churches would raise hell if they thought they had to keep a gay day care worker, an adult care giver, or a special needs medical professional who is gay. Heaven forbid, that would offend their narrow and upstanding sensibilities. The more Christ like churches don't have this facet of self hatred. The Reuters report continues:
"Mostly Republican critics also complained the bill, despite Democratic claims to the contrary, would inadequately exempt religious institutions from the proposed law, and could even undermine state laws banning same-sex marriage."
The report concludes with always a favorite of those in the US who are holier than all of us peons, the Christian Right's mover and shaker Tony Perkins:
"'Tony Perkins of the conservative Family Research Council, which opposed the bill, said the proposal would permit 'mainstream homosexuality, bisexuality ... and provide activists a legal tool for punishing employers who do not approve of these lifestyles.'"
Sigh. Sometimes you have to wonder at the right-wing's ability to ignore that which is right under their nose. It's obvious Tony does not receive broadcast or cable television programs in his world that the rest of America sees. How else does he miss "Will & Grace" reruns that are fairly ubiquitous? Representative Barney Frank, once famously called "Barney Fag" by 1995 Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, is an out of the closet US Democrat member of the House of Representatives, one of two, and Frank is chief sponsor of the bill.
Did Perkins miss the irony of his "mainstream homosexuality" quip by conveniently forgetting that the Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney and his wife this year welcomed the birth of their lesbian daughter's child? I mean seriously, one has to marvel at the ability of extremist haters like Perkins to ignore the very realities and unchangeable facts right in front of them.
The so-called "moral majority" can give it up. The debate is over. Gay folks are in their midst, they cannot eliminate them without exterminating large numbers of their own ranks, they cannot rid themselves of the scourge of gayness unless they first inflict a pogrom upon themselves and then militantly extend it to all the progressives and the liberals and independents.
They'd have far more luck rounding up and shipping out all the currently illegal aliens in the US or outlawing abortion.
Republicans clearly do not like the idea of extending protection to gays and lesbians from employment discrimination but they will support a fellow GOP politician who reportedly cheats on his wife with paid sex workers, themselves discriminated against by extremist religious based laws outlawing the world's oldest profession. Americans got a good view of their double standard when Republican Senator Larry Craig was popped for allegedly soliciting same-sex company in a public airport bathroom stall but when Republican Senator David Vitter cheated on his wife Wendy with a prostitute of the same name, he is feted at the time the news of his "family values" transgressions are being aired in the media.
There is a political angle as always. Republicans will sell the so-called "family values" they wear on their sleeves right down the river when a political seat is at stake.
Selling out Craig on a dubious charge of seeking out same-sex contact, given the extremist closet the GOP likes to keep their adherents in, was easy because his Senate seat is safely in Republican hands. Vitter on the other hand, were he forced to kow tow to those same self-serving Republican values that win them votes from the bigots, self-styled moralists and intolerants in America, would have been replaced by an appointment of a Democrat to fill the seat by Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, hated by Republicans only slightly less than gays and lesbians and stem cell research advocates.
But politics wins out over principle for Republicans at all costs. Adultery is forgiven if it will save a Senate seat, "toe tapping" in any way that implies seeking out same-sex contact is seen as egregious enough to cast the formerly loved by the GOP Senator Craig into the fiery pit of GOP self-loathing that they have among them gays and lesbians just like any other sample of the human race. We can only wonder how it would have been if Craig would have been replaced with a Democrat gubernatorial appointment. Would they have reacted differently?
Some day, Republicans will realize that the hatred they exhibit to those they feel are immoral and inferior, is aimed as much at themselves as anyone else.
Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign allowed in a statement yesterday that the version of ENDA that was passed falls short of actual equal protection of all those who face discrimination because of their inate sexuality. To put it bluntly, it would be roughly equivalent to passing a non-discrimination law for black folks that said every black person was protected except any of those identified by their community as "high yellow" or "red bone". Those folks will be left out until further notice. Solmonese writes yesterday:
"Supporting this version of the bill was a difficult and painful decision. But, without a doubt, the only path to achieving a bill protecting our whole community was by achieving the successful House vote today. A defeat of ENDA would have set back the possibility of an inclusive bill for many, many years.
HRC remains 100% committed to doing the hard work necessary to pass legislation that protects our entire community, including transgender workers who remain especially vulnerable to workplace discrimination."
He's right of course in terms of politics. Until Republicans realize that their anti-gay stance is penalizing themselves to the point of paralysis, even the daughter of the current Vice President of the United States is liable to lose her job just because of her unchangeable and quite normal sexual orientation.
Posted by Michael at 11:53 PM
The State News: Mich. Supreme Court hears case for same-sex benefits
By Brian McVicar The State News Published: November 6, 2007
Lansing — Lawyers clashed over whether the state’s gay-marriage ban prohibits same-sex domestic partner benefits Tuesday before the Michigan Supreme Court.
The Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is appealing a February 2007 decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals that ruled same-sex domestic partner benefits are prohibited under the state’s gay-marriage ban. The ban was passed by voters in the 2004 general election.
The lawsuit could determine the future of same-sex domestic partner benefits for university and public employees.
To comply with the Michigan Court of Appeals ruling, MSU eliminated same-sex domestic partner benefits in June. It replaced them with Other Eligible Individual, or OEI, benefits in July.
Under the new program, an MSU employee may enroll another person onto the plan as long as they have lived together for 18 months, that person isn’t a dependent of the employee and he or she can’t inherit from the employee.
Deborah LaBelle, an attorney for the Michigan chapter of the ACLU, said Michigan voters passed the proposal to preserve the sanctity of marriage.
“No one thought that they were stripping those health benefits from those people and their children,” LaBelle said. “There’s not a word about those kind of health benefits in there, there’s not even a word of domestic partnerships in there.”
LaBelle said she isn’t sure whether MSU’s program, which has stricter eligibility requirements than its previous program, will be affected by the court’s ruling. University officials couldn’t be reached for comment.
Grace Wojcik, chairwoman for The Alliance of LBGTA Students at MSU, said a legal challenge to MSU’s program has serious consequences.
“I think it’s highly important we cover all employees of the university,” Wojcik said, adding that everyone deserves health benefits regardless of sexual affiliation.
“People who voted for Proposal 2 maybe didn’t know all the ramifications of the proposal,” Wojcik said. “I think if more people knew what would have happened after it was passed they would have voted differently.”
But Matt Frendewey, spokesman for the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, said the proposal was clear.
The proposal, approved by 58 percent of the public, stated “the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.”
“I think (the ACLU’s argument) offends the intelligence of the citizens of Michigan,” Frendewey said.
To uphold the state’s gay-marriage ban, employers need to use standards other than marriage to determine who receives benefits, Frendewey said.
LaBelle, however, said health benefits are granted by employers. They aren’t a privilege granted solely by marriage.
“Heterosexuals recognize that simply giving a health benefit to someone doesn’t make it equivalent to a marriage,” LaBelle said. “To say the fact that there is some eligibility criteria for domestic partnership that overlap with marriage and then to equate those two as similar unions for purposes of looking at this amendment I also think is absurd.”
Published on Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Trackback URL: http://www.statenews.com/index.php/trackback/3499
Posted by Michael at 11:36 PM
Pro-gay marriage TV commercials hit air in New Jersey -- Newsday.com
3:53 PM EST, November 6, 2007
MOUNT LAUREL, N.J.
Two liberal New Jersey groups are debuting pro-gay-marriage television commercials tonight. Garden State Equality and Blue Jersey are running the spots on News 12 New Jersey. The ads will run for two weeks _ longer if the groups can raise money to keep them on the air. The ads are the most public part yet of a campaign to persuade the state's lawmakers to allow gay couples to marry. New Jersey already allows same-sex couples to enter civil unions. But gay rights advocates say they don't offer enough protections. Opponents of gay marriage say marriage should be between a man and a woman and that children do better in those families. ___
Friday, November 2, 2007
Obama: Still a 'No' on Gay Marriage - Community
By: Arthur Canales
Posted: 11/1/07The race for the presidency continues to open issues Americans feel they need to address. One of those issues is gay marriage. Illinois Senator Barack Obama (D) held a question and answer session with the public in Iowa on Monday when the issue was brought up. Obama stated that although he opposed same-sex marriage, he was in favor of civil unions for gays and lesbians.A civil union is defined in Merriam-Webster Dictionary as a recognized union similar to marriage. With a civil union, same-sex couples have the rights, benefits and other responsibilities similar to a civil marriage. Civil unions are currently legal in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Obama said he believes that same-sex couples should have the rights and privileges as married couples, but that the relationship should be called a civil union rather than a marriage. According to The Des Moines Register, Obama was quoted saying, "You want the word marriage and I believe that the issue of marriage has become so entangled - the word marriage has become so entangled with religion - that it makes more sense for me as president, with that authority, to talk about the civil rights that are conferred with civil unions. Individual denominations should make the decisions about what to recognize as a marriage."Alex Lamb, a gay student from Coe College and Abbi Swanson, a mother who's son is gay, where among the people during Obama's campaign stop in Iowa. Both were not satisfied with Obama's position."There isn't an electable candidate out there that has given me the answer I want, which is everything," Swanson told The Des Moines Register. "I'm not completely satisfied that he's not for gay marriage ... but I'm happy he does believe in equal rights for gay citizens," Lamb said.The questions came in relation to the controversy Obama faced when he invited Grammy Award-winning singer Donnie McClurkin to his three-city Gospel concert in South Carolina.McClurkin said he was gay for 20 years, but was "cured" through prayers. McClurkin has been heavily criticized for his view that homosexuality is a choice and people can "fight the temptation that plagues them."Gay-rights activists demanded that Obama cancel McClurkin's appearance on Sunday. Obama, however, did not remove McClurkin, but instead expressed his commitment to gay rights."Part of my job as president, I think, is to deliver a message that everybody is part of the American family," he said during Monday's dialogue in Iowa. "Not just some people."Other Democratic presidential candidates, including Senator Hilary Clinton and former Senator John Edwards expressed similar opinions about gay marriage during a forum last August organized by the Human Rights Campaign.
© Copyright 2007 Globe Link
Poll Shows More Vermonters Favor Same-Sex Marriage
Burlington, Vermont - November 1, 2007
With the Vermont Commission on Family Recognition and Protection meeting across the state this year, and gay marriage a likely future legislative issue, how to Vermonters feel about allowing same-sex couples to marry?
According to a WCAX statewide poll 47% of adults favor allowing same-sex couples to marry, while 41% oppose it.
Advocates on both sides of the issue say the results come as no surprise, though each have varying opinions on why.
Beth Robinson of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force says more people are getting comfortable with the idea of gay marriage, because more people are getting comfortable with gay couples.
"With each passing day more and more Vermonters get to know their gay and lesbian neighbors, see us caring for our elderly parents or trick-or-treating with our kids or celebrating the Red Sox or volunteering in our communities, basically struggling with the same struggles that all Vermonters face and celebrating the same joys that all Vermonters celebrate," says Robinson.
Advocates against gay marriage blame the numbers on a different reason. Stephen Cable of Vermont Renewal - a group devoted to defending traditional marriage - says marriage rights advocates have been unencumbered in their message recently. He says his group and others like it have not been as loud about their message. That's something he says will change soon when Vermont Renewal launches an educational campaign showing new information about the benefits of traditional marriage.
"The social scientists who haven't really closely looked at the benefits of marriage have done that now :24 and the conclusive facts that are the facts of marriage, the social good the private welfare that it provides are undeniable now," says Cable.
Cable says next year he expects the poll results to be drastically different, with more Vermonters opposing gay marriage, but that would be a reversal of the current trend.
When WCAX conducted the same poll last year, it found 44% in favor and 48% opposed. That means in just one year the number of supporters has grown by 3%, while the number of those opposed has dropped 7%.
Robinson says that's a sign of overall growing support, and an inevitable move toward same-sex marriage.
"Oh it's absolutely a question of when and not whether," says Robinson.
The final vote will be up to the legislature but with the Vermont Commission on Family Recognition and Protection meeting across the state public opinion will play a big part in that ultimate decision.
Bianca Slota - WCAX News