The Constitutionality of Prop. 22 - City on a Hill Press
By Marie Haka
Next week, a heated battle will unfold in California’s highest court. On March 4, the California Supreme Court will hear arguments regarding the constitutionality of the state’s same-sex marriage ban. Petitioners challenging the ban include several same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses as well as citizens of the City and County of San Francisco. Respondents defending the ban include the State of California, Gov. Schwarzenegger, the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Campaign for California Families.
Both the proponents and the opponents of the ban have emotional and well-developed arguments.
Matthew Staver is the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, an organization geared towards “advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, and the traditional family,” according to the Liberty Counsel website. Staver will be arguing in front of the California Supreme Court that the same-sex marriage ban is constitutional. He cites the history of marriage in California and the will of Californian voters in upholding same-sex marriage bans as reasons for maintaining the restriction.
“One hundred and fifty years ago, the California Supreme Court said that one of the interests it has in marriage is the interest in procreation and childrearing, providing the optimal environment in which the child can have exposure to both genders, male and female,” Staver said. “The people passed Proposition 22 by 61 to 62 percent of the vote in 2000, and that didn’t create marriage as one man and one woman. What that did was it solidified the people’s interest in preserving heterosexual marriage.”
Second-year Ian Sentelik sees the opposition to same-sex marriage as a use of personal beliefs to justify the bans.
“It’s just the fact that they don’t like it and thus it shouldn’t happen,” said Sentelik, who is gay. “And that’s just ridiculous.”
Molly McKay is the media director of Marriage Equality USA, an organization whose purpose is to fight for equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. McKay believes that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional because they deny same-sex couples federal rights.
“Right now in California, domestic partnerships have most of the same rights that married couples have under state law, but the problem is that we don’t have access to any of the 1,138 federal rights that come with the civil marriage license,” McKay said. “There’s a constitutional right to marry the person that you choose.”
Historically, groups have been refused personal freedoms because of the possibility of physical and emotional harm or an intrusion in others’ individual rights. McKay denies that any sort of harm would befall opposite-sex marriage, and that no personal or religious freedoms would be interfered with if same-sex marriage were made legal.
“What possible harm could come from ensuring that same-sex couples and their kids are equally protected and treated as full U.S. citizens under the law?” McKay asked. “People need to recognize that we all have civil rights. ”
Staver argues that research proves there are differences in the development of children raised by opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples, and that allowing same-sex couples to marry would damage the traditional family. He cites the studies of two University of Southern California professors, Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz, as well as his own work.
“There is a significant amount of research that suggests that children do best when they are exposed to both genders,” he said. “I’ve written a book called ‘Same-Sex Marriage: Putting Every Household At Risk,’ and I cite a lot of research there.”
Conversely, McKay believes that all families should be respected uniformly regardless of their composition.
“We want to support the notion that all families should be treated equally,” McKay said. “Family is family wherever there’s love, and we just need to ensure that we’re all being treated equally under the law.”
She also points to documented research that suggests children of same-sex couples are raised and develop just like the children of opposite-sex couples.
“There have been numerous studies that show that gay parents raise just as well-adjusted children as heterosexual couples do, such as the American Psychological Association’s ‘Lesbian and Gay Parenting’ report,” McKay said. “There’s no difference in the parenting, but there is a slight bit of discrimination that those kids face that could be rectified by the state allowing their parents to be married.”
McKay sees the ban on same-sex marriage as unfounded, unconstitutional and a form of state-sanctioned intolerance.
“California has eliminated every discriminatory barrier, except for this one,” McKay said. “This is just another form of gender discrimination that needs to go.”
Thursday, February 28, 2008
The Constitutionality of Prop. 22 - City on a Hill Press
Posted by Michael at 7:37 PM
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Lesbian mom fights for justice in partner's death. Mother and kids denied visitation with dying partner in Florida hospital. | ProudParenting.com
Lesbian mom fights for justice in partner's death. Mother and kids denied visitation with dying partner in Florida hospital. | ProudParenting.com
Wed, 02/27/2008 - 12:47pm by Jeff
A year ago Janice Langbehn's partner of nearly 18 years was pronounced brain dead after being stricken with a brain aneurysm. While at Jackson Memorial Hospital - in Miami - she was met with prejudice and apathy. Janice and her family were consistently denied visitation and didn't see her partner, Lisa Pond, until many hours after she was admitted. Lambda Legal has officially sent a notice of intent to sue to the hospital on Janice's behalf.
"The treatment that Janice and her children received was unethical and discriminatory," said Beth Littrell, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. "This letter puts them on notice that we are advocating for justice for Janice and her children."
While on a family cruise leaving from Miami - Lisa, a healthy 39 year-old, suddenly collapsed. She was rushed to Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital with her partner Janice and three children following close behind. There, the hospital refused to accept information from Janice about her partner's medical history. Janice was informed that she was in an antigay city and state, and she could expect to receive no information or acknowledgment as family.
A doctor finally spoke with Janice telling her that there was no chance of recovery. Other than one five minute visit, which was orchestrated by a Catholic priest at Janice's request to perform last rites, and despite the doctor's acknowledgement that no medical reason existed to prevent visitation, neither Janice nor her children were allowed to see Lisa until nearly eight hours after their arrival.
Soon after Lisa's death, Janice tried to get her death certificate in order to get life insurance and Social Security benefits for their children. She was denied both by the State of Florida and the Dade County Medical Examiner.
Article adapted by ProudParenting.com from original press release.
Posted by Michael at 1:24 PM
Gay Divorces in New York: Marriages By Default? :: EDGE Boston
Gay Divorces in New York: Marriages By Default?
by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Feb 26, 2008
What makes a family? Sharing in life’s triumphs and travails, some would say; dividing up domestic chores, others might argue. In a New York ruling, though, divorce, as much as togetherness, might just delineate family.
The New York Daily News reported in an article published today that a New York State Supreme Court justice has ruled that the marriage performed in Canada for two women residing in New York must be recognized by New York state law.
Therefore, ruled Justice Laura Drager, the womens’ marriage cannot simply be declared null. For the two to legally disentangle, they must proceed the same way every other legally recognized family does: with a divorce.
The ruling, reported by the New York Post to be precedent-setting, was handed against a political backdrop that sees some expectation for the New York State Assembly to approve marriage equality legislation at some point, most likely next year--a bill that Governor Eliot Spitzer, who campaigned in part on a platform of GLBT equality, has already said he would sign.
Meantime, in neighboring New Jersey, a commission studying whether civil unions offer enough protections to same-sex families to qualify them as, in fact, creating marriage equality has determined in a preliminary report, issued Feb. 19, that civil unions do not, in fact, create marriage equality, but rather relegate couples of the same gender to "second class status," according to the Associated Press, which published a story on Feb. 17, in advance of the publication of the commission’s findings.
When "Beth R." sought a divorce from "Donna M.," whom she had married in a 2004 ceremony celebrated in Canada, "Donna M." responded with the legal argument that because the women had been married in Canada, where marriage equality is the law of the land, rather than in New York, where current law forbids marriage between people of the same gender, the marriage carried no weight under state law and no divorce proceedings could take place.
The case went to court, where Justice Drager ruled that "out-of-state same-sex marriages are properly recognized under our law," thereby honoring the status of the two women as a legal family in the breach--but honoring it all the same.
"Beth R." will now be able to press on with the divorce, which will include a custody battle for the couple’s two children (which are biologically the children of "Donna M.")
Drager based her ruling on the observation that there are only two instances in which New York law refuses to recognize marriages performed outside the state.
In one instance, marriages performed elsewhere can be refused recognition in New York if state law specifically provides for such refusal.
In the other instance, the state of New York could refuse to recognize a marriage that would be "abhorrent to New York public policy."
Although state law bars the granting of marriage to same-sex couples within the state, it does not specifically say that same-sex marriages performed elsewhere cannot be honored in the state.
As for marriages deemed "abhorrent to New York public policy," Drager found that these constitute a very narrow and limited field: "so narrow that it has been applied only to marriages involving polygamy or incest," the ruling said.
Raoul Felder, the attorney for "Donna M.," disagreed, saying, "The judge’s decision was scholarly and well thought out, but it sets aside 200 years of decisional and statutory law in New York."
Added Felder, "She wants to change the law. That’s something for the Legislature to do."
Felder said that he would appeal the case.
Susan Sommer, attorney for "Beth R.," saw the ruling differently. saying that the judge had not rewritten the law, but rather was "just applying it in a different situation."
If the divorce proceeding were to go forward, it would involve questions of custody even though "Donna M." had given birth to both of the couple’s daughters, one in 2003, and the other in 2006.
Older daughter "J.R." called "Beth R." "Mom," and "Donna M." "Mommy." The judge’s ruling noted that both spouses "cared for the children and contributed to their support."
Drager’s decision describes both women as in their 40s and working in media.
"They met in late 1999 and soon thereafter entered into an intimate relationship," Drager wrote.
They moved in together, and Donna M. had a baby via artificial insemination in October 2003. They tied the knot in front of family and friends in Toronto on Valentine’s Day in 2004, and Donna M. gave birth to another girl in 2006.
The elder child, identified as "J.R.," referred to Beth R. as "Mom" and Donna M. as "Mommy," and both women "cared for the children and contributed to their support," the judge wrote.
The ruling could mean a tough custody battle even though "Beth R." did not adopt the children.
Another case of two women splitting up and turning to the courts to determine whether the relationship being dissolved was, in some sense, a marriage by default, also hit the news with a story published Feb. 26 by the New York Daily News.
The second couple, who reside in Manhattan, are also going through a legal battle the outcome of which could bolster the argument that couples of the same gender need and deserve the same treatment before the law that heterosexual couples are granted.
Halina Avery and Molly Caldwell, reported the New York Daily News, were together for 14 years, during which time they wore commitment rings and held property in common.
Now, as the two are in the midst of splitting up, Caldwell says that she is entitled to her share of the couple’s belongings.
Said Caldwell, "I considered Halina my spouse."
Continued Caldwell, "We had everything that married couples had. Our families considered us married."
Court documents contain a statement from a friend of the women who said that the two had been "family in every sense of the word," reported the New York Daily News.
The couple broke up in 2006, but the legal ramifications continue, starting with a suit that same year in which Avery sought to have Caldwell removed from her life insurance policy.
Avery also attempted to oust Caldwell from the co-op that the two jointly owned.
Caldwell fought back, going to court to win support as Avery’s ex, as well as a portion of the couple’s assets, which could be considerable; Avery’s career is in opera, but she is the heiress to the Fortune 500 company Avery Dennison office products.
Said Aaron Goodman, attorney for Caldwell, "This was, for all intents and purposes, a marriage."
Continued Goodman, "They should be treated no differently than the parties in a divorce."
But Avery’s attorneys say that Caldwell is looking for the things that a married woman going through a divorce would look to obtain. They also say that the women had what amounted to a prenuptial agreement in place before the breakup.
Said Avery;s attorney Yetta Kurland, "They never entered into, nor intended to enter into, a marriage."
Continued Kurland, "If they had intended to marry, or file as domestic partners in New York City, then they would have done so."
The agreement that both women signed in 1995 stipulates that in the event of their relationship ending, neither one would seek property or money from the other.
Said Kurland, "Any rights [Caldwell] could have had would have been waived in the agreement."
Added Kurland, "She’s asking the court to ignore that living-together agreement."
Kurland said, "This former relationship was significant in time and commitment, but it was not a marriage," and its end ought not to be treated as a divorce.
But Goodman declares, "What this is, is a divorce."
Says Caldwell, "What I really would just like is for myself and others like me to be treated fairly."
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Leland DeGrasse will rule on the case.
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.
Gothamist: After Same-Sex Unions, Courts Face Same-Sex Divorce
After Same-Sex Unions, Courts Face Same-Sex Divorce
Two lawsuits currently wending their way through New York courts are forcing judges to grapple with the legal ramifications of “gay divorce.”
In one case, State Supreme Court Justice Laura Drager is allowing a Manhattan woman to sue for divorce and custody of children borne by a woman she married in Canada in 2004. The ruling echoes a recent appellate court decision in Rochester that found "out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples must be legally recognized in New York" since out-of-state heterosexual marriage are recognized.
A second case involves Halina Avery, 39-year-old heir to the Fortune 500 office products firm, and her former partner, 37-year-old real estate agent Molly Caldwell. The pair lived together since 1994 but broke up in 2006 after Caldwell admitted kissing another woman in a bar. Avery soon sued Caldwell to remove her from a life insurance policy and evict her from the co-op they shared. Now, according to the Daily News, Caldwell is demanding an equitable distribution of the money she used to share “with the woman she called her wife.”
Lawyers for Avery contend their client made provisions for her former partner - and that the two signed what was a prenup of sorts. Caldwell is trying to apply the terms of marriage to the relationship when, legally, they don't apply, Avery's camp contends.
"They never entered into, nor intended to enter into, a marriage," said Yetta Kurland, a lawyer for Avery. "If they had intended to marry, or file as domestic partners in New York City, then they would have done so."
Caldwell says Avery “cut her off at the waist” and insists the case be handled just like a divorce. Avery’s lawyers point to their “1995 living-together agreement, which states neither woman would make a claim for support, money or property in case of a breakup.” A ruling is expected soon and could set a major precedent for what qualifies as a legally binding same-sex domestic partnership.
Posted by Michael at 10:35 AM
The Times - Article
Spanish PM pledges gay rights
AFP Published:Feb 26, 2008
MADRID - Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has pledged his Socialist Party would further advance gay rights if he is re-elected in March 9 polls, in an interview with a gay magazine.
Under Zapatero, who came to power in 2004, Spain has already become a world leader when it comes to the rights of gays, lesbians and transsexuals.
"We will continue to make reforms to improve the conditions of all," he said in an interview with the monthly gay magazine Zero, where he appeared on the cover for the third time since 2002.
"We must facilitate the implementation of the rights that we have already approved: the right to adoption (for same-sex couples), of course, and the right to legally change sex," he said.
If the conservative opposition Popular Party of Mariano Rajoy wins the election, Zapetero vowed to prevent "a single step backwards" in the policies of his government. "I will do whatever possible so that Mr. Rajoy does not withdraw the rights of any family," he said.
Spain became only the third member of the European Union, after the Netherlands and Belgium, to allow same-sex marriages in July 2005 with a law that also legalised adoptions by gays and lesbians.
The measure was heavily criticised by the Roman Catholic Church in Spain and a section of the Popular Party.
The PP has gone to the constitutional court to challenge the use of the word "marriage" in the law, and has vowed if elected to withdraw the right of gays and lesbians to adopt.
Homosexuality was legalised in Spain in 1979, four years after the death of dictator Francisco Franco whose regime shipped gays to institutions that some activists have likened to concentration camps.
"We are the envy of other countries for what we have achieved (on gay rights), and we have the support of a lot of countries," said Zapatero.
Opinion polls give Zapatero a narrow lead over Rajoy ahead of the elections
Posted by Michael at 10:07 AM
Democrat & Chronicle: Local News
County's appeal on same-sex marriage protested
Victoria E. Freile
February 25, 2008 1:31 pm — About 75 people today gathered outside the Monroe County Office Building to protest county officials’ decision to appeal a court ruling that requires New York State to recognize same-sex marriages performed outside the Empire State.
“Everyone deserves to be treated equally and fairly under the law,” said Todd Plank, who helped organize today’s rally.
Numerous organizations, including The Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley, Interfaith Advocates and Social Action for Marriage Equality, were represented among those who gathered outside the County Office Building, 37 W. Main St., at noon. A second rally is planned in the same spot today at 4 p.m.
On Feb. 1, the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court said that same-sex marriages legally consecrated elsewhere must be recognized in New York, unless the Legislature passes a law to deny their legitimacy.
Last week, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks announced that the county would appeal the appellate court ruling to protect taxpayers.
“We certainly cannot ignore the definition of marriage that currently exists under New York state law,” Brooks said in a statement. She last week said the county must appeal the decision to protect county taxpayers.
“We wanted her to hear from the people — all taxpayers who don’t have an issue with extending equal benefits for equal work,” Plank said.
The appeal focuses on the marriage of Chili residents Patricia Martinez and Lisa Ann Golden, who attend today’s protest.
Their union, legally consecrated in Canada in 2004, was not immediately accepted by Martinez’s employer, Monroe Community College. In 2005, she sued to get health care benefits for Golden. Earlier this month, a court ruled in her favor.
As long as the Martinez case ruling stands, same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere will be entitled to the same treatment under state law as marriages between a man and a woman.
While bundled in winter ware, many attendees held signs showing their distaste for Brooks’ action. Two such signs read, “Equal taxes equals Equal rights,” and “Love doesn’t discriminate. Monroe County does.”
Rod Frohman, an associate pastor for the Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester, said he was “mystified that Brooks would pick this up,” and attended the rally so the community knew the parish supports equal rights and equal marriage in New York.
Catherine Lewis, 54, of Fairport, who attended with her partner of eight years, Angela Bonazinga, said she didn’t think Brooks’ was representing the best interests of the community. She described the potential economic impact as miniscule and said Brooks’ action sent the wrong message about the county.
“It’s just about being fair,” said Neil Floar of Rochester, who married his partner of 38 years, Tom Morse, in Canada in 2004. “We’re not asking for special rights, we’re asking for equal rights.”
Toasting an Oscar Win, Hoping for Greater Rights - New York Times
February 25, 2008
Toasting an Oscar Win, Hoping for Greater Rights
By NATE SCHWEBER
WEST ORANGE, N.J. — It was part Oscar party and part civil rights rally.
More than 300 people filled a theater here to standing-room-only capacity on Sunday evening to watch “Freeheld,” which won the Academy Award for best documentary short subject.
The film beat out three other documentaries, “La Corona,” “Salim Baba” and “Sari’s Mother.” The nominations and winner were introduced by United States servicemen and women shortly after 11 p.m.
“I’m here to watch the film because of what it could do for us,” said Doug Laverty, 40, a police officer in Passaic County who was featured in the film.
The 38-minute documentary chronicles the experiences of an Ocean County prosecutor’s investigator, Detective Lt. Laurel Hester, who died of lung cancer in February 2006 at 49. She fought her illness while battling the Ocean County freeholders for benefits for her partner, Stacie Andree.
Ms. Andree and the filmmaker, Cynthia Wade, were attending the Oscar ceremony in Hollywood.
At dramatic moments in the documentary, including a scene in which Lieutenant Hester, who lived in Point Pleasant, appears in a wheelchair at a freeholders’ meeting to ask that her pension be transferred to Ms. Andree, sobs could be heard in the audience.
“It was a tough movie to watch,” said Sam Joseph, 49, who lives in South Orange. “I’ve been with my partner for 30 years and it’s always been an issue: What if one of us get sick?”
None of the five Ocean County freeholders, who ultimately voted to extend benefits to same-sex couples, were at the screening.
Some in the audience on Sunday were same-sex couples who said they were still fighting for benefits for their partners.
Craig Ross, 46, watched the movie with his partner, Richard Cash, 54, for whom he is trying to obtain insurance through his employer, a technology company based in the Midwest.
“I have asked about it, but they don’t recognize civil unions, only marriage,” Mr. Ross said.
Mr. Cash added, “Like Laurel said, we don’t want to be treated differently than anybody.”
In 2006, Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed legislation extending benefits to same-sex couples under a civil union law.
According to Steven Goldstein, president of Garden State Equality, more than 2,400 couples in New Jersey have entered into same-sex unions, and about one-fourth of them have filed complaints with Garden State Equality over benefits. The group is an advocacy organization for gay, lesbian and transgender people in New Jersey.
“I wish this film had a happy ending,” Mr. Goldstein shouted to the crowd after the credits rolled. “It does not. Our civil union law is failing; it is not respected like marriage.”
Between the showing of the film and the beginning of the Oscar broadcast, Ed Mather, 66, of Morris County, said he was still working for the right to marry his partner of 39 years, the Rev. Robert O. Kriesat, with whom he attended the screening.
“The goal is full marriage rights,” he said.
Mr. Kriesat, 68, who appeared briefly in the film petitioning the freeholders, said it was the second time he had seen the movie, and it again made him think of what could happen if he or his partner fell ill.
“It’s almost as hard to watch the second time,” he said.
Though about half the audience left after the screening, the rest watched the broadcast, anxiously waiting for the category in which “Freeheld” was entered.
In stark contrast to the somber film, the Oscar party afterward was a raucous event, in which wine and Champagne flowed, and breathless quips about moviegoers’ clothes were made by a Joan Rivers impersonator.
A cheer went up when “Freeheld” was announced as the winner. Joan Hervey, 53, who appeared in the film, said she felt “a rush of joy,” and David Smith, 23, managing director of Garden State Equality, said, “I feel empowered.”
Posted by Michael at 10:02 AM
Marry your like, says the Bible : Mail & Guardian Online
Marry your like, says the Bible
André Müller: COMMENT
24 February 2008 11:59
I am a proponent of same-sex marriages and as a Christian minister of religion, I want to make it very clear that the Bible nowhere gives an indication that such marriages should be condemned. Most of the opposition to same-sex marriages could be ascribed to a lack of knowledge of what both marriage and homosexuality mean.
The biggest mistake most people make is the assumption that the institution of marriage has remained unchanged since ancient times. They falsely wish to adhere to a traditional value that was supposedly handed down through the ages and could be traced back to the Creator Himself. May I remind them that slavery was also a traditional value, supported by various authors of the Bible and by the church until slavery was abolished in the 18th century? The truth is that marriage has a long history of development characterised by change and evolution. Even in the Bible itself, many forms of marriage can be recognised, such as monogamy, polygamy, a man simply taking a woman, parents choosing a bride for their son, and even a very strange (to us) form of marriage called the Levirate marriage, where a man was expected to marry his sister-in-law in the event of his brother’s death. Today we wouldn’t even consider enforcing this kind of marriage -- even though it is stipulated in the Bible.
I differ strongly from traditional churches which proclaim that marriage was instituted by God. He did nothing of the kind. What He did was that He created Adam and Eve and simply brought them together. There was no ceremony, no legal documents and no witnesses. Marriage is a cultural phenomenon that developed spontaneously and assumed many different forms in different cultures. God nowhere in the Bible prescribes that we must get married or what form the marriage must take. As we read through the Bible, it is simply mentioned as a matter of fact that certain Bible characters were married or got married. We do know, however, that God was pleased with this development in human behaviour and that it had His blessing.
Two major principles found in the creation account of Genesis that could also be applied to same-sex couples is the declaration by God that it is “not good” for a human being to be alone. Therefore, it is also “not good” for a gay person to be alone. Next, there is also the motivation verbalised by God when He brought Eve to Adam, namely that she was someone “like him” -- his equal. In modern terms, Adam and Eve were heterosexual and in that sense they were like one another, and a perfect match.
If a gay person is forced into a heterosexual marriage, it will most definitely be against that person’s nature and it would be a total mismatch and a disaster. On the other hand, if two gay people get married, they are “like one another” and equals, and in this way they comply with the standard set by God Himself for intimate relationships, namely to experience another human being as “someone like me”.
There is overwhelming evidence that the early church had no problem blessing same-sex marriages -- a fact that has been well documented by the Yale University theologian and church historian John Boswell in his book The Marriage of Likeness: Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe. There are many early-church manuscripts dating from the fourth century of liturgies used for the solemnisation of same-sex marriages. It is only in subsequent centuries where sentiment turned against such same-sex rituals of bonding.
The biggest mistake we can make about homosexuality is to think that gay people are actually heterosexuals who simply choose to be gay to rebel against the Creator. It is not a matter of choice but a given reality of creation that must be accepted. That is the way God created them and as such they are also created in the image of God. The Bible nowhere speaks about being gay as we understand it today. The few instances where the Bible condemns homosexual acts are about expressions of aggression (performed by heterosexuals), idolatry or promiscuity -- and never about only two people who love each other. Not in a single case do we find a condemnation of a loving relationship between two same-sex individuals who intend to be faithful to each other. Had that been the case, I would not have had the confidence to officiate at same-sex marriages. But, being convinced that the Bible doesn’t condemn it, I will continue to act as a marriage officer for same-sex couples and ask God’s blessing upon their unions.
Posted by Michael at 9:57 AM
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Democrat & Chronicle: Local News
Brooks to appeal same-sex marriage decision
(February 23, 2008) — Though same-sex weddings cannot be performed legally in New York, the state must — at least until a Monroe County appeal is heard — recognize the marriage of Chili residents Patricia Martinez and Lisa Ann Golden.
Their union, legally consecrated in Canada in 2004, was not immediately accepted by Martinez's employer, Monroe Community College. In 2005, she sued to get health care benefits for Golden. On Feb. 1, a court ruled in her favor.
On Friday, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks announced that the county would appeal the appellate court ruling to protect taxpayers.
"We certainly cannot ignore the definition of marriage that currently exists under New York state law," she said in a statement.
As long as the Martinez case ruling stands, same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere will be entitled to the same treatment under state law as marriages between a man and a woman. This gives such couples access to inheritance rights, for example, and the right to make medical decisions for each other.
Though many local employers already offer benefits to same-sex couples, others must consider how the ruling will change their policies. The implications have left same-sex marriage supporters celebrating and gay marriage opponents hoping the Court of Appeals reverses the decision.
Meanwhile, many are lobbying the state Legislature to pass a law regarding same-sex marriage that will take jurisdiction over the matter out of the courts.
The state Court of Appeals said in 2006 that same-sex couples are not allowed to marry in New York, unless the legislature passes a law legalizing same-sex marriage. In the Martinez case ruling, the Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department, said that same-sex marriages legally consecrated elsewhere must be recognized in New York, unless the Legislature passes a law to deny their legitimacy.
Martinez, 52, and Golden, 40, stress that their fight is not just about access to health care benefits. They can sleep easier knowing that they have the legal rights and protections married couples have.
In Alan Hevesi's 2004 statement in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, the former state comptroller said there are 1,049 federal benefits and responsibilities afforded by marriage, in addition to hundreds more offered by New York.
Before, same-sex couples had to draw up legal documents to simulate marriage. "The only thing we as lawyers had to work with was contract law," said Martinez's attorney, Jeffrey Wicks. Christopher Hinesley, the director of the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley, said that Hevesi's statements pushed many same-sex couples in New York to start going to Canada to get married.
The Martinez decision pushes New York into evolving legal territory. "Thousands of employers are going to be wondering what to do," said Martinez. The Rochester area's three biggest employers — University of Rochester, Wegmans Food Markets Inc. and Eastman Kodak Co. — already provide benefits to same-sex married couples. UR and Kodak provide domestic partner benefits. Wegmans provides health and dental benefits if the couple is united by a ceremony that happened someplace where same-sex marriage is legal.
Since Martinez filed her suit, Monroe Community College's contract with the Civil Service Employees Union has started providing benefits for domestic partnerships. MCC conducts its contract negotiations separately from Monroe County, and county spokesman Noah Lebowitz says the county does not offer any benefits to same-sex couples. The towns of Greece and Henrietta and Paychex Inc. also do not offer such benefits.
Due to the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex marriages recognized in New York still will not have access to benefits bestowed by the federal government. This act defines "marriage" as a bond between a man and a woman and "spouse" as a married partner of the opposite sex for federal matters, and federal law supersedes state law on many marriage issues.
This means, for example, that same-sex couples who can now file state income taxes as a married couple still must file their federal taxes as single. Neither federal pension and private-sector pension benefits nor certain health care plans regulated by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act are legally due to same-sex couples.
Xerox Corp. and Bausch & Lomb Inc., which provide benefits for same-sex couples, along with Kodak, are members of the Business Coalition for Benefits Tax Equity, a group that wants the IRS to adjust tax code to help companies that extend benefits to employees in same-sex relationships.
Under current IRS regulations, the value of nonspouse, nondependent benefits is included in employee wages and increases the amount of tax paid by the employee and employer. Benefits provided to spouses or children are not included in wages, resulting in lower taxes for heterosexual married couples.
About 1.2 million people said they were part of same-sex partnerships in the 2000 census, about 0.6 percent of the total adult population.
'Opposed to this'
Rabbi James Appel of the Congregation Shema Yisrael in Irondequoit says the Martinez decision absolutely should be appealed.
"I think the majority of people in the county and the whole country are opposed to this," he said. "Judges are moving us in this direction against the moral attitudes and standards of the rest of the country."
The Rev. Sammy L King of Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Rochester is also opposed to same-sex marriage.
"It's not that we don't love gays and lesbians, and reach out to them," he said. "Legalization can come in the state of New York, but in the eyesight of God, (same-sex marriage) can never be legalized."
Appel has supported an explicit state ban on same-sex marriage and the recognition of same-sex marriage, similar to those found in more than half of the states.
Last year, Gov. Eliot Spitzer introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. The Assembly passed a similar bill. No action was taken in the state Senate. The four state senators who represent this region all oppose same-sex marriage legislation.
Sen. Joe Robach, R-Greece, says he supports civil unions but not gay marriage. Sen. James Alesi, R-Perinton, says he supports civil rights and anti-discrimination legislation but draws a line at same-sex marriage.
"The majority of my constituents are opposed," said Alesi, who does not expect the Senate to take up the issue this session.
Wicks believes that his client is on solid legal footing because New York recognizes marriages that are not legal in New York, such as common law marriages. The appellate court ruling states: "For well over a century, New York has recognized marriages solemnized outside of New York unless they fall into two categories of exception: marriage, the recognition of which is prohibited by the 'positive law' of New York and marriages involving incest or polygamy, both of which fall within the prohibitions of 'natural law.'"
Brooks disagrees. A county statement issued Friday states: "According to the New York state law, marriage is an institution that exists strictly between a man and a woman. Foreign marriages are recognized so long as they are not contrary to New York state policy. Monroe County currently holds the position that same-sex marriage is in fact contrary to New York state policy."
A sense of validation
Martinez has said that she is prepared to fight her case all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the meantime, Jo and Christine Meleca-Voigt, two Henrietta women who were married in Canada in 2005, are trying to pursue joint medical insurance in light of the recent decision.
Jo Meleca-Voigt said the court ruling has made her marriage feel more real. "Before when we would drive into Canada, as soon as we crossed the border it felt like we were legitimate," she said. "(After the court decision) I feel more legitimate and validated here."
Doreen Peever, a lay chaplain of the Unitarian Congregation of Niagara in Ontario, Canada, performed Martinez and Golden's 2004 wedding ceremony.
She says she's conducted 208 same-sex marriage ceremonies since they became legal in Canada in 2003. The vast majority of couples have been from the United States.
Peever says the Unitarian Church has been performing gay marriages since the 1970s. "I don't understand what the big deal is," she said. "It doesn't threaten family values; it reinforces family values. These are new families."
Brooks called the Martinez victory "a clear misinterpretation of the law." Her statement concludes: "To expand (health care) benefits to same-sex couples is to ignore the will of the people of Monroe County and New York state. Therefore, the county is seeking an appeal of the recent ruling in this case."
Martinez anticipates that the success of her case in appellate court means more people will be heading north to get married.
"If I weren't married already, I'd be leaving skid marks on that Peace Bridge going to Canada," she said.
Posted by Michael at 11:21 PM
The Bay Area Reporter Online | 'Decline to sign' campaign launched
by Seth Hemmelgarn
A coalition of groups supporting same-sex marriage is asking for volunteers to help defeat an effort to make same-sex marriage unconstitutional in California.
Equality for All, a coalition of LGBT and allied civil rights groups, is launching a "Decline to Sign" campaign to discourage people from signing petitions that support putting an anti-gay marriage initiative on the November ballot.
The measure would amend the state's constitution to specify marriage can only be between a man and a woman. That effort is being led by California's ProtectMarriage.com and the New Jersey-based National Organization for Marriage, according to Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, which is part of Equality for All.
"We want to make sure people know what they're signing," Kors said. "We want to make sure that people know this would actually write discrimination into the constitution."
Kors said that starting this weekend – Friday, February 22 – volunteers will be sent to locations where paid signature gatherers have been sighted.
Volunteers will attempt to educate people and ask them to sign petitions to show support for same-sex marriage. Kors said volunteers will be told not to engage people in confrontations.
Kors said the coalition estimates there are from 150 to 200 paid signature gatherers in the state, based on talks with people in the signature gathering business. He said there have been reports of people circulating the anti-gay marriage petitions and Equality for All wants people to report such activity when they see signature gatherers. He said the work appears to be most prominent in the Central Valley and Southern California, and he's not aware of any sightings in San Francisco.
Kors said the anti-gay marriage groups need about 1.1 million signatures by mid-April in order to collect the nearly 700,000 valid signatures needed to put the measure before voters. The anti-gay marriage groups have not responded to requests for comment.
If the initiative were successful, it would nullify a positive outcome from the same-sex marriage case that's before the California Supreme Court, should the court rule that the state's marriage laws are unconstitutional.
The court is set to hear oral arguments in the same-sex marriage case on March 4. The consolidated marriage case stems from Mayor Gavin Newsom's action four years ago during which same-sex couples were allowed to wed. The court voided those marriages later in 2004. A San Francisco judge then ruled that the state's marriage laws are unconstitutional, but that a state appellate court overturned that decision, sending the case to the high court.
One of the people behind ProtectMarriage.com is reportedly Gail Knight, the widow of state Senator Pete Knight. Pete Knight authored Proposition 22, which was passed by voters in 2000 and holds that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." That measure is part of the state's family code, not the state constitution.
Kate Kendell is executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and is a member of Equality for All.
"We are very interested in mobilizing folks around the state who, for a long time, have been wanting to help, but between the court cases and legislative action there hasn't been a huge grassroots component – well, this is the time," Kendell said.
She said the effort to keep the initiative off the ballot would be time well spent.
"If it gets on the ballot, the effort to defeat it becomes much more expensive and intensive, so if we could keep it off the ballot, it is impossible to overstate what a tremendous victory that would be," Kendell said.
To volunteer, go to www.equalityforall.com.
Posted by Michael at 11:10 PM
Marriage vs. civil union: What's in a name matters - NJVoices: Steven Goldstein
Marriage vs. civil union: What's in a name matters
Posted by Steven Goldstein February 18, 2008 11:00PM
Today is the one-year anniversary of New Jersey's civil union law. For same-sex couples for whom today might have been a cause for celebration, this has been a year of survival through legal and personal hell. The law has wreaked havoc on same-sex couples' lives because too many employers, hospitals and others throughout the state do not recognize civil unions as marriage.
According to a report released today by the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission - the agency charged with evaluating the effectiveness of the law - companies across New Jersey have refused to grant health benefits to the same-sex partners of their employees. Because the civil union law doesn't give same-sex couples the freedom to marry, many companies don't consider civil union partners to be spouses who qualify for health coverage. My organization, Garden State Equality, has received 564 complaints over the past year from civil union couples denied equal health coverage. Lambda Legal reports having worked with more than 100 such couples.
Considering that about 2500 couples have entered into civil unions in New Jersey during the past year, the law is failing for at least one of every five couples. That's not a mere statistic. That represents couples who pay the same high taxes as everyone else - including property taxes that hit gay families as hard as straight families - who are being denied adequate health care and financial security under the law. Some civil union couples are forced to live check to check. Other civil union couples have been deprived of their dignity and emotional security at the most critical moments of their lives.
Take the case of a couple from Montclair who testified before the commission. Over the past year, they and their two children have been to the emergency room four times. In one instance, one of the moms had a potentially life threatening condition.
Rather than process the couple as quickly as they did other couples, emergency room staff interrogated the couple about their relationship after the women said they were in a civil union. The staff didn't care that a civil union was supposed to give the couple the same rights as married spouses. As other patients were rushed into care, the civil union couple had to present every legal document under the sun.
What was the difference between the women in a civil union, and the others who received more expeditious health care? The term "civil union," no matter the intent of the law, wasn't good enough. The term "marriage" was.
For too many families across New Jersey, the warning of former New Jersey Chief Justice Deborah Poritz has proven prophetic. "What we name things matters, language matters," she wrote in her dissent in the 2006 Supreme Court decision that led to civil unions rather than marriage for same-sex couples. "By excluding same-sex couples from civil marriage, the state declares that it is legitimate to differentiate between their commitments and the commitments of heterosexual couples."
Indeed, scores of civil union couples have told first-hand stories of second-class treatment to the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission. Particularly stunning is the saga of another Essex County resident who testified about how the phrase "civil union" negatively affected her life. When she asked her workplace for benefits for her same-sex partner, she was told the union contract did not recognize civil unions. The benefits administrator invoked a complicated federal law that provided a legal loophole.
But when she later said that she had gotten married to her same-sex partner in Massachusetts, where same-sex couples can indeed marry, the administrator changed on the turn of a dime to say, oh, you're married, we didn't know that, we'll cover you. The word "marriage" had enough persuasive weight to make the federal loophole irrelevant.
New Jersey is a fairer state than this. Gov. Jon Corzine has said he'd prefer to sign a marriage equality law next year rather than this year, lest a new state law become an issue in the 2008 presidential election.
But to same-sex couples across New Jersey, the failure of the civil union law isn't a political issue. It's personal. Same-sex families across New Jersey are suffering emotional and financial pain - sometimes devastating pain - because marriage is the only currency of commitment the real world consistently accepts.
Governor and dear legislators, if you look in your hearts and truly believe that justice delayed is justice denied, you can only come to one conclusion. The time for marriage equality is now.
Steven Goldstein is chairman of Garden State Equality, the statewide organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights.
Posted by Michael at 11:01 PM
True values voters should embrace any loving marriage -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com
click link for full article
February 17, 2008
You know the saying about gay marriage: If you don't like it, don't have one.
Or don't attend one.
Or make sure you belong to a religion that won't allow one.
But what a religion allows and what the state allows should be separate issues.
Which is why I'm glad there will be a public airing of the gay-marriage debate this year in Florida. After a successful petition drive, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage has made the November ballot.
Pretty needless, when you consider gay marriage is already illegal in Florida. The Legislature passed a "defense of marriage" law defining marriage as between one man and one woman last decade. Given the political realities of the state, it doesn't look like that law will be overturned any time soon.....................
Posted by Michael at 10:51 PM
Sunday, February 17, 2008
The Associated Press: Report Finds Problems With NJ Gay Unions
By GEOFF MULVIHILL – 21 hours ago
MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (AP) — A commission established to study same-sex civil unions in New Jersey has found in its first report that civil unions create a "second-class status" for gay couples, rather than giving them equality.
The report stops short of recommending that the state allow gay marriage. But it does find that gay couples in Massachusetts, the only state that now allows same-sex marriage, do not experience some of the legal complications that those in New Jersey do.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the initial report, which was scheduled to be made public Tuesday, the first anniversary of the state's first civil unions.
State lawmakers made New Jersey the third state to offer civil unions with a law adopted in 2006 in reaction to a state Supreme Court ruling that year that found gay couples were entitled to the same legal protections as married couples.
The civil union law sought to give gay couples those benefits, but not the title of marriage. As a part of the same law, the review commission was created to look into whether it was working.
Gay rights advocates say the civil unions do not deliver and have pledged to push lawmakers to vote to allow marriage. Gov. Jon S. Corzine has said he would be willing to sign such a bill into law but doesn't want the issue to be taken up before the presidential election in November.
The activists say civil unions, in practice, do not offer the legal protections that marriage does. The commission largely agreed with them.
The commission held three public hearings last year at which the majority of the testimony came from people who were in civil unions and said they were still not being treated the way married couples are by government agencies, employers and others.
For instance, the commission found that many companies in the state that are self-insured — and therefore are regulated by federal, rather than state, law — refuse to provide health insurance to the partners of their employees.
While employers in Massachusetts could legally do the same thing, most do not, according to the report.
The commission also finds that many people in the state do not understand civil unions, which create a "second-class status."
The commission's report says the misunderstanding of civil unions makes it more difficult for a child to grow up in New Jersey with gay parents, or to be gay themselves.
Through Jan. 19, 2,329 couples had received civil union licenses, according to the state Health and Senior Services Department.
Some social conservatives have said the commission is slanted in favor of allowing gay marriage, and opponents of gay marriage have been pushing back in New Jersey.
Roman Catholic churches around the state have been planning special prayers on marriage for Sunday. A major aim is to promote marriage as being between only a man and a woman.
A conservative Princeton group, the National Organization for Marriage, has aired radio commercials that say allowing gay marriage would undermine some religious teachings that homosexuality is wrong.
Posted by Michael at 6:35 PM
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Gay-marriage ban dies in House | IndyStar.com
Gay-marriage ban dies in House
Backers of constitutional amendment must wait at least 4 years before they can try again
By Bill Ruthhart
February 16, 2008
Supporters of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages likely will have to wait at least another four years after a key House leader decided he won't consider legislation that passed the Senate.
Conservative activists and lawmakers expressed frustration Friday with the decision by Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, not to hear Senate Joint Resolution 7, the legislation that included the constitutional ban.
Pelath's decision did not come as a surprise because earlier this session, he refused to hear a House version of the legislation in his Rules Committee. His decision not to hear the Senate version of the proposal, however, is significant because it likely wipes out a decision by the General Assembly in 2005 to pass the measure.
In order to amend the constitution, two consecutively elected legislatures must pass the measure, and voters must approve it in a general election.
When Republicans controlled the House and Senate in 2005, the legislature passed the amendment. Since the Democrats regained control of the House in 2007, the effort has stalled in Pelath's committee.
"The state just needs to understand that Democrat leadership in the Indiana House is preventing them from speaking on this issue," said House Minority Leader Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. "Speaker Pat Bauer and his leadership team killed this measure in 2004, they killed it in 2007, and now they're killing it in 2008."
Bauer, D-South Bend, has said he never promised a vote on the issue, only that he'd let it move through the legislative process.
Pelath also pointed to extensive hearings on the proposal last year in his committee, which resulted in a deadlock vote.
Amendment supporters say that if the full House were allowed to vote on the measure, it would pass overwhelmingly.
Pelath and opponents argue that the state already has a law banning same-sex marriages and that the amendment's language was ambiguous and could result in unintended consequences on issues including domestic violence protection and businesses' ability to recruit employees.
"This really is a very simple decision," Pelath said. "The reality is, we have no gay marriages in Indiana. It is against the law. Nobody has brought me evidence of a gay marriage taking place in this state.
"There's no reason to put very poorly crafted verbiage into our constitution, out state's highest document, that could potentially be a lawyer's dream with all sorts of unintended consequences."
Eric Miller, founder of the conservative activist group Advance America, blames Bauer, who he said has intentionally sent the amendment to Pelath's committee to kill it.
"It is a tragedy for the people of Indiana that one man, Speaker Pat Bauer, stopped the 100 members of the House (from) being able to vote to protect marriage and prevented the citizens of Indiana from having the opportunity to vote to protect marriage," Miller said. "It's not only a disappointment, it's wrong."
Pelath rejected that argument.
"That's not what our constitution says. It doesn't just say you throw out an idea and you throw it out for a vote -- that's not how we do it," he said. "We don't send everything up for referendum here. We make decisions and do our jobs. I'm abiding by the constitution."
Walter Botich, legislative chairman of gay-rights group Indiana Equality, was encouraged that Pelath stood his ground.
"I think his decision makes perfect sense," Botich said. "The people I've talked to, their concerns have been about issues about property taxes, so it makes logical sense that the legislature spends its time on those more important issues."
Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Wheatfield, argued there was enough time to deal with the issue this session and that its language wasn't "hazy," as Pelath suggested.
"There's nothing wrong with the wording," Hershman said. "The concerns that were raised were a smokescreen for a fundamental difference in both sides' views on social policy."
The only way the issue could survive this session is if the amendment were attached to another piece of legislation, a prospect that is highly unlikely.
Instead, Hoosiers would have to wait until at least 2012 to vote on the measure, and that's only if it were to pass the next two elected legislatures.
"People were told a few years ago that gay marriage was going to happen tomorrow, but a few years have gone by and guess what? We don't have any here in Indiana," Pelath said. "It's not the issue they once thought it was
Posted by Michael at 12:25 PM
Md. attorney general backs gay marriage bill -- baltimoresun.com
By Laura Smitherman | Sun reporter
8:37 PM EST, February 14, 2008
Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler has become the most prominent official in Maryland to endorse gay marriage, telling state legislators Thursday that he believes the current ban on same-sex unions amounts to discrimination.
"It would be hard for me to have this job knowing there is something so wrong in our society," Gansler told the Senate panel considering a bill to legalize gay marriage. "I just think it's wrong to discriminate against any people because they think differently or because of their sexual orientation." ............................
Click link to story
Posted by Michael at 12:18 PM
Friday, February 15, 2008
San Jose Mercury News - California groups aiming for gay marriage ban amendment
By Lisa Leff
Article Launched: 02/14/2008 03:01:37 PM PST
SAN FRANCISCO - As California's highest court prepares to take up a case seeking to legalize same-sex marriage, two groups that failed to get gay marriage bans on the state ballot two years ago are trying again, one with backing from a prominent Christian conservative organization.
The groups, ProtectMarriage.com and VoteYesMarriage.com, have filed ballot language with the California Secretary of State that would, if approved by voters, amend the California Constitution to limit marriage to one man and one woman regardless of how the Supreme Court rules.
They have until late April to gather signatures from 694,354 voters to qualify the measures for the November election and have begun circulating petitions, fundraising and recruiting volunteers through Southern California churches.
The Supreme Court has scheduled a March 4 hearing for oral arguments in four cases brought by 15 same-sex couples, the city of San Francisco and a gay rights group challenging state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.
The lawsuits grew out of the monthlong wedding spree that took place in San Francisco four years ago when Mayor Gavin Newsom directed employees to grant marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, an act of civil disobedience eventually halted by the high court.
Although the groups opposed to same-sex marriage launched marriage amendment campaigns in 2005, they
fell far short of collecting enough signatures. There is much more money and organization behind their efforts now, according to advocates on both sides of the issue.
"The very fact that this is in front of the Supreme Court, I think, will highlight the need for voters to take the issue away from the courts period," said Andrew Pugno, a lawyer for ProtectMarriage.com.
By enshrining the two laws that already prevent gays from marrying in the state Constitution, both amendments would overrule the justices if they decide the current statutes are an unconstitutional violation of the civil rights of same-sex couples. The court is expected to issue it's ruling by early June.
The VoteYesMarriage initiative would go a step further, however, by prohibiting the state from granting gays the spousal rights and tax benefits of marriage, as it already has by allowing gays to register as domestic partners. If it passed, those rights would be eliminated.
As was the case in 2005, the philosophical differences between the two groups has them competing for support among the same voters and conservative activists, as well as facing the prospect of a confusing and divisive campaign if both measures make it on the ballot.
Lined up behind ProtectMarriage are the widow and political allies of the late state Sen. William J. "Pete" Knight, who sponsored a 2000 ballot initiative approved by voters that strengthened the state's ban on gay unions. Proposition 22 is one of the laws that will be before the Supreme Court next month.
According to campaign finance reports, the group last year raised just under $130,000 dollars in donations, most of it from Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs-based evangelical organization founded by Dr. James Dobson, and from the National Organization for Marriage, a Princeton, N.J.-based group established to fight gay marriage in that state.
The money has helped ProtectMarriage hire paid signature gatherers to supplement the volunteers being recruited by a coalition of pastors in San Diego County formed to back the amendment.
VoteYesMarriage, which is headed by veteran activist Randy Thomasson, raised $84,000 last year, some of which it has spent placing ads in religious newspapers urging readers to help their pastors "know the difference between a true and a false marriage amendment."
Both groups say they have poll results showing that only their amendment would be approved at the ballot box.
So far, no state court has joined Massachusetts in recognizing marriage as a civil right. Along with California, Connecticut and Iowa also have cases pending on whether allowing gays to enter into civil unions and domestic partnerships provides a legal equivalent to getting married.
Gay marriage proponents are gearing up for a fierce and expensive fight, said Geoffrey Kors, executive director of the gay rights group Equality California. With the court case pending, they opted not to ask the Legislature this year to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, as it has done twice before only to have the measures vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
While 19 states have amended their constitutions to ban same-sex marriage, both opponents and supporters recognize California, home to more same-sex couples than any other state and historically a gay rights pioneer, as a crucial win or loss in their column, Kors said.
If one or both of the amendments wind up on the November ballot, "this will be an election like we haven't seen before on this issue," he said
Posted by Michael at 7:28 AM
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Evan Wolfson: Today is Freedom to Marry Day - Just Don't Say "Gay Marriage"! - Politics on The Huffington Post
Evan Wolfson: Today is Freedom to Marry Day - Just Don't Say "Gay Marriage"! - Politics on The Huffington Post
As Americans across the country celebrate Freedom to Marry Day today, seizing the opportunity to have conversations with family members, friends, and coworkers about the importance of ending same-sex couples' exclusion from marriage, hopefully they'll talk a lot about gay couples and why marriage matters -- without saying "gay marriage" and "same-sex marriage." Same-sex couples, their kids and loved ones, and those of us who favor equal justice in America are not working to win "gay marriage." We are working to win the freedom to marry, ending the current unfair denial of marriage to those who are already doing the work of marriage in their own lives.
Phrases such as "gay marriage" or "same-sex marriage" imply that same-sex couples are asking for something other than marriage. They imply that same-sex couples deserve something different or lesser than the security, protections, safety-net, and respect that married couples cherish. (PDF) And they play into the right-wing's fear-mongering that gay people are a threat to marriage, that equality and inclusion would somehow unacceptably "redefine" the law (in a country dedicated to those very values), and that "Defense of Marriage" is the answer to committed couples seeking to participate in a precious institution.
Marriage is not defined by who is excluded from it, and gay people are not the first to challenge its denial. This year we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first court ruling striking down race restrictions on who could marry whom. In Perez v. Sharp, the California Supreme Court held that "the essence of the right to marry is freedom to join in marriage with the person of one's choice." The court explained that "human beings are bereft of worth and dignity by a doctrine that would make them as interchangeable as trains"; when you are denied the freedom to marry the person precious and irreplaceable to you, it's not like you can just catch the next one.
Fittingly, as we mark the 60th anniversary of that courageous court decision, other couples now stand before the same court which will hear argument on March 4, 2008. Those couples are not seeking "gay marriage," any more than Mrs. Perez sought "black marriage," or her husband sought "Latino marriage." They all claim, and deserve, marriage itself, the freedom to marry, which the U.S Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia, noted "has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men."
As we speak out about why marriage matters and how the denial of marriage harms couples and kids, undermining our nation's commitment to fairness and freedom, we've seen states move in the right direction, but falling short of equality. States such as California, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, and Vermont have created new legal mechanisms, called partnership or civil union, to provide parallel legal protections and responsibilities for gay people and their families. These new mechanisms - "gay marriage" - are better than nothing, but no substitute for marriage itself (PDF). Happily, in each of these states the debate continues and awareness is deepening that the work is not done, civil unions don't work, separate is not equal, and it's time to finish the job of ending exclusion from marriage, not just repackaging it.
Even without clear terminology always prevailing, people are getting it. Public support for marriage equality is growing faster than ever before. In just over 10 years, according to the Gallup poll, support for marriage equality has jumped almost 20 percentage points, while those against fairness decreased 15 percentage points in the same time period. Imagine the rate of progress we could see if people understood this not as creating "gay marriage," but, rather, ending the denial of the "freedom to marry" and letting couples committed to one another in life share the legal commitment of marriage.
Freedom to Marry Day, February 12th, aptly falls in the midst of Freedom to Marry Week, February 10-16. It's one more chance for gay and non-gay people to reach out to their circles - families, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and fellow citizens -- and make the ask that moves people to action. Freedom to Marry Week is held every year, right around President Lincoln's Birthday and Valentine's Day, and Freedom to Marry provides tools and ideas (PDF) to help everyone find a way to connect and make a difference.
Much as we want people to understand that the words gay and marriage do belong together, we don't want "gay marriage." It's the freedom to marry that matters - for all of us - and the way to secure it is by talking to others. And it's the personal ask - each one of us raising our voice and not just assuming that those around us are there, or can't get there - that makes all the difference. Turn to the people in your life now, and say, "Happy Freedom to Marry Week!"
Posted by Michael at 9:36 AM
EDGE New York City :: News :: Local
Marriage Equality New York celebrates 10 years
by Michael K. Lavers
EDGE Mid-Atlantic Regional Editor
Wednesday Feb 13, 2008
MENY members have set their sites on pushing a marriage bill through the state Senate in 2009.
As activists continue their push for marriage for same-sex couples in the Empire State, lesbian comedienne Julie Goodman and the Gender Offenders joined more than 60 activists, politicos and others who celebrated Marriage Equality New York’s 10th anniversary at Bamboo 52 in Hell’s Kitchen on Feb. 11.
MENY executive director Cathy Marino-Thomas praised the progress she feels her organization has made over the last decade.
"It’s been a long, hard road but we’re starting to see the fruit of our labors," she told EDGE New York. "When we started, nobody was talking about marriage for gender neutral families. Now everybody’s talking about it."
Former MENY board member Michael Sabatino agreed. He and his partner of nearly 30 years, Robert Voorheis, were married in Canada in 2003 shortly after the country extended marriage to gays and lesbians. Sabatino said he feels MENY has succeeded in keeping marriage for same-sex couples in the forefront.
"This grassroots organization kept everything focused," he said. "It is not going to stop until we reach our goal."
Connie Ress, James Loney and Jesús Lebrón co-founded MENY in 1998 - then President Bill Clinton had signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law two years earlier and many activists in New York and elsewhere remains somewhat skeptical the issue could gain any traction.
Since MENY’s inception, however, marriage for same-sex couples has emerged as a dominant issue for a number of organizations in New York and across the country. Openly gay state Sen. Tom Duane [D-Chelsea] first introduced a bill in the Senate to extend marriage to gay and lesbian New Yorkers in 2001. Assemblyman Dick Gottfried [D-Chelsea] followed suit in the Assembly in 2002.
Governor Eliot Spitzer introduced the bill last April and the Democratic-controlled Assembly passed it by an 85 to 61 vote. The Senate, led by Majority Leader Joseph Bruno [R-Saratoga Springs], successfully blocked the bill a few weeks later.
In addition to legislative developments, various courts have ruled on the issue. State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan found New York’s effective ban on marriage for same-sex couples violated the state Constitution in a Feb. 2005. The New York State Court of Appeals upheld the ban on marriage for same-sex couples in a July 2006 ruling but an appellate court in Rochester ruled earlier this month the state should recognize marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in Canada.
Loney said he remains proud of his role in co-founding MENY. He added the current debate in Albany and in the state’s courts have proven initial naysayers wrong.
"We, as founders, feel everyone is a suffragette," Loney said. "We’re telling the world we’re here and we’re not going anywhere."
Marino-Thomas added she and other MENY members and supporters will continue their efforts to secure passage of a marriage bill in the Senate next year. She predicted same-sex couples will soon be able to marry in the Empire State.
"In 10 years, I want to see MENY disbanded," Marino-Thomas said. "In 10 years, I don’t want there to be a need for MENY because we will be married."
Michael K. Lavers is the Mid-Atlantic editor for EDGE Publications. His blog Boy in Bushwick can be found at www.boyinbushwick.blogspot.com
GayCityNews - A Hopeful Precedent
By: PAUL SCHINDLER
Email to a friendPost a CommentPrinter-friendlyWith an appellate court ruling in hand, gay and lesbian couples statewide legally married in other jurisdictions can have their unions recognized by New York State - that is so long as another appellate court or the state's highest, the Court of Appeals, does not come to a different conclusion.
"This is a victory for families, it's a victory for fairness, and it's a victory for human rights," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, in a written statement. Jeffrey Wicks, the attorney who prevailed on behalf of a married lesbian couple against Monroe Community College in Rochester, was an NYCLU cooperating attorney.
According to Susan Sommer, a staff attorney at Lambda Legal, four other similar cases are making their way through New York courts, with the potential to confirm or challenge the Rochester result.
Duke Funderburke's 2006 challenge to the Long Island school system that denied spousal health coverage to his husband, whom he married in Canada in 2004 after more than 40 years together, was recently heard by the 2nd Appellate Department in Brooklyn. The retiree lost at trial, and since then the state Department of Civil Service, which provides a health plan for 800 local government bodies, ordered them all to recognize same-sex spouses, and Funderburke received a settlement as well. But Lambda is seeking to have the original bad ruling vacated or reversed.
The Alliance Defense Fund, a right-wing, anti-gay litigation group, has filed three lawsuits against same-sex marriage recognition-against the Westchester County executive, the state comptroller's office, and the state Civil Service Department. Both Westchester County and the comptroller's office won at the trial level. Briefs have been filed in the 2nd Department on Alliance's appeal of the Westchester ruling, but arguments have not yet been heard, and the group has also served notice that it will appeal the comptroller's victory in the 3rd Department in Albany.
Alliance has also filed suit upstate against the Civil Service change announced in the midst of the Funderburke case.
The state attorney general's office has filed amicus briefs or briefs on behalf of the affected state agencies in each case, arguing that same-sex marriages legally entered into elsewhere should be recognized by New York.
The principle affording recognition to out-of-state marriage, however, has not been held by New York appellate courts to offer spousal rights to civil union partners from other states.
Posted by Michael at 8:18 AM
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
The Denver Post - Couple asks court to overturn gay marriage ban
Couple asks court to overturn gay marriage ban
By The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 02/11/2008 05:54:47 PM MST
A lesbian couple who were charged last year when they staged a sit-in protest after being denied a marriage license have filed a motion asking the court to throw out Colorado's constitutional ban on gay marriage.
Kate Burns and Sheila Schroeder of Englewood contend the ban violates their federal and Colorado constitutional rights.
Burns said the ban, known as Amendment 43 that was approved by voters in 2006, "deprives certain Coloradans of their right to equal protection under the law, and improperly blurs the line between church and state."
The two women were cited for trespassing for their protest in the Denver clerk's office. Trial is set for Feb. 13.
Ariz. Leaders Mull Gay Marriage Ban Anew - Topix
by Paul Davenport
Tuesday Feb 12, 2008
Republican lawmakers on Monday proposed asking voters in November to amend the Arizona Constitution to ban same-sex marriage in the state, which was the first to turn down such a measure.
The proposal was backed by 16 of 30 state senators, and an identical proposal was introduced in the House. Both chambers would have to approve the measure in a vote for it to be included on the ballot.
Under the amendment, "only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.’’ The proposal comes after Arizona voters narrowly rejected a similar measure in November 2006.
The previous measure included the same definition but also contained wording that was interpreted as prohibiting government recognition of civil unions or domestic partnerships. Seven other states approved amendments that day.
Opponents of the 2006 measure in Arizona focused much of their campaign on the additional wording’s reach. A leading backer of both measures said the new one should be considered a "consensus measure’’ because it is intended solely to bar recognition of same-sex marriage.
"This amendment is about bringing Arizonans together on an issue enjoying widespread agreement _ that marriage is a union of one man and one woman,’’ said Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, an advocacy group for social conservatives.
Arizona already has a state law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. That law withstood a 2003 court challenge, but supporters of an amendment said changing the Constitution would provide a strong legal shield.
State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Phoenix Democrat who led the opposition campaign to the 2006 measure, said she opposes the new proposal.
"I don’t think it’s needed. I don’t think it’s necessary,’’ she said. "We’ve already had this fight a couple of times.’’
The ballot measure proposal comes as a state commission prepares to review rule changes proposed by the administration of Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano that would provide health care and other employee benefits to the domestic partners of state government employees and retirees, no matter their gender.
Posted by Michael at 4:05 PM
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Lawmakers take sides on gay marriage | DesMoinesRegister.com | The Des Moines Register
click link above
A majority of Iowa's lawmakers - 123 of 150 - say they believe marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
But it's not clear whether those same lawmakers have enough votes to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
It's also not clear whether lawmakers will ever get a chance to vote on the issue.
A Des Moines Sunday Register survey of legislators shows the 100 members of Iowa's House of Representatives are split 50-50 on how they would vote on an amendment to prohibit gay marriage. Of the 50 who would support a constitutional amendment, 45 are co-sponsors of the legislation.
Posted by Michael at 8:50 AM
Saturday, February 9, 2008
LancasterOnline.com:News:Brubaker seeks ban on gay marriage
State Sen. Michael Brubaker is poised to introduce legislation that would write a ban on gay marriage into the state Constitution, the Intelligencer Journal has learned.
According to various sources, the Warwick Township Republican is shopping for co-sponsors to attach their names to the legislation, which would have to go through a lengthy process and likely a bitter political fight in order to become law.
"He's a very accomplished person, and we think he can do well in a leadership position on this," said Michael Geer, a Lancaster County resident and president of the Pennsylvania Family Coalition.
Brubaker did not return several messages seeking comment.
Brubaker apparently is not alone in his efforts. A GOP source told the Intelligencer Journal Thursday night that a Democrat, state Rep. Richard T. Grucela of Northampton County, will introduce identical legislation in the state House.
"With Republicans in the minority, there's no way that (Democratic) leadership over there is going to look at a Republican bill," said the source, who wished to remain anonymous, talking about internal legislative strategy.
With Democrats holding a one-vote majority in the state House, Republicans reached out to Grucela, a Democrat who supported the gay marriage ban when the same political fight erupted two years ago.
According to www.pa4marriage.org, the Web site for the Coalition to Protect Marriage in Pennsylvania, Brubaker is asking other legislators for their support.
"The goal is simple," the Web site reads, "Protect the definition of marriage as the union between one man and one woman and prevent creation of civil unions (or other terms used to give all the legal benefits of marriage under a different name).
"Your help is needed now! You can help Sen. Brubaker get other senators to sign on as co-sponsors."
Information also can be found on the election Web site of state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, a Delaware County Republican (www.pileggi08.com) as well as several gay or conservative Web sites.
Pennsylvania already has a statute narrowly defining marriage as a man-woman union, but many conservatives fear that the law is vulnerable to a court challenge unless it is written into the state Constitution.
Geer said man-woman marriage deserves such protection because a mother-father relationship is healthier for children than same-sex marriages.
"Recognition of other relationships such as same-sex marriage don't have equivalent benefits to society, and therefore don't deserve the same level of recognition," Geer said.
"This ultimately is about democracy and whether citizens can decide what marriage will be in the future, instead of judges."
Writing new language into the state Constitution is a long, grueling process that can take several years to complete.
The House and the Senate must approve identical language in consecutive two-year legislative sessions. The proposed amendment is then put to a voter referendum.
In 2006, state Rep. Scott Boyd, a West Lampeter Republican, was the chief sponsor of a House bill that said:
"Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this Commonwealth, and neither the Commonwealth nor any of its political subdivisions shall create or recognize a legal status identical or substantially equivalent to that of marriage for unmarried individuals."
The bill passed the House on June 6, 2006, but once it reached the Senate, its days were numbered. Senate Republicans took issue with some of the language, saying the it ambiguously addressed the issue of civil unions, making it unlikely to pass in a voter referendum.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Marriage, Civil Union, or Domestic Partnership... What’s the Difference? :: EDGE Boston
Marriage, Civil Union, or Domestic Partnership... What’s the Difference?
by Joyce Kauffman
Wednesday Feb 6, 2008
click link above
In December of 2003, the Supreme Judicial Court determined that same-sex couples were entitled to the benefits of marriage under the Massachusetts constitution. Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, 440 Mass. 309 (2003). An avalanche of change with respect to the legal recognition of same-sex relationships in the United States, begun more than a decade before when the Hawaii case of Baehr vs. Miike was initially filed, continues. In the 1990’s, the Hawaiian court seemed poised to grant marriage rights to same-sex couples until the legislature intervened by enacting a Defense of Marriage law defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The Hawaiian legislature went on to enact the Hawaii Reciprocal Beneficiaries law in July 8, 1997. The law provides limited state rights to same-sex couples and "represents a commitment to provide substantially similar government rights to those couples who are barred by law from marriage." Since then, several jurisdictions have enacted some kind of protective status for same-sex couples, some more that are more "susbtantially similar" to marriage and some that are less. It all depends on where you live.
Posted by Michael at 8:41 AM
gay news blog: California High Court to Hear Oral Arguments in Historic Marriage Case on March 4
SAN FRANCISCO – The California Supreme Court announced today that it will hear oral arguments on March 4 in the cases challenging the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage.
Fifteen same-sex couples, Equality California, and Our Family Coalition will be represented at oral arguments by Shannon Price Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is serving as co-counsel with Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, Heller Ehrman LLP and the Law Office of David C. Codell.
The marriage cases were filed in March 2004. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard A. Kramer ruled that the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage violates the California Constitution. In a 2-1 vote, the California Court of Appeal reversed Judge Kramer’s ruling. Shortly after the Court of Appeal’s decision, the California Supreme Court granted review of the cases in order to consider the constitutional questions itself.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said that the California Supreme Court should decide the constitutional questions posed by the marriage statutes when he vetoed two measures passed by the California legislature in 2005 and 2007 that would have permitted same-sex couples to marry.
The marriage cases are among the most heavily briefed cases in the history of the California Supreme Court. Late last year, more than 20 counties and municipalities filed a friend-of-the court brief in support of marriage for same-sex couples, including some of the most populous cities in California: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, Long Beach, Sacramento, and Oakland. Also registering their support for marriage equality were numerous legal and bar associations, including the Los Angeles County Bar Association. In addition, many of the state’s leading constitutional law scholars and family law professors filed briefs urging the court to permit same-sex couples to marry. More than 250 religious and civil rights leaders and organizations, including the California NAACP, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, California Council of Churches, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, and National Black Justice Coalition, also filed briefs supporting same-sex couples seeking the right to marry.
The California Supreme Court typically issues its decisions within 90 days following oral arguments.
2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the California Supreme Court’s historic 1948 ruling that found it unconstitutional for the state to restrict access to marriage based on the race of the spouses. That ruling was the first of its kind in the nation’s history, and is now the law of the land across the country. The California NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc., and Howard Law School Civil Rights Clinic have urged the court to apply the reasoning from its 1948 decision to the present marriage cases.
Lambda Legal: Update: Marriage Recognition for Same-Sex Couples in New York
Lambda Legal has been advocating for the rights of same-sex couples to have their marriages respected in New York since jurisdictions like Canada and Massachusetts first began to confer marriage rights. New York's governor, attorney general, state comptroller, State Department of Civil Service, mayors in cities large and small around the state, courts and countless other New Yorkers have confirmed that valid out-of-state marriages of lesbian and gay New Yorkers are entitled to legal respect here.
Where we stand today
The Martinez v. County of Monroe decision, coming from a New York appellate court on February 1, 2008 in response to a challenge brought by the NYCLU and Rochester attorney Jeffrey Wicks on behalf of a lesbian couple, ruled that valid out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples are subject to legal recognition in this State. This ruling is consistent with the trial court victories in Godfrey v. Spano and Godfrey v. DiNapoli, two earlier Lambda Legal cases. Martinez must be followed by the lower courts statewide unless and until there is a conflicting decision from another appellate court or from the New York Court of Appeals.
Martinez is the latest ruling, issued by the highest court yet, applying New York's longstanding marriage recognition rule to require respect for out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples even though these couples currently cannot marry within New York. These rulings also are consistent with what many statewide and local government and private officials and entities have agreed is required in New York — respect for out-of-state marriages for purposes of spousal health and other insurance coverage, retirement benefits, death benefits, and the countless other protections that come for spouses through marriage.
Lambda Legal — Making the case for marriage recognition for same-sex couples in New York.
Funderburke v. New York State Department of Civil Service
Lambda Legal represents a couple of 45 years, married in Canada in 2004, who were denied spousal health coverage by the former employer of retired public school teacher Duke Funderburke in this case filed in State Supreme Court (New York's trial-level court) in 2006. The trial court ruled against Funderburke in 2006 - in a decision now repudiated by the Martinez decision. While the case has been on appeal, another Appellate Division in New York, the State Department of Civil Service (DCS) reversed its prior policy and since May 2007 extends spousal employment benefits to same-sex spouses married to employees at more than 800 public employers around the State. Funderburke's spouse now has health coverage as a result. The government defendants in Funderburke moved to dismiss the appeal. Just days before the ruling in Martinez, Lambda Legal argued the appeal in the Appelate Division, Second Department seeking to have the incorrect decision reversed or vacated and removed from the books.
Godfrey v. Spano
After Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano issued a 2006 Executive Order confirming that the County would respect out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples for official County purposes, an antigay group sued him in Westchester State Supreme Court. Lambda Legal intervened in the case on behalf of Michael Sabatino and Robert Voorheis, a Westchester couple of three decades who had married in Canada in 2003. Sabatino and Voorheis had seen how important it is that their marriage be respected after Sabatino was able to be at Voorheis's side and make medical decisions as his spouse when Voorheis was rushed to the hospital with chest pains.
In March 2007 the State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the County Executive and Lambda Legal's clients, holding in the first decision of its kind that valid out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples are subject to legal respect in New York. The antigay plaintiffs have appealed that decision to the Appellate Division, Second Department. The State Comptroller, DCS and Attorney General have filed a brief siding with the County Executive and Lambda Legal's clients in the pending appeal.
Godfrey v. DiNapoli
In October 2004 the New York State Comptroller issued an opinion confirming that the State Retirement System would follow the longstanding marriage recognition rule and give legal respect to out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples. The State Comptroller's opinion was challenged in yet another case filed in September 2006 by the same antigay group that brought Spano. Lambda Legal intervened on behalf of a married New York lesbian couple, Peri Rainbow and Tamela Sloan, state employees who together adopted a special needs child from foster care and who depend on having the protections of marriage for their family. A State Supreme Court in Albany rejected this attack against a government official for respecting the rights of lesbian and gay families, dismissing the case in September 2007. The antigay group has filed a notice of appeal in DiNapoli to the Appellate Division, Third Department, which sits in Albany.
Lewis v. New York State Department of Civil Service
The same antigay group has brought a fourth case challenging the DCS decision won in the midst of the Funderburke case to adhere to the marriage recognition rule and provide spousal benefits to married lesbian and gay public employees. Lambda Legal clients Rainbow and Sloan intervened in Lewis to protect the health coverage they have been able to obtain for their family under the DCS policy. Motions to dismiss the case are pending in State Supreme Court before the same judge who ruled in Godfrey v. DiNapoli that marriages of same-sex couples get legal respect in New York.
Where we go from here
The appellate decision in Martinez confirms what Lambda Legal has been advocating for and what courts, New York's governor, attorney general, state comptroller, and countless others in New York already agree: If you have a valid marriage from a jurisdiction like Canada that allows same-sex couples to wed, you are legally married in New York and entitled to have your marriage respected here.
The next step is for New York same-sex couples to be able to marry within their home state. And New York is already far along in taking this step: In June 2006 the New York State Assembly passed, by a vote of 85-61, a bill sponsored by the Governor that would allow New York same-sex couples to marry in their home state. The New York State Senate must now pass the bill so that the Governor can sign it into law.Document updated 12/1/2006-->