Monday, March 31, 2008

Lambda Legal: New York Appeals Court Vacates Lower Court Ruling That Failed to Respect Canadian Marriage of Same-Sex Couple Represented by Lambda Legal

Lambda Legal: New York Appeals Court Vacates Lower Court Ruling That Failed to Respect Canadian Marriage of Same-Sex Couple Represented by Lambda Legal

New York Appeals Court Vacates Lower Court Ruling That Failed to Respect Canadian Marriage of Same-Sex Couple Represented by Lambda Legal
‘The decision from the appellate court wipes the lower court ruling off the books’
(New York, March 28, 2008) — The New York Appellate Division has vacated the decision of the lower court. It ruled that Bradley Davis was not entitled to spousal health insurance benefits even though he and his spouse were lawfully married in Canada and New York state recognizes out-of-state marriages that could not be entered here.

"The decision from the appellate court wipes the lower court ruling off the books," said Susan Sommer, Senior Counsel at Lambda Legal.

Duke Funderburke married his partner of more than four decades, Bradley Davis, in Ontario, Canada in 2004. When Funderburke asked that his retirement benefits from the Uniondale School District be extended to his spouse, he was refused. A lower court ruled in favor of the school district. However, while the case was on appeal the New York State Department of Civil Service (DCS) agreed to extend benefits to same-sex spouses of public employees covered under the New York State Health Insurance Program, including Funderburke and his spouse. The Appellate Court dismissed the appeal as moot and, significantly, vacated the lower court opinion.

The Appellate Court's decision to vacate the lower court's ruling follows now uniform decisions by a number of other New York courts that out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples are entitled to respect in New York.

Susan L. Sommer, Senior Counsel, is Lambda Legal's lead attorney on the case, Funderburke v. The New York Department of Civil Service, Uniondale Union Free School District et al. Jeffrey S. Trachtman and Norman C. Simon of the law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP are co-counsel on the case.

RIA Novosti - World - Greece may allow same-sex marriages

RIA Novosti - World - Greece may allow same-sex marriages

Greece may allow same-sex marriages
13:24 | 31/ 03/ 2008

ATHENS, March 31 (RIA Novosti) - Greek authorities are considering adopting a law that would allow same-sex couples to marry in a civil ceremony, the country's NET TV said on Monday.

The Greek Justice Ministry pledged to establish a working group on the rights of gay couples living together, which would "analyze all aspects of the issue, international practice and the existing domestic legal and social framework."

The move follows a request by the country's National Commission for Human Rights that proposed a civil union registry that would allow both same-sex couples to marry. Parliament could approve the law in a few months, national media said

The current 1982 marriage law does not specify the gender of the groom and the bride. However, civil authorities refuse to marry same-sex couples. They say the move could result in a number of further legal difficulties, including the issue of adoption by gay couples.

The Greek Orthodox Church, which strongly opposes same-sex marriages, called the possibility a "catastrophic bomb" which threatened Greek society.

Modern Greece is a largely conservative society, strongly influenced by the dominant church. Civil marriages became legal just 15 years ago, while most Greeks still prefer a traditional Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony.

The first Gay Pride parade in Greece was held in 2005.

Media Frenzy at Warsaw Airport for Arrival of Gay American Couple

Media Frenzy at Warsaw Airport for Arrival of Gay American Couple

More on Tom and Brendan

Media Frenzy at Warsaw Airport for Arrival of Gay American Couple

■ Brendan Fay and Tom Moulton at yesterday’s solidarity for Belarus concert in Warsaw.
photo courtesy KPH, Warsaw.

WARSAW, March 31, 2008 – Gay Americans Brendan Fay and Tom Moulton found a media frenzy when they arrived at Warsaw airport yesterday for a three-day visit.

The couple, who were married in Canada, hit the international headlines when their wedding image was used in Polish President Lech Kaczynski’s televised prime-time address to scare the Polish people against supporting the Lisbon Treaty, arrived to Warsaw for a three-day visit.

The trip is sponsored by TVN Television.

Their first day in Poland was an opportunity to meet with Polish gay rights leaders Tomasz Szypula and Greg Czarnecki from the Campaign Against Homophobia (Kampania Przeciw Homofobii – KPH) as well as other members of the LGBT community.

Fay and Moulton were eager to get to know about the situation and issues of LGBT people in the East European nation.

The Polish activists showed the couple from New York some major sites in the city such as the former Jewish Ghetto and the Old Town and attended a Catholic Mass in the afternoon.

They were also able to see a rock concert in solidarity of Belarus.

Later they had dinner together with one of Poland’s most prominent gay couples Tomasz Raczek, film critic, and Marcin Szczygielski, writer.

“For us this is a journey of friendship and solidarity. It’s a most unexpected opportunity to share our story and hear the stories of the courageous lesbian and gay community in Poland”, say Fay and Moulton.

In a statement, KPH said: “We are very honoured to have Fay and Moulton here in order to start a public dialog on domestic partnerships.

“We are happy that in fact the couple has received a lot of expressions of support from Poles both within the country and abroad.”

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Brendan and Tom arrive in Warsaw

Petrelis Files

Tom and Brendan friends of ours Arrive in Warsaw to receive apology. click link below to view video

600 Polish Intellectuals Apologize
to US Gays For Prez's Homophobia

Lots of news to share today from Poland about US gay couple Brendan Fay and Tom Moulton's visit to Warsaw, but before we get to the news, I have to pose some questions.

When was the last time hundreds of American intellectuals signed a letter opposing the homophobic policies of George W. Bush? What about even dozens of intellectuals collectively standing together for gay equality? I can't recall such things happening here. Is my mind forgetting a recent occasion when American thinkers did something comparable to what Polish intellectuals did this weekend?

Now let's get to the gay news from Poland this morning. From the German Press Agency news wire:

Warsaw - Polish intellectuals publicly apologized Friday to a gay US couple for being offended by the anti-gay propaganda of Polish President Lech Kaczynski. Kaczynski on March 17 used images of the wedding of Brendan Fay and Thomas A. Moulton, a gay couple from New York, in a TV speech warning against gay rights as enshrined in the European Union's Charter of Fundamental Rights.

According to the paper Dziennik, 600 signatories - among them writer Olga Tokarczuk and sociologist Ireneusz Krzeminski - signed a letter saying they were embarrassed by Kaczynski's speech, assuring the US-couple of their support and solidarity.

Poland's president warned that the adoption the charter by Poland could undermine Catholic morals and strengthen the rights of displaced ethnic Germans. [...]
This story is from the Polish Radio network:

A gay couple from New York, Brendan Fay and Thomas Moulton, whose images were used in a recent TV address by Polish President Lech Kaczynski, have arrived in Warsaw. Brendan Fay is to meet tomorrow with Ryszard Kalisz, a leader of the leftist coalition in the Parliament. He will also address a press conference at the Centre against Homophobia. [...]

In a Sunday TV debate, a leader of the ruling Civic Platform said the government is against the legalization of gay partnerships. A leader of the leftist coalition spoke in favour of such a move.

And finally, TVN 24 Polish News has posted a video of the media frenzy that greeted Brendan and Tom upon arrival at Warsaw's airport. Click here to view the video and read the story, in Polish, about the couple's visit.

Here's an excerpt from the print story, with a quote from Brendan, saying something pro-gay, I'm believe, and translated into Polish:

Brendan Fay i jego mąż przylecieli do Polski. Geje, których wizerunki wykorzystano w prezydenckim orędziu, postanowili wyrazić solidarność z polskimi homoseksualistami. Fay chce także spotkać się z Lechem Kaczyńskim.

- Jesteśmy tu by wyrazić solidarność z gejami i lesbijkami w Polsce oraz ustosunkować się do prezydenckiego wystąpienia - powiedział zaraz po wylądowaniu na warszawskim Okęciu Fay. Jak mówił, on i jego partner chcą zapoznać się z sytuacją homoseksualistów w Polsce i "usłyszeć ich historie". - Chcę także podzielić się z nimi naszą (historią) - tłumaczył. [...]

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Politicians and church leaders back gay marriage in Iowa- from Pink News- all the latest gay news from the gay community - Pink News

Politicians and church leaders back gay marriage in Iowa- from Pink News- all the latest gay news from the gay community - Pink News

28th March 2008 15:30
Tony Grew

The fight for gay equality continues in the heart of rural America this week, as the Iowa Supreme Court considers a lawsuit brought by six same-sex couples denied marriage licences in the state.

Senior attorneys from Lambda Legal, joined by former Iowa solicitor general Dennis Johnson, will argue that denying marriage to same-sex couples violates the equal protection and due process guarantees in the state's Constitution.

In August 2007 a trial court ruled that denying marriage to same-sex couples was unconstitutional.

In his ruling at Polk County Court, Judge Robert Hanson launched a stinging attack on the law on marriage as defined between a man and a woman, describing it as:

"The most intrusive means by the state to regulate marriage. This statute is an absolute prohibition on the ability of gay and lesbian individuals to marry a person of their choosing."

Lambda Legal fights for full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV across the US through litigation, education and public policy work.

At least 17 briefs will be filed with the Iowa Supreme Court by a wide array of local and national organisations and individuals on behalf of the six same-sex couples and their families.

Among those speaking up for marriage equality are two former Iowa Lieutenant Governors, Joy Corning and Sally Pederson.

"We are proud of Iowa's long history in ensuring fairness and equality for all Iowans," they said in a joint statement.

"We signed our names to a brief submitted to the Court because we believe that the Court is the proper place to decide this matter.

"We have a keen understanding of the different roles the courts and legislature play in leading our state and treating all Iowans with fairness."

Other supporters include doctors, social workers, scientists, historians and more than 200 clergymen and other faith leaders.

Dr. Dianne McBrien, a Clinical Associate Professor of Paediatrics, said:

"Many paediatricians and other child advocates feel that children born to or adopted by same-sex couples deserve the same legal, financial, and emotional security that the children of married heterosexual couples have.

"A substantial body of evidence has demonstrated that the children raised by gay parents are as emotionally healthy as those raised by heterosexual couples.

"A ban on gay marriage would disenfranchise the growing number of Iowa children being raised by same-sex couples."

Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Professor of Law at the University of Iowa, pointed to Iowa's history of marriage equality:

"We look back with pride that Iowa eliminated its ban on interracial marriage 116 years before the landmark US Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia which struck down such laws around the country and declared that marriage is a fundamental right," she said.

"116 years from now I hope Iowans will be able to look back proudly at its place in history allowing same-sex couples to marry."

Obama on Gay Marriage

GayCityNews - Obama on Gay Marriage
Illinois Democratic Senator Barack Obama told a rally in Medford, Oregon,on March 22, of his frustration over wedge issues that come around every four years to distract from the core problems of the nation. He said, "The planet is, you know, potentially being destroyed. We've got a war that is bankrupting us. And we're going to argue about gay marriage? I mean, that doesn't make any sense."

Obama supports full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, while New York Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton advocates getting rid of only the section denying federal recognition to legal same-sex marriages. She would keep the part that lets states decide on whether to recognize gay marriages from other jurisdictions, arguing that upholding that provision will forestall the push for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Arizona Republican Senator John McCain voted for DOMA, supported an unsuccessful Arizona amendment against same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships, and has to date opposed the federal marriage amendment, but said he might change his view if it became necessary-for example, if DOMA were repealed.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Defense of Marriage Divorced From Reality -"

A Defense of Marriage Divorced From Reality -"

By Kathleen Peratis
Thu. Mar 27, 2008

Same-sex couples that establish a legal relationship in a state that allows it and then move to a state that does not might be stuck in the relationship with no access to divorce.

At least 10 states and the District of Columbia allow some form of “relationship recognition,” including marriage (Massachusetts), civil union (four states), domestic partnership (five states), and reciprocal benefits (Hawaii), this according to the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based advocacy organization. In those states, the couple accrues a complex mix of rights and responsibilities during the course of their legal relationship.

But 45 states (and counting) have passed what are often called Defense of Marriage Acts, or DOMAs, prohibiting same-sex marriage. There is also a federal DOMA, passed by Congress in 1996 and signed into law by President Clinton, which allows all states to pretend that same-sex legal relationships never existed. Section 2 provides:

“No state, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other state, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other state, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.” (Scholars agree that DOMA covers same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships as well as marriage.)

DOMA upsets the normal operation of matrimonial law, in which courts adjudicate domestic relations disputes under their own laws and, where appropriate, may also apply the laws of another state that has an “interest” in the relationship. Those judgments are ordinarily entitled to enforcement in any court in the United States “whether they agree with the original basis for the marriage or not,” according to Stanley Cox, a professor at the New England School of Law.

But that is not how it happens under DOMA. Let’s say a same-sex couple has entered into a civil union in Connecticut, lives there for many years, accruing matrimonial rights under Connecticut law, then moves to Oklahoma and later wants to dissolve their union. Where does DOMA leave them? Connecticut courts would no longer exercise jurisdiction over the relationship since the couple no longer resides there, but under DOMA (and the state’s own mini-DOMA) Oklahoma might well refuse legally to terminate the relationship, because, as far as it is concerned, no legal relationship exists.

Or say you have a decree from a state court in Vermont directing your same-sex former domestic partner to pay spousal support, or pay you half of the value of the home you shared. Then you move to Idaho and try to enforce that judgment. Does DOMA give your former partner the defense that you cannot enforce the Vermont judgment because your civil union was void in Idaho? And then there are the gay people who have gotten married, civil unioned and domestic partnered in different states as those options became available, just to accumulate as many rights as possible, giving no thought — who does? —to the day they might want to undo it all.

“If there is one thing that the people are entitled to expect from their lawmakers, it is rules of law that will enable individuals to tell whether they are married and, if so, to whom,” Justice Robert Jackson said in a dissenting opinion in a 1948 Supreme Court case involving jurisdiction in the context of a divorce proceeding.

“If it is not intolerable for a couple to be married and not married at the same time, it is at least supremely frustrating,” agrees Cox. Yet thanks to DOMA, that is exactly what we have. What did its supporters expect?

Hillary Clinton says DOMA was insurance against a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. Bill Clinton said as recently as a week ago that the point was to insure that “the people of Idaho did not have to recognize a marriage sanctified in Massachusetts.” (Actually, the impetus for DOMA was not Massachusetts in 2003 but Hawaii’s brief flirtation with same-sex marriage in 1996.) The former president also said it was for the good of gay people: “The lives of gay people — will there be more or fewer gay couples free of harassment if the law is that every gay couple in America could go to Massachusetts and then have to be recognized in Utah?”

So far there has been little same-sex divorce litigation under these multiple-state DOMA conditions — two, to be exact — and so courts have had few opportunities to invoke DOMA. But so long as it is on the books, it will provide an extra string to the bow of homophobes.

Barack Obama advocates repealing the whole thing (though he does not favor same-sex marriage). Hillary Clinton would scrap section 3 — which, in effect, permits denial of federal benefits to gay couples — but retain section 2. (Bill Clinton erroneously said Hillary now favors total repeal, but her campaign issued a correction.) She also believes that the facts on the ground are moving in favor of equality. She said last month, “I think it’s really clear that, you know, people in the states are moving much more rapidly to deal with the inequalities than you would find at the federal level.”

Real equality, however, is hardly on any of the candidates’ agendas. In the meantime, we should at least repair some of the gaping holes.

Kathleen Peratis, a partner at the New York law firm Outten & Golden, is a board member emerita of Human Rights Watch

BBC NEWS | Americas | Castro champions gay rights in Cuba

BBC NEWS | Americas | Castro champions gay rights in Cuba

Castro champions gay rights in Cuba
By Michael Voss
BBC News, Havana

There is a Castro who is fighting to introduce radical changes in Cuba.

Not the new president, Raul, although he has promised to push through "structural and conceptual" changes to this communist island in the Caribbean.

It is Raul's daughter, Mariela Castro.

As head of the government-funded National Centre for Sex Education, she is trying to change people's attitudes towards minority groups in the community.

She is currently attempting to get the Cuban National Assembly to adopt what would be among the most liberal gay and transsexual rights law in Latin America.

The proposed legislation would recognise same-sex unions, along with inheritance rights. It would also give transsexuals the right to free sex-change operations and allow them to switch the gender on their ID cards, with or without surgery.

There are limits: adoption is not included in the bill and neither is the word marriage.

"A lot of homosexual couples asked me to not risk delaying getting the law passed by insisting on the word marriage," Mariela Castro said.

In the early years of the revolution much of the world was homophobic. It was the same here in Cuba and led to acts which I consider unjust
Mariela Castro

"In Cuba marriage is not as important as the family and at least this way we can guarantee the personal and inheritance rights of homosexuals and transsexuals."

She says that her father is supportive of her work, although he advises her to move slowly.

"I've seen changes in my father since I was a child. I saw him as macho and homophobic. But as I have grown and changed as a person, so I have seen him change."

Mariela's mother, the late Vilma Espin, was an internationally recognised champion of women's rights.

For Mariela, it is the rights of homosexuals and transsexuals that need fighting for.


Once a week, a group of transsexuals gathers for a support session at the old Havana mansion which houses Mariela's Sex Education Centre.

Their ages range from late teens to mid-40s. All are dressed as women; some have had sex-change operations.
A state-funded psychiatrist offers counselling, support and health education.

"Transsexuals have always faced a degree of injustice," said Libia, who trained as a hairdresser after attending sessions at the centre.

"Here we get a lot of respect. This institution has helped raise our self-esteem."

Past repression

Today Cuba has a vibrant but generally discreet gay scene. There is a popular gay beach in Playas del Este just a short drive from Havana.

In the capital itself there are no openly gay bars, but there is a weekly nightclub complete with floor show.

The venue also hosts a comedy club one night, a cabaret another.

But according to the manager, who asked not to be named or for the club to be identified, it is the gay evening that is always the best attended.

The event is perfectly legal but it is not advertised, relying instead on word of mouth. Given Cuba's past treatment of homosexuals, most people here prefer to remain anonymous.

In the early days of the revolution many homosexuals were sent to forced labour camps for re-education and rehabilitation.

The camps did not last long but still gays were often denied certain jobs as "ideological deviants".

In the 1980s, there were orchestrated mass rallies denouncing homosexuals.

Ingrained prejudices

Sex between consenting adults of the same gender was legalised about 15 years ago, but police harassment and raids on gay gatherings continued until very recently.

"In the early years of the revolution much of the world was homophobic. It was the same here in Cuba and led to acts which I consider unjust," said Mariela Castro.

"What I see now is that both Cuban society and the government have realised that these were mistakes. There is also the desire to take initiatives which would prevent such things happening again."

But it remains an uphill struggle. Old prejudices remain deeply ingrained, particularly amongst the older generation.

"It's like an illness or perhaps a character defect," one man explained, asking not to be identified.

Others though are more tolerant. Talking to people in the street, many said that they disapproved of homosexuals but felt that people should be free to live their own lives.

There is still no guarantee that when the National Assembly convenes later this year, under the watchful eye of Raul Castro, it will approve Mariela's gay rights bill.

If it does, though, this would mark a revolutionary change in Cuba's sexual politics.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Gays lead the way in relationships and parenting -- Queer Lesbian Gay Families --

Gays lead the way in relationships and parenting -- Queer Lesbian Gay Families --

Gays lead the way in relationships and parenting

by Beth Dreher

On the website of the Christian conservative group Family Research Council, Timothy J. Dailey, Ph.D, writes, "A growing body of research indicates that in key respects homosexual and lesbian relationships are radically different than married couples."

Turns out, Dailey's right: According to studies from the University of Washington, the Rockway Institute and several other reputable research centers, gay and lesbian relationships are different. In some ways, they're actually better. In one study published in the Journal of Homosexuality, for example, researchers observed 40 gay couples' and 40 straight couples' interactions and found a distinct difference in the way the groups approached conflict discussions.

"Heterosexual couples are more likely than same-sex couples to begin conflict discussions in a harsh or aggressive way," says Robert-Jay Green, Ph.D, a distinguished professor of psychology at Alliant International University in California and a leading expert on gay and lesbian couple/family relationships. According to Green, a harsh way to begin a conversation about family finance might be "What the hell is this credit charge for a $300 necklace? Do you think I'm made out of money?" A more sensitive start, says Green, would be, "Hey, I noticed there was a credit-card charge for a $300 necklace. I'm worried that we're spending beyond our budget, and that we're not saving enough for those other plans we have. Can we talk some more about that?"

In many cases, an underlying feeling of equality within same-sex relationships explains the more positive communication tone.

"I think that by being the same sex, gay and lesbian couples are more likely to feel entitled to be treated more equally in the relationship" says Green. "There's also research showing that the partner who earns more money tends to have more power in the relationship.

"In a lot of heterosexual relationships, husbands earn more than wives, and in many ways men still have more say in decisions, whereas women have been socialized to defer to their husbands in order to avoid conflict. This leaves women tending to feel resentful and angry in many conflict discussions and leaves men tending to act domineering and controlling."

"Same-sex partners, on the other hand, are more likely to earn similar incomes and expect to be treated as equals in the relationship," Green says.

Brad Harvey, a culinary content manager for, who lives with his partner, Brad Kelley, and their kids, Cece and Rolla, in Oakland, Calif., agrees with that notion.

"We've been together for 15 years, so we've figured out how to resolve conflict without yelling or hurting each other's feelings," Harvey says. "I'm not sure we have any tools or approaches that straight couples don't have access to, but we aren't so tied down to the traditional roles and responsibilities that seem to dog a lot of straight relationships. It gives us a certain freedom and flexibility."

Flexibility and equality also carry over into same-sex couples' experiences as parents. In her extensive summary of studies on same-sex parents and their children, Charlotte J. Patterson, Ph.D, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, reports that gay and lesbian parents divide household and family labor more evenly than heterosexual parents.

"There's no preordained cultural script for same-sex couples about who is supposed to do what in relation to child care," says Green. "But for heterosexual couples raising children, there is a powerful script. Mothers are still expected to do the bulk of the feeding, diapering, etc."

"The division of labor in our family is based on skill set and time available," says Emilia Rastrick, who lives with her partner, Kelley Collings, and their two daughters in Philadelphia. "We're very flexible with our roles -- laundry and cooking for the kids are done by whoever has more time that week."

Patterson's review also showed that lesbian parents had more positive interactions with their kids than did heterosexual parents. And, interestingly, very few lesbian or gay parents reported using physical punishment to discipline their kids.

But at the end of the day, says Green, there are some excellent and not-so-excellent heterosexual partners and parents, and the same can be said of lesbian and gay partners and parents. As men and women in heterosexual couples increasingly value equality in their relationships and see its long-term benefits for both partners -- as homosexual couples do -- they will be more likely to relate as equals.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

H&R Block doesn't support CT civil unions

American Civil Liberties Union

Jason Smith of Hartford, Connecticut, has been with his partner Settimio Pisu for six years. But when Jason attempted to file their tax returns with H&R Block's online service, TaxCut Online, he was told, "We don't support Connecticut civil union returns." Through its website, the company said the couple would have to work with one of their professionals, by phone or at one of their office locations, to file their taxes - services that are not only more time consuming, but substantially more expensive. The ACLU sent a demand letter to H&R Block demanding that it change its online system to accommodate gay couples in Connecticut with civil unions.
According to the letter the ACLU sent to H&R Block, failing to provide gay couples with civil unions the option of filing their taxes online as it does for married couples is in violation of a state law that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation and civil union status. The letter demands that the company adapt its website to accommodate couples with civil unions and to reimburse all couples who were forced to pay the additional charges due to H&R Block's discriminatory practices. Although the tax requirements for couples with civil unions in Connecticut are very similar to the requirements for married gay couples in Massachusetts, H&R Block's online tax preparation service seems to accommodate married gay couples there.

Status: On March 25, 2008, the ACLU sent a demand letter to H&R Block demanding that it change its online system to accommodate gay couples in Connecticut with civil

Doyle Survey Shows Vermont Voters Favor Same-Sex Marriage - News Story - WPTZ Plattsburgh

Doyle Survey Shows Vermont Voters Favor Same-Sex Marriage - News Story - WPTZ Plattsburgh

MONTPELIER, Vt. -- A majority of nearly 7,000 Vermonters completing opinion surveys on Town Meeting Day said they favor same-sex marriage. 54-percent said they support allowing gay couples to marry while 37-percent were opposed.

That represents an 8-per cent jump in support for same-sex marriage in the last year, noted Johnson State College political science professor and state Sen. William Doyle of Washington County who compiles the results each March.

Among other '08 survey findings: 70-per cent said Vermont drivers should be prohibited from using cell phones while behind the wheel, while 22-per cent opposed such a law.

Only 6-per cent favored privatizing the Vermont Lottery, an idea Gov. Jim Douglas has proposed for property tax relief. 74-percent were against the idea. Doyle said this was the most lopsided result of any question he's asked in four decades of surveys.

The future of the aging Vermont Yankee nuclear power station in Vernon divided voters. Asked if the plant's license ought to be renewed in 2012, 43-per cent said yes, while 30-percent were opposed and 27-percent were not sure. "Not an easy question," noted Doyle.

About 4 voters in 10 felt Vermont's governor and legislators were "doing a good job", and 62-per cent said they favored changing the governor's term from two to four years.

33-per cent said they were "optimistic about the Vermont economy" -- down only slightly from 35-per cent in 2007.

And on the question of marijuana reform, the survey found 65-per cent support eliminating jail time for those convicted of possessing one ounce of pot or less. That change has passed the state Senate and is now pending before the House.

The Doyle survey is not a scientific poll, but a sampling of views of voters taking part in Town Meeting Day. The preliminary results released to NewsChannel Five Monday are based on the first 6,800 surveys tabulated. Doyle said from this point on, "the numbers don't change

Student journalists put Bill Clinton on the defensive over DOMA

PageOneQ | Student journalists put Bill Clinton on the defensive over DOMA

Student journalists put Bill Clinton on the defensive over DOMA

by Nick Langewis

In a recent interview with the mtvU Editorial Board, former President Bill Clinton frames the Defense of Marriage Act, which he enacted in 1996, as a state's rights measure rather than an anti-gay initiative, aiming to give states the option not to recognize another state's legal same-sex marriage. In the political climate of 1996, Clinton says, it seemed like a reasonable alternative to an outright ban through constitutional amendment.

The Defense of Marriage Act bars the Federal Government from recognizing a same-sex or polygamous marriage for any purpose, including filing joint taxes, claiming federal benefits or, in a recent case out of Massachusetts, obtaining a passport under one's legal married name.

As Bay Windows reported earlier this month, AIDS educator and legally married Massachusetts resident Jason Hair-Wynn was refused a new passport using his legal name. According to a letter he received from the State Department, the Defense of Marriage Act prevented it from recognizing Hair-Wynn's marriage certificate as proof of his new name.

The letter did, however, address Mr. Hair-Wynn as such.

"The federal government will accept a marriage certificate as evidence of a legal name change for a different-sex married couple; they just won’t accept the same exact document as evidence of a legal name change from a same-sex married couple," said Michele Granda, attorney for GLAD. "It’s the same evidence of name change, it’s the same legal status, they’re just insisting when it comes to same-sex couples that the federal government can override Massachusetts name change law and ignore the rights of Massachusetts citizens."

"It's a slight rewriting of history," Clinton says, "for Melissa [Etheridge], whom I very much respect, to imply that somehow this was anti-gay, when I had more openly gay people in my administration, and did more for gay rights--and tried to provide an opportunity for gays to serve in the military; and did provide an opportunity for gays to serve in civilian positions involving national security that they had previously been denied from serving in."

Openly gay musician Etheridge, as a panelist during Logo's Visible Vote presidential forum with 2008 presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton last summer, expressed a feeling that the gay community was "thrown under the bus" by the Clinton administration.

"Even if it's a rewriting of history," presses mtvU's Lily Lamboy, "what's your position in 2008, given that people see this as an equal opportunity problem at the federal level, not just at the state level?"

The Senator's take is the real issue, the President responds, and he states that her position favors repeal of DOMA. He then fires back:

"Do you believe there will be more or fewer efforts to ban gay marriage constitutionally around the country if a Massachusetts marriage has to be sanctified in Utah?"

"It's a political backlash argument," probes Lamboy.

"Will there be more or fewer gay couples free of harassment," pushes Clinton, "if the law is that every gay couple in America could go to Massachusetts and marry--it would then have to be recognized in Utah?"

"When is that going to change, though," Lamboy asks, "if you're not willing to set a firm stance--"

"So, you don't care what the practical implications are," Clinton interrupts.

"We're asking you," responds Board member Joshua Sharp.

The entire interview, courtesy of mtvU, is embedded below.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Gavin Newsom awaits his answer -- Queer Lesbian Gay Election News --

Gavin Newsom awaits his answer -- Queer Lesbian Gay Election News --

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom rushes into the room across from his office, apologizing for being late. He explains that he’d been walking down Market Street, talking to panhandlers about what it would take to get them off the streets.

Fiery idealism like that has come to define Gavin Newsom. Although he is a bona fide policy wonk, his political passion is what captured the attention of the nation four years ago, when -- less than a month into his first term -- Newsom decided to permit same-sex couples to marry in San Francisco. As we sit down, the political fallout from that decision continues.

Pundits are still arguing over whether San Francisco's gay marriages helped tilt the 2004 presidential race to George W. Bush. And Newsom certainly rankled Democratic elected officials by moving forward on an issue that most preferred to avoid.

But without the challenge Newsom threw down then, the California Supreme Court would almost certainly not be preparing a decision on marriage equality now. (The city of San Francisco remains one of the plaintiffs in the case.) Whatever happens, Newsom knows he has become a brand name.

"I'm the gay marriage mayor," he says. "I'm an icon of myself."...............

Clink link above for full article

Friday, March 21, 2008

AIDS educator’s trip to Africa hindered by DOMA :: EDGE Boston

AIDS educator’s trip to Africa hindered by DOMA :: EDGE Boston

by Laura Kiritsy
Bay Windows
Thursday Mar 20, 2008

Jason Hair-Wynn: ’This is legal discrimination.’
Jason Hair-Wynn arrived at his Attleboro home on March 13 to find an envelope from the U.S. Department of State’s National Passport Center in New Hampshire that he thought contained his new passport, a necessity for the month-long trip he’ll be taking this summer to do HIV/AIDS and health education with youngsters in Ghana, Africa. Instead, Hair-Wynn’s old passport fell out of the envelope, along with a letter denying his request for a new passport that would reflect the legal name change he made when he and his husband married in Massachusetts.

The passport was denied because the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) only recognizes heterosexual marriages for federal purposes. "Therefore, the marriage certificate issued by Sudbury, Massachusetts, which you have submitted in support of your name change, is not acceptable as evidence for recognizing an immediate name change on the basis of marriage," the U.S. Department of State informed Hair-Wynn in its letter, a copy of which Hair-Wynn provided to Bay Windows. Ironically, the letter addressed Hair-Wynn by his married name.

Hair-Wynn was shocked. "I just sat there and I was like, I can’t even process this," said Hair-Wynn, 26. "It’s so different when you see it in writing and a professional form and I just kept thinking, ’Wow, this is legal discrimination. This is absurd.’"

Hair-Wynn declined to identify his spouse, because he said his husband is a member of the U.S. military.

Michele Granda, an attorney with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, said her organization has fielded about 50 calls describing situations similar to Hair-Wynn’s since civil marriage rights for same-sex couples became available on May 17, 2004.

"The federal government will accept a marriage certificate as evidence of a legal name change for a different-sex married couple; they just won’t accept the same exact document as evidence of a legal name change from a same-sex married couple," said Granda. "It’s the same evidence of name change, it’s the same legal status, they’re just insisting when it comes to same-sex couples that the federal government can override Massachusetts name change law and ignore the rights of Massachusetts citizens."

Hair-Wynn’s married name is reflected on all of his other identifying documents, such as his driver’s license and his Social Security card. The State Department letter states that Hair-Wynn could receive a valid passport reflecting his name change if he can provide a certified copy of the court order documenting the change or if he can provide documentation proving "customary use" of his married name - meaning that he has lived under the name for at least a period of five years. Neither of those options is available to Hair-Wynn; he has only been married since November 2005 and because he initiated his name change on his marriage license application - a routine process for heterosexual couples - as opposed to the probate court, there is no court order documenting the change. If Hair-Wynn decides to make his name change legal through the probate court, it will come at a cost of about $135, said Granda. He’s already out the $75 fee required to apply for his rejected passport.

"And the worst part for me is that all I’m trying to do is good. I’m trying to go help people and in turn I have to get over so many hurdles."Right now, Hair-Wynn would rather concentrate on raising money for his trip to Africa - he is scheduled to leave on July 30 - than dealing with a discriminatory bureaucracy. "I guess what I’m going to be forced to do is go back to my maiden name, which is going to be a lot of work," he said. "I’d rather focus my time on fundraising than having to prove who I am based on who I love."

He and a colleague, Kimberly Andrade, both of whom are HIV/AIDS education professionals in Southeastern Mass., founded, a website dedicated to raising awareness about and money for their trip to Africa, as well to solicit donations of materials that will help them do their work once there. The two are currently developing a curriculum aimed at educating Ghanian children about their bodies in relation to HIV/AIDS, health and sanitation. Their work is being done in partnership with Village Volunteers, a Seattle-based nonprofit that collaborates with rural non-governmental organizations to implement sustainable solutions for community survival, education and growth. Village Volunteers customizes international volunteer opportunities for service-minded people in Kenya, Ghana, India and Nepal.

Hair-Wynn said that when he returned to his local passport center at the Attleboro post office on March 14, he broke down in tears when explaining his dilemma to the clerk, who he said was sympathetic but was powerless to help him.

"I was trying to hold back my tears and it just came to a point where I was like, I feel demoralized," Hair-Wynn said. "I feel like I’m not a person, I feel like I’m an immigrant trying to get into the country. I live here. And the worst part for me is that all I’m trying to do is good. I’m trying to go help people and in turn I have to get over so many hurdles."

"We think in Massachusetts that, okay, we’re able to get married, but it goes beyond that," he added. "What’s the deal if you can get married but you’re still discriminated against on so many levels?"

Granda said Hair-Wynn may have some options in the short term that might ensure he’ll be able to travel to Africa come July. One is to order his plane ticket under his maiden name and carry the State Department rejection letter in the event he’s asked why his passport doesn’t correlate to the rest of his identifying documents. "That might be his best short-term measure," said Granda. He could also request what’s called a "known as" passport, which is issued at the discretion of the passport agency. The passport lists both a person’s legal name and the non-legal name by which they are known. "I think that’s insulting, to have same-sex couples have to travel under an alias," Granda acknowledged. "But it may be one effective way to do something now that recognizes the consistency of all your papers." But she also noted that "known as" passports could raise suspicion at security checks.

Short of repealing DOMA, the only other hope for a long-term solution to inconsistencies in local and federal marriage law is legislation currently pending on Beacon Hill to permit same-sex couples to substitute their marriage licenses for the other types of records that the passport agency will recognize to verify a legal name change.

"The federal government shouldn’t be able to pick and choose whether you’re married and what your name should be," said Granda

Clinton misstates wife’s DOMA position - Washington Blade

Clinton misstates wife’s DOMA position - Washington Blade

Former president speaks to student journalists
By LOU CHIBBARO JR., The Washington Blade | Mar 20, 10:17 AM

Former President Bill Clinton last week suggested his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, would support repealing the full Defense of Marriage Act, an apparent change in position from Hillary Clinton’s previous position calling for repeal of just one part of the law.

But a Hillary Clinton campaign spokesperson told the Blade that President Clinton “misspoke” in the interview. “Hillary Clinton supports only the repeal of section 3 of DOMA,” campaign spokesperson Jin Chon said.

In an interview with student journalists at Tulane University in New Orleans, which was recorded by MTV, President Clinton said, “Hillary’s position is that she doesn’t support it and if we have the votes to repeal it, she’ll be happy to repeal it.”

In previous statements and position papers, Hillary Clinton, a U.S. senator from New York, has said she favors repealing only the section of DOMA that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. That section prevents same-sex couples joined by marriage in Massachusetts or by civil unions in three other states from receiving federal benefits and rights of marriage. Hillary Clinton has said she opposed repealing the clause in DOMA allowing states to refuse to recognize gay marriages from other states.

In the MTV interview, Bill Clinton acknowledged that he and his wife were concerned that a repeal of the entire DOMA at this time would result in more states passing constitutional amendments banning gay marriage out of fear that a repeal would force them to recognize gay marriages from Massachusetts.

The following is a transcript of Bill Clinton’s DOMA remarks:

Q: The gay community has traditionally been a huge base of support for the Democratic Party. But recently Melissa Etheridge accused you of throwing the gay community under a bus. And I think that she was referring to the fact that in 1996 you signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states to refuse recognition of same-sex marriage. Given that my home state of Massachusetts has legalized gay marriage, in the interim period I wanted to know what your position on same-sex marriage is today and how you would hope the---

Clinton: Well, I think it is a slight re-writing of history. Let me just say, let me remind you that one of the reasons that the Republican Party used to get its base out — I think it was in 2004 — was to have all these amendments on the ballot to change the constitution of these states to ban gay marriage.

There wasn’t the time for a serious effort to argue that the Congress ought to present to the states a national constitutional amendment on gay marriage. So the idea behind the Defense of Marriage Act was not to ban gay marriage but just simply to say that just because Massachusetts recognized gay marriage that they — Hillary and I at the time defended their right to do — that marriage had always been a matter of state law and religious practice. The Defense of Marriage Act did nothing to change that. All it said was that Idaho did not have to recognize a marriage sanctified in Massachusetts.

And that seemed to be a reasonable compromise in the environment of the time. And it’s a slight rewriting of history on the part of Melissa, who I very much respect, to imply that somehow this was anti-gay when I had more openly gay people in my administration and did more for gay rights and tried to provide an opportunity for gays to serve in the military and did provide an opportunity for gays to serve in civilian positions involving national securities that they previously had been denied from serving in. That’s a little bit of rewriting history.

Q: Even if it’s a rewriting of history, what is your position in 2008, given that people see this as an equal opportunity problem at the federal level, not just at the state level.

Clinton: The important thing is what’s Hillary’s position. Hillary’s position is that she doesn’t support it and if we have the votes to repeal it she’ll be happy to repeal it. But let me ask you this. Do you believe there will be more or fewer efforts to ban gay marriage constitutionally around the country if a Massachusetts marriage has to be sanctified in Utah? Yes or no. Answer the question. We live in the real world here.

Q: It’s a political backlash, I know —

Clinton: No, not a political backlash. It’s a substantive backlash. The lives of gay people — will there be more or fewer gay couples free of harassment if the law is that every gay couple in America could go to Massachusetts and then have to be recognized in Utah?

Q: But when is that going to change if you’re not willing to set a firm stand —

Clinton: So you don’t care what the practical implications are?

Q: No, I’m not saying there aren’t pragmatic concerns —

Clinton: What I’m saying is — I’ll tell you what Hillary’s position is. What Hillary’s position is she’s opposed to it and she also believes that — she’s also opposed to the ban on gays serving in the military.

Eyeing the NY State Senate Marriage bill in balance

GayCityNews - Eyeing the State Senate


Governor David Paterson isn't the only politician changing seats in Albany this month. With both the governor and a new state senator assuming fresh responsibilities in March, same-sex marriage equality advocates are considering whether the current round of musical chairs will continue, in time sealing the success of their cause.

When former state Assemblyman Darrel Aubertine, a Democrat from Cape Vincent - a town that straddles the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario - was sworn into his new seat on March 3 after a special election, he nudged the number of Senate Democrats to just one election contest away from parity with the Republicans. But the advantage of a tie-breaking vote from a Democratic lieutenant governor is now gone as Paterson takes possession of the governor's mansion and leaves his position vacant. With a 32-30 deficit in the Senate, Democrats need to take two seats away from the GOP to claim a clear majority.

Both marriage activists and potential Democratic candidates agree that closing that gap in the November elections could help the same-sex marriage bill gain a floor vote - and there is optimism that the contests could break their way.

While the marriage equality bill passed in the Assembly by a vote of 85-to-61 last June with the active support of both Eliot Spitzer and the new governor, the Senate bill was remanded by Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, a Rensselaer Republican, to the Rules Committee and was not given a sponsor.

"Senator Bruno is opposed to gay marriage, I think that is all there is to say," said his spokesman Mark Hansen, who would not elaborate on the majority leader's future intentions regarding the bill.

A second same-sex marriage bill was proposed by Senator Tom Duane, an openly gay Chelsea Democrat, but remains in the Senate's Judiciary Committee.

"The Republicans still control the agenda right now," said Duane. "While nothing's impossible, the leadership may try to stop it from hitting the floor for a vote."

Duane is likely generous in understating Bruno's firm intention to block any action on marriage equality. Until a Democratic majority is reached, his colleagues say there is no hope for either bill seeing the light of day.

"There is no possibility that Senator Bruno will put a bill on the floor that he doesn't want passed," said Senator Eric Schneiderman, an Upper West Side Democrat who also represents a portion of the Bronx. "Until we take the majority, there is no mechanism to force a bill to the floor."

At the annual Manhattan fall dinner held by the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA), the state's LGBT rights lobby group, state Senator Malcolm Smith, a Queens Democrat who is the minority leader, pledged that marriage equality would be at the top of the agenda.

As many look to the November elections, the balance of power in the Senate appears to be up for grabs, with tight races in Long Island and Rochester and a new vacancy near Buffalo due to a Republican senator's retirement. Same-sex marriage has previously been used by conservative groups to dissuade voters from considering liberal candidates in these regions.

Some right-wing lobbyists hope to use that tactic again this year to insure that Republicans retain their majority.

"We are working to make it a topic in the upcoming elections in 2008," said Reverend Jason McGuire, legislative assistant to New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom, a lobbying organization representing Christian churches that has been critical of same-sex marriage.

"We hope the issue will get more coverage," added McGuire. "Everyone has their eyes on Long Island."

The topic already emerged in a heated Long Island special election in 2007. A mailer paid for by the Nassau County Conservative Party stated, "The only way to stop gay marriage is to stop Craig Johnson on Election Day." Despite the threats, Johnson, a Democrat, won the 7th District race.

"If they want to try the same strategy one more time in 2008, they are welcome to," said Johnson's spokesman Rich Azzopardi. "But Craig Johnson continues to be supportive of marriage equality."

Republican incumbents are banking on their communities' discomfort with same-sex marriage to keep them in power.

Senator Serphin Maltese, a Queens Republican, who held his seat by the slimmest majority of any Republican in the Senate in 2006, has actively opposed legalizing gay marriage in New York.

"I believe that it will be something of an issue in the forthcoming election," said Maltese, who also opposes civil unions and first put forward a bill in the Senate to ban same-sex marriages in 2004. "For us, the fact that we oppose same-sex marriage is a good position to be in."

But some political advisors doubt the issue will help senators like Maltese stay in their seats.

"This has never proved to be a successful wedge issue in the state of New York," said Ethan Geto, a partner in the public relations firm Geto and de Milly and an advisor on LGBT issues to Hillary Clinton's campaign. "I am confident that it isn't going to pick up even a handful of votes."

Gay marriage advocates hope to instead turn the issue on its head this year, capitalizing on growing popular support for same-sex marriage in New York State and on the February appellate court decision forcing the state to recognize legal out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples.

"We want to elect a pro-LGBT majority in the state Senate," said Alan Van Capelle, the Pride Agenda's executive director. "We are trying to find people to run for those seats who will stand with our constituents."

One candidate who has benefited from support is Democrat Jimmy Dahroug, an aide to County Executive Steve Levy who hopes to challenge Caesar Trunzo, a veteran Suffolk County Republican senator, for his seat in Long Island's District 3.

"I have got the grassroots support of the LGBT community in my district," said Dahroug, who ran for the same seat in 2004 and 2006, losing most recently to the senator 53%-45%. "My Senate race could have statewide consequences," he added.

Some candidates in tight upstate races are also hoping to ride a tide of acceptance of same-sex marriage into office.

"I am totally supportive of insuring that all New Yorkers have equal treatment under the law, including marriage equality," said Sandy Frankel, the Democratic supervisor of the Town of Brighton who is hoping to run as a Democrat in the 56th District in Rochester. "The fact of the matter is, attitudes have changed, and today people recognize that we have a great diversity in our families."

Richard Dollinger, a Democrat who represented the 56th District for a decade until he chose not to seek relection in 2002, is also angling for the seat now held by Republican Joseph Robach, and pledges to support and co-sponsor the marriage bill.

"I come from a big Catholic family and I think the concept of couples who are committed to each other being able to have that commitment recognized is an important one," Dollinger said. "How can anybody be against more families, more stable relationships, more stable family households? It's both the logical thing to do and the right thing to do."

But even if Senate Democrats overtake the Republicans, they may still fall short of the votes necessary to legalize same-sex marriage. The posture of some potential Democratic candidates, like Queens City Councilman Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., who is eyeing Maltese's seat, is unknown.

Other current Democratic senators oppose the bill. Aubertine, who has taken conservative stances on religious issues, voted against the Assembly bill last year.

Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., a Democrat and a Pentecostal minister from the Bronx, has long been an opponent of same-sex marriage, and said he might not support a Democratic majority leader if same-sex marriage were at stake.

"If the Democratic Party needs my vote to elect a chairman of the Senate, I am unsure that I would vote to change the leader in the Senate if that leader is going to bring the gay issue to the floor," said Diaz. "I will join forces with any Republican to stop it."

Despite the impediments, gay marriage supporters remain optimistic that the November elections could deliver the surplus of seats necessary to get the bill to the Senate floor.

"We didn't always have the support in the Assembly," noted Van Capelle. "We started with 35 votes, and we made it 85 votes. Veteran lawmakers told me it would never happen, but we have beaten the odds on this issue. We won't take our eye off the ball, and the ball will be in the Senate this November."

Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, a national advocacy group, said he too had faith that the issue could help change the balance of power in the Senate. "Either the legislators will have to change or be changed," said Wolfson.

©GayCityNews 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tax Equality Now in Five States :: EDGE Boston

Tax Equality Now in Five States :: EDGE Boston

by Kilian Melloy
EDGE Contributor
Tuesday Mar 18, 2008

If the only two certainties in life truly are death and taxes, GLBT people in five states and the District of Columbia have taken a step that brings them the rest of the way to true equality.

As reported by Business Wire in a Mar. 18 story, the states of CT, MA, and VT have allowed same-sex couples to file their state taxes jointly for a few years now.

Starting this year with the 2007 tax returns, CA and NJ join that trend, along with the District of Columbia.

Business Wire warns that equality, in this case, may bring with it a bit of a headache: as married same-sex couples in MA and partners in civil unions in VA and CT have learned, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) makes it legal for the federal government to ignore state-granted domestic privileges. State and federal tax returns for couples taking advantage of joint filing in the states that permit it may have to work out their tax bill twice: once to determine what they owe the state as a couple, and again to figure out what Uncle Sam wants from each individual partner.

That cold mean preparing a total of four returns in all, says Business Wire: two federal returns (one for each partner), a mock federal return filled out as if the couple were allowed to file jointly with Uncle Sam, and finally a real state return base don the results of the mock federal return.

But preparing the mock federal return is not as easy as it might sound. Federal tax rules make the proposition more involved than simple addition of each partner’s mock federal return. Business Wire identified several areas in which the going could get sticky, including Capital Gains / Losses, Real Estate Losses, the deduction for the interest on a home mortgage, Roth IRA, and miscellaneous expenses. (For a more detailed explanation, click the link above. Additional links at the Business Wire article also lead to state-specific tax return rules.)

The extra effort may not be worth it for everyone: Business Wire reported that in CA, about 12 percent of domestic partners who file jointly have to pay more in state taxes than if they had filed separately. However, about 60 percent actually saved money, to the tune of around $500.

Another option is to file separately but as a married couple. By going the "married-filing-separately" route, couples in many of the states with family-friendly tax provisions may find they save even more.

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

A New York Activist, a Wedding Photo and the Future of Poland - City Room - Metro - New York Times Blog

A New York Activist, a Wedding Photo and the Future of Poland - City Room - Metro - New York Times Blog

March 19, 2008, 1:24 pm
A New York Activist, a Wedding Photo and the Future of Poland
By Sewell Chan

Updated, 2:42 p.m. | Brendan Fay, a well-known gay activist in New York, has found himself, however improbably, a volatile symbol in a political struggle in Poland over equal rights for gay men and lesbians that could affect the nation’s integration into the European Union and the balance of political power in Warsaw.

On Monday, President Lech Kaczynski delivered a nationally televised address, warning Poles that the nation’s autonomy could be threatened if Poland ratifies the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty. The president’s conservative Law and Justice Party believes that ratification will inevitably lead to the incorporation into Polish law of the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
As part of his five-minute speech, Mr. Kaczynski displayed a wedding photograph of Mr. Fay and his partner, Dr. Thomas A. Moulton; showed a video clip of their 2003 wedding in Canada; and even pointed to a photo of their wedding certificate. The Polish president also showed a map of pre-World War II Poland, linking his anti-gay rhetoric to historic Polish anxieties about German encroachment.
Mr. Fay, 49, a producer of documentary videos, and Dr. Moulton, 50, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist, have been stunned about being caught up in the political brouhaha. The couple celebrated their partnership with a Roman Catholic priest at an Episcopal church in Brooklyn in May 2003. They were married two months later in Toronto, after Ontario legalized gay marriage. The two men, who live in Astoria, Queens, have been outspoken advocates for marriage rights for gay men and lesbians; images of the couple and their wedding have been widely disseminated on the Internet.
Mr. Fay, who was born in Drogheda, Ireland, has never been to Poland. In New York, he is probably best known as a leader of a long-standing effort to allow gay and lesbian groups to march in the official St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which this year was held on Monday.
The Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization won support from Mayor David N. Dinkins in 1991, but the following year, a federal judge refused to force the parade’s organizers to permit the group to march. Mr. Fay subsequently organized a gay-friendly St. Patrick’s parade in Queens that has been held every year since 2000.
Mr. Fay said he first found out about Mr. Kaczynski’s speech on Tuesday morning, when he received a call from a Polish radio station. A flood of media inquiries, from as far away as Ireland and Canada, have poured in since then.
Later on Tuesday, Mr. Fay dashed off a letter to Krzysztof W. Kasprzyk, Poland’s consul general in New York. “We are frustrated to hear that images from such a joyous day are used to spread intolerance,” Mr. Fay wrote. “I request a meeting to discuss the matter of civil rights raised by the Polish political leader’s remarks and the uses/misuse of our wedding photographs. I ask that you meet with myself and representations of the New York gay community working in the area of human and civil rights. For much of the day I have been fielding calls from Polish reporters. Some wondered if we had granted permission for use of our wedding photographs. We would never have agreed to permit our photographs as part of a homophobic campaign.”
Today, Mr. Kasprzyk called Mr. Fay and agreed to a meeting. In a follow-up e-mail message sent shortly after noon today, Mr. Kasprzyk wrote, “I wish to express my gratitude for your conciliatory approach and the empathy you have demonstrated from the first moment this pitiful incident surfaced.” (Mr. Fay provided a copy of the e-mail message to The New York Times.) The two men agreed to meet next week, since this week is Holy Week, a major event for Irish and Polish Catholics.
Czeslaw Karkowski, the editor in chief of Nowy Dziennik, or Polish Daily News, which is based in Manhattan and one of the leading Polish newspapers in the United States, said in a phone interview that the speech — and Mr. Fay’s role in it — have been the subject of national discussion in Poland.
Last October, voters ousted the president’s identical twin brother, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and his right-leaning party in parliamentary elections. Lech Kaczynski remained president, with the power to veto legislation, but his political status was diminished. The new prime minister, Donald Tusk, and his pro-business Civic Platform party generally favor E.U. integration and draw support from the western and more urbanized half of the country, Mr. Karkowski explained, while President Kaczynski’s appeal on Monday was intended to speak to his rural, Catholic, conservative base in eastern Poland.
“Polish society is deeply divided,” Mr. Karkowski said. “The prime minister and his party, which rules right now, represent the pro-Western movement. The other side is represented by the president, who is very conservative and playing on the fears and expectations of the other Poland — more conservative, more suspicious, especially toward the West.”
Mr. Karkowski said he had no idea how President Kaczynski’s staff members decided to use Mr. Fay’s image to represent gay marriage. “Probably they were just looking for a useful picture,” Mr. Karkowski said, “a visible sign of what he and his followers are against and what, supposedly, his political opponents are for.”
Meanwhile, the Lisbon Treaty needs ratification by 27 member countries of the E.U. to take effect. Partly in response to Mr. Kaczynski’s criticism, Prime Minister Tusk has proposed holding a national referendum on the treaty.
Ewa V. Zadworna, a spokeswoman at the Polish Consulate in Manhattan, said the consulate did not have any further comment on the matter and she declined to elaborate on Mr. Kasprzyk characterization of the incident as “pitiful” in his e-mail message to Mr. Fay.
“We are in contact with Mr. Fay,” Ms. Zadworna said, noting that Mr. Kasprzyk will meet with Mr. Fay and other gay activists next week.

MARYLAND: Senate approves rights for unmarried couples

The Daily Times - - Salisbury, Md.
MARYLAND: Senate approves rights for unmarried couples

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Senate has voted to give unmarried couples rights of medical decision making, a substitute for considering gay marriage or civil unions.

The Senate voted 30-17 today to allow domestic partners to make decisions for each other in life-threatening situations.

The bill comes from complaints by gay couples and unmarried straight couples that they can't ride in ambulances or visit loved ones in the hospital in some cases.

The bill is likely the only piece of legislation related to gay couples that lawmakers will take up this year. Leading lawmakers say gay marriage or civil unions won't be considered.

The bill now heads to the House.

Proposal to ban gay marriage, civil unions advances in Pa. Senate - - The Pocono Record

Proposal to ban gay marriage, civil unions advances in Pa. Senate - - The Pocono Record

March 18, 2008
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A state Senate committee has passed a proposal to amend the state Constitution to ban gay marriage and civil unions.

The Judiciary Committee approved it Tuesday, 10-4.
Opponents sought more hearings on the bill, saying the wording of the proposal that bans civil unions is so poorly defined that it could endanger the rights that gay and lesbian couples have now.

Supporters say the wording isn’t meant to take away current rights, such as a partner’s health care coverage or ability to grant power of attorney.

A constitutional amendment requires approval from both legislative chambers in two consecutive two-year sessions and ultimate approval in a statewide referendum.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Gay Couples Say Civil Unions Aren’t Enough - New York Times

Gay Couples Say Civil Unions Aren’t Enough - New York Times

Eager to celebrate their partnership, Tracy and Katy Weber Tierney were among the first in line when Connecticut created civil unions three years ago as a way to formalize same-sex relationships without using the word “marriage.”

But when Tracy was giving birth to their son, Jake, five months ago, a hospital employee inquired whether she was “married, single, divorced or widowed.”

“I’m in a civil union,” she replied. When the employee checked “single,” Tracy protested. “I’m actually more married than single,” she said, leaving the employee flustered about how to proceed.

That conundrum is at the core of a case on which the Connecticut Supreme Court is expected to rule soon. It presents a new constitutional challenge to the political compromise that several states have made in recent years to grant rights to gay and lesbian couples while preserving the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and woman. At the same time, the state legislature’s joint Judiciary Committee has scheduled a public hearing in Hartford on Monday to consider amending the civil union law in light of complaints from same-sex couples that the measure had not delivered the equal rights it had promised. The committee passed a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage, 27-15, last year, but it was never put to a full vote of the legislature.

Massachusetts is the only state that allows same-sex couples to marry, and Vermont, New Hampshire and New Jersey have civil unions, while California and Oregon have domestic partnerships that provide similar benefits to civil unions.

Though such arrangements were created, often under court mandate, with a promise of treating same-sex couples the same as opposite-sex couples, many gays and lesbians say they have not delivered and can never do so because separate institutions are inherently unequal. Many also resent being denied use of the word marriage, which they say carries intangible benefits, prestige and status.

The California Supreme Court must rule by early June on a lawsuit it heard this month that echoes the Connecticut case, with the plaintiffs rejecting domestic partnerships and pushing for marriage. And a New Jersey commission issued a report in February highlighting examples of same-sex couples who said they were denied equal treatment under the state’s year-old civil union law.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Republican, vetoed a same-sex marriage bill in 2005. In New Jersey, Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat, has let it be known that he is willing to sign one — but not until after the fall elections.

Connecticut created civil unions in 2005, promising same-sex couples all the “rights, protections and responsibilities” the state bestows upon married couples, rather than the patchwork some municipalities had stitched together. The law also included a clause, inserted at the insistence of Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman, joining at least 40 states with similar language in their laws.

But eight same-sex couples pressed ahead with a constitutional challenge, arguing that they were entitled to marry the person of their choice and that nothing less would do.

The case turns on whether same-sex couples should be treated as a “suspect class” — groups like minorities and women that have experienced discrimination — which could lead to heightened legal scrutiny of the decision to offer separate institutions. In oral arguments before a Supreme Court panel, the assistant attorney general said the number of “prominent politicians who are openly gay and lesbian” proves that homosexuals are not “politically powerless,” one of the requirements of a suspect class; that caused one justice to quip, “If it were true political power,” they would have already won the right to marry.

The state also argues that the plaintiffs have no case because they are free to marry, just not to someone of the same sex, and that there is no gender discrimination because men and women are equally constrained. In July 2006, the lower court judge, Patty Jenkins Pittman of New Haven Superior Court, backed the state, ruling that Connecticut’s Constitution “requires there be equal protection and due process of law, not that there be equivalent nomenclature.”

About 1,800 couples have obtained civil unions in Connecticut since 2005, more than a third of them in the first three months they were offered. Some gay-rights advocates say the demand has slowed since, amid complaints that the unions leave people feeling not quite married and not quite single, facing forms that mischaracterize their status and questions at airports challenging their ties to their own children

Civil unions require constant “haggling, litigation and explanation,” said Evan Wolfson, the founder of a New York-based advocacy group called Freedom to Marry. Being married, he said, means “you don’t have to fumble for documents. You don’t have to hire an attorney, and you don’t have to consult a dictionary. You’re married. You know what it means, and everyone else knows what it means.”

Barbara Upton and Suzanne Rogers, who live in Avon and snapped up a civil union license the day it became available, carry proof of their reciprocal ties wherever they go. Ms. Rogers, a 62-year-old nurse, said the frustrations begin with trying to describe themselves: “We’re civilized? We’re unionized? Whatever. That’s part of the problem. Nobody really understands it, and that includes me.”

For Jean Csvihinka, 48, who works at a bank in Milford, getting a civil union meant paying tax on an additional $6,000 a year. Ms. Csvihinka said that adding her partner, Gina Bonfietti, 43, a self-employed piano technician, to her health insurance obligated her to pay a federal tax on the value of the additional coverage that married couples would not owe, and that since the civil union she has also had to pay tax on her daughters’ coverage even though the girls were on her plan, tax-free, before. She said she was told that “it’s a systems issue.”

Experts blame some of these problems on the disconnect between state taxes, which civil union couples can file jointly, and federal taxes, which they cannot because of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Some employers provide people in same-sex partnerships with two W-2 forms, one that includes the imputed income for the extra health-care coverage for federal purposes and one that does not.

Maureen M. Murphy, a New Haven lawyer who has represented same-sex couples for 15 years, said it often takes civil union couples two or three times as long to prepare their taxes, because they need to fill out a dummy joint federal return in order to calculate figures they need for their Connecticut joint filing. “Believe me, we’ve run all-day continuing legal education seminars on this,” Ms. Murphy said.

One pair of plaintiffs in the case before the Supreme Court, Janet Peck and Carol Conklin, refused to get a civil union because, as Ms. Peck put it, they give “gays and lesbians an impossible choice between those rights that everybody needs and our own self-respect and dignity.” On a more practical level, the couple complained to the court that not being able to marry could jeopardize their “priority seats and access” to University of Connecticut women’s basketball games, among the most coveted rights or benefits a state resident might seek. Ms. Peck’s name is on the tickets, and should she die, the university allows them to be passed only to a spouse. Mike Enright, a spokesman for the university’s athletic program, said the Huskies “follow current state regulations,” suggesting that if the couple obtained a civil union they could transfer the tickets.

Amy Pear, a 39-year-old police captain in Middletown, said she was reminded again this month of her own murky legal status when she returned home from an overseas trip with June Lockert, 46, her better half for the last 14 years.

Arriving at Kennedy International Airport, the couple were asked whether they were one household. Captain Pear said she explained that they were, in Connecticut, because of their civil union. She said the customs officer sent them back to be processed separately since the federal government took a different view, and remarked “Welcome home” as she passed.

Captain Pear said she has also been unable to get a firm answer from Middletown officials as to whether Ms. Lockert would get survivor benefits if she died in the line of duty. “Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know how civil unions will work because it’s not marriage,” Captain Pear said. “You ask does this apply or not, and they say maybe.”

Debra Milardo, Middletown’s personnel director, said the city would provide the same benefits to a gay partner in a civil union as to an officer’s husband or wife, but that such a partner would likely face federal taxes a married person would not. “That is something no municipality has any jurisdiction over,” Ms. Milardo said. “A federal tax burden is a federal tax burden. We can’t circumvent that in any shape or form.”

Michael Limone, 35, and Brad Eaton, 36, celebrated their civil union last year in a big tent in their Stamford backyard, exchanging vows that included the line from Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” about how “people are meant to go through life two by two.” But the couple said their status can lead to awkward, inappropriate conversations in doctor’s offices or at job interviews.

Asked whether he was married when he took a job as a teacher in Beacon Falls, Mr. Limone said he felt compelled to explain that he was in a civil union. “I’m sitting across from this person and now I’ve got to come out to this person,” he said of the encounter.

Jeffrey Busch, a lawyer who is also a plaintiff in the case, said that he and his partner, Stephen Davis, reluctantly obtained a civil union for the sake of their son, Eli. “It was an awful experience,” Mr. Busch said. “In order to get those rights, we had to make a public declaration of inferiority.

“Being in a civil union is not the same as married,” he said. “If it was, they would call it marriage. I don’t know anybody who would give up their marriage for a civil union.”

Eli, who was conceived with the help of a surrogate, is now 5. When his kindergarten class was playing “Farmer in the Dell” recently, Eli grabbed the hand of another boy while his friends sang, “the farmer takes a wife.”

Knowing that Eli has two fathers, the other children quickly adjusted, singing “the two dads take a child” instead.

“Without missing a beat,” Mr. Busch noted proudly.

With progressive challenger, Kerry’s opposition to marriage equality softens :: EDGE Boston

With progressive challenger, Kerry’s opposition to marriage equality softens :: EDGE Boston

by Laura Kiritsy
Bay Windows
Saturday Mar 15, 2008

Senator John Kerry
In the midst of a re-election challenge from the left in the Democratic Primary this September, Sen. John Kerry has softened his longstanding opposition to same-sex marriage. In a statement to Bay Windows Kerry said that civil marriage rights for same-sex couples are established law in Massachusetts and should remain so. He has also touted his work to sway state legislators to vote against the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment at last June’s constitutional convention, as proof of his support.

The March 11 statement to Bay Windows from Kerry spokeswoman Brigid O’Rourke stated in part, "In Massachusetts, just last spring Senator Kerry worked with Gov. Patrick and progressive legislators to help defeat a draconian and discriminatory constitutional amendment that would have banned same sex marriage in Massachusetts. Sen. Kerry believes that in Massachusetts, gay marriage is a matter of settled law and there is no reason to change the law."

The statement also notes that Kerry has always believed that same-sex couples "should be afforded the same legal protections and benefits that married couples enjoy," - a reference to his longstanding support for domestic partnerships and civil unions - and that he has consistently opposed federal efforts to ban legal protections for same-sex couples, including voting against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996. Additionally, the statement pointed out that in his 2004 speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination, Kerry spoke out against the Federal Marriage Amendment, which was supported by his Republican opponent, President George W. Bush........

click link above for full story

Lawmakers to review civil union revisions

The Advocate - Lawmakers to review civil union revisions

By Brian Lockhart
Staff Writer

Published March 15 2008

A state General Assembly committee is to revisit the state's civil unions law Monday, while a decision from the state Supreme Court about the legality of denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples is pending.

The legislature's Judiciary Committee has scheduled a public hearing on a bill co-chairman Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, said is meant to "clean up" technicalities and loopholes in the state's 2005 civil union law.

The Family Institute of Connecticut, a nonprofit group that opposes gay marriage, is warning on its Web site that the proposed legislation would "open the door" to same-sex marriage in the state and is urging members to oppose it.

The group also takes offense on its Web site to the bill being considered during the week before Easter and the hearing scheduled for St. Patrick's Day.

A McDonald-sponsored bill to legalize gay marriage passed the Judiciary Committee last year, but McDonald and co-chairman Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, pulled it from consideration by the full General Assembly after determining it did not have enough votes to be approved.

In May, the state Supreme Court began hearing the case of eight same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses. Its decision is pending.

The civil unions bill being considered Monday has multiple parts.

One section would require commissioners of consumer protection, insurance, public health and revenue services, and the chief court and probate court administrators to study the problems encountered by civil union partners when seeking benefits.

"What the bill is centrally stating is we want various state agencies to review their processes and facilitate reforms necessary for implementing legal protections afforded to partners in a civil union," McDonald said. "There's still an institutional ignorance of the legal impact civil unions have in the state."

For example, he said, many state forms still offer "single," "married," or "divorced" as the only check-off options.

McDonald said the intention is to address more severe issues, such as the recent case of a Hartford woman who was not allowed to have her partner cremated after she died of cancer.

"The funeral home said only the next of kin could sign" the paperwork, McDonald said.

The bill to be considered Monday would also extend the rights of civil union partnerships to out-of-state couples moving into or visiting Connecticut.

Currently, same-sex couples who have entered into civil unions - or marriage, in the case of Massachusetts - do not have legal recognition in Connecticut despite the state's condoning civil unions.

State Rep. Claudia "Dolly" Powers, R-Greenwich, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said opponents are warning her that McDonald and other bill proponents want to begin recognizing gay marriages from Massachusetts so they can push for legalizing marriage in Connecticut.

"If that's what it does, I would be a 'no' vote on that," Powers said.

McDonald said a married same-sex couple from Massachusetts would be recognized as a civil union under the proposal.

"We're not saying, we're going to treat a gay marriage in Massachusetts as a marriage in Connecticut," McDonald said. "All it's saying is you're not going to be caught in the legal limbo of having a relationship recognized in one state but not in Connecticut. . . . We're going to recognize it as a civil union in Connecticut."

McDonald said he can find many practical reasons for recognizing out-of-state same-sex unions.

"You have a gay couple, married in Massachusetts, driving to New York City. They get in an accident. What happens to them?" McDonald said. "They don't have control over hospital decisions. If one's in a coma and on life support, you're not qualified as the next of kin to make health care decisions. If one dies, you don't have the right to claim the body. The list just goes on and on."

Anne Stanback, executive director of Love Makes a Family, a nonprofit group advocating legalized marriage for gay couples, said some members of her organization plan to attend Monday's public hearing to argue that civil union "fixes" don't go far enough.

"You can't really fix civil unions," she said. "The only way to give same-sex couples full protections and full equality is with marriage. We appreciate that they're trying to do everything that they can, but for us the bottom line is civil unions are an inadequate substitute for marriage."

Stanback said she has no idea when the state Supreme Court will rule on the same-sex marriage case.

"It could be next week. It could be in the summer or the end of the year," Stanback said. "People are always asking me, 'Have you heard any word?' "

Copyright © 2008, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.

Norwegian government proposes law allowing same-sex marriages, adoptions - International Herald Tribune

Norwegian government proposes law allowing same-sex marriages, adoptions - International Herald Tribune

The Associated Press
Friday, March 14, 2008
OSLO, Norway: The Norwegian government proposed a new marriage law Friday that would give gay couples the same rights as heterosexual pairs, including church weddings, adoption and assisted pregnancies.

It was not immediately clear whether the proposal would make it through parliament without changes. Even though the Labor-led coalition has a majority in the legislature, one of the three parties, Center, has said its representatives will be allowed to vote according to their consciences.

"This new marriage law is a step forward along the lines of voting rights for all and equality laws," said Minister of Children and Equality Anniken Huitfeldt.

The new legislation would replace a 1993 law that gives gays the right to enter civil unions similar to marriage, but refuses them the right to church weddings or to be considered as adoptive parents.

Like parliament, the three-party coalition was split on key points of the new law. For the first time since Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's government took office in October 2005, there was open dissent in the Cabinet over a legal proposal.

Minister of Local Government Magnhild Meltveit Kleppa and Transport Minister Liv Signe Navarsete said they could not support the right to assisted pregnancies for lesbian couples, but endorsed the remainder of the bill.

Parliament's second-largest bloc, the Party of Progress, and the smaller Christian Democratic Party both immediately said they would oppose the bill.

Huitfeldt, the government minister, said the law is important in assuring the rights and acceptance of all couples, and to protect their children.

"The new law does not weaken the institution of marriage, rather, it strengthens it, " she said. "Marriage does not become less valuable because more people can take part in it."

The proposed law gives couples the right to a church wedding, but does not require any clergyman or religious organization to perform the ceremony. It said couples wanting to be married in church can do so in churches that accept gay marriage.

About 85 percent of Norway's 4.7 million people are registered as members of the state Lutheran Church of Norway, although far fewer are active. The church is split on the issue of gay marriage, and was likely to allow each congregation to decide whether to conduct homosexual weddings, as it did last year in allowing parishes to decide whether to accept clergymen living in gay partnerships.

In 1989, Denmark became the world's first country to allow civil unions for gays, similar to Norway's current law. In 2001, The Netherlands became the first country to offer full marriage rights to gay couples.


On the Net:

Same-Sex Marriages, Death and Taxes (Gotham Gazette, March 2008)

Same-Sex Marriages, Death and Taxes (Gotham Gazette, March 2008)

Same-Sex Marriages, Death and Taxes
by Andy Humm
14 Mar 2008

"In this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes," Benjamin Franklin famously said. But for committed same-sex couples in New York, these are two areas of law, along with many others, remain far from settled. Here's a rundown of some key recent developments.

What Happens in Canada Doesn't Stay in Canada
In a ruling that could prove pivotal, a state appeals court last month decided that legal same-sex marriages established elsewhere must be respected by all public and private entities here, even though New York State does not license the marriages of gay couples (unless one is a gay man and the other is a lesbian woman).

The mid-level Appellate Division's 4th Department, a relatively conservative court, ruled unanimously on February 1 that a New York lesbian couple married in Canada could not be denied marital benefits from Monroe County Community College where one of the women works. The decision "rests on a century's old law--the marriage recognition rule," said Matt Faiella, a staff attorney with the New York Civil Liberties Union, which represented the women.

Even though the Court of Appeals, the state's highest, ruled in 2006 that the state did not have to grant same-sex couples the right to marry, the decision did not say that it could not do so. New York is one of a handful of states that has not passed a law forbidding recognition of gay marriages. And since same-sex marriage is not "abhorrent" to New York's public policy (as, say, a marriage between brother and sister would be), the upstate appellate court concluded that legal marriages of same-sex couples who wed in Canada must be given the same recognition as mixed gender Canadian marriages. It falls under the principle of "comity" whereby states and nations give effect to legal agreements from elsewhere.

While there are several other cases at the Appellate Court level involving recognition of same-sex marriages licensed elsewhere, the upstate decision applies to the entire state unless another division of the Appellate Court makes a contradictory ruling. And while Monroe County is trying to appeal the decision that they must recognize the marriage of two women, the state's high court does not have to hear its appeal and probably will not. (The New York Times did a good survey article on these cases and on a ruling that two women married in Canada but living here can dissolve their marriage only through divorce proceedings that one of the spouses is resisting.)

Thus, we have the somewhat wacky situation in New York in which a gay couple can go to Toronto to get married and come back to our state and be legally married under New York law, but they cannot go down to their local city hall and wed.

This is not the first time that New York has given legal recognition to out-of-state same-sex marriages. In 2004, then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer unofficially opined, "Under state court precedent, same sex marriages and civil unions lawfully entered in other jurisdictions outside the state should be recognized in New York."

Also in 2004, then-State Comptroller Alan Hevesi began treating these couples as married under the State Retirement System. His move survived a lawsuit challenge by the conservative Alliance Defense Fund.

After he became governor, Spitzer ordered the Civil Service Department to recognize legally married same-sex couples in 2007, compelling any municipality linked to the state benefits system to do so as well. None of this is likely to be undone by new Gov. David Paterson since he has a longer and stronger record on gay rights, including marriage equality, than the man he replaces.

Legal Misrepresentation
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Monroe County couple, but his office did not return calls on how his office will make sure all state departments comply with the court's decision. For now, at least, the state Department of Taxation and Finance is at odds with it.

In 2006, the department issued an advisory opinion in 2006 insisting that state law requires married couples to use the same filing status as they use on their federal tax forms. Since the federal government bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages under the Defense of Marriage Act, legally married same-sex couples -- even in Massachusetts, which license such marriages -- must file as single on their federal returns. On their state returns, gay married couples in Massachusetts must file as married. Since their state tax is based on the federal system, they then have to do two federal returns: one a "dummy" return to figure out what their state taxes would be as a married couple and the other, the real one for federal purposes, as single. New York is not allowing that.

Thomas Bergin, a spokesperson for the state tax department, said, "The law would have to be changed or revised" for gay married couples to be able to file as married in New York, but he conceded that their counsel had not reviewed how the Monroe County case might chnge that.

"We have asked the governor to take another look at that," Susan Sommer, senior counsel at Lambda Legal Defense, a gay advocacy group, said.

"State law requires allowing same-sex couples who are married to file as married," Sommer added. She would not go so far as to say that these couples should file as married in New York, but suggested they consult with their tax advisers and note on their state tax forms that they are married and are filing as single "under protest." "People should not have to swear under penalty of perjury that they are something that they're not," she said.

Mark Munroe, a certified public accountant in Manhattan who has many gay clients (including this reporter), said that he would advise people in same-sex marriages to file as unmarried per the official advisory opinion of the tax department. "If my clients felt strongly about it, I will file a joint return for them if they indemnify me for penalties," he said. As a practical matter, he said the only couples who would be significantly helped by filing jointly are those in which one of the spouses does not work.

New York City grants legal recognition to out-of-state same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships. The city Department of Finance was not immediately able to say whether the city's personal income tax takes these arrangements into consideration. Sam Miller, a spokesperson for the department, said that city income taxes are based entirely on state taxes, which, the state insists, are based on federal taxes.

'Til Death Do Us Part
The legal status of one's relationship plays a critical role in determining who gets to dispose of a person's remains and inherit their property. In a legal marriage, the spouse inherits the property tax free. If a married person dies without a will, his or her spouse automatically inherits the estate.

New York State does not marry gay couples, nor does it have registration for domestic partners or civil unions as New Jersey does. One of the only rights that domestic partners have from New York State is to control the remains of their dead partners. A bill establishing this slipped through with almost no objection in 2006.

Despite this law, death certificates in the state, including the city, do not list "domestic partner," under marital statuses that include "married, married but separated, widowed, divorced, never married and unknown." There is room for the name of a "surviving spouse," but not for a surviving domestic partner. Domestic partners in New York City -- same-sex and mixed sex -- have been able to register their partnerships since 1993 under an executive order by Mayor David Dinkins. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which issues death certificates, indicated that they are "aware of the issue" involving the partnerships and are "working to find a solution."

"We are working with them [the health department] on the fastest and most effective way for domestic partners to be listed on death certificates," said Anthony Hogrebe, a spokesperson for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, herself an out lesbian

Brendan Fay, who married his husband, Thomas Moulton, in Toronto in 2003 and lives with him in Astoria, Queens, remembers the Canadian judge telling them that from that day forward, they were obligated to hold themselves out to the world as the married couple they are. They have -- even though the U.S. government won't recognize the marriage for immigration purposes (Fay is an Irish national.) Moulton has gotten marital benefits for Fay at his hospital job. Together, they help other same-sex couples travel to Canada to marry through their organization Civil Marriage Trail

"It's a pity gay couples have to go to all this expense to go to Canada to marry and be legally recognized in New York," Fay said. "I'm working for the day when they can marry right here in their home state and when the United States will give us marriage equality as well."

Andy Humm, a former member of the City Commission on Human Rights, has been in charge of the civil rights topic page since its inception in 2001. He is co-host of the weekly "Gay USA" on Manhattan Neighborhood Network (34 on Time-Warner; 107 on RCN) on Thursdays at 11 PM.


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