Sunday, November 30, 2008

Growing research suggests being gay is not 'a choice' - San Jose Mercury News

Growing research suggests being gay is not 'a choice' - San Jose Mercury News

By Mike Swift


Mercury News

Posted: 11/29/2008 07:13:00 PM PST


Compared with straight men, gay men are more likely to be left-handed, to be the younger siblings of older brothers, and to have hair that whorls in a counterclockwise direction.

Researchers are finding common biological traits among gay men, feeding a growing consensus that sexual orientation is an inborn combination of genetic and environmental factors that largely decide a person's sexual attractions before they are born.

Such findings — including a highly anticipated study this winter — would further inform the debate over whether homosexuality is innate or a choice, an undercurrent of the recent Proposition 8 campaign in which television commercials warned that "schools would begin teaching second-graders that boys could marry boys," suggesting homosexuality would then spread.

Some scientists say the political and moral debate over same-sex marriage frequently strayed from established scientific evidence, including comments by vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin that homosexuality is "a choice" and "a decision."

Until 2007, CNN polls had found that a majority of Americans believed gay people could change their sexual orientation if they chose to; it was only last year that a majority for the first time said homosexuality was an inborn trait. Christian groups such as Exodus International argue "that homosexuals who desire to change can do so." One prominent psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Spitzer of Columbia University, found controversial evidence that therapy can cause some gay people to change to a heterosexual orientation, although the study concluded that a "complete change" was uncommon.

While sexual behavior may be chosen, the preponderance of researchers say attraction is dictated by biology, with no demonstrated contribution from social factors such as parenting or other factors after birth.

A host of studies since the mid-1990s have found common biological traits between gay men, including left-handedness and the direction of hair whorls. The likelihood that if one identical twin is gay, the other will also be gay is much higher than the "concordance" of homosexuality between fraternal twins, indicating that genes play a role in sexual orientation, but are not the entire cause.

"In the past decade, I think the pendulum has swung more toward biological theory and biological causes," said Richard Lippa, a psychology professor at California State University-Fullerton, who has studied hair patterns and other biological traits in gay men."

Sven Bocklandt, a geneticist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, is bewildered by the argument that people choose their sexual attraction. He said that virtually every animal species that has been studied — from sheep to fruit flies — has a small minority of individuals who demonstrate homosexual activity.

"I really believe the reason most humans are straight is the same reason that most crocodiles are straight, and the same reason most whales are straight," Bocklandt said. "Nature would not leave something so important for reproduction, for the survival of the species, to coincidence."

Less understood is the degree to which sexual orientation is determined by genes or environmental factors, such as hormones or immunological factors that may act on a fetus. What scientists call "the fraternal birth order effect," the fact that each successive boy born to the same mother has a greater chance of being gay, may be due to an increasing immunological response by a mother's body to each male fetus in her womb.

Long discredited are theories that parenting — one mid-20th century theory held that boys raised by a domineering mother with a distant father were more likely to be gay — has anything to do with sexual orientation.

Evidence of that, said Michael Bailey, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University, comes from studies of genetically male infants born with malformed or ambiguous genitals. In many such cases, surgeons would construct a vagina, and instruct parents to raise the child as a girl, with no knowledge of his medical history.

As adults, those prenatally male/postnatally female people were virtually all attracted to women, Bailey said.

"If you can't make a male attracted to other males by cutting off his penis, castrating him and rearing him as a girl, then how likely is any social explanation of male homosexuality?" he said.

Researchers are eagerly awaiting a DNA study of male siblings with at least one gay brother by Bailey and other scientists at Northwestern University due in early 2009, because it may shed light on the role genetics plays in sexual attraction. By researching 800 sets of brothers, by far the largest study of its type, the Northwestern study is searching for the specific genes that influence some brothers to be gay and others to be heterosexual.

Women may have more fluidity of sexual expression than men, but that doesn't mean they don't have a specific sexual orientation, said Lisa Diamond, a professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah who studies female sexual orientation.

One explanation is that women's sexual behavior is driven more by relationships.

For some women, "your sexual orientation does not provide the last word on the sorts of behaviors and identities you might experience in your lifetime," Diamond said. "Some lesbian women are predominantly attracted to women, but some of them have found themselves becoming incredibly close to their best male friends, sometimes having sex with them. It does not make them straight. It's not, since you had a one-night stand with your male friend, that you can choose to become straight."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gay Religion: news of religion and GLBT folks: Four Reasons to NOT Oppose Same-Sex (Gay) Marriage

Gay Religion: news of religion and GLBT folks: Four Reasons to NOT Oppose Same-Sex (Gay) Marriage

By Richard Molling

There are four reasons why I believe that a person should not oppose same-sex marriage. Notice that not opposing is quite different from actively supporting. I am not asking anyone to shout their support or campaign for the concept. I am asking everyone to not stand in the way of making same-sex marriages legal for those who want to marry.

Many people have very strong emotional feelings about gay or same-sex marriage and strident rhetoric is often the result of venting those feelings. Rather than succumbing to my feelings, this article is my attempt to prompt others to engage in a reasoned, logical thought process while maintaining an open heart.

Reason 1 – A Christian’s Command to Follow Jesus

In matters of faith and religion the easiest approach is to simply defer to what your church and its leaders say. They are presumed to be experts in this area. That’s how I grew up.

As a Catholic youth I was taught that all religious questions and answers were to be found in the Baltimore Catechism. My only task was to memorize them. There were no other questions and no other answers. I was very frustrated by that stance because I had lots of other questions and many of the answers I was being given didn’t seem adequate. I was afraid to speak up because of the constant reminder that failure to follow the teachings of the Church would lead to an eternity of Hell fire and damnation.

As a young adult I had the good fortune to be schooled by Jesuits. Instead of memorizing pre-established questions and answers, they taught critical thinking and applied it to all areas of our lives including religious matters. They required us to think. To challenge underlying assumptions. To understand issues from multiple points of view. To develop our own rational answers to questions. To be able to logically defend our conclusions. Through this process I learned that there are very few easy answers.

As a person of faith, questioning religious positions is extremely difficult. But religious positions have been wrong before and need to be questioned. Remember that the Bible has been used in the past to justify slavery and to keep women subservient to men. So, before automatically condemning homosexuals on religious grounds and denying them access to marriage, we owe them a dose of critical thinking.

Christians are called to be followers of Jesus Christ, and one of the best ways is to live according to the lessons found in the Gospels. What you won’t find in the Gospels is a Jesus who extracted Bible verses and used their literal translation to brand people as special sinners. What you will find is a Jesus who used Scripture as a whole to declare that we all fall short. He told us to clean up our own acts first and not to judge others. He used parables and stories, not selected quotes, to teach important lessons. He said that we are to be known by our love and compassion for others, even our enemies. He showed us how to do that by reaching out to everyone and by including society’s outcasts in his circle of followers.

Nothing Jesus said or did had anything to do with condemning homosexuals or homosexuality. The only group that Jesus chastised was the religious leaders. In the 23rd chapter of Matthew he denounced them for placing heavy burdens on the shoulders of the people and for acting superior to others. He accused them of being hypocrites who talked about the letter of the law but failed to observe its spirit.

The concept of homosexuality was unknown in Biblical times. People then were aware of sex acts between men, but those acts were primarily a matter of demonstrating power and control over another person or simply satisfying lust. Two free men couldn’t have sex because the passive role was only acceptable for inferiors such as women, slaves or male youths who were not of age. People didn’t understand the concept of emotional and physical love between two men. They didn’t understand that this was an innate attraction not a choice. That level of understanding wasn’t achieved until relatively recently. Even the term homosexuality didn’t come into existence until the German psychologist Karoly Maria Benkert coined it in the late 19th century. Since in Biblical times women were considered inferior and the property of a man, sex between two females never even appeared on the Biblical radar screen.

Instead of judging the perceived shortcomings of others, Jesus demonstrated true love towards all.

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”
The Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 22, verses 34-40



Try to observe Jesus through the eyes of the Gospels. Try to imagine what he would do today. Would He condemn gays and lesbians? Would He try to deny them civil rights? Or would He draw them to Himself and shower them with extra love to make up for the pain they have suffered? Would He have harsh words for today’s religious leaders who attack homosexuals and same-sex marriage? Would He marry his gay friends and subsequently have His credentials removed by the church?

Reason 2 – Founding Principles of the United States

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
The Declaration of Independence



When those words were first written, there were many unspoken exclusions beneath the surface equality. Women were assumed to be excluded. So were people of color, non-property owners and non-Christians. Those groups of people were viewed as having been created without the portfolio of unalienable rights enjoyed by white, Protestant, land-owning males whom God obviously favored. Since then, our society has expended enormous effort and achieved significant success in ending those exclusions and extending liberty and justice to an ever-widening circle of people. That effort of inclusion reversed course when it encountered homosexual people.

The primary driver of anti-gay attitudes is the conservative Christian community. One of their religious dogmas brands homosexuals as sexual perverts and unrepentant sinners. That religious belief system is being used to justify the exclusion of gays from Constitutional rights and protections. That approach is in direct violation of the First Amendment that prohibits the establishment of a state-approved religion. Have we forgotten that many of our ancestors fled their countries because their government was ruthlessly imposing some form of religion? Now we are busily creating yet another form of religious governance here. The inherent potential danger of this approach was highly visible in past horrors like the Spanish Inquisition and continues to the present in the theocratic forms of extreme Islamist governments that exist in parts of the Middle East. There are very good reasons to maintain a separation of Church and State even if it is your church today, because tomorrow it might be someone else’s church.

Others argue that marriage must be preserved for heterosexuals, but they are willing to concede some form of civil union or domestic partnership for gays. The concept of separate but equal was found to be constitutionally invalid in racial relations and isn’t valid here either. Any proposal short of full recognition of same-sex marriage remains discriminative by its very nature.

Do you really believe in liberty and justice for all? Do you really believe that people who are different from you in beliefs, skin color, religious affiliation, philosophical outlook or life style don’t deserve the same rights that you enjoy? This country has consistently overcome prejudicial stereotypes and sub-standard treatment of its minorities. How can a person extol the virtues of our system of government and then deny equal rights to gays?

Reason 3 – Faulty Arguments

Many seemingly logical arguments have been used to justify a different approach to dealing with gays and lesbians. Upon closer examination, most of those arguments fall apart because of false logic. Here are some of the most common examples.

One of the most basic arguments is that we are re-defining marriage. Contrary to what many say, marriage has not always been between one man and one woman. Our Biblical forefathers commonly married not only multiple women but had concubines as well. That practice fell into disfavor, but the Mormons reinstated it in the mid-1800s. Black slaves were considered property and hence were not allowed to marry. After the Civil War, blacks could marry other blacks but not whites. All inter-racial marriages were routinely banned in much of the country. Those laws remained on the books in almost one-third of our states until as recently as 40 years ago. Since we have clearly been continuously redefining marriage, we can’t argue against allowing gay marriage simply because it would also redefine marriage.

Some tell us that homosexuals are a special substandard class of sick or immoral people who have chosen a lifestyle that doesn’t deserve recognition or protection. Medical science has demonstrated that those statements are erroneous. The American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have declared that homosexuality is neither mental illness nor moral depravity but simply the way that a minority of our population expresses human love and sexuality. Therefore there is no legitimate medical or psychological reason to treat them differently.

Some charge that gays live aberrant life styles, don’t create lasting relationships and therefore would destroy the institution of marriage. It is true that some gays live aberrant life styles. Some heterosexuals also live aberrant life styles, but no one attempts to ban marriage for all heterosexuals. It is true that some gays have transient relationships. Some heterosexuals also have transient relationships but no one attempts to ban marriage for all heterosexuals based on that fact. It is ironic that while we criticize gays for their “abnormal” life styles, we are constructing legal and social barriers to prevent them from having normal life styles and lasting relationships. Our current practice of forcing homosexuals to live together without the benefit of marriage actually serves to create the very situation that we then use to say proves that they don’t deserve access to marriage.

Still others claim that they want to protect marriage from destruction by homosexual participation, but heterosexuals are doing a pretty good job of ruining the institution of marriage by themselves. During most years of the 1990s, for every two marriages there was one divorce. These were all heterosexual unions and 50% failed.

We have grown up with heterosexual marriage, so the concept of same-sex marriage seems foreign to us. It may be different, but being different isn’t sufficient reason for rejection. If it were, then no existing forms of injustice or mistreatment would ever change. We could simply say, “It’s always been this way,” and the practice would continue.

Reason 4 – The Golden Rule

Treat others the way that you want to be treated is a matter of simple humanity. There is a version of this “rule” in every major religion and humanitarian philosophy. We are supposed to care about others. We may not rush to help them with monetary or material support but, at the very least, we are not supposed to harm them or prevent them from finding happiness. Most times, most of us find it easy to support the golden rule. Yet we somehow manage to justify excluding same-sex marriage from the Golden Rule.

The Jewish concept of “Tikun Olam” is an extension of the Golden Rule and is a spiritual command to repair the world. It embraces the quest for social justice, freedom, equality, peace and a restoration of the environment. It is a call to action and recognizes that each act of human kindness helps to build a new and better world. You won’t find a shred of human kindness in denying gays the opportunity to marry.

What we all need to realize is that this is not a theoretical academic idea, abstract religious concept or hypothetical political philosophy. This is about real people trying to lead a life of love, hope and happiness. How can anyone justify standing in their way? Having gays and lesbians marry doesn’t affect the marriages of any other people. They aren’t asking you to fight for their right to marry. They aren’t asking you to applaud and celebrate their marriages. They only ask that you allow them to have the same thing that you have – a chance to find love and happiness with a partner of their choice.

If your happiness was threatened by a hostile society, you would feel and understand the sting of unwarranted discrimination. How then can you hoard access to fundamental human wants, needs and desires for yourself and deny them to fellow human beings whose only “crime” is that they were born with a different sexual orientation? On what grounds can such an action ever be justified?

Where Does that Leave Us?

I am not a homosexual but have many friends who are. They have expressed the anguish they have felt by their exclusion from main stream society based solely on their sexual orientation. They feel that such rejection is wrong from a spiritual standpoint, from a civil rights standpoint, from a logical standpoint and from a purely human standpoint. I couldn’t agree more. Anyone who is willing to set aside pre-existing views and takes the time to study the issue as described here would likely reach a similar conclusion. It takes effort, BUT…

To be a truly spiritual person requires effort.

“What does God require of us …
To do justice
To love kindness
To walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8



To be a true proponent of our country’s founding principles requires effort.

"Any man who seeks to deny equality among all his brothers
betrays the spirit of the free and invites the mockery of the tyrant."
President Dwight David Eisenhower, Inaugural Address, 1953

To use valid logical arguments requires effort.

“He that cannot reason is a fool.
He that will not is a bigot.
He that dare not is a slave.”
Andrew Carnegie

To be a compassionate human being requires effort.

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
The Dalai Lama

If you agree, then your course of action is clear. If you have any doubts, then simply stand aside and allow spiritual love, civil justice, truth and human compassion to work. That isn’t asking too much when the happiness of so many lives is at stake!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Two States See Economic Boom From Gay Marriage

1490 WBEX Chillicothe, Ohio

Two States See Economic Boom From Gay Marriage

Massachusetts and Connecticut are carving out an economic niche for gay and lesbian weddings -- and the spending that comes with them.
Friday, November 28, 2008
BOSTON (Reuters) - As same-sex marriage stalls in California and a recession looms, Massachusetts and Connecticut are carving out an economic niche for gay and lesbian weddings -- and the spending that comes with them.
While many Americans are postponing weddings as the economy weakens, gay and lesbian couples like Angela Fischer and Tami Schmidt who planned to marry in California are turning to New England instead, a prospect that economists say could have a multimillion-dollar benefit on tourism.

"We had made plans to marry in California but we scrapped that," said Fischer.

Angered by California's November 4 vote to end legal same-sex marriage, Fischer and Schmidt of Phoenix, Arizona, married 16 days later at a United Church of Christ in Hartford, Connecticut. Afterward, they held a reception with friends at a local restaurant and spent a week at a hotel.

"California's loss will be Connecticut's and Massachusetts' gain economically," said M.V. Lee Badgett, an economist at the University of Massachusetts' Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies.

She doubts the bad economy will slow the weddings.

"My sense is that gay people are aware that they can't take the right to marriage for granted -- that it could be taken away. To that extent, people may not wait to get married. They may just have cheaper weddings," she said.

She led a study released in July that said over the next three years about 32,200 same-sex couples would travel from other states to marry in Massachusetts, which became the first state to legalize gay marriage in 2004.

That would translate into 330 jobs and a $111 million boost to the state's economy, the study projects.

She expects a similar benefit over the same period for Connecticut, which legalized gay marriage on November 12. But spending could be higher in both states after California's recent ban on same-sex marriage, she added.

"We take all the hundreds of millions that would have been spent in California, if those folks decide to get married and go to Massachusetts and Connecticut instead, those states will get even more than we had originally estimated," she said.

Another destination for U.S. couples is Canada, where same-sex marriages are legal.

CHASING THE 'PINK DOLLAR'

While all Americans are curbing spending, gay and lesbians are tightening their belts less than heterosexual couples, said Bob Witeck, chief executive of Witeck-Combs Communications, a marketing research firm that specializes in the gay market.

Among his findings: gay men have fewer children, bear a smaller financial burden from families and are less likely to worry about savings. Lesbian women were also cutting back less in areas such as spending on restaurants, he found.

"There are some signals that as the pain is spread, it's uneven. Gay people are going to be feeling it but maybe not in the same capacity as larger households," he said.

The power of the so-called pink-dollar is well documented. The nation's estimated 15.7 million gay men and lesbians, about 5 percent of the population, are responsible for $724 billion in annual spending, according to Witeck-Combs and Packaged Facts, a division of Marketresearch.com.

That number is growing. Individuals age 18 or older who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are projected to reach 16.3 million in three years, spending $835 billion annually -- a figure that translates into $51,200 per person a year, the Witeck/Packaged Facts study shows.

Audra Weisel, a pastry chef in Avon, Connecticut, hopes for a slice of that, after at least 66 marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples since November 12, when a judge legalized gay weddings following an October ruling by the state's top court.

"Lots of couples went out and got their licenses and now they are just planning. As a vendor we're sitting around waiting," said Weisel.

EXPANDING GAY MARRIAGE

The Census estimates Connecticut had 7,386 same-sex couples in 2000. About half of those, or 3,693, will marry in the first three years, predicts a study by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Joe Marfuggi, president of Riverfront Recapture Inc, has taken out advertisements in gay publications in a bid to attract same-sex weddings to a waterfront reception hall on the Connecticut River in Hartford.

"Right now with the way the economy is, people are putting a lot of spending decisions on hold, but we want people to know that our facility is there and that it is welcoming," he said.

Across the state line, there's been no slowdown of same-sex weddings at the Old Mill on the Falls Bed and Breakfast in Hatfield, Massachusetts. "We continue to do a number of gay weddings big and small," said owner Ted Jarrett.

More than 11,000 gay men and lesbians have wed in Massachusetts since the state's highest court ruled in 2003 that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, paving the way for the first gay weddings in 2004. That equals about, 1,500 a year, or 4 percent of all state marriages, in 2006 and 2007. Only two states -- New York and Rhode Island -- recognize marriages on gay couples performed in Massachusetts or Connecticut, a factor that could limit the number of marriages by out-of-state gay couples.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, who helped to legalize gay marriage in Massachusetts and Connecticut, wants to change that by expanding gay marriage to New England's four other states by 2012. Three of those -- Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire -- already offer same-sex couples some form of legal recognition

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Power struggle complicates NY bid for gay marriage | Lifestyle | Reuters

Power struggle complicates NY bid for gay marriage | Lifestyle | Reuters


By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York is close to becoming the first state to pass legislation making gay marriage legal but, like many political issues in the state capital Albany, it has fallen victim to a power struggle.

Democrats won a majority in the upper house Senate for the first time in more than 40 years in the November 4 election, but three Democratic senators refuse to back fellow Democratic Sen. Malcolm Smith as majority leader without concessions.

The Republicans could regain their power in the Senate if the three Democratic senators, who include longtime gay marriage opponent Sen. Ruben Diaz, opt to vote with them.

"I will not give my vote to a leader that will bring gay marriage to the state," Diaz, a Pentecostal minister, said in an interview. "Have a voter referendum. Let the people decide."

Connecticut and Massachusetts are the only states that allow same-sex marriage as a result of court rulings. No state legislature has instituted gay marriage into law.

After Californian voters passed Prop 8 on November 4 reversing the state's Supreme Court decision in May to allow same-sex marriage, the next battleground state for gay marriage is expected to be New York. The New York Assembly passed a marriage bill in June 2007 but the Senate has yet to act.

The Senate power struggle has delayed appointment of a majority leader until January and upset gay rights activists who believed gay marriage would be legalized once Democrats took control of the Senate.

Albany has a reputation for bickering and power struggles, which critics say was demonstrated when the legislature last week rejected Democratic Gov. David Paterson's emergency budget cuts for many reasons, including the Senate leadership battle.

Gay marriage has broad support in the Democratic-controlled lower house, the State Assembly, where it passed in a vote of 85 to 61 last year. It was never put to a vote in the upper house when the Republicans controlled the Senate.

Paterson, who in May ordered all state agencies to recognize out-of-state gay marriages, has said he would sign such a bill into law.

"It's going to happen. It's not an if, it's a when," said Sen. Tom Duane, a same-sex marriage campaigner.

Gay rights groups say they are still hopeful New York and New Jersey legislatures will pass gay marriage bills as soon as 2009 and are unfazed by the New York State Senate leadership struggle.

"When the dust settles, and we do consider it dust, there will be a Democratic majority leader who will put forth a marriage equality bill," said Marty Rouse, national field director for Human Rights Campaign, a major U.S. gay rights group.

Alan Van Capelle, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, said the gay marriage issue had not proven to be toxic as none of the Republican assembly members who voted for same-sex marriage in 2007 were voted out of office.

But Duane Motley, executive director of the Christian lobby group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, said that even if Smith is named majority leader, passage of gay marriage is by no means assured.

"It's not a done deal," he said. "The rank and file people of New York State are not in favor of homosexual marriages."

Smith has not said publicly how he will handle the gay marriage issue if he is made majority leader at the next legislative session in January.

"Rebuilding New York's economy comes first," Smith said in a statement. "Beyond that, I will govern by the consensus of my conference and allow legislation from either party to be openly debated on the Senate floor."

(Editing by Michelle Nichols and Anthony Boadle)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Upstate county nixes same-sex marriage challenge : News : WSTM NBC3

Upstate county nixes same-sex marriage challenge : News : WSTM NBC3

ROCHESTER (AP) -- An upstate New York county has decided not to challenge an appeals court ruling in February declaring that a lesbian couple's marriage in Canada should be recognized in New York.

Patricia Martinez, a word processing supervisor at Monroe Community College, sued the school in 2005 for refusing to extend health benefits to her lesbian partner, Lisa Ann Golden, while granting them to heterosexual married couples.

The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court in Rochester recognized the marriage and ordered the county to extend benefits from Martinez' job to her spouse. Monroe County has now abandoned its intent to appeal and considers the ruling to be New York's law unless changed by the Legislature, said county Attorney Daniel DeLaus.

"It gives us a sense that we can now move forward with our life and our marriage," Martinez, 53, said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

In a family ritual at Thanksgiving each year, "we go around the table and we talk about what we're thankful for," Martinez said. "We have an enormous amount to be thankful for during this holiday season."

Martinez and Golden have known each other for more than 20 years. They formalized their relationship in a civil union ceremony in Vermont in 2001 and were married in Niagara Falls, Canada, in 2004.

The appeals court noted that New York state has historically recognized marriages consecrated elsewhere except in cases of incest or polygamy.

"In dropping its appeal, Monroe County has finally recognized the fact that lesbian and gay couples are entitled to the same protections under state law that other couples receive," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, passed up a chance in May to hear Monroe County's challenge, saying damages due to Martinez needed to be resolved first by the trial judge. In her lawsuit, Martinez is seeking to recover payments to cover her partner's health care costs.

In a 2006 decision, the Court of Appeals said the state's Constitution did not compel the recognition of same-sex marriage. The court left it up to the Legislature to change the traditional definition of marriage.

(Copyright ©2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Proposition 8 case complicated by precedent - MontereyHerald.com :

Proposition 8 case complicated by precedent - MontereyHerald.com :


The legal challenge to California's Proposition 8 has six lawsuits going for it, a host of influential friends of the court and the governor's opinion that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Whether the challenge has a chance is another matter.
In a recent meeting with the Los Angeles Times' editorial board, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger expressed confidence that the ban would be overturned, because the California Supreme Court this year rejected an earlier ban, Proposition 22, as unconstitutional. The governor is being politically sensible but legally naive about this; the arguments against Proposition 8 hang on different precedents, issues and history.

The definition of marriage in the two initiatives is identical: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." But Proposition 8 embeds that definition in the state Constitution, and it would defy reason for the court to hold that part of the Constitution is unconstitutional. In challenging the measure, the lawsuits argue that it is not in fact a constitutional amendment, which requires only a simple majority of the popular vote for passage, but rather a constitutional revision, a fundamental change in the Constitution that entails a far more complicated approval process.

The state Supreme Court has never been all that clear on what it considers revision, but it has set the bar high, finding only twice that supposed amendments actually revised the Constitution. Measures that insert sizable passages on multiple issues seem to fall into the "revision" category; in a 1948 case, the court struck down an amendment that would have added 21,000 words covering various topics to the 55,000-word Constitution.
Proposition 8 lies at the opposite end of the spectrum, a mere 14 words that strip one group of people (homosexual couples) of one right (legally recognized marriage). The California court rejected similar challenges to the death penalty and to a proposition that affected property taxes, both of which, it ruled, were properly considered amendments, not revisions. And this year, the Oregon Court of Appeals rejected a lawsuit on same-sex marriage much like the current lawsuits — Oregon's Constitution has similar provisions on revision and equal protection. As a result, the legal challenge to Proposition 8 is generally seen as a long shot.

Yet that doesn't mean the lawsuits are without merit. The California court has indicated that the quality of the change matters, not just its length or breadth. Gay-rights supporters argue that by stripping a protected group of the right to marry, Proposition 8 nullifies the equal-protection provisions of the U.S. and California constitutions. The Oregon court disagreed, but there is a potentially important difference between the two states: The Oregon Supreme Court has never ruled that marriage is a fundamental right under its state Constitution. The California Supreme Court has.

There are other legal precedents to consider. In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a constitutional amendment in Colorado that would have forbidden all laws protecting civil-rights for homosexuals. The ban violated the equal-protection provisions of the 14th Amendment, the court wrote, by singling out one group to be denied the rights enjoyed by all others.

But there also are differences between the Colorado and California measures. In Colorado, gays and lesbians were denied legal protection against discrimination in housing, employment and other basics of life. The court cited the breadth and basic nature of these rights in its ruling, saying there could be no legitimate state interest in the measure, simply animosity toward one group; in contrast, same-sex marriage is both newer and narrower, although, according to the California high court, an equally basic right.

Although we, too, will welcome the day that Proposition 8 is consigned to history and the right to same-sex marriage is restored to Californians, we are sorry to see that the court agreed to take the cases directly rather than letting this issue percolate up through the lower courts. We see no reason for the haste, despite the intensity of emotion roused by the measure's defeat. In fact, that very heatedness is a reason for the court to move slowly, allowing it to rule under cooler circumstances.

Similarly, painful though it is to see Proposition 8 take effect, we agree with the court's decision to allow it to stand as law until the court rules. This is a hateful measure, passed after a campaign of misleading scare tactics, but it did pass. Suspending further same-sex marriages while the litigation proceeds will delay the exercise of this fundamental right, but we are a democratic nation and one bound by the rule of law; until voters reconsider or the courts decide otherwise, there is no option but to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Many voters will claim that the courts should have no jurisdiction. Just as they did after the California court's May ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, these people will complain about "activist judges" potentially subverting the will of the people. Maybe schools need to strengthen their civics lessons so that future voters will understand that supreme courts specifically are charged with ruling on constitutional questions — and it is a sacred and historic role of the courts to protect minority rights as enshrined in state and federal constitutions. Indeed, if courts merely existed to ratify the will of majorities, they would add little to our society.

The California Supreme Court could rule either way on whether Proposition 8 amounts to a constitutional revision, but the issue demands its attention. The court already has found that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right; now it has the opportunity to fulfill its constitutional obligations to guard against the tyranny of the majority and to ensure that elections do not become vehicles of repression.

— Los Angeles Times editorial

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Dinallo: Insurers Must Treat All Married Couples Equally

Dinallo: Insurers Must Treat All Married Couples Equally




News from New York State Insurance Department

For more information contact: Andy Mais, 212-480-5257

Dinallo: Insurers Must Treat All Married Couples Equally


NEW YORK,NY (11/21/2008; 1323)(readMedia)-- Insurance companies must treat same-sex couples in New York who were legally married outside the State the same as any other validly married couples, irrespective of the sex of the spouses, Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo announced today in a bulletin to all Department licensees. The bulletin, known as a Circular Letter, says that same-sex couples who enter into valid marriages outside of New York must be treated as married people for the purposes of the New York Insurance Law, including for health insurance.


"Insurance is an essential part of our planning for daily life. We expect insurance companies to provide the same rights and benefits to all legally married couples, regardless of the sex of the spouses," Dinallo said. "As Governor David Paterson has explained, this is consistent with the position the State historically has taken with respect to marriages conducted in jurisdictions outside of the State of New York."


The Circular Letter is based on an opinion issued by the Department's Office of General Counsel ("OGC") after a careful legal review that began in early spring. Both consumers and industry triggered the review by asking the Department for guidance about the rights under the New York Insurance Law of same-sex couples whose marriages were legally performed in other jurisdictions. Those inquiries came shortly after an unanimous February 1, 2008 decision by the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Fourth Department in Martinez v. Monroe Community College, 50 A.D.3d 189, 850 N.Y.S.2d 740 (4th Dep't 2008), leave to appeal denied, 10 N.Y. 3d 856 (2008), which held that a woman's Canadian marriage to her same-sex partner is entitled to recognition in New York State, and that her partner therefore is entitled to the health care benefits offered to any other spouse.


On May 6, 2008, New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, refused to hear an appeal from Monroe County. All lower courts in New York are bound to follow Martinez as controlling precedent.


Guided by Martinez and several decisions from lower New York courts, the OGC opinion concludes that same-sex couples in marriages legally performed outside of New York are entitled to the same rights under the Insurance Law as any other legally married couples. Further, an insurer's refusal to extend health insurance or other coverage equally to all couples may constitute unfair discrimination and/or an unfair act or practice that could subject it to discipline imposed pursuant to the New York Insurance Law.


The Department's legal determination covers all Department licensees, and encompasses virtually all insurance products, such as life, disability, long term care, and health insurance. Some employer self-funded group health insurance plans that are regulated by the federal government under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) may not be affected by today's Circular Letter.


The Department's interpretation of the Insurance Law also is consistent with a memorandum dated May 14, 2008 from the Counsel to Governor David A. Paterson, directing all state agencies to review their policy statements, regulations, and statutes to ensure that such laws are construed in a manner, consonant with Martinez, so as to encompass marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other jurisdictions.


The legality of that memorandum was upheld in a decision issued September 2, 2008 by Justice Lucy Billings of the Supreme Court of the State of New York in the Bronx. Justice Billings dismissed a suit filed by the Alliance Defense Fund on behalf of various state lawmakers challenging Governor Paterson's authority to issue the directive.


Consumers with questions about whether a group health plan is subject to State regulation should confer with their benefits administrators. Any consumer who believes he or she is being discriminated against by any insurer regulated by the State, or who has other insurance questions, may obtain assistance by calling the Insurance Department's Consumer Services Hotline on business days between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at 1-800-342-3736, or by visiting the Department's website at www.ins.state.ny.us.


###

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lawmaker threatened over gay marriage plan

Fox 44 - Burlington and Plattsburgh News, Weather and Sports - Fox44.net | Lawmaker threatened over gay marriage plan

Associated Press - November 20, 2008 7:45 AM ET

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Vermont Senate Majority Leader John Campbell says he's been threatened because of his plan to introduce a bill in January to legalize same-sex marriage.

The Windsor County Democrat says he received a call at the Statehouse Wednesday by a woman who threatened to blow up his house.

Campbell says the woman didn't give her name.

Campbell says the call is disturbing. He says you can never tell if the call is from someone giving an emotional reaction or if it's serious.

Vermont was the first state in the country to offer same-sex couples civil unions. Now some believe the state should offer same sex marriage.

Campbell says police are investigating the threat.


Information from: The Times Argus, http://www.timesargus.com/

California Supreme Court to decide fate of Prop. 8 same-sex marriage ban - ContraCostaTimes.com

California Supreme Court to decide fate of Prop. 8 same-sex marriage ban - ContraCostaTimes.com


By Howard Mintz


The California Supreme Court moved swiftly Wednesday to tackle the latest legal showdown over gay marriage, agreeing to consider three lawsuits that challenge the legality of Proposition 8's abolition of same-sex weddings.

At the same time, the state's high court rejected a bid to put Proposition 8 on hold while the legal struggle unfolds, postponing indefinitely any new wedding vows for gay and lesbian couples. The Supreme Court indicated it is likely to rule by June.

The justices' two-page order sets the stage for another historic courtroom collision that may decide whether same-sex couples can resume marrying in California, as well as determine the legal status of thousands of gay and lesbian couples who

Even though the lawsuits did not address the validity of existing gay marriages, the Supreme Court made a point of asking all sides to offer arguments on the question, suggesting they do not want to leave any legal uncertainties when the case is decided.

Couples who have either married or are hoping to marry greeted Wednesday's news with apprehension and cautious optimism the Supreme Court may preserve their rights.

For Lisa Miller and Paula Jabloner of San Jose, news that the Supreme Court would reconsider the validity of their marriage, four days before Proposition 8 passed, was disquieting.

"It would just be a shame for that to be taken away," Miller said.

But Jamie McLeod, a Santa Clara City Council member who hopes to marry partner Vanessa Cooper, was "delighted" the Supreme Court may give her the chance.

"The polls looked like it was going to be close, but I thought we'd be OK," McLeod said of waiting until after the election. "We didn't take the time to say, 'Hey, if this passes we may lose this opportunity.' "

Meeting in private at their weekly conference, the justices voted to review arguments that the same-sex marriage ban was an improper method of amending the California Constitution and interferes with the ability of the judiciary to protect minority rights. The same Supreme Court narrowly struck down California's prior ban on gay marriage in a ruling this spring, but Proposition 8 trumped that decision.

Randy Thomasson, a leading gay marriage opponent, warned that the seven justices — six of them Republican appointees will confront a "voter revolt" if they overturn Proposition 8. Gay marriage foes have warned that they might mount a recall campaign against justices who vote to strike down another ban on same-sex marriage, rekindling memories of a 1986 voter backlash over the death penalty that removed three justices from the court — that time in a retention


But for the most part, all sides indicated Wednesday they are prepared for the court to settle the matter.

"We're very happy they took the case and are going to resolve these issues quickly,'' said Anthony Pugno, Proposition 8's lead attorney.

Lawyers for a host of civil rights groups, same-sex couples and local governments, led by San Francisco and Santa Clara County, also expressed relief the court agreed to consider their lawsuits. Santa Clara County Counsel Ann Ravel said it was critical to protect the equal protection rights of gay couples.

Attorney General Jerry Brown, who earlier this week opposed a stay because it would generate too much legal confusion, has not taken a position on the legal challenges, but did urge the justices to accept the cases to give the state "finality.'' Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has stated publicly that he believes the Supreme Court will again strike down the gay marriage ban.

In the meantime, legal experts are divided over the likely outcome — although most do not believe the court would void the existing same-sex marriages because of precedents that frown on taking away existing rights. The central question in the case is whether a change to the state constitution that removes a legal right for a minority group is so dramatic that it must first be considered by the Legislature before it can be put before the voters.

Gay rights advocates argue that a ballot measure cannot be used to strip away the constitutional rights established in May's Supreme Court ruling. In a technical argument with sweeping ramifications, they contend the gay marriage ban amounted to a revision to the existing state constitution, requiring a two-thirds majority of the Legislature — or a state constitutional convention — to the get the issue on the ballot.

But Proposition 8 supporters insist the measure was a basic amendment to the constitution that could be put on the ballot through a common petition drive. In court briefs, they argue voters have a firm right to amend the state constitution, saying the Supreme Court's May ruling simply trampled on past decisions by voters to outlaw gay marriage. They also point to past voter-backed constitutional amendments upheld in the courts, including California's death penalty law and Proposition 13's overhaul of the property tax system.

Some conservative legal scholars say the Supreme Court has "no lawful authority" to upend the voters on the subject. But a string of prominent law professors have sided with gay rights advocates, including Harvard law Professor Laurence Tribe and Christopher Edley Jr., dean of Boalt Hall School of Law.

"Unlike other cases, this is a case where for the first time people have voted to single out one group of individuals entitled to the highest level of constitutional protection and taken away civil rights,'' said Donna Ryu, a Hastings College of the Law professor. "It eviscerates the equal protection clause.''

Mercury News Staff Writer Mike Swift contributed to this story. Contact Howard Mintz at hmintz@mercurynews.com or (408) 286-0236

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Businesses Get Caught In Gay-Marriage Battle

Independent Street : Small Businesses Get Caught In Gay-Marriage Battle


The cultural war on gay marriage rages on, and business owners — as well as their employees — are being caught up in it.

The approval of Proposition 8, in which California voters voted to overturn same-sex marriage rights, was a major victory for religious conservatives but a setback for the gay rights movement.


Some California business owners, mainly in the wedding industry, who expected to rake in business from Proposition 8’s defeat can only watch helplessly as ordered wedding cakes go unsold and tuxedos remain unrented.

Those businesses weren’t the only ones affected, though. Some small businesses, those who donated money in support of banning gay marriage in California, are being threatened with boycotts.

For example, El Coyote, a Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles, received calls threatening a boycott after it was reported that someone there allegedly contributed $100 to “Yes on 8.” HuffingtonPost.com reported it was actually the restaurant owner, who claimed she’d given the money through her Mormon church. Says Sonja Eddings Brown of ProtectMarriage.com, “We have received calls today from our members in Greater Los Angeles and other parts of the state indicating that today their businesses are being hurt because they contributed money. People who contributed have been receiving calls from people dropping their business with them.”

Backers of gay marriage have also put up a Web site calling for the blacklisting of individuals and organizations that donated money to Proposition 8, saying “Please do not patronize them. 8=HATE.” The list includes the name, title, the company’s name, the location and how much money was donated.

At Yelp.com, a popular consumer review Web site, same-sex marriage supporters have been busy posting comments and identifying businesses that were pro-Prop 8. The San Francisco-based company says it’s removing those postings since they aren’t reviews of first-hand customer experiences in those establishments. Wedding dress designer Amy Kuschel says that her business has been a target on the Web site, even though she’s an opponent of Prop 8. She says one of her employees — not her — had donated $2,500 to the Prop 8 campaign. “If I feel strongly about something and I want to speak out, I should be able to speak out,” Ms. Kuschel says. “But you know without all the information, without all the accurate information, it can be very dangerous and very unfair.”

A federal bailout for Prop. 8 - Los Angeles Times

A federal bailout for Prop. 8 - Los Angeles Times

In 1992, by a 53%-47% split, Coloradans passed an amendment to their state Constitution that repealed laws in Aspen, Boulder and Denver that prohibited discrimination against gays. The amendment barred the state and its political subdivisions from adopting or enforcing any law "whereby homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships" are the basis of a claim of discrimination. Does this sound familiar?

As the proponents of same-sex marriage rights determine the proper response to Proposition 8, it is illuminating to compare Colorado's rejection of "gay rights" with California's repudiation of "gay marriage."


The day after the Nov. 4 election, a coalition of civil rights groups asked the California Supreme Court to declare that Proposition 8 was unlawfully enacted. The essence of their claim is that a constitutional change that rescinds individual rights must first be passed by a supermajority in the Legislature before being submitted to voters. This process-based claim may well have merit, but there exists a more direct means of challenging Proposition 8 based on the U.S. Constitution.

Following the enactment of Colorado's Amendment 2, its opponents filed suit claiming that it unlawfully singled out gays and lesbians as a class to deny them rights that other citizens not only possess but take for granted. These rights include access to housing, government services, public accommodations and public and private employment opportunities without regard to an individual's race, sex, religion, age, ancestry, political belief or other characteristic that defines each of us as a unique human being. Amendment 2, the opponents argued, therefore denied gays and lesbians the equal protection of the laws, which is a guarantee of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

To the surprise of many, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed.


Writing for a 6-3 majority in Romer vs. Evans (1996), Justice Anthony M. Kennedy explained that it "is not within our constitutional tradition to enact laws of this sort. Central both to the idea of the rule of law and to our own Constitution's guarantee of equal protection is the principle that government and each of its parts remain open on impartial terms to all who seek its assistance." Laws such as Amendment 2 "raise the inevitable inference that the disadvantage imposed is born of animosity toward the class of persons affected," Kennedy wrote, adding a reference to another 1973 ruling. "If the constitutional conception of 'equal protection of the laws' means anything, it must at the very least mean that a bare ... desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot constitute a legitimate governmental interest."

Proposition 8 suffers these same constitutional flaws. It provides that gays and lesbians -- alone among consenting adult couples -- shall not have the opportunity to enjoy the rights, privileges and social approbation conferred by the status of lawful marriage. And despite their insistence that the initiative was "not an attack on the gay lifestyle," its proponents were remarkably candid about their disapproval of homosexual families. The amendment, they argued in voter guides, "protects our children from being taught in public schools that 'same-sex marriage' is the same as traditional marriage." It protects marriage "as an essential institution of society" because "the best situation for a child is to be raised by a married mother and father."

But as California's chief justice, Ronald M. George, explained in his opinion declaring the state's previous statutory ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples does nothing to protect the interests of children. "An individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend on the individual's sexual orientation." Moreover, "the exclusion of same-sex couples from the designation of marriage clearly is not necessary in order to afford full protection to all of the rights and benefits that currently are enjoyed by married opposite-sex couples."

In other words, the reasons for denying gay and lesbian couples the right to marry that served as the "factual" basis for Proposition 8 are but pretexts for discrimination.

This is not to say, of course, that the federal courts would hold Proposition 8 to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution. There are differences between the marriage ban and Colorado's prohibition of all sexual orientation anti-discrimination laws. As Kennedy noted in Romer vs. Evans, Amendment 2 "has the peculiar property of imposing a broad and undifferentiated disability on a single named group." Proposition 8, in contrast, was narrowly focused on one civil right -- marriage. Moreover, any court -- especially our current U.S. Supreme Court -- may be reluctant to rule that Californians do not have the power to amend their own state Constitution as a remedy to a judicial interpretation of that very same document.

Yet the Colorado and California initiatives are alike in their essence. Each is, to quote Kennedy, "a classification of persons undertaken for its own sake, something the equal protection clause does not permit." Proposition 8 was explicitly designed to relegate hundreds of thousands of Californians to an inferior legal and social status.

Many gay-rights activists are wary of the current Supreme Court, but five of the justices who formed the majority in Romer vs. Evans remain on the bench. As with so many cases, a ruling likely would hinge on the views of Kennedy, and there is no reason to believe that his judicial opinion has changed in any fundamental way. Besides, any constitutional challenge will take years to make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. By that time, the broader political change that swept over the nation Nov. 4 may have reached the Supreme Court as well.

But even if it hasn't, this 12-year-old precedent from a conservative high court could be the key to reaffirming that fundamental civil rights must be available to all citizens, regardless of race, sexual orientation or other intrinsic human qualities.

Brian E. Gray is a professor at the UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

Melissa Etheridge witholds taxes over gay marriage row | Music | guardian.co.uk

Melissa Etheridge witholds taxes over gay marriage row | Music | guardian.co.uk


The US singer claims the state of California's decision to reverse the legalisation of same sex marriages deprives her and her 'wife/roommate/girlfriend/special lady friend' of their rights

Dan Martin guardian.co.uk, Monday November 10 2008 11.15 GMT Singer Melissa Etheridge has come up with a novel way of protesting against California's ban on gay marriage – she is refusing to pay the state's taxes.

The legality of the singer's marriage has been called into question by the passing last week of Proposition 8, which reverses the recent decision to legalise same sex marriages. And according to Etheridge, this makes her a "second class citizen" in the eyes of the state. But writing on the Daily Beast, Etheridge says that the state will not receive a cent from her.

She wrote: "OK. So Prop 8 has passed. Alright, I get it. 51% of you think I am a second class citizen. Alright, then. So my wife, uh I mean, roommate? Girlfriend? Special lady friend? You are gonna have to help me here because I am not sure what to call her now. Anyways, she and I are not allowed the same right under the state constitution as any other citizen."

She continued: "I am taking that to mean I do not have to pay my state takes because I am not a full citizen. I mean that would just be wrong, to make someone pay taxes and not give them the same rights, sounds like that taxation without representation thing from the history books."

Meanwhile, Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz has said that he believes that California residents were "intimidated" into voting for Proposition 8: "Many people were intimidated on this issue due to the scary misleading communications on the other side. I believe this is, and has always been, a civil rights issue. We should not allow inequality like this is America."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

HIT THEM IN THE POCKET BOOK ; WE are Facists

Pass along to whom you know


Newt Gingrich was on Bill O'Reilly's Fox News Channel show last night.

His comments are indicative that the wheels are coming off not only the Republican but the religious right's busses.

Gays are "facists" because our community is protesting about the basic civil rights that have been stripped of citizens of the United States. The party and the religious right are flailing their arms
trying to stay alive and get any attention. That's the good news.
The bad news is that they have a VERY big megaphone: O'Reilly, Rush,
Hannity. O'Reilly is trying to fan the flames of a "war" (his word)
between blacks and gays. O'Reilly believes that blacks should be outraged because gays are "taking away" (his words) their status as a minority. Unfortunately, these hosts do the thinking for tens of millions of Americans. We can vote with remote controls - turn the damn thing off - and our wallets. Let advertisers know you won't buy
their products as long s they sponsor - endorse - this hate talk.
The GLBT community spends three-quarters-of-a-billion dollars each year. Given the economic disaster in this country, there isn't a company still standing that wants to hear you're not going to spend money with them.


Also another idea is go on the LDS website and order their DVD's and literature it costs them money to send this stuff out hit them in the pocket book when you get their material throw it away. For that matter any of the religious funding organizations and do the same. There is a list of donors being generated fpr those who supported PROP 8 at www.antigayblacklist.com


Michael

"liberty and justice for some"
www.samesexmarriageadvocate.blogspot.com

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gay-marriage rally held outside NYC Mormon temple



By MARCUS FRANKLIN

The Associated Press

November 12, 2008

Supporters of gay marriage gathered outside a Mormon temple Wednesday night to protest the church's support of a California ban on such marriages.

Protesters lined both sides of an avenue outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints near Lincoln Center. Leaders of the Mormon church had encouraged their members to support passage of California's Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment that overturned the California Supreme Court ruling in May legalizing same-sex marriage. The amendment passed 52 percent to 48 percent.

'Shame on you!' the large crowd chanted in a 1-2-3 syncopation while looking up at the temple.

Several protesters held signs asking 'Did you cast a ballot or a stone?' while other signs read 'Latter Day H8' and 'Church of Mormon' with an X drawn over the second M to read 'Moron.'

From the temple, protesters marched south to Columbus Circle.

Organizers of the rally estimated at least 10,000 people participated. Police said they do not give crowd estimates.

Mormon church spokesman Michael Otterson said that while he respected citizens' right to protest, he was 'puzzled' and 'disturbed' by the gathering given that the majority of California's voters approved the amendment.

'This was a very broad-based coalition that defended traditional marriage in a free and democratic election,' Otterson said Wednesday before the rally's start, referring to Protestants, Catholics, evangelicals and Jews as well as Mormons.

'It's a little disturbing to see these protesters singling out the Mormon church,' he said. 'What exactly are these people protesting?'

Like many participants, Dennis Williams said friends who had learned about the rally on the social networking Web site Facebook and through e-mails told him about it.

'I'm fed up and disgusted with religious institutions taking political stances and calling them moral when it's nothing but politics,' the 36-year-old Manhattan resident said. 'It's hypocrisy. Meanwhile, they enjoy tax-free status while trying to deny me rights.'

'I was particularly disturbed to see the number of African-Americans who supported Proposition 8 given our people's historic struggle for equal rights,' said Williams, who is black. 'I want all my rights as a full American citizen, not just as an African-American.'

Williams was referring to the widely reported 70 percent of black California voters who supported the marriage ban, compared with 47 percent of white voters, 53 of Latino voters and 49 percent of Asian voters.

Since the election, the blogosphere has been ablaze with debate on whether black voters tipped the balance. Some blamed anti-Proposition 8 organizers for failing to target black, Latino and Asian voters.

At the rally, some even called on President-elect Barack Obama to support gay marriage, which he said he doesn't support. Obama, who favors civil unions, opposed Proposition 8.

The rally was held several hours after Connecticut legally allowed same-sex couples the right to marry. Massachusetts is the only other state that allows gay marriage.

Rally organizer Corey Johnson emphasized that the last-minute protest was intended to be peaceful, and police reported no arrests. Johnson and co-organizer Jay Blotcher said they feared the success of Proposition 8 would 'embolden the religious right' to 'train their eye on other states' such as New York.

'We're going to keep working and fighting for marriage equality in New York and across the country,' Johnson said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The court will overturn Prop. 8

The court will overturn Prop. 8:


In the arena of civil rights, the black church has always been a beacon of enlightenment. On Nov. 4, 2008, some black churches became bastions of benightedness. I am convinced that no amount of talking, explaining or pleading - and no amount of money - will ever persuade those African Americans, and others similarly minded who opposed same-sex marriage on religious grounds, to change their views. Reason in the face of religious bigotry is impotent. Although some may disagree, I believe that the No on Prop. 8 campaign could not have done anything more to reach those voters.



"That said, I am entirely convinced that same-sex marriage will again be legalized in California, the 52 percent vote notwithstanding. Just as the courts overrode the will of the majority in ordering desegregation of public schools and public accommodations, and just as the courts ignored the demands of the electorate by opening voting to people of color and the right to marry to mixed-race couples, so, too, will the courts, in defiance of the majority, however slim, reopen the doors of marriage to the gay community. The Sturm und Drang with which society greeted these courageous and controversial court rulings was ultimately replaced by acceptance. I predict that same-sex marriage will follow the same path. After all, 18,000 couples already have wed and the world has not stopped turning. On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court boldly bestowed upon gay couples the right to marry. I have no doubt that these brave justices will do it again.
Walter White, past executive secretary of the NAACP, a black man who was so light- skinned that he was always mistaken for white, famously wrote, 'I am white and I am black, and know that there is no difference. Each casts a shadow, and all shadows are black.' I am black and I am gay, and I know the same.
LaDoris H. Cordell, a retired Superior Court judge, is a special counselor for campus relations to the president of Stanford University.
This article appeared on page B - 7 of the San Francisco Chronicle"

Same-Sex Couples Can Obtain Marriage Licenses Today in CT -- Courant.com

Same-Sex Couples Can Obtain Marriage Licenses Today -- Courant.com


By DANIELA ALTIMARI

The Hartford Courant

November 12, 2008

Connecticut begins issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples today, a historic milestone that gays and lesbians will celebrate and social conservatives will grieve.

Many others are likely to respond with a shrug.

"They could do what they want to do," said Karen Dowdell, a 61-year-old Hartford resident who was shopping at Corbins Corner in West Hartford Tuesday morning. "I could care less."

"I don't think it's a big deal," said Robert San Angelo, 57, of Naugatuck. He supports same-sex marriage, but when asked if it is a significant issue, he shook his head and said, "I think the economy is a lot more important."

Experts who track public attitudes toward gays and lesbians say such low-key reactions aren't surprising in this small, liberal state. Citizens here have long displayed a distaste for the culture wars that have riven so much of the nation, as evidenced by the fierce and costly fight over same-sex marriage that just concluded in California.

"A lot of Americans, particularly in a state like Connecticut, are getting more and more used to the idea," said Patrick J. Egan, assistant professor of politics at New York University.

Besides, he added, "everyone's attention is focused on bread and butter issues, like, 'How's my 401(k)?' These controversial decisions get lost in the fray."

Same-sex marriage comes to Connecticut more than four years after it arrived in Massachusetts. Those first-in-the-nation gay weddings were met with a burst of hoopla. Reporters from as far as Japan came to cover the story, the "Today" show broadcast from Boston's City Hall Plaza and there were scattered protests amid the celebrations, according to accounts in the Boston Globe.

Contrast that to Connecticut, where the gay rights coalition Love Makes a Family has received a smattering of calls from international media, "but nothing compared to what they received in Mass.," said Anne Stanback, the group's president.

Gay rights proponents began laying the groundwork for same-sex marriage in Connecticut about a decade ago. They built coalitions with non-gay activists and celebrated a series of incremental wins — notably the legislature's vote legalizing civil unions in 2005 — that allowed the public to gradually get used to the idea of same-sex partnerships.

Unlike the heated political battles that erupted in the Bay State, Connecticut's march toward marriage has been remarkably calm.

"It's always harder to be the first state," observed Mary Bernstein, associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut.

Now, "at least in New England, it's becoming ... old hat," Stanback said. In fact, she added, for most people in Connecticut, same-sex marriage is "a big yawn."

Not so elsewhere: 30 states now have bans on same-sex marriage enshrined in their constitutions.

For national gay rights activists, the victory in Connecticut was largely overshadowed by stinging Election Day losses in other parts of the nation. Voters in California, Arizona and Florida approved constitutional amendments prohibiting gay marriage. The outcome in California, where about 17,000 gay and lesbian weddings have taken place since June, was particularly devastating for supporters of same-sex marriage.

In many states, backing same-sex marriage is a politically risky move. But not here, said Rep. Michael Lawlor, a Democrat from East Haven and a leading proponent of gay rights. He said his constituents seldom broach the topic; the matter didn't even come up in his last two re-election campaigns.

"It's an interesting issue, fascinating from a political science point of view, but it's not near the top of anyone's list ... it's just not that big a deal," Lawlor said.

"[Today] will come and go, and I think what kind of puppy Barack Obama will get will be a much bigger topic of conversation in Connecticut than the fact that several dozen couples will get married," Lawlor said.

Polls show that a majority of the state's residents approve of the court's same-sex marriage ruling. Liz Radl, 24, of Bristol, counts herself among them. She has friends who are gay and said she is thrilled that they will now be treated equally under the law. But, she added, "Unless you come into contact with that part of our culture, you probably don't think about it much."

Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, disputed the notion that state residents don't care about same-sex marriage, saying the group was flooded with calls the day the Connecticut Supreme Court issued its ruling. Wolfgang also was heartened that most of the institute's endorsed candidates were victorious in the legislative election.

Wolfgang said that when the issue is brought directly to voters, even in blue states such as California and Oregon, gay marriage often loses. "Every state that has had a chance to vote on this has voted the right way," he said.

Still, Wolfgang acknowledged that voters during the last two legislative election cycles appeared to be preoccupied with other issues. "In 2006, it was the Iraq war; in 2008, it was the economy," he said. "These are the issues that are much more on voters' minds."

Wolfgang compared the plight of groups such as the Family Institute, which favor a traditional definition of marriage, to the anti-abortion movement after Roe v. Wade. "We will work for the day when marriage as between a man and a woman will be protected and restored in Connecticut," he said. "In the meantime, we will work to limit the damage."

Copyright © 2008, The Hartford Courant

Civil Unions Are Not Enough

1. Assigning same-sex couples to a status
other than marriage brea ks the promise of equality
The highest courts in three states — California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts — have said that maintaining a separate legal status like civil unions for a minority, rather than treating everyone the same, is a violation of the constitutional promise of equality. Civil unions were created as a political compromise because some people were not ready to provide same-sex couples with the same right to marry that different-sex couples have. In order to reserve the right to marry for those in the majority, same-sex couples were relegated to a separate, unfamiliar and unequal legal status. Our constitutional democracy depends on honoring the promises made in our government’s charter, yet civil unions break the Constitution’s promise of equality. Courts carry out the duties entrusted to them to enforce the Constitution in order to help ensure its promises are kept. Likewise, legislatures have a solemn obligation to uphold the Constitution’s promise of equality for all.
Additional online resources:
Protecting Same-Sex Relationships
2. Ma rriage matters: Why else would it
be denied?
In its decision declaring the denial of the right to marry unconstitutional, Connecticut’s highest court said: "We agree with the following point made by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., in its amicus brief: 'Any married couple [reasonably] would feel that they had lost something precious and irreplaceable if the government were to tell them that they no longer were 'married' and instead were in a 'civil union.' The sense of being 'married' — what this conveys to a couple and their community, and the security of having others clearly understand the fact of their marriage and all it signifies — would be taken from them. These losses are part of what same-sex couples are denied when government assigns them a 'civil union' status. If the tables were turned, very few heterosexuals would countenance being told that they could enter only civil unions and that marriage is reserved for lesbian and gay couples. Surely there is [a] constitutional injury when the majority imposes on the minority that which it would not accept for itself.'" Restricting couples to civil unions rather than allowing them to marry is a big deal. Indeed, if access to marriage weren’t a big deal, there would be no effort to restrict it in the first place.
Additional online resources:
Lambda Legal’s friend-of-the-court brief
The Connecticut Decision
3. A civil un ion has to be explained
and does not get the same respect
as a marriage
Only the word married conveys the universally understood meaning applicable to the lifetime commitment many couples make. Marriage has a meaning unmatched by any other word. Regardless of whether civil unions and marriage offer the same benefits and obligations on paper, when the government relegates same-sex couples to civil unions rather than marriage, it forces them to explain the difference at work, at school, in hospitals and elsewhere. Those couples lose the respect and dignity that they deserve for their commitment to be responsible for each other. Chief Justice Poritz of the New Jersey Supreme Court understood this. In her opinion in Lambda Legal’s successful Lewis v. Harris case, which required the state legislature to pass at least a civil union law, she quoted from our plaintiffs’ testimony about how important it is to be able to use words that match their lives, and how, without the word marriage, other people “have to wonder what kind of relationship it is or how to refer to it or how much to respect it.” The court created a minimum standard, and so far New Jersey’s legislature has left same-sex couples with only the minimum.
Additional online resources:
The New Jersey Decision
www.lambdalegal.org
4. A separate and unequal status invites others to discriminate
When the government decides one group cannot have the same choice as others, it marks them as inferior and invites others to discriminate against them as well, including employers, businesses, police, emergency room workers and others. Lambda Legal has testimony and numerous phone calls to our Help Desks to prove it. Take one example: Two lesbians had a civil union protected by law. One with kidney failure was hospitalized and unconscious, and the other could not get hospital staff to respect their relationship. The staff even took the patient’s commitment ring off her finger for safekeeping and refused to give the ring to her partner. Instead, they asked her to identify the patient’s blood relatives. Lambda Legal located the hospital’s attorney and got him to make the calls necessary to ensure respect for the couple’s relationship — but only after the couple underwent emotional trauma. This happens even with the well-intentioned. The otherwise LGBT-friendly employer, UPS, initially denied spousal health insurance to our civil-unionized clients in New Jersey. They said that "[b]ased on an initial legal review when New Jersey's civil union law was enacted, it did not appear that a 'civil union' and 'marriage' were equivalent," even though the specific text of the law defined civil union partners as spouses. UPS’s initial position underscored the U.S. Supreme Court’s words in Lambda Legal’s successful Lawrence v. Texas case: the government’s label of inferiority for gay people is a blanket invitation for others to discriminate against them in all areas of their lives.
Additional online resources:
The UPS case
5. Allowing marriage doesn’t hurt others, but imposing civil unions
hurts children
In its decision that a civil union law in California (there called a domestic partnership law) did not provide equality under the constitution, that state’s highest court listed these top two reasons why civil unions are not enough:“First, the exclusion of same-sex couples from the designation of marriage clearly is not necessary in order to afford full protection to all of the rights and benefits that currently are enjoyed by married opposite-sex couples; permitting same-sex couples access to the designation of marriage will not deprive opposite-sex couples of any rights and will not alter the legal framework of the institution of marriage, because same-sex couples who choose to marry will be subject to the same obligations and duties that currently are imposed on married opposite-sex couples. Second, retaining the traditional definition of marriage and affording same-sex couples only a separate and differently named family relationship will, as a realistic matter, impose appreciable harm on same-sex couples and their children, because denying such couples access to the familiar and highly favored designation of marriage is likely to cast doubt on whether the official family relationship of same-sex couples enjoys dignity equal to that of opposite-sex couples.”
Additional online resources:
The California Decision
6. Imposing Civil Unions Creates More Harms Outside The State
The federal government and some other states disrespect same-sex married couples when they cross state lines or deal with federal taxes or social security. When a couple's own state creates a separate status for them, it makes them even more vulnerable. As a result, same-sex couples are increasingly avoiding tourist destinations in states that bar them from legal protections, and national membership organizations and multi-state employers have begun to consider policies that avoid planning conventions, conferences or meetings in states where some members or employees may not feel that they are adequately safe as a legal matter (see the Safety Scale below). The more vulnerable couples are, the more time, trouble and expense for them to get protective legal documents (see the life-planning toolkit below).
Additional online resources:
Lambda Legal’s Safety Scale: Respect for Same-Sex Couples’ Relationships
Lambda Legal’s life planning toolkit, Take the Power:
Tools for Life and Financial Planning
Visit www.lambdalegal.org/relationship-information for additio

Olbermann: Gay marriage is a question of love - Countdown with Keith Olbermann- msnbc.com

Keith On behalf of the LGBT community we want to thank you for your heartfelt comments and support. With your help we will win this battle. Olbermann: Gay marriage is a question of love - Countdown with Keith Olbermann- msnbc.com SPECIAL COMMENT By Keith Olbermann Anchor, 'Countdown' msnbc.com updated 9:13 p.m. ET, Mon., Nov. 10, 2008 Finally tonight as promised, a Special Comment on the passage, last week, of Proposition Eight in California, which rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry, and tilted the balance on this issue, from coast to coast. Some parameters, as preface. This isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics, and this isn't really just about Prop-8. And I don't have a personal investment in this: I'm not gay, I had to strain to think of one member of even my very extended family who is, I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues fighting the prejudice that still pervades their lives. And yet to me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because this isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics. This is about the human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it. If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don't want to deny you yours. They don't want to take anything away from you. They want what you want—a chance to be a little less alone in the world. Only now you are saying to them—no. You can't have it on these terms. Maybe something similar. If they behave. If they don't cause too much trouble. You'll even give them all the same legal rights—even as you're taking away the legal right, which they already had. A world around them, still anchored in love and marriage, and you are saying, no, you can't marry. What if somebody passed a law that said you couldn't marry? I keep hearing this term "re-defining" marriage. If this country hadn't re-defined marriage, black people still couldn't marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal in 1967. 1967. The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn't have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it's worse than that. If this country had not "re-defined" marriage, some black people still couldn't marry black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not "Until Death, Do You Part," but "Until Death or Distance, Do You Part." Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized. You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are gay. And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing, centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children, all because we said a man couldn't marry another man, or a woman couldn't marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage. How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the "sanctity" of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless? What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don't you, as human beings, have to embrace... that love? The world is barren enough. It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work. And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling. With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do? With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate... this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness—this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness—share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." You are asked now, by your country, and perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another. You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand, on a question of love. All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate. You don't have to help it, you don't have it applaud it, you don't have to fight for it. Just don't put it out. Just don't extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don't know and you don't understand and maybe you don't even want to know. It is, in fact, the ember of your love, for your fellow person just because this is the only world we have. And the other guy counts, too. This is the second time in ten days I find myself concluding by turning to, of all things, the closing plea for mercy by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial. But what he said, fits what is really at the heart of this: "I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar-Khayyam," he told the judge. It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all: So I be written in the Book of Love; I do not care about that Book above. Erase my name, or write it as you will, So I be written in the Book of Love."
video

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Schwarzenegger tells backers of gay marriage: Don't give up - Los Angeles Times

Schwarzenegger tells backers of gay marriage: Don't give up - Los Angeles Times

The governor expresses hope that Proposition 8 would be overturned as protesters continued to march outside churches across California.
By Michael Rothfeld and Tony Barboza
November 10, 2008
Reporting from Sacramento and Lake Forest -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sunday expressed hope that the California Supreme Court would overturn Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage. He also predicted that the 18,000 gay and lesbian couples who have already wed would not see their marriages nullified by the initiative.

"It's unfortunate, obviously, but it's not the end," Schwarzenegger said in an interview Sunday on CNN. "I think that we will again maybe undo that, if the court is willing to do that, and then move forward from there and again lead in that area."



Proposition 8: The battle over gay... Photos: L.A. protest of Prop. 8Schwarzenegger urges GOP to move beyond ideology
Anti-Prop. 8 protests spring up in California
Uncounted ballots unlikely to reverse Proposition 8

With his favorable comments toward gay marriage, the governor's thinking appears to have evolved on the issue.

In past statements, he has said he believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman and has rejected legislation authorizing same-sex marriage. Yet he has also said he would not care if same-sex marriage were legal, saying he believed that such an important societal issue should be determined by the voters or the courts.

Schwarzenegger publicly opposed Proposition 8, which amends the state Constitution to declare that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."


On Sunday, he urged backers of gay marriage to follow the lesson he learned as a bodybuilder trying to lift weights that were too heavy for him at first. "I learned that you should never ever give up. . . . They should never give up. They should be on it and on it until they get it done."

The governor's position on the fate of the existing same-sex marriages aligns him with California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, who has said he believes that the state Supreme Court will uphold the existing marriages as valid.

The 14-word constitutional amendment does not state explicitly that it would nullify same-sex marriages performed before the Nov. 4 election, although proponents say it will. Legal experts differ on this point.

Schwarzenegger's comments came as protesters took to the streets for a fifth day in a row, sometimes marching to Catholic and Mormon churches that supported passage of the ballot measure.

Hundreds of Proposition 8 protesters in Orange County gathered down the hill from Saddleback Church in Lake Forest as several thousand congregants attended services inside the sprawling religious campus.

Martijn Hostetler, 30, of West Hollywood held a sign that read "Purpose Driven Hate," a dig at the church's celebrity Pastor Rick Warren, author of the bestseller "The Purpose-Driven Life," who backed the ballot measure. "I don't think Jesus would approve of a gay-marriage ban," he said. "I don't think God discriminates."

While demonstrators received supportive honks from motorists, many members of the mega-church said they had little sympathy for the protesters because the matter had already been settled by voters.

"We're a democracy and our strength is that the majority wins the vote," said John Kirkpatrick, a church member.

Sherrie Derriko, a longtime Saddleback Church member and hair salon owner from Mission Viejo, said she was bothered that protesters had targeted houses of worship. As she drove by, she rolled down her window to offer some advice.

"Read the Bible. God made man and woman, and that's what a marriage is," she called from inside her SUV.

Derriko recounted the incident after attending services. "When we saw them out there, we thought, 'Why are they not over this? Do they think they're going to change anything, or are they just stirring up trouble at our church?' "

But for Sally "Sal" Landers, 52, a Saddleback Church member from Lake Forest, her participation in the protest was a deeply personal matter. Landers and her female partner of three years plan to marry and adopt children. When she received an e-mail from Warren urging a "yes" vote on Proposition 8, she said, "I felt like I was kicked in the stomach by someone who loves unconditionally."

So on Sunday, Landers joined the protesters outside the church rather than the parishioners inside. "We really love him and respect his opinion," Landers said of Warren. "I need some reassurance that I'm welcome here as a gay American citizen."

Other protests were staged outside Mormon temples or churches in Oakland, Yucca Valley and other cities.

In downtown Los Angeles, 150 protesters congregated in front of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, chanting, among other things, "What would Jesus say?" The crowd was joined later in the day by protesters who marched from Lincoln Park on the city's Eastside.

Some churches, to be sure, assailed Proposition 8 as discriminatory.

"We will continue to bless same-sex unions here until we can legally celebrate same-sex unions again," the Rev. Ed Bacon told 1,000 congregants during Sunday services at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, which has blessed same-sex unions for 16 years.

After the service, Bacon and other clergy members held a news conference on the church steps. They were surrounded by gay and lesbian couples, some standing with young children.

"I know these couples. I know their relationships," Bacon said, addressing a phalanx of television cameras. "They should be celebrated, rather than disparaged. . . . In the eyes of God, these people are married."

Rothfeld and Barboza are Times staff writers