Friday, January 30, 2009

Federal judge refuses to block names of gay marriage foes | L.A. Now | Los Angeles Times

Federal judge refuses to block names of gay marriage foes | L.A. Now | Los Angeles Times

A federal judge today denied a request by supporters of Proposition 8 to withhold disclosing anymore names and addresses of donors who gave money to pass the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Yes on 8 campaign officials had challenged the constitutionality of the state’s Political Reform Act, saying that people who gave money were being harassed and some had even received death threats.

The act, passed in 1974, requires campaigns to reveal the name and employer of people who give more than $100 to campaigns. The law is intended to prevent money laundering and other illegal campaign activities.

But campaign supporters requested they be exempted from it arguing their supporters were being unmercifully harassed.

A judge disagreed, clearing the way for the donors who made contributions in the last two weeks before the election to be made public on Monday, the next filing date.

“This is a victory for the people of California and for campaign finance disclosure,” said Roman Porter, executive director for the California Fair Political Practices Commission. “We will vigorously defend public disclosure on behalf of the people of California on this and any other case.”

GLT » Maine group to fight same-sex marriage bill

GLT » Maine group to fight same-sex marriage bill

Supporters, foes of same-sex marriage debate timing
Published Thursday, 29-Jan-2009 in issue 1101
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – A Republican political action committee said it’s organizing a grassroots effort to defeat a same-sex marriage bill.
The Maine Republican Project is opposing a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Dennis Damon of Trenton defines marriage as the legally recognized union of two people instead of a man and a woman.
Dean Scontras of the Maine Republican Project said his group’s members were concerned about the timing of the Damon’s bill. “This will simply absorb valuable legislative cycles that should be dedicated toward repairing the economic situation of so many Mainers,” Scontras said.
Meanwhile, Republican state Rep. Les Fossel of Alna is sponsoring a bill to ensure that couples on Maine’s Domestic Partner Registry receive the same legal rights and benefits as married couples. Fossel said that currently, married couples enjoy certain rights that are denied to unmarried couples in a variety of areas, including financial benefits.
Fossel said Damon’s same-sex marriage bill will trigger emotional debate and predicted that if it passes, it will face a people’s veto initiative. He said his bill tries to find middle ground.
“This bill might not be perfect for everyone, but it is the only bill with a chance of succeeding without immediately triggering a referendum to repeal,” said Fossel. “I suggest we’re far better off with an equitable solution than with animosity and division.”
The early debate over the same-sex marriage proposal is focusing less on the issue and more on the timing as state lawmakers face serious budget problems.
Critics say it’s the wrong time for lawmakers to debate the bill because of the budget problems. Gov. John Baldacci’s $6.1 billion two-year budget would cut 219 positions. The highway budget also would eliminate 137 positions.
“I think people don’t want to discuss the issue,” said Bob Emrich of the Maine Marriage Alliance, a group that wants a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. “It’s an uncomfortable and unpopular issue that’s likely to bring a lot of resentment.”
But Mary Bonauto, a lawyer with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, said her organization is catching flak for failing to act sooner.
“We all take a lot of grief from people for not having done this a long time ago,” she said. “It’s irrepressible at this point.”
Last week, gay advocates announced their plans to move forward with the bill, which surprised political scientists.
Mark Brewer, political science professor at the University of Maine, said economic concerns are dominating most political discussions these days.
“I was surprised that piece of legislation was coming forward now – not so much having to do with the issue or legislation, but because everyone’s attention is so focused on the economic crisis,” Brewer said.
Sen. Peter Mills, R-Cornville, said a newly energized youth vote prompted by Democratic President-elect Barack Obama could help the activists. But Mills, like Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, said he has not made up his mind on the measure.
“It’s surprising they are doing it without the governor’s overt support,” he said.
James Melcher, political science professor at the University of Maine at Farmington, said he’s not sure Mainers are ready for same-sex marriage.
“It’s hard to see it passing in a statewide vote,” he said.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Arguments in place as Prop. 8 hearing nears

Arguments in place as Prop. 8 hearing nears

(01-25) 20:59 PST -- In thousands of pages, the combatants in the Proposition 8 fight have made their case to the state Supreme Court.

On one side: the people's right to amend their Constitution and define marriage. On the other side: the courts' duty to protect minorities, such as gays and lesbians, from the tyranny of the majority.

The briefs are all in, from sponsors and opponents of the ballot measure banning same-sex marriage and their far-flung allies - organizations as mainstream as the AFL-CIO and the California Catholic Conference and as unconventional as the Church of the Messiah and a No on 8 group called Love, Honor, Cherish.

The next step is a court hearing, perhaps by the first week of March in San Francisco. A ruling, due 90 days later, should be the last word on the validity of the Nov. 4 initiative and the 18,000 same-sex weddings performed before it passed, at least until the losing side puts the issue on the ballot again.

Prop. 8 declared that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. The measure amended the state Constitution after the state's high court ruled May 15 that the previous ban on same-sex marriage - endorsed by the voters in 2000 - discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation and violated the constitutional right to marry the partner of one's choice.
Opponents' case

Opponents argue that Prop. 8, though now part of the Constitution, is invalid for three reasons:

-- It had such a drastic impact on individual rights that it amounted to a revision of the Constitution, not merely an amendment. A revision can be placed on the ballot only by a two-thirds legislative vote or by delegates to a constitutional convention.

-- It violated the constitutional separation of powers by stripping the courts of their authority to protect a minority group from discrimination.

-- It eliminated "inalienable rights," those protected by the Declaration of Rights in the opening clause of the state Constitution, without a compelling reason. That argument comes from Attorney General Jerry Brown, who reversed course after defending the previous marriage law before the court.

Brown's new stance left the defense of Prop. 8 to its sponsoring organization, Protect Marriage, which portrays its case as a defense of democracy itself.
Starr's argument

"The Constitution has now been amended, by the sovereign people who are its creators. That is the beginning and end of this case," the group's lawyers - Kenneth Starr, the prosecutor in President Bill Clinton's impeachment, and Andrew Pugno - said in their final round of written arguments last week.

Prop. 8, they said, makes no far-reaching changes in the structure of state government - a standard the court has used to define a constitutional revision - but merely restores the long-standing definition of marriage while leaving same-sex couples' rights intact under domestic partner laws.

Opponents' arguments, the lawyers said, amount to "a call for a constitutional revolution."

Brown's brief countered that Prop. 8 makes an "unprecedented change to the California Constitution by taking away the fundamental rights of a vulnerable minority." Same-sex couples who sued to overturn the ballot measure cast its proponents as would-be constitutional revolutionaries.

Defenders of the initiative are promoting a "radical vision of a constitutional structure in which the rights of minorities are utterly subservient to even temporary majority sentiment," said lawyers for the couples.

Only the judiciary, "the last bulwark against majority oppression," can protect the principle of equality at the core of the Constitution, said the city of San Francisco, which led city and county governments in a separate suit challenging Prop. 8.
Plenty of other voices

Last week's arguments came from the official parties in the case, the only ones with the right to speak at the hearing and file appeals. The court has also heard from 63 organizations and individuals with an array of written arguments on legal, social and religious issues related to the case, about two-thirds of them opposing Prop. 8.

The friend-of-the-court briefs come from legal scholars, civil rights advocates, competing religious coalitions and individual churches, labor and business organizations, and a few authors with an ax to grind, such as a self-described defender of "the civil rights of this nation's male minority" who warned against lesbians' "exterminationist" agenda.

Such outpourings have become common in major cases - court spokeswoman Lynn Holton said 68 nonparties filed briefs in last year's marriage case - and the arguments occasionally show up in court opinions. One example was the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 ruling allowing the limited use of race in state college admissions, which cited filings by military and business leaders favoring affirmative action.
Value debatable

The briefs sometimes give courts additional perspectives, particularly when they come from a trusted source, or at least show that the public considers the case important, former California Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas said in an interview. He said their value was expressed by the late Justice Stanley Mosk, who was fond of saying, "We should take wisdom from wherever it comes."

But San Francisco attorney Dennis Maio, a staff attorney on the state's high court from 1984 to 2004, said friend-of-the-court briefs might help persuade the court to grant review of a case but almost never contribute to a ruling. "The issues are framed by the parties," he said.

The briefs nonetheless represent the views of some major constituencies in California, including the state AFL-CIO, whose unions have 2 million members in the state.

Urging the court to overturn Prop. 8, attorney William Sokol wrote, "Today, it is gays and lesbians who are singled out. Tomorrow, it could be trade unionists."
Dueling religious cases

On the other side, James Sweeney, a lawyer for the California Catholic Conference, also representing congregations of Seventh-Day Adventists and Orthodox Jews, said religious institutions might be sued for acting on their beliefs against same-sex marriage - for example, by excluding gay or lesbian couples from married student housing at a church college - if Prop. 8 were overturned.

A group of more liberal denominations, led by the 4,000-member California Council of Churches, argued that Prop. 8 could open the door to religious persecution. The Rev. Mark Shirilau of Riverside, who founded the gay-friendly Ecumenical Catholic Church in 1987 and has congregations in several states, said the measure's declaration that only male-female marriage is recognized in California is false because his church performs and recognizes same-sex weddings.

Scores of current and former state legislators signed a brief against Prop. 8. Three Republican congressmen - Wally Herger of Marysville (Yuba County), Dan Lungren of Gold River (Sacramento County) and George Radanovich of Mariposa - signed a brief supporting the measure and also arguing that San Francisco and other local governments have no right to sue because they "clearly have no sexual orientation" and thus have no rights at stake.

One unique brief came from T.M. Reverend Messiah, pastor of the Church of the Messiah in Marina del Rey (Los Angeles County). He cited 42 biblical passages that showed, he said, that male-female unions were ordained by God, homosexuality is unnatural, and Prop. 8 is valid.

"Why can't everybody accept the fact that there are different things for different persons?" he asked. "Marriage is for heterosexuals and not homosexuals."

Read the briefs

Briefs filed with the state Supreme Court in the Proposition 8 case may be read at:

E-mail Bob Egelko at

Your Government Respects Your Marriage 09.PDF (application/pdf Object)

All of you married NY couples should read this document go to the link

Your Government Respects Your Marriage 09.PDF (application/pdf Object)

Rights Groups Release Updated Guide for New York Same-Sex Couples Married Out of State

(New York, January 26, 2009) — Lambda Legal, Empire State Pride Agenda, New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union have released a guide outlining government protections and obligations for same-sex couples in New York who married out of state. The updated guide is released as the first anniversary of Martinez v. County of Monroe draws near, and in light of last week’s decision in Lewis v. New York State Dept. of Civil Service—both notable appellate court rulings that upheld government recognition of out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples.

The document, titled: Your Government Respects Your Marriage: Developments in New York State Agency Recognition of Same-Sex Couples’ Out-of-State Marriages, details many of the ways state agencies around New York accord legal respect to married same-sex couples. Lambda Legal, NYCLU, Empire State Pride Agenda and ACLU worked closely with state agencies to confirm and clarify the legal rights afforded to same-sex couples married out of state. The summary offers an overview of some of these statewide protections.

“Policymakers and elected officials in New York should recognize that we’re already living in a state with marriage for same-sex couples. Unfortunately, these couples currently have to go out of state to have their weddings performed,” said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda. “Not only does this mean a loss of literally millions of dollars to New York’s economy, but it is also patently unfair to same-sex couples. New Yorkers shouldn’t have to go elsewhere to get married when they want to stand up in front of friends and family right here and get married in their home state.”

“The guide is a crucial primer for same-sex couples who are recognized as spouses in New York,” said Susan Sommer, senior counsel at Lambda Legal, who has litigated many of the cases confirming marriage respect for same-sex couples. “It shows significant areas in which these couples now are protected, ranging from access to health insurance, to accurate birth certificates for children born to same-sex couples, to important workers’ compensation benefits if tragedy strikes. But until New Yorkers in same-sex relationships can marry in their home state, they are still vulnerable to discrimination."

“Couples in New York who have never known true security for their families are finally getting a taste of the family protections other married couples and their children enjoy,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The governor’s determination was based on the NYCLU’s victory in the case Martinez v. County of Monroe, in which an appeals court unanimously ruled that New York State must recognize valid out-of-state marriages of lesbian and gay couples. We commend the governor and our state agencies for following the law and standing up for fairness. But lasting progress requires leadership from both the judicial and legislative branches. It’s time for our political leaders to do what’s right. New Yorkers should not have to leave the state to protect their families.”

Friday, January 23, 2009

California's Proposition 8--Ours to Lose? Nope. It was always an Uphill Climb - Towleroad, More than gay news. More gay men

California's Proposition 8--Ours to Lose? Nope. It was always an Uphill Climb - Towleroad, More than gay news. More gay men

California's Proposition 8--Ours to Lose? Nope.
It was always an Uphill Climb

GuestbloggerMATT FOREMAN

Matt Foreman is the former director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Empire State Pride Agenda. He is currently a program director at the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. He released this op-ed yesterday

A lot of people have been saying that Prop 8 was our side's to lose and that missteps by the No on 8 Campaign snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Those analyses ignore hard core obstacles and fundamentals underlying the contest, including how hard it is to hold and move opinions on marriage in the narrow confines of a campaign.


I need to start by saying that I had nothing to do with the No on 8 Campaign. Because the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, where I work, has been so deeply involved in public education work in support of marriage equality, the law literally precluded any contact or coordination with the electoral campaign. So, as a purely armchair quarterback it's pretty easy for me to catalogue things I -- in my infinite wisdom -- would have done differently. But I also know that even if everything -- every single thing -- had gone our way, it still would have been incredibly hard to win by anything more than a tiny margin. Here's why.

Putting Minority Rights Up to a Popular Vote: the Difficulty of Winning

First off, it's nearly impossible for minorities to win or defend their rights at the ballot box. Californians have demonstrated that time and again, voting to outlaw affirmative action, to deny grade school education and non-emergency medical care to undocumented children, and to specifically permit race discrimination in housing. This profound disadvantage was exacerbated by the fact that marriage is in a class by itself as an issue. Everyone has an intimate, personal relationship with marriage and has an opinion -- usually visceral -- about it. True, over time people are moving toward marriage -- we've quite amazingly gained about one point per year since 2000. But within the narrow time constraints of a campaign -- under 90 days -- it is pure fancy to think there's a "movable middle" on marriage. At best there was movable sliver. More on that in a bit.

Our Opponents' Base -- Huge, Solid, Energized

Second, the other side had a huge, largely unmovable, energized base. We didn't. No surprise but they had older people all sewn up. While we won among all voters under 65, more than two-thirds (67%) of voters 65 or older voted for Prop 8. That alone -- yes, alone -- was enough to override our majority support among all younger age groups. Anyone who thinks a 90-day campaign -- even a flawless one -- is going to overcome the imprint of homophobia on those born before World War II needs to think again.

In addition to older people, the other side also had a stranglehold on regular churchgoers. More than two-thirds (70%) of people who worship at least once a week voted for Prop 8 and they make up nearly half (45%) of the electorate. Yes, our side got an equally large proportion of people who hardly ever attend church (70%), but they comprise only 29% of the vote. Anyone who thinks it is easy to overcome homophobia that's reinforced on a weekly basis from a person's own house of worship doesn't appreciate the role of religion in so many people's lives or its pervasive use as a rationale for voting for Prop 8: an astonishing 94% of "Yes" voters said "religion" or the "Bible" was most influential in deciding how to vote.

What does combining older voters, frequent churchgoers and Republicans (81% of who voted for Prop 8) yield? A rock solid, close to 50% of the vote, that's what. How solid? Nearly three-quarters (73%) of those who voted for Prop 8 said nothing -- that's right, nothing -- would have changed their mind. And almost all of the rest of them couldn't really name anything real that would have changed their minds. For example, the most common answer offered by these folks was "calling same sex marriage by another name" -- an option not on the ballot.

Does this mean we can't ever move older voters, Republicans and frequent churchgoers? Of course not. My parents -- both 76, conservative Republicans and devout Catholics -- are prime examples. While they could not be more pro-marriage now, I know in my heart that it's only because my partner (now spouse) and I have been a part of their lives for years -- we could never have moved them in the 90 days the Prop 8 campaign essentially had.

Support on Our Side -- Smaller and Squishy

Our side? Not so big and not so solid. At best, we LGBT people make up 6% of the vote and unlike the fervor from our opponents' much larger base we weren't united on marriage equality. (Two polls said 5% of the LGBT community -- or 1% of the total vote -- actually voted "Yes.") I'm still hearing the refrain "I don't know why we're fighting for marriage -- I don't believe in it" or "It's not my issue." I think this is because for years we've mainly presented marriage as a package of rights -- like a better dental plan -- than what it's really about, recognition of equal humanity. Whatever the reasons -- they were united and energized; we weren't.

But more important, unlike our opponents, our base beyond LGBT people is squishy on its leading edge. Going into the Prop 8 contest, only a slim majority of Californians (54%) even believed that our relationships are moral. (This figure also was our high point in the superficial public pre-election polls to which so much significance was attached.) This slim majority is all our side had to work with. After all, no one who thinks we're immoral is going to vote to protect our access to the ultimate societal institution used to judge and control sex, procreation and "family values." At the same time, it's hardly a given that people who do not see us as immoral are automatically for marriage equality.

The Ick Factor

In fact, many of those people are still deeply uncomfortable with homosexuality. This "ick" is and always has been our Achilles heel, something our opponents skillfully exploit time and again. Lots of folks I respect have been saying if only the No on 8 Campaign had put up or hit back with forceful, to-the-heart ads featuring gay and lesbian families -- instead of those soft ones with parents or surrogates like Sen. Diane Feinstein -- we would have won. I desperately want to agree, but can't.

The sad reality is that our movables get all wobbly -- they blanch, they stammer, they get visibly uncomfortable -- when faced with the reality of our couples, our families, our children. I've personally seen it dozens of times in focus groups, in one-on-one interviews, and in my own life and my friends' lives. Ads, for example, that make you and me cheer don't work with them at all, they backfire.

What's this about? The short answer is that the ick factor is alive and festering even among people who want to suppress it. These are people who truly want to be fair and who don't want to hurt other people. At the same time, they remain deeply uncomfortable with homosexuality and marriage goes right to the heart of their discomfort, given that sex is central to marriage.

Ads that Move Us Don't Move those We Need to Move

In 2004, when I was at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, we -- like so many people now -- were sick of our side resorting to intellectualized arguments like "Don't write discrimination into the constitution" when the other side was going for arguments that hit the heart and emotions. We were frustrated that our side's campaigns almost never put up ads showing our families speaking in emotion-based arguments in support of marriage.

With no small amount of self-righteousness, we taped a dozen ads featuring gay and lesbian couples speaking from the heart, many with heart-wrenching stories. LGBT loved them. But when we showed them to voters who were opposed to anti-gay discrimination but weren't there on marriage (that is, the movables) all we were able to get from a few people was a hint of empathy, but absolutely no movement on marriage. It was stunning -- incredibly hard to witness. Our elaborately planned campaign had to be scrapped -- we couldn't justify spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on something that made us feel good but didn't move anyone else.

Closer to home, nearly three years ago the Haas, Jr. Fund, Gill Foundation, the David Bohnett Foundation, Ambassador Jim Hormel and others invested nearly $500,000 to understand what would move Californians to support marriage equality and how to address the deeply conflicting views the mushy middle holds about LGBT equality. Once again, ads featuring gay people -- individuals or couples or families -- just did not work. What did work were messages that pushed people to think about the issue in a new way, namely, asking them how would they feel if they were in our shoes. But again, gay and lesbian people didn't work as the messengers.

That's where the "Garden Wedding" ad came from -- the message being delivered silently by a bride facing numerous obstacles trying to get down the aisle that ended with the tagline "What if you couldn't marry the person you love?". Did I like the ad? Absolutely not.

Did it work? Absolutely. Let California Ring conducted rigorous testing in the Santa Barbara media market last year. A baseline poll found that only 36% of people there supported marriage equality, 8-10 points below the state average. That was followed by a substantial buy for the Garden Wedding ad, coupled with field organizing. A follow-up poll showed that support for marriage equality grew significantly, including a 16% jump among younger voters (as opposed to zero growth in markets where the campaign did not run). More tellingly, on Election Day, Santa Barbara defeated Prop 8 by 10 points (compared to it passing Prop 22 by 14 points in 2000). Santa Barbara was the only county in Southern California to vote No on 8 and the only thing that was different was the Garden Wedding campaign.

Why did it work? Instead of asking viewers to accept a gay couple -- which was simply too much too much for many people -- the ad provided them a way to be empathetic that was more comfortable to them. This made the issue about who they are -- fair minded, not bigoted -- rather than about whether they approve of gay relationships. Sadly, our side was unable to raise the millions required to take the ad statewide in the years and months before Prop 8 qualified for the ballot. Part of this failing was the simple reality that it's very hard to raise money in the absence of a campaign and crisis; the other main reason was that gay donors didn't understand the power and appeal of the ad and didn't step up to fund it.

Where Gay and Lesbian People Don't Make Good Messengers and Where They Do

Here's another painful reality all this research again showed: using gay and lesbian people as messengers not only failed to move people in our direction, it actually hurt us -- driving movables against marriage equality. Over and over the same result: showing them ads with gay and lesbian individuals or couples pushed people the wrong way. And ads that included children with their gay or lesbian parents did even worse. That's why the "Yes on 8" campaign so prominently featured children in its ads.

Think about friends who tell you their relatives are OK with them being gay or lesbian so long as they don't talk about it. Why do so many of us find it so incredibly hard to bring up gay issues with co-workers or when we visit our families over the holidays? Or when we do, what about the painful silence or uncomfortable glances that so often follow? Think your Aunt Jane -- who's only recently started to be nice to your partner -- is going to see a television ad and suddenly think, "Darn, I've been wrong all along about this gay marriage thing!"? Think again.

I am not saying we shouldn't be putting our lives, stories and faces front and center over and over again or that we can't move people solidly to our side. Most of us have seen how taking our lives up close and personal to people around us does, in fact, create change. Moreover, having these direct, real conversations is the only way we're ever going to squelch the ick and inoculate voters from attacks that exploit it.

What I am saying is that we can't leave this hard work until the last minute -- which is what a campaign really is. We can't expect some brilliantly crafted ads -- coming from our collective heart -- to be the silver bullets that kill anti-marriage ballot initiatives in the heat of a campaign, when there is no time and the other side is assaulting our movables with carefully crafted messages designed to exploit every anti-gay fear and myth. Instead, we need to move people beyond short-term political campaigns and before they get underway.

Moving Forward

Yes, I do think we could have won -- by a fraction of a point -- if everything had gone our way. But everything didn't go our way, including mistakes our side undoubtedly made and things beyond our control like the Mormon President/Prophet' s ordering his faithful to fuel the "Yes" campaign. That gave our opponents a two-to-one money advantage 60 days out, something few campaigns of any sort, anywhere, are able to overcome.

As numbing, insulting and painful as our loss was, let's take real pride in the fact that we moved the needle nine points on marriage -- yes, marriage -- in less than eight years. Of course we must face up to and learn from our missteps. But rather than getting caught up in endless recriminations of our recent loss, let's focus on the long term work ahead -- how to build our social movement to win complete equality in California and across the nation.

From a big picture view that means ramping up education and organizing within churches, among younger voters, and in people of color and rural communities. But more important it is what each of us can and must do everyday: having those hard, from the heart talks with our friends, neighbors, relatives and co-workers. Time is once again on our side, let's make the most of it.

Kirsten Gillibrand Hub -- (Gay Kirsten Gillibrand?) Towleroad, blog with homosexual tendencies.

Kirsten Gillibrand Hub -- (Gay Kirsten Gillibrand?) Towleroad, blog with homosexual tendencies.

Here's what Gillibrand said when asked about her position on same-sex marriage in a recent interview with InsideOut:

"What I’d like to do legislatively, on the federal level—and I think we’ll be able to do this with the new president—is actually make civil unions legal in all 50 states, make it the law of the land. Because what you want to fundamentally do is protect the rights and privileges of committed couples, so that they can have Medicare benefits, visit in the hospitals, have adoption rights. All [the] things that we give to married couples, committed gay couples should be eligible for. And then the question of whether you call it a marriage or not, what you label it, that can be left to the states to decide. [It’s] so culturally oriented. My mom’s generation, they want their gay friends to have every right and privilege that they should be eligible for as a married couple, but they feel uncomfortable calling it marriage. To them, a marriage is a religious word that they learned from the Catholic Church: It’s a covenant between a man, a woman, and God. So they feel uncomfortable with the word. But they don’t feel uncomfortable with the rights and privileges. I think the way you win this issue is you focus on getting the rights and privileges protected throughout the entire country, and then you do the state-by-state advocacy for having the title."

Gillibrand2Politicker NY notes: "On the issue of gay rights, Gillibrand received an 80 out of a 100 rating from the LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign. That was the lowest score out of New York’s Democratic representatives. According to the Human Rights Campaign, she voted against the repealing of “Don’ Ask, Don’t Tell” legislation, opposed legislation that would grant equal tax treatment for employer-provided health coverage for domestic partners, opposed legislation to grant same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and permanent residents the same immigration benefits of married couples and opposed legislation to permit state Medicaid programs to cover low-income, HIV-positive Americans before they develop AIDS. That said, Gillibrand is not an ideologue. The positions she took were arguably necessary as a means of getting elected in a conservative-voting district. And there is a notion among political observers that if she represented the entire state, those positions would soften to better reflect New York’s more liberal complexion."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Study: Legislators Are Not Hurt by Voting for Same-Sex Marriage

San Francisco Bay Times

By Rex Wockner
Published: January 22, 2009

Research by Freedom to Marry Executive Director Evan Wolfson has revealed that state legislators who vote for same-sex marriage or against banning same-sex marriage are always re-elected.

Voting for same-sex marriage or against an attempt to ban same-sex marriage is a safe move for politicians, a new study by the group Freedom to Marry has found. A review of such votes in 21 states by more than 1,100 legislators found that the legislators were consistently re-elected. The report revealed:

* Legislators who voted to end marriage discrimination in California, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts had a 100 percent re-election rate in all 499 instances in three consecutive elections.

* Legislators who changed their position from opposing to supporting same-sex marriage had a 100 percent re-election rate in consecutive elections.

* Legislators who voted for marriage equality in their state’s lower house and then sought higher office all won.

* None of 664 legislators from 17 states lost re-election after voting against a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

“For politicians, standing up for marriage equality is not touching a third-rail; rather, it is a track to re-election,” said Freedom to Marry Executive Director Evan Wolfson. “Legislators should take the findings of this report as proof that there’s no reason to back down from supporting the freedom to marry and opposing anti-gay measures. And those of us outside the legislature should not be afraid to ask our representatives to do the right thing.”

Lambda Legal: First New York Appellate Court to Approve State Recognition of Out-of-State Marriages for Same-Sex Couples in Lambda Legal’s Case

Another Victory!!!!!

Lambda Legal: First New York Appellate Court to Approve State Recognition of Out-of-State Marriages for Same-Sex Couples in Lambda Legal’s Case

First New York Appellate Court to Approve State Recognition of Out-of-State Marriages for Same-Sex Couples in Lambda Legal’s Case
‘Today the Appellate Court confirmed that New York’s state government follows the law by respecting out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples.’

(New York, January 22, 2009) — The New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, Third Department today upheld a lower court's ruling that the New York State Department of Civil Service (DCS), a state agency, acted in compliance with the law when it confirmed that it would recognize out–of–state marriages of same–sex couples. This was the first Appellate Court ruling in New York to address the Paterson administration's recognition of these marriages.

"Once an out–of–state same–sex marriage is recognized in New York,...each of its parties would be 'a party to a marriage,' and, thus, a 'legal spouse' who would be entitled to the benefits, rights and obligations of that status," the three-judge majority opinion held. The other two panel judges filed a concurring opinion.

"Today the Appellate Court confirmed that New York's state government follows the law by respecting out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples," said Susan Sommer, Senior Counsel at Lambda Legal. "The Court has upheld important spousal health coverage for government employees in the process."

In May 2007, DCS issued a memo recognizing, as spouses, same–sex couples married in other states or jurisdictions for purposes of extending spousal health insurance coverage to public employees in participating government insurance plans. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), on behalf of four New York taxpayer plaintiffs, challenged DCS's authority to respect valid out–of–state marriages of same-sex couples and to treat those couples fairly in administering state benefits. In March of 2008, the Supreme Court, Albany County, issued a decision that the DCS was following the law in applying New York's marriage recognition rule to these marriages. ADF opposed the decision in an appeal filed in 2008.

Lambda Legal argued before the court in October 2008 on behalf of Defendant–Intervenors–Respondents Peri Rainbow and Tamela Sloan, long–time public employees who are raising a special needs child adopted from foster care. The couple depends on the government protections that come from respect for their marriage, and today's decision validated the lower court ruling that marriages such as theirs are lawfully respected in New York state.

Today's decision is consistent with other marriage recognition victories in New York courts, as well as Governor Paterson's May 2008 directive instructing all state agencies to respect out–of–state marriages of same–sex couples. In September 2008, the New York Supreme Court (Bronx trial court) dismissed a lawsuit against Governor Paterson challenging this directive and again granted Lambda Legal's motion to intervene in the case on behalf of Rainbow and Sloan.

In February 2008, in Martinez v. County of Monroe, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department in Rochester, also upheld application of the marriage recognition rule to valid out–of–state marriages of same–sex couples. The decision, issued in response to a challenge brought by the NYCLU on behalf of a lesbian couple, is consistent with longstanding marriage recognition in New York.

In early 2009, Lambda Legal applauded a similar decision from the New York Appellate Division, Second Department affirming dismissal of a case brought by the ADF. The court confirmed that Westchester County Executive Spano lawfully recognized out–of–state marriages of same–sex couples, ruling as well in favor of Westchester County couple Michael Sabatino and Robert Voorheis, who had married in Canada and were permitted to intervene as defendants in the case with Lambda Legal as counsel.

Susan Sommer, Senior Counsel, is handling the case for Lambda Legal. She is joined by co–counsel

Kramer Levin Naftails & Frankel LLP.

The case is Lewis v. New York State Department of Civil Service, et al.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

AFP: Swedish proposal on gay marriage presented to parliament

AFP: Swedish proposal on gay marriage presented to parliament

STOCKHOLM (AFP) — Sweden may allow homosexuals to wed in the Lutheran Church or civil ceremonies as of May if parliament adopts legislation presented to parliament Wednesday, the prime minister's party said.

"The main proposal in the motion is that ... a person's gender will no longer have any bearing on whether they can marry. The marriage law and other laws concerning spouses will be rendered gender neutral according to the proposal," a statement from Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's conservative Moderates said.

The proposal has wide backing in parliament and is expected to be adopted, though a date has yet to be set for a vote.

While heterosexuals in Sweden can choose to marry in either a civil ceremony or a church ceremony, homosexuals are currently only allowed to register their "partnerships" in a civil ceremony.

Civil unions granting gays and lesbians the same legal status as married couples have been allowed in Sweden since 1995.

If the new legislation is adopted, Sweden, already a pioneer in giving same-sex couples the right to adopt children, would become the first country in the world to allow gays to marry within a major Church.

In 2007, 74 percent of Swedes were members of the Lutheran Church.

The Lutheran Church, which was separated from the state in 2000, has since January 2007 offered gays a religious blessing of their union.

It has previously said it wants the word "marriage" reserved for heterosexual unions, and a Church synod late this year is expected to take a formal decision on Wednesday's proposal.

According to the proposal, pastors who do not want to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony would have the right to refuse, something gay rights' activists criticised.

The Swedish Association for Sexuality Education said that gave "authorities a legal right to discriminate", and suggested that all religious communities' right to perform marriage ceremonies be withdrawn.

Sweden's four-party centre-right government has been split on the issue, with the junior partner Christian Democrats also opposed to the use of the word "marriage" for homosexual unions.

However the three other coalition members, the Moderates, the Liberals and the Centre Party, as well as the opposition Social Democrats, the country's biggest party, are in favour of a gender neutral law and would together garner enough support to adopt the legislation in parliament.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

White House WebsiteUpdated Civil Rights

Civil Rights

Support for the LGBT Community

"While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It's about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect."

-- Barack Obama, June 1, 2007

* Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: In 2004, crimes against LGBT Americans constituted the third-highest category of hate crime reported and made up more than 15 percent of such crimes. President Obama cosponsored legislation that would expand federal jurisdiction to include violent hate crimes perpetrated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability. As a state senator, President Obama passed tough legislation that made hate crimes and conspiracy to commit them against the law.
* Fight Workplace Discrimination: President Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees' domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy. The President also sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
* Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: President Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.
* Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: President Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.
* Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell: President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.
* Expand Adoption Rights: President Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.
* Promote AIDS Prevention: In the first year of his presidency, President Obama will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. The President will support common sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within our prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through our public health system. The President also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. President Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma -- too often tied to homophobia -- that continues to surround HIV/AIDS.
* Empower Women to Prevent HIV/AIDS: In the United States, the percentage of women diagnosed with AIDS has quadrupled over the last 20 years. Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. President Obama introduced the Microbicide Development Act, which will accelerate the development of products that empower women in the battle against AIDS. Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Gene Robinson's inaugural prayer for the nation []

thought I would post this since it appears that it was not covered by HBO and his mic was not working properly Hmmmmmm!

Gene Robinson's inaugural prayer for the nation []

By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Being Gay is a Gift from God

This a segment from the Oprah show. This is a quick and good declaration of God's acceptance of LGBT people.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Pro-Marriage Legislators Win Elections

Evan Wolfson's organization "freedom to marry" posted this report on his web site. This should make it clear to legislators that they have nothing to fear about losing their legislative seat. Read the entire report click link below.

pro-marriage_legislators_win_elections.pdf (application/pdf Object)

“The night I took the vote in June, I was told I would never be elected again. I’m running unopposed.”
— Rep. Teresa R. Sayward, R-North Country, NY, describing her experience with voting for a
marriage equality bill in 2007 and getting re-elected in upstate New York in 2008
Pro-Marriage Legislators Win Elections
An analysis of election results is unequivocal: exhibiting leadership by voting to support the
freedom to marry helps rather than hurts politicians. For many years legislators across the country
have voted on laws aimed at ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. Others have
been asked to vote on state constitutional amendments aimed at discriminating against same-sex
couples and their children by denying them the freedom to marry.
A review of all of these votes from 2005 to the present shows that legislators who vote to end
marriage discrimination for same-sex couples are consistently re-elected. The success of more than
1,100 state legislators who voted to support the freedom to marry stands in bold contrast to the
commonly held belief that supporting marriage equality ends political campaigns and careers. In
fact, these legislators are re-elected no matter what party they represent or if they changed their
vote from opposing to supporting marriage equality. Even better, legislators who run for higher
office win after voting in favor of marriage for same-sex couples.
If I Vote to Support the Freedom to Marry, Will I Be Re-Elected?
• Legislators Who Voted to End Marriage Discrimination for Same-Sex Couples Have a 100%
Re-Election Rate in Three Consecutive Elections. By November 2008, four states had seen
legislative votes which explicitly sought to end marriage discrimination for gay couples:
− Two votes by the California legislature to pass a bill ending the exclusion of same-sex
couples from marriage,
− The New York State Assembly vote on a bill in favor of marriage equality,
− A Connecticut legislative committee which voted to end the exclusion of same-sex couples
from marriage, and
− Several votes in the Massachusetts legislature on a proposed constitutional amendment to
repeal the already established freedom to marry in that state.
In all 499 instances, legislators who voted to support marriage equality and ran for office in the
following general election for their respective

No Joint Filing For Married Gays

GayCityNews - No Joint Filing For Married Gays

No Joint Filing For Married Gays

Despite Governor David Paterson’s directive last May that state agencies accord full recognition to gay couples married out-of-state, New York tax authorities are taking the position that joint filing by such couples will not be allowed on state tax forms.
In responses to inquiries from gay and lesbian couples who have married in locales such as Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Canada, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance has in recent weeks been sending back a letter informing them that they cannot file jointly on their state income tax forms due April 15.

A statement from the department, however, received by Gay City News after this week's print edition was published, explained it was continuing to examine its position on the filing status question.

"Following the Governor's directive, the Tax Department is currently reviewing our policy on this and other same-sex marriage-related tax issues," Thomas Bergin, a spokesman, wrote via email. "We expect to issue a statement on this subject shortly."

The position New York tax officials have taken to date in the letters sent out in response to inquiries is at odds with a directive last May from Governor David Paterson's counsel instructing state agencies to bring their procedures into line with a statewide legal precedent that marriages by same-sex couples legally entered into in other jurisdictions be recognized here.

"Under current New York law, the filing status of a couple for New York purposes must be the same as their filing status (separate or joint) for federal tax purposes," read a letter that Robert D. Plattner, Taxation and Finance's deputy commissioner, sent December 12 to Franc Martarella, an Upper West Side gay man who had posed a filing status question to the governor's office on behalf of him and his husband, who married in Canada in late 2007.

Plattner's letter goes on to note that because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the Internal Revenue Service does not allow married gay and lesbian couples to file jointly. Curiously, the letter cites the specific section of the federal code for DOMA, but does not provide the same detail regarding the New York statute requiring that filing status here match that on federal returns.

The posture articulated in Plattner's letter reaffirms an advisory opinion issued by Taxation and Finance's Office of Tax Policy Analysis in 2006 in response to a petition from a married gay couple. Plattner, however, specifically refers to the May 14 directive from Paterson's office, making clear that Taxation and Finance is sticking to its earlier position even in the wake of the governor's widely publicized conclusion that New York must accord full recognition to legally married gay and lesbian couples.

Paterson is an outspoken advocate of a marriage equality bill passed by the State Assembly in 2007 that could get a vote in the new session of the Senate with Democrats now in charge.

In issuing its directive in May, the governor's office made note of an intermediate appellate ruling last February in a case in which Patricia Martinez, a lesbian who married in Canada, sued her public sector employer, Monroe Community College in Rochester, for refusing to grant her wife spousal health benefits. The unanimous panel found that under longstanding New York common law any valid marriage from another jurisdiction is due full recognition here so long as it is not "abhorrent" to the laws or public policy of the state - a description reserved for situations involving incest, polygamy, or relations with someone clearly viewed as too young to consent to sex.

The Martinez ruling has not yet been reviewed by the state's highest court, but unless it is overturned there or contradicted by another intermediate appellate panel, it is binding on courts statewide.

According to Art Friedson of Taxation and Finance's Office of Tax Policy Analysis, same-sex couples could only file jointly if the state were to enact legislation "de-coupling" the filing status provisions of New York tax procedures from IRS standards. He suggested that even enactment of marriage equality legislation would not cure the problem absent specific de-coupling language.

Friedson said that Taxation's Office of Counsel could provide greater detail on the determination it made regarding joint filing. Bergin's email message was a response to written questions submitted to the Office of Counsel by Gay City News.

The governor's office did not respond to a request for comment.

One state official speaking on background, however, acknowledged that the administration is continuing to review the issue of joint filing even though Taxation and Finance is advising married gay couples that they will not be able to do so.

Susan Sommer, an attorney at Lambda Legal who oversees that group's marriage equality efforts, concurred that the question of joint filing is not necessarily a settled matter.

Noting that state agencies generally have been working "in good faith" to comply with Paterson's directive, she said, "It remains to be seen if the tax code presents special issues." Lambda, she said, has "been advocating with the state government to assist in their determination."

Sommer said that one key issue is whether married couples can be relieved of the tax burden on the income imputed to a gay or lesbian person whose employer gives their spouse health benefits. Such benefits are extended to heterosexual spouses without any tax consequences, but under federal and state law to date they are taxed as income in the case of gay or lesbian spouses.

"It is our understanding that the state tax department is reevaluating how to handle personal income tax filing by married same-sex couples in New York and considering how to treat employers' contributions for spousal health benefits," she told Gay City News.

Martarella said that his husband has paid an additional $2,500 over the past year in state and federal taxes based on the spousal health benefits Martarella receives. He said he is retired and has limited his IRA draw so he suspects that the financial implications of being able to file jointly with the state would be "substantial."

Lambda is committed to continuing to work with the Paterson administration on this issue, rather than challenging the tax filing policy in court.

"Regardless of the outcome of the tax department determination, I wouldn't view this as an area for a legal challenge by the LGBT community," Sommer said. "If anything, it just drives home that we should be calling on the State Legislature to enact legislation to allow same-sex couples to get married here in New York."

She was confident that marriage equality legislation would resolve the current bar to joint filing by same-sex couples on their state forms.

The Empire State Pride Agenda, New York's LGBT rights lobby which is focused on the fight for marriage equality in the Legislature, has been looking at the joint filing issue alongside Lambda, but declined specific comment.

Daniel O'Donnell, the out gay Upper West Side Democrat who led the marriage equality bill to passage in the Assembly in 2007, said he is "very well versed" on the filing issue and argued that, in response to the governor's marriage recognition directive, "the most complicated thing we would have to do is de-coupling federal and state taxes."

He said tax accountants have told him that in general "there is no financial harm done to couples by this situation." Given that, he said, the more important task before the Legislature is getting Senate approval for the marriage equality legislation.

"That doesn't mean we will not endeavor to address the tax filing question in the future," O'Donnell said, should the marriage bill lift prove too difficult in the upcoming legislative session.

The hurdle married gay and lesbian couples continue to face in their state tax filing stands in contrast to progress recently announced in other key public policy areas.

In December, the state Department of Health announced that birth certificates for the children of gay and lesbian married couples will now automatically list both parents. Department officials said they had been working on the birth certificate question since the governor issued his directive, and sped up their efforts to accommodate a lesbian couple who had filed suit seeking that both of their names be listed in anticipation of the birth of their daughter. Carolyn Trzeciak and Nina Shield Trzeciak, an Ulster County couple who married in Canada, were eager that both their names be listed on the birth certificate of a child that Nina was due to deliver.

Unlike the rest of the state's municipalities, New York City maintains its own health records and is working to catch up with the state policy.

In November, State Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo issued a bulletin to all companies writing policies in New York informing them that they are required to treat same-sex married couples like any other married couples in offering policies for health, life, disability, and long term care insurance.

©GayCityNews 2009

A Federal Commission to Push for the Rights of LGBT Persons (Among Others...)

this would be a good thing

Gay Rights - A Federal Commission to Push for the Rights of LGBT Persons (Among Others...)

Is the Justice Department's Commission on Civil Rights too antiquated to deal with the unique challenges facing the civil rights movement today?

The answer may be yes, if you listen to Mary Frances Berry. Who is she? She was the Chairwoman of the Commission on Civil Rights from 1993 through 2004, whose mission is to "appraise federal laws and policies with respect to discrimination or denial of equal protection of the laws because of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin, or in the administration of justice."

Hmm...what's missing from that list? Sexual orientation and gender identity.

Berry has an op-ed piece out today that says that President-Elect Barack Obama should abolish the current Commission on Civil Rights, and create a new, independent body that addresses the civil rights of many groups, including gays and lesbians. According to Berry, the current Commission has become the antithesis of what it was set out to do in the 1950s and 60s, and has instead become infected with political appointees more interested in pushing the agenda of the executive branch.

The Commission on Civil Rights has been crippled since the Reagan years by the appointments of commissioners who see themselves as agents of the presidential administration rather than as independent watchdogs. The creation of a new, independent human and civil rights commission could help us determine our next steps in the pursuit of freedom and justice in our society. A number of explosive issues like immigration reform await such a commission, but recommendations for resolving the controversies over the rights of gays, lesbians and transgendered people should be its first order of business.

Berry's call follows a campaign launched today by another group,, which is calling for a cabinet level position to address the rights of LGBT citizens.

What's clear from both Berry's call for a new civil rights structure within government, and EqualRep's call for a cabinet position, is that there is currently no adequate government structure that equates LGBT rights with civil rights. And that's a real problem.

Berry quotes Coretta Scott King: "What’s the yardstick by which we should decide that gay rights are less important than other human rights we care about?" That's a question that President-Elect Obama will have to start figuring out in about T-minus 96 hours

Leonard Link: U.S. Asylum Law Requires Same-Sex Partners to Split Up

Leonard Link: U.S. Asylum Law Requires Same-Sex Partners to Split Up

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit dumped an unwelcome post-Christmas message on a gay Indonesian man, Parulian Hasibuan on December 26, when it rejected his attempt to win the right to stay united in America with his same-sex partner. The unanimous panel ruled in Hasibuan v. Mukasey, 2008 Westlaw 5396467, that Mr. Hasibuan, who had missed the one-year deadline for filing an asylum petition, and who was found not eligible for withholding of removal or protection under the Convention Against Torture, could not argue that his same-sex partner was a "qualifying relative" to attempt to benefit from the protection accorded spouses of U.S. citizens.

The court’s brief memorandum opinion provides few facts, although it is noted in passing that Hasibuan relied on evidence that he had been beaten by his father and suffered two attacks at the hands of others, but the court found that "substantial evidence" (which it did not feel obliged to describe) "supports the BIA’s determination that the beatings by Hasibuan’s father and the two attacks Hasibuan suffered did not rise to the level of past persecution." (The significance of this ruling is that a finding of past persecution would raise a presumption that the petitioner would encounter future persecution if returned to his home county. The lack of such a finding leaves the petitioner with the burden of proving that such persecution would occur.) The court also found that "Hasibuan has not demonstrated a clear probability of future persecution if he returns to Indonesia," or that he would be tortured there, a prerequisite to protection under the CAT.

As to Hasibuan’s attempt to put forth his same-sex relationship as a reason to let him stay in the U.S., the court cited still-prevailing 9th Circuit precedent, Adams v. Howerton, 673 F.2d 1036 (9th Cir. 1982), which held that only parties to heterosexual marriages were "spouses" within the meaning of federal immigration law. The enactment of the Defense of Marriage Act, not mentioned by the court directly, subsequent to Adams, would seem to make that ruling a concrete part of American law.

"Because Hasibuan has not asserted that he and his partner are married under state law," wrote the court, "Hasibuan lacks standing to bring a constitutional challenge to the federal definition of spouse. . . In addition, because Hasibuan does not assert that he attempted to marry his partner, he also lacks standing to challenge California’s marriage laws." Thus, the court rejected Hasibuan’s claim that the refusal to accord him the same rights as a person married to a U.S. citizen was a violation of his own constitutional rights. The clear implication is that if Hasibuan and his partner had married in a jurisdiction affording such a right (such as California between mid-June and November 5), he would at least have standing to challenge DOMA and its effect on immigration law.

There is no indication on the court’s opinion whether Hasibuan was represented by counsel on his appeal.

N.Y. Family Court Judge Says Same-Sex Spouse Needn't Be Certified to Adopt Partner's Child

Leonard Link: N.Y. Family Court Judge Says Same-Sex Spouse Needn't Be Certified to Adopt Partner's Child

A simple consent would do....

A Rochester, New York, Family Court Judge has ruled that there was no need for the same-sex spouse of a woman due to give birth in March to seek pre-certification to adopt her partner’s child. Judge Joan S. Kohout concluded in her January 6 ruling that because the couple’s Canadian marriage is recognized under New York law, the spouse could be treated exactly the same as the husband of a woman who became pregnant through donor insemination, in which case neither pre-certification nor an adoption proceeding would be necessary to establish a parental relationship with the child. Matter of Donna S., 2009 N.Y. Slip Op. 29009 (Fam. Ct., Monroe County, AC-14386-08).

However, since all the paperwork was in order and there was a positive home study report on file, Judge Kohout granted the petition for pre-certification, so the petitioner is eligible to adopt a child until the expiration of the petition in May 2010.

According to Judge Kohout’s opinion, Donna R.S. and Lisa P. were married on July 4, 2007, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. Lisa has become pregnant through donor insemination, and is due to give birth in March. Donna initiated the process of being approved as an adoptive parent, with the intention of having a second-parent adoption when the child is born. As part of that process, she submitted to a home study by a social worker, who produced a positive report, and then she submitted her petition to the court to be "pre-certified" as an adoptive parent so the adoption procedure could be undertaken quickly after the child is born.

The petition does not specify that Donna was seeking to adopt any particular child, but merely to be certified as qualified in general to be an adoptive parent, but the home study made clear to the court that her intention was to adopt her same-sex spouse’s child.

Judge Kohout considered the pre-certification process to be unnecessary. Pointing out that the Appellate Division’s ruling last year in Martinez v. County of Monroe means that "the marriage of same sex couples legally married in other jurisdictions must be recognized by New York," and mentioning as well that Governor David Paterson had directed New York state agencies to "apply statutes and regulations in a gender neutral manner to same sex parties validly married in another jurisdiction," Judge Kohout saw no reason to treat Donna any differently from the husband of a woman who has become pregnant through donor insemination.

In such situations, no adoption proceeding is necessary. All that is required is for the parties to execute a consent form, indicating their agreement that the birth mother’s spouse will be the legal parent of the child, and the spouse’s parental status would be established.

Along the way to this result, Kohout speculated on an alternative approach to the same end: "Since Ms. S. is the spouse of Ms. P., she will at the very least be considered a step-parent to Ms. P.’s child after the child’s birth. Step-parents are not required to be pre-certified as qualified adoptive parents for the purpose of adopting their spouse’s child." However, step-parents would have to fulfill a one year waiting period to adopt, or get approval to waive the waiting period from the court.

Ultimately, Kohout seemed to feel that the better approach would be that provided by the statute governing donor insemination, as described above, pointing out that "a child born to a married woman by artificial insemination is deemed the legal child of the husband if both spouses execute a consent to that effect. Given the holding in Martinez, it would seem that by the simple execution of a consent, Ms. S. could become the baby’s legal parent without the necessity of an adoption."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gay Marriage Mayor Not Seeking Re-election; Denounces Democrats :: EDGE Boston

Gay Marriage Mayor Not Seeking Re-election; Denounces Democrats :: EDGE Boston

by Kilian Melloy
EDGE Contributor
Wednesday Jan 14, 2009

The mayor of Nyack, NY, who issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004, has announced that he will not be seeking re-election.

Nyack mayor John Shields, 65, was the second mayor of a New York town to issue licenses to same-sex families during a brief span in 2004.

The first mayor of a New York municipality to do so, Jason West, of New Paltz, issued 19 marriage licenses, and later faced charges for doing so.

Now, according to a Jan. 14 article in The Journal News Shields, who sought his own marriage license with then-partner Bob Streams, has not only decided to step down from his office, but to leave the Democratic party as well.

The article quoted Shields as saying, "I think four terms are enough as mayor and three terms as trustee."

Added Shields, "I’m looking forward to new leadership and new ideas and new blood."

Shields will remain in office throughout 2009, but had wanted to let his decision be known in plenty of time to give others interested in a run for the mayorship time to get ready for the election.

But Shields is not retiring from political life altogether: having come to national attention as a member of the "Nyack 10" (five couples who sought licenses to marry from the Town Hall of Orangetown, NY), Shields is going to continue working for marriage equality for all American families.

But he won’t be doing so as a member of the Democratic party. Said Shields, who plans to leave the party when he leaves office, "I don’t think either party is serving the LGBT community."

Shields was one of the first openly gay men to be elected to a mayorship in New York. Said the Nyack mayor, "I didn’t run for that reason; there were other issues in the village of Nyack. But it was important for me to be open and truthful about it because I think the more people who are out and open, the less threatening it becomes to everybody else."

A article from Mar. 3, 2004, which is now archived at, reported on Shields’ issuance of marriage licenses for same-sex families.

The article cited Shields as saying that his gesture was carried out in the spirit of upholding civil rights constitutionally guaranteed to all New York state residents.

Shields was quoted in that article as saying, "I don’t understand how extending marriage to same-gender couples undermines traditional marriage or weakens community.

"On the contrary, I believe personal commitments strengthen community."

Added Shields, "A powerful way to affirm traditional marriage is to have strong marriages between committed people."

Since then, times have changed for New York families--a little, anyway; an executive order from the office of Gov. David Paterson instructed all state bureaus to recognize same-sex marriages granted in other jurisdictions, even though New York state law does not extend marriage equality to gay and lesbian families.

The New York State Assembly passed a bill that would rectify that omission, but under Republican leadership, the Senate did not see the bill brought to a vote.

The new Democratic Senate leadership has indicated that the bill will not see a vote any time soon.

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

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

| APNewsBreak: Gay marriage issue looms in Maine

Fox 44 - Burlington and Plattsburgh News, Weather and Sports - | APNewsBreak: Gay marriage issue looms in Maine

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - The House Republican leader in Maine is proposing to bolster the state's law restricting marriage to one man and one woman by making it a constitutional amendment, ensuring that gay marriage will be debated this legislative session.

Rep. Josh Tardy is expected to introduce the amendment. Legislation to allow gay marriage in Maine is also being introduced. As it stands, Maine has a domestic partnership registry that's open to gay couples.

Gay marriage is being debated elsewhere in the region.

In New Hampshire, a bill's been submitted to replace the term "civil union" with "marriage" in the state's 1-year-old civil union law. Vermont, the first state to recognize same-sex couples with its civil unions law, is now likely to consider a gay marriage bill.

IndianaLawmakers renew push to amend constitution : Local News : Evansville Courier Press

Lawmakers renew push to amend constitution : Local News : Evansville Courier Press

Courier & Press correspondent
Monday, January 12, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS — Several Indiana lawmakers once again will push to amend Indiana's constitution to ban gay marriage, although their effort likely will fail in the House.

Reps. Eric Turner, R-Marion, and Dave Cheatham, D-North Vernon, announced Monday they are co-sponsoring a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.

They face a major roadblock in the Democratic-controlled House, where Speaker Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, has not allowed a floor vote on similar bills in previous years. His spokesman, John Schorg, said Monday that Bauer's position hasn't changed.

Indiana law already prohibits same-sex marriage, so Bauer has said he considers a constitutional amendment unnecessary.

But Turner cited "activist" judges overturning statutes barring gay marriage in other states, and said amending the state Constitution is the only way Indiana can protect one-man, one-woman marriage.

The amendment differs slightly from similar amendments that have died in the Legislature. The new language mirrors amendments that have passed in Kentucky and Wisconsin, and Turner said he hopes that will spur Bauer to reverse his position and allow a floor vote.

Tony Perkins, the president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, was one of more than 20 representatives from self-described "pro-family" organizations and churches at Monday's news conference. He disputed opponents who he said have called the bill divisive, saying polls have shown overwhelming support for a same-sex marriage ban amendment in Indiana.

"This is a bridge issue," he said. "It's an issue that brings people together."

The proposed amendment has two sections. The first defines marriage in Indiana is solely the union of one man and one woman. The second part prohibits any legal status substantially similar to marriage that would provide the benefits of marriage to unmarried couples or groups.

Turner said that would bar civil unions, an intermediate measure adopted by some states to recognize domestic partnerships without granting the title of marriage.

Critics of the same-sex marriage ban amendment have cited several grounds for opposing it, noting the first part duplicates existing state law.

The second part, they have said, could have unintended legal consequences such as weakening domestic violence protections for unmarried heterosexual couples, or creating uncertainty for companies offering health benefits to employees' domestic partners.

Nationwide, 30 states, including most recently California, Florida and Arizona in November, have approved same-sex marriage bans. But the effort has failed twice in Indiana. The amendment, known as SJR-7, died last year without getting a vote in the House. The year before, it passed the Republican-controlled Senate but died in the Democratic-controlled House Rules Committee.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Gene Robinson Gay Churhman to give inaugural kickoff invocation

Well this is good.

Gay Churhman to give inaugural kickoff invocation

Gay Churhman to give inaugural kickoff invocation
1/12/09 Labels: Breaking News, Politics, Religion, Written by Paula Brooks 0 comments

Washington DC.... LGR has learned that The Presidential Inaugural Committee said this weekend The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who was elected the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop in 2003, will deliver the invocation for Sunday’s kickoff inaugural event on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

President-elect Obama is scheduled to attend the afternoon event, which is free and open to the public.

An inaugural official said …

The president-elect has respect for the Rt. Rev. Robinson, who offered his advice and counsel over the past couple of years…. It also has the benefit of further reinforcing our commitment to an open and inclusive inaugural.”

A furor over Obama’s choice of Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor and best-selling author, to deliver the invocation at the swearing-in ceremony has so far been the principal clash with his party’s left wing since he was elected and many of Obama’s LGBT supporters were furious at the President-Elect for asking Warren to be part of the inaugural ceremonies.

Robinson is best-known for being the first openly gay, non-celibate priest to be ordained a bishop in a major Christian denomination, became Canon to the Ordinary in 1988, the executive assistant to the then bishop of New Hampshire, Douglas Theuner. Robinson remained in this job for the next seventeen years until he was elected bishop in 2003. He assumed his post on March 7, 2004.

Robinson was one of the earliest churchman to endorse the election of President-Elect.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gay-rights marchers protest federal law, rail against Prop. 8

Gay-rights marchers protest federal law, rail against Prop. 8

By Penni Crabtree (Contact) Union-Tribune Staff Writer

2:00 a.m. January 11, 2009

DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO — A rally and march by gay-rights supporters yesterday was ostensively about repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 federal law that defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman.

Yet what was on everyone's mind was Proposition 8, the state measure that California voters passed in November that amended the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

“I'm deeply offended by people trying to repeal our being married,” said Barbara Keehr, a San Diego County employee who attended the march with her spouse, Colleen Hines, and their 4-year-old twin daughters. “It's a slap in the face.”

Keehr and Hines were among the estimated 18,000 California couples married during the brief window between May 15, when a state Supreme Court ruling overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage, and Nov. 4, when Proposition 8 overrode the court's decision.

They were also among the 560 to 800 people – San Diego police and event organizers had different tallies – who attended the low-key march yesterday from the County Administration Building, down Harbor Drive, and back again.

The numbers were a fraction of the more than 20,000 people who gathered in San Diego on Nov. 15 for a protest in the wake of the Proposition 8 vote. It was widely believed to be the largest of the protests staged across the nation that day.

The measure's opponents have gone back to the state Supreme Court, asking it to overturn the proposition.

Zakiya Khabir, a spokeswoman for the San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality, one of yesterday's event organizers, said the passage of Proposition 8 hit a nerve and provoked an immediate backlash.

“I think this is a good turnout for something that is not in the wake of a devastating blow,” Khabir said. “DOMA is a 12-year-old piece of legislation that has been on the books for too long.”

Event organizers also collected signatures for an open letter to President-elect Barack Obama urging him to repeal the federal law, which says states don't have to recognize other states' same-sex marriage laws and, for federal purposes, defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Yesterday's march was one of several held nationwide and lightly attended compared with the large turnouts in opposition to Proposition 8 reported Nov. 15.

Nor was there a counterprotest of any note in San Diego – a lone pickup with two occupants, sporting banners that read “Homosexuality Is Sin” and “No Same-Sex,” drove alongside the gay marriage supporters.

Ronald Brock, the driver, said he was from Colorado and crisscrosses the country using the pickup as a “moving billboard” to deal with “moral issues from God's perspective.”

Saturday, January 10, 2009

WNYC - News - Gay Marriage Bill Likely to Come up in State Senate

WNYC - News - Gay Marriage Bill Likely to Come up in State Senate

by Elaine Rivera

NEW YORK, NY January 10, 2009 —Newly elected state Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith says it's only a matter of time before a bill to legalize gay marriage comes up for discussion.

REPORTER: The Queens Democrat says most likely it'll be legislation sponsored by Manhattan Senator Tom Duane.

SMITH: So I imagine at an appropriate time Senator Duane has a bill he may want to bring up in conference and we'll see what the members do.

REPORTER: But some Albany insiders say many state Senators are still reluctant to bring a bill to the floor. A comparable measure has already been introduced in the state Assembly.

Smith spoke Friday at Gracie Mansion, after a meeting with Mayor Bloomberg about the state's $15 billion budget deficit.

WNYC - News - Gay Marriage Bill Likely to Come up in State Senate

WNYC - News - Gay Marriage Bill Likely to Come up in State Senate

by Elaine Rivera

NEW YORK, NY January 10, 2009 —Newly elected state Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith says it's only a matter of time before a bill to legalize gay marriage comes up for discussion.

REPORTER: The Queens Democrat says most likely it'll be legislation sponsored by Manhattan Senator Tom Duane.

SMITH: So I imagine at an appropriate time Senator Duane has a bill he may want to bring up in conference and we'll see what the members do.

REPORTER: But some Albany insiders say many state Senators are still reluctant to bring a bill to the floor. A comparable measure has already been introduced in the state Assembly.

Smith spoke Friday at Gracie Mansion, after a meeting with Mayor Bloomberg about the state's $15 billion budget deficit.

Did Same-Sex Marriage Lose Out in Smith's Deal? Mobile: Did Same-Sex Marriage Lose Out in Smith's Deal?

by Jimmy Vielkind on January 9, 2009

ALBANY—Despite the coy confidence of one of the most outspoken critics of gay marriage that the issue won't come up this legislative session, advocates of same-sex unions don't believe they were sold out by Senate Democrats, as was reportedly the case in an earlier deal to make Malcolm Smith the senate majority leader.

Alan Van Capelle expressed qualified outrage then, but this week he issued a statement lauding Smith's election as majority leader. In an interview afterward, he added that he's confident the issue can pass this legislative session.

"I'm confident that if our community does the work that we need to do, and we've traditionally been good at, that we can win the bill. I don't think it's the role of the majority leader to twist arms," Van Capelle said. "I have 100 percent confidence that if we have the votes to pass the bill, then the majority leader will bring that bill to the floor for a vote."

If that's true, then why did State Senator Ruben Diaz Jr., an outspoken critic of same-sex marriage, say he was "satisfied" with how things turned out when he publicly stated he wouldn't vote for someone who would bring gay marriage to the floor?

A few scenarios.

First, as was floated by Liz Benjamin, he was told to come into line or watch his son's chances of being borough president evaporate. And that would trump the marriage issue.

Second, Diaz knows something Van Capelle doesn't.

Or third, maybe the reverend simply thinks he can beat the gay rights lobby in an arm-twisting match.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Bush signs gay rights bill

don't know how I missed this

Minnesota Independent: News. Politics. Media. » Bush signs gay rights bill

Call it a Christmas present for gay and lesbian couples. President Bush signed the Worker, Retiree and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 (WRERA) two days before Christmas. The new law makes it mandatory for businesses to roll over retirement benefits to a same-sex partner in the event of the employee’s death.

Previously, employers could decline and surviving same-sex partners would have to pay tax on the inheritance of the deceased partner’s retirement savings. Legally married heterosexual couples automatically avoid that tax penalty.

National LGBT rights groups hailed the move. “This legislation secures much-needed protection for lesbian and gay couples,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Our community faces unique challenges in preparing for retirement because we are denied Social Security spousal and survivor benefits. Protecting our hard-earned retirement savings is even more crucial to us, and until now, the tax code made it that much harder.”

Thursday, January 8, 2009

New N.Y. Senate Is Most Gay-Friendly Ever

New York Blade Online

New N.Y. Senate Is Most Gay-Friendly Ever…
…And yet there’s not enough support to pass pro-LGBT bills—at least not from the Democrats alone.

By Rick Lopez
Thursday, January 08, 2009

With Democrats taking control of the state Senate for the first time in 43 years, the odds are better than ever for a gay marriage bill to finally reach the governor’s desk, some activists say.

Senators elected Queens lawmaker Malcolm Smith as majority leader, making him the first black majority leader in state history and the first Senate boss from New York City in 44 years.

“Today, for the first time ever, New York has a pro-LGBT majority leadership in the State Senate,” said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of advocacy group Empire State Pride Agenda, in a statement. “We now not only have a Senate majority leader who supports our issues, but one that has stated a number of times that he will help us find the support needed to pass crucial bills like marriage equality, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and the [anti-bullying] Dignity for All Students Act.”

All three of those pro-LGBT bills have passed the Democratic-controlled Assembly but have languished across the aisle in what was the GOP Senate.

Of course, Democratic leadership doesn’t translate to an automatic vote on the legislation—it doesn’t even guarantee there’s enough support to bring the bills to the floor. But it does mean the LGBT community is now at the starting line and in the race.
“Our community now has more work to do,” Van Capelle said. “Today we know that we have supportive leadership, but we also know that we do not yet have the votes that we need to pass some of our most important bills.

“In the months to come,” he continued, “LGBT New Yorkers and our allies will be working in districts across the state to build the support that will allow us to bring these bills to the Senate floor for a vote as soon as possible.”

Smith’s election as majority leader was seen as a major first step—one that might not have happened despite the Democrats winning a slim majority in that chamber on Nov. 4.

In a move that rekindled hopes for gay equality, Sen. Smith ended this week a two-month battle with three Democrats who had threatened to side with Republicans if Democratic leaders didn’t meet their demands for lucrative leadership posts and promise not bring same-sex marriage to a vote.

However, in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, the so-called Gang of Three—Ruben Diaz Sr. and Pedro Espada Jr., both of the Bronx, and Carl Kruger of Brooklyn—promised to relinquish their dissent. The Senators will chair important committees, though Smith told the New York Times that the topic of gay marriage didn’t come up in the discussions.

The renegade Democrats began staging their ploy immediately after Election Day, but Smith later stated that “those issues should be part of the legislative process. Real reform cannot and should not ever include limiting the civil rights of any New Yorkers.”

“Malcolm Smith’s election means that LGBT people have a chance to achieve marriage equality, where under the Republicans we had none,” said Jeff Campagna, founder of The Power, a Facebook group formed in the aftermath of Proposition 8 and The Gang of Three scheme.

From many aspects, it seems like gay equality is facing a favorable set of circumstances. David Paterson is the second Democrat governor in office since 1935—the former lieutenant governor stepped up to the post unexpectedly in early 2008 when Eliot Spitzer resigned—and last year Paterson cleared the way for New York to honor same-sex marriages and unions from other states.

“We need not only to respect each other but to serve each other,” Paterson said, alluding to gay and civil rights, as he closed his State of the State address this week.

Democrats also have an unprecedented grip on both the state Assembly and Senate, which includes five openly LGBT lawmakers. Sen. Thomas Duane of Manhattan, the only openly gay member of that chamber, told The Blade last month that he would carry the marriage bill. (The Assembly passed a similar bill in 2007.)

Even with a Democrat majority, the Senate would still need GOP support to pass a marriage bill. “There are still five or six votes against the bill in the Democratic conference,” Sen. Jeffrey D. Klein, who represents parts of Bronx and Westchester County, told the New York Times this week. “And I certainly don’t know five or six Republicans who are going to vote for it.”

The notion of cautious optimism is familiar to gay-rights advocates. “Within the Democratic Party, there are enemies of equality and others who have yet to join our cause. So this is just the beginning of our fight,” Campagna said. “We must continue to organize and speak out. But have no doubt, we will prevail.”

One advocacy group, Marriage Equality of New York, plans to keep gay marriage on the minds of legislators by taking busloads of constituents to Albany to visit Smith and the rest of the Senate on Feb. 3.

“We are delighted Sen. Malcolm Smith will be the new Senate majority leader,” said the group’s executive director, Ron Zacchi. “He has always been very supportive of marriage equality, and we look forward to working with him this coming year.”

Calif. gay marriage foes want donors anonymous

What should we say we have been living with harassment for a life time. Now they know what it feel like.
Calif. gay marriage foes want donors anonymous

By STEVE LAWRENCE, Associated Press Writer

Thursday, January 8, 2009

(01-08) 18:28 PST Sacramento, CA (AP) --

Supporters of the November ballot measure that banned gay marriages in California have filed a lawsuit seeking to block their campaign finance records from public view, saying the reports have led to harassment of donors.

"No one should have to worry about getting a death threat because of the way he or she votes," said James Bopp Jr., an attorney representing two groups that supported Proposition 8, Protect and the National Organization for Marriage California.

"This lawsuit will protect the right of all people to help support causes they agree with, without having to worry about harassment or threats."

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court in Sacramento, asks the court to order the secretary of state's office to remove all donations for the proposition from its Web site. The groups announced the lawsuit Thursday.

It also asks the court to relieve the two groups and "all similarly situated persons" from having to meet the state's campaign disclosure requirements. That would include having to file a final report on Proposition 8 contributions at the end of January, as well as reports for any future campaigns the groups undertake.

Proposition 8, approved by 52.3 percent of California voters on Nov. 4, overturned a state Supreme Court decision that declared the state's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The measure's opponents have gone back to the Supreme Court, asking it to overturn the proposition.

The lawsuit by Bopp's clients cites a series of incidents in which those who gave money to support the ballot measure have received threatening phone calls, e-mails and postcards. One woman reported being told, "If I had a gun, I would have gunned you down along with each and every other supporter."

Another donor had a widow broken, one had a flier distributed around his hometown calling him a bigot and others have received envelopes containing suspicious white power, according to the lawsuit.

Businesses have been threatened with boycotts because people who worked there contributed to the Proposition 8 campaign, the suit said. In Sacramento, the artistic director of the musical theater company resigned after his $1,000 donation to the Proposition 8 campaign was made public, prompting threats to boycott the company's productions.

Supporters of the gay marriage ban fear the donor backlash will hurt their efforts to raise money in the future, perhaps to fight a ballot initiative seeking to overturn the constitutional amendment.

"Several donors have indicated that they will not contribute to committee plaintiffs or similar organizations in the future because of the threats and harassment directed at them as a result of their contributions ... and the public disclosure of that fact," the lawsuit said.

"Indeed, there is significant evidence that, because of the disclosure of their names, donations to groups supporting the passage of Proposition 8 led directly to those donors being singled out for threats, harassment and reprisals."

The lawsuit said courts have held that laws requiring disclosure of campaign contributions can be overturned or restricted if a group can make "an uncontroverted showing" that identifying its members can result in economic reprisals or threats of physical coercion.

California's current campaign finance laws date to the Political Reform Act of 1974, a voter-approved initiative that established disclosure requirements for candidates and campaign committees.

The secretary of state's office and another defendant, the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, had no immediate comment on the suit.

But Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, the gay-rights group that led the campaign against Proposition 8, called it hypocritical for supporters of the measure to try to overturn voter-approved campaign finance laws.

He said Proposition 8 supporters used campaign finance records during the campaign to threaten and attack gay-rights supporters.

"They've used these records to attack corporations, to attack individuals," Kors said. "The Yes on 8 campaign sent blackmail letters to No on 8 supporters.

"It's just amazing hypocrisy. But it's the kind of tactics we've seen from them throughout the campaign and time and time again since."

Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, a group that supports public access to government records and meetings, said the lawsuit is likely to be unsuccessful. But he also said the plaintiffs' arguments are not trivial.

"The problem with their argument, of course, is that campaign finance laws, both at the state and federal level, have been litigated endlessly now since Watergate and the argument has, in one form or another, been rejected."

He said courts have consistently failed to agree that contributors have a right to donate directly and anonymously to a candidate or campaign. He said some states choose to have less restrictive reporting requirements, but they always include disclosure of donors.

"It loses in the end, but it's not as crazy an idea or an argument as it may first appear to some people," Scheer said.