Friday, February 27, 2009

Advocates hopeful for gay marriage law in N.Y. | | The Journal News

Advocates hopeful for gay marriage law in N.Y. | | The Journal News

Advocates hopeful for gay marriage law in N.Y.

Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau

Gay rights advocates say they are increasingly optimistic that same-sex marriages will become law in New York. They just can't say when.

The stumbling block continues to be the state Senate, where gay rights leaders say they are still a few votes shy of being able to pass it in the chamber.

But supporters hold out hope that it could be passed this year after lawmakers reach agreement on a 2009-10 state budget, which is required to be passed by April 1.

The general optimism is fueled by Democrats' taking control of the chamber in January, which was aided by hundreds of thousands of dollars from gay and lesbian supporters last year.

"An election of the Democratic majority in the Senate was not a guarantee that marriage equality would be law in 2009," said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda. "It was the starting line, not the finish line."

In 2007, the state Civil Service Department began providing health insurance to same-sex couples married out of state and employed in state and some local governments.

And in May, Gov. David Paterson signed a directive to recognize gay marriage performed in other states, which gave same-sex couples 1,324 rights in New York that were previously afforded only to heterosexual couples.

Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, seemed to dampen the hopes of gay marriage supporters earlier this month when he suggested in a speech to the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, that the measure would be hard pressed to pass this year.

But Smith has since not ruled out that possibility, saying he simply doesn't have the votes yet within the conference to pass it.

"Members are still deliberating on it. Some members might change their position," said Smith, who supports gay marriage.

But Van Capelle said Republican support will be needed. He said the group points out that the four Republican Assembly members who voted for the measure - including Joel Miller of Poughkeepsie and Mike Spano of Yonkers, who has since joined the Democratic Party - were not hurt at the polls when they ran for re-election.

Democrats hold a 32-30 seat majority in the Senate, and aides estimate support for gay marriage rests in the high 20s. So some Democrats would still need convincing, while at least one, Sen. Ruben Diaz, D-Bronx, has vowed to never support gay marriage.

But some groups opposed to same-sex marriage said it's unlikely the bill will make it to the floor this year.

"If they brought it up and it was defeated it would be a set back," said Duane Motley of Spencerport, Monroe County, the executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms.

Sen. Thomas Duane, D-Manhattan, the Senate's first openly gay member, said he hasn't given up on the goal of a vote this year.

"I believe we have more votes than people think. I think we're in much better shape than people really think," he said.

New Mexico Senate kills domestic partnership bill denying equal rights to gays |

New Mexico Senate kills domestic partnership bill denying equal rights to gays |

After brief debate, the New Mexico state Senate rejected a bill that would have created domestic partnerships in the state, with opponents contending it was "marriage in disguise." Supporters of the bill did a last-minute rewrite to remove references that could be construed as marriage-related, but that wasn't enough to win the necessary votes.

Ten Democrats joined the chamber's 15 Republicans to defeat the bill 25-17.

"I'm disappointed by the Senate's actions today in defeating what is fundamentally an issue of civil rights and equality," said Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, who has been pushing the legislation for several years

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Colo. Senate gives OK to same-sex benefits

Colo. Senate gives OK to same-sex benefits

Despite a heated debate in which one state senator linked homosexuality to murder, the Colorado Senate has approved a domestic partner bill.

A similar bill already has already passed the House. The two bills must still be harmonized and have a final vote in both houses.

The legislation would make it easier for unmarried couples in Colorado, including gays and lesbians, to make medical decision for incapacitated partners and leave property to their partners.

While debating the bill on the floor of the state Senate on Monday, a Republican lawmaker, Scott Renfroe, took the rhetoric to new heights by equating homosexuality as a sin with murder.

“I’m not saying this (homosexuality) is the only sin that’s out there, we have murder. We have all sorts of sin. We have adultery. And we don’t make laws making those legal, and we would never think to make murder legal.” Said Renfroe.

Renfroe also called homosexuality an “abomination” and an “offense to God” and argued that God created men and women so they would procreate. Moreover, Renfroe also compared the nuclear family structure to the Holy Trinity and, quoting the book of Genesis, said women had been created to be “helpers” for men.

Other Republicans said the bill, which would allow partners of gay state employees to be covered by health care benefits, is an attempt by Democrats to chip away at a constitutional amendment voters passed in 2006 defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

“These are just micro-steps to a lawsuit in the Colorado Supreme Court to overturn what the voters voted for,” charged Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs.

The law would apply to same and opposite-sex unmarried couples.

In 2006, voters passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The same year, they rejected another ballot issue that would have given same-sex couples many of the rights of marriage including property inheritance rights and the power to make medical and funeral arrangements.

Renfroe’s remarks brought a swift response from Sen. Jennifer Veiga (D) Colorado’s first openly gay lawmaker and the Senate sponsor of the bill.

“I will stand here today and tell you that God also created me, and the last time I checked, I am who I am,” she said.

To critics who claimed the bill violates the gay marriage ban, Veiga said…

“This brings no two people, myself, my partner, no other gay and lesbian partner, closer to walking down that aisle. It provides no tax benefits. It provides no other benefits. This is not about marriage. This is about health care. This is an equality issue and a fairness issue.”

Colorado voters also defeated a referendum in 2006 that would have granted gay couples the same legal rights as married heterosexual couples.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Raw Story | Sean Penn acceptance speech calls for equal rights

The Raw Story | Sean Penn acceptance speech calls for equal rights

"For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect, and anticipate their great shame, and the shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that way of support. We've got to have equal rights for everyone," said Penn.

Penn continued, "And there are these last 2 things. I'm very, very proud to live in a country that is willing to elect an elegant man president, and a country who, for all its toughness, creates courageous artists, and this is in great due respect to all the nominees, creates courageous artists who despite sensitivity that sometimes has brought enormous challenges, Mickey Rourke rises again, and he is my brother."

This video is from ABC's 81st Annual Academy Awards, broadcast Feb. 22, 2009.

Dustin Lance Black accepts Oscar for best original screenplay

Dustin Lance Black accepted the Oscar for best original screenplay for "Milk." In his acceptance speech, Black talked about how moving to California effected his life. "It gave me the hope one day I could live my life openly as who I am and then maybe even I could even fall in love and one day get married," he said.

"But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he'd want me to say to all the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, by the government or by their families that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures who have value. And that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you."

This video is from ABC's 81st Annual Academy Awards, broadcast Feb. 22, 2009.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hawaii civil unions bill passes state House, goes to Senate | | The Honolulu Advertiser

Seems to be a run away train developing.

Hawaii civil unions bill passes state House, goes to Senate | | The Honolulu Advertiser
The state House yesterday passed a bill to legalize civil unions among same-sex partners, a vote several lawmakers believe will help end discrimination against gays and lesbians in Hawai'i.

The bill, which now moves to the state Senate, would grant partners in civil unions the same benefits, protections and responsibilities as married couples under state law. The state would also recognize civil unions, domestic partnerships and same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Partners in civil unions would not have the same protections as married couples under federal law, so the recognition is a rung below treating homosexual and heterosexual couples equally.

The House vote was 33-17 with one lawmaker excused, one vote shy of a veto-proof supermajority. The lawmaker who missed the vote, state Rep. K. Mark Takai, D-34th (Newtown, Waiau, Pearl City), who is preparing to deploy with the Hawai'i Army National Guard to Kuwait, supports civil unions.

State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, D-21st (Nanakuli, Makaha), said yesterday she believes there are enough votes in the Senate for civil unions if the bill moves out of the Senate Judiciary and Government Operations Committee. The committee is currently divided 3-2 in favor of civil unions, with state Sen. Robert Bunda, D-22nd (North Shore, Wahiawa), undecided.

Hanabusa said she would consider forcing the bill out if it fails in committee. A one-third vote of the Senate would be required to recall the bill.

"I believe that if it makes the floor there are the votes in the Senate to pass civil unions," she said.

Hanabusa said she would only attempt to force the bill out of committee with the concurrence of the committee's chairman, state Sen. Brian Taniguchi, D-10th (Manoa, McCully), who backs civil unions. Taniguchi said he would prefer to deal with the bill in committee but would be open to alternatives if it stalls.

During the House floor debate yesterday, several lawmakers described civil unions as a measure of justice for gays and lesbians. Opponents, however, said gay activists would not be satisfied with civil unions and would eventually push for same-sex marriage, which they believe would weaken the institution of marriage.

In 1998, nearly 70 percent of Hawai'i voters backed a constitutional amendment that authorized the Legislature to define marriage in state law as between one man and one woman.

State House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro, D-33rd ('Aiea, Halawa Valley, 'Aiea Heights), the bill's sponsor, said the debate was inspiring for him. He said he has occasionally been disappointed and frustrated by the legislative process but has always accepted it as part of elected office. He said that yesterday he felt, for the first time, like he belonged in the chamber and was making a difference.

"There will be a day when acceptance, tolerance, equity and justice are not just words, but they will be truly embodied by our actions," Oshiro said. "So let that day come closer. And let that day be today."

State Rep. Sylvia Luke, D-26th (Pacific Heights, Pauoa, Punchbowl), praised state Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu, D-41st (Waipahu, Village Park, Waikele), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, for what she described as having the courage to move the bill out of his committee when previous leaders — including her — did not.

"I feel kind of ashamed that we've closed our eyes to the discrimination that has gone on," Luke said.
opponents to speak up

State Rep. Gene Ward, R-17th (Kalama Valley, Queen's Gate, Hawai'i Kai), said activists in other states who have achieved civil unions have then pursued same-sex marriage. Three other states — Vermont, New Jersey and New Hampshire — allow civil unions. Two states — Massachusetts and Connecticut — permit same-sex marriage.

"This bill is not about equality, it's about an end run for same-sex marriage," Ward said.

In what she called one of her hardest speeches, state House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan, R-32nd (Lower Pearlridge, 'Aiea, Halawa), said she grew up loving a sister who was gay and has died.

"I know that she can hear me today, and the last thing that I would want for her to feel in any way, shape or form is that I didn't love her for who she was," Finnegan said.

But Finnegan said she opposes civil unions to protect marriage between a man and a woman in the hierarchy of relationships recognized by law. "I can take this vote in good conscience because I know that my sister would love me no matter what I would do," she said.

Opponents of civil unions, including many who object because of their religious beliefs, did not organize to fight the bill in the House but will likely do more to try to block it from advancing in the Senate.

Dennis Arakaki, the executive director of the Hawai'i Family Forum who also represents the Hawai'i Catholic Conference, said opponents would soon get more active. "We feel that the will of the people has been expressed and we don't see the need to go through it again," said Arakaki, a former state lawmaker.

Paul Gracie, the co-chair of the Family Equality Coalition and a gay parent, was among the activists at the state Capitol yesterday to mark the vote. He said he was surprised, given the past opposition to civil unions, that the bill moved so quickly through the House.

"It really seemed miraculous to me, and amazing and hopeful," said Gracie, who has twin children.

Reach Derrick DePledge at

Utah governor supports civil unions | News Story on

Utah governor supports civil unions | News Story on

Salt Lake City, Utah) Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) said Tuesday through a spokesperson that he supports civil unions.

Utah has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Although a Republican, a Mormon and the governor of one of the country’s most conservative states, Huntsman has been moving closer to the middle on social issues.

This year, LGBT rights groups unveiled a group of bills called the Common Ground Initiative that includes legislation to begin process of repealing the section of the amendment banning civil unions. Other bills include adding gays in job and housing protections, a domestic partner registry and partner health care rights.

Repealing the civil union ban was abandoned Monday by its sponsor, fearing it was stalling the other measures. A fifth bill that would have allowed same-sex couples to sue for wrongful death damages was defeated in a state Senate committee last month.

Until Tuesday, Huntsman has been silent on the Common Ground bills.

His spokesperson Lisa Roskelley told The Salt Lake City Tribune on Tuesday that in addition to supporting same-sex marriage the governor is in favor of most of the Common Ground Initiative.

“We are very grateful for Gov. Huntsman. We think it’s fantastic. It also highlights that people who feel very differently on marriage can find common ground on areas to agree on,” Will Carlson, public policy director of the gay rights advocacy group Equality Utah told The Associated Press.

“Utah has been getting an unfair reputation in the national media as being anti-gay because of those actions of a few individuals. This highlights that Utahns have a diversity of thought and that they can follow their religious beliefs and still take care of others.”

Following passage of the constitutional amendment in Utah and criticism over its support for Proposition 8 in California which also bans same-sex marriage, the Mormon Church issued a statement saying it “does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches,”

Since then, Equality Utah has been using the statement to build support for the initiatives.

Last month a poll commissioned by Equality Utah found that 63 percent support gay legal protections including some rights for same-sex couples.

The survey found that 62 percent believe it should be illegal to fire someone for being gay and 57 percent said it should be illegal to deny housing to someone for being gay.

On the issue of partner rights, 73 percent said they would support health insurance coverage for a partner or other designated adult for state employees. Utahans, however, are not ready for same-sex marriage. Only 20 percent said they supported gay marriage.

Gay couples protest at marriage bureaus across US

The Associated Press: Gay couples protest at marriage bureaus across US

By LISA LEFF and VERENA DOBNIK – 10 hours ago

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Same-sex couples seeking to wed showed up at marriage license counters nationwide Thursday to highlight a right they don't have in 48 states, part of an annual protest that took on renewed urgency given recent election setbacks.

In San Francisco, where same-sex marriage was legal for nearly five months last year before California voters approved a ban, many couples who came to City Hall had already tied the knot but wanted to express their gratitude and to show they're still part of the fight.

"All of our marriages are under the cloud of Proposition 8," said Stuart Gaffney, 45, referring to California's ballot initiative banning gay marriage. "Equality is an unfinished business in California."

In Las Vegas, couples gathered outside the downtown marriage bureau with signs that read "Don't hate my love" and "No laws on love." In New York, activists wore signs that said "Just Not Married." They were turned away empty-handed in both places when they asked for marriage licenses.

"We could get married in Massachusetts or Connecticut, but we'll wait a little and see what happens in New York," Matt Flanders, 37, of Brooklyn, said after he and his partner, Will Jennings, 29, participated in the protest in Manhattan. "It's a matter of principle. This is our home, and we should be able to get married where we live, where our friends are."

The protests around Valentine's Day, part of the 12th annual Freedom to Marry Day, were considered especially important this year because they come after the November passage of Proposition 8. The measure has prompted protests, lawsuits and questions about the direction of the gay rights movement.

"A lot of people feel a sense of determination and regret over having been too complacent or quiet before, so there is a commitment to, `Never again, we have to take action,'" said Evan Wolfson, a civil rights lawyer who conceived Freedom to Marry Day. "In that sense, California was a terrific energizer and wake-up call."

Currently, gay marriage is legal only in Massachusetts and Connecticut, while 30 states have gay marriage bans in their constitutions. Gay rights activists are pressing lawmakers in New Jersey, New York and Vermont to take up bills that would legalize same-sex marriage in those states.

Jennifer Pizer, director of the marriage project at gay rights legal group Lambda Legal, said the disappointing outcome of the California election has created momentum in other parts of the country.

Hawaii's House of Representatives, for example, voted 33-17 Thursday to allow same-sex civil unions. The legislation now goes before the state's Senate Judiciary Committee, where the vote is split among six senators, with one undecided. A tie vote would kill the civil union measure for the year.

In Utah, where a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2004 prohibits same-sex unions, five gay and lesbian couples applied for marriage licenses in Salt Lake City on Thursday. County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said she could recall only one other gay couple asking to get married over the last 18 years.

In Maine and Minnesota on Thursday, dozens of proponents of gay marriage gathered outside the statehouses to lobby for bills that would legalize same-sex marriage in those states. Under a black and white banner that read "Legalize Love," Minnesota lawmakers vowed to push the bill as far as they can.

State Sen. Scott Dibble, a Minneapolis Democrat who is one of the few openly gay members of the Legislature, said the country's economic woes showed the need for couples to support each other. But gay couples can't get many of the benefits of marriage that might make things easier, he said.

"Those with strong families more than anyone are going to be able to rely on each other," Dibble said. "So why does our own government try to stop that from happening? Why does our own government try to stop us from trying to take care of each other?"

Troy Smith, 41, and his partner of six years, Justin Gibson, 26, were among the 15 couples waiting with tourists outside the marriage bureau in downtown Las Vegas. Smith, a coordinator at a local wedding chapel, said he's constantly faced with the reality of Nevada's constitutional ban on gay marriage.

"I sell it every day, but I can't buy it myself," he said, adding that he often sees couples rushing to the altar after knowing each other for hours. "It just about breaks my heart. It's not fair."

The California Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments next month on whether to uphold Proposition 8 and on the validity of the estimated 18,000 same-sex marriages sanctioned in the state between June and November. The court could render a decision as early as June.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

GayCityNews - Denied A License Once Again

We had an enthusiastic crowd this morning

GayCityNews - Denied A License Once Again


Barbara Josso and Liz Milosvia, a couple for 30 years, want to turn their New Jersey civil union in for a New York marriage.
On Lincoln's 200th Birthday, Equality Advocates Head to New York City's Marriage Bureau

When Reed Davis and Fred Anguera visited the brand new city Marriage Bureau in Lower Manhattan to apply for a license, they were turned away, but by a civil servant who assured them that she "understood our cause."

"She was courteous about it and kind and she explained that the state doesn't offer marriage licenses, but there are domestic partnerships, 'if you're interested in that,'" Davis said. "We said we were interested in getting all the rights of marriage. But it wasn't painful."

Davis and Anguera, a couple who live in Astoria and have been together seven months, were among about 100 people, many of them couples, who joined the annual action sponsored by Marriage Equality New York (MENY), a grassroots activist group.

The marriage advocates gathered at 8 a.m. on February 12, and for 90 minutes staged a lively picket -- holding signs and red heart Valentine's balloons on the steps of 141 Worth Street and a giant banner reading "New York Loves Gay Marriage" across the street.

The action is typically held on Valentine's Day, but since February 14 falls on a Saturday this year, it was moved to February 12, which is the 200th birthday of the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln.

Davis and Anguera were also among more than 125 who traveled to Albany on February 3 as part of MENY's Marriage Equality Day, a lobbying effort that this year targeted the State Senate, which has yet to act on the gay marriage bill passed by the Assembly in 2007. According to Cathy Marino-Thomas, the group's communications director, the advocates met with 30 senators, including about a dozen Republicans, in the 62-member Senate.

With 32 votes needed to pass the bill, the most recent count from the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA), the state's LGBT rights lobby, posted on its website last fall, put the number of senators publicly supporting the bill in the low 20s.

Marino-Thomas expressed optimism that public expressions of support likely underestimate the number of votes the marriage bill would get if it came to the Senate floor. Speaking of MENY's meetings with Republicans, she said, "I think that coming out in public in favor of us is a problem and we're working with them on that, but I think if asked to vote they would vote in our favor. I think that they're starting to understand the difference between civil marriage and religious marriage, and they're starting to understand the rights we don't have. It's an education process."

Davis and Anguera met with their senator, George Onorato, a conservative Democrat who represents the 12th District in Queens, which includes Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, and part of Woodside.

"It went pretty good," Anguera said of the meeting. "He's going to need a little more coercing. What really raised his eyebrows, literally, were the straight allies in front of him; otherwise it would have been just a bunch of gay people complaining."

Anguera is MENY's organizer for Onorato's district.

Other marriage advocates who were upbeat about the prospects for a marriage equality bill in New York State were Barbara Josso and Liz Milosvia, an Upper West Side couple who have been together nearly 30 years.

"We're cautiously optimistic," Josso said. "We have more friends than we ever had in Albany. I think Governor Paterson is a big supporter of what we want. We're just hoping that people realize that we're really trying to get our civil rights; we're not looking for the religious sanction."

Josso and Milosvia recently entered into a civil union in New Jersey. Asked why they chose that course rather than getting married in Connecticut, a union that would be recognized by New York State, Josso explained that they own a weekend home in New Jersey and are concerned about protecting their property for each other and for their 31-year-old daughter.

Asked about Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith's comments at the February 7 Human Rights Campaign dinner in New York that the votes are not yet there to pass the bill, MENY's Marino-Thomas responded, "I think he's being cautious, but I don't think that knocks us out of the box" for the 2009-2010 session of the Legislature.

Michael Sabatino and Robert Voorheis are a married couple in Westchester County who have long been active with MENY. When the anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund brought a lawsuit challenging Westchester County Executive Andrew J. Spano's 2006 order that legal same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions be recognized there, the couple was allowed to "intervene" as interested parties in the proceedings. ADF's lawsuit was thrown out on December 30 of last year.

On hand at the Marriage Bureau, Sabatino voiced satisfaction that MENY had allies at the event, including ESPA, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and Join the Impact, a new nationwide direct action group formed in the wake of Proposition 8's passage in California.

"There are a lot of young people here today," Sabatino said. "We need a new generation of leaders."

Keith Tucker is a 23-year-old gay man who moved to Queens from Owensboro, Kentucky, last October, and a month later was one of five activists who organized a massive anti-Prop 8 demonstration at City Hall.

Asked how his group differs from MENY, Tucker said, "Street action." He also explained that Join the Impact's mission is broader than marriage equality, and encompasses hate crimes and transgender rights, among other issues, even if marriage is "the hot button issue right now."

He said the group is currently working with MENY and ESPA in planning an action on April 15, Tax Day. Though plans are not yet finalized, Tucker said activists might dress up in Revolutionary War gear to emphasize the theme of "taxation without representation."

Throughout the week of February 8-14, Freedom to Marry, a group that coordinates equality advocacy nationwide among gay activists and their straight allies, has encouraged a variety of actions individuals can take to advance the cause.

The group's website lays out a range of options -- from creating YouTube videos to having face-to-face conversations to writing letters to the editor at local newspapers -- for marriage equality advocates to engage the larger community on the issue.

Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry's founder and executive director, marked February 12 with a provocative essay on Huffington Post exploring how Lincoln's independent thinking and empathetic nature might have influenced his reaction to the marriage equality debate.

Wolfson noted that the 16th president, in 1829, 31 years before his election to the presidency, wrote a poem that was "perhaps the most explicit literary reference to actual homosexual relations in 19th century America."

©GayCityNews 2009

Evan Wolfson: Marriage and Gays: What Would Lincoln Do?

Evan Wolfson: Marriage and Gays: What Would Lincoln Do?

Abraham Lincoln may have been the first American to write about a same-sex couple getting married. His 1829 poem recounting the marriage of Nate and Billy was "perhaps the most explicit literary reference to actual homosexual relations in 19th century America." Lincoln's most important early biographer, William Herndon, initially included the poem in his Life of Lincoln, but as so often with gay subjects, it was subsequently omitted and largely ignored by later scholars.

Recently there has been greater willingness to debate evidence that our greatest president may himself have had same-sex attraction and even acted on it, as the iconic Lincoln biographer, Carl Sandburg, intimated in 1924 when he wrote of Lincoln's "streaks of lavender." In 2005, C.A. Tripp's Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln marshaled accounts of Lincoln's relations with men such as Captain David Derickson, including a November 1862 diary entry by the wife of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy that reads, "There is a Bucktail soldier here, devoted to the President, drives with him, and when Mrs. L is not home, sleeps with him. What stuff!" Like other scholars, Tripp explored Lincoln's singularly intimate relationship with Joshua Speed, who told Herndon, "If I had not been married & happy -- far more happy than I ever expected to be -- [Lincoln] would not have married."

But it's not because of Lincoln's sexual orientation or other "stuff" that February 12, Lincoln's birthday, has for 12 years now been the centerpiece of National Freedom to Marry Week. Lincoln's strongest connection to the freedom to marry cause lies in the values he embodied in his life, and embodies in ours. He was committed to equality, freedom, and lifting people up. He called Americans to the "better angels of our nature," and he combined a deep moral integrity with a determined and strategic focus on achieving what is most important and right.

In the wake of last November's Proposition 8 temporarily halting marriages in California, and with marriage equality shimmering within reach in other states such as New York and New Jersey, gay and non-gay people and organizations across the country will spend Freedom to Marry Week asking our fellow citizens to, in Lincoln's words, "think anew" about how exclusion from marriage harms gay families while helping no one. Freedom to Marry Week in this Lincoln bicentennial year recalls his admonition, "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves."

In Lincoln's Virtues, William Lee Miller described Lincoln's distinctly independent mind and great empathy (both as a child and adult). Young Lincoln rejected much of his world (hunting, fighting, chasing girls, slavery, churchgoing, cruelty to Indians, etc.) and yet remained engaged in the world, embracing and non-dismissive of others. Lincoln's ability and determination to put himself in the other's shoes -- to say of Southerners, as he did in numerous speeches as a candidate and as president, "they are just as we would be in their situation" -- while holding steadfastly to his lifelong belief that slavery is wrong, offers a lesson to those of us seeking to further move the public toward marriage equality.

Lincoln's combination of tactical maneuvering and incremental action with consistent articulation of a clear moral standard over time helped elevate public understanding and commitment to what is right. Even while biding his time or falling short of "purist" demands for immediate and extreme steps -- he was a politician, not philosopher -- Lincoln understood that "explicit public clarity...that slavery is a great moral evil was essential to the permanent solution to the problem of slavery."

Now slavery was an exceptional injustice, and I don't equate the wrong of marriage discrimination to it. Likewise, the challenges confronting President Obama and our country today are many and serious, though not of the existential scope as those confronting Lincoln. Still, Obama, like me a fervent admirer of Lincoln, would do well to ask himself what Lincoln would do faced with the question of whether to continue the denial of the freedom to marry to these committed couples.

As a candidate for the Illinois Senate in 1996, a body in which Lincoln also served, Obama in his own hand supported the Marriage Resolution now on Freedom to Marry's website. He said, "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages." I believe Lincoln, with today's understanding of who gay people are, would, too. And once Lincoln had taken such a step, he would have stuck with it, as when he courageously refused to retreat from the Emancipation Proclamation even when facing a difficult reelection battle in 1864. As Lincoln said, "The promise, being made, must be kept."

In recent years, Obama has wavered on marriage equality, while expressing commendable support for gay families and substitute legal status such as civil union -- getting the what (equality) right, but not the how (marriage). Lincoln, however, would not have abandoned a clear commitment to the right result even when, where necessary, moving by intermediate steps.

President Obama seems determined to embrace Lincoln's empathy model -- "there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America.... We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states." I hope he and other politicians also embrace Lincoln's courage and lessons on how to combine strategy with moral education, moral leadership, that prepares and moves Americans in fulfillment of our deepest values. After all, as a recent Freedom to Marry study reported, no legislators who voted for marriage equality or against anti-gay measures lost their seat in the last several election cycles.

As Lincoln's words and actions skillfully paved the way for America's "new birth of freedom," he returned again and again to the Declaration of Independence's promise that "all should have an equal chance." Lincoln didn't expect that promise to waft in by itself, or solely on the work of others. He led.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

CT- Same-sex marriage doesn't cost justices

These judges reappointed in spite of their ruling on same-sex marriage - Same-sex marriage doesn't cost justices

Unfolding in the state Senate today: a proxy battle over same-sex marriage.

The Senate just reconfirmed three justices of the Connecticut Supreme Court, all of whom were among the five-member majority in Kerrigan v. Department of Public Health, which ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

There were objections to the justices from some Republicans, with many citing concerns about what they view as relative loose constructionism in interpretation of the state Constitution. But there wasn’t enough to make a difference.

Associate Justices Flemming L. Norcott Jr., Joette Katz and Richard N. Palmer were all confirmed by the same vote total: 28-7, with one senator absent. (The missing senator is Sen. Thomas Gaffey, D-Meriden, who has been absent from the Capitol since the death of his teenage son earlier this month.)

This conclusion isn’t hugely surprising. Senators don’t toss out Supreme Court justices all that often.

And the rumors of some grave comeuppance for those who support same-sex marriage have been, like those of Twain’s death, greatly exaggerated. Lobbying efforts to open the state constitution to a new convention (and thus to direct-initiative lawmaking and a gay marriage ban) or to unseat the pro-marriage chairmen of the Judiciary Committee have come up short.

And if any of those justices wondered (in the back of the mind, they must, right?) what cost it would be to a career to back the plaintiffs in Kerrigan, the answer is the strange but increasingly familiar one: It’s just not that big a deal.

Monday, February 9, 2009

GayCityNews - Marriage Equality's Political Mainstreaming

GayCityNews - Marriage Equality's Political Mainstreaming

At the press conference two weeks ago when Kirsten Gillibrand accepted Governor David Paterson's appointment to become New York's next US senator, she spoke about how she would be going to Washington to fight for economic and social justice issues like women's rights and marriage equality for same-sex couples.

This first-ever public commitment to marriage equality by a US senator from New York was certainly noticed by the LGBT community.

Less noticed was the fact that this was probably the most high-profile instance of a New York State politician using marriage equality as an illustration of their progressive Democratic credentials. In less than six years, marriage for same-sex couples had gone from being a controversial hot-button issue in statewide politics to a demonstration of New York Democratic bona fides.

It is easy to forget that not even six years ago, in 2003 when Canada became the first jurisdiction in our hemisphere where a New York same-sex couple could get legally married, national polls showed that only between 31 and 40 percent of Americans supported the idea of same-sex couples being allowed to marry, with between 51 and 56 percent opposed.

The Pride Agenda's most recent polling, in 2006, showed those numbers had basically flipped, with 53 percent supporting same-sex couples having the ability to marry versus 38 percent who opposed.

This evolution of marriage equality as a mainstream political issue did not occur by accident. On the contrary, marriage equality advocates have engaged in a long, hard-fought, and very deliberate campaign to have marriage equality - like reproductive choice - treated as a bellwether issue for Democrats from New York. The Empire State Pride Agenda, for one, knew that any high-profile LGBT equality and justice issue would need the support of a majority of New Yorkers before it would be passed into law.

So we began a statewide effort to change hearts and minds. Working with the LGBT community across the state, we held dozens of town meetings, trained hundreds of "Marriage Ambassadors," and created a statewide Family Photo Album, with pages showing loving LGBT families, that were displayed in libraries, community centers, and coffee houses all across the state.

In 2006, much of this work came together when, less than 12 hours after the state's highest court said New York's Constitution was not violated by same-sex couples being barred from marriage, we were able to organize thousands of New Yorkers to attend rallies in half a dozen communities from Buffalo to Long Island.

We also began gathering non-LGBT allies to stand with us, and advocate for us. We compiled dozens of testimonials from prominent New Yorkers in support of marriage equality, from local politicians to union leaders to clergy. Hundreds of faith leaders from dozens of congregations started speaking out publicly in support of marriage equality as part of our Pride in the Pulpit program. Unions began passing resolutions in support of it and, more importantly, began asking about the issue as part of their political endorsement process.

And we're not the only ones organizing New Yorkers to demonstrate their support for marriage equality. Similarly great work is being done by Marriage Equality New York and a more recent arrival, Join the Impact.

Now, six years later, the "hearts and minds" work is paying big dividends. Every Democrat who has been elected or appointed to statewide elected office since 2006 -Â including governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and comptroller - has been in full support of marriage equality, as well as other important LGBT issues like transgender nondiscrimination and safe schools for LGBT youth. Marriage equality also has the support of the speaker of the New York State Assembly and the majority leader of the State Senate.

And, most tangibly, in 2007 when the marriage equality bill received its first vote in any chamber of the New York State Legislature, it passed the Assembly 85 - 61.

Clearly the work is far from over. For example, there is one lone holdout among statewide elected officials - Senator Charles Schumer, who has yet to voice his support for marriage equality. Also, there are not yet the necessary votes committed in the New York State Senate to pass a marriage equality bill - but there will be, with continued hard work by all of us across the state.

In the meantime, it is worth noting that a significant milestone has already been reached. When the nation watches the "debut" of a new senator from New York, and she proactively highlights her support for marriage equality for same-sex couples, the issue has certainly arrived as a threshold litmus test for all statewide Democrats. And now that it is out there, there is no shoving this issue back into the political closet.

Ross D. Levi, Esq., is director of public policy & education for the Empire State Pride Agenda, the statewide LGBT rights advocacy group (

©GayCityNews 2009

GayCityNews - Pledges On Marriage Equality in NY, NJ & Enthusiastic Embrace of Olbermann

GayCityNews - Pledges On Marriage Equality in NY, NJ & Enthusiastic Embrace of Olbermann

At HRC Dinner, Top Officials from Both Sides of the Hudson Commit to Action, Talk of "Work" to Be Done

In an evening when the governor of New Jersey made his most forceful statement to date in support of marriage equality, the new Senate majority leader in New York State pledged to make gay marriage a reality here, and New York City's mayor once again promised to lobby the Legislature in Albany to help get that done, the crowd's heart at the February 7 Human Rights Campaign gala in Manhattan's Hilton Hotel, it seemed, belonged to a cable television political commentator.

In honoring Keith Olbermann, host of MSNBC's nightly "Countdown," with its Ally for Equality Award, HRC took particular note of a "Special Comment" he made about California's Proposition 8 six days after the election. As Olbermann was poised to take the stage Saturday evening, a clip from that "Special Comment" was replayed to a hearty standing ovation.

In his remarks, Olbermann said, "Marriage is about love and with so many enemies arrayed against marriage -- bad timing, poor health, infidelity, impatience, financial circumstances, tragedy, biology -- the thought that some people actually feel the need to lengthen that list with artificial traditions that have exactly the same relevance in today's world as the law that used to make marriage between slaves legally nonbinding, this thought continues to confound me."

And then in his trademark stentorian manner, he added, slowly, "It is the dumbest thing I've ever heard."

The enthusiasm that greeted Olbermann's appearance capped an evening when some of the top political leaders in New York and New Jersey pledged to deliver what the crowd was hoping for -- even if those promises were leavened by a healthy dose of caution.

Malcolm Smith, the Queens Democrat who last month finally cobbled together a narrow two-vote edge to win the job of majority leader in the State Senate -- after one member of his caucus, the Reverend Ruben Diaz of the Bronx, threatened to derail that victory because of his unwavering opposition to marriage equality -- was eager to emphasize his commitment to deliver for the gay community, but as well warned of "the work [that] still needs to happen" to pass a bill in the 2009-2010 session of the Legislature.

"I know one of the top priorities is the recognition of marriage between same-sex couples, something that I strongly support, something that I believe in, and something that we will make happen together," Smith said to thunderous applause. The new majority leader quickly worked to quiet the crowd, and added, "Although we do not yet have the number of votes at this time needed to pass the marriage equality agenda bill in this legislative session, we are committed to pursuing its passage, and the question is not if, the question is when. Our work still needs to happen for it to happen this year, but I will need your help and I will need your prayers."

Smith's cautions about the difficulties facing the marriage equality bill in the Senate were voiced two nights after Democratic Senator Daniel Squadron, just elected in November to represent portions of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, delivered a similar message to the Lambda Independent Democrats, a Brooklyn gay political club.

"Looking at the members, it's hard to get to 32 votes" in the 62-seat Senate, Squadron said, according to a report by Ryan J. Davis on the Huffington Post.

The marriage equality bill passed the State Assembly by an 85-61 margin in June 2007, but advocates saw no chance for progress on the Senate side as long as the Republicans held on to their longtime majority there. Now that the Democrats are finally back in power, after a 43-year hiatus, expectations within the LGBT community are high for action not only on the marriage bill, but also on a transgender nondiscrimination measure and a long-stalled student anti-bullying bill.

With Diaz and several other Democrats on record opposing marriage equality, it is clear that LGBT advocates and Smith will have to find Republican votes to secure passage, and bipartisanship can often be a tricky matter in Albany.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who first stated his support for marriage equality at an HRC dinner in 2005 -- the same day he announced plans to appeal a Manhattan judge's order that the city issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples -- spoke briefly during the event's cocktail party and reiterated his willingness to go to Albany to lobby for marriage equality. Twice elected as a Republican, Bloomberg is now an Independent, and his support for gay marriage had no impact on the GOP majority previously at the helm in the Senate.

The mayor is seeking a third term at City Hall this November, and it remains to be seen how marriage equality advocates will tap his willingness to play a role in the upcoming Albany debate.

To date, Governor David A. Paterson, a Democrat who strongly supports marriage equality, has not yet reintroduced the "governor's program bill" on marriage that passed the Assembly two years ago, after its introduction by former Governor Eliot Spitzer.

Passage of a marriage equality bill could well have more immediate prospects in New Jersey. There, both houses of the Legislature are headed by Democrats who are supporters, and Garden State Equality, the state's LGBT lobby, has expressed confidence that a bill would win approval when brought to the floor.

An official state commission charged with evaluating the success of the state's two-year-old civil union law in delivering all the rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples concluded late last fall that it had failed and that marriage equality should immediately be enacted.

Governor Jon Corzine, a Democrat seeking reelection this fall has in the past indicated that he would sign a marriage equality bill if it came to his desk. Saturday night, he was more proactive in his support of the idea.

Noting that the passage of Prop 8 in California was November 4's one major blemish detracting from the historic election of President Barack Obama, Corzine vowed, "New Jersey is going to reverse that, and we're gong to move forward, and we're going to have a happy governor signing the marriage equality bill when it gets to my desk."

In the fall of 2007, Corzine told a group of gay journalists in Newark that he would have no qualms about taking action on a marriage bill before he faces the voters this November, but no clear timetable has yet been established in New Jersey.

On the federal level, Joe Solmonese, HRC's president, signaled that the two top priorities for this year are the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, inclusive of protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and a similarly inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

In talking about ENDA, Solmonese delicately made the case that success on a version of the bill that includes protections for transgendered Americans was possible because HRC was willing to compromise in accepting a non-inclusive version when it passed the House in late 2007. After voicing his confidence that a stronger version of the measure would be enacted, he said, "Why? Because we had the guts and the will to start this fight and we more than any other organization have devoted the resources and the ground troops to finish it, and we will do that this year."

In late 2007, HRC's decision to support ENDA without protections based on gender identity -- which Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank argued was all that was possible -- was opposed by a coalition of more than 300 groups, led by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

New York's senior US senator, Charles Schumer, the evening's only speaker who does not support marriage equality, made brief remarks in which he said Congress is poised to act on hate crimes, ENDA, and overturning the Don't Ask, Don't Tell military policy that bars service by openly gay and lesbian Americans.

In introducing Olbermann, Howard Fineman, Newsweek's senior Washington correspondent and a frequent guest on "Countdown," said, "He's not a liberal. What Keith is is an anti-establishment character who doesn't want people in power to get away with things."

Fineman continued, "He rediscovered the role of journalism and that role is deeply informed judgment about people in power and about the morality of our county."

Olbermann recounted three experiences in his life where he encountered prejudice -- against Jews, against African-Americans, and against gays -- and learned "to take it personally."

Pointing out that his name combined with various anti-gay slurs yields tens of thousands of Google hits, Olbermann said, "If you are even for the briefest of moments merely mistaken for a member of a victimized group... If you really are just brushed by this plague of hate, you have been given a gift. It's brief, it's cheap, it's everlasting -- you have, as the old saw goes, walked the mile in the other person's shoes. If are a victim of prejudice, you should now hate prejudice."

During his November 10 "Special Comment" -- which Olbermann on Saturday evening apologized for not making ten days earlier -- he said, of the issues raised by marriage equality and voters having acted to take rights away from same-sex couples in California, "You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand on a question of love. All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate. You don't have to help it, you don't have it applaud it, you don't have to fight for it. Just don't put it out. Just don't extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don't know and you don't understand and maybe you don't even want to know, it is, in fact, the ember of your love, for your fellow person, just because this is the only world we have."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Federal judge rules denial of health coverage to same-sex spouse unconstitutional | L.A. Now | Los Angeles Times

another important ruling

Federal judge rules denial of health coverage to same-sex spouse unconstitutional | L.A. Now | Los Angeles Times

A federal judge has deemed unconstitutional the government’s denial of healthcare coverage and other benefits to the same-sex spouse of a Los Angeles public defender, calling into question the validity of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt said the federal government’s refusal to grant spousal benefits to Tony Sears, the husband of deputy federal public defender Brad Levenson, amounted to unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation.

“Because there is no rational basis for denying benefits to the same-sex spouses of [Federal Public Defender] employees while granting them to the opposite-sex spouses of FPD employees, I conclude that the application of [federal statutes] so as to reach that result is unconstitutional,” Reinhardt wrote in an order to the U.S. Courts administration to submit Levenson’s benefits election form. The ruling was issued Monday and published Wednesday.

“The denial of federal benefits to same-sex spouses cannot be justified simply by a distaste for or disapproval of same-sex marriage or a desire to deprive same-sex spouses of benefits available to other spouses in order to discourage them from exercising a legal right afforded them by a state,” Reinhardt wrote.

Neither Reinhardt’s ruling nor one in a similar case involving a 9th Circuit employee issued by appeals court Chief Judge Alex Kozinski establishes precedent that would have to be followed by courts hearing other challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act or the Federal Employee Health Benefits Act, which seek to deny federal benefits to same-sex spouses.

Reinhardt and Kozinski handled the respective complaints from Levenson and from 9th Circuit staff lawyer Karen Golinski in their capacity as dispute resolution officials within the federal judiciary, whose employees are prohibited from suing in federal court. Other federal employees denied benefits for same-sex spouses could sue under Title VII and other anti-discrimination statutes.

With same-sex marriage legal or recognized in only a handful of states and on hold in California since the passage of Proposition 8 in November, the number of cases similar to Levenson’s is probably small. Reinhardt said he didn’t know whether similar appeals had been raised by federal employees elsewhere in the judicial system. Still, legal scholars see Reinhardt’s reading of the Defense of Marriage Act as a bellwether on the constitutionality of that law and potentially others that seek to discourage or discriminate against homosexual partnerships.

“I think that this is a very important case in terms of the application of the Constitution to sexual orientation discrimination, especially with regard to partners,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine law school.

While noting that Reinhardt’s ruling doesn’t directly affect the issue of gay marriage, Chemerinsky said he considered it “a key case toward creating a constitutional right for benefits for same-sex partners.”

Levenson, who married Sears on July 12 during last year’s five-month window when gay marriage was legal in California, applied for spousal benefits three days later but was denied by the 9th Circuit Executive Office on grounds that the Defense of Marriage Act and the Federal Employee Health Benefits Act prohibit extending benefits to same-sex spouses.

Levenson appealed to the 9th Circuit’s Standing Committee on Federal Public Defenders, which Reinhardt chairs, with the argument that his office’s dispute resolution plan expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation. The Defense of Marriage Act was passed by the Republican-controlled Congress 13 years ago and signed into law by President Clinton. The act identified three objectives: defending and nurturing the institution of traditional, heterosexual marriage; defending traditional notions of morality; and preserving scarce government resources.

In his 15-page ruling, Reinhardt debunked the first two objectives, stating that “gay people will not be encouraged to enter into marriages with members of the opposite sex by the government’s denial of benefits to same-sex spouses.” On the cost-saving objective, Reinhardt deemed the potential savings from discriminating against gays “insignificant” and “founded upon a prohibited or arbitrary ground.”

-- Carol J. Williams

Courage Campaign | Watch "Fidelity" and sign the letter to the state Supreme Court

This is the kind of images that need to be ads to help us win our fight for equality pass it !! click on link to view video

Courage Campaign | Watch "Fidelity" and sign the letter to the state Supreme Court

Tell the Supreme Court to invalidate Prop 8, reject Ken Starr's case, and let loving, committed couples marry. DEADLINE: Valentine's Day

"Fidelity" used with permission from Regina Spektor and EMI Records.

We, the undersigned, share President Barack Obama's view that "for too long, issues of LGBT rights have been exploited by those seeking to divide us. It's time to move beyond polarization and live up to our founding promise of equality by treating all our citizens with dignity and respect."

Yet, on December 19, 2008, Ken Starr and the Prop 8 Legal Defense Fund filed legal briefs defending the constitutionality of Prop 8 and seeking to nullify the 18,000 same-sex marriages conducted between May and November of 2008.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in this case on March 5, 2009, with a decision expected within the next 90 days. We, the undersigned, ask that the Court invalidate Prop 8 and recognize the marriage rights of these 18,000 couples -- and all loving, committed couples in California -- under our state's constitution.

As Americans who believe in the rule of law and fundamental civil rights, we know that Ken Starr and the Prop 8 Legal Defense Fund's shameful attempt to nullify these unions will not be vindicated in the eyes of history. We know that, ultimately, love will prevail, no matter how hard they try to fight it.

Chappaqua artist of gay themes draws ire for donation to gay marriage ban | | The Journal News

it's amazing how people can justify their hypocrisy !!!

Chappaqua artist of gay themes draws ire for donation to gay marriage ban | | The Journal News

Elizabeth Ganga
The Journal News

CHAPPAQUA - Often art and politics don't mix.

But usually the artists are on one side - smearing dung on the Virgin Mary, perhaps - and the politically active on the other - like Mayor Rudolph Giuliani decrying the depiction as an attack on Catholicism.

It's rare that one person embodies both, as appears to be the case in Chappaqua with local artist Maureen Mullarkey.

Mullarkey is a painter who has done a series of works, well known in the gay community, depicting drag queens and inspired by gay pride parades. But she also donated $1,000 to the campaign for Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California.

That has raised calls of hypocrisy among gay rights groups and on blogs following the intense Proposition 8 debate.

"There's something very duplicitous in making money through depiction of the LGBT community through her art," and then donating the money to an anti-gay-marriage campaign, said David Juhren, the director of communication at The LOFT, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community center in White Plains, which sends delegations to the New York City pride parade.

"She's relatively well-known, and that's why it's kind of a slap in the face," Juhren said.

Mullarkey, whose seemingly incongruous role in the controversy was first reported in The Daily News this week, responded yesterday to the criticism by condemning what she called the intimidation of artists who supported Proposition 8.

Mullarkey, 66, said she favored the measure, which passed in November overturning an earlier court ruling legalizing gay marriage in California, because she believes "marriage is the union of husband and wife - a premise so simple, so fundamental that nature and civilization itself both testify to the truth of it."

She likened the attacks to Nazi "brownshirt tactics" and expressed concern for people in the arts who had suffered reprisals for opposing gay marriage.

"Artists are not in the habit of imposing ideological conformity on one another or demanding it from others," Mullarkey said. "Moreover, regard for individual gay persons does not require assent to a politicized assault on bedrock social reality and the common good."

Maggie Gallagher of Ossining, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, whose California arm Mullarkey donated to, said Mullarkey's critics refuse to acknowledge that people can be sympathetic to gay people but also believe in the traditional definition of marriage.

"The reason that seems so incongruous to some people is because they think the marriage issue is about whether you like or hate gay people," Gallagher said.

The article about Mullarkey is part of an organized attempt to harass people who oppose gay marriage, she argued. Some people have been threatened or lost their jobs after their employers were targeted, Gallagher said.

The National Organization for Marriage and tried to get the courts in California to keep private the names of some donors to the Proposition 8 campaign, charging that those whose names were already disclosed were being harassed. Last week, a U.S. District judge refused the request for an injunction.

"People who gave as little as 100 bucks or less to Prop 8 have been subjected to organized Internet campaigns," Gallagher said. She called on gay rights groups to stop encouraging their supporters to contact Proposition 8 donors.

"It's an astonishing outflow of what feels like, from our point of view, licensed hatred," she said.

But groups like Californians Against Hate say they publicize the identities of major donors to the Yes on Prop 8 campaign to fight back against people who want to take away their rights.

On Web sites that published The Daily News article, some people have posted Mullarkey's e-mail address and encouraged others to boycott her work. Some also said they now see homophobic overtones in Mullarkey's work.

Mullarkey has exhibited at museums and galleries around the country, including the National Academy of Design, the Brooklyn Museum and at Rittenhouse Fine Art in Philadelphia, according to her Web site. She also has been a prolific art writer.

In an interview with The Journal News in 2002, she described herself as a traditional Catholic who loves the Latin Mass. Campaign finance reports show she has donated to Christians and Jews for Life, and Swift Boat Vets and POWs for Truth - the group that attacked Sen. John Kerry's Vietnam service during his 2004 presidential campaign - along with various Republican politicians. Locally, she was vocal in the campaign against putting the New Castle Sept. 11 memorial at the Duck Pond park, near where she lives in Chappaqa.

The California Supreme Court will hear arguments March 5 over the constitutionality of Proposition 8.
Additional Facts
On the Web

Mormon Church admits it spent 100 times more for Prop 8 than reported | 365 Gay News

Mormon Church admits it spent 100 times more for Prop 8 than reported | 365 Gay News

(San Francisco, California) Six weeks into an investigation by California’s Fair Political Practices Commission, the Church of Latter-Day Saints has admitted that it spent nearly $188,000 more on the campaign to approve Proposition 8 that it had initially stated.
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The Mormon Church previously insisted that it spent only $2,078 to support the ban on same-sex marriage, something LGBT leaders said was implausible in light of a number of visits to California by high ranking church officials, ads allegedly produced with church funds and the large number of church staffers working on the campaign.

In November, Californians Against Hate filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission accusing the church of failing to report the value of work it did to support Prop 8.

An investigation began in late November.

In a new filing with the state, the church now admits that among other expenses were $96,849 for “compensated staff time” for church employees who worked on the campaign, $20,575 for the use of facilities and equipment at its Salt Lake City headquarters, $26,000 for audio-visual production and travel expenses for church leaders to go to California.

“This is exactly what we were talking about when we filed the suit,” Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Church put an estimated $25 million into the battle to end gay marriage in California.

If the Commission finds the Church broke state election laws it could be fined up to $5,000 per violation. The Commission also could file an additional civil lawsuit.

There have been protests at Mormon churches in California and Utah. In Utah, a number of churches were vandalized and hoax mailings containing a white powder were sent to Church leaders in Salt Lake City. No group has claimed responsibility, but some LDS officials have accused gays.

Later this year, the California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case seeking to nullify Proposition 8, which overruled the court’s decision in May legalizing gay marriage.

Last week in a separate case, a federal judge has denied a request by supporters of Prop 8 to keep secret the names of donors. The group behind the measure said public disclosure of their financial supporters put the donors at risk of personal harassment or boycotts to their businesses.

In denying the motion, the judge said the public had a right to know who gave money to state ballot measures.

Supreme Court sets March 5 for gay marriage arguments | L.A. Now | Los Angeles Times

Supreme Court sets March 5 for gay marriage arguments | L.A. Now | Los Angeles Times

The California Supreme Court announced today that it will hear oral arguments on the legality of the state's gay marriage ban on March 5.

The hearing is one of the most anticipated in the court's history. Supporters and opponents of Proposition 8 will make their case about whether the measure should be invalidated. Pro-gay marriage groups filed a lawsuit after the November election, saying the gay marriage ban violated the state Constitution. Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown at first said he would defend Proposition 8, but then he changed his mind and argued that it was unconstitutional. Backers of the measure have filed briefs supporting the ban. According to the court, justices will consider three issues:

-- Is Proposition 8 invalid because it constitutes a revision of, rather than an amendment to, the California Constitution?

-- Does Proposition 8 violate the separation of powers doctrine under the California Constitution?

-- If Proposition 8 is not unconstitutional, what is its effect, if any, on the marriages of same-sex couples performed before the adoption of Proposition 8?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hawaii lawmakers consider civil unions - Pacific Business News (Honolulu):

Hawaii lawmakers consider civil unions - Pacific Business News (Honolulu):

The Hawaii Legislature will hear a bill Thursday that would permit gay civil unions.

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear House Bill 444 Thursday afternoon at the state Capitol.

Civil-union bills have lacked support at the Legislature in recent years, but HB 444 is backed by a majority of the Democrat-controlled House.

HB 444’s support in the Democrat-controlled Senate is unclear, while Republican Gov. Linda Lingle has not yet stated her position on the measure.

HB 444 would extend the “same rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities of spouses in a marriage to partners” in a civil union.

If passed by the Legislature and signed into law, on Jan. 1, 2010, Hawaii would become the fourth state after New Jersey, Vermont and New Hampshire to allow civil unions.

Hawaii has been at the forefront of the gay-marriage movement in recent years.

The state Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that barring same-sex marriage could be a violation of equal protection rights.

But in 1998 Hawaii passed a constitutional amendment that gave the Legislature the authority to reserve marriage to one man and one woman.

Same-sex couples still can register as reciprocal beneficiaries with the Hawaii Department of Health. That status allows inheritance and property rights, the filing of lawsuits for wrongful death, and hospital visitation rights.

Only Massachusetts and Connecticut currently allow same-sex marriage.

California’s legalization of same-sex marriage was nullified in November when voters in the state approved a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to heterosexual couples

Proposition 8 Contributions

Proposition 8 Contributions

Click on this link to see who voted against us.

Search the database below to see who has contributed money to the campaigns supporting and opposing California's Proposition 8, which would ban same-sex marriage.

To perform a narrow search, enter a person's name below and click the "Search" button. For a broader search, select from one or more of the drop-down menus to see a list of contributors by state, city and ZIP code.

(Source: Richard Dalton, a computer-assisted reporting specialist, compiled this analysis of Prop. 8 campaign contributions for the Associated Press. The analysis is based on campaign finance reports submitted to the Calif. Secretary of State's Office since 2007 and contains data current as of Nov. 4.)

Conservative Christian Group Targets New York

The ADF doesn't give up. I guess they like wasting their money.

The New York Law Journal Conservative Christian Group Targets New York

Conservative Christian Group Targets New York

By Joel Stashenko

February 03, 2009

ALBANY - Despite a continuing series of legal setbacks, Brian W. Raum said he believes he is closer than ever to getting advocates of same-sex marriage right where he wants them: before the New York Court of Appeals.

Mr. Raum said he and his group, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defense Fund, have for two years carried the so-far fruitless fight against the recognition of same-sex marriages by state and local governments in New York with the ultimate goal of arguing before the Court of Appeals.

He said his latest defeat before the Appellate Division, Third Department, in Lewis v. New York State Department of Civil Service (NYLJ, Jan. 23), will be appealed. The appellate court unanimously upheld the Civil Service Department's 2007 extension of health insurance benefits to the spouses of employees who were married in states or countries where same-sex marriages are legal.

"It's not over. Until the Court of Appeals addresses this issue, it is alive and well," Mr. Raum said in an interview. "We will continue to litigate until that happens. Our position is that this is a policy issue and the law in New York is that New York does not permit same-sex marriage."

Mr. Raum, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, said the group also will seek to appeal to the Court a unanimous Second Department panel ruling in Godfrey v. Spano upholding a 2006 directive by Westchester County Executive Andrew J. Spano ordering county agencies to recognize same-sex marriages solemnized in jurisdictions where it is legal (NYLJ, Jan. 7).

Mr. Raum said he expects to file motions seeking leave to appeal in both Lewis and Godfrey within the next week.

The group also is challenging before the First Department a decision by Acting Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings of the Bronx in Golden v. Paterson, which upheld Governor David A. Paterson's May 2008 order to state agencies that they extend the same benefits to legally married same-sex couples as agencies recognize for heterosexual couples (NYLJ, Sept. 8, 2008).

New York courts are a relatively new battleground for the Alliance Defense Fund's national campaign against same-sex marriage.

The group represented one of the petitioners in the case in which California's Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage and it defended the subsequent ballot Proposition 8, in which voters invalidated same-sex marriage, against legal challenges.

The group also has been involved in same-sex marriage litigation in Rhode Island, Oklahoma and other states.

Strategic Litigation

The Alliance Defense Fund was founded in 1994 by conservative Christian groups. Its mission statement says it litigates "carefully chosen, strategic cases to protect the freedom of religion, guard the sanctity of human life, and preserve marriage and traditional family values."

In New York, the group has intervened on behalf of state residents in a range of court cases in addition to those challenging the recognition of same-sex marriages for eligibility for public benefits.

The cases include defending a Baptist minister who was arrested while preaching the Gospel on the Schenectady County Community College campus (NYLJ, Sept. 10, 2008) and blocking the state from forcing an evangelical Christian from having to buy a commercial sign permit or remove pro-Jesus slogans from a tractor trailer on his St. Lawrence County property (NYLJ, Dec. 24, 2008).

The group also has fought the Department of Motor Vehicles in court over New York's refusal to offer motorists "Choose Life" license plates, which the Pataki administration interpreted as carrying an anti-abortion message (NYLJ, Dec. 13, 2007).

The Alliance Defense Fund represented the successful plaintiffs before the U.S. Supreme Court in Good News Club v. Milford Central School District, 533 U.S. 98 (2001), and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education, 492 F.3d 89 (2007), which opened public school buildings for after-hours use by religious groups.

The fund says it has enlisted more than 1,000 attorneys around the country to represent litigants when the group's staff attorneys are not available.

Albany attorney Stephen P. Hayford, who works with the group, said the fund offers training on representing clients in First Amendment and other cases where violations of the free exercise of religion is being alleged in exchange for attorneys pledging to serve pro bono for local litigants.

"It is helpful to have the Alliance Defense Fund here in New York and I think it is appropriate," Mr. Hayford said in an interview. "When you look at some of the other organizations, Lambda Legal has a multi-state presence and the [American Civil Liberties Union] is also a player in some of these cases on a national level. It is only right and fair that when these large organizations are bringing their resources to bear, there should be a national group that can bring its resources to bear on the traditional values side as well."

In the New York same-sex marriage cases, the Alliance Defense Fund has argued for plaintiffs who are state residents and taxpayers. They have challenged the extension of benefits to same-sex couples as illegal because New York state itself does not allow such marriages.

In each instance, the fund has been opposed in court by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which has defended same-sex partners seeking public benefits.

Lambda Legal attorney Susan Sommer said the Alliance Defense Fund should get the message from its losses that the recognition of same-sex marriages by governments in New York "has become settled law." "I think we are at a point where they have been demonstrated to be out of step with New York law, New York principles, New York courts, New York government," Ms. Sommer said in an interview. "Enough is enough."

'Beating Dead Horse'

Jeffrey S. Trachtman of Kramer, Levin, Naftalis & Frankel, Ms. Sommer's frequent co-counsel in the recognition of marriage litigation in New York, accused the fund of "beating a dead horse" in continuing to pursue the marriage benefits cases in the face of the repeated defeats.

"It seems a little strange to have this group from Arizona telling New Yorkers what their law should be," Mr. Trachtman said in an interview. "But they are an advocacy group and they will bring their fight where they want to. I wouldn't want to say that the groups on our side are limited to where we can bring suits, either."

New York is one of a handful of states where same-sex marriages fall into a "gray area" in that the state has neither expressly barred such marriages nor specifically legalized them, as Massachusetts has done, Mr. Trachtman said. That makes litigation challenging the recognition of same-sex marriages within New York that are solemnized in places where the weddings are legal to a point of principle worth fighting by groups that both support and oppose same-sex marriages, Mr. Trachtman said.

Mr. Trachtman said he respects Mr. Raum and the other Alliance Defense Fund attorneys he has faced as adversaries in court.

"The individuals we have worked with from the ADF have been courteous and respectful in their personal dealings with us as attorneys, though obviously we believe their attempts to undermine the basic rights of gay people and their families are offensive and wrong," Mr. Trachtman said.

Mr. Raum, 42, heads the Alliance Defense Fund team on marriage litigation. He received his degree from the law school at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., which was founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson.

'Why Not New York?'

Mr. Raum said his group hears about the cases it takes up in a variety of ways, including through its network of allied attorneys and by inquiries from reporters.

He said the fund litigates in every state in the country.

"Why wouldn't we be involved in New York?" Mr. Raum said yesterday. "We go wherever the issues arise. It is a national issue, especially when you are dealing with interstate relationships and the recognition of same-sex marriages between states. It is not something that is important only in New York."

He said the unanimous Third Department ruling in the Civil Service Department same-sex marriage case may hold particular promise of getting to the Court of Appeals because of a concurring opinion by two of the five justices. They observed that a broad recognition of the legality of same-sex marriages solemnized in out-of-state jurisdictions is up to the New York Legislature, not the courts.

Mr. Raum said that reasoning also led the Court of Appeals to refuse to recognize same-sex marriage as legal in New York the last time it considered the matter, in its landmark holding in Hernandez v. Robles, 7 NY3d 338 (2006).

The Court has not considered the issue of the recognition of same-sex marriages contracted in Canada, Massachusetts and other states where they are legal. But Mr. Raum predicted it would adopt his organization's position on that question as well.

"New York very clearly does not permit same-sex marriage, that was articulated by the Court of Appeals in the Hernandez case and to recognize [same-sex] marriage in another jurisdiction is in direct conflict with that," Mr. Raum said.

The Alliance Defense Fund filed an amicus curiae brief in the four cases decided by the Hernandez ruling.

N.H. lawmakers bring dueling bills on gay marriage

N.H. lawmakers bring dueling bills on gay marriage

By Travis Andersen
Associated Press Writer
February 02, 2009 5:53 PM

CONCORD — New Hampshire hasn't closed the book on gay marriage, though lawmakers on both sides of the debate would like to.

They're back this session with competing bills on same-sex marriage, one year after a law granting civil unions to gay couples took effect in the Granite State.

For Democratic state Rep. Jim Splaine, the sponsor of a bill to allow gay marriage, it's a matter of fairness.

"There's a strong commitment on the part of many who want to see us march toward full equality," Splaine said.

Republican state Rep. Leo Pepino sees things a bit differently. He's sponsoring a bill to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. His bill as written would not only ban gay marriage but also repeal the civil union law.

"My (original) bill had nothing to do with civil unions," he said, adding that legislative staffers sometimes make mistakes when they write bills. He said he'll ask the House Judiciary Committee to remove the civil union portion when he testifies on the matter Thursday.

The committee will also hear testimony Thursday on Splaine's bill. The Rev. V. Gene Robinson is scheduled to testify in favor of the bill, according to spokesman Mike Barwell. The U.S. Episcopal Church consecrated Robinson as its first openly gay bishop in 2003, prompting a rift with the global Anglican Communion, which the church belongs to.

"He's enthusiastic about making sure that we fight discrimination and win," Splaine said. Barwell said Robinson was unavailable for comment until Thursday.

Meanwhile, other bills would tweak the civil unions law. Republican state Rep. Robert Rowe's has a bill to allow straight couples, as well as relatives of the same gender, to enter civil unions. He said relatives should have the right to enter civil unions for insurance purposes.

Republican state Rep. David Hess is sponsoring a bill to bar New Hampshire from recognizing gay marriages in other states as civil unions. Current law allows this recognition. He said he wants to reverse the statute, because it could lead to adopting gay marriage in the Granite State.

More than 620 couples have had civil unions in New Hampshire since the law took effect in Jan. 2008. New Jersey and Vermont also allow civil unions, while California, Oregon and Washington, D.C. offer domestic partnerships that carry similar rights, according to Chris Edelson, state legislative director at the Human Rights Campaign.

The Washington, D.C.-based group lobbies for gay marriage rights nationwide. Edelson said the group is following the New Hampshire marriage bills with interest.

"It's exciting that they're doing this," Edelson said. "Even though Vermont is probably more likely to pass a (gay marriage) bill."

Only Massachusetts and Connecticut allow gay marriage at present. Kevin Smith, incoming director of Cornerstone Policy Research in New Hampshire, said his group will do everything it can to keep New Hampshire off that list.

"We really think this comes down to what's in the best interest of a child's welfare," Smith said, adding that a representative from the conservative think-tank will testify against Splaine's bill Thursday. He said Cornerstone has also partnered with several national groups — including the American Family Association and Focus on the Family — to fund anti-gay marriage spots that could air on radio and television stations in about a month.

"We know this is going to be a long haul," Smith said. The New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition, which supports gay marriage, did not return calls on Monday.

Leonard Link: Manhattan Surrogate Recognizes Same-Sex Marriage in Probate Proceeding

Leonard Link: Manhattan Surrogate Recognizes Same-Sex Marriage in Probate Proceeding

Manhattan Surrogate Recognizes Same-Sex Marriage in Probate Proceeding

New York County Surrogate Kristin Booth Glen issued a decision on January 26 in Matter of the Estate of H. Kenneth Ranftle, File No. 4585-2008 (N.Y.L.J., Feb. 3, 2009), recognizing the Canadian same-sex marriage of J. Craig Leiby and the late H. Kenneth Ranftle in a probate proceeding. Contrary to a ruling issued last year by Queens County Surrogate Robert Nahman, who expressed doubt in Will of Alan Zwerling, 2008 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 5651, 240 N.Y.L.J. 49 (September 9, 2008), about whether a Canadian same-sex marriage would be recognized in a New York probate proceeding in the absence of a ruling on the question by the Appellate Division for the 2nd Department (in which Queens County is located), Surrogate Glen expressed no such reservation, even though there is similarly no ruling yet by the Appellate Division for the 1st Department (in which Manhattan is located).

Rather, applying established principles of New York marriage recognition law and citing the 4th Department’s decision from last February 1 in Martinez v. County of Monroe, 50 App. Div. 3d 189 (2008), Surrogate Glen concluded that "Mr. Leiby is decedent’s surviving spouse and sole distributee," so there was no need for formal notification of Ranftle’s surviving siblings about the pendency of the proceeding, and Surrogate Glen signed the probate decree, allowing Mr. Ranftle’s last will and testament to go into effect.

The potential impact of this first decision by an elected New York Surrogate to recognize a same-sex marriage contracted out-of-state is huge. A surviving spouse as sole distributee would be automatically entitled to inherit if the decedent passed away without leaving a will. Under the state’s Estates, Powers and Trusts Law, Sec. 4-1.1, a surviving spouse of an intestate decedent who is a sole distributee inherits the entire estate. If the intestate decedent also had children, they are distributees as well, and the surviving spouse gets half of the estate plus $50,000, the rest going to the other distributees. If a married person without children dies leaving a will, the only person who can contest the will is the surviving spouse. By contrast, if an unmarried person dies leaving a will, those who would inherit as distributees if there were no will are entitled to be notified of the probate proceeding so they can intervene to protect their potential interest in the estate.

If an unmarried person dies with a will, then next of kin are entitled to be notified of any probate proceeding, since they would inherit if the will were held invalid. This was the situation in the Zwerling case last fall, where the Queens County Surrogate, questioning the validity of the decedent’s same-sex marriage, required that decedent’s parents be notified as next of kin so they could decide whether to contest the will. As it turned out, Alan Zwerling’s parents were happy to waive their rights and allow their son’s will to be probated without contest.

Leiby and Ranftle were partners for more than twenty years. Last spring, after the Martinez decision and Governor David Paterson’s directive to state agencies concerning recognition of same-sex marriages, they decided to go to Canada to marry, confident that their marriage would be legally recognized in New York. Their ceremony was performed in Montreal on June 7, 2008.

Mr. Ranftle passed away on November 1, 2008. He was survived by his spouse and three siblings, two of whom are also gay, incidentally. According to Mr. Leiby, Mr. Ranftle was one of five brothers, four of whom were gay and all of whom were close to Leiby and Ranftle. Ranftle’s parents are both deceased. Due to the court’s recognition of his marriage, Ranftle’s will was able to go through probate quickly without any need to involve his surviving brothers in the proceeding.

The Ranftle Estate is represented by the Manhattan law firm of Weiss, Buell and Bell.