Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Judge OKs same-sex couple's divorce | pressconnects.com | Press & Sun-Bulletin

Judge OKs same-sex couple's divorce | pressconnects.com | Press & Sun-Bulletin

By Eric Reinagel • ereinage@gannett.com • Staff Writer • March 31, 2009

BINGHAMTON - In what appears to be the first ruling of its kind, a state Supreme Court judge in Broome County has allowed a same-sex Binghamton couple to divorce.

New York doesn't allow same-sex marriages, but state Justice Molly R. Fitzgerald allowed Lauren Wells-Weiss to divorce her partner, Shari Weiss. The two married Aug. 13, 2004, in Toronto, after a private religious ceremony before family and friends in Ithaca in 2001.

The case is paradoxical, said both women's attorneys, because in their opinion the judge recognized the lesbian couple was married, although New York state law doesn't allow same-sex marriages.

Gay-rights advocates say they are increasingly optimistic same-sex marriages will become law in New York, but legislation in the state Senate hasn't received enough votes.

Gov. David A. Paterson last May signed a directive to recognize gay marriages performed in other states. That gave same-sex couples 1,324 rights in New York that were previously afforded only to heterosexual couples, including workers' compensation benefits if a spouse dies.

Wells-Weiss said she receive $3,100 in a settlement, but she was told by the judge to vacate and turn over the couple's former home, which they bought in 2004.

Unlike most married couples who jointly own their home, Lauren Wells-Weiss and Shari Weiss weren't entitled to sign the title with equal rights of possession.

Instead, Weiss had the liability on the mortgage, said her attorney Joseph Meagher. That triggered a legal process known as a partition action, which he described as his client foreclosing on the property from Wells-Weiss.

If same-sex marriage were legal in New York or if the couple had been allowed to change the deed after their marriage in Canada, the house could have been considered a part of the divorce, said Wells-Weiss' attorney Judith Osburn.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Experts predict Calif. justices will uphold Prop 8 - Washington Blade: Gay and Lesbian News, Entertainment, Politics and Opinion

Experts predict Calif. justices will uphold Prop 8 - Washington Blade: Gay and Lesbian News, Entertainment, Politics and Opinion

18,000 same-sex marriages already performed seen as safe


Friday, Mar 13, 2009 | Chris Johnson | COMMENTS

Legal experts who once hoped the California Supreme Court would overturn Proposition 8 now expect justices to uphold the measure.

Justices heard oral arguments March 5 over the constitutionality of Prop 8 — an amendment that ended same-sex marriage in California — and whether the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed in the state are still valid.

Gay activists and attorneys from some California municipalities argued the court should invalidate Prop 8 because it is not an “amendment” but rather a “revision” to
the state’s constitution, thereby requiring a two-thirds vote from both chambers of the California Legislature for approval.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown also filed a brief against Prop 8, but argued the court should invalidate the measure because it took away inalienable rights without compelling reason.

Experts who watched the hearing said afterward that justices telegraphed in their line of questioning that they favored upholding the amendment.

Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of the organizations that filed a lawsuit against Prop 8, said she was “much less optimistic” after witnessing the oral arguments.

“I think the court telegraphed … that they are skeptical of the revision theory that we’ve advanced,” she said. “And as tragic and monumental a disaster it may well be for Prop 8 to be upheld … it appears that the court is on that course.”

Doug NeJaime, a gay fellow at the Williams Institute, a think-tank for sexual orientation law at the University of California in Los Angeles, said “a clear majority” of the court would rule in favor of Prop 8 because justices weren’t buying the argument that the measure was a qualitative revision to the constitution.

“I think justices were on the same page as to what the court would have to do to get to that point, and I think there’s a disagreement among them as to whether they’re willing to do that,” NeJaime said.
Judge: Arguments to kill

Prop 8 lack ‘strong support’

Among the key justices to watch was Chief Justice Ron George, who wrote the majority opinion in the 4-3 decision issued in May that briefly granted marriage rights to gay couples.

George asked attorneys whether the constitution should be considered a “one-way street” that could be used only to expand rights.

“It seems that what your argument really boils down to as a practical but perhaps more political and legal matter is this,” George said. “To put in plain words: It is just too easy to amend the California Constitution.”

But George made comments suggesting he believes the court may be unable to restore marriage rights for gay couples now that voters have amended the California Constitution to prohibit same-sex

At one point during the oral arguments, he said, “we have a different state constitution” than before Prop 8 passed, and the process for amending the state constitution “is the system we have to live with until and unless it is changed.”

Also under close watch was Associate Justice Joyce Kennard. She put her name to the majority decision last year that granted marriage rights to gay couples, but was the only justice to vote against taking up the constitutionality of Prop 8 in court in November.

Invoking the 63 friend-of-the-court briefs that were delivered to justices, Kennard suggested that she could be leaning toward keeping Prop 8 as part of the state constitution.

“It appears to me that what some of these briefs have been trying to get across,” she said, “is that those of us who were in the majority in the marriage case this last year would, of course, have to agree that Proposition 8 is invalid. I don’t see it that way.”

Kennard said the issue presented in the marriage case last year pertained “to the court’s authority to interpret a statutory provision in light of the state constitution” and the issue before justices on March 5 was “completely different.”

“We have a pretty well established body of law in California pertaining to what is and what is not a revision,” she said. “Those decisions do not give strong support to your position that the people couldn’t do what they did when they invalidated or disagreed with one aspect of the marriage decision.”

Kennard also was hostile to the reasoning advanced by the attorney general’s office that Prop 8 took away inalienable rights. She asked why the court should invalidate the measure by this logic when such a ruling would also take away the inalienable right of the people to amend the constitution.

“From the beginnings of our state constitutional history, the right of the people to alter or change the provision of the state constitution has been a basic right,” she said, “but you would have us choose between these rights … the inalienable right to marry and the right of people to change the constitution as they see fit.”

Kendell said the change in the line of questioning from justices last year compared to how they approached the March 5 hearing was striking.

“This was a court that wrote in eloquent language how important marriage itself — the word and what it signifies — is to assuring full equality,” she said. “It’s as if the chief justice and Justice Kennard, most notably, have had a body-snatch experience where they seem to have no memory of having written such words.”

Prop 8 unlikely to apply retroactively

Experts were more optimistic on whether the court would uphold the validity of the 18,000 same-sex marriages that occurred before voters passed Prop 8.

During oral arguments, Associate Justice Carol Corrigan, who was among the dissenting justices in last year’s marriage case, questioned why proponents of Prop 8 thought they were voting to approve the invalidation of existing marriages even though such language was not explicit in the amendment.

Kendell said there was a “strong signal from the court, even from members of the court who did not rule in favor of granting same-sex couples the right to marry,” that Prop 8 could not be applied retroactively.

“It seems quite clear, as much as one could predict, that those 18,000 marriages are secure and the law on that point is unequivocal,” she said.

Marc Spindelman, who’s gay and a law professor at Ohio State University, said he “would be very surprised” if in addition to upholding the amendment, justices said Prop 8 “nullifies all of the marriage that were entered into pursuant to [their] decision” last year.

Nonetheless, attorneys on both sides of the case clashed over the constitutionality of the amendment.
Shannon Minter, the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, represented plaintiff couples and gay activist groups during the hearing. Also pushing for the invalidation of Prop 8 were Ray Marshall, a civil rights attorney; Therese Stewart, an associate attorney with the San Francisco City Attorney’s office; Michael Maroko, a partner at Gloria Allred’s law firm; and Chris Krueger, deputy attorney general for California.

Defending Prop 8 in court was Ken Starr, dean of Pepperdine University’s law school and the independent counsel who investigated President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He argued that Prop 8 should remain part of the constitution because the democratic system provides for “popular sovereignty,” even if the people’s decision is unwise.

Conservative legal experts Mat Staver, chair of the Liberty Counsel, and Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, didn’t respond to a request to comment on the oral arguments.

The court has 90 days from the date of oral arguments to make a decision; a ruling is expected before June.

‘Win or lose, our community will respond that night’

The expectation that justices would rule to uphold Prop 8 raised questions about what supporters of same-sex marriage should do if the court issues a decision unfavorable to them.

Kendell, a member of the executive committee for the campaign that unsuccessfully tried to defeat Prop 8 at the ballot, said she’s unsure whether another ballot measure in 2010 aimed at repealing Prop 8 would be wise.

“I do fear that mounting such an effort and not being able to close the deal would be a serious setback, so there has to be research done,” she said.

A Field Poll published Tuesday found that if a vote were held at this point, 48 percent of voters would approve a repeal of Prop 8 and 47 percent would reject it, while another five percent were undecided.

Robin Tyler, one of the plaintiffs in the case against Prop 8 and the first person, along with her partner Diane Olson, to have a same-sex wedding in Los Angeles, called on LGBT Americans to have “an immediate response” when the court issues its decision, which she has dubbed the “Day of Decision.”

“We know that win or lose, our community will respond that night,” she said. “The purpose of beginning to organize these Day of Decision actions right now is to make these actions as powerful as possible.”

She and activist Andy Thayer, co-founder of Chicago’s Gay Liberation Network, called on volunteers to organize action on the night after justices issue their decision.

“If it’s a bad decision, our community will not go softly into the night,” Thayer said. “We will react with a justified anger at one of the worst and most cowardly court decisions of our era.”

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dean urges passage of same-sex marriage bill | burlingtonfreepress.com | The Burlington Free Press

Dean urges passage of same-sex marriage bill | burlingtonfreepress.com | The Burlington Free Press

By Joel Banner Baird, Free Press Staff Writer • March 29, 2009

BURLINGTON -- A boisterous crowd cheered former Gov. Howard Dean's support of Freedom to Marry legislation and health care reform Saturday at a Vermont Democratic Party reception at the Hilton Burlington.

Dean's emotional endorsement of both issues headlined his acceptance of the 10 annual David W. Curtis Award.

The event celebrated Dean's tenure as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee -- and his 50-state strategy that is credited for helping return the party to power in Congress, and for President Barack Obama's victory.

Dean urged Vermont party members to press forward in this year's legislative drive to grant marriage rights to all Vermonters, regardless of gender.

"Vote your conscience, not your district," he advised legislators.

"Stand up for doing the right thing; for being a human being," he continued. "Put human rights above politics -- because if you don't, you'll regret it for the rest of your political career."

Conservatives, he said, should note that the first American soldier to "take a bullet" at the onset of the current war in Iraq was a gay man.

The late David W. Curtis, for whom the awards are named, was an openly gay civil rights activist in Vermont, died at age 61 on Aug. 7, 1999, while serving as the chairman of the state's Democratic Party.

In addition to invoking Curtis' legacy, Dean spoke passionately about including public-option statutes in anticipated reforms to health care legislation.

"Without them, the bill will just amount to insurance reform," he said. "Now, that's important, but it's not worth $630 billion. We need to fight for a greater public need."

The crowd cheered Dean's parting words: "I have not gone away, and I am not going away."

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the evening's second keynote speaker, credited Dean with reinvigorating Missouri Democrats in 2008.

In November, she became the state's first elected female U.S. senator.

In 2004, the Democratic Party pulled its campaign out of the state three weeks before election day, demoralizing local organizers, she said.

McCaskill was defeated in her bid for governor that year.

The Missouri senator called for greater political courage in the coming years.

"We need both the courage of our convictions and the courage to compromise," she said. "Sometimes compromise is the only way forward, especially in the United States Senate."

She ridiculed Republican efforts to slow the administration's economic policies.

"They drove the car in the ditch and now they want us to take driving lessons from them," she said. "The nerve."

Binational, same-sex couples face immigration problems - San Jose Mercury News

Binational, same-sex couples face immigration problems - San Jose Mercury News

By Mike Swift

Mercury News
Posted: 03/29/2009 12:00:00 AM PDT

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During a visit to the United States Lin and wife Martha McDevitt-Pugh (not... ( Maria Avila )

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Shirley Tan's calm and happy life — San Mateo County housewife, mother of twin 12-year-old boys, singing in the church choir — blew up at 6:30 a.m. on Jan. 28, with a knock on the front door.

Within minutes, the immigration agent standing there had the 43-year-old Tan in handcuffs. She is scheduled to be deported to her native Philippines on Friday.

If Jay Mercado, Tan's partner of 23 years and the mother of her sons, were a different gender, it's highly unlikely that knock ever would have come. As a U.S. citizen, Mercado could have sponsored a wedded spouse for legal permanent residency. But although Mercado and Tan married in San Francisco in 2004, federal law limits the definition of marriage to a man and a woman, and same-sex partners of U.S. citizens don't have a route to legal permanent residence extended to straight married couples.

It might be too late for Tan and Mercado, but on behalf of thousands of similar same-sex couples, Congress is considering changing federal law to allow same-sex "permanent partners" the same immigration rights as opposite-sex married couples. U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, who called Tan's situation "unacceptable," is among a group in Congress, including Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, who hope to change immigration law to mirror many countries in Europe that allow gays and lesbians to sponsor a same-sex partner for legal residency.

"I support gay marriage, but that's not the
question here," said U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York City leading the push for legislation to also allow same-sex couples access to permanent resident status. "The law shouldn't be gratuitously cruel "...That's what this does — it's a gratuitous cruelty to keep making partners choose between their countries and their partners."

Mercado and Tan, who first appealed for political asylum for Tan in 1995 and thought their case was still pending, said they were completely unaware a deportation order had been issued in 2002. If Tan is deported this week, they will have to decide between separating two sons from one of their mothers, or moving the family to a country they have never known.

"It's hard when they are breaking up families," said a tearful Mercado, as she sat next to Tan in the house the couple owns overlooking the Pacific Ocean. "Why can't they just leave us alone? Just because I am not a man, that I cannot petition her (for a green card), they are punishing us."

"The thing is," Tan said, "it's not only me who they are punishing. It is mainly my kids, because they are innocent. They are the ones suffering."

Cultural limbo

The federal Defense of Marriage Act, which limits marriage to a man and a woman, means gay couples in states that allow gay marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships have no legal status for the purpose of international travel or immigration.

Some argue that extending immigration rights to same-sex partners would increase the risk of fraud and further tangle the nation's already controversial immigration system.

"It's always a bad idea to let the culture wars be played out in our immigration policy," said Steven A. Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington think tank that favors curbs on immigration.

With no way to obtain legal permanent residence, many gay couples exhaust years of temporary U.S. student or work visas. But ultimately, as with Los Angeles filmmaker Michelle Paymar and her French partner Veronique Martinaud, there comes a day of reckoning.

Paymar, 51, said an attorney bluntly told them: 'You can stay in the United States and fight this year by year, or you could apply to emigrate to Canada, and you can get on with your lives.' "

Paymar and Martinaud moved to Canada last year. Yet, many who leave the U.S. never feel comfortable with their decision.

Many Californians keep their 415, 310, or 408 area codes, which ring in foreign living rooms. Some still watch the Bay Area 10 o'clock news on satellite or cable TV. They have organized expatriate clubs that meet in cafes in Vancouver and Amsterdam, where they might gather to watch Election Night coverage, or just share tips for finding a good doctor in their new country. Watching from afar, many were stunned by the passage of Proposition 8, even though it didn't affect their immigration status.

They worry about aging parents back home. They struggle to relaunch careers in a new country. And they bridle when U.S. immigration officers won't recognize a spouse they legally married abroad, because in America, they aren't really married.

Some, like Martha McDevitt-Pugh, a former Silicon Valley software manager who fell in love with a Dutch citizen a decade ago and ultimately moved to the Netherlands, would be on the first flight home if they could. Even though she moved to a country where she speaks the language, and where her marriage entitles her to work legally and obtain citizenship, she still deeply misses her mother, two brothers, a sister, nieces and nephews, who live in Silicon Valley — now an 11-hour plane ride away.

And she misses her native California, and high tech's work culture. "I landed there, and thought, 'This should feel great,' " McDevitt-Pugh said of Holland. "And it didn't feel great at all."

Even visiting the U.S. can be stressful for same-sex binational couples.

When McDevitt-Pugh flew into the Bay Area from Amsterdam with her wife, Lin, she was nervous about her documents bearing their hyphenated married name. Her legal marriage in the Netherlands does not exist in the eyes of U.S. law.

"It's the U.S. government that won't recognize my marriage," said McDevitt-Pugh, relieved after successfully clearing customs on a visit this week to celebrate her mother's 80th birthday. "It's still my name."

Others say they have traveled such emotional distance that even if same-sex marriage were legalized, they wouldn't come back.

"That phrase 'liberty and justice for all' ''? That's an empty promise for people like us," said ex-San Franciscan Tim Sally, who moved to Canada in 2007 with his German partner of 18 years, Bernd Vey.

Now living in Vancouver, the men will become Canadian citizens next year.

"I was angry and somewhat bitter about having to make this choice," Sally said. "But sometimes fate deals you a different hand than what you were expecting, and it ends up being a kick in the pants that moves you to a different level in your life."

Not settled

If choosing between a partner and your country is difficult, children make the choices even more agonizing.

It's unclear whether Tan can avert deportation. At this point in the process, it may require an act of Congress. Tan fears for her safety in the Philippines — as a girl, a relative who wanted her inheritance murdered her mother and a sister and shot Tan in the head.

Tan and Mercado are both the legal parents of their boys, who are citizens. Tan gave birth to the twins, who were conceived with eggs from Mercado, a naturalized citizen born in the Philippines.

The couple said their bid for political asylum was rejected because the threat came from a relative instead of a government. They appealed in federal court, and their former lawyer told them — for years — that the case was still pending.

"Always," Tan said, "we keep in our head that I am legal."

That lawyer, according to the couple and their current lawyer, never told Tan that her application had been rejected in 2002 — throwing her into illegal status.

"We have a person who has never committed a crime, who believed her case was winding its way through the courts," said Phyllis Beech, the couple's new lawyer. "And all of a sudden, she wakes up to the pounding at the front door."

Beech said the law is the villain. If Tan and Mercado were not gay, "none of this happens," because Mercado could have petitioned for permanent legal status for Tan. A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security declined immediate comment on the case.

Tan would be banned from the U.S. for 10 years if she is deported. If that happens, Mercado is prepared to leave her job and their home in the Bay Area to keep the family together in the Philippines.

"The main priority is to keep us all together," Mercado said. "We fought our families for our relationship. We are both from very close Catholic families. We stood up for our lives and now, just because of this we will be separated?"

Tan said whatever happens, she cannot live without her sons.

"They are my life now," she said. "I cannot be apart from them."

NYC changes birth certificate policy for lesbians - NewsFlash - SiLive.com

NYC changes birth certificate policy for lesbians - NewsFlash - SiLive.com

3/25/2009, 5:58 p.m. EDT
The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Married lesbian couples can now list both spouses as parents as soon as their children are born in New York City, rather than having to go to court to secure their place on a basic hallmark of parenthood: a birth certificate.

The city Board of Health voted unanimously Tuesday to make the change, which has emotional resonance for same-sex couples who have long complained about facing legal hurdles to cement parental rights others take for granted.

The state made a similar move in December, after Gov. David Paterson ordered agencies last May to respect out-of-state gay marriages. He said a recent court ruling suggested they would otherwise risk discrimination claims.


The state policy applied everywhere except New York City, which keeps its own vital statistics and sets its own rules for them. But the state directive prompted city officials to review their birth certificate policy, said city registrar and assistant health commissioner Steven Schwartz.

Until now, married same-sex couples — male and female — have been able to list both spouses on a city birth certificate only after going through the monthslong legal adoption process, then filling out a special form to get a new birth certificate.

The new policy allows lesbian couples to list both women as parents from the outset when one of them gives birth.

Male couples still have to adopt because of regulations requiring a birth certificate to include the birth mother. The same is true in the state policy, state Department of Health spokesman Jeffrey Hammond said.

Advocates still encourage same-sex couples to adopt because doing so gives them extra legal protection. But the birth certificate provision can clarify parental rights in situations ranging from a hospital nursery to a school registrar's office, said Susan Sommer, senior counsel for the gay rights advocacy group Lambda Legal.

"Also, just symbolically, it's really significant: You want to know that you're recognized as a parent," she said.

The new city rules are effective immediately but expected to take some time to implement, Schwartz said.

Massachusetts and Connecticut are now the only states that allow gay marriage. California briefly did until voters banned it in November.

Gay marriage has not been legalized in New York, and the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative legal organization, has challenged Paterson's move to extend spousal rights to gay couples wed elsewhere. The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based alliance says only the Legislature, not the governor, has authority to recognize out-of-state gay marriages.

In the meantime, six married lesbian couples have made use of the state's new birth certificate rules, Hammond said.

Among them was an Ulster County pair who sued to prod the policy change as they awaited their first child last year. Their son was born Dec. 19, their lawyer said.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Delaware votes for gay rights | News Story on 365gay.com

Delaware votes for gay rights | News Story on 365gay.com

Two gay victories swept Delaware Thursday, when the state Senate defeated a constitutional ban on gay marriage and the state House passed a bill prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Delaware already has a law limiting marriage to a man and a woman, and Senators expressed concern that the constitutional ban was unneccessary.

“I believe that the constitution … should be not a place where rights are restricted but where there is a positive affirmation of the rights of all of the people of Delaware,” Sen. Brian Bushweller (D) told DelawareOnline.

The anti-discrimination bill, which prohibits prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in housing, employment, public works contracting, public accommodations and insurance, has passed the House three times before, always dying in the Senate in committee.

Because of changes in procedural rules, however, activists are hopeful that this time, the bill will make it to a vote on the Senate floor

Japan allows its citizens same-sex marriage abroad

Japan allows its citizens same-sex marriage abroad

Fri, Mar 27, 2009

TOKYO, JAPAN - Japan has given the green light for its nationals to marry same-sex foreign partners in countries where gay marriage is legal, a justice ministry official said Friday.

Japan does not allow same-sex marriages at home and has so far also refused to issue a key document required for citizens to wed overseas if the applicant's intended spouse was of the same gender.

Under the change, the justice ministry has told local authorities to issue the key certificate - which states a person is single and of legal age - for those who want to enter same-sex marriages, the official told AFP.

Gay activists praised the move.

'This is one step forward,' said Taiga Ishikawa, who leads a gay support group. 'Gay Japanese have suffered a disadvantage... although they should be able to marry in some countries overseas.'

Same-sex marriage is allowed in countries including Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, South Africa and some US states.

Gay Marriage, Set Back in One State, Gains in a 2nd - NYTimes.com

Gay Marriage, Set Back in One State, Gains in a 2nd - NYTimes.com

BOSTON — The New Hampshire House voted Thursday to legalize same-sex marriage, narrowly approving a bill that faces an uncertain future in the State Senate and, should it pass there, most likely a veto by Gov. John Lynch.

Gay Marriage in Vermont Faces Veto by Governor (March 26, 2009)

Only hours after the measure had failed by one vote, a handful of legislators reconsidered, allowing it to clear the Democratic-controlled House by 186 to 179.

The vote followed by a day an announcement by Gov. Jim Douglas of neighboring Vermont that he would veto a bill legalizing same-sex marriage if it reached his desk. The Vermont Senate approved the bill overwhelmingly last Friday, and the House is hearing testimony on it this week. Vermont was the first state to legalize civil unions of same-sex couples, in 2000, but same-sex marriage is now legal only in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

In New Hampshire, civil unions became legal last year, but support for same-sex marriage has been much harder to come by in a state with a strong conservative streak.

Sylvia B. Larsen, president of the New Hampshire Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats, would not speculate on what her chamber would do with the House-approved measure, particularly since lawmakers are focused on dealing with a two-year budget deficit of $500 million.

“Our main focus must remain on the state budget and on revitalizing our economy,” Ms. Larsen said in a statement. “I cannot say what the final position of the Senate will be” on the marriage bill.

Whatever the case, it appears that the governor, a third-term Democrat who supported the civil union bill, will not back this one.

“Governor Lynch has not supported same-sex marriage,” said Colin Manning, a spokesman for Mr. Lynch, “but the civil union bill he signed into law prevents discrimination and provides the same legal protection to all New Hampshire families to the extent that is possible under federal law.”

But Representative Edward A. Butler, a Democrat who co-sponsored the marriage bill, said: “Separate but equal is not equal. Even though civil unions provide all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage in New Hampshire, it still creates a separate class. It still creates a separate situation that is the legal recognition of our union. And it’s not enough. We need and want full equality, and we will have it.”

Representative Gene G. Chandler, a Republican who voted against the measure, said that while most New Hampshirites were accepting of civil unions, they did not support same-sex marriage.

“When it comes to something like civil unions, people are willing to turn the other shoulder,” Mr. Chandler said. But the bill “is a step further than what the majority of people in the state of New Hampshire want to see happen.”

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mayor Michael Bloomberg Stands Up for Gay Marriage

Mayor Michael Bloomberg Stands Up for Gay Marriage

By Jonas Oliver | Article Date: 3/26/2009 2:20 PM

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has long been a advocate of gay and lesbian rights, but on Wednesday night he took his support to a new level by announcing at the annual dinner of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center that he was prepared to ask the State Legislature to allow gay marriage in New York State when the time is right.

"We see that the tide is turning, that support is mounting," Bloomberg told more than 350guests at the Center Dinner. "Make no mistake, the time will come ... and we will pass this bill."

Bloomberg's announcement is only the latest affirmation of his backing of same-sex marriage.

Bloomberg has made similar pledges to testify before the Legislatur in Albany for almost three years, but the GOP-run state Senate blocked any such bill, reports the New York Daily News.

With Democrats now in control of the Senate, however, the mayor may now have the opportunity to finally make good on his pledge of support for the passage of a gay marriage bill though he reportedly acknowledged before his speech that he didn't "know whether it's more likely or not" to come to fruition this year. That said, Bloomberg added that if the legislature did consider the bill , he "would be happy to testify for it."

Wednesday's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center raised over $400,000 and featured special guests including out City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and was attended by Marc Jacobs, Rufus Wainwright and Margaret Cho, among others

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Vt.'s GOP governor says he'll veto gay marriage

The Associated Press: Vt.'s GOP governor says he'll veto gay marriage

By DAVE GRAM – 5 hours ago

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Gov. Jim Douglas said Wednesday he will veto a gay-marriage proposal if it passes the Legislature, the first time he has signaled such an intent before final legislative action on a bill.

Speaking at an afternoon news conference, the Republican governor said that he thought Vermont's first-in-the-nation civil unions law, passed in 2000, provided sufficient rights to same-sex couples and that he believed "marriage should remain between a man and woman."

"For those reasons and because I believe that by removing any uncertainty about my position we can move more quickly beyond this debate, I am announcing that I intend to veto this legislation when it reaches my desk," he proclaimed.

The announcement drew immediate condemnation from the Democratic House speaker and Senate president pro tem and from the head of the leading group supporting same-sex marriage in Vermont.

"I'm profoundly disappointed. I think this is a sad day for Vermont and Vermonters," said Beth Robinson, chairwoman of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force.

Robinson said she was surprised by the timing and content of the governor's message.

"I didn't think we would be engaging with the governor on this until we got through the Legislative process," she said.

The fact this was the first time the governor, in his fourth two-year term, had jumped ahead of the legislative process to announce his intent to veto a bill drew bitter criticism from lawmakers.

"It seems to me that announcing your decision on a veto before the process has played out is essentially undermining our democratic system of government," said House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morristown.

Lawmakers vowed to continue dealing with the bill, which passed the Senate on a voice vote Tuesday after winning preliminary approval there by a 26-4 roll call vote a day earlier. The measure currently is in the House Judiciary Committee and is expected to be up for a vote in the full House late next week.

Since Vermont passed its civil unions law, which permits state benefits for gay spouses, California, New Jersey and New Hampshire have followed suit. Massachusetts and Connecticut allow full marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Same-sex marriage measure sails through Vt. Senate - USATODAY.com

Same-sex marriage measure sails through Vt. Senate - USATODAY.com

By Adam Silverman, USA TODAY
The Vermont Senate on Monday evening overwhelmingly passed a bill legalizing gay marriage, making the state the first in the nation to take legislative rather than judicial steps toward granting marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The state Senate voted 26-4 in favor of the measure introduced by Democratic state Sen. John Campbell. The bill now goes to the state House, where Speaker Shap Smith, also a Democrat, predicted a majority would vote in favor of the "marriage equality" act. The House Judiciary Committee is expected to begin debating the bill Tuesday. A second vote in the state Senate also is expected Tuesday.

Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, has refused to answer questions about whether he would sign the measure, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature. He has said that he believes marriage should be between one man and one woman.

Smith refused to say Monday whether he believed there were enough votes in the Democrat-controlled House to override a gubernatorial veto.

Vermont became the first state in the nation to enact civil unions for gay couples nearly 10 years ago, but advocates say the following decade has demonstrated that civil unions and marriage, as separate institutions, are unequal and relegate same-sex couples to second-class status.

If the marriage bill becomes Vermont law, the state would be the first in the country to enact gay marriage by a vote of the Legislature. Other states that permit homosexual couples to wed have done so by court order.

Debate in the state has been passionate and intense, especially as the proposal began moving through discussions in the Senate last week. A public hearing Wednesday at the Statehouse drew more than 1,000 people to Montpelier to voice opinions for and against the bill.

Silverman reports for the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press

The Daily Politics - NY Daily News

its about time !!!!

The Daily Politics - NY Daily News

March 23, 2009

At a private risotto dinner last night with gay leaders and elected officials at Gramercy Tavern last night, Sen. Chuck Schumer reversed himself on the issue of same-sex marriage, saying he not only now supports it but also backs a full reversal of the Defense of Marriage Act.


Schumer's office confirmed the meeting and also the senior senator's change of heart, issuing the following statement from the Brooklyn Democrat (who is traveling upstate today):

"It’s time. Equality is something that has always been a hallmark of America and no group should be deprived of it. New York, which has always been at the forefront on issues of equality, is appropriately poised to take a lead on this issue."

It's hard to overstate the significance of this in the eyes of gay marriage advocates.

With the ascent of Kirsten Gillibrand to fill Hillary Clinton's vacant US Senate seat, Schumer was the last remaining statewide elected official who backed civil unions over full marriage equality.

(Recall that one of the first issues Gillibrand "evolved" on was marriage, although her office has insisted she always personally supported it).

Clinton's departure from the New York political stage arguably gave Schumer some breathing room on this issue.

Both Clinton and Schumer were under pressure from the gay community (which includes some very heavy-hitting political donors) to change their position from supporting civil unions to backing marriage, but they both refused to budge.

While Clinton was running for president, there was no way Schumer could move on this topic - no matter how much he might have wanted to follow the lead set by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer and his LG, David Paterson - especially since Barack Obama also took the civil-union-only approach.

Last night's dinner was organized by Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle and Jeff Soref, a gay philanthropist and donor who was board president of the Gay Men's Health Crisis from 1991-1004 and a past ESPA co-chair.

"I want to thank Sen. Schumer for his support of marriage equality and repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act,” said Van Capelle.

“Like a majority of New Yorkers, Sen. Schumer recognizes that only marriage equality provides same sex couples the status, protections and rights afforded to all other Americans. We look forward to working with him to win marriage equality in New York State and around the country."

Also present for the meal were Assemblyman Danny O'Donnell, who sponsored the gay marriage bill that passed his house in 2007; Assemblywoman Deborah Glick; Council Speaker Christine Quinn; and Assemblyman Micah Kellner.

Sen. Tom Duane, who is carrying the marriage bill in the Senate, was in Albany and couldn't make it.

UPDATE: OK, so under pressure from several fronts, I have changed the title of this post to eliminate the word "flips," which seems to be upsetting to some people as it has a "negative connotation."

The powers-that-be prefer the idea that the senior senator, like his junior counterpart, has "evolved" on this issue, even though Schumer is on the record as plainly stating that he personally believes marriage "should be between a man and a woman" and also voted "yes" on DOMA - albeit a number of years ago.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Kerry Requests Asylum in Case of Gay Man - NYTimes.com

Kerry Requests Asylum in Case of Gay Man - NYTimes.com

BOSTON (AP) — Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, has asked the Obama administration to grant asylum to a gay man who married an American citizen in Massachusetts and was later forced to return to Brazil.

The man, Genesio Oliveira, has been separated from his husband, Tim Coco, since August 2007, when he left the country after his request for asylum and an appeal were denied.

Mr. Oliveira asked for asylum in 2002, saying he was raped and attacked by a physician as a teenager in Brazil and feared persecution because of his sexuality. The Associated Press does not typically name rape victims, but Mr. Oliveira has spoken openly about his case.

In a letter sent Thursday to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., Mr. Kerry said that Immigration Judge Francis L. Cramer had found Mr. Oliveira’s testimony to be credible and his fear of living in Brazil genuine. However, the judge denied the asylum claim, saying he “was never physically harmed” by the rape, the letter said. Mr. Kerry called the ruling “outrageous.”

In Brazil, judges have granted foreign partners in same-sex relationships the right to residence and have authorized civil unions that bestow many benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. But many segments of society remain openly hostile to gay men and lesbians.

The Department of Justice said Mr. Holder would review the letter and respond to Mr. Kerry, but officials would not comment.

In an interview Friday, Mr. Kerry said: “Nobody’s asking to overturn or change the federal law. This is really a humanitarian situation that deserves an appropriate focus.”

Mr. Kerry has co-sponsored a bill that would allow gay men and lesbians from other countries to become legal residents based on their permanent relationships with American citizens.

Immigrants can apply for residency if they marry American citizens, but the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages under the Defense of Marriage Act, and Mr. Oliveira’s request to remain in the United States based on his relationship with Mr. Coco was denied last month.

Mr. Oliveira said he and Mr. Coco filed an appeal of that decision on Friday.

The couple met in 2002 and married in 2005.

Proposed amendment would reinstate same-sex marriages | MyDesert.com | The Desert Sun

Proposed amendment would reinstate same-sex marriages | MyDesert.com | The Desert Sun

Nicole C. Brambila • The Desert Sun • March 20, 2009

Gay advocates can begin circulating a proposed amendment allowing same-sex marriage, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Charles Lowe, the proponent of the measure could not be immediately reached for comment.

Lowe’s proposed amendment would reinstate the right of same-sex couples to marry clarifying that the measure is not intended to change school curriculum or require clergy to perform marriages inconsistent with his or her faith.

The measure’s proponents must collect signatures of 694,354 registered voters, or 8 percent of the total votes cast in the 2006 gubernatorial election, to qualify for the June 8, 2010 ballot. The proponents have 150 days to circulate petitions.

This marks the second proposed amendment for same-sex marriage in 10 days. Proponents of the first initiative that begin collecting signatures earlier this month want to substitute “marriage” in California law with the term “domestic partnership.”

Friday, March 20, 2009

Push to Count Same Sex Couples

Metro - City Room Blog - NYTimes.com

A Push to Count Same-Sex Couples
By Sewell Chan
Bill de BlasioMarc A. Hermann/Associated Press Bill de Blasio

City Councilman Bill de Blasio has introduced a resolution calling on the federal government to recognize same-sex couples in the 2010 Census and to include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in other federal surveys. But the resolution carries little more than symbolic weight, and the Census Bureau believes that the federal Defense of Marriage Act bans it from recognizing same-sex marriage, as Mr. de Blasio and other supports of gay rights would like it to do.

Mr. de Blasio, a Brooklyn Democrat, has drawn support for his resolution from two members of Congress, Yvette D. Clarke of Brooklyn and Nydia M. Velázquez, who represents parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens; two fellow Council members, Rosie Mendez and the Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, both of whom are openly lesbian; and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, whom Mr. de Blasio is running to succeed.

As recently as July, the Census Bureau reiterated its stance that the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 bans it from recognizing same-sex marriages, even though they are now legal in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The Census Bureau does not ask people about their sexual orientation, but it does ask about their relationships to the head of the household. If a head of household reports the presence of a spouse of the same sex, the couple are automatically reclassified as unmarried same-sex partners.

Gary J. Gates, a demographer at the Williams Institute of the U.C.L.A. School of Law, which focuses on sexuality and public policy, said the Census’s enumeration of unmarried same-sex partners is an imperfect and imprecise measurement.

Furthermore, Dr. Gates said in a phone interview, it makes it difficult for researchers who wish to study how those same-sex couples who have gotten married differ from those who have not.

The New York City resolution, which was announced on Wednesday during a rally on the steps of City Hall, calls on the Obama administration to alter Census policies through executive powers.

It is not clear, however, whether the president can do so without changes to the Defense of Marriage Act, which is itself facing a constitutional challenge. Furthermore, the Census Bureau, which is part of the Commerce Department, lacks permanent leadership. As the department itself: Two nominees for secretary of commerce, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, withdrew from consideration, and the third, former Gov. Gary Locke of Washington, has not been confirmed.

Still, Dr. Gates said he believed the executive branch was permitted some latitude in interpreting the Defense of Marriage, and he called the changes sought by Mr. de Blasio “low-hanging fruit.”

He added: “It wouldn’t change anything about the Census. This has no impact on the survey or the data collection.”

Mr. de Blasio has also pointed to other ways in which the Census does not recognize families led by homosexuals. Same-sex couples with adopted children are not recognized as “families” by the Census, and same-sex couples who live with children related to only one member of the couple are regarded as single-parent households.

Alan Van Capelle, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, an advocacy group for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in New York, said in a statement:

It is time for the federal government to put a stop to the discriminatory practices that currently exist in the Census process in regards to our community.

Even though the State of New York recognizes the thousands of same-sex couples who have gone to get legally married in places like Massachusetts, Connecticut and Canada, the U.S. Census Bureau will actively discriminate against these and thousands of others across the country by editing the responses of same-sex couples who report themselves as “married” on the 2010 Census Survey. No other answer given by any other American as part of the Census is going to be scrutinized and proactively reversed by the government in this way.

The Obama administration has the ability to easily end this discriminatory practice. We ask that President Obama direct the Census Bureau to treat same-sex couples the same way it treats opposite-sex couples. Allow us all to report our relationships on the Census survey as we see most appropriate and stop the current practice of editing the responses made by same-sex couples who consider themselves married.

We also ask that the Obama Administration take the easy step of including L.G.B.T. people in other, more frequent surveys that the U.S. Census Bureau administers—surveys like the Survey of Income and Program Participation and the Current Population Survey. By adding categories for sexual orientation and gender identity, L.G.B.T. Americans will no longer be invisible in the eyes of our government and our representatives can make more informed decisions about how to best allocate important resources and make effective public policy.

It is time for government to start counting us. The Census should not be censoring.


Vermont Senate panel approves gay marriage bill

The first steps to legal marriage in VT.

The Associated Press: Vermont Senate panel approves gay marriage bill

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont Senate committee has unamimously approved advancing a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state.

The senate Judiciary Committee voted 5-0 on Friday to advance the measure that was the topic of an emotional public hearing on Wednesday that drew hundreds to the Statehouse.

The full Senate is expected to take up the bill next week.

Gov. Jim Douglas has said he opposes the measure, but has not indicated whether he would veto it.

If approved, Vermont would join Massachusetts and Connecticut as the only U.S. states that allow gay marriage.

Louisiana must add 2 dads' names to birth certificate | ProudParenting.com

Louisiana must add 2 dads' names to birth certificate | ProudParenting.com

Fri, 03/20/2009 - 8:57am by Jeff [Add to Friends List]

The AP reports that Louisiana has 15 days to add the names of both fathers to the birth certificate of a boy born in Shreveport and adopted by a gay couple from out-of-state, a federal judge has ruled.

The state is asking the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the ruling by U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey, and to halt the order in the meantime, state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said Thursday.

"The federal district court has significantly misinterpreted Louisiana vital records law, forcing Louisiana to import and adopt New York law," he wrote in a brief e-mailed statement.

Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith, who now live in San Diego, but adopted the boy in New York state, want both their names on his birth certificate. State officials say that's illegal because, under Louisiana law, two single people cannot adopt a child. Zainey ruled in December that because the adoption became formal in New York, the Office of Vital Records must recognize that state's adoption law on the matter.

New York officials decided in January that same-sex couples could list both names on their children's birth certificates.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Catholic bishops revealed as key in marriage battle

The Bay Area Reporter Online | Catholic bishops revealed as key in marriage battle

by Dan Aiello


San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer, left, used connections from his days as a Catholic bishop in Salt Lake City to enlist the help of Mormon leaders to pass Prop 8. Photo: Rick Gerharter

From California to Maine, Catholic bishops are increasingly taking on public roles on behalf of what LGBT activists call a "politicized" U.S. Catholic Church. Aiding the faith leaders in their campaign against same-sex marriage is the Knights of Columbus, a tax-exempt fraternal beneficiary society known as the church's "strong right arm."

And nowhere is the full impact of the Knights of Columbus' efforts felt than in the fight against awarding same-sex couples marriage rights.

In what turned out to be the largest total contribution from a single organization, $1.4 million of the Yes on 8 campaign's coffers came from the tax-exempt Knights of Columbus, based in New Haven, Connecticut. The Catholic Church operates its legislative efforts through the little understood entity, of which nearly all Catholic bishops and priests are members.

But the church's involvement in repealing same-sex marriage rights in California has been largely obscured by the intense public and media attention Mormon leaders received last year for their efforts to pass Proposition 8. After voters passed the anti-same-sex marriage constitutional amendment in November, LGBT protesters rallied outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' temples throughout the state rather than Catholic churches.

Campaign finance reports indicate that while California's Conference of Catholic Bishops, as an organization, did not contribute to Prop 8, money did come nationally from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which contributed $200,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign. The minuscule amount belies the fact that Catholic officials played just as a substantial role as their Mormon counterparts in the anti-gay campaign.

The executive director of Dignity USA, an organization for LGBT Catholics, questioned why the church was working against same-sex marriage.

"The core of our faith is love," Marianne Duddy-Burke told the Bay Area Reporter. "When you start from the point that wherever there is love there is God, for the bishops of the church to be working so hard against some love, forcing our relationships to face challenges and obstacles that other kinds of love don't face, that is totally opposite to what we believe Jesus Christ came to live."

Harry Knox, the religion and faith program director for the Human Rights Campaign, said the community must engage in dialogue with representatives from the Knights of Columbus.

"The Knights of Columbus do a great deal of good in the name of Jesus Christ, but in this particular case, they were foot soldiers of a discredited army of oppression," Knox told the B.A.R. , referring to its role in the Prop 8 campaign.

Knox noted that the Knights of Columbus "followed discredited leaders," including bishops and Pope Benedict XVI. "A pope who literally today said condoms don't help in control of AIDS," Knox said Tuesday, shortly after the pope's comments were released.

Catholic officials, however, have deliberately cloaked their actions in opposing marriage equality from public view.

Case in point, San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer, who quietly reached out last summer to Mormon leaders he had met while stationed in Salt Lake City to ask them to become involved in the Prop 8 campaign. It wasn't until after the election that the archbishop's letter surfaced.

On November 9 the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Niederauer's June correspondence "drew in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and proved to be a critical move in building a multi-religious coalition."

One result of Niederauer's overtures to Mormon leaders – as much as 70 percent of contributions to Prop 8 were from Mormons, claim marriage equality activists. San Francisco Archdiocese spokesman Maurice Healy denies there is any connection between the Mormon money and his boss' letter.

"The archbishop never has contended that he was responsible for Mormon involvement in the Prop 8 campaign," Healy wrote in an e-mail to the B.A.R. "He contacted and encouraged the LDS Church leaders to become involved in the Prop 8 campaign – and that information was clearly and openly explained in his December 5 column."

In the pastoral message last December, Niederauer wrote that he invited the Mormon Church to participate at the bequest of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops.

"I was asked to contact leaders of the LDS Church whom I had come to know during my 11 years as bishop of Salt Lake City, to ask them to cooperate again, in this election cycle," read Niederauer's message.

At the same time, the archbishop continued to downplay his churches' involvement in the anti-gay campaign, stating that the San Francisco archdiocese's monetary contribution in support of the initiative was nominal. While the archbishop's assertion was correct, it belied the significant role, not of Catholics in general, but of Catholic organizations, in eliminating marriage rights for California's same-sex couples.

California Conference of Catholic Bishops spokeswoman Carol Hogan also downplayed the significance of the decision to invite the Mormons to become involved in the Prop 8 fight.

"They were involved with Prop 22 [in 2000] so I don't think we were responsible for their involvement, but what did the archbishop say? I'm not going to contradict him. If he said, whatever he said, that's obviously the truth," she said.

Role and effect

No on Prop 8 campaign manager Steve Smith believes Niederauer and the other Catholic bishops' real influence in Prop 8's passage lay more in the pastoral messages exhorted from pulpits within Catholic churches than from Niederauer's experience in Utah, where he befriended Mormon leaders.

"I think they had significant impact from the pulpit, but I doubt broader impacts than that," Smith told the B.A.R.

But Smith might be wrong.

Despite the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' messages calling for reconciliation with gay Catholics, it has continued to fight efforts to award rights to same-sex couples. On January 19, the conference's attorney, James F. Sweeney, submitted an amicus brief to the state Supreme Court on behalf of the U.S. Catholic Church reasoning Prop 8 is valid and asking the court to uphold the amendment.

And, while both Niederauer and Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony called for reconciliation with the LGBT community and gay Catholics following passage of Prop 8, bishops in Hawaii, New Mexico, North Carolina, New Jersey, Maine, Rhode Island, and other states continued to franchise a "pastoral message" – too similar to be coincidental – opposing not only same-sex marriage, but civil unions and domestic partnerships.

The lesbian-oriented Web site, http://www.lezgetreal.com, called the uniform message a change in church position handed down "straight from the Vatican and the pope himself," in an article explaining how the Catholic Church in New Mexico was pivotal in killing the state's domestic partnership bill SB 12 on February 25. The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper also claimed "Catholic bishops were instrumental" in killing the domestic partner bill.

It appears that several factors were at work in Prop 8's passage: the alliance between the financial contributions of the Mormon and Catholic churches, as well as evangelical James Dobson benefactor Howard Ahmanson and the pastoral messages of California's Catholic bishops and priests to perhaps as many as one-third of the state's voters the Sunday before the election.

Duddy-Burke was critical of bishops' actions just days prior to the election.

"The Catholic faith is the single largest denomination in the country, nearly 24 percent," she noted. "The bishops have enormous resources at their disposal. They had fliers at every parish and messages from every pulpit in the state the Sunday before the election. They also worked really hard to silence voices, like Father Geoffrey Farrow, who came out [as gay] in opposition to Prop 8. He not only lost his parish, he lost his candidacy for another position."

The Catholic and Mormon churches have built an effective alliance that has been present in all 31 state battles, leaders noted, and will no doubt be present in any future campaign.

A key component of the Catholic Church's strategy has been the Knights of Columbus.

Obscure Catholic group

On its Web site the group proclaims itself as "the strong right arm of the Catholic Church."

To LGBT activist Jerry Sloan, the group is "an obscure and uniquely tax-exempt insurance company acting under the guise of a fraternal order."

Classified by a 19th century IRS code as a 501(c)8, the fraternal beneficiary society is able to operate as a tax-exempt organization providing "$70 billion in force" worth of life insurance to its members, according to Patrick Korten, vice president of communications and past grand knight of the organization.

According to the IRS Web site, a 501(c)8 is unlike other 501(c) nonprofit organizations. It is not required to abide by the non-discrimination clause required by Congress for other nonprofits.

Rather, one IRS qualifier for the tax-exempt code states, "membership must be limited." Like the priesthood, the Knights of Columbus membership is restricted to Catholic men. Among those men are "almost every, if not all, bishops and most priests," explained Korten.

Besides providing life insurance to members, Korten told the B.A.R. that the purpose of the organization is to promote and lobby for the social issues important to the Catholic Church, including opposition to stem cell research, abortion, gay rights, and assisted suicide.

"We're outside the church but very supportive of the church," he said, using Prop 8 as an example. "We were certainly in touch with the bishops of California throughout the campaign."

Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and director of the organization's national marriage project, told the B.A.R., "the heart of the matter is that many Americans misunderstand the rules of political contributions by religious groups, including many in our own community, who are appalled when they see these large faith-based organizations wield so much influence in the political process."

Among the IRS rules for tax-exempt organizations, religious organizations cannot endorse specific candidates and their support of initiatives, referendums, and legislation must not constitute "a significant percentage" of the organization's overall budget, according to the IRS Web site. However, "a 501(c)(8) may engage in an unlimited amount of lobbying activities, provided that the lobbying is related to the organization's exempt purpose," wrote one IRS official, when contacted by the B.A.R.

The Knights of Columbus' $1.4 million contribution to Prop 8 falls well short of qualifying as a significant percentage of its multi-million dollar budget.

"If it's a large national organization with a large budget then it's probably going to be allowed large political expenditures," explained Pizer. "When we're talking about state elections, these large organizations can exert a tremendous amount of political influence."

"In most cases, it's not unlawful, it's just appalling," Pizer added. "To many of us, it seems particularly appalling when these large religious organizations use that disproportionate power to impose their religious views on everybody else. I think some people find it particularly disturbing to see wealth and political power used by religions that themselves were victims of discrimination. That's a matter of disturbing irony, but not legality."

The Knights of Columbus' efforts to prevent same-sex couples from marrying or enjoying the benefits of civil unions is based upon the church belief that there should be no same-sex couples, no practicing homosexuals, no family models other than the ideal, no sex other than for procreation, and no marriage that does not result in procreation – evidenced in 1996 when the Vatican forbade a marriage involving a paraplegic man because intercourse was not possible for the couple.

In addition to the Knights of Columbus' large contribution, many local and state levels of the organization made contributions to Prop 8 that totaled in the tens of thousands of dollars. But through the creation of its special fund, the Knights of Columbus allowed its members to contribute while avoiding the state's reporting requirements.

Korten explained that the contribution to Prop 8 – three donations totaling $1.4 million – came from "a special culture of life fund we established," which he claimed was funded "mostly" by members. Korten did not provide the amount his organization contributed, the names of the contributors to the fund, or the amounts contributed by individuals to the fund.

But Korten was proud of the influence of the Knights of Columbus in the outcomes of the same-sex ballot battles throughout the country.

"I think it is fair to say the Knights of Columbus have been involved in virtually every one of the 31 states that have had referendums," on same-sex marriage, Korten said.

Korten also said the organization opposes civil unions.

"We support the church on that," Korten said. "And quite simply because the [heterosexual] family is the most important fundamental unit of society. A mother and a father is unquestionably the ideal. The purpose of the church is to provide the optimal environment in the begetting, raising, and education of children."

Being homosexual is not the sin, explained Korten, but any homosexual act, and by nature same-sex couples imply the commission of those acts, is sinful.

"As you know, there is absolutely nothing inherently sinful about having a same-sex attraction, but the church also teaches that behavior is what you are held accountable for," Korten said.

Pizer noted that protection from religion is important.

"This is a diverse, pluralistic society," she said. "Protection from religion is just as important as protection of religion. These religious institutions are using fear to impose their dogma on society."

Pizer said that what is often lost in the debate is that many in the LGBT community come from religious families and are practicing Christians who are poorly served by religious leaders.

"We have turned a corner in our movement and I think it's appropriate for us at this point to say that we are good people. We have loving family relationships, we contribute to society. We are good, moral people," Pizer said. "And it's wrong for religious leaders to condemn us and to incite bigotry against us. Those who demonize us are fear mongering and its wrong and they should stop."

She added that in states where there are laws to protect LGBTs in employment, housing, and families, people should speak up whenever possible "against the defamatory statements about [the LGBT community] that are false and damaging."

Pizer also said that the LGBT community must bring forth religious leaders who will represent compassionate values of faith and the true representation of the LGBT community "as the loving and just – and for many – religious people we are."

Catholic Church vs. Catholic voters

In a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece, Field poll director Mark DiCamillo indicated that the Sunday before the November election – where religious leaders of several faiths called for support of Prop 8 – may have been a determining factor in the Tuesday election outcome.

Some LGBT leaders agreed with that assessment.

"There's always something to be said about having an election only two days after Sunday services," said Andrea Shorter, who was just hired by Equality California to help strengthen coalitions, including in the faith community. "I think it's something that we've been aware of and it's something that we have to consider in any strategy."

"Certainly we're moving forward with the understanding that the Catholic collective, not only singularly as in the Knights of Columbus, but collectively, they're clearly well resourced and that's something that we have to work against," added Shorter. "But let's be very careful that we recognize that people of faith include many in the LGBT community. Let's also not forget we're only a few points away from winning. The numbers are moving our way and I think that people of faith are among those."

According to the Field poll, Catholics currently comprise 25 percent of registered California voters, a number that is increasing along with the Latino population, which is predominantly Catholic. Half of California's Catholics are Latino, according to the survey.

Exit polls conducted November 4 indicated Catholic votes were as much as 30 percent of the total number of votes cast, and of that, one third of total votes or 64 percent supported Prop 8, while 36 percent opposed it.

Shorter said that exit polls can be skewed when non-practicing Catholics, for example, are asked religious affiliation.

"But, no matter what the numbers are, it's clear that we need to have a refined strategy to reach out to the Latino communities as well as reaching out to the other communities of color," she said.

Shorter told the B.A.R. that any strategy must include reaching out to Catholics as well.

Calls to Father Joe Healy at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in the Castro were not returned, but the B.A.R. did speak to a Catholic priest in Modesto, Father Joseph Illo, about his Sunday service prior to the election. Illo said that he "absolutely supported" Prop 8, and his parish had worked to pass it, but he also told his parishioners if they voted for Barack Obama or Congressman Dennis Cardoza (D-California), both pro-choice candidates, they should go to confession for the sin of their vote. He did not ask parishioners to do the same for Prop 8.

"Some issues are weightier than others," he said. Supporting the war and supporting Prop 8 were not as big an issue as supporting pro-choice candidates, he explained.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dictionaries notice evolving meanings of marriage - San Jose Mercury News

Dictionaries notice evolving meanings of marriage - San Jose Mercury News

By LISA LEFF Associated Press Writer
Posted: 03/18/2009 02:48:32 PM PDT

SAN FRANCISCO—Only two states may have laws on the books sanctioning same-sex marriages, but the nation's leading dictionary publishers have updated their definitions of the word "marriage" to recognize gay unions.

The changes actually were initiated several years ago, before gay couples could legally tie the knot anywhere in the United States. But they only gained widespread notice, and ignited a war of words on the Internet, after the conservative World Net Daily news site published an article about the latest Merriam-Webster entry for the term.

"One of the nation's most prominent dictionary companies has resolved the argument over whether the term 'marriage' should apply to same-sex duos or be reserved for the institution that has held families together for millennia: by simply writing a new definition," the online publication said late Tuesday.

In its online and print editions, Merriam-Webster still defines marriage as "the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law."

But in a nod to evolving ideas of love and English usage, the Springfield, Mass.-based company in 2003 added a secondary meaning for "marriage" as "the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage."

Merriam-Webster issued a statement Wednesday explaining that the edited entry merely reflected the frequency with which the term "same-sex marriage" had popped up in print and become part of the general lexicon.

"In recent years, this sense of 'marriage' has appeared frequently and consistently through a broad spectrum of carefully edited publications, and is often used in phrases such as 'same-sex marriage' and 'gay marriage' by proponents and opponents alike," the statement read. "Its inclusion was a simple matter of providing dictionary users with accurate information about all of the word's current uses."

Merriam-Webster spokesman Arthur Bicknell added that the company was surprised the revision was creating a stir only now.

"What we are finding odd is that this is neither news nor unusual," Bicknell said. "In fact, we were kind of late to the party. We were one of the last ones among the major dictionary publishers to do this."

Boston-based Houghton-Mifflin, publisher of the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, last modified its definition of marriage in 2000. The fourth example it gives, after "1a. The legal union of a man and woman as husband and wife. b. The state of being married; wedlock. and c. A common-law marriage," is "A union between two persons having the customary but usually not the legal force of marriage: a same-sex marriage."

Just this month, an even more inclusive definition of marriage was added in draft form to the voluminous Oxford English Dictionary, which publisher Oxford University Press describes as "the definitive record of the English language."

Recognizing that "the term is now sometimes used with reference to long-term relationships between partners of the same sex," the dictionary's editors have proposed updating the primary sense of the word to mean "the condition of being a husband or wife; the relation between persons married to each other; matrimony."

Until now, OED's main entry for marriage, last updated in 1989, read, "The condition of being a husband or wife; the relation between married persons; spousehood, wedlock."

Connecticut and Massachusetts are the only states where gay marriage is legal.

-NH gay marriage bill deadlocks in committee

WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-NH gay marriage bill deadlocks in committee

Associated Press - March 18, 2009 6:25 AM ET

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A New Hampshire House panel has deadlocked on whether to support gay marriage.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 10-10 on a bill that would make the state the third one to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Tuesday's split decision means that the bill goes to the whole House next week for a debate and vote without any recommendation from the committee.

The Legislature passed a civil unions bill for same-sex couples two years ago and the state began issuing civil unions last year.

The committee also deadlocked on an anti-discrimination bill that would extend legal protections to transsexuals. Opponents called it the "bathroom bill" based on their argument it will open all bathrooms to both men and women.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All

Monday, March 16, 2009

Obama on Spot Over a Benefit to Gay Couples - NYTimes.com

Obama on Spot Over a Benefit to Gay Couples - NYTimes.com


WASHINGTON — Just seven weeks into office, President Obama is being forced to confront one of the most sensitive social and political issues of the day: whether the government must provide health insurance benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

In separate, strongly worded orders, two judges of the federal appeals court in California said that employees of their court were entitled to health benefits for their same-sex partners under the program that insures millions of federal workers.

But the federal Office of Personnel Management has instructed insurers not to provide the benefits ordered by the judges, citing a 1996 law, the Defense of Marriage Act.

As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama said he would “fight hard” for the rights of gay couples. As a senator, he sponsored legislation that would have provided health benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

Now, Mr. Obama is in a tough spot. If he supports the personnel office on denying benefits to the San Francisco court employees, he risks agitating liberal groups that helped him win election. If he supports the judges and challenges the marriage act, he risks alienating Republicans with whom he is seeking to work on economic, health care and numerous other matters.

Already, some gay rights groups remain upset over Mr. Obama’s choice of the Rev. Rick Warren, an opponent of same-sex marriage, to give the invocation at his inauguration. Liberal groups also believe that Mr. Obama has not moved fast enough to reverse the policies of his predecessor on issues like detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects.

In a letter on Feb. 20 to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, an arm of the federal judiciary, Lorraine E. Dettman, assistant director of the personnel office, said, “Plans in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program may not provide coverage for domestic partners, or legally married partners of the same sex, even though recognized by state law.”

Benefits are available to the spouse of a federal employee, Ms. Dettman said, but the 1996 law stipulates that “the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”

Federal officials said they had to follow the laws on the books. But Richard Socarides, a New York lawyer who was an adviser to President Bill Clinton on gay issues, said he believed that Mr. Obama “has broad discretionary authority to find ways to ameliorate some of the more blatant examples of discrimination.”

The orders were issued by the chief judge of the appeals court, Alex Kozinski, and another member of the court, Judge Stephen Reinhardt.

Judge Kozinski, often described as a libertarian or an independent conservative, and Judge Reinhardt, a liberal, ruled not as part of a lawsuit, but in their role as employers resolving employee grievances.

Similar issues were raised in a lawsuit filed against the federal government last week in Boston by eight same-sex couples. The administration is weighing how to respond.

Gay federal employees said they were denied equal compensation when their partners were denied health benefits.

Administration officials declined to say what they planned to do in the California cases if the judges tried to enforce their orders.

Ben LaBolt, a White House spokesman, said: “While the president opposes gay marriage, he supports legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. He believes this country must realize its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect.”

Mr. Obama and his choice for director of the personnel office, M. John Berry, have endorsed the idea of providing health benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

The Office of Personnel Management estimates the cost at $670 million over 10 years.

Mr. Berry, who is gay, has been director of the National Zoological Park since 2005. As an Interior Department official in the Clinton administration, he developed procedures to deal with complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation. They became a model for other agencies.

The pending cases involve Karen Golinski, 46, a lawyer who works for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and Brad D. Levenson, 49, a lawyer who works for the federal public defender in Los Angeles.

Ms. Golinski’s insurance plan, offered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, rejected her effort to obtain health benefits for her spouse, Amy Cunninghis. Mr. Levenson’s insurer, a Kaiser Foundation health plan, turned down his application for his spouse, Tony Sears, based on instructions from the Office of Personnel Management.

In Ms. Golinski’s case, Judge Kozinski said that federal law authorized the Office of Personnel Management to arrange health benefits for federal employees and their family members. The law, he said, defines the “minimum requirements” for health insurance, but the government can provide more.

Judge Reinhardt confronted the question differently, and concluded that the Defense of Marriage Act, as applied to Mr. Levenson’s request, was unconstitutional because it violated the Fifth Amendment guarantee of “due process of law.”

“A bare desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot provide a rational basis for governmental discrimination,” Judge Reinhardt wrote.

In adopting the Defense of Marriage Act, Congress said the government had a legitimate interest in “defending and nurturing the institution of traditional heterosexual marriage.”

But Judge Reinhardt said the denial of benefits to same-sex spouses would not encourage gay men and lesbians to marry members of the opposite sex or discourage same-sex marriages.

“So the denial cannot be said to nurture or defend the institution of heterosexual marriage,” the judge wrote.

Gary L. Bauer, president of American Values, a conservative advocacy group, said that if Mr. Obama extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal workers, he would “provoke a furious grass-roots reaction, reinvigorate the conservative coalition and undermine his efforts to portray himself as a moderate on social issues.”

Ms. Golinski has asked for a new hearing, where she will urge Judge Kozinski to enforce his order granting benefits to her partner. Mr. Levenson said he would soon ask Judge Reinhardt for a similar hearing.

In addition, Congress may soon weigh in.

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Representative Tammy Baldwin, Democrat of Wisconsin, plan to introduce bills that would provide benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

Similar bills died in the past. But “the new administration will have a new view,” Ms. Baldwin said.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reporting.

Vt. Mental Health Experts Endorse Same-Sex Marriage  | News | Advocate.com

Vt. Mental Health Experts Endorse Same-Sex Marriage  | News | Advocate.com

By Julie Bolcer

Leading mental health and human services organizations came out for marriage equality in Vermont on Monday, citing professional studies that show legalizing gay marriage helps the children of same-sex couples.

"We felt it was important for us to set the record straight about the scholarly literature in our field, and we have lots of different families and the best thing to do for all children is to support parents the best way we can," Jackie Weinstein of the University of Vermont’s Human Development and Families Studies program told WCAX-TV in Burlington.

A same-sex marriage bill is currently under consideration in the Vermont legislature. The bill was introduced in February and has garnered 59 sponsors -- all Democrats -- in the house. In 2000, Vermont became the first state to pass civil unions legislation.

The mental health and human services organizations will testify in support of same-sex marriage next week, when the senate judiciary committee holds a week of hearings and testimony on the bill.

Members of the group include the Vermont Psychological Association, the Vermont Psychiatric Association, the Vermont Association of Mental Health Counselors, and the Vermont chapter of the National Association of Social Workers

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Maryland lawmakers take up gay marriage bill | News Story on 365gay.com

Maryland lawmakers take up gay marriage bill | News Story on 365gay.com

By 365gay Newscenter Staff
03.11.2009 11:34am EDT

(Annapolis, Maryland) Today marks the beginning of two days of hearings on a bill that would allow gay couples to marry in Maryland.

Outside the Capitol, hundreds of supporters demonstrated, calling on lawmakers to approve the measure.

Called the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, the bill would allow civil marriages for gay couples while permitting churches opposed to same-sex marriage to refuse to perform weddings.

The bill is sponsored by openly gay Sen. Richard Madaleno Jr.. Madaleno and his partner have adopted two children.

In 2007, the state’s highest court upheld the law barring same-sex unions.

In a split ruling ,the majority opinion said that while the court agrees that marriage is a fundamental right, there is no fundamental right to marry someone of the same sex. The court ruled that defining marriage should be up to the legislature.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has proposed giving health, dental and prescription drug benefits to state employees’ domestic partners and their dependents in his Fiscal Year 2010 budget.

Last year, O’Malley signed two bills that benefit same-sex couples in the state.

The first gives domestic partners - gay or straight - medical and funeral decision-making rights. The second exempts domestic partners from paying property transfer taxes when one person dies.

But O’Malley has said he is opposed to same-sex marriage.

Republicans also oppose the marriage bill. Several GOP delegates have said they will attempt to bring in a proposal to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

Vermont Mental Health Experts Support Gay Marriage - News- msnbc.com

Vermont Mental Health Experts Support Gay Marriage - News- msnbc.com

updated 8:48 a.m. ET, Wed., March. 11, 2009

BURLINGTON, Vt. - The Vermont chapters of four national mental health organizations say the best research suggests a range of benefits to children of same-sex parents granted equal access to civil marriage under state law.

The state Legislature begins hearings next Monday to consider whether to replace Vermont's civil union statute with one that offers gay couples the right to marry.

Dr. Jackie Weinstock, a UVM professor and psychologist, released the joint statement of support signed by the state chapter of the National Psychiatric Association, the Psychological Association, the Association of Mental Health Counselors and the Vermont chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

"What brings us here today," Weinstock said, "is a shared interest in the psychological well-being of all people." She said the groups want to "set the record straight" given what they said had been a "misinterpretation" of available scientific literature by marriage equality opponents.

"Research has shown children of same-sex couples are as likely as children of heterosexual parents to flourish," Weinstock said, adding "research shows same-sex parents are just as likely to provide healthy and supportive environments for children."

Representatives of the groups appearing with Weinstock at Monday's news conference said there had been "no dissent" on their boards before deciding to issue the joint statement.

Vermont law has allowed gay people to adopt children since 1993. In 2000, the Legislature created the nation's first civil union law though clinicians said children of gay couples still endure ridicule and emotional harm from societal elements because the government does not allow their parents equal treatment under the law.

Next week, Vermont House and Senate leaders open hearings, and plan preliminary votes, on granting full marriage equality.

Those for and against the legislation are expected to turn out in large numbers to weigh in on the question.

The leader of Vermont's Roman Catholic Church, Bishop Salvatore Matano, hopes to be there. Matano said children have a "natural right" to a mother and father, and said he feels a duty to speak "with great clarity and unambiguity" against the legislation, while recognizing the "sensitivity and divisiveness" of the issue.

Matano said the state's experience with civil unions has "certainly redefined the concept of marriage in Vermont, so that people see this as being the same as marriage."

Members of Vermont's religious community are expected to testify on Wednesday, March 18th, before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The speaker and Senate president scheduled a single public hearing on the bill that evening, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the House chamber at the Statehouse.

Queers United: PSA: The Difference Between Domestic Partnership and Marriage

Queers United: PSA: The Difference Between Domestic Partnership and Marriage

Same-Sex Marriages Not Counted in Census - KNBC-TV- msnbc.com

Same-Sex Marriages Not Counted in Census - KNBC-TV- msnbc.com

By John Canalis, Staff Writer
Posted: 03/08/2009 10:09:54 PM PDT

No matter the legal fate of Proposition 8, the 2010 Census will not count same-sex marriages or ask respondents about their sexual orientation.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act signed in 1996 by President Bill Clinton does not recognize gay unions sanctioned by states.

Census takers will ask same-sex couples who live together to define themselves as "unmarried partners," as they did in 2000 before some states - currently only Connecticut and Massachusetts - allowed gay marriage.

"This is all about the numbers. This not about lifestyle or anything else," says U.S. Census spokeswoman Cynthia Endo.

The omission of gay marriage and sexuality questions on the census bothers some gays and lesbians, who argue that a proper accounting would give them the same visibility as minorities, who gain political power when their numbers increase.

"I am a sociologist and census data \ very important to our existence, and I don't like it when they leave things out, it causes an undercount," says Sharon Raphael, 67, who teaches gerontology at Cal State Dominguez Hills. "Certain numbers of us are not out, and when they hide us under these general descriptions ... it just makes us more invisible."

Raphael's partner, Mina Meyer, 69, says she will probably check the "married" box when the census form arrives at their East Long Beach home.

"Somebody needs to read that, somebody in those offices needs to know there are people out
here who are married," Meyer says, adding that she and Raphael married in California when it was legal last year.

Though the census will not count gay marriages, domestic partnerships, civil union or the numbers of gays and lesbians, the questionnaire should provide some insight, albeit indirectly, into those areas.

The census form, Endo says, allows respondents to identify the number of adults in a given household and their relationship. Along with husband and wife, one of those choices is "unmarried partner."

If two people of the same sex identify as husband and husband or wife and wife, the census will retain that answer, but when results are released those people will be counted as unmarried partners.

"The census is all about self-identification," Endo says. "We don't ask that question \ on the census at all, but certain information can be gleaned from that if two people are living ... in the house."

Same-sex couples with children will not be categorized as "families" on the census. Children will be counted as belonging to single parents, those "unmarried partners."

"That's totally unfair," Raphael says. "We should be treated the same. First of all, it's just not good science to leave us out for some dumb political reason."

Gary Gates, a demographer at the UCLA School of Law, says federal law limits census questions to topics for which there is funding, such as income's influence on poverty funding.

There is not a federal funding category for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered, or LGBT, communities.

"The truth is there is no federal legislation that would be relevant on having information on LGBT people," he says.

He calls that situation a "classic Catch-22" because it is hard to properly assess needs of a group that has not been counted.

"We have no population-based survey that asks sexual orientation annually in this country," Gates says, adding that health care is one obvious place where an accurate LGBT count would help.

He encourages cities like Long Beach to use community surveys to get information on the gay community the federal government does not gather.

Conservative groups tend to support the census the way it is. In a statement, ProtectMarriage.com, a group that backed Proposition 8, says, "The way that the federal government looks at it is the way that the law says it should be in California."

It is too late to add questions before 2010. Congress, by law, must approve the questions for the census no later than two years in advance of the count.

"It takes an act of Congress to change the questions on the census forms," Endo says. "If somebody would want something changed they would have to start petitioning now.

California Voters Sharply Divided Over the Prop 8 Same-Sex Marriage Ban - US News and World Report

California Voters Sharply Divided Over the Prop 8 Same-Sex Marriage Ban - US News and World Report

By Justin Ewers
Posted March 10, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO—Less than a week after a majority of justices on the California Supreme Court appeared poised to uphold Proposition 8, the initiative that eliminated same-sex marriage in this state, a new poll finds voters sharply divided over the likely next step: A proposed constitutional amendment that would reverse Proposition 8 and restore same-sex marriage.

After their defeat at the ballot box in November, gay rights groups promised to put a new initiative on the ballot if the court ruled against them—something many analysts consider likely after the justices' cool reception during oral arguments on the legality of Proposition 8 last week. The court has 90 days to determine if the initiative is a legitimate amendment. California law requires only a bare majority to amend the state Constitution.

According to a Field Poll released today, the first to ask voters how they would react if same-sex marriage finds its way back onto the ballot, gay rights groups might not have the support they need. While 52 percent of voters supported Proposition 8 in the fall, the poll finds that 48 percent of registered voters say they would vote to amend the Constitution to allow gays and lesbians to marry, while 47 percent said they would vote against it. Five percent of voters say they are undecided.

The poll's demographic breakdown is remarkably similar to the vote on Proposition 8: Almost 65 percent of Democrats say they would support an amendment restoring same-sex marriage in the state, while 70 percent of Republicans say they would oppose it. Voters in San Francisco and Los Angeles County overwhelmingly line up on the side of same-sex marriage, with 64 percent of registered voters in the San Francisco Bay area saying they would vote in favor of an amendment. The state's more conservative Central Valley is just as strongly opposed to the idea, with 60 percent of voters saying they would vote against the amendment.

Men and women also are divided on the issue, with 52 percent of men opposing the potential ballot initiative and 53 percent of women supporting it.

As with Proposition 8, a generational gap also continues to split the state. Fifty-five percent of voters between 18 and 39 say they would support the amendment, while voters between 40 and 64 are only narrowly in favor. Two in three voters 65 or older say they would oppose the amendment.

Voters who know or work with gay or lesbian individuals, meanwhile, continue to strongly support same-sex marriage, with 56 percent saying they would vote for an amendment allowing same-sex couples to marry. Among voters who say they do not know any gays or lesbians, 66 percent say they would vote against the proposed amendment.