GayCityNews - LGBT Activists Pour Into Albany
By: PAUL SCHINDLER
In Albany on Tuesday, Governor David Paterson lent his passion and willingness to frame LGBT equality as a question of civil rights to the cause of marriage equality. Senator Thomas Duane, an out gay Chelsea Democrat, displayed a jovial enthusiasm reminiscent of Senator Ted Kennedy when he's at the top of his game. And Upper West Side Democratic Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, the Legislature's other out gay Irishman, presented an argument, backed by his success in steering marriage equality through his chamber and delivered with his trademark lawyerly precision, about how a winning majority can be cobbled together.
But as more than 2,000 grassroots activists, in Albany April 28 for the Empire State Pride Agenda's (ESPA) Equality & Justice Day lobbying effort, gathered at lunchtime on the lawn in front of the State Capitol, it was Teresa Sayward, an Assembly Republican from Willsboro in the "North Country," well upstate from the capital, who delivered the most telling case for just how marriage equality could be a winner this year. Looking out at the crowd, Sayward, whose son Glenn is gay, said, "What this makes me wonder is why we don't have more representatives speaking out from the Republican Party, because this is a Republican and a conservative issue. This is a civil rights issue. It's an issue of less government. To the greatest extent possible, government should stay out of your life and let you live it in quiet enjoyment."
When the Assembly in June 2007 first passed the marriage equality bill, whose fate in the closely divided State Senate remains uncertain, Sayward spoke about understanding when Glenn was very young that he was gay and watching as he faced bullying from his peers. She challenged her colleagues: "Let us search our hearts tonight."
Asked by Gay City News Tuesday what she was hearing from her Republican colleagues, particularly on the Senate side, she said, "They have been listening. Have they come far enough? No, they haven't. Will they? I think they will. Especially when they look at my numbers." She explained that she ran unopposed in both 2006 and 2008, but won bigger after she took her marriage vote than before. The Conservative Party dumped her from their line, but on the Independence line she was the biggest vote-getter in the state.
"What I am hearing a lot of," she said, "is, 'Your argument is very compelling and I'm finding it harder and harder to disagree.'"
Sayward's ability to sway her colleagues is a critical factor. The Democrats, whose leader, Queens Senator Malcolm Smith, supports the marriage bill, hold only a 32-30 majority, and several members of that caucus have voiced opposition, most fervently Ruben Diaz, Sr., a harshly anti-gay senator from the Bronx. Advocates, including ESPA, Duane, the bill's Senate sponsor, and Paterson have all acknowledged that Republican votes are needed to get the measure over the top.
Dean Skelos, the Long Island Republican who is the minority leader, last week told his colleagues that they are free to vote their conscience, a sign the Republicans, at the least, do not wish to be viewed as harshly obstructionist.
For his part, the governor is pressing the marriage equality issue hard, apparently stepping on some toes in the Senate (see Gay City News' exclusive interview with Paterson in this issue). Three weeks ago, he told an Ithaca radio station that the measure should get a vote in the Senate whether or not the votes are there, a position at odds with Albany tradition and Smith's oft-repeated statements on the issue.
After drawing fire from some legislative Democrats -- Duane on New York 1 News said former Governor Eliot Spitzer would have had "a strategy" and already enacted the law -- Paterson introduced the marriage equality bill on April 16, saying, "What we have is not a crisis of issues, we have a crisis of leadership. We're going to fill that vacuum today. I'm going to put a stop to it."
Smith was noticeable for his absence from that press conference, which included Duane, O'Donnell, out lesbian City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and four members of Congress.
When he appeared before the activists in Albany on Tuesday, the governor received a standing ovation and sustained chants of "Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave." As he had done on April 16, he likened the push for marriage to other major civil rights struggles, and saying that Proposition 8 should be the catalyst for redoubled efforts, he noted that Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation took effect just six years after the Supreme Court's Dred Scott ruling that marked the abolitionist movement's low point.
Many of those on hand for Equality & Justice Day -- where they were lobbying not only for marriage equality, but also for passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act protecting transgendered New Yorkers and the Dignity for All Students Act anti-bullying measure, also awaiting Senate approval -- chose to embrace Paterson's optimism.
Jeffrey Friedman, who with his husband Andrew Zwerin is raising their five-year-old son Joshua in Rockville Center, talked about the couple's recent conversations with Skelos, their state senator. Arguing that he declared marriage equality would be a conscience vote at least six weeks before the question was due to be called, Friedman said he saw signs of "softening" in his opposition, and then, pointing to young Joshua, noted that Skelos had always been an advocate for children, and stated, "I don't think he could look us in the eye and say no."
Friedman's emphasis on the importance of his family's personal story was a key theme in Albany on Tuesday, and echoed a powerful message that Quinn delivered at the April 16 press conference. She said that when she travels to Albany to lobby marriage equality opponents, she will talk about her life with partner Kim Catullo and challenge them: "Look me in the eye and tell me that Kim and I aren't a family."
According to ESPA, lobbying meetings were held in at least 50 of the 62 Senate offices. Terry Boggis, director of the Center Kids program at the LGBT Community Center, worked with a group of activists, many of them young people, who met with Queens Senator Joseph Addabbo, a Democrat first elected last year. Boggis noted that Addabbo had a gay-friendly record on the City Council, but had not yet signed onto marriage equality. "He's a movable middle kind of guy," she said.
Similarly, City Council candidate Bob Zuckerman and James Whitty of Brooklyn's Lambda Independent Democrats sat down with Senator John Sampson, a Democrat whose district runs from Canarsie to Brownsville/ East New York.
Others focused on the Legislature's leaders. Rabbi Marcelo Bronstein headed up a large contingent from his Upper West Side synagogue, Congregation B'nai Jeshurun -- which included straight allies such as Suzanne Schecter -- and was among a group that sat down with Smith, the Senate majority leader. During the noontime rally, Bronstein, speaking for other leaders of faith in attendance, said, "The religious right has kidnapped the soul of this country for too long."
Paterson was lauded by many of the activists for his forward leadership on marriage equality. Joseph Antenon, a retired school teacher affiliated with B'nai Jeshurun who lives on the Upper East Side and for whom the school bullying issue has particular resonance, said of the governor's speech, "I would have to admit that there were tears in my eyes."
Pete Webb, an Upper West Sider and one of many activists affiliated with the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, said of Paterson, recently beleaguered by low poll numbers, "I'm very impressed with him. He inherited a mess and lately he's really stepped up to the plate to deal with a lot of issues, including marriage equality."
Jennifer Houghtaling, a college student from Rochester in Albany with her girlfriend Jessica Walls, also has a particular interest in the school bullying bill. "I thought it was really awesome," she said of the governor's speech.
Though marriage was clearly a key focus of the day, activist after activist emphasized that all three of the bills being lobbied were important to them. Jay McBride, a transgendered student at SUNY/ Albany, said, "GENDA is important to me as a trans person, but I'm not here for just one thing."
Santiago Peralta of Freeport, who recently graduated from a Manhattan high school, said he was eager to see transgender rights and student bullying laws passed, but added, "I feel really proud to be here to fight for everything that is good for the lesbian and gay community."
Thursday, April 30, 2009
GayCityNews - LGBT Activists Pour Into Albany
Posted by Michael at 11:44 PM
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
This is outrageous!!!!!
Virginia Foxx: Story of Matthew Shepard's Murder A "Hoax" (VIDEO)
As the House of Representatives debates an expansion of hate crimes legislation, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) has taken the rhetoric to a new level, claiming that those who say Matthew Shepard was murdered in Wyoming for being gay are perpetrating a "hoax" on the American people.
"I also would like to point out that there was a bill -- the hate crimes bill that's called the Matthew Shepard bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn't because he was gay. This -- the bill was named for him, hate crimes bill was named for him, but it's really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills," said Foxx.
A Foxx spokesman didn't immediately return a call. The Matthew Shepard "hoax" notion is a popular meme on right-wing blogs.
The Matthew Shepard Foundation is dedicated to reducing hate crimes.
The New York Times reported in 1998: "According to the local police and prosecutors, the two men lured Mr. Shepard out of a bar by saying they were gay. Then, the Laramie police say, the pair kidnapped Mr. Shepard, pistol-whipped him with a .357 Magnum, and left him tied to a ranch fence for 18 hours until a passing bicyclist spotted Mr. Shepard, who was unconscious."
"She should be ashamed," said Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), himself a victim of a hate crime during the struggle for civil rights. "That is unreal, unbelievable. The law enforcement people and almost every reasonable person I know believes he was murdered because he was gay."
Posted by Michael at 4:12 PM
Monday, April 27, 2009
Iowa same-sex marriages begin as dozens of couples apply for licenses | DesMoinesRegister.com | The Des Moines Register
Iowa same-sex marriages begin as dozens of couples apply for licenses | DesMoinesRegister.com | The Des Moines Register
Dozens of gay couples applied for Iowa marriage licenses this morning, and the first legal gay weddings under a new Supreme Court ruling took place shortly afterward.
Gay couples showed up first thing this morning at recorders' offices in Polk County and elsewhere around the state. At 8 a.m., the Supreme Court's unanimous ruling went into effect, and recorders began issuing marriage licenses.
gallery Photo gallery: Iowa begins issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
Melisa Keeton and Shelley Wolfe were the first same-sex couple with a license in hand at the Polk County administration building, and Judge Karen Romano granted the Des Moines couple a waiver to the standard three-day waiting period.
Wolfe and Keeton exchanged vows outside the Polk County administration building shortly before 10 a.m., surrounded by friends, relatives and news crews.
The ceremony makes Wolfe and Keeton the second same-sex couple to marry in Polk County, but the first to wed after the landmark supreme-court decision.
The first couple was Iowa State University students Tim McQuillan and Sean Fritz.
Wolfe and Keeton kissed and hugged as the ceremony ended.
"By the power vested in the state of Iowa and God, I now declare you legally married," said their pastor, Peg Esperanza of the CHS Rainbow Cyber Church.
"What an honor," Esperanza added. "Amen!"
Wolfe, 38, and Keeton, 31, had a commitment ceremony about two years ago.
Lori Blachford, a Drake University journalism professor, stood in line outside the recorder's office early Monday. As television cameras surrounded the dozens of couples in line, she talked about how life with her partner of
25 years, Karen Utke, is going to change.
"We're living the married life, same as our parents did, painfully and traditionally boring," said Blachford, who is 45.
But even though they've been together so long, the concept of marriage didn't seem to have fully set in. Blachford first introduced her partner as "my friend," then stuttered and settled on "my Karen." They have two sons, age 13 and 17, conceived with an anonymous sperm donor.
"They're grown up with us just acting like a married couple and in a normal family," Blachford said. "But they understand the legal issues. They realize the inequity. They don't understand why we should be treated any different."
The couple plan to get married in the summer. "It's a little anti-climactic to us," Blachford said. "Twenty-five years of married life, it kind of seems silly to organize a ceremony. But we're thrilled to be able to do it."
Denny Schrock and Patrick Phillips-Schrock wore tuxedos to the recorder's office. They've together five years, and had a commitment ceremony three years ago at the Unitarian Universalist church in Des Moines.
"I didn't think this would happen in my lifetime," the 58-year-old Phillips-Schrock, a retired high school French teacher who is originally from Jefferson but now lives in Urbandale, said. "It's incredible. In Iowa, of all places!"
Gay couples also applied for licenses in several other counties, including Dubuque, Pottawattamie, Harrison, Mills, Fremont and Woodbury.
Posted by Michael at 11:38 AM
Candace Chellew-Hodge: Same-gender marriage opponents need history lesson | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
Don't be fooled by those who claim God invented marriage – it took centuries for the church to put its claim on it
The question: Is gay marriage a religious issue?
When my partner and I had our wedding ceremony seven years ago we did it in a church. We stood in front of a preacher and said our vows before our friends, some family, and our God. Despite the religious trappings of our ceremony, I don't believe that same-gender marriage is ultimately a religious issue. Ironically, since my partner and I cannot be married in the eyes of the secular state, a church wedding is the only option currently available to us.
Those who shout, "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!" and claim the creation story as their basis for a religious, heterosexuals-only, marriage rite, need to brush up on their history. My brother made this argument to me once until I asked, "Who was the scribe in the garden?" He stared at me and changed the subject.
Adam and Eve is but one story of creation – all religions have one and not one of them comes from an eyewitness who was there taking notes. Marriage is read back into the story of Adam and Eve, but marriage was occurring long before the story was finally written down. That means society created marriage – not God. The original purpose of marriage has changed over the millennia. The one thing it didn't have originally? Religion.
Marriage was invented for the proper distribution of property – meaning land and other chattel which included the women involved in the marriage. Marriages were for the convenience of the men, not the women. Marriages were arranged to enlarge property holdings – to join two or more families who wanted to enlarge their wealth. Love had little, if anything, to do with these unions. Marriages prevented just any old bastard from coming along and asserting rights to the property of a man he may claim to call "daddy."
The early church knew that marriage was a man-made, civil institution and wanted little to do with it, according to EJ Graff in What is Marriage For? (p 195):
When asked, some priests might come by and say a blessing as a favour, just as they'd say a blessing over a child's first haircut. No one considered marriage sacred, as celibacy was: marriage was one of those secular and earthbound forms rendered unto Caesar.
It wasn't until 1215 that the church declared marriage a sacrament and set up a system of canon law around it. So don't be fooled by those who claim God invented marriage – it took centuries for the church to put its claim on it.
It's certainly true that historically marriage has always been between men and women. But, before 1967 in the United States, marriage was only between men and women of the same race. In the world of the ancient Hebrews, marriage was often between one man and many women.
Marriage has changed over the centuries, as it should, since marriage was created to fill a societal need – not a religious one – and marriage must adapt to society's ongoing needs. Marriage serves society, not the other way around. A new need has arisen in our time – the need for legal, governmental recognition and protection of two people of the same gender. Religion has absolutely nothing to do with that.
Posted by Michael at 11:14 AM
Friday, April 24, 2009
New Hampshire Panel: Kill Gay Marriage and Trans Rights Bills | News | Advocate.com
New Hampshire Panel: Kill Gay Marriage and Trans Rights Bills
By Julie Bolcer
The New Hampshire state senate judiciary committee recommended on Thursday that the full senate reject bills that would legalize same-sex civil marriage and expand anti-discrimination protections for transgender individuals.
While the votes do not bind the full senate, they make it unlikely that either bill will be revived on the floor next week, reports the Union Leader.
The committee split its vote, 3-2, on the same-sex marriage bill, with chairperson Deborah Reynolds, a Democrat, joining two Republicans who opposed the measure. Reynolds said that she did not believe New Hampshire was ready for same-sex marriage, according to the Associated Press. Last month, the bill passed the house by a vote of 186-179.
The committee voted 5-0 to recommend that the full senate kill the transgender rights bill. The bill would add the term "gender identity or expression" to state anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws. Opponents argued that the bill would open public restrooms to use by either sex. The bill passed the house last month by a vote of 188-187.
On Tuesday, former governor and current state Republican party chairman John Sununu referred to both bills as "garbage."
Posted by Michael at 9:36 AM
My bullied son's last day on Earth - CNN.com
By Mallory Simon
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Eleven-year-old Jaheem Herrera woke up on April 16 acting strangely. He wasn't hungry and he didn't want to go to school.
Jaheem Herrera's mother thinks he hanged himself because he was perpetually bullied at school.
Jaheem Herrera's mother thinks he hanged himself because he was perpetually bullied at school.
But the outgoing fifth grader packed his bag and went to school at Dunaire Elementary School in DeKalb County, Georgia.
He came home much happier than when he left in the morning, smiling as he handed his mother, Masika Bermudez, a glowing report card full of A's and B's. She gave him a high-five and he went upstairs to his room as she prepared dinner.
A little later, when his younger sister called him to come down to eat, Jaheem didn't answer.
So mother and daughter climbed the stairs to Jaheem's room and opened the door.
Jaheem was hanging by his belt in the closet.
"I always used to see these things on TV, dead people on the news," says Bermudez. "I saw somebody die and to see this dead person is your son, hanging there, a young boy. ... To hang yourself like that, you've got to really be tired of something."
Bermudez says bullies at school pushed Jaheem over the edge. He complained about being called gay, ugly and "the virgin" because he was from the Virgin Islands, she said.
"He used to say Mom they keep telling me this ... this gay word, this gay, gay, gay. I'm tired of hearing it, they're telling me the same thing over and over," she told CNN, as she wiped away tears from her face.
But while she says her son complained about the bullying, she had no idea how bad it had gotten.
"He told me, but he just got to the point where he didn't want me to get involved anymore because nothing was done," she said.
Bermudez said she complained to the school about bullying seven or eight times, but it wasn't enough to save him.
"It [apparently] just got worse and worse and worse until Thursday," she said. "Just to walk up to that room and see your baby hanging there. My daughter saw this, my baby saw this, my kids are traumatized."
She said Jaheem was a shy boy just trying to get a good education and make friends. Video Watch what experts say about bullying in schools »
"He was a nice little boy," Bermudez said through her tears. "He loved to dance. He loved to have fun. He loved to make friends. And all he made [at school] were enemies."
Bermudez said she thinks her son felt like nobody wanted to help him, that nobody stood up and stopped the bullies.
"Maybe he said 'You know what -- I'm tired of telling my mom, she's been trying so hard, but nobody wants to help me,' " says Bermudez.
After Jaheem's death, the school board expressed condolences, saying the school staff "works diligently to provide a safe and nurturing environment for all students."
Trying desperately to understand what went wrong, Bermudez asked her son's best friend to recount what happened on the day Jaheem killed himself.
"He [said he was] tired of complaining, tired of these guys messing with him," Bermudez said, recalling the conversation with Jaheem's best friend. "Tired of talking, I think to his teachers, counselors and nobody is doing anything -- and the best way out is death."
Suicide hotline numbers
Allegations of such severe bullying surprises experts familiar with the school district. It's anti-bullying program was considered exemplary and includes programs to raise awareness and a specially trained liaison. Students are even asked to sign a no-bullying pledge. But other parents told CNN they have complained about bullying as well.
Despite recent strides towards preventing bullying in schools and increased awareness programs, a Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network study showed that 65 percent of teens are bullied each year and most believe adults can't help them.
Less than a month before Jaheem's death, a boy in Massachusetts killed himself after being bullied, harassed and called "gay."
Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, says to be effective, awareness programs need to include education about the harm that can be done by teasing someone about sexuality or perceived sexuality.
"Anti-gay language is really the ultimate weapon for a bully who wants to degrade his or her peers," she says. "And any effective response to bullying has to take that on."
Bermudez doesn't understand why the children at school couldn't learn to get along. Because of it, she'll never get to see her son grow up.
"My baby, that's my only boy, and I lost him now," says Bermudez. "He was my first child and ... to lose him 11 years after, he didn't live his life."
She hopes her son's death will result in positive changes that will help other kids being bullied.
"Those that are being bullied -- they need to talk to their parents, they need to not hold back," she says. "I lost my son and now something has to be done."
Posted by Michael at 8:26 AM
Thursday, April 23, 2009
OUR OP-ED APPEARED IN TODAYS PAPER
Gay Yonkers couple, advocates: 'We are pro-marriage' | lohud.com | The Journal News
Gay Yonkers couple, advocates: 'We are pro-marriage'
By Michael Sabatino Robert Voorheis • April 23, 2009
Re "Marriage plans," a Friday editorial on Gov. David Paterson's bid to lift New York's ban on gay marriage:
Thank you for your support of same-sex marriage and enlightening your readership. It time to get this done and move on to the other social justice issues like homelessness, poverty and unemployment. National Organization for Marriage, which opposed lifting the state's ban on gay marriage, is using fear tactics. This idea of religious institutions being forced to marry gay people is hogwash. Are Catholic priests forced to marry Jewish couples? Is a rabbi forced to marry a Christian couple? No! So why would any clergy person be forced to marry a gay or lesbian couple? It will not happen.
If marriage is a religious institution then try going back to your church or synagogue to get a divorce. You can't, because it is a state contract that needs to be nullified by the state. Clergy always say, "by the powers vested in me by the state"; that's because each is performing a marriage on behalf of the state. Actually, officiates do not "marry" couples. The two people marry each other, and the officiate is the witness to the marriage. Besides, about 50 percent of the population that marries does so in a civil, non-religious ceremony.
Ours is one of the few countries in the world that allows clergy to solemnize marriages. In 90 percent of the countries, you must get married by a government official for your marriage to be legal, and then you can have your religious ceremony concurrently or afterward.
We as gay couples believe in, and support, marriage. That is why we want it. Marriage has always evolved over time. It used to be about property and dowry. It is only since the late 1800s that it was about love.
We are pro-marriage. Marriage validates our commitment to each other and those in society who become part of our lives. Do the Judeo/Christian thing and spend your money on fighting poverty, homelessness, sex education and finding homes for needy children, whether adopted by straight or gay people. Every child deserves a loving family, whether its a mom and dad, two dads, two moms or a dad or a mom.
The writers live in Yonkers.
Posted by Michael at 3:03 PM
Legislature passes gay marriage bill - The Connecticut Post Online
HARTFORD -- Connecticut would become the first state to codify same-sex marriage after a court order under legislation approved Wednesday night in the General Assembly.
The bill -- a follow-up to the October state Supreme Court ruling that said the 2005 civil-union law was not equal to heterosexual marriage -- would also let religious leaders opt out of performing or hosting such ceremonies, if it is against their beliefs.
It passed the Senate 28-7, after hours of closed-door negotiations and a nearly three-hour debate. The House of Representatives, which began debate at 8 p.m., passed the bill late in the evening. Gov. M. Jodi Rell said Wednesday night that she will sign it.
"This bill is important for many reasons, some of which are legal and many of which are symbolic, but all of which, in my opinion at least, lift us up as a state, not only for gay and lesbian individuals and couples, but for all of us in the state of Connecticut, where we can lift our heads and proudly say we do not discriminate in our state," said Sen. Andrew J. McDonald, D-Stamford, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who introduced the bill.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said that as much as he would have liked the gay marriage issue decided by the General Assembly, the high court has created the legal landscape and requirements for the Legislature to revise existing language in state law.
"Anytime you involve government and religion, we get
into some very difficult issues and tread on ground that many of us don't want to tread," McKinney said. "I think the product before us is a good one and it is one that I believe moves our state forward."
He said that the issues are difficult.
"Regardless of your feelings on same-sex marriage, regardless of your deeply held religious beliefs, which we would ask no one to give up and surrender, our state of Connecticut does recognize same-sex unions,"
McKinney said. "And it is time that as a people that we understand that and that we move forward."
A bipartisan Senate amendment was aimed at smoothing the passage of the issue by specifically allowing religious organizations to withhold services, goods or facilities from same-sex couples.
Faith-based agencies would be allowed to prohibit gay couples from adopting children, if the organizations do not receive any state or federal funding, under the provision.
Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney said the amendment "does the kind of delicate and judicious" balancing of the rights of religious organizations, with the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality.
"I think it is crucial that we protect the rights of religious organizations," Sen. Dan Debicella, R-Shelton, said during the debate.
Sen. Michael A. McLachlan, R-Danbury, was concerned the legislation would not protect religious charities, particularly since many such agencies receive government funding for some services that have nothing to do with adoption programs.
Throughout the day, dozens of gay and Catholic activists milled around the third-floor hall of the Capitol, near the Senate chamber, wearing lapel stickers that said "Equality" and "Religious Freedom," respectively.
During the debate, the Senate gallery held about 40 spectators. By 9:45, there were only 15 people watching the proceedings.
The law would allow those hundreds of Connecticut couples who were joined in the civil unions to be recognized as married.
Looney said there were recent statewide efforts to "misrepresent" the bill, which became necessary when the Supreme Court ruled last fall. The conservative Family Institute of Connecticut, in particular, took out full-page advertisements in newspapers throughout the state in an attempt to change the legislation.
Since November, when same-sex marriages began after the Supreme Court decision, there have been 214 gay and lesbian couples united in wedlock in Connecticut, a state Department of Public Health spokeswoman said Wednesday afternoon.
Another Republican amendment that would further protect religious social service organizations that receive some amount of government funds was approved 34-1. Democrats have a 24-12 edge in the Senate and a 114-37 majority in the House.
McLachlan submitted an amendment that would protect religious organizations that do not have official nonprofit status, such as local chapters of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Knights of Columbus, which have state sales-tax exemptions but not federal nonprofit status.
McDonald said McLachlan's proposal was an attempt to overturn a compromise agreed upon earlier this month in the Judiciary Committee. "We have since discovered that this does present a challenge for commonly acknowledged religious organizations," McLachlan said, adding fraternal organizations will need some "leeway."
The amendment was defeated 24-11.
Later, McLachlan questioned McDonald on some of the motivations of lawmakers who adopted civil rights protections in 1991 that would be eclipsed by the legislation.
"The public, I would suggest, is way ahead of some people who are elected to represent those members of the public," McDonald replied.
"I don't dispute that this is a victory for a number of residents in the state of Connecticut, but with all due respect, there are a number of residents of the state of Connecticut who are not happy with this decision," McLachlan said.
"In my opinion nobody is harmed when our Constitution is upheld," McDonald said.
"I, frankly, am quite discouraged that any court could legislate from the bench," said McLachlan, adding he prayed during the Senate debate, which began at 4:15 p.m. "The reality is there are many people who are being affected by this, who didn't ask for it."
An hour into the House debate, House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, said he was disappointed Democrats decided early in the evening to run the bill in the House right after the Senate vote.
"Regardless of where anyone in this room stands on the issue of whether people of the same sex should marry or not, nothing, I repeat, nothing you can do will change the fact that as we stand here today, same-sex marriage is the law of the state of Connecticut," Cafero said.
Massachusetts and Connecticut are currently the only states that allow same-sex marriage, although it will become legal in Vermont on Sept. 1 and in Iowa on Monday. Massachusetts lawmakers have not formalized the court order that created its marriage law in 2004.
Peter Wolfgang, executive director for the Family Institute, said after the Senate vote the amendments made the legislation a lot more palatable.
"It made a bad bill better," he told reporters, adding the amendments have added protections far beyond the bill that was approved by the Judiciary Committee. "It's not perfect. I would have liked to have seen more. I still don't like this bill. But this has been a good day for religious liberty in Connecticut."
Anne Stanback, president of Love Makes a Family, the umbrella group of organizations that in recent years has lobbied for gay rights, said the legislative action goes a long way toward adding important legal protections for same-sex couples.
"Today, fairness won out over fear," Stanback said. "I think what was particularly significant was that none of the amendments that had been pushed by the Family Institute that were filled with misinformation were raised in the Senate and we don't expect them to be raised in the House."
How they voted The following is the roll call vote for Western Connecticut state senators on the gay marriage bill, which passed 28-7. YES Sen. Toni N. Harp, D-New Haven Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven Sen. Gayle S. Slossberg, D-Milford Sen. Joseph J. Crisco Jr., D-Woodbridge Sen. Dan Debicella, R-Shelton Sen. Anthony J. Musto, D-Trumbull Sen. Edwin A. Gomes, D-Bridgeport Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton Sen. Andrew J. McDonald, D-Stamford Sen. John McKinney, R-Fairfield Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen Sen. Leonard A. Fasano, R-North Haven NO Sen. Michael A. McLachlan, R-Danbury Sen. Robert J. Kane, R-Watertown Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich Sen. Sam Caligiuri, R-Waterbury
Posted by Michael at 9:39 AM
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Mass. clergy lend voices to New York same-sex marriage debate - The Boston Globe
By Michael Paulson
Globe Staff / April 22, 2009
Several prominent religious leaders from Massachusetts are lending their support to the campaign for the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York state, arguing in various venues yesterday that gay marriage has not affected religious freedom in the Bay State.
The gay rights group, the Empire State Pride Agenda, said it sought out clergy in Masachusetts in an effort to rebut critics of same-sex marriage.
"There is a campaign on the side of the religious right to convince people that marriage equality for same-sex couples will threaten religious freedom, but we don't think that is the case, and we don't want any myths to go unanswered," said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the organization. "Nobody has more experience in dealing with the issue of marriage equality than Massachusetts, and so the best people to respond are those who live in Massachusetts and who lead religious institutions."
Empire State Pride yesterday released a YouTube video featuring three Massachusetts clergy: Bishop M. Thomas Shaw of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts; the Rev. Nancy S. Taylor of Old South Church, a United Church of Christ congregation in Boston; and the Rev. Michael Wayne Walker of Messiah Baptist Church, an American Baptist congregation in Brockton. Taylor and Walker officiate at same-sex marriages; Shaw does not, because his denomination opposes it, although he personally supports them.
"We've never had any litigation around same-sex marriages, we've never had any protests that I know of, and we've never had any interference, as far as the government is concerned, in our religious tradition," Shaw said.
Taylor recited a partial list of denominations in Massachusetts that do not allow their clergy to officiate at same-sex marriages, including the largest, the Catholic Church, and the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the Episcopal Church. Other groups that do not perform same-sex marriages in Massachusetts include Orthodox Christian churches, Orthodox Judaism, Islam, and the Mormons.
"The fact is that the vast majority of churches and ministers in Massachusetts cannot and do not officiate at same-gender marriage because they're not permitted to by their traditions," Taylor said. "It has nothing to do with the state. It's their own religious tradition."
The Empire State Pride Agenda also released a series of interviews with Massachusetts clergy from liberal denominations who assert that their religious freedom had not been affected by the legalization of same-sex marriage. Among those cited are the Rev. John Stendahl, pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Newtons and the Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, an Episcopal priest in Amherst, both of whom are forbidden by their denominations from officiating at same-sex marriages, as well as Rabbi Elias Lieberman of a Reform synagogue in Falmouth, and the Rev. William G. Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, who do officiate at same-sex marriages.
Van Capelle said the gay-rights group's staff will download the six-minute video of Massachusetts clergy onto their cellphones and bring it with them to show New York legislators, who are expected to tackle the same-sex marriage issue this year. The governor of New York, David A. Paterson, introduced legislation last week to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.
"It is a constant concern from elected officials that religious institutions in their district are somehow going to be forced to compromise their faith traditions," van Capelle said. "It's important to hear from people in a state that has marriage equality that that is not the case. Massachusetts has gone from being a trailblazer to now being a teacher and a case study for the rest of the nation."
Two leading opponents of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts said yesterday they believe that conflicts between religions and the state are coming. Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, cited as an example the state's insistence that Catholic Charities be willing to place adoptive children with same-sex couples in order to continue receiving state funding, a requirement that led Catholic Charities to get out of the adoption business.
"Same-sex marriage is on a collision course with religious liberties; it's inevitable," said Mineau, who also predicted that some churches could lose their nonprofit status if they do not agree with public policy on gay rights.
Edward F. Saunders Jr., executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, cited the debate over "conscience clauses" for medical professionals who don't want to provide abortion services as another example of the tension between religious freedom and public policy that he expects to be heightened by the legalization of same-sex marriage.
"I don't think there's been any immediate direct effect right at the moment, but the fear is there that there will be a confrontation," Saunders said.
Michael Paulson can be reached at email@example.com.
Posted by Michael at 12:33 PM
Connecticut Marriage Equality Opponents Want to Go Back To The Future | Lez Get Real
Currently same sex marriage is legal in four US states; Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa.
While the United States constitution absolutely protects religious liberties and no one can force any religious organization to recognize any marriage they don’t want to recognize, six months into legalized same-sex marriage in Connecticut, some in that state are looking at opening a new and disturbing front in their contentious battle against gay rights by demanding Connecticut lawmakers create exemptions to the Connecticut’s anti-discrimination laws based on religious grounds.
The Connecticut Senate is scheduled to vote today on legislation codifying last year’s Connecticut Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. The legislation was amended by the Senate Judiciary Committee to specify churches could not be forced to host gay weddings. But the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport’s Web site is urging visitors to oppose the current bill as “an attack on our religious liberty,” and anti-marriage equality proponents want Connecticut to provide “full conscience protection” to anyone, such as a caterer, florist or photographer, who says they object to same-sex marriage on religious grounds.
This past weekend, the Roman Catholic Church, teamed up the Family Institute of Connecticut and financed by the Knights of Columbus, they launched a campaign that included TV commercials, robo-calls, newspaper ads and priests at Catholic masses in the state reading messages from local bishops messages from the pulpit to make this happen.
“Freedom of religion is a fundamental right that has been inscribed in our federal constitution forever,” said attorney John Droney, who is providing legal advice to the Knights of Columbus. “It doesn’t suddenly get put on the shelf because of this new, emerging right.” Droney said the knights are simply concerned about lawsuits from “activists” should the religious organization deny a request to host a same-sex wedding in one of its halls.
However, Connecticut Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, a judiciary committee co-chairman, said what the anti-marriage equality people are ask for goes far deeper and their advertising has been “riddled with misinformation.” McDonald pointed to the knights and Family Institute ad claiming schools will be forced to teach gay marriage and parents will have no choice in the matter, even though the current Connecticut’s education statutes specifies that students, at the written request of a parent or guardian, are not be required by local or regional boards of education to participate in “family life education programs.” He also noted schools in Connecticut are locally controlled and any curriculum changes must be approved by local schools boards and that those changes involve public input and often involve votes.
McDonald also noted a far more insidious side to the Knights of Columbus and Family Institute demands… “Could Christian caterers say, ‘I refuse to cater a Jewish bar mitzvah because I don’t believe in Judaism’? Once you hold yourself out to the public to provide goods or services to the public at large, you cannot discriminate,” McDonald said. “That has nothing to do with marriage. It has everything to do with discrimination law in place in Connecticut since 1991. You can’t discriminate against anybody based on race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.”
“We have to be careful we don’t carve out an exception so large it undermines the bill itself,” said Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven. “There’s a danger if you provide the kind of an exception that anyone could use, regardless of whether it’s based on religion or not.”
Anne Stanback, head of the pro- marriage equality group Love Makes a Family, said it is difficult to see how allowing a business to turn away gay patrons is anything but disrespectful. “How humiliating for a gay couple or gay individual to walk into a crowded florist and be told, ‘We don’t serve your kind here,’ ” she said. “That’s basically what it is.”
In 1970, Bob Jones University, a Christian university in South Carolina, believed interracial dating and marriage was contrary to its faith, and sued when the IRS revoked their tax-exempt status when that agency prohibited the granting tax-exempt status to private schools that practiced racial discrimination. In that case the United States Supreme Court upheld the IRS’s decision by an 8-1 vote saying, the government has an “overriding, fundamental interest in eradicating discrimination”. The Justices said the IRS policy was based on neutral, secular bases, and the decision did not prevent discriminatory schools from operating. This case clearly established that religious belief couldn’t be used as an excuse for engaging discrimination.
You’d think that as an attorney of some considerable experience, Mr. Droney might know about that case
Posted by Michael at 12:29 PM
Monday, April 20, 2009
Guliani Does a big flip flop.
RUDY RIPS GOV'S BID FOR GAY NUPS - New York Post
RUDY GIULIANI is declaring war on gay marriage -- vowing to use his strong opposition of it against the Democrats if he runs for governor next year.
BUT HIS GUY PALS PLAN TO WED
The former mayor, in an extended interview with The Post, also predicted that Gov. Paterson's high-profile effort to legalize gay marriage would anger many New Yorkers and spark a revolt that could help sweep Republicans into office in 2010.
"This will create a grass-roots movement. This is the kind of issue that, in many ways, is somewhat beyond politics," said Giuliani, a two-term mayor who unsuccessfully sought the GOP presidential nomination last year.
"I think gay marriage will obviously be an issue for any Republican next year because Republicans are either in favor of the position I'm in favor of, civil unions, or in many cases Republicans don't even favor civil unions," he continued.
Giuliani, who is slated to address a Republican fund-raising gala in Albany tonight in what is widely described as further proof of his interest in running for governor, said he's committed to the traditional definition of marriage.
"Marriage, I believe, both traditionally and legally, has always been between a man and a woman and should remain between a man and woman," said Giuliani, who has been married three times.
"And Democrats, including President Obama and Hillary Clinton, have essentially the same position I have, which is let's have civil unions but not go so far as to change the definition of marriage.
"And that has to embrace many Democratic voters, if two Democrats like that nationally have the same position essentially that I have."
While Obama and Clinton oppose gay marriage, Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, along with Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, all Democrats, are in favor.
Paterson introduced legislation last week to legalize gay marriage, despite warnings from supporters that there aren't enough votes to pass it in the Senate, which is narrowly controlled by Democrats.
The move, which privately angered many gay-marriage supporters -- who fear a defeat would set back the gay-rights movement -- was widely seen as an effort by Paterson to shore up rapidly eroding support among Democratic primary voters.
Giuliani echoed that view of Paterson's motive, saying, "I think he's worried and, given his [low polling] numbers, it wouldn't be normal if he wasn't worried about a primary challenge from, I guess, Cuomo.
"But somebody else could also come out of anywhere with numbers like that."
Giuliani called Paterson's move risky, saying, "To solidify the Democratic base that way is to put yourself in jeopardy with New York voters as a whole."
A Quinnipiac poll earlier this month found only 41 percent of New York voters -- and just 33 percent of black voters -- back gay marriage.
Giuliani, the GOP's best hope to recapture the Governor's Mansion, said he's in no rush to make up his mind about running for governor, although he vowed to do so before the end of the year
Posted by Michael at 9:45 PM
The Daily Politics - NY Daily News
April 20, 2009
Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith is sticking to his guns on gay marriage, insisting that he won't heed the governor's call to bring his program bill to the floor regardless of whether it has sufficient votes to pass.
"I'm very concerned about putting a bill on the floor that's going to be symbolism and not pass," the Queens Democrat said. "...I'm going to count until I know that I have 32 if not 34. I'm not going to move it on the floor if I don't have the numbers that I need."
Smith, who spoke briefly with reporters at the DRC meeting in Saratoga Springs last Friday night, also said that when it comes to marriage, he's "not going to get into horse trading" - a time-honored Albany tradition in which seemingly unrelated issues are linked in order to assure their passage by the Legislature.
"I'm not going to get into horse trading," Smith said. "This is the right issue. if you want to be on the right side of history then I think you should support this."
Interestingly, Smith seems to be ready to deal when it comes to the MTA bailout, reportedly offering recalcitrent Senate Republicans cash for upstate roads and bridges (with the revenue generated by tax hikes - likely a difficult proposition for the GOP to swallow), increased staffing allocations and pork projects in exchange for their "yes" votes.
Smith also said he doesn't intend to back down from his personal support of same-sex marriage to assuage the displeasure of religious leaders over gay marriage, which includes his own pastor and political mentor, the Rev. Floyd Flake.
Smith revealed the reason he did not attend Paterson's marriage press conference in Manhattan last week was because he was meeting with religious leaders at his district office.
Posted by Michael at 2:29 PM
CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time Blog Archive - Poll: Majority in NY support same-sex marriage bill « - Blogs from CNN.com
From CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser
On Thursday, New York Gov. David Paterson announced he will introduce a bill that would allow same-sex couples in New York State to enter into civil marriages with the full rights of legal marriage.
On Thursday, New York Gov. David Paterson announced he will introduce a bill that would allow same-sex couples in New York State to enter into civil marriages with the full rights of legal marriage.
(CNN) — A new poll indicates that majority of New Yorkers support the legalization of same-sex marriages.
Fifty-three percent of New Yorkers questioned in a Siena College Research Institute poll support a bill that would allow same-sex couples to wed, with 39 percent opposing the move.
The survey suggests that Democrats, independent and young voters, and women strongly support Senate passage. Republicans strongly oppose passage. Men, older voters, African-Americans, and Protestants are also opposed. The strongest support for the measure is found in New York City.
On Thursday, New York Gov. David Paterson announced he will introduce a bill that would allow same-sex couples in New York State to enter into civil marriages with the full rights of legal marriage. A similar attempt two years ago failed to make it through the state's legislature.
Sunday on CNN's State of the Union, Paterson strongly defended a proposed bill that aims to legalize same-sex marriage in his state.
"People of religious beliefs, many, believe that the sacred relationship between a man and woman is the only threshold for marriage. I respect that point of view. However we are living in a society of civil laws - we separate church and state," Paterson told CNN's John King.
"We are not trying in anyway to disrespect anyone's religious belief. We are to trying to, in anyway, make people believe what we believe about the validity about same sex marriage," Paterson added. "We are trying to get them to accept that in our society the laws should protect people equally."
Paterson's push to legalize gay marriage doesn't seem to be helping his image. Only 27 percent of people questioned in the poll have a favorable opinion of Paterson, down two points from last month.
"By a fairly significant margin, voters would like to see New York join with Vermont, Massachusetts, Iowa, and other states in allowing same sex couples to marry here," says Siena New York Poll Spokesman Steven Greenberg. "For women and young voters it's a resounding 'yes.' Men and older voters are more closely divided and more likely to say 'no.' "
In a Quinnipiac University poll of New York State voters conducted earlier this month, 41 percent said gay couples should be allowed to marry legally, while 33 percent say they should be allowed to form civil unions, but not marry and 19 percent say there should be no legal recognition of a gay union.
The Siena College Research Institute poll was conducted April 13-15, with 682 New York State registered voters questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points
Posted by Michael at 2:23 PM
CNSNews.com - GOP Should Remove ‘Traditional Marriage’ Plank from Party Platform, Whitman Says
By Josiah Ryan, Staff Writer
Former Republican Governor Christine Todd Whitman (AP Photo)
(CNSNews.com) - The government should have no say about marriage, and the plank in the Republican Party platform that calls for preserving marriage between a man and a woman should be scrapped, former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) told CNSNews.com.
Furthermore, the U.S. military should not differentiate between homosexuals and heterosexuals, said Whitman. The former governor spoke Friday at the Log Cabin Republicans’ (LCR) 2009 convention and symposium in Washington, D.C.
The Log Cabin Republicans are a group that seeks to promote homosexual and lesbian concerns within the GOP. In her speech, Whitman spoke about how inclusion can help the GOP become stronger, and she called on the Republican Party to veer in a moderate direction.
“Well, I am somebody who believes in the separation of church and state and that the government, frankly, ought to be out of the business of marriage entirely,” Whitman told CNSNews.com after her speech.
“It ought to be everybody – heterosexual, homosexual. When you go down and register to get married, that’s when the legal transfer of everything occurs and that’s a legal recognition of a relationship – and if you want to get married in a church, a temple, whatever, and you find one, great!” she said.
“Civil marriage, everybody,” said Whitman. “I am not against marriage for gay couples. I just think it would make the issue easier if it was civil marriage for everybody. And I am not against – I mean, it’s [same-sex marriage] not going to threaten my marriage. I mean my 35th anniversary is on Monday. It’s not going to threaten my marriage to have a gay couple married.”
Whitman said that the entire issue of same-sex marriage ought to be removed from the Republican Party platform. That part, entitled, “Preserving Tradition Marriage,” partly reads:
“Because our children’s future is best preserved within the traditional understanding of marriage, we call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage as a union of a man and a woman, so that judges cannot make other arrangements equivalent to it. In the absence of a national amendment, we support the right of the people of the various states to affirm traditional marriage through state initiatives. …
“A Republican Congress enacted the Defense of Marriage Act, affirming the right of states not to recognize same-sex ‘marriages’ licensed in other states. Unbelievably, the Democratic Party has now pledged to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which would subject every state to the redefinition of marriage by a judge without ever allowing the people to vote on the matter. …”
Concerning the platform’s opposition to homosexual marriage, Whitman said, “I would like them to take it out. I just don't think it’s an issue that ought to be in a party platform. It’s a personal issue, not a political one.”
In her speech to the Log Cabin Republicans, Whitman also called on the Republican Party to be more inclusive.
“I am not saying to Christian conservatives, ‘There is no place for you,’” said Whitman. “I am saying, ‘Please stop saying there is no place for us.’
“We can't succeed nationally as a party that only has 31 percent of the American people behind it,” she said. “It’s not going to work. We need everybody. We need to ingratiate them. We need to bring them in. We are not going to agree on every issue – but that’s okay.”
Whitman was the governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001 and the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under the George W. Bush administration from 2001 to 2003.
While speaking with CNSNews.com, Whitman also called for the open acceptance of homosexuals and lesbians in the U.S. military.
“I don't care if he is straight,” said Whitman, in reference to a soldier’s sexuality. “I care if he can shoot straight.”
Posted by Michael at 2:22 PM
Yet another republican joins the ranks of supporters.
Queers United: Former NJ Governor Tells Republicans to Stop Fighting Gay Marriage
he former Republican Governor of New Jersey Christine Whitman in speaking to the Log Cabin Republicans has called for a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and for the Republican party to remove their opposition to same-sex marriage from the GOP platform.
She argued that "civil marriage should be for everyone, and that gay couples marrying does not threaten her marriage". She went on to say that she respects that "there is a place for Conservative Christians in the party, but said that there should be a place for pro-equality Republicans as well".
Christine Whitman along with other moderate Republicans have created the Republican Leadership Council which seeks to get back to the fundamentals of the Republican party while striving for pro-LGBT, pro-choice, eco-friendly, and racial justice legislation.
Posted by Michael at 12:44 PM
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Great Job Mr. Rich
Op-Ed Columinst - The Bigots’ Last Hurrah - NYTimes.com
By FRANK RICH
WHAT would happen if you crossed that creepy 1960s horror classic “The Village of the Damned” with the Broadway staple “A Chorus Line”? You don’t need to use your imagination. It’s there waiting for you on YouTube under the title “Gathering Storm”: a 60-second ad presenting homosexuality as a national threat second only to terrorism.
The actors are supposedly Not Gay. They stand in choral formation before a backdrop of menacing clouds and cheesy lightning effects. “The winds are strong,” says a white man to the accompaniment of ominous music. “And I am afraid,” a young black woman chimes in. “Those advocates want to change the way I live,” says a white woman. But just when all seems lost, the sun breaks through and a smiling black man announces that “a rainbow coalition” is “coming together in love” to save America from the apocalypse of same-sex marriage. It’s the swiftest rescue of Western civilization since the heyday of the ambiguously gay duo Batman and Robin.
Far from terrifying anyone, “Gathering Storm” has become, unsurprisingly, an Internet camp classic. On YouTube the original video must compete with countless homemade parodies it has inspired since first turning up some 10 days ago. None may top Stephen Colbert’s on Thursday night, in which lightning from “the homo storm” strikes an Arkansas teacher, turning him gay. A “New Jersey pastor” whose church has been “turned into an Abercrombie & Fitch” declares that he likes gay people, “but only as hilarious best friends in TV and movies.”
Yet easy to mock as “Gathering Storm” may be, it nonetheless bookmarks a historic turning point in the demise of America’s anti-gay movement.
What gives the ad its symbolic significance is not just that it’s idiotic but that its release was the only loud protest anywhere in America to the news that same-sex marriage had been legalized in Iowa and Vermont. If it advances any message, it’s mainly that homophobic activism is ever more depopulated and isolated as well as brain-dead.
“Gathering Storm” was produced and broadcast — for a claimed $1.5 million — by an outfit called the National Organization for Marriage. This “national organization,” formed in 2007, is a fund-raising and propaganda-spewing Web site fronted by the right-wing Princeton University professor Robert George and the columnist Maggie Gallagher, who was famously caught receiving taxpayers’ money to promote Bush administration “marriage initiatives.” Until last month, half of the six board members (including George) had some past or present affiliation with Princeton’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. (One of them, the son of one of the 12 apostles in the Mormon church hierarchy, recently stepped down.)
click link above for full story
Posted by Michael at 11:21 PM
Brendan and Tom are friends and fellow activists
Dispatches - How Gay Spouses Became International Poster Couple for Same-Sex Marriage - NYTimes.com
By JAKE MOONEY
Published: April 16, 2009
ON July 27, 2003, about six weeks after a court in Ontario legalized same-sex marriage in the province, Dr. Thomas Moulton and Brendan Fay were married outside St. Lawrence Hall in Toronto. A few minutes later, they were talking with Judge Harvey Brownstone, who had officiated. It was a busy day — the couple had flown in from New York, where they live — but something Judge Brownstone said still sticks in Mr. Fay’s mind.
“He said, ‘Wherever you go, anywhere in the world, you are still a legally married couple,’ ” Mr. Fay recalled one morning last week, sitting at his kitchen table in Astoria, Queens. “ ‘Whatever the recognition, you are as married as anyone who has been married in Canada.’ ”
It was a nice sentiment and, legally speaking, accurate. But it would be tested, bizarrely, in a multinational controversy that started five years later, on March 17, 2008. On that day, Mr. Fay, a filmmaker who grew up in Ireland, was focused on the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York, which he has lobbied to allow gay and lesbian marchers. Dr. Moulton, a pediatric oncologist and hematologist, was at work at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.
And in Poland, that country’s president, Lech Kaczynski, was delivering a nationally televised speech that touched, in part, on the perils of the European Union. One peril, he charged, was that Poland could be forced to accept same-sex marriage. The visual aid chosen to accompany this claim — no one has said how or why — was a picture of Dr. Moulton and Mr. Fay’s marriage certificate, and a three-second clip of the couple at their wedding.
The next day, Mr. Fay was at home when his phone rang. A Polish radio reporter who had read his name on the marriage certificate was seeking comment. Mr. Fay thinks that he said something like, “You must be joking!”
So began a strange year, in which Mr. Fay and Dr. Moulton found themselves discussing their Canadian wedding and their New York lives in the Polish news media. Two weeks after the broadcast, a Polish television station flew them to Warsaw, where they spent three days as a tabloid fixation. They have even kept up contact — albeit of a strained and intermittent nature — with Mr. Kaczynski’s administration.
Now the couple, who are leaving on a trip to Ireland this weekend, say that a return to Poland, and maybe even a meeting with Mr. Kaczynski or an underling, may be in the cards while they are in Europe. The meeting, at least, does not look especially likely: A presidential aide was quoted last year referring to the Toronto ceremony as a “quasi-wedding.” The only letter from Mr. Kaczynski’s government to the couple, in February, stopped just short of an official invitation to visit, though it did recommend Warsaw’s Beethoven festival, which ended April 10.
Regardless, Mr. Fay said the other day over a cup of tea, the couple’s improbable Polish celebrity has been a learning experience all around. He and Dr. Moulton have met gay rights activists with whom they have stayed in touch. They have learned a few phrases of the language.
“I could not believe the number of people that reached out to us from Poland,” he added, people who said things like, ‘We disagree with our president; we’re sorry about what our president said about you.’ ”
Those sentiments, in the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country, have only occasionally been accompanied by endorsements of same-sex marriage, Mr. Fay acknowledged. But, he added, devout Poles may have more in common with him and Dr. Moulton than they think.
The couple first met, years ago, at a Catholic Mass at a church in Greenwich Village. Mr. Fay has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theology. During their visit to Warsaw, they went to church. If their image was chosen by Mr. Kaczynski to represent godless decadence, something may have gone awry.
Among people who know them, Mr. Fay said, “everybody said he picked the wrong couple. Or said: ‘It’s divine providence. He couldn’t have picked a better couple.’ ”
The marriage certificate sits these days on an end table in the couple’s living room, between a bronze Celtic cross — a wedding gift — and a megaphone. Most couples do not display their marriage certificates, Mr. Fay said; none of his five sisters do.
But in a week when Governor Paterson unveiled a same-sex marriage bill, in the face of doubt about its chances in the State Senate, Mr. Fay said the decoration is significant. He did, after all, have to fly to Canada to get married in the first place.
Posted by Michael at 3:21 PM
NY Assemblywoman Now Supports Gay Marriage - Fox 44 - Burlington and Plattsburgh News, Weather and Sports - Fox44.net |
NY Assemblywoman Now Supports Gay Marriage - Fox 44 - Burlington and Plattsburgh News, Weather and Sports - Fox44.net |
A New York Assemblywoman who previously voted against legalizing same-sex marriage has had a change of heart.
After voting no in 2007, Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, has been studying the issue. She said it's been time consuming, and that she has struggled with it in many ways.
"I am absolutely comfortable with the amount of time and research I have spent on this soul searching issue and that I am voting the right way when I vote for this," Duprey said.
Duprey, who represents New York's 114th District, said talking to parents had the biggest impact on her decision to vote in favor of same-sex marriage this time around.
"Who want their gay children to have the same rights as their other children do," Duprey said.
Some people in the North Country said they aren't happy with her decision, for religious reasons.
"Marriage should be between a man and a woman and I was kind of surprised that she did change her mind," Walt Pietz of Plattsburgh said.
"When people call good, evil and evil, good, we are in our last days," Donald Symonds of Vermontville said.
Bobbie Jo Rock said she hopes the bill gets enough support to pass.
"No matter who you are, you should have the right to get married, man, woman, two men, two women, love is love," Rock said.
Duprey said she sees gay marriage as a civil rights issue now.
"I think that the same-sex marriage bill is the final step in eliminating civil rights descrimination," Duprey said.
She expects the bill to be introduced in the Assembly within the next week or two.
Posted by Michael at 3:15 PM
Friday, April 17, 2009
Marriage plans | lohud.com | The Journal News
It is perhaps too tempting to accuse Gov. David Paterson of playing change-the-subject politics, for introducing legislation yesterday legalizing gay marriage, this while cascading bad news about state finances, the economy, jobs, taxes - apparently everything but the weather - continues to swamp New York. Irresistible would be a better word, though that hardly gets at the full story. The nightmarish recession actually bolsters the case for marriage fairness; it doesn't detract from it.
As New York plays catch-up with Vermont and Iowa, both recently joining the ranks of states permitting same-sex marriage, Paterson called for an end to the state's gay marriage ban. "Marriage equality is about basic civil rights and personal freedom," the governor said. "Too many loving families do not receive the legal recognition they deserve." In this economy, recognition not only means dignity and equality under the law, but also economic security. Legal scholars have said that same-sex marriage bans cost gay and lesbian couples literally hundreds of legal rights and benefits shared by traditional married couples. Paterson cited 1,350 civil protections, including health and pension rights.
That disparity came into sharp focus yesterday as the state Labor Department announced that New York lost 33,000 private-sector jobs in March. Since the state's private-sector job count peaked in August, more than 176,000 such jobs have been lost, wiping out more than 40 percent of the job gains during the 2003-08 economic expansion. The group National Organization for Marriage, which is for marriage for just heterosexuals, chided Paterson for "pushing a divisive culture war on the people of New York as a distraction from his inability to lead on rebuilding New York's economy and balancing its budget." But if not during tough times, when?
A bipartisan New York state Assembly backed a gay marriage bill in 2007, when the economy was doing swimmingly. The group Empire State Pride Agenda noted yesterday that every supporter - the vote was 85-61 - won re-election. Nonetheless, the GOP-controlled Senate declined to take up the matter. In last year's election campaigns, Democrats promised to lift the gay marriage ban if they took control of the chamber. The Democrats later won a 32-30 majority, but their "control" has been more like helter skelter. Sen. Ruben Diaz, D-Bronx, an evangelical pastor opposed to gay marriage, said Thursday he would meet with religious leaders today to discuss how to block the bill. It was widely reported during the Senate Democrats' post-election leadership squabbles that Diaz, in exchange for his political backing, secured a pledge from Sen. Malcolm Smith, the eventual majority leader, that the gay marriage bill would just sit.
So Paterson and fairness proponents have their work cut out for them - as history continues to zip past New York. Vermont earlier this month approved a law allowing same-sex marriage. Courts in Iowa, Massachusetts and Connecticut have ruled to permit the practice. Enabling legislation is pending in New Hampshire. New York remains in wait-for-justice mode, notwithstanding a 3-year-old New York Court of Appeals ruling that gay marriage is a question for the Legislature to decide. Injustice prolonged is simply injustice. It remains well past time for the lawmakers to end the unequal treatment and extend this fundamental right to all its citizens.
A Journal News editorial
Posted by Michael at 8:42 AM
Lower Hudson Valley legislators support gay marriage by a lopsided margin | lohud.com | The Journal News
Lower Hudson Valley legislators support gay marriage by a lopsided margin | lohud.com | The Journal News
By Keith Eddings
firstname.lastname@example.org • April 17, 2009
Gov. David Paterson's announcement yesterday that he will introduce a gay marriage bill and push for it forcefully in the Legislature provided a huge psychological boost for the measure across the state, but little changed on the issue among legislators who represent the Lower Hudson Valley, where most already support the proposal.
Only one state legislator from Westchester, Putnam or Rockland - Assemblywoman Sandra Galef, an Ossining Democrat - said she is rethinking her position as evidence emerges that the civil unions gay couples have been offered in other states as a substitute for marriage have not provided the equality they promised.
Galef voted against a gay marriage bill two years ago, when the Assembly passed it, 85-61.
"I felt with civil unions that there would be equality in programs and services for people, but I'm not sure that's happening," Galef said yesterday, citing a recent report by a New Jersey commission that civil unions in that state have created a second-class status for same-sex couples. She added that the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut has made it "much more complicated for us not to have that."
Galef's shift would leave just two of the 11 Assembly members who represent the region - Republicans Greg Ball of Patterson and Nancy Calhoun of Blooming Grove in Orange County - opposed to gay marriage.
That point won't matter much in Albany because the real battle over gay marriage this year will be fought in the state Senate, where the Republican leadership that was deposed by the chamber's new Democratic majority in January refused to allow the issue to go to the floor for a vote. Even with Democrats now in charge of the Senate, gay marriage may not have the votes to pass because at least four Democrats have said they would vote no.
Yesterday, state Sens. Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Yonkers, Suzi Oppenheimer of Mamaroneck and Jeff Klein of the Bronx, all Democrats, reiterated their support.
An aide to state Sen. Thomas Morahan, a Republican from New City, said he supports civil unions - an issue that has never reached a vote in either side of the legislature - but would not comment on Paterson's marriage bill because he said Morahan has not seen it. Aides to state Sens. Vincent Leibell, R-Patterson, and Ruth Hassell-Thompson, D-Mount Vernon, said the senators were not available.
Local legislators who could be reached and support gay marriage used language similar to the language Patterson used yesterday, when he likened the push by gays and lesbians for the right to marry to the civil rights struggles of blacks, women and the disabled.
"I've always believed that racism is a problem for the white community and anti-Semitism is a problem for the gentile community," said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Greenburgh, who was the first Assembly member to speak for gay marriage when a bill first reached the floor two years ago. "Gay marriage is a problem that needs to be addressed by the straight community.
Posted by Michael at 8:34 AM
Thursday, April 16, 2009
I just love this its great
Church States that Exclusive Recognition of Heterosexual Marriage is Unconstitutional - Topix
You’ve probably don’t recognize the name of the Universal Life Church, but you have heard of them and may even know one of its ministers. The ULC is that organization that will ordain you as minister for free over the internet without any religious training or belief requirements.
What you may not know is that this church is not a gimmick. They are a real church with real congregants and a real belief system. And part of their beliefs are that everyone is ordained by God to be a minister and that your religious values and ideals - as long as they are not violent - are as valid as anyone else’s (though much of their ministry has the language and a theological association with Christian traditions). Which is why they have for decades been providing mail-order ordination.
For the most part, the ULC has been non-political, entering into the fray only when the rights of their ministers or ministry have been challenged. But now the ULC has a cause that they believe is worth fighting for: you.
The Universal Life Church Monastery (TheMonastery.org) has announced a legal defense campaign that will take action in all states that have enacted unconstitutional same-sex sacramental marriage restraints. The Universal Life Church Monastery reports that “States that deny ministers the religious right to perform the sacrament of marriage, regardless of the couple’s sexual orientation, do so in violation of the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution.”
It’s not clear what actions, if any, that the ULC will engage in. But it is encouraging that they have begun to look into the constitutionality of states denying recognition of sacraments solely based on the doctrines of those denied.
I’ve long felt that laws which recognize the marriage sacraments of the local Southern Baptist Church but refuse to recognize those of the local Congregational Church were likely in violation of the Constitution. But because more people attend churches that are anti-gay (including legislators), they feel comfortable in declaring that pro-gay churches should be denied equality under the law.
And this has become even more clear to me when I note that nearly all of the argument in favor of excluding same-sex marriages performed by a Congregational Church were based on religious doctrine. Virtually all of those who stand to speak in opposition to marriage equality do so motivated by the desire to encode their religious doctrines into law.
This isn’t the first time churches have objected to inequality. More than a few Unitarian Universalist or United Church of Christ ministers have announced that they would not solemnize opposite-sex marriages for as long as the state banned them from solemnizing same-sex marriages.
So I’ve been waiting for the day when a denomination would announce that they were going to court to sue for religious freedom. I just was kinda was hoping that it would be the United Methodists or the UCC rather than the church of mail-order ministers.
Posted by Michael at 11:21 PM
The Associated Press: Washington Legislature expands gay partnerships
By RACHEL LA CORTE – 15 hours ago
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Same-sex domestic partners would have all the rights and benefits that Washington state offers married couples under a bill passed Wednesday by the state Legislature.
The Democratic-controlled House approved the Senate-passed measure on a mostly party-line 62-35 vote after nearly two hours of debate. It next goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who said she will sign it into law.
"Our state is one that thrives on diversity," Gregoire said in a statement. "We have to respect and protect all of the families that make up our communities."
The bill expands on previous domestic partnership laws by adding reference to partnerships alongside all remaining areas of state law where currently only married couples are mentioned. The statutes range from labor and employment rights to pensions and other public employee benefits.
"This bill completes our work on domestic partnerships by making sure that we state clearly our intention to treat domestic partners in our state equally," said Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, the bill's sponsor and one of six gay lawmakers in the Legislature.
As of Wednesday, more than 5,000 domestic partnership registrations had been filed since July 2007.
Opponents said the measure would have a detrimental effect on traditional marriage.
"We cannot elevate the legal standing of domestic partnerships to equate with marriage and not have profound impact on the status of marriage in this state," said Rep. Jay Rodne, R-Snoqualmie.
The underlying domestic partnership law provided hospital visitation rights, the ability to authorize autopsies and organ donations, and inheritance rights when there is no will.
Last year, lawmakers expanded that law to give domestic partners standing under laws covering probate and trusts, community property and guardianship.
To be registered as partners, couples must share a home, must not be married or in a domestic relationship with someone else, and be at least 18.
New Jersey, California, New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia have laws that either recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships that afford same-sex couples similar rights to marriage.
Iowa, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts have legalized gay marriage. Same-sex marriage was legal in California for five months until a state referendum to ban it passed last fall.
Bills to allow same-sex marriage are currently before lawmakers in New Hampshire, Maine, New York and New Jersey.
Thirty states have gay marriage bans in their constitutions.
Posted by Michael at 11:54 AM
Paterson Unveils Same-Sex Marriage Bill - City Room Blog - NYTimes.com
Paterson Unveils Same-Sex Marriage Bill
By Jeremy W. Peters AND Sewell Chan
David A. Paterson
Updated, 10:49 a.m. | Gov. David A. Paterson on Thursday announced he would introduce a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, drawing on the soaring oratory of the civil rights movement to call on the Legislature to add New York to the four states that have already authorized such unions.
Comparing the status of gay men and lesbians to that of African-Americans, Jews, women and other groups who were historically excluded from full political and social equality, Mr. Paterson said he would lead a movement to authorize same-sex marriage. “We have a crisis of leadership today,” he declared. “We’re going to fill that vacuum today.”
Mr. Paterson is expected to take on a level of involvement unusual for a governor, inserting himself directly into the ongoing campaign in Albany to gather the votes needed to pass the bill. Currently the measure does not have enough support in the State Senate, which Democrats seized last fall and control by a thin margin, 32 to 30.
A number of Democrats have expressed reservations about legalizing marriage between gay and lesbian couples, but advocates of same-sex marriage have urged politicians to have a public debate and place themselves on the record by holding a roll-call vote, come what may.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who spoke immediately after the governor at a morning news conference at Mr. Paterson’s Midtown office, similarly cited New York’s history of civil rights. “This is where Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony began the struggle for women’s suffrage. This is where the N.A.A.C.P. was founded 100 years ago — and they’re bringing their convention back to the city this summer. I’m happy today and still today New York City is a major center for worker’s rights, for immigrant rights and for gay rights.”
(The mayor paused the news conference for more than a minute after an electronic device went off, prompting the mayor to glare at the offender and begin his remarks again.)
It was Mr. Paterson who dominated the morning news conference. He decried what he called a “dysfunctional government” in Albany, and urged the leaders of the Democratic-controlled Legislature to act.
The Governor and the Mayor
Mr. Paterson, the state’s first black governor, compared the same-sex marriage debate today to the abolitionist and civil-rights movements in the 19th and 20th centuries.
I think the stirring debates of Daniel Webster, the thunder speeches of Frederick Douglass and the inspiring writings of Harriet Beecher Stow certainly were a catalyst for the great abolitionism movement in the mid-19th century, but it would have come to a screeching halt when probably the most painful and agonizing Supreme Court decision was rendered in 1857, when Dred Scott was denied the opportunity to escape slavery north of the 36th parallel.
But less than six years later, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Mr. Paterson compared the rapid progress of the same-sex marriage to the transformation of the status of black Americans — at least on paper — in the 1850s and 1860s.
Proposition 8, which overturned same-sex marriage in California last November, “left a number of advocates in a place of complete confusion and stunned disbelief.”
Mr. Paterson spoke with empathy for gay men and lesbians, calling for an end to “a legal system that has systematically discriminated against all of them.”
He added: “We have all known the wrath of discrimination, we have all felt the pain and insult of hatred. We stand to tell the world that we want equality for everyone. We stand to tell the world that we want marriage equality in New York State.”
“If we take no action, we will surely lose,” Mr. Paterson declared. “Maybe we’ve already lost. There is no gain without struggle.”
Mr. Paterson noted that his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, had introduced a similar bill in 2007. “I’m wondering if I’m in a time warp or have been sent someplace else in time,” he said, citing critics who said he was “rushing.”
“Didn’t we cry out for democracy, and didn’t we ask for the openness and transparency of government that we thought we deserved?”
“I am not in any way attempting to instruct the majority leader of the Senate or the speaker of the Assembly… I am here to speak against those who are antagonistic and antithetical and always have been, not only to marriage equality, but equality,” for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.
“The reality is that for me this is the time to fulfill the dreams of our founding Constitution, which implored us to expand the rights of the union. Our founding Constitution has been expanded to include African-Americans, the right of women to vote, the right of immigrants to get citizenship in this country.”
Mr. Bloomberg said that while people with religious beliefs may differ in their views on marriage, it is not the place of the state to decide who may and who may not marry.
“It is not the state’s place to define marriage in a way that excludes a segment of the population from the legal benefits associated with marriage, and that’s why I’m here today,” he said.
The mayor said the “tide is turning” on same-sex marriage. “I’ve never believed that the State Legislature should only debate and vote on legislation that they are sure is going to pass,” he said. “That is not democracy. We have to have a debate. We have to have a vote.”
The first two politicians to speak after the governor and mayor were Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell and State Senator Thomas K. Duane, who are Manhattan Democrats and gay men.
Mr. O’Donnell, who sponsored a previous bill to authorize same-sex marriage, noted that there were 85 votes in the Assembly for the 2007 bill.
“I was born in this state, I was raised in this state, I was educated in this state, I’m an elected official in this state, I pay taxes this state, I want a piece of paper from this government just like the rest of you,” declared Mr. O’Donnell, who represents the Upper West Side and is the brother of the entertainer Rosie O’Donnell.
Introducing Mr. Duane, Mr. Paterson cited Woodrow Wilson as saying that publication influences public policy more than legislation.
Mr. Duane vowed to carry the bill in the Senate. “I absolutely look forward to standing with you governor, when you sign this wonderful piece of legislation into law,” he said. “I know, we know, it’s going to take hard work and it’s going to take a bipartisan effort. And, governor, I know that you can do it.”
The City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, who is lesbian, said this “the most thrilling press conference that I have ever been out.” Earlier in her life, she said, she would never have imagined standing with the governor and the mayor declaring their support for marriage equality.
“New Yorkers don’t want their neighbors treated differently than they are,” she declared.
The Political Background
New York has long been viewed as a leader on liberal social issues, but gay rights advocates here have recently found their efforts eclipsed by actions in other states like Iowa and Vermont, which have both moved in the last two weeks to make same-sex marriage legal.
Mr. Paterson and other state leaders who have been outspoken on the issue have said they found it humbling to watch as other states moved quicker than New York to grant gays and lesbians more civil rights.
Gay rights has become an emergent issue for the state’s top elected officials. In the last month, Senator Charles E. Schumer and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg have both declared their support for legalizing same-sex marriage. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand also expressed her support on the issue for the first time in January when Mr. Paterson named her to fill the seat vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“You have a convergence of leadership,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, who is also a lesbian. “You’ve seen a lot of different steps that a lot of leaders in this state have taken over the course of the last few years. This has been an evolution.”
One senator in particular, Rubén Díaz Sr., a Pentecostal minister from the Bronx, has stepped up his efforts to defeat the same-sex marriage bill in recent days. As Mr. Paterson was announcing plans to introduce the legislation on Thursday morning, Mr. Díaz gathered with other Hispanic clergy leaders in the Bronx to object to the governor’s proposal. Mr. Díaz has said that he was especially troubled by the timing of the governor’s announcement, which came so close to the installation of the new Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, Timothy M. Dolan.
Among the throng of politicians and advocates around him were Representatives Steve Israel, Carolyn B. Maloney, Jerrold L. Nadler and José E. Serrano; Alan Van Capelle, Cathy Marino, Maria Carey and Marjorie Hill; Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, and Mike Fishman, president of S.E.I.U. Local 32BJ.
Posted by Michael at 11:01 AM
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Could this be true??? well lets hope stay tuned.
Print this Article: Congressional Leaders Mull Partial DOMA Repeal | Advocate.com
Some Congressional members are considering repealing part of the Defense of Marriage Act, allowing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages.
By Kerry Eleveld
Discussions around repealing a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages have heated up in the wake of recent legal challenges filed and the addition of two new states legalizing same-sex marriage.
Legislative aides familiar with the discussions say a handful of congressional leaders have been hashing out the details of the legislation, which would accomplish two goals: repeal section 3 of DOMA as it relates to the federal government's ability to confer some 1,100 federal benefits on same-sex partners; and provide a way for same-sex couples living in states that do not allow them to marry legally to access the same federal benefits afforded to heterosexual spouses.
The most immediate benefits of passing such a bill would go to legally married gay couples -- those who have married or will marry in Connecticut or Massachusetts, those who married in California while it was legal (pending the state supreme court decision over the validity of those marriages), and those soon to marry in Iowa and Vermont. Same-sex couples in New York, which recognizes legal marriages performed outside of the state, would also be among the first beneficiaries.
But Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, said legislators are also intent on making federal benefits available to same-sex couples living outside those six states. "People are coalescing around the idea of a 50-state solution by recognizing unions that are recognized in at least one state,” he said. “There’s a growing consensus around that."
By all accounts, the bill will not disrupt section 2 of DOMA, which gives individual states the ability to determine what type of unions they deem legal. "It still protects federalism -- states are still able to make their own decision about what state benefits to offer," Anders added.
According to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity, legislators involved in the planning include senators Christopher Dodd, Russ Feingold, and Chuck Schumer, and representatives Tammy Baldwin, Barney Frank, Jerrold Nadler, and Jared Polis.
Legislators declined to discuss specifics due to the fact that they are trying to reconcile different approaches in order to introduce matching bills in the House and the Senate.
"With the landscape changing so quickly, we want to make sure congressional leaders, advocates, and litigators are all in the same place," said Amy Rutkin, Representative Nadler's chief of staff.
The basic question surrounding the bill is which same-sex unions to recognize and how to make those unions portable in a way that will allow the federal government to provide benefits to gay partners regardless of whether they live in Alabama or Massachusetts.
According to those familiar with the discussions, some have advocated for only recognizing marriages while others have shown an interest in including civil unions and strong domestic partnerships too.
"The idea is to recognize a relationship or marriage that is recognized by a state," Anders explained. So if a couple is legally recognized in any state, he added, "you would be entitled to the federal benefits and protections and liabilities of marriage."
But the Human Rights Campaign’s Joe Solmonese said he is less concerned about the exact form the legislation takes at the moment than he is in getting "something on the burner."
"I think the House and Senate version wouldn't have to be one in the same, there can be differences," he said. "But once you get legislation introduced in both, you've got the educational vehicle and the organizing principle for the community to really get to work on."
Sources declined to discuss the exact timing of when such a bill might be introduced, but they generally agreed it would be before the end of the year and probably within the next several months.
While President Obama supports full repeal of DOMA, Solmonese said it was difficult to gauge whether this legislation would be prioritized by the White House because the Administration has not provided such information to the HRC.
"We have had weekly conversations with the White House about the agenda for our community, but we haven't gotten the priority list from the White House," he said.
Anders explained that the two key disparate groups legislators are keeping in mind are those couples who are the most mobile and those who are the least. For instance, they want to cover couples who live in Massachusetts or Iowa and marry but then choose to move to another state for a job or to care for a family member or to retire.
"But there are also lots of people who are living in the state they were born in," Anders said, "and it doesn't seem that people should be locked out of federal protections simply because they can't move and may not have the resources or mobility to do so."
Another option some have suggested is creating a set of criteria, or a federal trigger, that would qualify a couple for federal benefits regardless of whether they are legally unioned in any particular state. While this would provide a way to debate federal benefits outside of the emotion surrounding marriage, Anders said the option has not been under serious consideration and was losing steam fast now that there is a greater proliferation of states extending full marriage rights to same-sex couples, which essentially makes marriage regionally accessible to more people.
The Government Accountability Office reported in 2004 that a total of 1,138 federal benefits are associated with marital status; people generally cite issues like Social Security survivor benefits, federal health benefits, and equal tax treatment as major concerns. A same-sex partner cannot, for instance, collect the Social Security payments of a deceased partner. Partners of federal employees are not eligible for inclusion on their health insurance. In terms of taxation, same-sex partners cannot file joint tax returns; insurance benefits offered to same-sex partners by employers is taxed as extra income rather than being deducted from pre-tax dollars; and while married spouses can transfer an unlimited amount of money to each other without being taxed, anyone else is limited to transfers of up to $12,000 annually.
Posted by Michael at 11:29 PM