Friday, April 30, 2010

Hawaii’s Legislature Passes Civil Unions Bill - Lez Get Real

Hawaii’s Legislature Passes Civil Unions Bill - Lez Get Real

Representatives has approved a measure allowing same-sex civil unions by a 31-20 margin.

The bill, which would give unmarried same-sex and heterosexual couples the same rights as married couples under state law, had been stalled but was unexpectedly revived on the last day of this year’s Hawaiian legislative session was passed in the Senate in January by a vote of 18-7 and now only requires the signature of Gov. Linda Lingle to become law.

Lingle, a Republican, hasn’t said whether she’ll reject it or sign it into law but her office said later that she would carefully review the bill.

If approved, Hawaii will become one of six states – along with California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington – to grant essentially all the rights of marriage to same-sex couples without authorizing marriage itself.

Five other states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriage: Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The Aloha State has been one of the original battlegrounds for LGBT rights since the early 90s. The Hawaii Supreme Court ruling nearly made Hawaii the first state to legalize same-sex marriage before Hawaiian voters approved the nation’s first “defense of marriage” constitutional amendment in 1998.

This year the issue has proven equally divisive, with religious groups arguing that civil unions are a step the “down the slippery slope” toward legalizing same-sex marriage and the civil union law appeared to be dead earlier this, when the House didn’t take a vote on the measure and postponed it indefinitely after massive protests by church groups and fears that Lingle would veto it.

Gov. Lingle now has 45 days to either sign or veto the bill.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Developed World Leads on Gay Rights |

Developed World Leads on Gay Rights |

Last month, the District of Columbia joined Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire in legalizing gay marriage. Though it’s hard to generalize, there is “definitely a movement” toward expanded rights for gays in much of the world, says Scott Long of Human Rights Watch.

Albania recently passed a law to protect gays against bias. A court in New Delhi, India, overturned that city’s ban on consensual gay sex, and Nepal is expected to legalize same-sex marriage this year in hopes of attracting gay tourists. China opened its first state-sponsored gay bar in December, following a dramatic rise in the spread of HIV/AIDS among gay men. “If people are afraid to ‘out’ themselves, they’re forced into a conspiracy of silence that prevents them from receiving information that can save their lives,” explains Jessica Stern of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. In fact, rates of new HIV infections are higher in countries with repressive laws against homosexuality, according to research from the United Nations agency on HIV/AIDS.

Yet gay sex is still illegal in 80 countries. At least seven impose the death penalty for homosexual acts—usually under Islamic law. Gays “are often used as political proxies for other agendas—the West, anything modern or non-traditional,” Stern explains.

Same-Sex Rights Around The Globe

Same-sex marriage is legal: Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, South Africa, and others.

Homosexual acts are punishable by death: Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Mauritania; parts of Nigeria and Sudan.

Sanctions against homosexuals seem to be easing: China, Singapore, Cuba, Nepal.

Sanctions seem to be tightening: Burundi, Nigeria, Russia, Uganda.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Nepal to celebrate becoming first Asian nation to recognise gay marriages with same-sex unions on Mount Everest | Mail Online

Nepal to celebrate becoming first Asian nation to recognise gay marriages with same-sex unions on Mount Everest | Mail Online

Nepal is set to become the first Asian nation to allow same-sex marriages.

The country, which as recently as 2007 classified homosexuality as a crime, is even promoting gay weddings on Mount Everest in a bid to become the continent's premier gay tourism destination.

The government hopes its plans will help attract one million tourists next year, more than double the number that travelled to Nepal in 2009.
Mount Everest

Change: Nepal is promoting gay weddings on Mount Everest in a bid to become the continent's premier gay tourism destination

Sharat Singh Bhandari, Nepal's tourism minister, also hopes to hold elephant safaris for homosexual honeymooners.

'We’re completely changing this country,' he told The Times 'It’s a newborn republic - and we want to showcase this change.

'We also want to re-establish tourism as a major industry.'

In an unprecedented move, Mr Bhandari wrote a letter to the International Conference On Gay and Lesbian Tourism in Boston last October.

He wrote: 'As the world knows, Nepal is the land of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak and the birth place of Lord Buddha, light of Asia.

'I, therefore, would like to take this opportunity to invite and welcome all the sexual and gender minorities from around the world.'

The country will also host the first Asian Symposium On Gay and Lesbian Tourism in Kathmandu in June.

A Supreme Court ruling in 2008 ordered the Nepalese government to protect the rights of 'sexual minorities'. A gay marriage law is currently working its way through parliament.

The swift pace of change in Nepal was kickstarted in 2006 when a democratic uprising forced King Gyanendra to renounce absolute power. Two years later the Maoists controlled the country and abolished the last Huindu monarchy.

Read more:

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sonoma County CA separates elderly gay couple and sells all their possessions

Sonoma County CA separates elderly gay couple and sells all their possessions

There is nothing more personal than how we wish to spend our final years. After decades with our loved ones there should be no dispute that we should get to spend our final moments together. Unfortunately Sonoma County, CA treated Harold and Clay as if they were strangers.

Harold was 88 and Clay was 77 when their 20 year relationship was assaulted by Sonoma County. Harold's time here was coming to an end. He was ill and life was further complicated when he took a tumble down the stairs of their home. Harold was taken to the hospital.

Like most same sex couples who are committed to taking care of each other in sickness and in health, Harold and Clay set up legal documents prior to their personal crisis that were supposed to tell authorities to honor their relationship. Clay should have been able to visit Harold in the hospital and make decisions about his care. Instead, the county and health care professionals refused to let Clay even visit Harold in the hospital.

Tragic as that was, the county was not done with this family. More brutality than any government should inflict on a family -- they separated Clay and Harold by placing them in different nursing homes. Remember, Clay was in good health. He was involuntarily committed.

Kate Kendell, the National Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the legal and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people wrote for the Bilerico Project:

Ignoring Clay's significant role in Harold's life, the county continued to treat Harold like he had no family and went to court seeking the power to make financial decisions on his behalf. Outrageously, the county represented to the judge that Clay was merely Harold's "roommate." The court denied their efforts, but did grant the county limited access to one of Harold's bank accounts to pay for his care.

What happened next is even more chilling.

Without authority, without determining the value of Clay and Harold's possessions accumulated over the course of their 20 years together or making any effort to determine which items belonged to whom, the county took everything Harold and Clay owned and auctioned off all of their belongings. Adding further insult to grave injury, the county removed Clay from his home and confined him to a nursing home against his will. The county workers then terminated Clay and Harold's lease and surrendered the home they had shared for many years to the landlord.

Three months after he was hospitalized, Harold died in the nursing home. Because of the county's actions, Clay missed the final months he should have had with his partner of 20 years. Compounding this tragedy, Clay has literally nothing left of the home he had shared with Harold or the life he was living up until the day that Harold fell, because he has been unable to recover any of his property. The only memento Clay has is a photo album that Harold painstakingly put together for Clay during the last three months of his life.

Clay was eventually released from the nursing home following a lawsuit. A further lawsuit is pending against Sonoma County, the auction company, and the nursing home. A trial date is set for July 16, 2010.

As important as this lawsuit is, there is nothing any government, court, or lawyer can do return the dignity and respect Harold and Clay were deprived. No authority will be able to return the last few months of Harold's life, or the chance for Clay and Harold to embrace each other one last time.

We need full legal recognition for same sex couples -- in name and law -- in every state in this country. We need it now.

For more information about this case visit NCLR's Elder Law Project.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Same-sex marriage suits rejected - News in English -

Same-sex marriage suits rejected - News in English -

(ANSA) - Rome, April 14 - Italy's Constitutional Court on Wednesday rejected suits by several northern Italian gay couples who had challenged Italian law preventing gay marriages.

Sources said the written ruling, which will be made public in the next few weeks, will stress the court is not competent in the issue and parliament alone can lift Italy's gay-marriage ban.

In the meantime a statement from the court said the suits which gave rise to the case were "inadmissible and unfounded". The issue was brought to the attention of the Constitutional Court through a suit filed by a number of gay couples in Venice and Trento who were not allowed to post the banns of their upcoming 'marriage'.

According to the suit, there is nothing in Italy's legal code which prohibits same-sex marriage because the diversity of gender is not established as a requisite for marriage.

The plaintiffs argued in their suit that a ban on same-sex marriage violated the Constitutional principle of equality between citizens and ran counter to European Union law as well.

They also noted that an "unreasonable inequality in treatment" existed in regard to homosexuals and trans-sexuals given that the latter, once they have had a sex-change operation, are allowed to marry members of their original sex.

The office of the state attorney, acting on behalf of the government, argued the suit was inadmissible because it sought to establish a legal precedent "through the manipulation of the fabric of the law" whereas only parliament can create laws.

The attorney also said that European and international law clearly gave national legislatures jurisdiction in governing the rules of marriage.

Gay marriage is legal in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Portugal while several European countries including France, Germany, Britain, Switzerland and Hungary recognise civil unions.

Canada and five eastern US states alsom authorise gays to wed.

Monday, April 12, 2010 - Olson: Challenge to Calif. Same-Sex Marriage Ban Could Have Global Impact - Olson: Challenge to Calif. Same-Sex Marriage Ban Could Have Global Impact

Jeff Jeffrey

The National Law Journal

April 09, 2010

According to Theodore Olson, the legal challenge to a California measure banning same-sex marriage he is leading with David Boies clearly has global implications. "What happens in this case won't just affect the people of California, it will affect the country. And what happens in the United States will affect the rest of the world."

Olson, who co-chairs Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's appellate practice, made that assertion while talking to reporters shortly after addressing the annual Outlaw networking dinner. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher has hosted the dinner in its Connecticut Avenue office for the past four years to give members of the Georgetown Law Center student group that focuses on legal issues affecting gays, lesbian and bisexuals a chance to mingle with Big Law partners.

Olson's remarks were styled as a free-wheeling discussion, during which he fielded questions about the case from some of the 60 people who attended the event. He touched on a number of issues, including whether the Supreme Court revealed its views on the case by banning cameras from the California courtroom, what the broader impact of the challenge could be if it is successful, and the emotional effect the case has had on him.

The California case is the first stage of a lawsuit almost certainly destined for the Supreme Court. Olson is spearheading the challenge with Boies, Schiller & Flexner's David Boies. The pairing of Olson, a conservative, and Boies, the liberal trial lawyer who faced off against Olson in Bush v. Gore, has garnered media attention for the symbolic, bipartisan nature of their challenge to the ban on same-sex marriage in California.

The California trial has finished hearing witness testimony and is waiting for U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to set a date to for closing arguments.

Wednesday night, one audience member asked Olson about the Supreme Court's emergency order halting the move by Walker to permit real-time streaming of the trial. The order said that broadcasting the trial could cause "irreparable harm" to the defenders of Proposition 8's case because witnesses could be subjected to harassment if they testified in favor of the ban on marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

Olson responded, "The justices just don't like cameras in the courtroom, and I think they're wrong. The best thing for the Supreme Court would be for people to see how it works. I think they thought that if cameras were allowed into the California courtroom, it would be that much harder to stop them from entering the Supreme Court. But I don't see their order as tipping their hands on their thoughts on the case."

Olson said it's hard to handicap which justices may side with his position, but his goal is to convince all nine that it is unconstitutional to keep gay couples from marrying. "We're not taking any justices for granted, and we're not counting any of them out," Olson said.

The California trial, which has featured expert witnesses on a host of subjects related to the effects of keeping same-sex couples from marrying, has had a "profound" emotional impact on him. "I have been overwhelmed by the emotion of the people affected by Prop 8. I have been touched by the powerful stories I have heard from them," Olson said. "And I haven't heard a justification in my life for this kind of discrimination."

Olson said people were initially skeptical of his taking on the challenge because of his conservative pedigree. He served as assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel under President Ronald Reagan and was solicitor general under President George W. Bush. "When my former sister-in-law mentioned my name as someone who might be willing to take the case on, people told her 'Not Ted Olson! He's the devil,'" he said.

Olson said that he thinks the skepticism has ebbed since the start of the trial. "People said that it was too soon. That we should push the issue state-by-state. But no one could tell me when the timing would be right. It had to happen now because otherwise someone would take this case and not do it the right way," Olson said.

He said that his and Boies' case "has good, strong arguments and the right people doing it," adding "By the way, we're not going to get to the Supreme Court for a couple of years anyway."

In response to another question from the audience, Olson said he "expected better" of his opposition in the case. "What was the best evidence they could come up with? That same-sex marriage devalues the institution of marriage? Well, did allowing women to vote devalue the institution of voting? Did allowing mixed race couples to marry devalue marriage? Of course not," Olson said. "They simply did not have any evidence supporting their position."

Olson called bans on same-sex marriage "one of the biggest remaining civil rights issues we have." "This is a position everyone in America should agree with, and I won't be bashful in making arguments to justices that this is the right thing to do," Olson said.

This article first appeared on The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.

Same Sex Marriage Senate Battles Heat Up | Room Eight

Same Sex Marriage Senate Battles Heat Up | Room Eight

By Michael Boyajian

Making good on their promise to roll out of the pubs and into the streets gay rights activists are taking the battle for same sex marriage to the senate ballot box. Some races are a long shot but there are many that have a chance of knocking out opponents of same sex marriage.

Here are some of the Democrats that are under siege:

The superstar of the homophobes set, Pentecostal minister Ruben Diaz, Sr. is most likely going to be challenged in the primary by Bill Thompson aide Carlos Ramos, Jr. Ramos is a big wheel with the Latino Congressional Congress and worked behind the scenes to place Sonya Sotemayor on the United States Supreme Court. Diaz doesn’t just dislike gays he dislikes anyone who is not religious.

Running against Shirley Huntley is Lynn Nunes who is pro marriage equality.

The fourth amigo, Carl Kruger, is being challenged by administrative law judge Igor Oberman who promises to mobilize both the Jewish and Russian vote against Kruger. Kruger does have a very large bankroll to back him up.

Mike Gianaris is running for an open city vacated by George Onorato.

William Stachowski is most likely being challenged by county legislator Tim Kennedy. Others are also considering a run against Stachowski.

Now for the Republican side of the senate aisle.

Hugh Farley may not run again and the good news here is that the district is pretty strongly Democratic. Schenectady is in the district and Democrats control the mayor’s office and the city council.

James Alesi, he says he will vote for the bill if it looks like it will pass.

John Flanagan, thought to be moveable on the bill

Charles Fuschillo Jr. would support civil unions.

Conservative Party poster boy Martin Golden faces a tough challenge from openly gay NYU graduate student Mike DiSanto. DiSanto who is Italian American and Catholic may capture that vote in a district that fits that demographic. Golden, a caterer, may not complete his term for he is considering a Congressional run.

Joseph Griffo. The only reason this Republican won last time was because his Democratic opponent was sick and did not campaign. It looks like county legislator Michael Hennessy will run a strong campaign against Griffo this time out.

Kemp Hannon is being challenged by pro marriage equality Dave Mejias. Hannon won with only 51.5% of the vote last time out.

Kenneth LaValle supports civil unions but faces a challenge from Regina Calcaterra.

Vincent Leibell says let the Democrats do it in reference to the bill. He will not vote his conscience in this conservative district. Westchester County Legislator Michael Kaplowitz is shaping up to be the only candidate against him. Leibell is said to be considering a run for Putnam County Executive. Marriage Equality New York is not sure where Kaplowitz stands on the issue.

Elizabeth Little is said to be moveable along with Roy McDonald.

Frank Padavan only garnered 50.4% of the vote last time out and faces a challenge from Tony Avela.

Stephen Saland will be challenged by Didi Barrett with Saland considering retirement.

Dean Skelos, will consider civil unions.

This report does not cover every Democrat and Republican running again for senate but focuses on the races where we know there will be action at press time. Incumbents may have larger bankrolls right now but high rollers in Manhattan are organizing fundraisers for many of the candidates. With such a strong slate of challengers those who oppose same sex marriage should be afraid, very afraid.


A Passionate Engagement: President Calls Clerical Celibacy Wrong, Supports Same Sex Marriages

A Passionate Engagement: President Calls Clerical Celibacy Wrong, Supports Same Sex Marriages is carrying this positive story. Bravo, Oscar Arias. Let's hope that a fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner who leads a country will follow in your footsteps.

Costa Rican president Oscar Arias today called the doctrine of celibacy of Latin Catholic priests wrong and against nature.

Arias said that he hopes that clerical celibacy will be changed, optimistic that the 2.000 year religion will correct the error.

During the mid day remarks, the prez also expressed of being in favour of same sex marriage.

"We are made as we are. A young boy (or girl) does not ask if he or she will grow up gay or straight", said Arias

Gay marriages in Costa Rica still need the approval of the legislative assembly.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Same-Sex Couples face higher Health Costs | Freedom to Marry

Same-Sex Couples face higher Health Costs | Freedom to Marry

Same-sex couples face higher health costs

By Anya Martin

DECATUR, Ga. (MarketWatch) -- Each year as the April 15 tax deadline nears, Shane Snowden is reminded how much more she pays for health coverage for her same-sex partner than her heterosexual colleagues pay for their spouses' benefits.

While exchanging vows doesn't guarantee access to health insurance, marriage makes having it both more likely and less expensive -- if your spouse is of the opposite sex.
How health reform affects your taxes

Your tax bill may change under the new health-reform law. In Health Minute, MarketWatch's Kristen Gerencher details 10 ways the new law brings tax changes.

Even in states where same-sex marriages are legal, employers may exclude partners from coverage. When they do provide benefits, federal tax laws mean that workers spend more to insure their same-sex domestic partner and children than their heterosexual counterparts do.

Here's why: While the value of health benefits that employers pay on behalf of workers' spouses are excluded from employees' gross income by federal law, same-sex couples aren't extended the same tax break. That is, the value of a domestic partner's health-insurance benefit is counted as income paid to the worker.

For 53-year-old Snowden, director of the LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender) Resource Center at the University of California at San Francisco, the value of health benefits for her self-employed partner, Toni, and Toni's 19-year-old-son adds $9,396 to her annual income, increasing her yearly tax bill by about $3,000, she said. The hit is even harder to take this year because her salary is down 8%, thanks to a mandatory furlough program for University of California employees.

"In this economy especially, that's money we would love to have for other purposes such as college tuition, or it would be a huge amount in terms of our retirement savings," Snowden said. "It's a hard time of year for same-sex persons, when you see your [income tax] refund plummet and say, wow, this is happening because I am in a same-sex relationship."

Still, Snowden counts herself lucky to work for an employer that provides coverage for domestic partners, a trend that has been on the rise but still has a long way to go, said M.V. Lee Badgett, research director of the Williams Institute, a think-tank at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law which tracks trends in law and public policy affecting LGBT Americans.

A provision in the health-care reform bill originally passed by the House of Representatives last November would have extended tax-free status to all domestic partners and other non-spouse beneficiaries of employer health plans. But it wasn't included in the landmark legislation that President Obama signed into law in March.

Employers step up

About 20% of Americans in same-sex couples lack insurance, according to federal data from the mid-90s through the early 2000s.

Large companies are most likely to provide domestic-partner coverage -- 59% of Fortune 500 companies include it in their benefits packages, a 12-fold increase since 1995, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates the end of discriminatory practices against LGBT Americans.

Overall, the number of companies that extend same-sex partner benefits is just one in five, or 21%, of all U.S. employers, as opposed to 31% who cover unmarried opposite-sex partners, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's most recent annual survey of employer benefits. Of firms with 200 or more workers, 36% provide same-sex partner benefits, while only 20% of small companies with three to 24 workers do.

Western-region employers are most likely, at 41%, to offer same-sex benefits, with Southern firms least likely, at 6%. Even in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal, only 71% of employers reported offering benefits to same-sex spouses in 2009 as opposed to 93% who give them to opposite-sex spouses, according to a state-sponsored survey.

About three in four of the U.S.'s estimated 600,000 same-sex partners get around this hurdle by purchasing health benefits from their own employer, while others may obtain individual plans, Badgett said. Some may choose not to sign up their partners because of the higher tax hit or due to a fear that they will encounter discrimination at work if they admit to having a same-sex partner, she said.

In Snowden's case, she said her partner makes enough money from her business to afford an individual plan, but she would be challenged to find one that would accept her son, who suffered an illness that many insurers would exclude as a pre-existing condition.

For those who cannot get affordable coverage from any other source, the impact can be severe, and is compounded when a partner with same-sex benefits loses a job, said Dr. Russell Kridel, a Houston-based plastic surgeon and a member of the American Medical Association's Council on Science and Public Health. The group recently completed a study that found that reduced access to and higher costs for employer-based insurance likely leads to lower-quality health care for same-sex households.

"Even if you have been employed by a progressive company that covered you, once you lose your job, you're out of luck because Cobra doesn't extend coverage for same-sex partners," he said.

Meanwhile, whether an employer will cover the child of a same-sex couple often depends on the relationship of the child to the employee, Kridel said. If the employee is the biological or adoptive parent, then an employer may treat the child as it would for any other worker. But if that child is the domestic partner's biological or adopted son or daughter, it's up to the employer, he said.

"I've heard stories anecdotally that when a couple with a child is deciding who works, they have to think very carefully [about] the health-care coverage," Badgett said. "It leads to complicated decisions for same-sex couples that are not the same for different-sex couples."

The situation is further complicated by laws in some states that prohibit both members of a same-sex relationship to hold custody rights for adopted children, she said.
Women less likely to be insured

Women in same-sex households may be hit hardest when employers don't offer partner coverage, according to the AMA findings. Only 39% of all women are insured through their job as opposed to 49% of men, and they are twice as likely as men to be insured through another person -- 25% compared with 13%.

Based on its study results, the AMA released a policy statement in November supporting the elimination of discriminatory health-care laws for gay and lesbian couples and their children. The American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical groups all have issued similar policy statements promoting equality of insurance access and alleviating other barriers to care for LGBT Americans.

Unequal insurance access only compounds other hurdles that same-sex couples and their children face in the health system, said James Beaudreau, education and policy director of the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association.

"There are other forms of discrimination in the insurance industry that people often overlook, but it's difficult to get a true handle on the nature of those issues," he said. "For example, we often hear about people having higher premiums because they had a hepatitis B vaccination or had an HIV test more than once."

Yet clinicians often recommend both for sexually-active gay men, Beaudreau said. Also, some small studies with limited geographic focus have suggested that lesbians may have higher rates of cervical, breast and other cancers, which some researchers say may be related to decreased access to cancer screenings or nervousness about admitting sexual orientation to a physician, he said.

"Having access to a welcoming provider who is able to share with you information about health risks can in some cases prevent a whole host of negative health-care outcomes down the line," Beaudreau said.

If more companies offered benefits for same-sex partners and their children, enrollment would rise by about 0.1% to 0.3% for gay and lesbian partners and it would only cost an estimated 1% to 2% more, Badgett said.

"Mainly it's because there aren't that many same-sex partners," she said. "In a country of 300 million, there are only about 600,000 same-sex couples."

Anya Martin is a freelance writer based in Decatur, Ga.

3 Republican legislators challenge gay marriage effort at N.J. Supreme Court | State | -- Your State. Your News.

3 Republican legislators challenge gay marriage effort at N.J. Supreme Court | State | -- Your State. Your News.

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund representing New Jersey legislators filed a motion to intervene Monday to defend against a recently filed motion in what seemed to be a long-ago-resolved lawsuit that seeks to force the Legislature to redefine marriage.

The Alliance Defense Fund say that a small group of activists dissatisfied with civil unions implemented by the Legislature in 2007 argue that they will not be satisfied with anything short of redefining marriage for everyone.

"There's more to marriage than just any two people in a committed relationship," said Alliance Defense Fund's Senior Legal Counsel Austin R. Nimocks. "At this time in history, we should be strengthening marriage, not tearing it down. Instead, activists are seeking to redefine marriage for all New Jersey citizens by resurrecting an already-resolved, three-year-old lawsuit with the goal of forcing legislators to redefine marriage against their will. This renewed attack utterly dispels the myth that civil unions will appease such activists. Instead, they seek to use them as a legal springboard to redefine marriage."

Alliance Defense Fund attorneys represent Senator Gerald Cardinale ( R ), Senator Anthony R. Bucco ( R ), and Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll ( R ) in their motion to intervene, filed with the New Jersey Supreme Court.

"After failing to achieve their goals in the Legislature, plaintiffs return to this court, again seeking a judicial solution to a legislative issue," states the ADF brief filed on behalf of the legislators. "It is that proposed remedy - the attempt to usurp legislative authority and compel legislative action - which gives rise to Proposed Intervenors' interests in this case."

The new motion in Lewis v. Harris, filed by attorneys with Lambda Legal, seeks to resurrect a case already decided by the New Jersey Supreme Court in October 2006. In that decision, the court gave the Legislature the option to "either amend the marriage statutes to include same-sex couples or enact a parallel statutory structure by another name, in which same-sex couples would not only enjoy the rights and benefits, but also bear the burdens and obligations of civil marriage."

In December 2006, legislators complied with the order by choosing the latter option and enacting the Civil Union Act, which became effective in February 2007.

Back on March 18, Lambda Legal returned to the New Jersey Supreme Court, filing a motion seeking marriage equality on behalf of the plaintiffs in the original Lewis v. Harris lawsuit.

"The New Jersey Supreme Court ordered equality for same-sex couples when it decided our marriage lawsuit in 2006, and the legislature has failed to meet that crystal-clear obligation," said Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director at Lambda Legal. "Civil unions are a failed legislative experiment in providing equality in New Jersey-marriage equality is the only solution."

Lambda Legal, with pro bono co-counsel from the Gibbons firm, including partner Lawrence Lustberg, filed a Motion in Aid of Litigants' Rights arguing that the civil union remedy enacted by the legislature has not fulfilled the Constitution's guarantee of equality promised in the Court's 2006 ruling.

"Because the legislature ignored the extensive research and unanimous conclusion of its own Civil Union Review Commission and the overwhelming evidence presented in hours of legislative testimony, we must go back to court," said Gorenberg.

When the Lewis v. Harris case was decided, two other states, Connecticut and Vermont, had civil union laws. Since then both states have thrown over those laws as unequal — one by court action and one by legislative action — and same-sex couples now have the right to marry there. Same-sex couples can also marry in Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire, the District of Columbia, and several foreign countries.

Lambda Legal filed Lewis v. Harris in June 2002 on behalf of seven same-sex couples seeking the right to marry. The New Jersey Supreme Court issued its ruling on October 25, 2006, unanimously agreeing that it is unconstitutional to give same-sex couples lesser rights than different-sex couples, but leaving the remedy to reach equality up to the legislature. In December 2006 the New Jersey Legislature hastily enacted a civil union law. In December 2008 the Civil Union Review Commission, appointed by the legislature, issued its report documenting how civil unions fall short of the court-mandated equality for same-sex couples. Following a hard -fought campaign led by Garden State Equality, the New Jersey Senate voted on and failed to pass a marriage equality law days before the legislative session ended this January.