Wednesday, May 19, 2010

BBC News - Portugal's president to ratify same-sex marriage law

BBC News - Portugal's president to ratify same-sex marriage law

Portugal's President Anibal Cavaco Silva says he will sign a law legalising same-sex marriage passed by parliament earlier this year.

The law had been fiercely opposed by conservatives in the Catholic country.

The ratification will make Portugal the sixth country in Europe to allow same-sex marriage after Belgium, Spain, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden.

The announcement comes days after Pope Benedict, on a visit to Portugal, told pilgrims they should oppose the law.

Portugal's Constitutional Court validated the bill last month.

Economic focus

In a televised address, Mr Silva said he regretted that political parties had failed to reach a compromise on the issue.

He said vetoing the bill would merely return it to parliament where his decision would be overturned, at a time when MPs needed to focus on the economic crisis facing the country.

"I feel I should not contribute to a pointless extension of this debate, which would only serve to deepen the divisions," he said.

The bill had received parliamentary approval with the support of the governing Socialist Party and other parties further to the left.

During a heated debate in January, Prime Minister Jose Socrates said the law would put right an injustice that caused unnecessary pain.

But parliament rejected proposals to allow homosexual couples to adopt.

Many other countries have introduced civil partnerships, which give lesbian and gay couples some of the rights of married heterosexuals.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mass. Catholic school won't admit lesbians' son - KWCH - Kansas News and Weather -

here we go again. so the church punishes the child by not letting him be in catholic school because his mom is in a lesbian marriage. THE LOVING CATHOLIC CHURCH STRIKES ONCE AGAIN. i AM SO HAPPY i AM A RECOVERING CATHOLIC

Mass. Catholic school won't admit lesbians' son - KWCH - Kansas News and Weather -

Associated Press Writer

BOSTON (AP) - A Roman Catholic school in Massachusetts has withdrawn its acceptance of an 8-year-old boy with lesbian parents, saying their relationship was "in discord" with church teachings, according to one of the boys' mothers.

It's at least the second time in recent months that students have not been allowed to attend a U.S. Catholic school because of their parents' sexual orientation, with the other instance occurring in Colorado.

The Massachusetts woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of concerns about the effect of publicity on her son, said she planned to send the boy to third grade at St. Paul Elementary School in Hingham in the fall. But she said she learned her son's acceptance was rescinded during a conference call Monday with Principal Cynthia Duggan and the parish priest, the Rev. James Rafferty.

"I'm accustomed to discrimination, I suppose, at my age and my experience as a gay woman," the mother said. "But I didn't expect it against my child."

Rafferty said her relationship "was in discord with the teachings of the Catholic Church," which holds marriage is only between a man and woman, the woman said.

She said Duggan told her teachers wouldn't be prepared to answer questions her son might have because the school's teachings about marriage conflict with what he sees in his family.

Rafferty and Duggan did not respond to requests for comment.

Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Boston Archdiocese, said it learned about the school's decision late Tuesday. He said the archdiocese is now in "consultation with the pastor and principal to gather more information."

Massachusetts was the first state to legalize gay marriage, in 2004, and the Catholic Church strongly opposed the decision. The woman, who is not married to her partner, said she didn't expect the church to approve of her relationship but didn't think it should affect her son's education.

The case mirrors a situation in Boulder, Colo., in which the Sacred Heart of Jesus school said two children of lesbian parents could not re-enroll because of their parents' sexual orientation. The Denver Archdiocese posted a statement in support of the school's decision.

Gay rights groups later took out full-page newspaper ads in protest.

The woman said she and her partner don't regularly attend church but are Christian and wanted their son to have a strong education that also emphasized Christian values, such as compassion and empathy. They also found the size of the small K-8 school appealing and saw it as entry into a strong Catholic schooling tradition that extends through college.

The church's stance against homosexual relationships was no shock, but the woman said she didn't think it was a deal-breaker, given the church's "many variations of tolerance," such as its inclusion of families of divorce, which the church doesn't recognize.

"There are many different non-traditional families that fall under the umbrella of the Catholic Church, and I guess we assumed we would fall under one of those," she said.

The woman and her partner filled out both their names during the application process - which asked for the names of "parents" rather than mother and father - and attended an open house together at the school in February.

"We weren't hiding," she said.

They paid their deposit and got uniform order forms, and last week the woman visited Rafferty to discuss their son's religious education. At that meeting, Rafferty started asking questions about her relationship with her partner, the woman said. A few days later, he and Duggan called with the decision.

Her son will likely be back in public school next year, since it may be too late to get into another private school, she said.

"I think overall, it's a missed opportunity," she said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Federal Court Hears DOMA Challenge | News |

Federal Court Hears DOMA Challenge | News |

Federal Court Hears DOMA Challenge
Gay legal activists say they felt they got a good hearing from Judge Joseph Tauro Thursday in a federal district court hearing to examine the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.
By Lisa Keen, Keen News Service

U.S. district court judge Joseph Tauro is not your typical federal judge. He wears his black robe wide open so you can see his blue shirt and boldly striped tie. He stands throughout the proceeding at a lectern, studying the attorneys before him as intently as a line judge might do at Wimbledon.

He’s also not your typical Nixon appointee. He is, at 79, the only one still serving in an active role on the federal district court bench. He’s unusually informal — beckoning the courtroom audience to give him a heartfelt “Good morning” in return for his own greeting.

But gay legal activists feel they got a good hearing from Judge Tauro Thursday, in the first federal district court hearing to examine the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The case was Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, a lawsuit brought by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the group that won the landmark decision in 2003 that enables same-sex couples in Massachusetts to obtain marriage licenses just as straight couples do.

GLAD’s lawsuit is a very precise attack on DOMA, targeting just one section of the law — Section 3 — that limits the definition of marriage, for all federal purposes, to straight couples only.

GLAD attorney Mary Bonauto told Tauro that DOMA constitutes a “classic equal protection” violation.

“It takes one class of married people in the commonwealth,” she said, “and divides it into two.” And one class, same-sex couples, she said, is “utterly disregarded” under federal law.
Just as the federal government cannot take the word “person” and say it means only Caucasians or only women, Bonauto said, it should not be able to take the word “marriage” and say it means only heterosexual couples.

Bonauto said the government has no reason to withhold the more than 1,000 federal benefits of marriage from same-sex couples, and noted that a House Judiciary Committee report “explicitly stated the purpose of DOMA was to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.”

In making its case GLAD also urged the court to give heightened scrutiny to DOMA. Heightened scrutiny requires the government to provide a strong justification for treating one group of citizens differently. Otherwise the government can justify a law with just some simple “rational” reason.

To get heightened scrutiny GLAD needed to convince the judge either that DOMA interferes with some “fundamental right” of gay people or that gay people are a relatively powerless minority often targeted for discrimination. The latter is referred to legally as a “suspect class.” The Supreme Court has already ruled that marriage is a fundamental right, but no court has ruled yet that gays and lesbians constitute a suspect class.

Tauro did not show much interest in examining either side’s position concerning suspect classification. Instead, he seemed determined simply to test out each of the government’s purported reasons for enacting DOMA. He asked Bonauto whether the government had legitimate arguments in saying DOMA was necessary to preserve a “status quo” concerning the federal understanding of marriage or to adapt federal law to the changing understanding of marriage incrementally.

“No, your honor,” said Bonauto: DOMA did not preserve a status quo, it upended one. Bonauto pointed out that prior to DOMA the federal government accepted each state’s definition of marriage.
It was on this point that Judge Tauro pressed the government most vigorously, asking Department of Justice attorney Scott Simpson, “When did it become a federal matter — dealing with marriage?”

Simpson, who has been DOJ’s point man for defending DOMA, tried to step around the question, but Tauro redirected his question more bluntly. “Specifically, point to an incident,” said Tauro, when marriage has been a federal matter prior to DOMA. Simpson had to concede: “it’s true” that, up until DOMA, the federal government has “simply followed the states’ definition of marriage.”

Today’s argument represented a sort of step 1 in a two-pronged attack on Section 3 of DOMA. Judge Tauro will hear a challenge from the commonwealth of Massachusetts, attacking Section 3 on other grounds, May 26.

DOMA, passed by Congress in 1996 and signed into law by President Clinton, has two parts. Section 2 provides that no state can be “required” to recognize the marriage of a same-sex couple licensed in another state. Section 3 limits, for any federal purpose, the interpretation of “marriage” as being only heterosexual couples.

A year ago there were five lawsuits in federal court seeking to establish equal rights for gay couples in marriage licensing. Two of those — Smelt v. U.S. and Bonilla v. Levine — have since been dropped. Now there are these two DOMA challenges in Boston and Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the high-profile challenge to California’s Proposition 8, in a federal district court in San Francisco. The Prop. 8 case went through a three-week-long trial involving expert witnesses in January and is scheduled for closing arguments June 16.

While the Prop. 8 case challenges the same-sex marriage ban with a broad attack — for all same-sex couples in all arenas — the GLAD case is a precision attack. It identifies specific couples and individuals and demonstrates how Section 3 of DOMA adversely affects their lives in specific arenas, such as Social Security benefits, taxes, survivor benefits, and health insurance.

The plaintiffs originally were eight married couples as well as three gay individuals whose spouses have died. Soon after the lawsuit was filed, GLAD scored one victory. In June 2009 the U.S. Department of Justice announced that the Department of State would immediately amend regulations that prevented the issuance of new passports to gay spouses who changed their names after legally marrying. That dropped today’s plaintiff list to three individuals and seven couples, including Nancy Gill, a federal postal worker, and her spouse, Marcelle Letourneau.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Argentina's lower house approves same-sex marriage – This Just In - Blogs

Argentina's lower house approves same-sex marriage – This Just In - Blogs

Argentina's lower house of Congress approved a law early Wednesday that allows same-sex marriage, the government-run news agency reported.

The Chamber of Deputies passed the bill 126-109 with five abstentions, the Telam news agency said. The vote occurred at 2:45 a.m. after 12 hours of debate, Telam said.

The Argentinean Senate will have to pass the measure before it can become law. It's not clear when that vote will take place.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Court Expands Rights of Gay Parents - City Room Blog -

Court Expands Rights of Gay Parents - City Room Blog - NYTimes.comCourt Expands Rights of Gay Parents

ALBANY — New York State’s highest court ruled in two cases Tuesday that nonbiological parents involved in same-sex relationships have rights similar to those of biological parents.

But the court limited its rulings, ultimately leaving it up to the State Legislature to decide whether to amend state law to grant nonbiological parents full custody rights.

In one case, the court, the Court of Appeals, found that a woman is entitled to seek child support from her former partner, who is not the biological mother of a child the couple raised together before they separated.

The ruling was 4 to 3.

In the second case, which experts said was the more significant of the two, the court ruled that a woman can seek visitation rights from her former partner because she is a legal parent, even though she is not the child’s biological mother. The two women entered into a civil union in Vermont.

“In many ways this is a real breakthrough in New York,” said Susan Sommer, who argued the case before the Court of Appeals and is senior counsel and director of constitutional litigation for Lambda Legal, a legal advocacy group.

The ruling was 7 to 0 that the nonbiological parent, referred to in court documents as Debra H., had parental rights. The court recognized the woman’s legal status as a parent because her relationship with the biological mother was legally established through the civil union.

But some legal experts said they were dismayed that the court did not go a step further and establish the parental rights of nonbiological parents who are not in legally recognized relationships.

“It is a narrow victory that will help the children of couples who marry or enter civil unions, but it will not help the children of parents who don’t,” said Nancy Polikoff, a law professor at American University.

The rulings reflect the expanding affirmation by the Court of Appeals of rights for gays and lesbians. The court has generally ruled that short of same-sex marriage — which it has said should be approved by the State Legislature — gay and lesbian couples can enjoy a broad range of legal protections.

While same-sex marriages are not legal in New York, the state does recognize same-sex unions performed in other states. The Court of Appeals has so far rejected legal challenges to out-of-state gay unions.

In November, the court decided in separate cases that New York State and Westchester County had both acted lawfully when they extended benefits to same-sex couples. In the state case, the court rejected a challenge to a state policy that extended health benefits to same-sex partners of state employees who were married in states where such unions are legal.

In the Westchester County case, the court said the county could recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

In February, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear a case in which a biological mother was seeking to strip her former partner of parental rights. A family court in California had ruled that the former partner should be considered a full parent.