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Gay New Jersey couples seek marriage rights

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What if Uganda's gay laws were presented in the U.S.?

Sometimes in order to better understand the plight of others, we tend to hae to walk a mile...well, you know. I can't help but wonder, would americans as a whole, not to mention the GLBT Community, would we care if it were our cross to bear?

Expected to be enacted on January 1,if you are gay in Uganda, it will serve as a death sentence or jail time because the act of being gay will then be considered a crime by one member of the same sex couple. SERIOUSLY, one of you would have to become the "perpetrator" and the other will have to become the "victim"...your choice. One of you will walk free, while the other will face jail time or death..your choice.

Julian Pepe is besieged and frightened after getting constant harassment from the Ugandan police, and verbal and physical attacks from some members of the public. Her 'crime'? She is a lesbian and activist struggling for the rights of hundreds of other lesbians and gays who are likely to face tough sentences, including execution, if a bill that is likely to turn into law sails through parliament.

The bill - introduced by parliamentarian David Bahati - would see gay men and lesbians sentenced to life imprisonment for having sex, and a death sentence for sex with minors. Anyone failing to report a homosexual act committed by others would face up to three years in jail.

What if YOU were taken off to jail just because you knew a same sex couple? What if you were sent to jail just because YOU KNEW OF such a couple? Would you care more?

She was recently arrested:'I asked them why I was under arrest but they replied that you people should die. One policewoman told me that she wished (former dictator Idi) Amin was still alive and that if it was so and he ordered the killing of gays and lesbians, she would participate in the firing squads,' the 29-year old told the German Press Agency DPA.

President Yoweri Musevenis government has drafted the tough anti-homosexual bill, which states that a person will be sentenced to life if he or she is convicted of using an object of sexual contraption to penetrate or stimulate a sexual organ or touches another with an intention of committing an act of homosexuality. What if vibrators were illegal? Would we care more that equality doesn't begin and end with "marriage"?

The death sentence would also be applied to anyone convicted of sex if the offender suffers from AIDS or if the victim of the act has physical or mental disabilities. The proposed law further penalizes the owners of the premises where homosexual acts are committed and allows for a sentence of seven years for one who is convicted of broadcasting, production and dissemination of pornographic material for purposes of promoting homosexuality.

People including relatives and friends sheltering gays and lesbians or failing to report them to the authorities also face jail terms of up to five years, the bill says.

Gays and lesbians there have been hiding their identities for decades for fear of social discrimination and harassment by the authorities but the number of openly-gay people is believed to be increasing.

'Homosexuality will not be encouraged in Uganda. This is our position', he told a recent news conference.

Meanwhile, a mass demonstration in favour of the new law is planned for Tuesday in Kampala, by the major evangelical Christian churches in Uganda.

Small Business revenue gains due to Equality agenda

We talk alot about how the GLBT Community stands to benefit from legislative pushes all across the nation, however, we often fail to find the importance in market shifts and expected gains from the hetero community as well.

Robin Sutliff's flower shop is redolent with the ingredients of a perfect wedding place setting: tall stands of white amaryllis, cala lilies imported from South America, summery clusters of yellow-orange orchids. When she imagines the many same-sex couples likely to tie the knot in the District this spring, though, her mind settles on the humble hyacinth.

"It's a pretty flower," said Sutliff, owner of Ultra Violet florist in Georgetown. "It smells good, and it's strong. It represents spring and new birth."

On Friday, December 18,Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) signed legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in the District, a move that is expected to be a financial boon for the city and for vendors such as Sutliff, who make much of their money on weddings but who have struggled during the recession. District officials surmise that the regional economy could reap up to $22 million over the next three years as couples from Washington and elsewhere take advantage of the new law, and the Williams Institute, a think tank at the University of California at Los Angeles, estimates that the infusion could be $52 million.

But the betrothed are not lining up quite yet. The law is subject to a 30-day review period by Congress, and opponents have taken their objections to court. Although many expect the bill to pass unhindered this spring, couples say the memory of California's Proposition 8 remains fresh in their minds. The 2008 voter-approved initiative banned same-sex marriage in the state after it had been legalized, a setback to many hopeful couples and a stunning reversal to those who thought gay marriage was on the path to mainstream acceptance.

"We're waiting to make sure that it makes the 30 days. We don't want to do too much dreaming," said Mike Giordano, 42, a social worker from Northwest Washington who expects to marry his longtime partner next year but has not made any plans.

Industry develops
Six years after Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage and long after same-sex commitment ceremonies have become routine, a robust industry has developed around what many say is a tradition that has special needs. Arlington County-based, for example, sells dual groom and dual bride cake tops. Wedding announcements available on include interlocking hearts fashioned to look like the symbol for female.

Both Web sites reported an uptick in traffic from Washington area customers in the past few weeks, and other vendors are expecting a significant increase in business this spring. Hotels such as the Kimpton chain, which is popular among gay travelers, are developing plans to heavily market their D.C. venues nationally as ideal for same-sex destination weddings.

"We're all ramping up in anticipation that this is going to be big for the wedding industry here," said Allison Britton, an Alexandria-based photographer.

This month, Britton attended a seminar in the District led by Boston-based wedding planner Bernadette Coveney Smith, a self-described gay wedding expert who has been planning same-sex nuptials since Massachusetts legalized them in 2003. The seminar attracted about 40 caterers, videographers and other vendors hoping to have the advantage when the expected marriage rush begins.

Among Coveney Smith's tips: Forget about the pink triangles and rainbow-hued Web sites that scream "gay." Those historically significant but dated images don't always appeal to modern couples, she said. A more subtle idea might be for photographers to consider sprinkling photos of a few same-sex couples in their portfolios. And words matter. For example, potential customers might be turned off if they are asked, "What are the names of the bride and groom?"

Coveney Smith said she is certain there will be a wedding rush in a couple of months, when the law could be officially on the books, just as the industry got a bump in Massachusetts, Connecticut and other states that have permitted same-sex unions. According to the Williams Institute, about 12,000 gay weddings took place in Massachusetts between 2004 and 2009, pumping more than $111 million into the state's economy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Same Sex Divorce has to be just as Equal as Marrige

A same-sex couple who fought for the right to marry in Austin, Texas, now are split on the right to legally end their relationship, lawyers say.

Before we get further into this story, this is the same stuff I've been bringing to you and discussing for an entire year now. EQUALITY IS NOT A DAGGER WE CAN USE TO GET WHAT WE WANT AT ALL COST...ONLY THEN TO TURN OUR BACKS ON IT ALL TO GET OUT OF WHAT WE ONCE THOUGHT WE WANTED. It is a shame and it tharts the entire "equality" argument.

It says the GLBT Community will say and do just about anything to get what they want, i.e. Same Sex Marriage, Adoption Rights, Employer Benefits, Universal HealthCare and etc. It says the GLBT Community further confirms its opponents stance as unstable.

Five years after marrying in Massachusetts, Angelique Naylor's spouse is contesting the split, arguing that since Texas doesn't recognize same-sex marriage, the dissolution shouldn't be recognized either, KXAN-TV, Austin, reported. So now, it is apparently easier to use the states lack of equality for her benefit. Amazing!

"It's not about special rights," Naylor said of her desire to end the union. "It's about equal rights. I want my divorce like the 15 divorce cases that I witnessed today between men and women."

Anne Wynne, a family law expert and equal rights activist, said the decision Texas judges make in Naylor's case and others will have major repercussions for the state, the television station reported Thursday.

"It has huge implications," Wynne said. "It means they get treated like every other citizen in this state."

In a statement on Naylor's case, state Attorney General Greg Abbott said his office would be monitoring the proceedings and "if necessary, take appropriate steps to defend the Texas Constitution."

Since Texas doesn't recognize same-sex marriage or same-sex divorce, Abbott said the proper legal mechanism is "voidance," or voiding their out-of-state. How "equal" or fair is that to those who are not gay? Why don't we just permit everyone in the union to "void" out their responsibilities? This pushes the rights for gay adoption further into an abyss and therefore provides a shot in the arm for all GLBT adversaries. Amazing.

So now, will we finally have a real discussion on Equality? Can we now come to terms on how we need to grasp this message and use it for all americans, not just the gay citizens. Only then with this fight yield positive results both here and abroad.

Uganda is sanctioning gay genocide: Jail time and Death for being Gay!

Consensual homosexual acts between adults are still illegal in as many as 70 countries. Most countries have moved to a liberalisation of those unjust and repressive laws. In Uganda, however, the Hon David Bahati has sponsored an anti-homosexuality bill far more draconian than the already existing code. It begins with principles and threats: the value of traditional family values, the threat of homosexual infection.

The logic of the bill is this: "This legislation further recognizes the fact that same sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic." But only if sexual orientation is voluntary can a person be held accountable for his or her choice. Science has concluded that sexual orientation is a core personality trait, not a choice. You no more choose to be gay or bisexual than you choose to be left-handed or ambidextrous; it's a morally neutral position.

Category mistake
Sexual expression and behaviour, however, is cultural and psychological, just like the expression of many other core personality traits. Innate traits express themselves in a multitude of ways, depending on the psychological, cultural and political environment. Cultures, like people, can be alcoholic (Soviet Russia), homosexual (ancient Greece), conformist or liberal, creative or stifling. Knowingly or unknowingly, homophobic governments make the category mistake of confusing core personality with cultural expression, criminalising, in the process, a fairly stable and substantial minority of any given population.

In this case, Bahati wants to get rid of those pesky "sexual rights activists seeking to impose their values of sexual promiscuity", as well as gay pornographers and paedophiles. There is no distinction in his mind between people who fall in love with people of their own gender, and sexual sleaze and crime: it's all a filthy mess of HIV, pornography, western values, decadence, feminism and predation. The draft bill separates "the offence of homosexuality" from "aggravated homosexuality". The former is consensual but the bill addresses only the "offender", as though in gay relationships there is only ever a perpetrator and a victim:

(1) a person commits the offence of homosexuality if
(a) he penetrates the anus or mouth of another person of the same sex with his penis or any other sexual contraption;
(b) he or she uses any object of sexual contraption to penetrate or stimulate sexual organ of a person of the same sex;
(c) he or she touches another person with the intention of committing . . . homosexuality.
(2) a person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.

The second, more serious offence of "aggravated homosexuality" turns on the notion of the "serial offender", defined in the introduction to the law as "a person who has previous convictions of the offence of homosexuality or related offences." Anyone who is a confirmed gay man or lesbian and already has a sexual history faces the death penalty, alongside homosexual rapists and child abusers.

This is how the law will work: victims are not to be penalised; they are to be assisted, and their identities protected. Judges may order that the offender has to pay them compensation. In addition, "aiding", "abetting" or "promoting" homosexuality becomes illegal. Perhaps, most importantly, failure to inform the authorities, within 24 hours, of suspected homosexuals is criminalised. The Ugandan people must turn informants - or risk jail. Lovers must choose between "victim" or "offender"; the former protected and paid, the latter imprisoned or killed.

A culture of violence
Criminalisation of homosexuals in Britain led to blackmail, prison sentences, hormonal "treatments", suicides, sexual repression and ruined lives. The Ugandan bill, however, like the Nazi laws before it, makes homosexuality punishable, ultimately, by death.

A decade ago, I visited the vast refugee camps in the north of Uganda. The Lord's Resistance Army had been conducting murderous raids from their camps in Southern Sudan, abducting children. The abducted boys, brutalised and drugged, became soldiers; the girls were kept as slaves. I remember the fixed smiles of the girls who had managed to escape from captivity. I remember their drawings of killings and death. Sexual violence is everywhere in Uganda. This bill, too, is part of that culture. And what is the death penalty for homosexuality if not sexual murder? The state that sets out to purge the nation of homosexuality becomes, in the end, itself a sexual predator.

Should Gay Couples Pay the Same Taxes as Straights?

by Howard Gleckman

Interesting discussion today at a TPC forum on the tax and benefits consequences of being gay. The benefit issues are probably larger, but this is TaxVox, so let’s look at taxes.

As my TPC colleague Bob Williams noted, when it comes to federal taxes the question is not whether you are gay or straight, but whether or not you are married. Depending on the relative income of each spouse, married couples either enjoy a marriage bonus or suffer a marriage penalty. Of course, heterosexuals can choose to marry or not and live with the tax consequences. Gays and lesbians have no such option. Even though a handful of states now recognize gay marriage, for federal tax purposes their marital status is irrelevant. As a result of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, gays cannot be married for federal law purposes.

This creates a number of problems for these couples, some very serious, others merely annoying. For instance, Massachusetts recognizes gay marriage. But it requires all married couples to file jointly and it piggybacks its returns on the federal 1040. Trouble is, gay couples are not allowed to file a joint federal return. So they must fill out two single IRS returns, then a joint federal return that they are not allowed to file, and finally a state return based on their illegal Form 1040. More seriously, while many businesses now provide spousal benefits to gay couples, the value of the non-employee’s benefits is taxable for unmarried couples, but tax free for those who are married.

While many politicians are perfectly happy with this state of affairs, there is growing interest in treating gay couples equally with heterosexual couples under the Tax Code. So how to do it? One option would be to eliminate joint filing entirely and have everyone file as an individual. That would run into some old Supreme Court cases that draw a sharp distinction between income earned in community property states and in those states where each earner’s income is presumed to be theirs and not divided equally between the spouses.

A second option might be to redefine eligibility for joint filing (as well as for tax treatment of benefits) to those who have entered into civil unions under state law. This would avoid the community property problem and bring federal tax law more in line with what appears to be a growing legal trend. Currently, about a dozen states grant some domestic partnership rights to gays and public opinion polls suggest there is broad support for these rights. By contrast, most Americans still oppose gay marriage.

There are downsides to this solution as well. A person’s tax liability in one state would be different than the liability of someone in exactly the same economic situation who lives in another state. And eliminating joint filing would still be hugely controversial, in no small part because it would raise the tax bills of millions of couples. But it would treat taxpayers equally, and, by using the civil union definition, would avoid most of the political baggage that goes with that word “marriage.”

Adultery still Illegal in New Hampshire After 200 years!

The original punishments — including standing on the gallows for an hour with a noose around the neck — have been softened to a $1,200 fine, yet some lawmakers think it’s time for the 200-year-old crime of adultery to come off New Hampshire’s books.

Seven months after the state approved gay marriage, lawmakers will consider easing government further from the bedroom with a bill to repeal the adultery law.
“We shouldn’t be regulating people’s sex lives and their love lives,” state Rep. Timothy Horrigan said. “This is one area the state government should stay out of people’s bedrooms.”

In June, lawmakers voted to legalize gay marriage — a law that takes effect Jan. 1.
“We shouldn’t be in the business of regulating what consenting adults do with each other,” Horrigan said.

Convicted adulterers years ago faced standing on the gallows, up to 39 lashes, a year in jail or a fine of 100 pounds. The punishment has been relaxed to a misdemeanor and a fine of up to $1,200 — with no jail time.

The high court found that the state had no legitimate interest justifying its intrusion into the personal and private lives of two gay men arrested in their bedroom during a police investigation in a weapons case. The men had been charged with sodomy.

Some recently questioned whether South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s admitted extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina made him subject to his state’s 1880 criminal law against adultery. The penalty is a fine of up to $500 and a year in jail. The state said it couldn’t waste limited money trying to prosecute Sanford on such a charge. The law’s constitutionality also has been questioned.

In the past, conservatives argued decriminalizing adultery would weaken marriage.
Kevin Smith, executive director of the conservative Cornerstone Policy Research, opposes this repeal effort for the same reason.

“Even though this criminal law probably is not enforced right now and probably has not been enforced for some time, I think it’s important to have a public policy statement that says generally or in all situations adultery is not a good thing. And I think, by repealing that statute, you’re essentially diminishing the harmful effects of adultery,” Smith said.

Horrigan doesn’t think a small fine will stop anyone from cheating on a spouse. He also wouldn’t oppose taking adultery out of the civil divorce statute as a cause for the breakdown.

“Who we love and how we love is not something, an area the state has much business meddling in,” he said. The original punishments — including standing on the gallows for an hour with a noose around the neck — have been softened to a $1,200 fine, yet some lawmakers think it’s time for the 200-year-old crime of adultery to come off New Hampshire’s books.

In June, lawmakers voted to legalize gay marriage — a law that takes effect Jan. 1.
“We shouldn’t be in the business of regulating what consenting adults do with each other,” Horrigan said.

The last attempts to repeal New Hampshire’s law came after a Merrimack husband filed a complaint against his wife and her boss in 1987. When police refused to pursue adultery charges, Robert Stackelback brought the complaint himself against the pair. He later dropped the charges.

Honduras Leadership Needs to act to prevent further HIV Murders...

The killing of an HIV/AIDS outreach worker on December 14, 2009, is part of a pattern of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Honduras that seems to have accelerated in the turbulent months since the June 28 coup, Human Rights Watch said today.

The organization called on Honduran judicial authorities to open full investigations of all the reported killings, and to provide human rights training for the police and the judiciary about sexual orientation and gender identity.

"The mounting violence against people who look or love differently in Honduras reflects a crisis of intolerance," said Juliana Cano Nieto, researcher in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.

The latest attack was on Walter Orlando Trochez, 27, who had been active both in the LGBT movement and in political activity opposing the coup. He was shot in the chest by an unidentified person late on the night of December 14 in downtown Tegucigalpa, near the Central Church.

Indyra Mendoza of Cattrachas, a local lesbian organization, told Human Rights Watch that he managed to call his friends on his mobile phone after the shooting. When they arrived at the scene, an ambulance was taking Trochez to Hospital Escuela, where he died. An autopsy revealed that he died from one shot to the chest.

On December 5, Trochez reported to the Attorney General's Office that four armed men in civilian clothes attempted to kidnap him on the previous day. He said there had been a series of threats against his life on the grounds of his participation in the resistance movement.

"Walter used to go with me to recognize the bodies of our transgender friends when they were killed," Mendoza said. "Now I had to go on my own to identify his body."

Since June 28, the National Criminal Investigation Department in Tegucigalpa has documented at least seven killings of transgender and gay people in Honduras, including Trochez. Local LGBT advocates have asked the prosecutor's office for information about approximately nine more reported killings in the second largest city - San Pedro Sula and neighboring cities.

In "Not Worth a Penny: Human Rights Abuses against Transgender People in Honduras", a report released in May, Human Rights Watch documented the killing of 17 transgender women between 2005 and 2008.

In the report, Human Rights Watch called on Honduran authorities to:

•Repeal provisions of the Law on Police and Social Affairs that penalize public conduct on arbitrary and vaguely defined grounds. Authorities should send a clear message to all law enforcement institutions that violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, will not be tolerated, the report said;
•Conduct independent, impartial, and effective investigations into the general phenomenon of homophobic and transphobic violence and into specific allegations of police brutality, extortion, and ill-treatment against LGBT people, leading to the identification and prosecution of the perpetrators;
•Enact legislation that provides specific protections on the grounds of sexual orientation, and gender identity and gender expression.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nation's First Gay Mayor Elected in Major U.S City!

The landmark election Saturday of America's first big-city lesbian mayor in Houston represents more than just a milestone in identity politics.

It also signals an unmistakable evolutionary step in national politics, one that provides further evidence of a trend that helped make Barack Obama president: growth-oriented communities like the Texas metropolis, rather than aging big cities or nostalgia-inducing small towns, are setting the course of the country's political direction.

Houston is one of a set of fast-growing cities and expanding suburbs whose changing face and increasingly post-racial politics played a pivotal role in sending Obama to the White House. Their politics are defined by some of the same trends—notably, growing Hispanic and Asian populations and the rise of the service sector—that are shaping the nation as a whole.

But the election of Annise Parker in Houston makes clear that the Charlottes and Houstons are now at the forefront of American political change, while the shrinking and declining big cities of the Northeast and Rust Belt are bringing up the rear.

Other well known residents of Houston; not to mention, former Presidnet George H.W. Bush, and Barbara Bush participated in this weeks pivital election. Houston has already shown signs of a recognizable political shift. While the political math of deep-red Texas denied Houston a presidential visit, Obama’s campaign focused on similarly situated cities—places like Las Vegas, a hub of his Western campaign, with late-in-campaign stops added for Orlando, Fla., the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., Indianapolis and the Research Triangle of North Carolina.

"As people become more comfortable with ethnic diversity they also become more comfortable with sexual diversity," said Stephen Klineberg, a professor of Sociology at Rice University.

That tolerance, he noted, isn’t equivalent to across-the-board social liberalism. His research has found a dramatic increase in tolerance of homosexuality over the last decade in Houston even as the view that abortion is “immoral” grew slightly more widespread.

Yet the election of an out lesbian who made her name initially as a gay-rights activist, one who embraced her partner on stage on election night, nevertheless reveals a breakthrough in the country's march toward what could be called either tolerance or just plain apathy toward homosexuality.

Indeed, save for an 11th-hour flurry of mailers paid for by allies of Parker's opponent, Gene Locke, her sexual orientation mattered little in a race dominated by conventional municipal issues such as crime, jobs and education. What was remarkable about the contest was just how unremarkable the voters found it that Parker was a lesbian. And that's the equality we're always talking about. Nothing extra, just equal.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why Do Churches Care about Marriage Equality?

I am a 24-year-old straight single woman. If I were to get married in a courthouse, the church whose beliefs I ascribe to would call this a civil union and not a sacramental marriage. If I were then to obtain a legal divorce, my church would not recognize the dissolution of my marriage unless I obtained an annulment, thereby rendering any subsequent marriage an adultery in the eyes of God. I accept these things because I have chosen to abide by the rules of this faith.

What I don't understand is why we are fighting about same-sex marriage. If the government chooses to allow same-sex marriage, how does this make any difference in the eyes of the churches? They already can deny marriage to couples who don't choose to abide by their rules, and a lifting of a government ban won't change this First Amendment-protected right. The separation of church and state is a fundamental concept in the operation of our nation, but it's being overlooked here.

As to concerns about family values and moral corruption (which I won't comment on), aren't we as Christians (unfortunately, most of the group that is up in arms) called to love our neighbors -- everyone -- even if it's someone whose life choices we don't agree with? This battle is not one that should be fought on the national government scale.

We have more important things to worry about as a country -- like the extent of our foreign aid when there are millions in our own cities and rural areas in poverty without adequate housing, food or medical care. When we fight about issues like same-sex marriage, we are crippling the power of democracy, which we are so blessed to have. Let's stop being so selfish.

Jodi Dubyoski, Catonsville

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First Domestic Partnership Marriage in Protest!

A heterosexual UK couple have given only their initials to the council registrars at Islington Town Hall in hopes that they'll be able to enter into a civil parttnership, the Daily Mail reports:

"Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle, both 25, are determined to become the first straight couple to wed in a civil partnership. The pair last night branded marriage 'an apartheid' that segregates straight and gay people. The civil servants, who live in Holloway, north London, and have been together nearly four years, said they want the same legal rights as a husband and wife. But they do not want to enter an institution that is closed to homosexuals.

So, in the interests of equality, they are demanding that they be allowed to enter a civil partnership. Mr Freeman said: 'Ideally we'd have the option of a civil partnership or a marriage, regardless of whether we were straight or gay.

Effectively marriage and civil partnerships are exactly the same - it's a duplicate law. The effects and legal processes are identical. The rights and obligations are identical.' He added: 'Civil partnerships are equality in all but name - so why not just have equality?"

UK activist Peter Tatchell is on board: "The ban on heterosexual civil partnerships is heterophobic. It is discriminatory and offensive. I want to see it ended so that straight couples like Tom and Katherine can have the option of a civil partnership. I applaud their challenge to this unjust law."

Marriage Activists fretting the coming of Christie-NJ

Fearful that Chris Christie’s victory in last week’s gubernatorial race sidelines "marriage equality" in New Jersey for at least four years, same-sex marriage advocates throughout the state are urging legislators to pass a same-sex marriage bill before Gov. Jon Corzine leaves office.

Their effort is not likely to come without a fight.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), emboldened by last week’s election in Maine, where voters narrowly rejected a state law that would have allowed gay couples to wed, vows to fight any attempt to legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey.

Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State Equality (GSE), rallied his troops on the third floor of a Bloomfield Avenue office building the night after last week’s election, in what was dubbed an "emergency meeting" to discuss the future of same-sex marriage in New Jersey.

Standing on a chair in the middle of a conference room packed with supporters, Goldstein said "all stars" in the Legislature – including state Senators Dick Codey and Loretta Weinberg and Assemblyman John Roberts – are on the side of same-sex marriage advocates, even if the governor-elect is not.

"We have about two-and-a-half months to win marriage equality," Goldstein said. "It’s not over."

More than 100 same-sex marriage supporters appeared at the rally, including numerous teenagers and younger children. Justine Appel, 16, a Montclair High School junior, said it’s necessary for young people "to stand up" and fight for the civil rights of all citzens.

Christie’s election makes the fight more urgent, Appel said.

"It’s now or never," she said.

Maggie Gallagher, president of NOM, contends Maine voters’ decision in last week’s election to reject same-sex marriage "blasted a hole in the narrative" that public opinion is shifting in the direction of gay marriage advocates. Quite the contrary, Gallagher told The Times.

Christie has vowed to veto any same-sex marriage legislation, a promise Gallagher expects him to keep. Any attempt to approve gay marriage before he takes office is a sign that GSE and its supporters do not trust New Jersey voters, she said.

"That’s about getting it as far from an election as they possibly can," said Gallagher.

Montclair is represented in the state Assembly by Thomas Giblin and Sheila Oliver, and in the state Senate by Nia Gill, all Democrats. Giblin did not respond to a request for comment, while Oliver said she supports giving Corzine a same-sex marriage bill to sign before he leaves office. Gill is the co-sponsor, with Weinburg, of a same-sex marriage bill that she wants signed into law, one of Gill’s aides told The Times.

Despite Maine’s election results, popular opinion in the United States is shifting toward acceptance of same-sex marriage, according to a study by two Columbia University professors and published in August by the American Political Science Review. The analysis finds that since 1994, all 50 states have seen an increase in public support for gay marriage.

In 1994, public support for gay marriage ranged from 12 percent in Utah to 36 percent in New York. In 2008, Utah was still last, with only 17 percent support, and leading with 56 percent was California, where, ironically, voters that year approved amending the state Constitution to define marriage as "between a man and a woman."

Nearly 50 percent of New Jersey residents in 2008 supported gay marriage, up from 27 percent in 1994, according to the study.

Gina Pastino of Montclair has been with her partner, Naomi Cohen, for 15 years. The two became civil-union partners when that law went into effect two years ago. They have two children, Sophia, 6, and Griffin, 3.

Pastino, 41, one the 100-plus attendees of last week’s GSE meeting, told The Times that the limitations of civil unions became apparent when she was hospitalized last year. An emergency-room doctor would not share information about her status with Cohen, regardless of their legal relationship, noted Pastino.

Legalizing same-sex marriage would solve that problem, she said.

"If you tell someone you’re in a civil union, people ask what that is," Pastino said. "People know what marriage is."

Contact Terrence T. McDonald at

US school cancels prom after lesbian asks to invite girlfriend

An Alabama school has cancelled its prom because one of the organisers, a lesbian student, asked permission to bring her girlfriend.

Cynthia Stewart, a 17-year-old junior at Tharptown High School, had raised over $200 dollars personally for the event and had thought of the theme.

However, when she asked the school principal if her girlfriend could attend the prom, her request was denied. Stewart was also made to remove a sticker which said “I am a lesbian” and told she did not have much free speech at school.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has now taken up her case, demanding that Franklin County School System officials reverse the decision.

A letter sent from the organisation to the school also pointed out that officials had violated Stewart's First Amendment rights by asking her to remove her sticker.

Some teachers told classes last Thursday that prom was being cancelled altogether as a way to avoid having to Stewart attend with her girlfriend.

Finally, at least one teacher made statements to students on Monday indicating that the prom is back on, but there has still been no reversal on the decision about Stewart.

(Let me first say, I love the work that the ACLU does on behalf of ensuring equality. I preface with that because there are also many times where our efforts to be "fair" to one person or group may infact infringe upon the rights of others. Why did it have to be a major issue who this young lady brought to the prom? I didn't take a girl to my senior prom, but I didn't advertise it either. No one would have denied this young lady admittance if she showed up with another young lady on the night of the event...we have a responsibility in our quest for equality to be fair to those who just don't get it").
The student said: "I can't believe my school is doing all of this just to keep me from bringing my girlfriend to the prom.

"All I want is to be able to be myself and go to my prom with the person I love, just like any other student wants to do."

The ACLU has given school officials until November 20th to respond to the letter.

Fort Worth council votes to expand anti-discrimination ordinance

FORT WORTH — The Fort Worth City Council voted 6-3 late Tuesday to expand its anti-discrimination ordinance to include transgender people, capping a marathon debate over a series of gay-rights proposals that were forwarded after a controversial inspection of a gay bar.

A majority of council members spoke in favor of the proposal when it was introduced last week.

The inspection at the Rainbow Lounge in June left a man injured and sparked protests in the city.

Fort Worth officials appointed a task force to recommend ways to mend fences with the gay community shortly afterward.

The vote dealt only with one facet of the proposals: expanding the city's anti-discrimination ordinance to include transgender people. The ordinance already prevented discrimination based on race, sex, religion or sexual orientation.

A lot of the debate, though, centered on broader proposals, some of which the council has already tacitly approved. City staffers will be trained on dealing with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and the police department has appointed a liaison to the community.

Other recommendations will require further study, including offering domestic-partner benefits and expanding the city health insurance plan to cover gender reassignment procedures.

Crowded council meeting
More than 200 people packed the council chambers, lining the walls and spilling into overflow rooms.

“We believe, as you do, that we should respect each other,” said Jon Nelson of Fairness Fort Worth. “The foundation of these recommendations isn't preferential treatment, it's equal treatment.”

Three transgender people — two transsexual women and a cross-dressing man — were among those who spoke in favor of the ordinance.

“Being a transgender person has nothing to do with a person's ability to do their job,” Victoria Van Fleet said.

Conservative protesters saw the proposals as violating traditional morals. “Is it our city's responsibility to take taxpayer money and promote a lifestyle based on sexual preference or gender identity?” asked Richard Clough, a Republican activist.

Ron Armstrong stood on top of his Bible in front of City Hall to symbolize that he was “standing on the word of God.”

“The law says clearly no man is supposed to lie with a man the way he lies with a woman,” he said.

Taking testimony
The city's Human Relations Commission was already working on transgender issues before the Rainbow Lounge incident. About 10 transgender people have complained about discrimination over the last few years, but it wasn't clear if the anti-discrimination ordinance protected them, city Human Relations Director Vanessa Boling said.

The commission took testimony from people who were threatened or ridiculed because they were transgender, or who had problems finding jobs and housing, said the Rev. Estrus Tucker, chairman of the commission.

“It wasn't about choice, it's who they are,” Tucker said. “When you listen to some of the stories, people wouldn't choose to go through it.”


Should faith based organizations be required to render services outside of their faith?

Gay Marriage is heating up as well as fizzling all at the same time all over the country, actually. In Washington, D.C., if you didn't get the tweet earlier (, the city council wanted to "broaden" an exemption that would protect businesses and organizations from discriminatory lawsuits filed by same sex couples for being denied business services.

One Councilmember, Yvette Alexander, wanted to go even further and prevent lawsuits toward individuals from same sex couples as well. But an attempt by those opposed to gay marriage to broaden those exceptions outside the church community has garnered meager council support. Alexander was rejected.

“Just as we’re protecting large institutions, we should ensure that individuals can be afforded the same liberties and protections,” said Alexander, who cast the five-member committee’s lone “no” vote, citing her ward’s “overwhelming” opposition to same-sex marriage.

The legislation to expand the provision was adopted Tuesday by the D.C. Council’s judiciary committee, provides that any religious society can deny a gay couple services, facilities, goods or accommodations related to their wedding without fear of liability.

Listen, my view on this is simple, regardless of my sexual preferences, life preferences, preferences, if you don't want to serve me, if you don't want my money because you think your religous beliefs are compromised? Ok. Familyblendz is always in support of policy that protects everybody. What I mean by that is this;how many people didn't want to serve muslims right after 9-11? Your fear caused that reaction. With Education, awareness, our perception of that changed.

As long as we are not saying that someone can just look at me and decide, "he must be gay, so um not going render my business services to him", as long as we are not condoning and making provision for discrimination in our governing, I'm okay with it.

If my desire to get married, affects your beliefs in your small bridal business, you should be required to inform me of that, and further, I should be required to accept that you are not comfortable with that. Come on guys, its not that hard to understand that everyone is not in support of our lifestyle. Their lack of support, I can live with, their discriminatory acts towards me and my family;I cannot accept.

“That shield of course would be an invitation to act on that discriminatory impulse,” said Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh.

In Bernalillo County, N.M., in 2006, photographer Elaine Huguenin refused to provide services for a gay couple’s commitment ceremony, citing her religious beliefs. The couple filed a sexual orientation discrimination complaint. The New Mexico Commission on Human Rights, after investigating, found the complaint justified and ordered Huguenin to pay attorney’s fees totaling $6,637.94.

The photographer has appealed to New Mexico’s 2nd District court. The lawsuit threatens to affect gay marriages, and who must participate in them, if it reaches the U.S. Supreme Court — where Huguenin’s lawyers have promised to take it.

Opponents of D.C.’s gay marriage bill argue the religious liberty exemption is too narrow. The Washington Archdiocese, for example, said in a statement that the legislation “leaves religious organizations and individuals at risk for adhering to the teachings of their faith.”

But the Rev. Dennis Wiley, pastor of D.C.’s Covenant Baptist Church and a gay marriage supporter, said the bill “clearly protects clergy who disagree with me about marriage equality while also standing by the tenants of inclusion” that the District is known for.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Same Sex Marriage Bans Contribute to Health Disparities says AMA

The American Medical Association voted Tuesday to oppose the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military and declared that same-sex marriage bans contribute to health disparities.

The nation's largest doctors' group stopped short of saying it would seek to overturn marriage bans but its new stance angered conservative activists and provides a fresh boost to lobbying efforts by gay-rights advocates.

"It's highly significant that the AMA as one of this country's leading professional associations has taken a position on both of these issues," said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Washington.

The health disparities measure, "in the long run, will certainly help efforts to win marriage equality," Carey said.

Whether the AMA's lobbying power will hasten efforts to overturn the "don't ask, don't tell" law remains to be seen. President Obama has said he is working with congressional leaders to end the policy, and the AMA's stance will likely help, although gay rights issues have been upstaged by Obama's health care overhaul battle.

The AMA's vote took place at the group's interim policymaking meeting in Houston,

The health disparities policy is based on evidence showing that married couples are more likely to have health insurance and that the uninsured have a high risk for "living sicker and dying younger," said Dr. Peter Carmel, an AMA board member.

But Jenny Tyree, an analyst for Focus on the Family Action, a conservative advocacy group, called it a health insurance problem, not a marriage problem.

Doctors who pushed the group to oppose "don't ask, don't tell" say forcing gay service members to keep their sexual orientation secret has "a chilling effect" on open communication between gays and their doctors.

Read more:

Gay Rights Gone Global

Last December, something truly historic happened. Sixty-six countries signed a United Nations’ statement calling for the universal decriminalization of homosexuality and condemning homophobic discrimination and violence. This was the first time the U.N. General Assembly had ever considered the issue of LGBT human rights.

In almost every country on earth, there are LGBT freedom movements — some open, others clandestine. For the first time ever, countries like the Philippines, Estonia, Lebanon, Columbia, Russia, Sri Lanka and China are hosting LGBT conferences and Pridecelebrations.

But, that about sums up all the good news of this posting. It gets pretty graphic from here on out, but its something we need to educate each other on. A new bill before the Ugandan parliament proposes the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” and “serial offenders.” A sentence of life imprisonment will be imposed for touching a person with homosexual intent. Membership in gay organizations, advocacy of gay human rights and the provision of condoms or safer sex advice to gay people will result in seven years jail for “promoting” homosexuality.

Failing to report violators to the police within 24 hours would incur three years behind bars. The new legislation will also apply to Ugandans who commit these "crimes" while living abroad, in countries where such behavior is not a criminal offense.

Over the last few years, Uganda has stepped up its victimization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, often at the behest of Christian leaders who are aided and funded by right-wing evangelical churches in the U.S.

Typical is the fate of gay rights activist Kizza Musinguzi. He was jailed in 2004 and subjected to four months of forced labor, water torture, beatings and rape. Any Ugandan who speaks out against anti-gay violence faces dire consequences. A heterosexual Anglican bishop, Christopher Ssenyonjo, was expelled from the Church of Uganda for defending the human rights of LGBT people.

In recent years, the Ugandan government has passed a law banning same-sex marriage, fined Radio Simba for broadcasting a discussion of LGBT issues and expelled a UNAIDS agency director for meeting with gay campaigners.

Similar homophobic persecution is happening elsewhere in Africa, from Nigeria to Cameroon, Burundi, Rwanda and Gambia, where President Yahya Jammeh has called for sexual cleansing. He has promised "stricter laws than Iran" on homosexuality, and has begun his witch-hunt by ordering LGBT people to leave the country and threatening to "cut off the head" of any homosexual who remains.

One hindrance to LGBT rights is that there is no international human rights convention specifically acknowledges sexual rights as human rights. None explicitly guarantee equality and non-discrimination to LGBT people. The right to love a person of one’s choice is wholly absent from global humanitarian statutes. Relationships between partners of the same sex is not specifically recognized in any international law. There is nothing in any of the many U.N. conventions that explicitly prohibits homophobic discrimination and protects LGBT people.

Of the 192 member states of the U.N., only a handful come close to giving full equality and protection against discrimination to LGBT people: the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Canada, New Zealand and the U.K.

In much of the world, homophobia is still rampant. About 80 countries continue to outlaw homosexuality, with penalties ranging from one year’s jail to life imprisonment. More than half of these countries were former British colonies. Their anti-gay laws were originally imposed by the British in the 19th century, during the period of colonial rule. These homophobic laws, which were retained after independence, are wrecking the lives of LGBT people.

In the new post-Saddam Hussein “democratic” Iraq, people who murder LGBTs to defend the “honor” of their family invariably escape punishment. The rise of Islamist fundamentalism has led to the creeping, de facto imposition of Shariah law, with deadly consequences for LGBTs and for women who refuse to be veiled. The U.S. and U.K.-backed Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has issued a fatwa calling for the execution of lesbians and gays in the “worst, most severe way possible.” Islamist death squads of the Badr and Sadr militias are assassinating LGBT people with impunity.

Russian religious leaders have united to orchestrate hatred against the LGBT community. The Orthodox Church has denounced homosexuality as a "sin which destroys human beings and condemns them to a spiritual death." The Chief Mufti of Russia 's Muslims, Talgat Tajuddin, says gay campaigners “should be bashed … . Sexual minorities have no rights, because they have crossed the line. Alternative sexuality is a crime against God.” Russian Chief Rabbi, Berl Lazar, has condemned gay pride parades as “a blow for morality," adding that there is no right to “sexual perversions."

The Iranian persecution of LGBTs continues unabated. Twenty-two-year-old Amir was entrapped via a gay dating website. The person he arranged to meet turned out to be a member of the morality police. Amir was jailed, tortured and sentenced to 100 lashes, which caused him to lose consciousness and left his whole back covered in huge bloody welts.

The Western-backed regime in Saudi Arabia retains the death penalty (usually beheading) for homosexuality. In early 2006, its neighbor, the United Arab Emirates, imposed six years jail on 11 gay men arrested at a private party. They were not imprisoned for sexual acts, but merely for being gay and attending a gay social gathering.

WOW Wednesdays honors LGBT-friendly companies

Businesses scoring 100 on HRC Corporate Equality Index on hand

It’s WOW Wednesday with the Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce to honor local Atlanta companies with a 100 percent Corporate Equality Index score from the Human Rights Campaign.

A panel will include representatives from Cox Enterprises, Deloitte, ING, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Turner Broadcasting and others.

The panel is from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the 191 Club, 191 Peachtree St. NE. Visit for more information.

The Yawning Majority?

Here’s the deal: There’s a bill before the state legislature that would allow gay couples to marry. Lame duck governor Jon Corzine has pledged to sign the bill, should the legislature pass it. Governor-to-be Chris Christie opposes gay marriage. And as a result of this bit of political timing, the loud and obnoxious anti-gay-marriage lobby is getting ready to descend on the Garden State to campaign against it.

This is going to get loud and obnoxious. As for me? Well, as you might infer from my writing thus far, I am for same-sex marriage. Well, “for” might be a little strong. I’m more in the “couldn’t care less” category. You’re gay? You want to get married? Go for it. What do I care?

In fact, I’m about to coin a term, so get your term-coining apparatus ready. Remember Nixon’s “silent majority”? Well, there’s a new majority in town, a majority that’s probably about five or 10 years away from dominating the public discourse, and I’m calling them the “yawning majority.”

It’s basically Generation X, which all of a sudden is hitting middle age, and we don’t get too revved up on social issues. Basically, we are a giant “don’t ask, don’t tell” majority. Same-sex marriage? Yeah, sure. Marijuana for personal use? Knock yourselves out. We really don’t care.

That said, the “yawning majority” hasn’t yet taken over the country, so in the meantime, we’ve got to deal with people like Maggie Gallagher, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, who is a Yale graduate, newspaper columnist, and true blowhard. On their Web site, they say marriage between a man and a women is “common sense” and call the idea of same-sex marriage a “radical social experiment.”

Well, we could argue “common sense” until the cows come home (and that’s not a slam on Ms. Gallagher, despite her cattle-like visage), but to call it a “radical social experiment” is just plain wrong.

Same-sex marriage has been recognized throughout history by the ancient Chinese and by the Roman Empire, and in more recent times by such “radical” countries as Canada, Spain, Belgium, South Africa, Norway, Sweden and Nepal. (Thank you very much, Wikipedia.)

People like Gallagher just don’t get it. The gay cat is out of the fabulous bag. Civil unions between gay couples are already recognized by New Jersey and other states. Gay couples can adopt children. Gay couples are living next door to you, and probably taking better care of their flower beds. (I’m not above the occasional stereotype. Deal with it.)

The next, obvious step is simply allowing gay couples the same rights as non-gay couples. Let them get married. What’s the big deal? (And don’t even, not for one second, bring religion into it. Church and state, my friends, church and state. If you want to live in a theocracy, I’ll buy you the one-way ticket to Tehran. So just zip it, because I promise you, you will lose this argument.)

Hopefully, the state legislature will get it together to pass the bill, and Corzine, in what might be his last stand, signs it. All that happens, I have a great idea for all gay couples thinking of getting married: How about having a mass ceremony on the steps of the Statehouse while Christie is getting inaugurated? Heck, I’d even go mail away for one of those $20 Internet reverend licenses and officiate the ceremony myself.

Read Jeff Edelstein every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at

Gay Rights Movement Needs Own Voice

The LGBTI movement, which has been gaining momentum since the early ’80s, could very well seem to be the civil rights movement of our generation, since it shares of the same principles as the civil rights movement of the ’60s. However, there are many fundamental differences between the social movements of the late ’60s and today; although “fighting the good fight” seems objectively timeless, the pathology of protest has changed drastically and these two causes cannot be linked if either wishes to remain a relevant call for equality.

The term “civil rights” indicates the rights to personal liberty established by the U.S. Constitution. In this way, both the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the LGBTI movement of today are the same: Just as gays now seek the legal freedoms most people enjoy, blacks sought the same legal rights as whites during the ’60s. Both movements have been spearheaded by young adults on college and high school campuses. Both seek to end or reform unjust or unfair treatment, and both seek changes in legislation and public opinion as a remedy. Both focus on the idea of the personal and political quality of human life, and both have had a long history of the struggle to gain rights. Black people have suffered racial prejudice long before America was a country, and homosexuality has been persecuted for centuries and was considered a disease until 1973.

Yet although these similarities exist, the differences are just as numerous.

Some might say one group or the other has suffered more and therefore a comparison is inappropriate, but comparing the discrimination gays and blacks have suffered and would be like comparing apples and oranges. How can we say that either has suffered more? Having to sit in the back of the bus and being barred from adopting a child are both forms of discrimination, but beyond that, no obvious general ties can be drawn, so we can’t say if the suffering that resulted was equal or not. Also, by making a link between black rights and gay rights, in some ways we forget the many other groups that are discriminated against (the elderly, the handicapped, immigrants, unskilled workers, Native Americans and women, just to name a few.)

By linking two groups we run the risk of minimizing the hardships and hard-won freedoms of both. Not only that, but also by transforming a story of past courage into a lightning rod for current activism, how can we honor the goals accomplished by civil rights leaders? How can we respectfully remember the sacrifices of the civil rights movement if we are trying to relive our own version?

When all is said and done, I support any movement that seeks to provide all people with equal protection of the law. But every group is different, and even though the civil rights movements sought to change the legal situation (de jure), what really matters the most is the actual acceptance into mainstream society (de facto).

If either group wants to be accepted as a whole, they must find pride and strength in their individuality. No close analogy can be drawn between civil rights and gay rights, and it is inappropriate to generalize them by grouping them together; in reality gay rights and civil rights represent diverse people and goals.

The two causes can become blurred together and we may forget that each was a unique cause with a unique goal. If each embraces its identity, then it is more likely that the general public will too, and can ensure the groups are no longer discriminated against even after the legal battles have been won. In any sense, fighting prejudice is a continuing battle, and neither group has won total equality.

Just because I wish I was around for the March on Washington of 1963 doesn’t mean I should give the same support to LGBTI rights without first considering what supporting this cause means to me, to our country and to the people being discriminated against.

*Taylor Nye ( is a freshman majoring in English, French and Spanish.

Rhode Island Gov denies Gays funeral planning for loved ones

Governor Carcieri has vetoed a bill giving domestic partners the right to claim the bodies of — and make funeral arrangements for — their loved ones.

The only one of the dueling defense-of-marriage, same-sex marriage and gay-rights bills introduced in Rhode Island this year that cleared the General Assembly, the legislation was an outgrowth of the wrenching tale that Mark S. Goldberg told lawmakers about his months-long battle last fall to persuade state authorities to release to him the body of his partner of 17 years, Ron Hanby, for cremation.

“I felt as if I was treated not as a second-class citizen, but as a noncitizen,” Goldberg told the Senate Judiciary Committee last winter, because “we were not legally married or blood relatives.”

In his veto message, Republican Carcieri said: “This bill represents a disturbing trend over the past few years of the incremental erosion of the principles surrounding traditional marriage, which is not the preferred way to approach this issue.

“If the General Assembly believes it would like to address the issue of domestic partnerships, it should place the issue on the ballot and let the people of the State of Rhode Island decide,” he wrote.

He took issue with the definition of a domestic partner as “a person who, prior to the decedent’s death, was in an exclusive, intimate and committed relationship with the decedent” for at least a year, saying a year “is not a sufficient duration to establish a serious bond between two individuals ... [relative to] issues regarding funeral arrangements, burial rights and disposal of human remains.”

He also questioned “how it would be ascertained in many circumstances whether [a couple] had been in a relationship for year” since there is “no official or recognized form” of domestic partnership agreement in Rhode Island.

Coming on a day when he vetoed more than two dozen bills passed during the legislature’s hectic two-day special session in late October, the veto of this bill unleashed a torrent of anger from gay-rights advocates.

Describing himself as “genuinely upset” by Carcieri’s actions, the House sponsor, Rep. David Segal, D-Providence, said: “I think the man is heartless … [this] doesn’t change the definition of the word ‘marriage.’ ” (Sen. Rhoda Perry sponsored the matching Senate bill.)

“It is completely disgraceful that Governor Carcieri has chosen to ignore and devalue the committed relationships of same-sex couples in this state,” said Karen Loewy, a staff attorney for GLAD, the acronym for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. “Unconscionable,” echoed Kathy Kushnir, executive director of the advocacy group Marriage Equality of Rhode Island.

Friday, November 6, 2009

NY Gov Shuffles his Legislative Deck for Equality

Governor Paterson of New York has begun to do exactly as I have said recently (see previous blog postings), to ensure he has a fighting chance to win his own re-election bid next year against Obama's wishes, the Same sex marriage ininitiave has landed on top of the deck with Paterson acting as the dealer.

The Democratic governor has issued a proclamation calling for an extraordinary session of both houses of the New York State Legislature to tackle a handful of issues. Specifically included is "marriage equality."

The issue has been on the front burner of the Empire State for at least a year. Paterson has been a vocal proponent of gay marriage. One of his first acts upon becoming governor was to recognize out-of-stage marriages as legal and binding. Paterson is an accidental governor. He was appointed after his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, was caught in a prostitution scandal.

Paterson’s action on behalf of gay couples married elsewhere effectively legalized gay marriage in New York. In addition, several municipalities, including New York City and the surrounding suburbs, already have domestic partnerships.

Actual gay marriage in the Legislature has been tied up in the State Senate. The lower house, the Assembly, passed such a measure twice, the second time by a large margin. But the Senate has only fallen into Democratic hands for the first time in decades with this session. Then, earlier this year, a cabal of more conservative Democrats pulled a coup that resulted in the pro-gay marriage leader of the Senate being toppled.

Paterson is not crazy, although he might appear desperate to prove the nays wrong about his political will. He has continued to champion the directive, significantly dated two days after an election that saw a Republican resurgence and the defeat of gay marriage in Maine, serves as a call to activists on both sides. He is looking to rally the nation and GLBT community behind him and ride it all the way to re-election...that's politics.

The proclamation mentions the following hot-button issues that the Legislature has been skirting: the state’s budget, in a state of disrepair; (1) a reform of the public pension system that some say is bankrupting the state and New York City; (2)reform of the quasi-public authorities, which have been a cesspool of party patronage; "and Marriage Equality." (3)There are some other issues, like drunk-driving laws, as well.

"The time to act is now. The Deficit Reduction Plan, while painful, is necessary to keep our state afloat," Governor Paterson said. A press release from the governor’s office added that the session is meant to address "providing same-sex couples the same opportunity to enter into civil marriages as opposite-sex couples."

At least one state senator, in the Queens borough of New York City, has reportedly been considering relenting under the barrage of criticism, and may be changing to a "yes" vote.

The Hearts and Minds brought their Vote

Washington State voters approved the new "everything but marriage" law, and made history by expanding rights for domestic partners and marking the first time any state’s voters have approved a gay equality measure at the ballot box.

The new law adds benefits, such as the right to use sick leave to care for a domestic partner, and rights related to adoption, child custody and child support.

During the campaign, opponents argued the law is a stepping-stone to gay marriage. Gay rights activists countered that while the marriage debate was for another day, same-sex couples need additional legal protections and rights in the meantime.

The measure asked voters to approve or reject the latest expansion of the state’s domestic partnership law, granting registered domestic partners additional state rights previously given only to married couples. Full-fledged gay marriage is still not allowed under Washington law. This is something that I have been saying for months to our fellow blended families;..."fight for the issues that concern you instead of the titles you wish to be known by..".

Gay equality laws in other states, ranging from civil rights to gay marriage, have either been implemented by the courts or legislative process (See Nov 4 blog post "Hearts and Minds"). Voters have rejected gay marriage 31 states, most recently in Maine, where voters repealed a gay marriage law on Tuesday.

The underlying domestic partnership law, which the Legislature passed in 2007, provided hospital visitation rights, the ability to authorize autopsies and organ donations, and inheritance rights when there is no will.

Last year, lawmakers expanded the law to give domestic partners standing under laws covering probate and trusts, community property and guardianship.

"Our state made history today," said Anne Levinson, chairwoman of Washington Families Standing Together, and she's right. Just yesterday we were tweeting about how these laws for equality have long been implemented by legislatures, but here in Washington state, the people brought their own votes to the ballot boxes because in their hearts and in their minds, they knew it was the right thing to do.

Washington state, along with California, Oregon, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia, have laws that either recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships that afford same-sex couples similar rights to marriage.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont, and will start in New Hampshire in January. What's important to note here also is that the voters in Washington had a reason to support this initiative that has not been on any other ballot in the nation; these domestic partnerships are also for heterosexuals as well as long as one partner is at least 62 years old. This helps those who are afraid of losing pensions and benefits if they legally remarry.

They brought in another demographic. Equality is not about leveling the playing field for gays, its simply about leveling the playing field for us all. You legislation has to include other demographics or the people of that state will never get behind it. YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Are Gays Good for Parenting?

The ongoing battle over gay marriage in California -- legalized by the courts then overturned by voters who supported Proposition 8 in November -- has prompted some intriguing new questions.

Can anyone prove gay marriage harms traditional marriage? What's "harm" and what would "proof" be?

U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker brought these up during a hearing on a lawsuit, brought by gay Californians and supported by the state's attorney general, claiming that Prop. 8 is unconstitutionally discriminatory.

According to an Associated Press story, Charles Cooper, lawyer for the group that sponsored Prop. 8 argued that it is "constitutionally valid because it furthers the states' goal of fostering 'naturally procreative relationships.' " But Cooper was flummoxed when the judge asked him where's the harm.

With no examples of harm at hand, Cooper argued that Californians are still "entitled" not to take the risk. Walker, however, ruled that the case could go forward.

The AP quotes Andy Pugno, general counsel to the coalition of religious and social conservative groups behind Prop. 8, who says the real impact is that the voters who overturned gay marriage "continue to be accused of being irrational and bigoted for restoring the traditional definition of marriage."

The idea that having babies is the one true purpose of marriage is rooted in a traditional, literal reading of the Bible, a reading that not everyone shares these days.

What do you think is the purpose of marriage? Are childless couples less truly married? What about couples who limit the number of children? Is their marriage not as valid? Has your marriage been harmed by gay couples, married or unmarried? How?

Big Wins for Gays in Detroit, FL and N.C-Not much Media!

Maine voters may have chosen to take marriage rights away from their neighbors, but not all was gloomy for LGBTs: three wins around the country brought victory to gay and lesbian politicians and their constituents.

In Chapel Hill, N.C., GLBT equality advocate Mark Kleinschmidt won as mayor against Matt Czajkowski and two others contenders, taking 49% of the overall vote, reported the Chapel Hill News on Nov. 4. Kleinschmidt’s victory marks the third time an openly gay candidate has won Chapel Hill’s mayoral office.

In St. Petersburg, Fla., the city council gained a new, and openly gay, member in the person of Steve Kornell, who won over Angela Rouson for the council’s District 5 seat with nearly 60% of the vote, making him the city’s first openly gay elected official. The seat became available when Jamie Bennett resigned to pursue a spot in the mayoral race, which was won by Bill Foster, reported a Nov. 4 St. Petersburg Times article posted at, which noted that the town’s leaders have historically been opposed to Pride events there.

The article quoted Kornell as saying, "The thing about making history is fine. But this campaign was really about the future of St. Petersburg and that’s what I plan to focus on for the next four years."

Said Rouson, "I have no regrets.... I am very proud and pleased and we worked very hard. I’m proud of the folks who worked for me. We fought a good fight. District 5 couldn’t have lost no matter what the results were."

Outgoing mayor Rick Baker praised both candidates, saying that Rouson "ran a great race. But the guy she ran against is a good guy and ran a great race, too. Nothing to be ashamed about."

And Detroit elected openly gay former Fox News reporter Charles Pugh as city council president, reported a Nov. 3 article at the Detroit Free Press.

Said Pugh, "This is unbelievable... It means Detroit has really wanted change for a very long time."

In other elections, Washington voters seemed poised to uphold state provisions for same-sex families granting most of the same state-level rights and protections enjoyed by married heterosexuals, but not calling such unions marriage.

Which Came First; Hearts & Minds or the Vote?

A Michigan City Commission originally approved the ordinance in late 2008 by a unanimous vote, but was challenged earlier by an opposition group seeking to overturn the 'equality ruling. Yesterday, November 3, the people of Michigan once again voted with their hearts and affirmed the earlier unanimous vote to save 'equality.

This pattern of events will sound very familiar to those who have followed the fight for equality at the municipal level. Similar ordinances were proposed in Montgomery County, Maryland and Gainesville, Florida over the last two years, evoking similar reactions from groups opposed to LGBT equality. Also very similar are the tactics those groups have adopted to preserve the ability to discriminate without consequence. In each case, opposition groups focused their attacks on the proposed gender identity protections, claiming that they would make it legal for male sexual predators to enter women’s public restrooms. In Kalamazoo, the opposition group Citizens Voting No stooped even lower, airing TV ads that mocked specific transgender women, using their photos without permission and repeatedly referring to them as men.

A deep and bitter disappointment however from Maine yesterday: Maine voters have passed a devastating Proposition 8-style measure overturning the state’s marriage equality law.

Our hearts are with everyone in Maine who fought so hard to win recognition for their families. The legislature passed marriage equality earlier this year, but a divisive anti-LGBT campaign to scare voters seems to have worked.

It is infuriating to see that the same fear-mongering ads that were used to pass Prop. 8 a year ago have triumphed again at the expense of so many. This is a terrible loss.

So although on one hand the fight for equality inches one step at a time, there will always be others to attempt to thawrt forward progress. Finally, what we love about this country is that the laws are made up "for the the people", so even in our anger for Maine's overturning, "the people" of Maine spoke their minds through the power of their vote. As americans, we all bleed for that right; it is that right which rises to the surface like an umbrella to protect every other right.

As we now know, this fight is not about the power of the vote, but instead, the power to win hearts and minds. If we do that, the vote will take care of itself.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

How the world views the HIV/AIDS epidemic is in some cases a stark difference to how we view it here in the states. I just read an article and posted a message on about how Kenya is looking to provide resources to gays for the Census. Problem with that in Africa is, there is punishable jail time that accompanies your admission of being gay. Well who do you think will come forward to get "education" on HIV/AIDS prevention if they think they get thrown in jail? So I clearly question the motives of the Kenyan government and precisely what it expects to gain from such fruitless efforts.

Well that leads us to Russia who also made the news in their awareness of this epidemic spreading. The truth is Russia has no awareness plans because they have only subscribed to the failed "abstinence" strategy. They have come to realize that ignoring the problem doesn't make it go away.

AIDS specialists urged Russia to adopt successful strategies like needle-exchange programs and heroin substitutes such as methadone for drug addicts.

The number of HIV infections in Russia has doubled in the past eight years and there is evidence that in this region the virus is increasingly being spread by heterosexual sex.

The rapid growth of the epidemic in Russia is in contrast to sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia, where prevalence of the virus fell during the same eight-year period, according to UNAIDS, the United Nations AIDS agency. So while other nations were addressing the issues and meeting them head to reduce their numbers and deaths, Russia has climbed to double digits.

Russia’s chief public health officer, Gennady Onishchenko, told a regional AIDS conference Wednesday that Russia is "emphatically against" the use of drug replacement therapy. Meanwhile, he criticized programs that exchange clean needles for used ones, saying such programs may promote illicit drug sales and HIV transmission.

Both are part of a so-called harm reduction strategy, in contrast to the just-say-no programs that urge abstinence from drugs and risky sex. Russian health officials say they are committed overall to a "healthy lifestyles" rather than a harm reduction approach to improving public health.

That isn’t good enough, a number of foreign experts say.

"International studies show that an abstinence-based message on drug use or sex simply doesn’t work," said Robin Gorna, executive director of the International AIDS Society. In Russia, she said, "it does appear that ideology is getting in the way of public health care policy."

Russia has increased spending on AIDS programs by 33 times since 2006, making it a central part of an ambitious new national health care strategy. It has expanded drug treatment dramatically for AIDS sufferers and is among the leaders worldwide in reducing the incidence of transmission of the disease between mothers and their babies.

But many Russian officials view harm reduction efforts as encouraging criminal or shameful behavior. The position has left it increasingly isolated, as China recently embraced such programs, foreign AIDS experts here said.

Russia has some highly successful needle exchange programs and free condom programs, several foreign specialists said, but many have been paid for through grants from the international Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

Now those grants are being terminated under Global Fund rules, the specialists said, because Russia is too wealthy to qualify for them.

Chris Beyrer, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, said Russian officials "have never really embraced" needle exchange, free condom distribution and other harm reduction techniques.

"It is the reason I think that they continue to have one of the most severe epidemics in the region," said Beyrer, director of Hopkins’ AIDS International Training and Research Program. He was in Moscow for the regional meeting, which runs through Friday.

AIDS was virtually unknown in Russia and elsewhere in the Soviet Union prior to the collapse of Communism. What started as an epidemic among male injection drug users here in the late 1990s has gradually moved into the communities of sex workers. By 2007 about 44 percent of new infections in Russia were among women, according to UNAIDS, raising fears it could move into the general population.

Onishchenko blamed the increase in HIV infections to the surge in Afghan poppy production over the past decade, a trend that has flooded the former Soviet Union with heroin. Amazing, Russia is now blaming Afghanistan!

People living in the region are routinely asked to provide health certificates that reveal their HIV status, the report found. Hospital workers often casually identify HIV-positive patients to bystanders and co-workers, U.N. researchers said, and hospitals frequently segregate HIV-positive patients, treat them with scorn or charge them extra, hidden fees.

HIV-positive children face discrimination at school, including forced disclosure of their status and segregation from other students, while in the labor sector, many employers are wary of hiring HIV-positive individuals.

AIDS activists say that discrimination drives many of those infected to avoid testing and treatment. This is the real problem, the lack of equality and freedom from discrimination prevents education.

*This article, originally posted by the Association Press was amended by Familyblendz for this blog posting.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

David Patterson, NY Governor bets the ranch on LGBT

Governor Patterson, the first blind governor to ever hold office in the United States seems to have bet his election bid on the LGBT Community. We say, "election" instead of "re-election" bid cosidering he effectively replaced the scandal ridden former governor of New York, Elliott Spitzer.

Governor Patterson was recently asked by the Obama White House not, NOT, to see his own term as for the NY mansion for their fear that he may lose his bid due to recent low polling. Of course Governor Patterson has decided to rally behind a Civil Rights agenda but not for the one group of people, but instead for all people;and that would include the LGBT community.

The Governors Mansion up in Albany is bracing for the entrenched battles ahead, as Patterson has already formed his arguments against any republican opponents that might attempt to run against him (and there are plenty), but one specifically, Rudy Guilliani.

The White House knows that Guilliani is as liberal as a republican might get, he's for some 'equality issues and he has a strong security passed, i.e. 9-11. So Patterson is locking and loading his agenda with everything he can to ensure he can rise above from his smoldering poll numbers.

We would like to think, that Governor Patterson would take on this fight regardless of his political peril, however, we know the real long truth and it is not in our favor. All he has to do is look across the Hudson River and the embattled Governor Jon Corzine and he will be reminded that we will not carry his water just because of a few good speeches.

Corzine, will pull it out, but he has been warned that the LGBT community is looking forward.

Republicans come OUT for Hate Crimes Bill

Log Cabin Republicans National Chairman Terry W. Hamilton issued the following statement on the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009 (HR 2647) by the Senate, which included the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.

“We thank the nine Republicans who voted for the Hate Crimes-inclusive DOD bill for final passage: Kit Bond (R-MO); John Cornyn (R-TX); Susan Collins (R-ME); John Ensign (R-NV); Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX); Dick Lugar (R-IN); John McCain (R-AZ); Olympia Snowe (R-ME); George Voinovich (R-OH); who voted in favor of Senate Resolution to provide local and state law enforcement with the funding and tools necessary to fully prosecute crimes of the most heinous nature – those based out of hate,” said Hamilton. “These senators, along with the House previously passed with 44 Republican votes, led by Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) who supported their version of the same bill, took a courageous stand in casting their votes. This is not hate-speech legislation – it is hate-crime prevntion legislation.”

“We are happy to join the National Sheriffs’ Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National District Attorneys Association, the Presbyterian and Episcopal Churches and other law enforcement and civil rights organizations in the support of this legislation.”

A 2007 Hart Research poll shows large majorities of every major subgroup of the American electorate – including such traditionally conservative groups as Republican men and evangelical Christians – expressing support for strengthening hate crimes laws.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The "Every Child Deserves a Family" Act?

Do we really think that the "system" can continue to absorb the weight and brunt of unwanted children crowded into an outdated and overwhelmed capacity? Well thats precisely what "they" say when children are denied same sex couples; when families are not permitted to bring in additional children to nurture and care for.

There's new legislation however and if passed, the new bill could restrict federal funding for states with anti-LGBT adoption and foster policies.

The ’Every Child Deserves a Family Act,’ which was introduced by U.S. Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) on Oct. 15, would penalize states with outdated adoption policies that restrict access based on marital status, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

"We got 25,000 kids a year maturing out of the welfare system without permanent foster care or adoptive care, and the prospects of those children having a successful adult life are diminished greatly," Stark told the Washington Blade. "These are kids who end up in the criminal justice system, or end up homeless."

The legislation would directly affect states with explicit adoption restrictions, including Utah, Florida, Arkansas, Nebraska, and Mississippi.

The bill has received support from Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House. According to Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s spokesperson, the Speaker believes that children "should have the security of two fully sanctioned and legally recognized parents, whether those parents are of the same or opposite sex."

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Family Equality Council (FEC), both LGBT rights organizations, have also offered their support.

According to Stark, a hearing on the bill could take place in a House Ways & Means Committee this year.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Census set to count Gays!

After working on a temporary basis for the Census Bureau back in early 2000,I understand the importance of being counted. Don't want to give you a "lesson" in government, ok, yes I do; the Census counts citizens in each district in the U.S. and reports those numbers to Congress. Why?

The numbers are reported so that Congress can "fairly" allocate appropriations (money) to the important things in thoee districts for those peopel WHO WERE COUNTED. So its important to fill that Census report out...its your money! Which is why it is extremely great news that the Census Bureau will now count same sex couples.

The U.S. Census Bureau is making an unprecedented effort to include same-sex couples in next year’s national population count, but legally married gay couples won’t show up as such in the official once-a-decade tally, bureau representatives said Thursday.

Statistical problems related to the development of the 2010 census form and the evolving legal state of same-sex relationships led Census officials to conclude that trying to include married gay couples in the overall snapshot of household marital status could yield an inaccurate number, said Gary Gates, a University of California, Los Angeles demographer who has been advising the bureau on gay issues.

Instead, same-sex married couples will be added into the category for unmarried partners, just as they were for the 2000 census. But in a marked policy departure, the agency plans to make the data on same-sex couples who described themselves as married available on a state-by-state basis.

Gates stressed that it was important for gay couples to participate in the census, noting that information drawn from the last one had been used in lawsuits dealing with same-sex marriage and to lobby congressional representatives who may wrongly assume they do not have many gay constituents.

Because same-sex marriages were not legal in any U.S. state a decade ago, the 2010 census is the first for which the bureau has wrestled with how to count married same-sex couples. In June, census officials announced that they would make the attempt, reversing an earlier decision made under the Bush administration.

Since then, however, it’s become clearer that a wildly inflated number could be produced if the number of heads of household who said they lived with another adult of the same sex, and described that person as a husband or wife, were only counted.

The annual American Community Survey the bureau produced for 2008, for example, had 150,000 married same-sex couples spread across every U.S. state, even though only two states - Massachusetts and for a 5-month period, California - allowed same-sex marriages. Gates estimates there are probably no more than 35,000 legally married gay couples in the country now.

Undercounting same-sex couples also remains a significant concern, Gates said, since some couples may not be living openly and fear discrimination.

Tim Olsen, assistant chief of the bureau’s field division, told gay community leaders "We have a big opportunity to create a picture of America that includes us. We are not invisible anymore," Olsen said.

This census marks the first time that gays and lesbians have been targeted for minority outreach efforts that also include reaching out to groups deemed "hard to reach" because of their disaffection with the government.

The gay community campaign will include a Web site, scheduled to go up in about two weeks, called Our Families Count, as well as advertising campaigns in cities with large gay populations. Among the video vignettes meant to demonstrate the nation’s diversity on the main census site is one featuring a transgender person, Olsen said.

You have to remember that every step towards this equality race counts. Don't just focus on Prop 8; This is not a one hit wonder.