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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.