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Posts for March, 2011

A man and a man on Mann

Timothy Kincaid

March 15th, 2011

Congrats to the residents of the Isle of Man. (BBC)

Gay couples on the Isle of Man will get the right to a civil partnership after a new law was signed in Tynwald, the island’s parliament.

It gives them the same rights as married couples regarding inheritance, pensions and tax allowances.

Which brings the British Crown Dependency into alignment with the UK.

Civil Unions clear CO Senate Judiciary Committee

Timothy Kincaid

March 8th, 2011

Yesterday, the Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee was blessed by some brilliant factual information from BTB author Daniel Gonzales and some amusing anus-talk from Eagle Forum director Rosina Kovar. The committee voted to approve the bill and advance it to the Committee on Finance.

Voting against civil unions were Republicans Steve King, Kevin Lundberg, and Mark Scheffel. Supporting the bill was Republican Ellen Roberts and all five Democratic Senators: Angela Giron, Linda Newell, Jeanne Nicholson, Lucia Guzman, and Morgan Carroll.

Although this reflects a somewhat typical Republican/Democrat split, it’s also worth noting that the vote was split along gender lines.

Coloardo Senate committee hears testimony about the human anus

Daniel Gonzales

March 8th, 2011

Yesterday a Colorado Senate committee held a hearing on civil unions legislation.  Members of the public were free to sign up and testify.

I posted this video last night and sent it out to a few of my friends for their entertainment.  I wake up this morning and find it’s taken on a life of it’s own, even appearing on the Denver Post’s blog site.

I’ll let Rosina Kovar, an at-large director for the Eagle Forum, take it from here:

Wyoming anti-marriage bill update

Timothy Kincaid

March 2nd, 2011

From the Star-Tribune

By a 31-28 vote, House members voted to accept a stripped-down version of House Bill 74 crafted by a conference committee on Tuesday. Conference committee members tore out all language on the two most contentious issues surrounding the bill – civil unions and court access for same-sex couples.

UPDATE: The bill died in the Senate 16-14

Which means that Wyoming law remains in limbo. Basically, there is no recognition of out-of-state marriages or civil unions, but Wyoming legislature still contains enough libertarian “western Republicans” that anti-gay legislation could not pass this year.

Civil unions dropped from Wyoming anti-marriage bill

Timothy Kincaid

March 1st, 2011

House Bill 74 would ban the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages. Wyoming law, which was written before the first same-sex marriages, defines marriage as a contract “between a male and a female person” but also recognizes any valid marriage performed outside the state – a discrepancy which put same-sex marriages in limbo.

HB74 has passed both the Wyoming House and Senate, but in sharply different versions. Both banned the recognition of civil unions, but the Senate provided that state courts could address the dissolution of civil unions from other states and the House specifically banned courts from addressing such couples.

Until a few hours ago, it looked as though this bill might die due to an inability of the committee assigned to work out the discrepancy to reach any conclusion. The Senate had barely passed the bill and the Governor had indicated that he would veto the bill if it did not allow courts to remedy the legal problems of gay couples in a civil union. But the House was insistent that allowing same-sex couples to seek resolution in court was tantamount to giving the state’s sanction to their union.

Finally, the least likely of compromises was reached

But with the Legislature set to adjourn for the year on Thursday, the conference committee took out all language dealing with civil unions and court access.

Conference committee members said the changes bring the bill closer to other states’ Defense of Marriage acts. They also said it was better to have a narrowed bill than no bill at all, and they said it would be up to future Legislatures to tackle the issue of civil unions.

It must now go back to the House and Senate for approval of the revisions.

Wyoming Marriage Ban Dies

Jim Burroway

February 28th, 2011

After a proposed constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed the state Senate, it went on to die in the House:

The Wyoming House adjourned Friday without taking action on a same-sex marriage bill that had already passed the state Senate. The bill failed to meet a procedural deadline that would have kept the bill alive.

It’s still unclear whether a separate bill banning recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages will clear the House. The snag is over whether they will allow Wyoming Courts to dissolve civil unions performed in other states.

Hawaii’s Governor Abercrombie signs civil unions bill

Timothy Kincaid

February 23rd, 2011

While our quest for marriage equality has a great many contributing historical events, the current nationwide battle can be traced to 1991, when three same-sex couples sued the Hawaii Director of Health for marriage licenses. Supportive court decisions spooked the public and anti-gay activists whipped up hysteria to raise funds, rally the voters, and slap down the “militant homosexual activists.”

And, to be honest, prior to that time a great many of us never considered that our relationships could be equal in the sight of the law. We were conditioned to our own inferiority and few questioned the heterosexist presumption that marriage, by definition, was “one man, one woman.” Hawaii’s legal wranglings first led our community to collectively question just why we should not be allowed to fully join society as spouses on an equal basis with our brothers and sisters.

It did not go well in Hawaii. A Catholic/Mormon coalition ran a campaign of bigotry and deception and the Hawaiian people voted to change their constitution to allow the legislature to define marriage (this was their first effort and they did not yet go for defining marriage itself in a constitutional amendment). The end result was that for the past few decades, Hawaii has had a useless and pointless “reciprocal benefits” scheme by which you and your life partner (or your bowling partner) could assign each other a few limited benefits.

But for a while, the myth prevailed. More than a few times in the 90′s I would hear someone say, “but can’t we get married in Hawaii?” And the dream prevailed to the point where we currently have five legal marriage states (and DC) with three more expected to join this year.

Which makes today a special day. Today Hawaii joins six states which provide the full benefits of marriage under another process (and five states and DC which offer full marriage recognition). (Star Adviser)

Less than a year after seeing the push for civil unions vetoed, gay rights advocates cheered as Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed into law a bill legalizing civil unions and making Hawaii the seventh state to grant such privileges to same-sex couples.

Abercrombie signed the legislation at a ceremony today at historic Washington Place.

“E Komo Mai: It means all are welcome,” Abercrombie said in remarks before signing the bill into law. “This signing today of this measure says to all of the world that they are welcome. That everyone is a brother or sister here in paradise.”

“The legialization of civil unions in Hawaii represents in my mind equal rights for all people,” he said.

It is indeed a jubilant day.

But it’s a little ironic – and oddly appropriate – that Hawaii’s truly joyous occasion was outshown by the actions on the national front. And just a bit sad that on the day they wished to proclaim equal rights and benefits, it seems that they just aren’t as equal as they were yesterday.

Nevertheless, congratulations to Hawaii’s same-sex couples. Together we will move towards full inclusion.

Wyoming Senate narrowly votes not to recognize out-of-state marriages

Timothy Kincaid

February 18th, 2011

Tribune:

The Wyoming Senate narrowly voted Friday to stop recognition of same-sex marriages and civil unions from outside the state.

House Bill 74 passed 16-14 after tagging on a last-second amendment guaranteeing out-of-state couples in civil unions access to Wyoming courts.

This is closer than might have been expected. Ten Republicans joined all four Democrats in voting “No”.

Further, the language of this bill is interesting. It appears to invalidate all same-sex marriage, but only invalidate civil unions that would not be recognized in Wyoming. I may be misreading this, but it does seem to leave open the possibility of a civil unions bill being passed.

Hawaii to get Civil Unions

Jim Burroway

February 16th, 2011

In an 18-5 vote this afternoon, the Hawaii Senate gave its final legislative approval to SB 232, a bill that will allow civil unions for same-sex couples. The bill now goes to Gov. Neil Abercrimbie (D), who says he will sign the bill within the next 10 days. Civil Unions will become available on January 1, 2012.

Hawaii’s version of civil unions will offer all of the state-level benefits of marriage. Civil unions performed in other states which grant them will be recognized in Hawaii as well.

Civil unions bill signed in Illinois

Timothy Kincaid

January 31st, 2011

Governor Pat Quinn has now signed Illinois’ civil unions bill into law:

Moments ago Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law the Illinois Religious Freedom and Protection and Civil Union Act at a signing ceremony in downtown Chicago. His signature represents a long-fought victory toward fairness for thousands of gay and lesbian couples in Illinois.

The law becomes effective on June 1st.

Wyoming House committee rejects civil unions

Timothy Kincaid

January 30th, 2011

From the Star-Tribune

Legislation that would have made Wyoming the third state to recognize civil unions narrowly failed in the House Judiciary Committee on Friday.

The 5-4 vote to defeat House Bill 150 came after hours of impassioned testimony from supporters who said civil unions would give same-sex couples basic rights and opponents who claimed civil unions were a thinly disguised stepping stone to gay marriage.

Some who voted against the bill left open the possibility of support for a differently worded bill.

But state Reps. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, and Frank Peasley, R-Douglas, who cast the deciding votes against the bill, opposed the proposal not on ideological grounds, but rather because they worried the wording of the bill — which almost exactly mirrored the rights and responsibilities Wyoming law lists for marriage -– could lead to legal pitfalls in the future.

In the meanwhile, I would support a petition to have Wyoming change it’s motto from “Equal Rights” and it’s nickname from “the Equality State”.

And with Wyoming’s bill to ban recognition of out-of-state relationships, I would just love to see California, New Jersey, and others pass a truth in advertising law that requires all tourism advertising in the state to warn residents that their legal rights and contracts will not be honored.

Hawaii Senate overwhelmingly passes Civil Unions

Timothy Kincaid

January 28th, 2011

The Hawaiian Senate passed SB 232, a civil unions bill identical to the one vetoed by Gov. Lingle last year. (KITV)

The state Senate on Friday approved Senate Bill 232, relating to Civil Unions, at its regular daily session.

The bill says unmarried, unrelated couples may have a judge or clergy solemnize their civil union, which will provide the same responsibilities and benefits of marriage under state law.

The bill passed the full Senate 19-6.

The sole Republican in the Hawaiian Senate (Sam Slom) voted against civil unions, as did Democrats Donovan Dela Cruz, Will Espero, Mike Gabbard, Donna Mercado Kim, and Ron Kouchi.

The bill will now go to the House where it is expected to be approved without problem.

Will Wyoming Governor veto “no out of state marriages” bill?

Timothy Kincaid

January 27th, 2011

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead (R) made a statement today that suggests that he is not supportive of a bill that would deny recognition of out-of-state marriages or civil unions. (NECN.com)

Speaking at a news conference Thursday, Mead said he believes marriage should be between a man and a woman.

“But I also believe that we have to be very careful and pragmatic about how we approach this,” said Mead, a former U.S. attorney in Wyoming. “And the reason is that we do not want to, as a state, limit access to our court system.”

Child custody or property issues can arise with same-sex couples as they do in any marriage, Mead said. “You could have a situation where those needed to be decided quickly. We do not want to say to that couple, ‘Listen, you can’t use our courts. You have to go back to the state where you were married.’”

This certainly sounds to me as though Mead, who has previously indicated potential support for civil unions, would welcome some mechanism by which legal arrangements from out-of-state would have civil union status.

Wyoming Senate passes anti-marriage constitutional amendment

Timothy Kincaid

January 27th, 2011

The Wyoming Senate has voted by the required two-thirds to present a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage – but not civil unions – to the voters of the state. Although the state has a 23 to 7 Republican majority, ten Senators voted against the measure.

The amendment now goes to the House, where it will need 40 members’ support. Although the House has 41 Republicans, this may not be an easy task. On Monday the vote to not recognize out-of-state marriages passed 32 – 27.

Meanwhile, House Bill 150 which would provide for civil unions, will be debated by the House Judiciary Committee on Friday, where it appears to have adequate support.

Hawaii civil unions advance

Timothy Kincaid

January 26th, 2011

Hawaii’s Senate Bill 232, identical to last year’s House Bill 444 which cleared the legislature but was vetoed by prior governor Lingle, has advanced. (Star Adviser)

Senate Bill 232 passed the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee by a 3-2 vote, after a hearing that lasted just over two hours.

The bill now goes to the Senate floor for the second of three required votes by the full chamber.

Unlike last year, the hearing was just two hours instead of eighteen, and fewer of the public showed up to watch and listen.

Your relationship recognized in Ireland; Irish couples can start the three month notice

Timothy Kincaid

December 25th, 2010

As of January 1, same-sex couples in Ireland may give notice of their intent to join in a civil partnership. As with marriage, there is a three month waiting period before the ceremony can take place. (Irish Examiner)

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern [on Thursday] signed the Commencement Orders for the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights of Cohabitants Act 2010.

Enacted in July, the Act establishes a civil partnership registration scheme for same-sex couples together with a range of rights, obligations and protections including maintenance obligations, protection of a shared home, pension rights and succession.

The minister also signed orders which will automatically recognise a wide range of foreign same-sex civil marriages and same-sex civil partnerships as Irish civil partnerships. Same-sex couples who are already married or are civil partners through these recognised foreign relationships will be deemed civil partners in Ireland from early January.

LGBT criticism of Colorado civil union campaign as incrementalist

A commentary

Daniel Gonzales

December 23rd, 2010

Senator Pat Steadman recently announced a campaign for civil unions in the 2011 legislative session.  The first opposition from within the LGBT community appeared today in this Denver Post guest commentary:

We were legally married in San Francisco on Sept. 25, 2008, and we introduce ourselves as each other’s husbands. We are appalled that anyone, especially members of the gay community, would be willing to settle, much less offer to settle, for anything less than full marriage equality.

[snip]

…we are putting our Lakewood home on the market to finance our efforts and we plan to take our fight back to federal court if necessary.

First bravo to Carllon and Martinez for the sacrifices they are making to fight for marriage equality.  This isn’t mentioned in their article but Carllon was among those arrested for blocking the entrance to the Episcopal Church national convention at a Denver Soulforce event in July of 2000 according to local organizer Chris Hubble.

However as an activist myself I don’t expect everyone in the community to make the same sacrifices I choose to.

LGBT Coloradans and their families will benefit immediately from protections that civil unions would provide.  I try not to think about how long we will wait until Colorado voters are prepared to overturn the state’s marriage amendment or until Carllon and Martinez’ lawsuit might bear fruit in a glacial federal court system.

In One Colorado’s 2010 statewide LGBT survey more than one quarter of respondents earn less than $25,000 per year (source).

Consider for example my friend and fellow activist Christine Bakke who is getting married next month.  After reading the Denver Post commentary Christine reacted:

[Colorado's] Designated beneficiaries and the Denver domestic partnership cost us I think $50 to file.  We’re on a limited budget and can’t easily pick up and go to another state to get married when it won’t be recognized here. Nor can we pull money out of our pocket to pay for a lawyer to put in place the stuff that a civil union or marriage would give us.

Jessica Woodrum, Communications Manager at One Colorado, provided comment by email about the real prospects of full marriage equality in Colorado currently:

The path to marriage equality in Colorado is difficult.  Unlike other states that have achieved marriage equality, our state constitution contains an amendment that bans marriage for same-sex couples.  Until this amendment is overturned in the courts or by a ballot vote of Colorado voters, full marriage equality is not possible in Colorado.

One Colorado supports full marriage equality, but we believe that same-sex couples need the critical protections that civil unions provide right now.  Especially in these tough economic times, we must ensure that all Coloradans have the tools they need to provide for the ones they love.

Are you sick of the financial argument at this point?  Moving on…

Carllon and Martinez assert that incrementalism will impair progress to full equality:

So what will a civil unions bill accomplish other than to cede the fight for full equality?

There can be no substitute for equality and it cannot be achieved incrementally, as we have learned from the failed “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. If the gay community is willing to accept the crumbs off the marriage table, they may never see the cake.

This is grossly inaccurate and the last decade of LGBT rights legislative action across the nation is proof.

Vermont, Washington DC, California, New Hampshire and Connecticut all had some form of civil unions or domestic partnerships before making a move to full marriage equality.  Maryland which currently has domestic partnerships appears ready to legislate full marriage in 2011.

And nearly half the states that currently have trans-inclusive nondiscrimination laws achieved them through incrementalism. (i.e. passing sexual orientation protection one year and later adding gender identity) Here’s the data.

.

I don’t believe any LGBT leader in Colorado finds civil unions to be an acceptable final or permanent solution.  Nor do I believe civil unions will delay the path to full equality. Instead civil unions will prime Colorado voters to accept full marriage equality.  A significant portion of Colorado’s LGBT community (including people I care about) are tremendously vulnerable, and civil unions would go a long way to help improve their lives. But it seems to me unfair and perhaps unintentionally out of touch for Carllon and Martinez to ask the most vulnerable Coloradans to sacrifice for the activist ideals of another person.

Civil unions campaign announced in Colorado

Daniel Gonzales

December 16th, 2010

Sen. Pat Steadman

Well this announcement came sooner than I was expecting, I crack open my Denver Post app this morning and see “Colorado lawmaker plans to introduce civil-unions bill.” Here’s some excerpts:

Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, said he believes the majority of Coloradans support civil unions and oppose gays being treated unfairly.

Steadman, who is gay, said he expects his proposal to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, but he’s not sure what kind of reception the idea will get in the Republican-controlled House.

True on both counts, but One Colorado (our new statewide equality group) surveyed the state earlier this year and found a dramatic shift in Coloradans’ opinions on civil unions:

The [2010] poll results show that 72 percent of Coloradans support legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples. This compares to 2006, when 48 percent of Colorado voters supported domestic partnership legislation for gay and lesbian couples.

But Steadman and One Coloardo have their work cut out for them since Republicans hold a slim majority in the House (we have a bicameral assembly). 

For strictly pragmatic reasons I’m hoping Steadman (who’s openly gay and represents the district I live in) will include a “religious protections” clause in our legislation as was recently used in Illinois.  Yes I know the First Amendment already provides these protections but from a publicity standpoint having the wording in the bill really helps diffuse religious hysteria and objection.   Here’s that section from the Illinois bill:

Section 102. Religious Freedom. Nothing in this Act shall be construed to interfere with or regulate religious practice of the many faiths in Illinois that grant the status, sacrament, and blessing of marriage under wholly separate religious rules, practices, or traditions of such faiths. Additionally, nothing in this Act shall be construed as to require any religious body, Indian Nation, Indian Tribe, Native Group, or officiant thereof to solemnize or officiate a civil union or to prohibit any religious body, Indian Nation, Indian Tribe, Native Group, or officiant thereof from solemnizing or officiating a civil union. Any religious body, Indian Nation or Tribe or Native Group or officiant thereof is free to choose whether or not to solemnize and whether or not to officiate civil unions.

I’ve already contacted Steadman to thank him and let him know the Illinois bill is a great model for bipartisanship,  his office contact info can be found here.

Who NOT to vote for in Chicago

Timothy Kincaid

December 1st, 2010

Chicagans have lots of choices to pick from for mayor of ChiTown.

Just not this guy:

James Meeks, a Democratic Senator who is also chair of the the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, is seeking your vote for mayor. Well, maybe not your vote. Because Meeks, is a Baptist minister who voted “no” on civil unions. He “believes in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman,” you see.

Funny. I believe in the sanctity of equal representation of an elected official and all of his constituents. So when it comes to Meeks, feel free to vote “no.”

Cuz of all the sanctity.

Couple recognition, state by state

Timothy Kincaid

December 1st, 2010

Upon the governor’s signature, Illinois will become the second state that is currently offering civil unions to same-sex couples. The status of the various recognition mechanisms is as follows:

Marriage
on the same terms as heterosexual marriage – 5.1% of US Population:

Massachusetts
Connecticut
Iowa
Vermont
New Hampshire
District of Columbia

Civil Unions
– a rights except the name – 7.1% of US Population:

New Jersey
Illinois

Domestic Partnerships will all the rights except the name – 16.3% of US Population

California
Oregon
Washington
Nevada

Limited recognition of same-sex couples – 6.2% of US Population

Hawaii – Reciprocal Benefits
Colorado – Reciprocal Benefits
Wisconsin – Domestic Partnerships
Maine – Domestic Partnerships
Maryland – Domestic Partnerships

In addition, the states of Maryland and New York (6.4% of US Population) will give full recognition to same-sex marriages conducted where legal. Rhode Island may possibly do so also (it’s a bit uncertain) and offers unregistered Domestic Partnerships with a scant handful of rights.

Also, there are dozens of cities offer some form of recognition and protection for same-sex couples.

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