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Posts for May, 2011

Rhode Island Civil Unions Includes Strange Reciprocity Clause

Jim Burroway

May 18th, 2011

Yesterday, we noted that civil unions were voted out of committee and scheduled for a vote on the House floor Thursday. LGBT advocates see civil unions as a setback after having been assured this year that the legislature in Providence would take up full marriage equality, and the state’s LGBT groups are backing away from supporting this new legislation.

And for good reason. The race to water down Rhode Island’s civil unions bill has begun. Mike Airhart points out that the latest draft civil-union legislation appears to withhold recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states. Oddly, it does recognize civil unions from other states. The previous draft recognized “A civil union, or a substantially similar legal relationship, legally entered into a another jurisdiction.” The current draft strikes the “substantially similar” clause and recognizes only civil unions.

Which puts LGBT new residents and visitors to Rhode Island in a peculiar position. Rhode Island will recognize a couple joined in a civil union from New Jersey, but married couples from just a few miles across the border in Connecticut and Massachusetts will be legal strangers to each other.

RI Committee advances civil unions

Timothy Kincaid

May 17th, 2011

The Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee voted 9 to 3 to advance the civil unions bill to the floor of the full House. It is likely to be passed by a wide margin on Thursday.

Rhode Island civil unions committee vote today

Timothy Kincaid

May 17th, 2011

No one is supporting civil unions in Rhode Island. But they probably will get them anyway.

The gay community and its supporters remain convinced that there are enough votes in the legislature to pass full marriage equality this year. And some are of the opinion that the passing of civil unions would set back or delay the eventual recognition of married gay couples. So gay organizations have been lobbying against a civil unions bill.

On the other side are those, like the National Organization for Marriage, who pretend to be concerned about “protecting marriage” but in reality are opposed to any recognition of same-sex couples whatsoever (and, indeed, any rights at all for gay people). The are lobbying against the civil unions bill, claiming that it would be a stepping stone towards marriage.

And it likely would.

But the legislature in Rhode Island is on the razor’s edge. Many want to support same-sex couples, but are hesitant about full marriage – perhaps out of religious fear, perhaps out of political calculation, or perhaps out of ol’ fashioned “but, but that’s how it’s always been” prejudice. And civil unions are the ideal compromise, a vote to show that they support gay people but also not likely to result in any voter backlash. (The days of a civil unions vote costing a politician votes is gone in the Northeast).

And as House speaker Gordon Fox, a gay man, has determined that getting a majority in the House is not possible (or would cost more political capital than he is willing to spend) and is supporting civil unions, politicians have a rock-solid basis for taking this route. And they are further justified by the fact that full equality would be subjected to a fierce opposition from Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, a Democrat that opposes marriage but supports civil unions.

And the first vote is today. The House Judiciary Committee will vote whether to send the civil unions bill to the full house and it is expected to do so.

It’s frustrating. Governor Lincoln Chafee is an outspoken advocate for marriage and polls show that a strong majority of Rhode Islanders support full equality. Democrats outnumber Republicans 65 to 10 in the House and 29 to 8 in the Senate. Waiting and compromise feels unnecessary and overly-cautious.

But that’s reality. Rather than marriage equality, Rhode Island will get civil unions this year.

And I’m (reluctantly) okay with that. As NOM notes, civil unions really are a stepping stone to marriage. And if DOMA fails in the courts (as it surely will), the federal recognition of same-sex marriages will compel civil union states to immediate revision so as to allow gay couples access to federal benefits.

Delaware Gov. Signs Civil Unions Bill

Jim Burroway

May 11th, 2011

Governor Mack Markell tonight signed Delaware’s civil unions bill into law. The new law gives same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities at the state level that are granted/imposed on married couples. The bill also recognizes same-sex marriages and civil unions performed in other states. The law takes effect on January 1, 2012.

I support you, Catholic Charities…

A Commentary.

Timothy Kincaid

May 6th, 2011

Now that the state of Illinois is offering civil union recognition to same-sex couples, the Catholic Church has disseminating fears that they will no longer be able to offer foster care or adoption services. They have vowed to be defiant.

And to the Catholic Church in Illinois, I say:

I support you.

I totally agree that if Catholic girls wish to give their children up for adoption and want them to go to Catholic families and be raised in the Catholic faith, then Catholic organizations should be able to facilitate such adoptions. With Catholic dollars.

After all, that is the very meaning of Catholic charity. Catholics sacrificing and contributing for the betterment of others. Bringing Catholic funds to help those in need.

Amen.

Oh… wait, what’s that? Oh you actually do placement with non-Catholics. Well, that’s even more charitable of you. Peace be with you.

And – sorry, say that again? You disallow unmarried heterosexual couples and all gay couples?

Oh, well I think that is extremely foolish of you and that you are denying a loving family to hard-to-place children. You should really reconsider your values.

But I guess it’s your money. And there are some children being placed that otherwise would not have a family so I’ll defer to your decisions on how best to spend the contributions of your parishioners.

But it’s what? I’m sorry, you mumbled that last part. It’s not what?

Oh, it’s not the money of your parishioners! Oh, so it’s Vatican money? No?

I’m confused. Then who gave you the money to run these programs?

THE STATE??!!?? You mean that the State of Illinois is paying you to run a program that decides foster care and adoption placement based on your own religious criteria? That tax dollars are taken out of the paychecks of gay people and given to you and that you won’t even let them apply?

And the kids AREN’T EVEN CATHOLIC??!!?? They are just kids placed with you by the State????

NO FRIGGEN WAY!!! Why that’s… it’s just… whew whew

Whew… sorry that I got so excited there. I guess I just over-reacted.

Well, there’s the clear and easy solution. The one I’m sure you have already started.

Just pull out your checkbook, Cardinal, and write the state a great big check to pay them back for the fees they’ve given you to administer the state’s foster care and adoption programs. And notify the state that you’ll only be placing kids that are brought to you with the parents’ intention that they be placed according to the teachings of the Church.

And then, praise be to God, you can go back to applying Catholic rules to Catholic kids and everyone is happy.

No?

NO?

What do you mean, “NO??”

You don’t intend to repay the State? You don’t intend to only place kids brought to you by their parents for Catholic placement?

Well, F U, Cardinal, you selfish, money-grubbing, pompous bureaucrat.

No, I do NOT support you discriminating against me and my family with MY OWN MONEY.

So kindly take your self-righteous discrimination and shove it.

Oh, and while you’re at it, you may want to consider removing “Charities” from your name. It isn’t charitable if you do it with someone else’s funds.

Brazil Supreme Court legalizes civil unions

Timothy Kincaid

May 5th, 2011

From Veja (translated by Google)

Most justices of the Supreme Court (STF) has recognized civil unions between homosexuals, ensuring these couples the same rights as heterosexual couples. Of the eleven ministers of the Supreme Court, six had already voted in favor of the thesis until late afternoon on Thursday. If no request for examination and any minister to change the vote, the trial is set. Only José Antonio Dias Toffoli, former attorney general of the Union and who starred in one of the processes in question, did not participate in the discussion by declaring itself prevented.

The deciding vote was the former Chief Justice Gilmar Mendes. He agreed with his colleagues in saying that, even without words, in the constitutional text, stable homosexual marriage, the civil rights of same-sex couples can not be denied. “The fact that the Constitution deal with the union between man and woman does not mean the negative union between persons of the same sex.” Given the lack of definition on the issue in Congress, Gilmar Mendes was critical to the inertia of deputies and senators, as a plan is under discussion at home, without success. “What is required is a minimal model of institutional protection to prevent discrimination. This protection should be done by the Congress.”

Delaware House Approves Civil Unions

Jim Burroway

April 14th, 2011

The Delaware House this evening voted 26-15 in favor of a civil unions bill that will provide all of the rights and benefits of marriage under state law to same-sex couples. The Senate approved the same measure last week. Governor Jack A. Markell has said he will host a signing ceremony next month. The law will take effect at 10 a.m. Jan. 1, 2012.

Delaware Senate Passes Civil Unions Bill

Jim Burroway

April 7th, 2011

The vote was 13-6. It now goes on to the House, where it is also expected to pass. The House vote is scheduled for April 13.

Delaware Senate Schedules Vote on Civil Unions

Jim Burroway

April 6th, 2011

Delaware’s Senate Administrative Services Committee approved SB 30, which would provide Civil Unions for same-sex couples, after a two hour hearing earlier today. The full Senate has scheduled a vote for tomorrow. According to the Washington Blade:

SB 30 would give gay and lesbian couples access to the responsibilities and rights of marriage; partners in a civil union would be included wherever terms like “dependent,” “next of kin” and “family” are used in Delaware regulations, codes and court decisions. If passed, Delaware would also recognize civil unions performed in other states.

If the bill passes the Senate, it would then go on to the House.

Poll: 74% of Catholics Support Recognizing Same-Sex Unions

Jim Burroway

March 24th, 2011

The Public Religion Research Institute has released a poll that probably won’t come as much of a surprise among Catholics. According to the poll, nearly three quarters of Americna Catholics favor legal recognition of same-sex union, either in the form of civil unions (31%) or marriage (43%) Only 22% of Catholics oppose all legal recognition of same-sex couples. When same-sex marriage is explicitly defined as civil marriage, support shoots up higher: 71% then support same sex civil marriages “like you get at city hall.”

This shouldn’t be surprising for two reasons. First, Catholics have now had 43 years of clergy demanding that they refrain from artificial birth control, a teaching that the average Catholic in the pews has roundly rejected. And having rejected one teaching that the Church considers a key teaching on sexuality, they are more than willing to reconsider other teaching as well. Besides, longtimes Catholics will tell you that the image of the meek Catholic obediently following church teaching died out generations ago, at about the same time the Catholic Church stopped being an immigrant church and became, at least for American parishes, an American church.

There’s something else going on as well. Catholics are very aware of the distinction between civil marriage and religious marriage. As every Catholic will tell you, you can be married at city hall or at an Elvis chapel in Vegas, but the marriage doesn’t exist as far as the Church is concerned. And as divorced Catholics know very well, you can have all of the divorce decrees and marriage licenses you can collect from civil authorities, but no priest will marry you unless the Church decides you’re qualified to be married.

The conservative CatholicVote.org thinks they have an answer for these poll results:

Who is driving the numbers behind the headline: “Catholic support same-sex marriage”? Catholics who are almost never in the pews. And yet, when it comes to the headlines, Catholics who can’t even trouble themselves to get to Mass with any sort of regularity are lumped in with faithful Catholics who actually try to follow the teachings of the Church.

Nice try, but that’s not the whole story. Sure, the poll leans heavily toward Catholics who go to church less than once a week (61% of all respondents), but look at the results among regular churchgoing Catholics. The percentage who supports either marriage or civil unions still reaches 64% among Catholics who attend church weekly or more often.

The report (PDF: 351KB/23 pages) does not describe the poll’s margin of error, sample size, or methodology.

CO Senate Republicans split on gender lines

Timothy Kincaid

March 24th, 2011

Colorado Independent:

Senate Republicans delivered Pat Steadman’s same-sex civil unions bill to the Republican-controlled House Thursday with momentum and a message. Although the twelve Republican men in the Senate voted against it, the three Republican women in the Senate voted in favor of the bill, making the case to leaders of the Republican-controlled House to take up the bill with good faith and allow it to move beyond committees and onto the floor of the House for a vote.

Is anyone besides me starting to notice a trend?

Sen Lundberg cites discredited myth in civil unions floor debate

Daniel Gonzales

March 23rd, 2011

Today the Colorado Senate held a floor debate on SB 172, civil unions.  The main opposition came from Senator Kevin Lundberg who we have video of thanks to The Colorado Channel.

We’ve all heard this myth, recognition of gay relationships in Europe (France & Scandinavia) has caused a breakdown in marriage and “the family unit.”

Here’s a video excerpt of Sen Lundberg saying it:

Of course no statistics were cited because there’s no evidence to support it.  In fact this very blog has previously done posts addressing the Scandinavian myth here and here, and Slate.com has a fabulous piece here.

The real data tells a very different story, in most Scandinavian countries marriage has been in decline for up to half a century, long before we pesky gays started publicly demanding equality.

In more recent times those countries have started offering various forms of gay relationship recognition and things have changed in a dramatic way, quoting Slate:

Danish heterosexual marriage rates are now the highest they’ve been since the early 1970′s. And the most recent marriage rates in Sweden, Norway, and Iceland are all higher than the rates for the years before the partner laws were passed. Furthermore, in the 1990s, divorce rates in Scandinavia remained basically unchanged.

Now let’s take a look at births outside of marriage in Norway (source).  The date civil unions were enacted is shown with a red triangle:

.

How about marriage and divorce rates in the Netherlands? (source) Sorry there’s no red triangle in this one but registered partnerships were enacted in 1998 and full marriage in 2001:

If Senator Lundberg has other data to prove his claim hopefully he’ll present it when the civil unions bill goes for a 3rd reading on the Senate floor tomorrow.

Sen Lundberg (inadvertently?) demonstrates how his family enjoys heterosexual privilege

Daniel Gonzales

March 23rd, 2011

Today the Colorado Senate held a floor debate on SB 172, civil unions.  The main opposition came from Senator Kevin Lundberg who we have video of thanks to The Colorado Channel.

One of the main ideas of heterosexual privilege is never having your family questioned.

Follow the logic if you can (paraphrased)

  • I, Kevin Lundberg, had my wife hospitalized last week and nobody questioned our family, for I am just a simple man in a position of power… and heterosexual… and white…
  • If there are gays in my district or elsewhere in the state, I haven’t heard any stories of them having trouble in medical situations.  Surely nobody would ever question the validity of a non-traditional family!  And certainly not in the rural areas I represent.
  • By extension there is no problem with gays making medical decisions and this bill is unnecessary.

Here’s the video excerpt:

CO College Republican chairman endorses civil unions bill

Timothy Kincaid

March 22nd, 2011

In the early 80′s, it was not at all unusual for the leadership of the College Republicans to be gay, in that “everyone knows but no one says” kinda way. In fact, I’d say it was pretty common (there’s that story about the three leading candidates for national chairman and a hot tub). But in the years since then, the organization had become in many schools little more than the local college voice of social conservatism and religious rigidity.

But young folks just don’t have the appetite for anti-gay malice anymore. They’ve grown up in a post Will and Grace world where Glee rules the airways, and Lady Gaga can influence votes. Now half of Americans support marriage equality and being anti-gay is seen as so distasteful that it can hurt you politically.

And no where is gay support stronger than in younger voters. So it should not be at all surprising that the chairman of the Colorado College Republicans has come out in support of the Colorado’s civil unions bill. Nor should it surprise us much that he’s openly gay and believes that Republican ideals, if followed, would favor gay rights.

But it is a little bit surprising that Troy Ard was elected to the chairmanship unanimously last year. And it is but one tiny sign among many that the war is almost over. Maggie can say whatever she likes about marriage not being an inevitability, but if you can’t get one single College Republican in Focus on the Family’s home state to object to electing the gay guy, then I think we can see where things are going.

Liechtenstein parliament approves same-sex partner recognition

Timothy Kincaid

March 21st, 2011

The tiny alpine country of Liechtenstein has made good on its promise to recognize same-sex couples. In a unanimous decision, the parliament approved the establishment of partnerschaftsgesetz, a legal status akin to the registered partnerships in its neighbors, Switzerland and Austria. (Queerblog.it)

By unanimous vote of twenty-one members present, the Parliament of the Principality of Liechtenstein has approved on second reading the law that allows civil unions between same sex. The first steps began in about 2009 when Aurelia Frick, Minister of Justice, announced that it will present a bill to that effect.

The law does not mirror marriage, disallowing adoption or reproductive rights, but does provide parity for inheritance, social security law, in occupational pension plans, the Immigration and Naturalization law, tax law and other public law.

The parliament also amended the bill to bring forward the start date from January 1, 2012 to September 1, 2011. However, within 30 days after the publishing of the law, opponents may subject the law to referendum.

Prior to passage, Catholic Archbishop Wolfgang Haas conservative asserted pressure saying, “the practice of homosexuality is objectively a grave sin” and that recognition of same-sex couples would be a scandal. Catholics and conservatives fought the bill in the public forum through letters to the paper and debate. But while about 80% of Liechtenstein’s residents are affiliated with the Catholic Church, the parliament’s unanimous decision – in a country where legislative representation is about 1 to 1,400 – may suggest little appetite for an *anti-gay referendum.

(much thanks to Jutta Zalud for bringing this to our attention)

* It is worth noting that Switzerland, Liechtenstein’s neighbor with which they are closely politically tied, is the only country to enact partner recognition through referendum, passing a similar registry in 2005 by 58%.

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