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Posts for July, 2013

ACLU Announces Three Marriage Lawsuits

Jim Burroway

July 9th, 2013

Fresh off its victory in Windsor v. U.S. which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, the ACLU’s is filing three more lawsuits, in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia. In Whitewood v. Corbett, the ACLU is challenging Pennsylvania’s statute which bans same-sex marriage. In Fisher-Borne v. Smith, the ACLU will amend its lawsuit seeking adoption rights to include the right to marriage. In the Virginia case, the ACLU and Lambda Legal are still in the planning stages, with plaintiffs and precise details of the case still being worked out. They expect to file that lawsuit later this summer.

Meanwhile, the ACLU and the National Center for Lesbian Rights have filed a motion with the New Mexico Supreme Court, asking it to order state officials to allow same-sex couples to marry. State law is currently silent on the question. Other lawsuits are working their way through Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey and Michigan.

Next Step: civil union states

Timothy Kincaid

June 26th, 2013

The overturn of DOMA3 provides a number of benefits for citizens of the marriage equality states. But it simultaneously creates a situation of discrimination for those who live in civil union states.

Before today same-sex couples in New Jersey, for example, had all of the same rights as married couples in New York. That is to say, both were afforded all of the marriage rights and obligations that a state confers but none of the federal rights or obligations. Now, however, New York same-sex couples can avail themselves of a whole host of federal benefits while New Jersey couples remain subjected to a lesser status – not only in name, but in practice.

Currently the states with civil unions (or domestic partnerships) are Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Nevada, and Oregon (Wisconsin offers limited rights). Of these, Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon are banned by state constitution from offering equal marriage status to same-sex couples. Which leaves our next battlegrounds to be Hawaii, Illinois, and New Jersey.

In Hawaii, the legislature has been either voting down (or letting die) marriage equality bills, including one submitted in January of this year. However, this changes the picture and it is likely that marriage will finally come to the state which brought the issue to the nation’s attention.

Illinois’ speaker of the House let die a marriage bill just last month. Equality is likely when the House reconvenes in November.

But New Jersey will be the interesting battle. Governor Christie vetoed a marriage bill in February 2012. But he has also supported civil unions and asserted that “discrimination should not be tolerated”. Although marriage and civil unions simply are not equal, his position was not necessarily contradictory before today.

Now, however, a state can decide if federal benefits should be afforded to their gay citizens. Should the legislature send Christie another marriage bill – and I anticipate that they will – he will have to decide whether he opposes unequal treatment or whether he supports tradition and the teachings of his church. And as Christie has presidential aspirations, this might be the first indicator as to whether the Republican Party can acclimate to the new reality.

Illinois House Punts Marriage Bill To November

Jim Burroway

May 31st, 2013

The Illinois House of Representatives adjourned until November without taking a vote on SB 10, which would provide marriage equality for the state’s same-sex couples. Supporters had filled the gallery hoping to see history being made, but the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), said that he didn’t call for a vote because he still didn’t have enough votes to pass it:

“As chief sponsor of this legislation, decisions surrounding the legislation are mine and mine alone. Several of my colleagues have indicated they’d not be willing to cast a vote on this bill today,” Harris said shortly after 7 p.m.

“And I’ve never been sadder to accept this request, but I have to keep my eye, as we all must, on the ultimate prize. They’ve asked for time to go back to their districts, talk to their constituents and reach out to their minds and hearts and have told me they’ll return in November with their word that they’re prepared to support this legislation.

“And I take my colleagues at their word they shall.

The bill cleared the state Senate  on Valentine’s Day in a 34-21 vote, and Gov. Pat Quinn had promised to sign it into law if it reaches his desk.

Update: Here’s video of Harris’s announcement, followed by openly gay Rep. Deborah Mell:

Illinois looks to be on the verge of voting

Timothy Kincaid

May 31st, 2013

Today is the last day for the Illinois House to vote for marriage equality. If you would like to watch to see it happen (or not, God forbid) here’s a link to the live website:

http://new.livestream.com/blueroomstream/events/2135841

We are watching for Senate Bill 10

Will Illinois Be #13?

Jim Burroway

May 20th, 2013

That’s what this report from Windy City Times suggests:

Sponsors have until May 31 to pass the “Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act,” which would allow all couples, regardless of their gender, to marry. Failing that deadline, the bill’s passage would be delayed for months. LGBT groups pushing for the bill say they are ready to see it come up for a vote.

“I have absolutely no doubt we’re going to be done with this by May 31,” said Jim Bennett, Midwest regional director for Lambda Legal. “I believe that this bill is going to pass.”

Bennett declined to give a specific vote count, but said that he expected the bill could be called and passed any day. Rick Garcia, policy advisor for The Civil Rights Agenda, said he thinks the bill has the 60 votes needed for passage in the House.

The Illinois Senate passed the bill on Valentine’s Day in a 34-21 vote, but the House’s chief Sponsor Greg Harris has held off calling for a vote until there are enough votes to pass it. Gov. Pat Quinn has said that he will sign the bill into law.

Illinois Pro-Gay GOP Leader To Resign

Jim Burroway

May 6th, 2013

Top Illinois Republican leaders are telling reporters that the state’s party chairmain, Pat Brady, will resign tomorrow, effective immediately. The rumored resignation comes two months after Brady survived an attempt to force him out of the state GOP chairmanship over his vocal support for a marriage equality bill that was passed by the state Senate. No reason has been given yet for his resignation, but his wife has reportedly been battling ovarian cancer for the past two years. Brady is also in the process of starting a new public affairs firm. According to The Daily Herald, Brady’s tenure is a microcosm of both state and national Republican politics:

While some leaders say the party needs to be a “big tent” organization that can better attract independent voting women, gay and minority voters unhappy with current Democratic leadership, they find themselves at odds with the more conservative factions of the party, which often dominate primary elections.

Brady, in January, began making public statements in support of same-sex marriage, which runs contrary to the party’s platform defining marriage as between one man and one woman. In doing so, he has had the backing of major party donors, including former Exelon Corp. Chairman John Rowe.

Committeemen in favor of Brady’s removal fault him for not only violating the platform but making the statements without notifying them first. Brady said the party was on the “wrong side of history.”

Brady survives ouster attempt

Timothy Kincaid

March 12th, 2013

When Pat Brady, the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, endorsed marriage equality earlier this year, many thought it would end his influence and position in the party. But instead it seems to have highlighted a decline in the sway of social conservatives. Moderates – and those who don’t much care one way or the other – appear to no longer be giving the far right control over social issues; or at least not in this matter.

Sources within the GOP state central committee said the group of committee members seeking Brady’s ouster had been having difficulty coming up with the required 60 percent of the weighted vote to remove the state chairman. Questions also were raised over whether such action could be taken during a special meeting under the state GOP’s rules.

The states other party power players, including the House GOP leader and Sen. Mark Kirk, have sided with Brady.

While this does not suggest that Republicans as a whole are going to do an about face on marriage, it does portend that there are going to be some political fireworks ahead.

Illinois Marriage Equality Bill Passes House Committee

Jim Burroway

February 27th, 2013

In a very late-night committee hearing after a session of the full House went way past its bedtime, the House Executive Committee passed  Senate Bill 10, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which would grant marriage equality to same-sex couples. The vote was 6-5, with six Democrats (Daniel Burke, Robert Rita, Greg Harris, Toni Berrios, Keith Farnham and Luis Arroyo) voting yeas, and four Republicans (Mike Bost, Renee Kosel, Joe Sosnowski, Michael Tryon) and one Democrat  (Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson, Sr.) voting no. The vote was very close:

Arroyo, a Democrat, said he did not want to be an obstacle for the bill getting to floor but that he opposed it due to religious objections and his constituent desires. He said he would vote it out of committee, but would vote “no” later.

The bill now goes on to the House floor, where its passage is expected to be difficult. It was already passed in the Senate on Valentine’s day, and Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has already said he would sign it if it reaches his desk.

Latino leaders support Illinois marriage bill

Timothy Kincaid

February 26th, 2013

From the Christian Post

The letter, which was reportedly signed by 23 Latino leaders, including Miguel Del Valle, a former City Clerk of Chicago; Jesse H. Ruiz, Vice President of the Chicago Board of Education; and Sylvia Puente, Executive Director of the Latino Policy Forum, urges lawmakers to approve the gay marriage bill, claiming “no member of anyone’s family, whether they’re gay or straight, should face discrimination when they hope to marry the person they love.”

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Illinois Senate

Timothy Kincaid

February 14th, 2013

Today the State Senate in Illinois voted on the marriage equality bill. The bipartisan vote result: 34 for; 21 against; 2 abstentions

DEMOCRATS

Voting yes:

Bertino-Tarrant
Biss
Bush
Collins
Cullerton, J
Cullerton, T
Cunningham
Delgado
Frerichs
Harmon
Hastings
Holmes
Hunter
Hutchinson
Jacobs
Jones
Koehler
Kotowski
Landek
Lightford
Link
Manar
Martinez
McGuire
Morrison
Mulroe
Muñoz
Noland
Raoul
Sandoval
Stadelman
Steans
Trotter

Voting no:

Forby
Haine
Sullivan

Voting “present” (abstaining)

Harris
Van Pelt

Absent:

Clayborne
Silverstein

REPUBLICANS

Voting yes:

Barickman

Voting no:

Althoff
Bivins
Brady
Connelly
Dillard
Duffy
LaHood
Luechtefeld
McCann
McCarter
McConnaughay
Murphy
Oberweis
Radogno
Rezin
Righter
Rose
Syverson

Marriage advances in Illinois

Timothy Kincaid

February 5th, 2013

NBC

The Executive Committee voted 9-5 to move legislation giving marital rights to same sex couples to the Senate floor. Democrats with a 40-member majority say they have the needed votes.

Senate leadership is coordinating the timing so as to vote for equality on St. Valentine’s Day.

Sun-Times politics wonk: Republicans want marriage equality passed and over with

Timothy Kincaid

January 28th, 2013

Recently a friend and I play a smart-phone game in which you spell words to flip letters and gain control of the board. If you play creatively and protect your letters, you can situate yourself into a non-losable position. And when I’m so lucky as to do so, Anthony will play a word that ends the game, letting me win, and move on to the next game.

And, according to Rich Miller, the political reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, that is what Illinois Republicans want to do on the issue of marriage equality: lose the battle and move on to the next one.

Talk to just about any top Illinois Republican these days off the record and they’ll freely admit that they want the bill legalizing gay marriage to be approved as soon as possible.

The reason so many Republicans would like to see the bill passed is because they know that with the huge, new Democratic majorities in both legislative chambers, that it’s eventually going to pass anyway.

They want to get this issue out of the way and behind them as soon as possible. The issue is trending hard against the GOP’s historical opposition, and they want the thing off the table before it starts to hurt them.

After New Hampshire Republicans refused to reverse marriage, and after New York Republicans met in caucus and came out with enough votes to pass marriage, and after the call by Wyoming Republicans for marriage (and it’s very close vote in today’s committee hearing), and after Rhode Island’s House Minority Leader lecturing the Senate Leader about delaying votes, and after the Illinois GOP chairman’s endorsement of equality (without losing his position), this argument makes a lot of sense.

And I’m sure that BTB readers will happily agree. Let’s pass marriage equality and move on.

Marriage update – North America

Timothy Kincaid

January 25th, 2013

It’s getting marriagey all over the place. And it’s also getting hard to keep track of what is going on where. So here is an update to help (which will probably be outdated by the time I hit “publish”).

North America:

Canada - Marriage has been equal since 2005.

Mexico - Marriage is equal in Mexico City, and marriages conducted there are recognize throughout the nation. However, in December, the Supreme Court unanimously found that an anti-gay marriage law in Oaxaca was unconstitutional. Due to Mexico’s complicated legal system, this means that marriages are highly likely to eventually be legal throughout the nation, but the process requires that five same-sex couples in each state file an amparo (civil rights claim) and that the court issue the same ruling on each. It may take some time for the legality of the state by state process to catch up, but the reality is that any Mexican couple wishing to marry probably can, either immediately or through petition.

United States - Several locales provide or have provided marriage equally:

  • Massachusetts – 2005 2003
  • California – 2008, but rescinded that year
  • Connecticut – 2008
  • Vermont – 2009
  • Iowa – 2009
  • New Hampshire – 2010
  • The District of Columbia – 2010
  • New York – 2011
  • Washington – 2012
  • Maryland – 2012
  • Maine – 2013

In addition, two Native American tribes, the Coquille in Oregon and the Suquamish in Washington provide marriage equally to their members.

Current and upcoming movement on the marriage front includes:

* DOMA3 – several federal courts have found the federal prohibition on recognition of legally married same-sex couples – the Defense of Marriage Act, Section 3 – to be unconstitutional on several grounds. The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear one case, Windsor v. the United States, a case in which Edie Windsor was assessed in excess of $300,000 in inheritance tax from her wife’s estate, a tax that does not apply to heterosexuals. On Tuesday, the special counsel for the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (at the direction of House Speaker John Boehner) filed its arguments in defense of the law (I’ll try to get an analysis up soon). It argued that BLAG has standing to support the law, that only rational basis should apply to anti-gay discrimination, that the nation needs uniform recognition, and that states should be allowed to decline to offer equality if they so choose (thus, I assume, vetoing other states in the name of uniformity). Today Professor Victoria C. Jackson will, at the court’s request, filing a brief insisting that BLAG has no standing and on February 26th, Windsor’s team will present arguments as to why she should not be discriminated against. Oral arguments before SCOTUS will be on March 27th, and the Court will likely release it’s ruling in June. Whichever way it goes, it will probably only impact couples in states which allow marriage.

* Proposition 8 - this is the highest profile case, but it could end up having the least legal effect. In 2008, the California Supreme Court found the state’s law prohibiting same-sex marriage to be a violation of the state’s constitution. For several months, same-sex couples could legally marry, but in November the voters approved Proposition 8 by 52%, ending marriage equality in the Golden State. In May 2009, Ted Olson, one of the most prominent Republican attorneys and David Boies, one of the most prominent Democratic attorneys, teamed up to fight for the legal overturn of that proposition. In January 2010, though cameras were banned from the courtroom, the nation was captivated by the reporting about the case – a trial not only on the legality of the proposition but also on its merits. Federal Judge Vaughn Walker eventually found the proposition to violate the US Constitution on broad grounds. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision, but on much narrower grounds: that a state cannot provide a right to all citizens and then take it away from a select few. Last month the Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal, but added the question as to whether the proponents defending the law (the Governor and Attorney General declined to do so) have standing. On Tuesday the proponents of the law filed their brief (I’ll try to get an analysis up soon). Olson and Boies have until February 21st to respond, and oral arguments will be on March 26th with a likely result in June. While the Court could find that the US Constitution guarantees marriage equality across the land, it could also choose to narrow its ruling to the unique issues of the case and only impact Californians.

* Rhode Island - on Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the marriage bill. The full House voted in favor today 51-19. However, the Senate is less certain. Although Rhode Island is virtually a single-party state (the Senate has 32 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 1 Independent), the Senate President, Teresa Paiva-Weed, is an opponent to equality. She has said that she will allow a committee to hear the matter, but in times past she has made certain that committees were selected to prevent equality.

I have started a petition at Change.org to request that should Paiva-Weed obstruct or block the passage of this bill, that Rhode Island State Senators remove her from power. Please go sign this petition.

* Illinois - a marriage bill was submitted during the first week of the year in a lame-duck session. Due to difficulty in corralling members returning from holiday, the vote never took place.

After the new legislature was is session, the bill was reintroduced. Currently the status is a bit in limbo as the bill is yet to be sent to committee.

However, that does not mean that there is no excitement, just that it’s happening outside the legislature and in an unexpected arena. The GOP chairman has come out in favor of marriage, which has angered social conservatives in the state. Bit though they are demanding his resignation and threatening ouster, the party insiders are lining up behind the chairman. At the moment it seem like the prevailing position may end up, “we may not support equality, but we support those who do.” In any case, this latest public squabble serves our community well.

* Minnesota - fresh off a victory in turning back an anti-marriage bill in November, Minnesotans for All Families is fighting on and will present a marriage bill to the legislature next month. The political strategist who generaled the battle is staying on to finish the war.

Polls are breaking even in the state and the DFL (Democratic) party has a slim lead in each house, so they will have their work cut out for them. But I would be surprised if the state did not take some movement towards couple recognition.

* Colorado - supporters filed an everything-but-the-name Civil Unions bill which is pretty much guaranteed to pass. More than half of each house has signed on as sponsors. This is as far as that state can go at present, as there is a state constitutional ban on equality.

* Wyoming - out of pretty much nowhere and flying way below the radar, lesbian Sen. Cathy Connolly has file both a domestic partnership bill and a marriage bill. Both have significant Republican support.

They may not be attracting much buzz on these bills due to party power; Republicans dominate both houses by overwhelming numbers. But Wyoming Republicans are traditionally pretty libertarian in their thinking and local papers are mostly quoting the bills’ Republican cosponsors. It may be early yet, but so far there doesn’t appear to be any visible organized opposition. I would not be altogether shocked if one of the bills passed or, at least, got a decent vote.

* New Jersey - the legislature of this state has already passed a marriage bill which was vetoed by the governor. However there are the paths to equality that might be achievable.

One is to take it to the people. But though a supporter brought such a bill, it was quickly dismissed due to the inherent insult of voting on a minority’s civil rights. (Personally, I’d rather win at the polls that fight over whether its an insult to do so.)

The second path, the one favored by equality leaders in the state, is to continue building support one by one until we have the numbers to override a veto. That would require substantial Republican support and this would be held off until after the next primary to minimize conservative backlash.

The third possibility doesn’t appear likely, but it shouldn’t be written off. Governor Chris Christie is a politician, and politicians are susceptible to evolution.

Christie made his mark in the Republican Party by being hard nose on fiscal issues but being more progressive on social issues. He was the poster boy for supporting civil unions, a position that made him seem ahead of the curve. As the Party moves away from anti-gay hostility, he may find it necessary to move as well. It’s not a bet I’d take, but it’s not outside the realm if possible for the Governor to hold to his views but still find some way to allow marriage to become law.

* Hawaii - I’ve no idea why marriage hasn’t already become law.

I think it can be hardest sometimes in states in which one party dominates. In mega-red states, we have little hope (though i just made a case for Wyoming). But in all-blue states, its not always much better. There’s no reason for Democrats to show the voters the difference between them and Republicans, so they fell less pressure to live up to their potential.

I’m sure I’ve missed some state in there. And, of course, you have to always expect that something completely unexpected will happen.

Tomorrow I’ll try to provide an update for Europe and South America.

UPDATE:

Yesterday, a state representative in Hawaii filed a bill for marriage equality. She had no cosponsors. Also yesterday, 15 representatives filed a bill calling for a constitutional amendment banning equality. It was also introduced in the senate. Additionally, a state senator filed a pair of ‘take it to the people’ bills which would have voters choose to either allow or ban marriage in the constitution (he’s an opponent of equality). All in all, it looks dire for marriage in Hawaii.

Illinios GOP anti-gays have trouble ousting State Chairman

Timothy Kincaid

January 25th, 2013

Thing got very interesting in Illinois at the start of the year. In a move I didn’t anticipate, the state Republican Party chairman endorsed marriage equality and began lobbying legislators to support a marriage bill.

While I was delighted by his support, I feared that he would not hold his position much longer. And the Party does have a provision for removing the state chairman should he do something odd or out of character for a Republican. (Daily Herald)

According to party rules, a special meeting can be called if at least five of the 18 state central committeemen request it.

So, not surprisingly, a committeeman has been rallying the forces to removed Pat Brady from office. Sugar Grove dairy magnate and state Sen. Jim Oberweis wants him gone because, you know, there are more important issues to deal with, you see. But he’s not finding it as easy as he expected.

Oberweis said he emailed “six or seven” committeemen, and several expressed their support for a special meeting. Oberweis said he has yet to see “five hands go up.”

Because, as it turns out, Republican leadership in Illinois may not love Teh Ghey so much, but what they really don’t like is losing. And they took a little glance at the last election results and decided that kicking out a marriage supporter is just not smart politics. As Republican House Leader Tom Cross put it:

“It reaffirms people’s worst fears about our party. I think we bragged about being the big tent party over the years. And there are going to be people that adamantly oppose gay marriage and people who support it. And we need to be the party that says, ‘Hey, that’s fine.’”

Various groups, including women, Latinos and young people aren’t listening to Republicans, Cross said,

“In the last election, we lost Kane County, DuPage County, Lake County, Will County. And we lost almost all demographic groups,” Cross said. “Old white guys aren’t going to win the elections any more,”

Now Oberweis may yet win. Brady may go. It seems to good to be true that the anti-gay forces in the Illinois GOP can’t get five committeemen to oppose ‘The HomoSEXshull Agenda’.

But at the moment it seems possible. And if so, we just may be sitting in front row seats for the biggest political extravaganza in decades: the drastic reformation of a political party. This could prove to be a VERY interesting year.

Illinois marriage bill to be introduced on Wednesday

Timothy Kincaid

January 15th, 2013

Windy City:

Wasting no time in the fight for equal marriage in Illinois, sponsoring lawmakers will re-introduce legislation that would legalize gay marriage Wednesday.
That move comes on the same day that new lawmakers will be sworn in, the earliest possible time that sponsors could reintroduce the bill after it fell short last week.

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