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Posts for July, 2009

An Unequal Flag For Unequal Citizens

Jim Burroway

July 6th, 2009

This six star “Flag of Equal Marriage” represents the six states which have marriage equality, by order of their entry into the Union. The stars are arranged according to the order in which each state was admitted to the union, skipping over the states that do not have marriage equality. The six stars represent:

  • Connecticut – #5.
  • Massachusetts – #6.
  • New Hampshire – #9 (Effective Jan 1, 2010)
  • Vermont – #14 (Effective Sep 1, 2009)
  • Maine – #23 (Effective of Sep 14, 2009)
  • Iowa – #29

If this flag had been around in 2008, we would have seen California’ star (#31) go dark. There’s a move on right now to darken Maine’s star in November.

[Hat tip: David Schmader]

Fraudulent Maine Marriage Petitioners

Timothy Kincaid

June 23rd, 2009

Reports are coming in that some people collecting signatures in opposition to the new marriage law in Maine are doing so under false pretenses (Sun Journal):

Gerard Caron walked into the Auburn Post Office and was met by a woman with a pair of clipboards.

“This petition is against gay marriage and this other petition is to support gay marriage,” she said, according to Caron.

The Poland man said he asked her why there would be a petition to support something that already happened, referring to the petition “in support of” gay marriage.

“She just kinda gave me a little grin and didn’t say anything,” he said.

Then he looked at the two petitions and discovered they were identical, both were supporting the repeal of the same-sex marriage law, Caron said.

Although the Secretary of State thinks that collecting signatures under false pretenses is a “First Amendment issue”, I suspect that if it was shown that this is a widespread deception that a lawsuit claiming fraud could prevail. The language is adequately tricky that persons could reasonably be deceived into thinking they were signing a pro-marriage petition even after reading it.

I just think it is just another example in a long line of instances that illustrates the base immorality of those who will crawl through the gutter to demonstate just how Special They Are To God by denying civil equalities to others.

Anti-Gays Seek to Overturn Maine’s Marriage Law

Timothy Kincaid

June 17th, 2009

Maine has a peculiar system by which citizens unhappy with a legislative action can stop and reverse a bill. Called a “people’s veto”, if petitioners collect the signatures of ten percent of voters within 90 days of the end of the legislative session, a question goes on the ballot as to whether the bill should be enacted.

After the legislature enacted marriage equality in Maine, anti-gay activists began to organize to oppose the bill and to seek to get it on the ballot.

“Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?”

The above somewhat-confusing language was prepared on May 19. And the process began. The Everyday Christian website has a progress report on their efforts:

Emrich, a pastor, is the founder of The Jeremiah Project, a conservative non-profit. To date, he said between 10,000 and 12,000 signatures have been collected since late May. The goal, he said, is to get about 80,000 signatures before the petitions are handed in to account for potential duplications and errors.

However, to achieve their ends, the petitioners need to meet a date sooner than 90 days. Unless they file their signatures by August 1, they will miss the deadline for the November election and the article lays out several reasons why anti-gays think November is better for them than the following spring election.

So how likely is it that they will reach their goal?

With 500 and 600 people Emrich is aware of distributing, it now becomes a race against the clock. He said he would like to get petitions back by mid-July to get them certified by individual town clerks before sending them on to the Secretary of State.

In the four weeks since the beginning of the collection process, they have collected about 12,000 signatures. To meet their target date, they will need to collect an additional 68,000 signatures in the following four weeks; or, on average, each one of their 600 volunteers needs to get 114 additional signatures over the next four weeks.

This may not sound particularly large, but a few factors need to be taken into consideration:

  • The first 12,000 were probably the easiest. Each additional signature will prove to be more difficult.
  • Only about a third of Maine’s residents attend religious services. Of these, about 60% are Catholic. And while Catholic hierarchy stongly opposes marriage equality, lay Catholics are much less inclined to follow the directions of the church on social issues. Assuming that all Evangelical Protestants and half of Catholics are the target audience for signature gatherers – and discounting for 21% of the population below voting age – there is only a pool of about 257,000 adult church members from which to draw signatures.
  • Signature gatherers in public places (other than churches) are likely to encounter active opposition.
  • Michael Heath, executive director of the Maine Family Policy Council, is known in Maine as being radically exteme, far from the thinking of the average conservative Christian; he’s on par with his friend Peter LaBarbera. While Heath’s taking a public back seat on this issue, his is still probably the name most associated with this effort.
  • Michael Heath’s last anti-gay signature collecting effort failed miserably.
  • The Republican Party in Maine is not comprised of fire breathers. Both US Senators are Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and both are supporting of the gay community. Neither made any criticism of the legislature in their state for enacting marriage and Collins was mentioned today by the President as a sponsor of the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act. The Party is not likely to expend much organizational effort on behalf of the petition.

I think that it will be quite difficult for the anti-gay activists to achieve their goal. But I don’t think it is impossible or even improbable. We need to hope for their failure but plan for their success.

Over the next month, we’ll keep you up to date on whatever we find about the progress of their efforts.

(hat tip to reader Brian)

New Hampshire Would be the Sixth What, Exactly?

Timothy Kincaid

May 8th, 2009

New Hampshire could be the sixth gay marriage something-or-other, but finding the language to fit is not a straight-forward task. Considering the methods by which states have reached (and retreated from) marriage rights, putting them in order depends on what one is measuring.

The order in which states have granted recognition to same sex couples

1. District of Columbia 1992 (blocked by Congress until 2002)
2. Hawaii 1997
3. California 1999
4. Vermont 1999
5. Connecticut 2005
6. New Jersey 2004
7. Maine 2004
8. New Hampshire 2007
9. Washington 2007
10. Oregon 2007
11. Maryland 2008
12. Iowa 2009
13. Colorado 2009

The order in which courts have found that states must provide marriage and/or all its rights and benefits to same-sex couples:

1. Hawaii 1993/1997 (reversed by Constitutional amendment)
2. Vermont 1999
3. Massachusetts 2003
4. New Jersey 2006
5. California 2008 (perhaps reversed by Constitutional amendment)
6. Connecticut 2008
7. Iowa 2009

The order in which states provided virtually all of the same benefits as marriage

1. Vermont 1999
2. California 2003 (with subsequent minor adjustments to fix differences)
3. Massachusetts 2003
4. Connecticut 2005
5. District of Columbia 2006 (with adjustment in 2008)
6. New Jersey 2006
7. New Hampshire 2007
8. Oregon 2007
9. Washington 2009
10. Maine 2009

The order in which legal marriages were first performed

1. Massachusetts – 5/17/2004
2. Iowa – 8/31/2007 (only one)
3. California – 6/16/2008
4. Connecticut – 11/4/2008
5. Vermont – 9/1/2009 (Scheduled)
6. Maine – around 9/14/2009 (Scheduled)

The order in which continuous legal marriages began to be offered

1. Massachusetts – 5/17/2004
2. Connecticut – 11/4/2008
3. Iowa – 4/27/09
4. Vermont – 9/1/2009 (Scheduled)
5. Maine – around 9/14/2009 (Scheduled)

And should New Hampshire’s bill be signed, it will be sixth.

RNC Responds to Maine Marriage Bill

Timothy Kincaid

May 6th, 2009

At first it looked as though the Republican Party was going to walk away from the Maine marriage decision whistling and looking away as if they didn’t notice. But finally Chairman Michael Steele released the following statement:

Our party platform articulates our opposition to gay marriage and civil unions, positions shared by many Americans. I believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman and strongly disagree with Maine’s decision to legalize gay marriage.

Steele spoke of what “the platform” articulates about “our opposition” rather than trying to suggest that opposition to both marriage and civil unions is the position of a majority of Republicans. Further he said that “many” rather than “most” Americans share the platform’s positions. As for his opinion, he limited it to marriage and didn’t discuss his personal beliefs on civil unions.

There is no suggestion that this is thwarting the will of the people or accusations of undue activism or calls for initiatives. There is no appeal to tradition, God, founding fathers, the fabric of society, or 5000 years of definition.

This two sentence statement appears not to have been broadly released nor was there a press conference. This suggests to me that the Republican leadership wants a low profile about same-sex marriages – especially those passed by a legislature – at this time. I would find it hard to craft a more tepid response.

Whether this is because of a change in perspective, polling data, some new found respect for states rights, or just plain political calculus, I welcome it. And I’m awfully glad that Michael Steele is the current head of the RNC rather than, say, Ken Blackwell.

Maine’s Senators, both of whom are Republican women who have been supportive of gay rights, both stated that they support the rights of the state to determine its own marriage laws. While neither fully came out and endorsed the bill, neither had anything negative to say about it either. This was also the reaction of the White House.

In fact, other than the usual ranting voices endorsing religious oppression, the objection to the actions taken in Maine, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia have been muted to the extent they have been raised at all.

MAINE GETS MARRIAGE

Timothy Kincaid

May 6th, 2009

Governor Balducci signed the marriage bill.

From the San Jose Mercury News (who, for some reason reported the story first)

Gov. John Baldacci has signed a bill making Maine the fifth state to allow gay marriage.

Earlier in the day, the Maine Legislature gave final approval to gay marriage and sent the bill to Baldacci, who had been undecided on the issue.

What Happens Next

If this were a bill without opposition, it would come into effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session. However Michael Heath, executive director of the Maine Family Policy Council, has already announced that he will seek a “people’s veto” of the legislation.

A people’s veto works like this: After the end of the legislative session (probably some time in June), Heath can begin collecting signatures. He needs 10% of the last gubernatorial vote, or 55,087 valid signatures. If Heath gets enough signatures, the bill will not go into effect until it has been presented on the November ballot for an up or down vote. Yes means keep the bill, No means veto it.

Although Heath will have 90 days to collect signatures, he must present the signatures no later than 60 days before the vote, around September 3rd. Thus, may be a strange window in which signatures can be collected but in which they will not count towards forcing a vote.

Which raises a question. Were Heath to present signatures on, say, September 5 and were that day within 90 days of the end of the legislative session, would that place a stay on the enactment of the bill until the following election in the spring of 2010? While that might be a “dirty trick” that could momentarily work in Heath’s favor, it may in the long run prove to be detrimental. As time goes by, it is increasingly likely that attitudes in Maine will favor equality. This will be especially true as no dire consequences result in Vermont, Connecticut, or Massachusetts. Heath’s window of possible success may close.

As it is, Heath may have a rough go. Attitudes seem fairly even in Maine but Heath has a rather bad reputation in the state dating from his attempts to identify and out gay legislators. His requests for “tips, rumors, speculation and facts” resulted in a temporary ouster from the Christian Civic League (a previous name of the Maine Family Policy Council) and a significant amount of bad press.

Heath may well be an advantage for us. He tends towards extremism and outrageous hyperbole. Additionally, it looks as though Peter LaBarbera may be a part of the effort.

The Current Status of Marriage Equality – 5/5/09

Timothy Kincaid

May 5th, 2009
Green = marriage; Yellow = needs Governor signature

Green = marriage; Yellow = needs Governor signature

With marriage equality issues changing so very quickly, here’s where the current status stands (my apologies for any inaccuracies):

California – the State Supreme Court has until June 6 to announce whether Proposition 8 is constitutional and, if so, what impact it has on the 18,000 same-sex couples who married between June and November 2008. There are mixed opinions on what the court will decide.

Colorado – The legislature passed a Designated Beneficiary Agreement Act, which has been signed by the Governor.

Illinois – a bill has been introduced to enact Civil Unions. The bill is currently waiting for a House vote.

Maine – The House and the Senate have both passed a marriage bill. Tomorrow it goes before the Senate for final approval and then to Gov. John Baldacci, who is “keeping an open mind”. Anti-Gays will immediately seek a “People’s Veto”, a process by which an enacted bill can be placed before the voters for an up or down vote. They would need about 55,000 valid signatures by the first of September. It would be led by Michael Heath who has established his reputation in Maine as an extremist and a homophobe.

Nevada – The Senate passed a bill to provide Domestic Partnerships with all the rights and obligations of marriage. It will go before the Assembly Judiciary on Friday. The Governor has promised to veto the bill but some sources say that there will be a compromise crafted before the legislature disbands in a month.

New Hampshire – The House and Senate have both passed a marriage bill. The Senate version had specific religious protections that were not in the House bill. The House Judiciary has approved the changes and they will go before a House vote tomorrow. The Governor has stated that he is opposed to gay marriage in the past but has not addresses this specific bill.

New York – A marriage bill has been introduced in the house. Log Cabin Republicans announced that they have found additional Republican support in the House for marriage. Senate Majority Leader Smith will not bring marriage to a vote in the Senate until adequate votes will assure its passage, which probably means that four to six Republicans will need to be convinced. Empire State Pride is doing polling in Republican districts and seeking to give them assurance that a vote for equality will not result in an election defeat.

Washington - a bill to upgrade the state’s Domestic Partnerships to provide all the rights and obligations of marriage has passed the Senate and House with large margins and will be signed by the Governor. A petition has been filed to put it to the voters.

District of Columbia – the Council voted to recognize out of state marriages. This bill will be signed by the Mayor and then Congress has 30 days to review and possibly overturn it by a majority vote in both houses and the signature of the President. A same-sex marriage bill is expected later this year.

Also see our last synopsis on April 9

Maine House Approves Marriage Equality

Jim Burroway

May 5th, 2009

The Maine House of Representatives has approved a bill providing for same-sex marriage by a vote of 89–58. This follows last week’s approval in the state Senate. The bill now goes to Governor John Baldacci (D), who hasn’t said publicly whether he will sign it or not. He has indicated privately however that he may be open to signing it.

Maine House Vote on Marriage Today

Timothy Kincaid

May 5th, 2009

Today the Maine House will vote on whether to allow same-sex couples to marry. As the House is about two thirds Democrat and because over a thrid of House members have signed on as sponsors of the bill, supporters are “cautiously optimistic” of its passage.

Then the bill will go to Governor Baldacci for signature. Although he has opposed same-sex marriage in the past, he has also made recent statements that are encouraging that he may sign the bill.

It is possible that before you go to sleep tonight that Maine will decide to become the fifth state in which same-sex couples may marry.

Update I: You can watch the live debate and vote here.

Update II: The Maine House approved the measure.

Maine Senate Votes for Marriage

Timothy Kincaid

April 30th, 2009

Per WCSH

The Maine state senate has voted on one of the most controversial bills this year. The bill proposes to legalize gay marriage in Maine.

Debate on the bill began Thursday morning. In an initial vote it was 20 to 15 in favor of passing the bill. The senate is also discussing adding an amendment to the bill to put it out to vote.

The bill will go to the House as early as next week and the Governor is giving hints that he may sign it.

Maine’s Governor Reportedly Backs Same-Sex Marriage

Jim Burroway

April 30th, 2009

Maine’s Governor John Baldacci (D) placed a surprise phone call to a local blogger associated with Pam’s House Blend, and explained his evolution from an opponent to a supporter of marriage equality. As quoted by Louise, Gov. Baldacci said:

I was extremely impressed by the arguments for both sides, but especially by the proponents. They were very respectful- I liked that they turned their backs when they disagreed. I was truly impressed by the people who spoke for the bill. I was opposed to this for a long time, but people evolve, people change as time goes by.

Louise was left with the distinct impression that Gov. Baldacci would sign the same-sex marriage bill if it should reach his desk. The state Senate is expected to vote on the bill this morning.

Marriage Soars Through Maine Judiciary Committee

Timothy Kincaid

April 28th, 2009

Per the AP, the marriage bill has been passed by the Judiciary Committee

Eleven of the 14 Judiciary Committee members voted Tuesday to pass the bill, while two voted against it and one proposed sending it to voters in a November referendum. Gov. John Baldacci remains undecided.

Maine’s Marriage Meeting

Timothy Kincaid

April 22nd, 2009

From the Bangor Daily News:

Same-sex couples from around the state urged Maine lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow them to marry, while opponents asked that it be rejected. A hearing is being held today before the Judiciary Committee at the Augusta Civic Center.

Supporters outnumbered opponents roughly four to one as the legislative hearing got under way about 9:30 a.m. About 3,000 people filled the auditorium.

Meanwhile, a poll of Mainers finds them split evenly on whether the state should pass the marriage bill:

The poll, conducted by a Portland-based firm earlier this month, showed that 47.3 percent of those surveyed support changing Maine statutes to allow marriage licenses to be issued to any two people regardless of their sex while 49.5 percent oppose it. The rest of the Maine residents polled hadn’t made up their minds on the issue. The poll has a margin of error rate of 4.9 percent.

The second question asked those polled which statement came closest to describing their “position on the issue of marriage for gay and lesbian couples and civil unions?”

The poll showed 39.3 percent selected, “Support for full marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.” Another 34.5 percent said they, “Support gay and civil unions or partnerships, but not gay marriage.” Twenty three percent of those polled said they, “Oppose any legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples.” The remaining survey respondents checked, “Don’t know.”

Maine Marriage Hearing on April 22

Timothy Kincaid

April 12th, 2009

WHDH is reporting:

Because so many people are expected to turn out, Maine’s Legislature has moved a public hearing on a gay marriage proposal to the Augusta Civic Center.

The Judiciary Committee also has changed the date of its daylong public hearing from April 24 to April 22. Doors will open at 8 a.m.

State Marriage Equality Update

Timothy Kincaid

April 9th, 2009

There has been a lot of movement recently in various states on the issue of recognition for same-sex couples. Here is a brief synopsis (I apologize if I missed anything):

Arkansas – on March 27, a bill was killed that would have banned cities and counties from creating domestic partner registries.

California – the State Supreme Court is deliberating on whether Proposition 8 is constitutional and, if so, what impact it has on the 18,000 same-sex couples who married between June and November 2008.

Colorado – at least two initiative drives are underway to either change the constitution to allow for gay marriage or alternately to statutorily create civil unions. The legislature has just passed a Designated Beneficiary Agreement Act, which has been signed by the Governor.

Connecticut – last week codified – with bipartisan support – marriage equality in the state’s laws to agree with the decision of the state Supreme Court.

Delaware – proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage defeated in the Senate in the last week in March.

Hawaii – Civil Unions bill was tied up in committee. Although the bill has a strong majority of support in the Senate, they voted not to pull it from committee.

Illinois – a bill (HB 0178) has been introduced to legalize same-sex marriage along with a bill (HB 2234) to enact Civil Unions. The marriage bill is resting in the Rules Committee but the Civil Unions bill passed out of committee in March and now faces a House vote.

Iowa – last week the Supreme Court found that the state must recognize same-sex marriage. It will go into effect on April 27. The Governor, the Senate Majority Leader, and the Speaker of the House have all announced that they will oppose efforts to change the Constitution. Iowa has no initiative process so it would require a change in leadership and several years before it would be possible to revoke this right.

Maine – both a marriage bill and a civil unions bill are before the legislature. The Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on April 24. Gov. John Baldacci is “keeping an open mind”.

Maryland – on April 7, the State Senate upgraded benefits offered to same-sex couples in domestic partnership relationships but do not allow for official state recognition of those relationships.

Minnesota – there is a bill before the legislature to provide new marriage equality. It is unlikely to pass.

Nevada – a bill to provide Domestic Partnerships with all the rights and obligations of marriage has passed out of committee and is before the Senate.

New Hampshire – at the end of March the House passed a bill to allow for gay marriage. It will be considered by the Senate, where Democrats have a 14-9 advantage (a dozen Republicans in the House supported the bill). Governor John Lynch has not stated whether he will veto the legislation, should it pass.

New Jersey – a commission has found that civil unions are inadequate and polls have found that residents favor gay marriage but a bill before the legislature appears not to be moving.

New Mexico – in March the Senate defeated efforts to enact Domestic Partnerships.

New York – the Governor has announced that he will push for a vote in the Senate on gay marriage. Although marriage equality has passed in the House, without support from some Republicans, the votes do not appear to be there in the Senate.

Rhode Island – a gay marriage bill is unlikely to make it out of committee. A “reciprocal beneficiary agreements” bill, a darling of anti-gays who want to label gay couples as identical to roommates or cousins, has been proposed as a “compromise”.

Vermont – this week the legislature overrode the governor’s veto to pass marriage equality.

Washington - a bill to upgrade the state’s Domestic Partnerships to provide all the rights and obligations of marriage has passed the Senate and will come before the House soon.

West Virginia – last week the House of Delegates defeated a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage.

Wisconsin - the Supreme Court is being asked to review the constitutional ban on marriage. The Governor, in his budget, has proposed Domestic Partnership benefits.

Wyoming – in February the House defeated a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

District of Columbia – the Council voted unanimously to recognize out of state marriages. Same-sex marriage bill expected later this year.

Marriage Attitudes in New England

Timothy Kincaid

March 13th, 2009

Sometimes I despair at the slow pace at which equality seems to progress. But when I stand back and take a good look, it becomes clear that even though we have many battle left to fight, we should not get weary because we really have won the war.

As an example, consider these two news stories out of New England:

Nearly 200 Vermont clergy are speaking out in favor of legislation pending at the Statehouse that would grant equal access to civil marriage for same-sex couples.

In fact, other than the Catholic Church, it’s not easy to find religious opposition to marriage in Vermont.

Meanwhile, in Maine it seems that marriage is not necessarily a partisan issue. And it’s so popular that the leadership changed the rules to allow more sponsors than the usual ten.

The author of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine says more than 60 legislators from both parties have signed on as co-sponsors.

There are only 186 legislators in Maine.

And in Maryland, a Republican former congressman found common cause with a freedom rider and the state Attorney General.

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler appeared for the second year in a row before a General Assembly committee to testify for the legislation. This year, he was joined by former U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, who lost the Republican primary last year after 18 years in Congress, and Travis Britt, an African-American civil rights activist and widower of the late Sen. Gwendolyn T. Britt, who was to be the lead sponsor of the bill before her death last year.

Marriage Equality Bill Introduced in Maine House

Timothy Kincaid

January 13th, 2009

From an Equality Maine press release:

At a State House press conference today, EqualityMaine and several coalition partners unveiled a bill that would extend civil marriage rights to same-sex couples in Maine.

The bill, titled “An Act to Prevent Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom,” is sponsored by Sen. Dennis Damon (D-Hancock).

Marriage Rights Predictions for 2009

Timothy Kincaid

January 2nd, 2009

2008 was an exciting year – with both highs and lows – for marriage equality. But the upcoming year is likely to be exciting as well. Here are a discussions and some projections about the direction of marriage equality in 2009.

Of course, my crystal ball is probably no better tuned into the future than yours, but here are my guesses and some states to watch.

California: In March, the California State Supreme Court will hear arguments as to whether Proposition 8 is a valid amendment to the state constitution.

The relatively close margin on the vote coupled with the dominance of political positioning in opposition to the amendment will provide the court with the sort of political cover that could allow them to judge in favor of equality. Further, as the state moved from a 61.4% opposition in 2000 to a 52.3% in 2008, jurists may hesitate to uphold an initiative that can predictably be contrary to the wishes of the majority of Californians within the next few years.

Additionally, there is little threat of voter reprisal for three of the justices who ruled favorably on In Re Marriage Cases. Carlos Moreno and Kathryn Werdegar are not up for a confirmation vote until 2014 and Joyce Kennard is safe until 2018. Chief Justice Ronald George is due for confirmation in 2010, but as he is already Enemy Number One to anti-gay activists it’s unlikely that this will weigh much in his decision.

Interestingly, Ming Chin – a dissenting vote on marriage in May – may feel pressure from two fronts in his consideration of this case. Chin is up for confirmation in 2010 and it would be naïve to think that he is not aware of the political backlash and massive organization that resulted from the outcome of Proposition 8. I think he is aware that his decision, either way, will engender a movement to oppose his confirmation. Additionally, Chin, as an Asian American, may recognize that the stripping of fundamental rights – whether or not he initially supported them – from a protected minority can establish a precedent that has long legs and severe consequences.

This is difficult to call, but I think that I will cautiously predict that the CA Supreme Court finds that a fundamental right cannot be removed from a suspect class by means of a majority vote. I will go so far as to say that I would not be surprised to see a greater than 4-3 split on this issue.

Should, however, the Court rule against equality, be prepared for state-wide protests and for the creation of a political machine to collect signatures to get a reversal amendment on the ballot in 2010 as well as to deny reconfirmation of Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin.

Iowa: The state Supreme Court heard arguments this month on whether the state’s ban on same sex marriage is unconstitutional. They should announce their decision at some point within the first half of the year.

Although a Midwestern agricultural state, Iowa is not necessarily conservative. And the Supreme Court has a tradition of early progressive action. The notions articulated in California’s In Re Marriages about fundamental rights and suspect class may feel comfortable to Iowa justices.

I’m not making a call on this one. But should equality prevail, there is no initiative process in Iowa. Those seeking to overturn the decision would either have to rely on a constitutional amendment occurring by means of a majority vote in two consecutive legislatures (unlikely with the current Democrat legislature) and a popular vote in 2012 at the earliest. Alternately, the citizens could vote for a constitutional convention in 2010, which is rather unlikely.

New York: This state is situated to be the first state to voluntarily select marriage equality, should it so choose. The state Assembly has already voted favorably and the Governor is supportive; the only glitch is a handful of Democratic Senators who are seeking to hold up the confirmation of the Democratic Senate Leader in order to oppose marriage equality and advance their own political profile.

I predict that ultimately Senator Smith will become the Senate Majority Leader. And I think that the shenanigans of Senator Diaz have not endeared him to Smith or many in the Democratic Caucus. No doubt some Senators would like nothing better than legalizing gay marriage and conducting the first one on the sidewalk outside Diaz’ house.

However, with Diaz and two others (at least) balking, marriage equality cannot be achieved in New York without some Republican support. Interestingly, this comes at a time when the G.O.P. in the state is seeking to shed it’s anti-gay image. Currently, Log Cabin Republicans are active in both NYC and in the Hudson Valley and several Assembly Republicans voted in favor of marriage last year. And their relationship with the Party has been improving recently.

So while Dean Skelos, incoming Senate Minority Leader, will not support the effort, opposition to the bill will not be in the form of fiery homophobia and there will not be threats of reprisals against any Republican Senators that break rank and support marriage equality.

Frankly, I don’t think that New York has the votes in the Senate. And there may be reluctance on the part of legislators and the gay community to jump before enough votes are committed. So even though the Democratic Party ran on the issue of passing marriage equality in the Senate and even though much of the change in power came from gay support, I think we should not expect marriage in New York in 2009.

One factor that may influence this, however, is the action of New York’s neighbors (see discussion below). Should a New England state move to marriage equality, that might be a bit influential and supportive. But if it looks like New Jersey will legalize marriage, state pride may push New York legislators to twist arms and get this on the books.

New Hampshire: The state has had Civil Unions for a year and already there are expressions of discontent and a move to legalize full marriage. Last week, State Rep. Jim Splaine, D-Portsmouth, submitted a bill to legalize marriage.

However, Governor John Lynch opposes this effort and even if those who voted for civil unions all favor marriage, they do not have the votes to override a veto.

I predict that this bill will not make it to the floor for a vote.

Vermont: This state has had civil unions for eight years with no discernable negative consequences. A commission reported in April 2008 that marriages would provide many tangible and intangible benefits that are not achieved through civil unions. While this came too late for action in 2008, there will be a vote in 2009 whether to legalize marriage.

Governor Jim Douglas has stated his opposition to the bill but he’s not indicated whether he would veto the legislation or allow it to become law without his signature.

My guess is that this legislation will stall, eventually pass, but be vetoed by the Governor. But a public outcry in favor of marriage could result in Douglas passively letting the bill become law.

Maine: There is a relatively below-the-radar movement to bring marriage equality to a vote in the Maine Legislature in 2009. Whether or not successful, anti-gay activists are likely to try for a constitutional amendment in 2010. I have no predictions on this.

New Jersey: New Jersey has had civil unions for two years. But a commission released this month reported that civil unions were not adequate to address the needs of gay couples and recommended that marriage be instituted. A poll in August 2008 found that over half of New Jersey residents prefer marriage equality and nearly 60% would be accepting of the decision if the legislature were to enact gay marriage, especially if the commission recommended the change.

Governor Jon Corzine responded to the report by stating that marriage should be legalized in the state “sooner rather than later”. Legislative leaders are saying that the issue is a matter of “when” and not “if” marriage equality would be legislated. They may be seeking to feel the direction of the political wind as all of the legislators and the Governor are up for election in 2009.

Working towards equality, the NY Times editorialized on the 20th that New Jersey politicians should live up to their principles.

I tentatively predict that the legislature will vote early in 2009 for marriage equality.


New Mexico
: In 2008 the Senate Judiciary Committee tabled efforts to pass a Domestic Partnership bill which had passed the state House. However, efforts may have more favorable conditions in 2009.

The New Mexico Independent is reporting that HB21/SB12, a bill to provide all the rights and responsibilities of marriage to registered partners, will be considered shortly after the legislature reconvenes in later this month. The success of this bill will depend to a great extent on Senate committee assignments.

I predict that this measure will pass and that Governor Bill Richardson will sign it into law.


Other states
: I predict that some states other than those listed above will address marriage or couple recognition. Perhaps Washington will act on marriage or a Plains State will provide a domestic partnership or other registered benefits scheme. Alternately, emboldened by Proposition 8, some anti-gays may begin efforts to pass constitutional bans in other states.

Same-Sex Marriage Battle Looms in Maine

Jim Burroway

December 15th, 2008

It looks like Maine may emerge as the next battleground for same-sex marriage. Equality Maine had 250 volunteers at 86 polling places on election day asking voters to sign postcards supporting same-sex marriage to send to state legislators. Equality Maine’s goal was “only” 10,000 signatures; they collected 33,190. Meanwhile, the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry has been holding press conferences around the state to build support for same-sex marriage.

All of that activity has led same-sex marriage opponents to found a new group, Maine Marriage Alliance, to push for a constitutional amendment:

“Efforts are pretty clearly under way to simply redefine marriage in the state,” said the Rev. Bob Emrich, pastor of Emmanuel Bible Baptist Church in Plymouth and a founder of the alliance. “Let’s put that issue to rest. We want to define marriage, put it in the current constitution so we don’t have to wonder if the court or Legislature will overturn it.”

The process for amending the Maine Constitution begins with a two-thirds vote of both houses of the legislature, followed by a majority vote of the people in a referendum.

Ministers in Maine Support Marriage

Timothy Kincaid

November 18th, 2008

On Thursday, a coalition of religious leaders in Maine held new conferences to support marriage equality.

“We are speaking here today in support of civil marriages for same-sex couples because assuring full human rights for all citizens advances the common good,” said the Rev. Marvin Ellison, a Presbyterian minister and professor of ethics at Bangor Theological Seminary. Doty announced that more than 120 religious leaders from 14 different faith traditions across Maine have formed the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry in Maine. The coalition, he said, is not a political action committee, but a group of clergy acting as individuals to raise awareness about the issue of same-sex marriage.

Today the Roman Catholic Bishop in Maine responded by ordering all churches to read a letter of opposition in Mass.

“To redefine marriage to include same-sex couples is to strip marriage of an essential component, namely the ability and obligation to procreate,” the bishop said in his letter. “To strip marriage of this essential component is to render marriage meaningless and open it up to endless revision and redefinition.”

The unmarried man without children did not specify whether he would be issuing a letter in opposition to infertile couples or elderly couples. However the Bishop did indicate that he will soon be attempting to impose Catholic doctrine by law on those ministers who spoke last week.

Malone’s letter said the church will be launching initiatives in the weeks and months ahead to preserve and support marriage as it is currently defined. It said objections to same-sex marriage are not based strictly on religious principles, but also on what is best for society.

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