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Posts for February, 2016

Italy Senate passes civil unions bill

Timothy Kincaid

February 25th, 2016

fireworks-rome

Italy has finally taken steps to join most of the rest of Western Europe in recognizing the validity of same-sex relationships. (AP)

Italy’s Senate voted Thursday to grant legal recognition to civil unions, as the last holdout in Western Europe took a compromise step to give some rights to gay couples after a bitter, years-long battle.

It passed 173-71, well over the threshold necessary.

In a nation heavily influenced by the Catholic Church, this has been a difficult process and is a break-through. The Catholic hierarchy has spoken in opposition to the bill and religious affiliation had caused a rift in the ruling Democratic Party.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has been increasingly desperate to get a civil rights bill on the books. To ensure passage, he made the bill a conscience vote, one in which a failure to pass would result in his removal as head of government.

Even so, the bill was headed for defeat before it was amended to exclude an adoption provision which did not have the necessary support in the legislature. The bill originally allowed one partner to adopt the other partner’s natural children (couple adoption of non-biological children has very little support).

As the final product was not as anticipated, the bill is not being met with universal jubilation. It is, nevertheless, a significant and important step towards equal rights for gay Italians.

To become law, the bill must now pass the lower Chamber of Deputies.

Marriage in Mexico – update and Jalisco victory

Timothy Kincaid

January 26th, 2016

Map Mexico statesMexico’s same-sex marriage status is complicated.

Marriages occurring anywhere in the country are recognized throughout. So, since December 2009 when Mexico City legislators voted for marriage equality, same-sex couples could travel to the capital and have their relationship recognized upon their return.

However, other than in six states, locally conducted same-sex marriage is illegal. But these are not laws without a solution. A couple can go to court and request an amparo (a sort of civil rights ruling) which states that the law is unconstitutional and which would allow that couple (but only that couple) to marry.

The outcome is assured; the Supreme Court has established that all such efforts result in approval of the marriage. So any same-sex couple can marry in any state – though it takes a lawyer, about $1,000, and a month to go through the legal process.

Additionally, after five identical amparos have been granted in one state, precedent is set and that state then will recognize same-sex marriages without any need for additional amparos. So for about $5,000 per state (about $125,000 total) and less than a year, marriage equality could be universal across the nation. Considering that in the US the legal battle cost tens of millions of dollars, this is a bargain and activists are implementing a plan to grind through the ampero process.

Meanwhile states are individually chugging along towards equality, some through non-amparo means. Currently Mexico has six equality states (out of 31):

Quintana Roo (Cancun) – In December 2011, local officials realized that the law did not mention the gender of those seeking marriage and that there was no restriction on same-sex couples.

Coahuila – In September 2014, Coahuila became the first state to enact marriage equality by means of legislative vote.

Chihuahua (Juarez) – By mid 2013, the required five amparos had been issued. The state legislature did not act, and couples asked the Supreme Court to order the state to comply. So as to avoid such a ruling, in June 2015 the governor announced that the state would no longer enforce the unconstitutional law.

Guerrero (Acapulco) – also in June 2015, the governor of Guerrero announced that it would not enforce the marriage ban. This was proactive as the state had not processed five amparos. The governor has presented a bill to the state legislature to change the law.

Nayarit – In late December 2015, the legislature voted 26 to 1 in favor of marriage equality.

Jalisco (Guadalajara) – today. This one is a pinch more complicated. Whenever a state law is published in Mexico, opponents have 30 days to file an action of unconstitutionality with the federal courts. Jalisco had recently made an unrelated change in its marriage laws and had republished the marriage code. This opened a window in which activists could challenge the limitations as to gender. The Supreme Court heard the case and today ruled 11 to 0 that Jalisco’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Mobile Alabama reopens marriage license window

Timothy Kincaid

January 8th, 2016

On Wednesday, following Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s pronouncement that no marriage licenses can be issued to same-sex couples in the state, Mobile County stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether. Now they have resumed. (Fox6News)

The Mobile County Probate Court will re-open marriage license windows Friday morning, Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis said in a statement.

Davis’ statement says, “In an abundance of caution, the Court wanted an opportunity to review the order, and to have legal counsel research the matter. The Court is now satisfied, on the advice of counsel, that the appropriate action is to open the window and resume issuance of marriage license.

Poor Alabama. It’s a sad state of affairs when the state’s judicial officers just ignore the instruction of the state’s Chief Justice.

Greek parliament votes for civil unions

Timothy Kincaid

December 24th, 2015

europeABC.net.au

Greece’s parliament has approved a bill granting same-sex couples the right to a civil union, becoming one of the last European countries to give them legal recognition after years of opposition from the influential Orthodox church.

The bill does not include adoption rights and may have other deficiencies.

Guernsey moves toward equality

Timothy Kincaid

December 10th, 2015

The Bailiwick of Guernsey is a possession of the British Crown in the English Channel. Though it relies on the United Kingdom for defense, the collection of islands with a population of about 65,000 is politically autonomous and has its own legislature.

Guernsey’s legislature has now voted to introduce a bill to recognize same-sex marriages (BBC)

The move to introduce same-sex marriage was approved 37-7.

It is not clear when the legislation, which will be voted on separately, will come back to the States or when the law will come into effect.

A Policy Council spokesman said it depends on the “priority given to the legislation” and time needed to draft it. He said at the earliest this “would not be before 2017”.

They rejected, with similar margins, bills which would provide for civil unions or other secondary recognition.

Of the other two Crown possessions, Jersey adopted marriage equality earlier this year and the Isle of Man passed a civil partnership bill in 2011 and is in the public consultation process of changing to marriage.

The Mormon apostasies

Timothy Kincaid

November 6th, 2015

mormon templeApostasy is the act of rejecting one’s (former) religious beliefs and denying the teaching of one’s church. It’s not simply a matter of disagreement on issues, doubt about doctrine, or failing to apply specific teachings to one’s life.

A Catholic family can quietly go about utilizing contraception without being apostate. They can march in protest when their local Catholic School fires a gay teacher. They can question whether restriction on priests’ gender is based more in misogyny than in revelation. But if they reject the doctrine that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ provides redemption for sin, then they are denying the central tenet of the Catholic faith and are in apostasy.

Religions and denominations respond to apostasy with a wide array of reaction. Protestant Christians will probably do little more repeatedly tell you that they are praying that you get right with God. In some Muslim sects, they will stone you to death.

Mormons, whose communities are largely built on interconnecting family ties, may find that rejecting their faith comes with a high cost. Being viewed as apostate can leave one with little social or family network to rely on as exclusion from the daily activities of one’s religion is often the same as exclusion from one’s social and family circle.

For many denominations, apostasy is ill defined. Just how far one can go without becoming apostate is a bit nebulous across the vast diversity in religious belief.

But the Mormons make it very simple. And in their latest revision, they list the five things that one can do which are apostasy.

1. Repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.

Okay, that seems pretty standard.

2. Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.

Again, that makes sense.

3. Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.

Yeah, I suppose following apostate teachings makes you apostate.

We’ll skip #4 for a moment.

5. Formally join another Church and advocate its teachings.

Well now this is getting downright boring.

Back to

4. Are in a same-gender marriage.

Wait. What?

Of all the possible things that one could do as a Mormon that flies in the face of church teaching, only one is so grievous as to be specifically and exclusively declared apostasy? And that one thing is gay marriage?

Oh silly Mormons. And you wonder why it is that the world around you thinks that you are a bunch of raging homophobes.

Church of Norway bishops unanimously support same-sex marriage

Timothy Kincaid

November 2nd, 2015

Norwegian churchThe Norwegians don’t much attend church services. Estimates vary, but it’s generally agreed that less than 10% of the citizens of Norway attend church at least once a month.

Nevertheless, baptism, confirmation, marriage and burial in Norway all have strong religious associations. And for that there is the Church of Norway, an Evangelical Lutheran body that was, until 2012, the state church.

About three quarters of Norway’s population is on the Church of Norway’s roster, mostly due to automatic enrollment of any child who has a parent in the church. And roughly two-thirds of infants in Norway are confirmed in the church. So this body may not be particularly representative of the people, but it is relevant to them.

In 2014, the church’s synod rejected a liturgy for same-sex marriage. This was not received well by the Norwegian people, the vast majority of which support gay marriage.

At that time, the bishops were split, with some opposing the practice. Now they have unified in policy if not in theology. (yahoo)

Church of Norway bishops said Friday that they were unanimously in favour of allowing gay couples to marry in religious ceremonies, a hot-button issue to be decided on next year.

After a meeting lasting several days, the 12 bishops called for the synod — the church’s governing body — to adopt new rules allowing the same rights to apply to both heterosexual and homosexual couples when it comes to marriage in the church.

The new policy would allow individual pastors to opt out of performing same-sex marriages. The synod vote will be in April 2016.

Marriage equality comes to Jersey

Timothy Kincaid

September 23rd, 2015

Jersey shoreDespite what “reality” television might try to convince you, Jersey is not the state immediately south of New York. Rather, it is an island in the English Channel, just off the coast of France.

Jersey is a possession of the British Crown, but is autonomous and self governing. Although the United Kingdom is responsible for Jersey’s defense and international relationships, it is not part of the UK.

Earlier this week, the unicameral State of Jersey Assembly voted 37 to 4 to include same-sex couples in the island’s marriage and divorce laws.

Truly ridiculous bill proposed in Tennessee

Timothy Kincaid

September 20th, 2015

Either Tennessee politicians Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, and Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, are phenomenally dense and lack even the most rudimentary understanding of law or else they are about the most pandering creatures on the planet. Even grade schoolers know that the US Constitution, as measured by the Supreme Court of the United States, is of a higher order than state law. But that makes no matter to these nincompoops. (Tennessean)

On Thursday two state Republican lawmakers unveiled their answer: a bill that they believe voids the Supreme Court decision and continues to define marriage under Tennessee law as a union between a man and a woman.

“Natural marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman as recognized by the people of Tennessee remains the law in Tennessee, regardless of any court decision to the contrary,” the bill states.

“Any court decision purporting to strike down natural marriage, including (a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision), is unauthoritative, void, and of no effect.”

Their bill consists primarily of seven pages of WHEREAS statements quoting freely from the dissents penned by the Justices on the losing side of Obergefell v. Hodges. For some reason, they seem to think that the determination of Supreme Court Justices are legally compelling, but only when they agree with them.

This bill will go nowhere. Even should the legislators in Tennessee unanimously pass the bill with trumpet flare and dancing nymphs, it has no legal basis and will impact nothing. This sort of cynicism is a sad reflection on our political system and on the gullibility of these lawmakers’ constituents.

Nepal gets LGBT protections, possibly marriage

Timothy Kincaid

September 17th, 2015

Nepal

In November 2008, it came to our attention that the Supreme Court of Nepal, a small Himalayan landlocked country between India and China, was pushing the nation to include protections and rights for LGBT citizens (it should be noted that Nepalese perspectives about gender and sexuality are probably different from that of Western societies, but LGBT likely adequately encompasses the ruling.)

In January of 2010, it appeared that LGBT protections, including marriage rights, were to be included in the nation’s new constitution and that the deadline for implementation was May 28, 2010.

But that date passed and political turmoil in Nepal’s parliament hindered the passage of the constitution. And not just for a brief while. Year after year has passed and nothing resulted but turmoil and strife.

But in April of this year, an earthquake registering on the Richter Scale at about 8.0, changed the nation’s priorities. About 9,000 people died and tens of thousands of others were injured. Ancient architectural landmarks were destroyed and entire villages were wiped out, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. The nation’s response was abysmal, and much of the chaos was blamed on a lack preparedness due to political squabbling.

Suddenly the political differences seemed less important.

And finally, more than five years late, the constitution has been approved. (Time)

The landlocked Himalayan nation’s parliament passed the constitution on Wednesday with 507 out of 601 members of its Constituent Assembly voting in favor, Agence France-Presse reported.

The new charter replaces an interim constitution that has governed the country since 2007, when a decadelong civil war culminated in the end of its Hindu monarchy.

And it does appear that specific LGBT protections are in place: (HRC)

Article 12 states that citizens will be allowed to choose their preferred gender identity on their citizenship document. The choices available are male, female or other.
Article 18 states that gender and sexual minorities will not be discriminated against by the state and by the judiciary in the application of laws. It further adds that the government may make special provisions through laws to protect, empower and advance the rights of gender and sexual minorities and other marginalized and minority groups.
Article 42 lists gender and sexual minorities among the groups that have a right to participate in state mechanisms and public services to promote inclusion.

It remains to be seen whether these changes include marriage rights. However, as the Supreme Court has in the past directed that the government provide such rights, it seems likely that they will broadly interpret Article 18 and marriage equality may finally come to Asia.

Alabama House fails (again) to abolish marriage licenses

Timothy Kincaid

September 17th, 2015

bama

Legislators in Alabama have been approaching the issue of issuing marriage licenses with creativity. Instead of coming up with escape clauses for those who go into conniptions at the thought of handing a piece of paper to an actual homosexual (gasp), the Alabamians just want to get out of the marriage business altogether. Rather than giving someone license to marry, they want to just record – after the fact – that people have entered into a contract of marriage, just like you would record a deed.

Which is not necessarily a horrible thing. There may be issues with how such a contract is seen by the Federal Government or by other states, but the marriage license process is pretty rote anyway and one less visit to the local petty bureaucrats is a blessing, not a hardship.

I had thought this issue had died in June when a House committee failed to advance the bill. But it was brought up for a vote this week in the House in special session. It failed again (AL.com)

The House voted 53-36 in favor of the bill. But it required a two-thirds vote for approval because it was not part of the governor’s call for the special session.

It should be noted that the bill received majority support in the House and passed the Senate in June by a vote of 22 to 3. So there is a very good chance that this bill will be resurrected in the next session.

Meanwhile, Nick Williams, the Judge of Probate for Washington County (think County Clerk) has filed a petition with the Alabama Supreme Court expressing his concern about having to issue “a license to engage in sodomy”. I am not myself familiar with the Sodomy License and wonder whether, as with a Driver’s License, one has to take a test to show proficiency. Perhaps there’s a training course and a learner’s permit?

Williams has asked the Alabama Supreme Court for an order “upholding and enforcing the Alabama Constitution ans Alabama’s marriage laws, notwithstanding the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.” In other words, he’s asked that the federal ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States be reversed by Alabama’s Supreme Court.

Of course the Supremacy Clause in the US Constitution prohibits states from overruling the US Constitution. But the yahoos on the Alabama Supreme Court have little regard for the rule of law or constitutions and they just might rule for Mr. Williams.

From Sarasota FL comes another Christian cake baker

Timothy Kincaid

September 16th, 2015

Spanish Prime Minister comes around

Timothy Kincaid

September 15th, 2015

RajoySpanish couples are now celebrating ten years of wedded bliss. But in 2005, they were fighting for their equality and their primary opponent was Mariano Rajoy, leader of the People’s Party (the conservative, Christian democratic party).

The People’s Party brought witnesses against equality and vetoed the bill in the Senate. But ultimately President Zapatero and the Socialist Worker’s Party were able to get the legislation passed, much to Rajoy’s ire.

But the sky didn’t fall.

And six years later when the PP gained power and Rajoy became Prime Minister, marriage equality was already a comfortable status quo. Rajoy inquired with the Constitutional Court as to whether the law was Constitutional. The court found it so, and that was as far as the matter went.

Now Rajoy may find himself even more comfortable with the concept. I don’t know whether he still opposes same sex marriage but, if so, it is a theoretical rather than personal opposition. (thelocal)

The Prime Minister’s words have come back to haunt him this week as he faces the prospect of attending the gay wedding of his colleague and close friend, Javier Maroto, an under-Secretary within the Popular Party and former mayor of the city of Vitoria.

Maroto, 43, will marry his long-term partner, Josema Rodríguez on Friday September 18th in Vitoria, the capital of the Basque Country.

But sources close to the Prime Minister have confirmed that it is “99 percent sure” he will attend the wedding:

“Javier is more than a colleague, he is a great friend,” the source told El Mundo.

(Also ElMundo in Spanish)

Kim Davis capitulates UPDATED

Timothy Kincaid

September 14th, 2015

kim davis loses

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has tearfully reached the exact position that the County, the Governor, the federal judiciary, and her gay constituents have been demanding of her. Marriage licenses will continue to be issued. (Huffpo)

“I want the whole world to know … If any [deputy clerk] feels that they must issue an unauthorized license to avoid being thrown in jail, I understand their tough choice, and I will take no action against them,” she said. “However, any unauthorized license that they issue will not have my name, my title or my authority on it. Instead, the license will state that they are issued pursuant to a federal court order.”

Of course no one else is questioning their validity and Davis’ only purpose in doing so is a whiny pretense that her efforts to impose her religious values on the county were not in vain.

They were.

UPDATE: new twist: Davis has altered the marriage licenses to remove any reference to deputy clerk. By “unauthorized”, she means “altered”. They likely are invalid.

McDowell County is not like Rowan County

Timothy Kincaid

September 11th, 2015

McDowelFollowing the story of Rowan County, Kentucky, Clerk Kim Davis and her refusal to follow the law and issue marriage licenses to residents of her county, attention has turned to the magistrates in McDowell County, North Carolina. (wlos.com)

Magistrates in McDowell County are refusing to perform same sex marriages.

A supervising judge confirmed to News 13 on Thursday that four workers in the office – Hilary Hollified, Thomas Atkinson, Debbie Terrell and Chad Johnson – have recused themselves under the North Carolina’s religious exemption law.

Some are seeing this as discrimination and bigotry just like in Rowan County and Something That Must Be Stopped. I see the situations as very dissimilar and am not much troubled by McDowell County or their magistrates.

Magistrates do not have any gate-keeping duties as to who can marry in the county. Those who choose to can officiate civil marriages, though they are not required to do so (nor, I believe, have they ever been so required). And McDowell County has provided replacements, magistrates from another county, so as to ensure that anyone wishing a civil marriage may have one. No rights are being denied.

But a more important distinction, to me, is the motivation. In McDowell County the issue is “what I must do” while in Rowan County the issue is “what you cannot do”.

For all that Kim Davis protests that she only wants to not have her name associated with marriages of which she disapproves, her actions show a different motive. The minute that her deputy clerks issued marriage licenses without her name – substituting “office of Rowan County” for “office of Kim Davis” – her attorneys insisted that the licenses were invalid. Davis’ goal is not removing herself from association with same-sex marriages but rather it’s prohibiting all such marriages in her county.

There have been a number of judges and magistrates and mayors and other officials across the country who have quietly removed marriage officiation from their list of services in order to avoid participation in same-sex marriages. And while this is a decision that is in conflict with my own values, so long as this is not a significant or relevant part of their duties and so long as an adequate replacement is provided, I am not much inclined to force people to do things that are contrary to their conscience.

Further, I think that throwing energy into coercive efforts (“they must follow my values, not their values, or they should be fired”) distracts from situations that truly are egregious and abusive. It makes our cause seem more about forcing or punishing others and less about achieving freedom for ourselves.

Seeking to block legal public services and deny civil rights, such as the efforts of Kim Davis, is a matter that deserves our attention and our ire. And, rightly, our community fought back and, if polls are correct, we won the debate.

But insisting that individual magistrates personally participate in same-sex marriages does not deserve our time nor serve our cause.

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