Chile elects pro-equality President
December 21st, 2013
Voters in Chile on Sunday returned former president Michelle Bachelet to power.
The 62-year-old Bachelet fended off center-right candidate Evelyn Matthei by winning 62 percent of a runoff vote – the highest of any candidate since Chile returned to democratic elections.
Bachelet also campaigned on gay marriage, reiterating her supporter in several interviews. However, her center-left New Majority coalition has only a slim majority in both houses and a full plate.
Croatian government proposes partnership registry
December 21st, 2013
Croatia began the month with a But the government is proposing that a parnership registry with many of the rights of marriage be adopted. (GayStarNews)
The government has presented ‘life partnership’ legislation today (12 December), allowing same-sex couples to officially register their relationship, inherit property from one another, and represent each other as next of kin.
They will be banned from marrying or adopting children.
With the government’s legislative majority, it means the bill is likely to pass.
The ‘protect marriage’ crowd who crowed three weeks ago will conveniently miss this move.
Thank Scalia For Utah Marriages
December 20th, 2013
Court Judge Robert J. Shelby, in striking down Utah’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, gave this shout-out to everything-gay opponent and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in Windsor v. U.S., in which the Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. Shelby’s first shout-out is at page 13:
The Constitution’s protection of the individual rights of gay and lesbian citizens is equally dispositive whether this protection requires a court to respect a state law, as in Windsor, or strike down a state law, as the Plaintiffs ask the court to do here. In his dissenting opinion, the Honorable Antonin Scalia recognized that this result was the logical outcome of the Court’s ruling in Windsor:
In my opinion, however, the view that this Court will take of state prohibition of same-sex marriage is indicated beyond mistaking by today’s opinion. As I have said, the real rationale of today’s opinion . . . is that DOMA is motivated by “bare. . . desire to harm” couples in same-sex marriages. How easy it is, indeed how inevitable, to reach the same conclusion with regard to state laws denying same-sex couples marital status.
133 S. Ct. at 2709 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The court agrees with JusticeScalia’s interpretation of Windsor and finds that the important federalism concerns at issue here are nevertheless insufficient to save a state-law prohibition that denies the Plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection under the law.
Also, at page 15:
…And Justice Scalia even recommended how this court should interpret the Windsor decision when presented with the question that is now before it: “I do not mean to suggest disagreement … that lower federal courts and state courts can distinguish today’s case when the issue beforethem is state denial of marital status to same-sex couples.”
Judge Shelby also goes to Scalia’s classic dissent in 2003′s Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down sodomy laws nationwide. At page 31:
The court therefore agrees with the portion of Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion in Lawrence in which Justice Scalia stated that the Court’s reasoning logically extends to protect an individual’s right to marry a person of the same sex:
Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned. If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is “no legitimate state interest” for purposes of proscribingthat conduct, . . . what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising “the liberty protected by the Constitution”?
Id. at 604-05 (Scalia, J., dissenting) (citations omitted).The Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence removed the only ground—moral disapproval—on which the State could have at one time relied to distinguish the rights of gay and lesbian individuals from the rights of heterosexual individuals.
Roosevelt NM County Clerk resigns
December 20th, 2013
Over next to Texas on the eastern edge of New Mexico is Roosevelt County, about 2,500 square miles of peanuts, Eastern New Mexico University, and not a whole lot else to say for it. But now it has two celebrities. (ABC)
Roosevelt County manager Charlene Webb confirmed that Clerk Donna Carpenter and Deputy Clerk Janet Collins announced their resignations Friday morning.
Webb declined to say why they quit. But county commissioners said it was in protest of Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling declaring it unconstitutional to bar same-sex couples from getting marriage licenses.
Commissioner Bill Cathey said the two had made it clear they would quit “rather than be associated with that.”
If they can’t bring themselves to “be associated with that”, then I respect their decision. If you can’t do the job, step aside so someone else can.
But should they decide that they are the victims and run to Fox News and the Family Research Council to whine about how their own personal religious beliefs could not be dictated to their neighbors, I’ll not be forgiving.
Efforts to Block Utah Marriages May Take Several Days
December 20th, 2013
Typically when there’s a ruling like this one, there’s nearly always an immediate request for a stay. But the Utah Attorney General’s office is taking its time putting the request together. Good thing, because the Judge has said that he’s going to take his time when it comes time to consider the request:
The state filed a notice of appeal late Friday and was working on a request for an emergency stay that would stop marriage licenses from being issued to same-sex couples.
“It will probably take a little bit of time to get everything in place,” said Ryan Bruckman, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office. Bruckman said the judge told the attorney general’s office that it would be a couple of days before he would review any request for an emergency stay.
Utah’s elected Attorney General John Swallow resigned last month in the wake of multiple corruption investigations. The office is now headed by an acting Attorney General, retired National Guard Gen. Brian Tarbet.
Who is that activist judge?
December 20th, 2013
“I am very disappointed an activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah,” said GOP Utah Governor Gary Herbert.
But who is that judge and how did he get there? And why, oh why, didn’t any good conservatives try and make sure he never got to power.
Oh. It turns out that Robert Shelby was appointed by President Obama after being nominated by Senator Orrin Hatch (R – Utah) and supported by Senator Mike Lee (R – Utah). I guess that makes them radical militant left-wing GOP Senators.
Yeah… about that map
December 20th, 2013
I guess it went up a day too soon.
Utah will likely appeal. But for now marriages are going on and we are now up to 18 States plus DC, a grand total of 120 million US residents, or 39.5% of the population, now live where marriages are equal.
Utah AG To Appeal, Seeking Stay Against Marriage Ruling (Updated)
December 20th, 2013
The Utah Attorney General’s office says that it will seek an emergency stay against the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby finding the state’s ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional. The AG office issued this brief statement:
The federal district court’s ruling that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right has never been established in any previous case in the 10th Circuit. The state is requesting an emergency stay pending the filing of an appeal. The Attorney General’s Office will continue reviewing the ruling in detail until an appeal is filed to support the constitutional amendment passed by the citizens of Utah.
Gov. Gary Herbert (R) has also issued a brief statement:
“I am very disappointed an activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah. I am working with my legal counsel and the acting Attorney General to determine the best course to defend traditional marriage within the borders of Utah.”
ABC news reports that “dozens” had already lined up at the Salt Lake County clerk’s office, including State Sen. Jim Dabakis and his longtime partner, Stephen Justesen. Salt Lake City mayor Ralph Becker is on hand to officiate:
The LDS has reacted to the ruling:
Cody Craynor, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, released the following statement in response to the ruling.
“The Church has been consistent in its support of traditional marriage while teaching that all people should be treated with respect. This ruling by a district court will work its way through the judicial process. We continue to believe that voters in Utah did the right thing by providing clear direction in the state constitution that marriage should be between a man and a woman and we are hopeful that this view will be validated by a higher court.”
Update: Equality on Trial says that the state has appealed the judge’s decision to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals:
The state defendants in the challenge to Utah’s same-sex marriage ban have filed an appeal of today’s decision striking down the ban. Earlier today, a federal district court ruled that the ban is unconstitutional. There is not yet an application for a stay of the district court decision…
Gov Martinez blows off anti-gay amendment idea
December 20th, 2013
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, a Republican, stayed mostly out of the court battle over marriage. She has not been an ally by any means and has made statements about how “the people should vote”. But her advocacy for “traditional marriage” has been minimal and she’s mostly been invisible on the issue.
Mostly, she’s been ambivalent on same-sex couples. Earlier this year she let a bill die (a pocket veto) that would have added “domestic partner” to an occupational licensing bill for veterans, but said that she would have signed it had it included the federal definition of the term.
In that wake of the marriage decision, a handful of conservative GOP members are making noise about amending the constitution. But it seems Martinez wants no part of the divisiveness that such efforts create. (Fox)
Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican and who has opposed same-sex marriage, said she would have preferred voters deciding the issue rather than the courts. But she urged New Mexicans to “respect one another in their discourse” and turn their focus onto other issues facing the state.
“As we move forward, I am hopeful that we will not be divided, as we must come together to tackle very pressing issues, like reforming education and growing our economy, in the weeks and months ahead,” Martinez said.
Yes! It’s Happening. Right Now. In Utah!
December 20th, 2013
Utah marriage ban found unconstitutional
December 20th, 2013
It’s coming fast and furious this week. (SL Trib)
A federal judge in Utah Friday struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.
“The state’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby. “Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional.”
No one expected anything on this case before next month.
From the ruling
The court agrees with Utah that regulation of marriage has traditionally been the province of the states, and remains so today. But any regulation adopted by a state, whether related to marriage or any other interest, must comply with the Constitution of the United States. The issue the court must address in this case is therefore not who should define marriage, but the narrow question of whether Utah’s current definition of marriage is permissible under the Constitution.
Applying the law as it is required to do, the court holds that Utah’s prohibition on same-sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law. The State’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason. Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional.
There is no stay on this ruling (as of yet) and there is no required delay between application and ceremony, so expect Utah marriages immediately.
A map of marriage at the end of 2013
December 19th, 2013
As we close out the last days of the year, 17 states and DC offer full marriage equality (or are waiting for the effective date of legislation):
District of Columbia
Three more offer everything-but-the-name Domestic Partnerships
And Wisconsin offers limited Domestic Partnership rights.
New Mexico Supremes rule for marriage equality
December 19th, 2013
The Supreme Court of New Mexico has ruled on the decision of some county clerks to offer marriage licenses: (KOB)
The state Supreme Court declared state marriage laws unconstitutional and upheld New Mexico county clerks’ decisions to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The state Supreme Court will now define “civil marriage” as the voluntary union of two persons to the exclusion of all others. In addition, all rights, protections, and responsibilities that result from the marital relationship shall apply equally to both same-gender and opposite-gender married couples.
We’ll bring you more, as more comes in.
UPDATE: From the Ruling
Prohibiting same-gender marriages is not substantially related to the governmental interests advanced by the parties opposing same-gender marriage or to the purposes we have identified. Therefore, barring individuals from marrying and depriving them of the rights, protections, and responsibilities of civil marriage solely because of their sexual orientation violates the Equal Protection Clause under Article II, Section 18 of the New Mexico Constitution. We hold that the State of New Mexico is constitutionally required to allow same-gender couples to marry and must extend to them the rights, protections, and responsibilities that derive from civil marriage under New Mexico law.
UPDATE 2 More:
Because same-gender couples (whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, hereinafter “LGBT”) are a discrete group which has been subjected to a history of discrimination and violence, and which has inadequate political power to protect itself from such treatment, the classification at issue must withstand intermediate scrutiny to be constitutional. Accordingly, New Mexico may neither constitutionally deny same-gender couples the right to marry nor deprive them of the rights, protections, and responsibilities of marriage laws, unless the proponents of the legislation—the opponents of same-gender marriage—prove that the discrimination caused by the legislation is “substantially related to an important government interest.”
And here we find that in New Mexico, discrimination against gay people must be held to “intermediate scrutiny”, a higher level that generally assumes that discrimination against gay people is at least somewhat likely to be unconstitutional.
I don’t yet see an effective date, so I assume this is law immediately.
The Ruling was unanimous.
It’s been a good year for marriage. In 2013, the number doubled from 8 states plus the District of Columbia to the new total: 17 states plus DC.
NJ marriage bill pulled
December 16th, 2013
Over the weekend I wrote about a bill that might have great political advantage for the Democratic Party in New Jersey (and the nation) but which could have negative consequences on gay people.
This bill has now been pulled. (NJ.com)
“After conferring with Lambda Legal, the national gay rights law organization, we have decided to pull from consideration for now the proposed legislation that would write marriage equality into law,” Weinberg said in a statement. “The issue is still new and legally complex, and we want to be able to fully understand all the potential legal ramifications of our efforts as we work to reach our goal of bringing marriage equality firmly and permanently into our laws.”
Does being anti-marriage make you a homophobe?
December 16th, 2013
Brandon Ambrosino, writing in the Atlantic, argues that being against gay marriage doesn’t make you a homophobe.
If it’s “anti-gay” to question the arguments of marriage-equality advocates, and if the word “homophobic” is exhausted on me or on polite dissenters, then what should we call someone who beats up gay people, or prefers not to hire them? Disagreement is not the same thing as discrimination. Our language ought to reflect that distinction.
I would argue that an essential feature of the term “homophobia” must include personal animus or malice toward the gay community. Simply having reservations about gay marriage might be anti-gay marriage, but if the reservations are articulated in a respectful way, I see no reason to dismiss the person holding those reservations as anti-gay people. In other words, I think it’s quite possible for marriage-equality opponents to have flawed reasoning without necessarily having flawed character. When we hastily label our opposition with terms like “anti-gay,” we make an unwarranted leap from the first description to the second.
Irrespective of the fact that this piece made anti-gay activists giddy, he’s right. It gains us no new converts by calling our opponents names, and (perhaps not too surprisingly) telling someone that they are your enemy often makes them so.
It is also true that there are some who oppose civil and/or religious gay marriage who do so not out of animus. It is entirely possible for someone to truly believe the disingenuous arguments about “the children needing opposite sex parents”. Or to support rights, but not quite be comfortable with the history and religious associations with the word marriage. Or to have stepped out of a time machine from 1994.
It is also true that there are many who do not favor same-sex marriage simply because they’ve not yet gotten used to the idea and it’s what everyone they know believes. We should be cautious not to conflate the not-yet-supporter with the wild-eyed opponent.
Yet, Ambrosino’s critics also have merit to their rebuttal. This debate is no longer novel nor is this a debate reserved to some ivory tower. It becomes increasing more difficult with each passing year to simultaneously hold to opposition to marriage equality while also being a person of good will and intent.
But I think it is still possible.
So, yes, I would agree with Ambrosino that being against gay marriage doesn’t make you a homophobe. But it does give you something in common with one.
NJ Democrats seek marriage bill
December 14th, 2013
In October, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples must be allowed marriage on the same terms as heterosexual couples. Now New Jersey Democrats are seeking to pass legislation to change the laws on the books.
This is being presented as a protection should the Supreme Court decide to change its mind in the future, but it’s hard to see it as anything other than a political move having nothing to do with same-sex couples or marriage.
Republican Governor Christie somehow managed to come out of the marriage debate smelling like a rose. Although he had opposed – and vetoed – a marriage equality bill, when he opted not to appeal the decision, the public perception was that he was not extremist and many even believe that Christie “changed his mind” and supported equality.
This did not sit well with Democratic leaders in the state who, predicting Christie’s presidential aspirations, lost one of the points on which he could be portrayed as right-wing and out of the mainstream in a general election. They are gambling that a new bill could put cut Christie both ways: if he signs the bill, it would hurt him in the primary; and if he vetoes the bill, it fires up the base in opposition.
Unfortunately, and ironically, it is gay couples who could lose in the process.
I recognize the political reality that in some states it has been necessary to include religious protections in order to get legislation passed. I also recognize that the inclusion of such language implies that there is validity to the notion that somehow gay marriage imposes in some way on religious freedom. The best legislation is one in which same-sex couples simply are added to the framework without any histrionics or hand-wringing over ookie-spookie horrors that Teh Ghey might bring.
In New Jersey, the State Supreme Court decision did just that; it put marriage between same-sex couples on exactly equal ground with opposite sex couples. And any new bill, should it include religious protections, would enact limitations on same-sex marriage that are not currently present.
The executive director of Garden State Equality has opposed writing such a bill for exactly that reason.
In response, the legislators have changed the bill to reduce the protections granted. (NJ.com)
Lesniak said the new bill continues to have an exemption for religious organizations. But he said only church-affiliated groups that use an event space exclusively for their members would be able to turn away gay couples who wish to get married there. Clergy would not be required to perform gay marriages, but proponents say that exemption would be covered under the First Amendment anyway.
“It does not go as far as the bill that the governor vetoed,” Lesniak said.
“If you open up your facilities, you can’t discriminate.”
And therein lies the problem. A bill that did nothing more than change the language of the state law (as did California) to remove gender would possibly be an easy signature for Christie. It would merely codify existing law.
What this does, however, is define the exceptions to the law. By stating who is exempt, the bill implies who is not exempt.
As the law exists right now, there is no formalized conflict between gay rights and religious rights. While it’s likely that a religious fraternity like the Knights of Columbus could make a religious freedom case for refusing to rent their hall for a same-sex wedding, this is a matter of non-discrimination law, not marriage.
But by specifically excluding some entities – and telling the newspapers that this bill doesn’t protect the Knight of Columbus – this politicizes the marriage bill and announces a threat on the existing presumption of religious protection that the Knights have currently.
Of course, removing the Knights of Columbus protection from the previous bill – and announcing it – is designed specifically to invite a veto by the governor. I can’t imagine Christie signing the “Knights of Columbus must host gay marriages” bill. They’re trying to force his hand.
But it’s possible that Christie will not do as the Democrats in New Jersey plan. While he may not sign such a bill, he may consider a veto too difficult to explain.
And he has the option of ignoring the bill for 45 days at which time it becomes law without his signature.
Should he allow the bill to become law it is almost inevitable that someone will flounce down to the nearest Knights of Columbus to “I’ll show them” and demand to rent the hall. And then we will have one more item on the list of grievances that our opponents pull out to scream about how we are attacking them. Which will be true. And will suck.
But should they pass this bill, the Democrats may have more ammo to use against Christie should he run for President. At our expense.
Pressure on for Australian marriage bill
December 14th, 2013
The big news was on Wednesday, when the High Court reversed the “same-sex marriage”* bill enacted by the Australian Capital Territory. But other movement has kept the issue from being past and forgotten.
New South Wales’ upper house of Parliament narrowly defeated a marriage equality bill on Thursday. The Green Party in Western Australia proposed a marriage bill on the same day that the Court ruled, which seems unlikely to advance. Earlier in the week, a fringe Catholic morality party, the Democratic Labor Party, had proposed a referendum on the issue which was defeated by the unlikely combination of the conservative ruling Liberal Party and the Green Party. And last month the Governor-General (the Queen’s representative and titular head of state) indicated her support for marriage equality.
Yesterday, Federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that Parliament may change the marriage laws to allow same-sex couples to marry. (Guardian)
Turnbull said he thought it was “very likely” that the parliament would consider a private member’s bill and that the Coalition party room would agree to a conscience vote, rather than a repeat of the situation last year when Coalition members were bound to vote against same-sex marriage.
“As to whether that would then result in the bill being passed, it’s probably a bit early to say because it’s a new parliament, there’s a lot of new members, but I think there is a reasonable prospect of a change to the law in this parliament,” Turnbull told ABC radio on Friday.
In an apparent argument that Australia was slipping behind similar countries elsewhere, Turnbull added: “I just note that if you look around the world, you know the big English speaking countries we feel ourselves culturally close to, all of them now recognise same-sex marriage: New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada and now about a third of the United States.”
Much of the issue depends on whether Prime Minister Tony Abbott will allow his party members to vote their conscience, or whether they will be required to vote in accordance with the party’s stance. As about two thirds of Australians support marriage equality, and as several Liberal MPs are expected to (or could be pressured to) support the bill, there is a good chance that it could prevail.
A number of other Liberal politicians, including the premiers of states and territories, have opined that a conscience vote should be allowed. And should that happen, Turnbull has indicated willingness to co-sponsor the bill.
It is far to early to predict, but Abbott has made a statement that could hint at a potential compromise. (Pink News)
On Friday, Mr Abbott said his position on the issue had not changed and that he remains opposed to equal marriage.
He said the High Court decision was obviously disappointing for the same-sex couples who had recently married in the ACT.
“They knew that there was this possibility that their marriages might fall foul of the High Court and obviously it’s disappointing for them,” he said.
“Let’s see what the future holds.”
* quotation marks are around “same-sex marriage” not as scare-quotes, but because the ACT sought to bypass federal control over marriage law by declaring that their bill was not about marriage but rather about an entirely separate institution called “same-sex marriage”.
Congregations find each other
December 4th, 2013
There’s an interesting story out of Minnesota about a pastor of a predominantly African American church who lost most of his congregation after voting for recognition of marriage equality in the United Church of Christ denomination. (Star Tribune)
[Oliver] White’s struggling, nearly 20-year-old congregation saw its situation worsen in 2005 when he voted with a majority of delegates in favor of a resolution supporting gay marriage at a national UCC assembly. His vote didn’t go over well with most of the 320 Grace Community members, White said. Membership dropped to nearly 100, he says.
Last July, the church White led for 22 years — Grace United Community Church of Christ in St. Paul — closed its doors after two thirds of the congregation left because White voiced his support for same-sex marriage.
For more than a year and without much success, White searched for a place for his remaining members to worship. Then, he called Clark Memorial United Church of Christ in South St. Paul –where the older, shrinking congregation was looking for ways to save its building.
“She said, ‘We need you and you need us. Quid pro quo,’” White recalled. “I said, ‘They got a building and I got a young congregation. Maybe this could work.’”
White’s predominantly black congregation, Grace Community, now worships alongside the mostly white members of Clark Memorial Church in South St. Paul in an unusual partnership that grew out of both congregations’ advocacy for gay rights.
“I have to scratch my head and wonder, ‘Oliver, what are you doing there?’ ” said White, 71, during a recent interview. “Then I come to realize, we’re all people and if I can be an advocate for the LGBT community, then why can’t I be an advocate for bringing people together in one accord, which is what I’m trying to do.”
I’m sure the very different worship traditions are new and challenging to both congregations, but also probably quite exciting.
Filipino President ambivalent about marriage
December 4th, 2013
Filipino President Benigno Aquino remains uncommitted on the issue of marriage equality: (Rappler)
“One side of me says human rights are supposed to be universal. On the other hand, if we go into gay marriages, then of course the next step will be adoption and I don’t know if… I still have to look at it from the child’s perspective,” he said. “Is that something that is desirable in an environment for a child?”
Aquino also questioned whether it would affect the children in “understanding the world” or if it would “induce more confusion.”
His stance is the same as his original opinion from two years ago.
This could be a reflection of the position of the nation. The Philippines is heavily Catholic and (ironically) history suggests that such demographics open opportunities for marriage equality advancement.
Israel moves closer to couple recognition
December 4th, 2013
On Sunday morning the Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs authorized a new bill which attempts to mend the Income Tax Act and grant same-sex couples with children the same tax exemptions enjoyed by their heterosexual counterparts.
“We are talking about tens of thousands of shekels given to the parents of children under 18, sums which were prevented from same-sex parents,” said MK Adi Kol (Yesh Atid) who proposed the bill.
In addition there are proposed bills that would allow secular marriage, including same-sex marriage. Currently in Israel all marriages are distinctly religious and are under the auspices of religious bodies, mostly Orthodox Judaism. Secular and other marriages that would not be allowed to be conducted in Israel are nevertheless recognized by the state.
Giving a boost to the movement is the endorsement of President Shimon Peres
In an interview with Ynet on Sunday while in Mexico’s Guadalajara, Peres said that “even a person who is a homosexual is a human being, and he has rights. We have no power to take away (their) rights.”
Peres added: “We cannot take away someone’s rights because they are different. We cannot take away their right to breathe, right to eat or right to start a family. We must allow everyone to live as is natural to them.”