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Posts for August, 2013

NOM Threatens To Demonstrate Its Own Irrelevance

Jim Burroway

August 1st, 2013

The National Organization for Marriage has resonded to the arrival of marriage equality in Rhode Island and Minnesota today with another promise to retaliate against state lawmakers and roll back the clock:

With marriage having been redefined and same-sex ‘marriages’ beginning today in Minnesota and Rhode Island, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) today reminded state politicians that it will work to hold them accountable to voters come election day. NOM has pledged to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to make sure that voters know who is responsible for redefining marriage.

…Virtually no politician in Minnesota or Rhode Island ran on a platform that openly pledged that he or she would redefine marriage if elected to office. Yet, when given the opportunity, they did so. NOM has pledged to spend up to $500,000 in Minnesota and $100,000 in Rhode Island informing voters about the issues.

“When the inevitable consequences happen, we will make sure that voters know who is responsible for them,” Brown said. “This issue is far from settled in either of these states.”

NOM’s track record for retaliation against lawmakers is, well, not very impressive. So all that money they’re pledging to spend in Minnesota and Rhode Island? Be my guest.

Churches in Minnesota get ready for same-sex marriages

Timothy Kincaid

July 22nd, 2013

The concept of conducting a same-sex marriage may not seem to be tough; you just do what you would do with an opposite-sex couple. But in practice, there are some differences that require pastors to adjust.

From the Austin (Minnesota) Daily Herald:

At Edina Morningside Community Church, a United Church of Christ congregation, Pastor Rosemary Rocha will be performing her first same-sex marriage at the church next month. When talking to the two men who want to be married by her, Rocha says she asked them, “Do I pronounce you husband and husband? … I think we’re looking at I’m to pronounce them ‘married.’?”

“I’ve been learning along the way,” Rocha added. “Because we don’t have a big population of LGBT people in our church, it’s important for me to educate and familiarize myself with some of the issues. You can’t just go assuming … there are some things that might be the same for same-gender and male-female weddings. But what does it mean for a gay couple … who have been in love, cared about people, and been denied this? ”

Ex-Gay Leader Sentenced For Criminal Sexual Assault of Male Clients

Jim Burroway

June 19th, 2013

Longtime pastor Ryan Jay Muehlhauser of Cambridge, Minnesota was charged last November with eight counts of felony, fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in  case involving two adult males who came to him for counseling aimed at changing their sexual orientation:

Muehlhauser pleaded guilty to two of those counts Feb. 28. Under the plea agreement, Muehlhauser will serve 160 days in Isanti County Jail, remain on supervised probation for 10 years and register as a predatory offender. The other six counts were dismissed. Under state sentencing guidelines, a prison sentence can’t be ordered for fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

…Muehlhauser previously admitted in court that he engaged in sexual contact with two adult males. He admitted the sexual contact with one of the victims took place throughout October 2012 inside the prayer cabin located on the church property while he was providing spiritual advice in his role as pastor. He admitted to placing his hands on the victim’s genital area and suggesting the victim fondle himself.

He also admitted the sexual contact with the second victim occurred from March 1, 2012 through Nov. 4, 2012. He admitted to feeling the victim’s genital area and calling the sexual encounters “blessings.” He said he committed these acts for his own sexual gratification.

Both victims remain unnamed. One victim said that he met Muehlhauser at an event sponsored by Outpost Ministries, one of the ex-gay ministries that have joined the Restored Hope Network. Outpost director Nate Oyloe will be speaking at RHN’s convention this weekend. Oyloe also heads the Twin Cities House of Prayer, which has links to Mike Bicke’s Kansas City-based International House of Prayer, a movement which counts Lou Engle as among its most prominent adherents.

It’s Official! Minnesota Is An Equality State!

Jim Burroway

May 14th, 2013

Fireworks over Minneapolis

You remember how every time a new state or country completed the process of granting marriage equality for same-sex couples, we’d post a picture of fireworks. But in the past two weeks, we’ve had Rhode Island and Delaware do that, and we’ve had a hard time mustering the energy to Google “Fireworks Providence” to find a photo to swipe. And it’s not just BTB. I noticed our local paper, the otherwise somewhat left-of-center Arizona Daily Star, burying the Minnesota story deep inside — in the B section, no less, under one of those “Around the Nation” aggregations.

But when Minnesota’s Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL) signed that state’s marriage equality legislation in an outdoor ceremony on the Capital steps this afternoon, Minnesota became the first Midwestern state to legalize same-sex marriage as a result of legislative action and not by court order, and it became the twelth state nationally to provide marriage equality. As Gov. Dayton said:

“Progress has often been difficult, controversial and, initially, divisive,” Dayton said. “However, it has always been the next step ahead to fulfilling this country’s promise to every American.”

That next step will take place on August 1 when the new marriage law goes into effect.

Minnesota Says “Yah, Sure! You Betcha!”

Jim Burroway

May 13th, 2013

In anticipation of today’s Senate vote, St. Paul Mayor Chris Colman temporarily renamed the Wabash Street Bridge “Freedom to Marry Bridge” for this week, and ordered it decorated with Rainbow flags.

The Minnesota Senate approved HF1054, the marriage equality bill, in a 37-30 vote this afternoon. One Republican — Branden Petersen (Andover) — voted for marriage equality. He was one of the bill’s co-sponsorsin the Senate, and the first Republican legislator to voice his support for the bill despite his district voting to approve the failed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2012. Three DFLers — LeRoy Stumpf (Plummer), Lyle Koenenb (Clara City), Dan Sparks (Austin) — cast their lot on the wrong side of history. The final vote came after the Senate blocked a proposed amendment which would have eviscerated the state’s anti-discrimination laws. That amendment went down in a 25-42 vote.

Gov. Mark Dayton has announced that he will sign the bill during a ceremony tomorrow afternoon. When the bill goes into effect August 1, Minnesota will become the twelfth state, in addition to the District of COlumbia, to provide marriage equality for same-sex couples. It will also be the first Midwestern state to do so solely on a legislative action without a precipitating court order.

Minnesota House Approves Marriage Equality

Jim Burroway

May 9th, 2013

Opponents and supporters of marriage equality rally outside the House chamber. (Glen Stubbe/Star-Tribune)

Following three hours of debate, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed HF1054, a bill which grants marriage equality for same-sex couples. The tally had been expected to be close with no Republican support in the DFL-controlled legislature (DFL: Democratic, Farm, Labor, what the Minnesota Democratic party calls itself). But in the end, David FitzSimmons (R-Albertville), Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington), Andrea Kieffer (R-Woodbury) and Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie) joined seventy-one DFLers to pass the bill with a vote of 75-59. None of the Republicans had declared their support before the debate. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

Loon says she decided during the debate. Garofalo and FitzSimmons say an amendment to fortify religious protections was key. Kieffer was unavailable for comment.

The two DFLers against the marriage bill were Patti Fritz of Faribault and Mary Sawatzky of Willmar. Both come from districts that heavily supported a gay marriage ban.

A good chunk of the three hour debate dealt with an amendment offered by Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing) which would have converted the entire bill into a civil unions bill. That amendment was rejected 22-111. Another amendment proposed by FitzSimmons which added the word “civil” before the word “marriage” wherever it appeared in the Minnesota statutes. That amendment passed on a voice vote, which brought FitzSimmons and Garofalo on board.

Observers had expected that the marriage bill would have had a tougher time passing the House than the Senate. But with that hurdle out of the way, the bill is now expected to be approved by the Senate soon, perhaps as early as Monday. Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL) has promised to sign the bill if it reaches his desk. The bill would go into effect August 1.

Minnesota is poised to become the twelfth state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to provide marriage equality for same-sex couples. It will also become the first state in the Midwest to do so as the result of a legislature initiative.

Will Minnesota Be Number Twelve?

Jim Burroway

May 8th, 2013

It’s suddenly looking that way. The Minnesota House has called for a vote on a marriage equality bill for tomorow:

House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said he believes the 73-member DFL majority has the 68 votes needed to pass the bill allowing same-sex couples to wed, even without a single Republican vote.

As of late Tuesday, no GOP House members have said publicly they would vote “yes.”

Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leaders say they also have the votes to pass a same-sex marriage bill, and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton says he’ll sign it.

The Senate may vote on the bill as early as this Saturday. One GOP Senator, Branden Petersen (Andover), supports the bill. Some state Republicans, despite their opposition, see marriage equality as inevitable:

“Is it inevitable? I’d say probably,” said Rep. Michael Beard, R-Shakopee. “I mean, marriage is what it is, but they are redefining words and redefining meanings that have been in use for centuries because it is the cause of the week, the flavor of the month.”

The law, if passed, will go into effect August 1.

Minnesota House vote on marriage this Thursday

Timothy Kincaid

May 7th, 2013

From the Pioneer Press

A bill that would legalize gay marriage will get a vote on the Minnesota House floor Thursday, signaling supporters have the votes to pass the legislation.

As House Speaker Paul Thissen has said that he won’t schedule a vote until he is sure of success, this bodes well. The Senate also seems to be a sure thing.

In anticipation of the response I predict Brian Brown of National Organization for (limiting) Marriage will say:

“Minnesota is not a trend. It’s just a blue state. That doesn’t mean anything, I still have Alabama!! I’m going to win. I am. I am. I am. My Cardinal told me so!”

Minnesota DFL representative Rev. Tim Faust cites religious freedom for his position on marriage bill

Timothy Kincaid

May 6th, 2013

Rev. Tim Faust is the pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in rural Minnesota. Faust is also the local representative to the Minnesota House. And he’s been one of the DFL (Democratic) reps from a conservative district about which there has been uncertainty as to how he will vote on marriage. His district supported the (failed) anti-gay marriage amendment last year by about 60%.

Now Faust has decided that it is important to consider religious freedom in the upcoming bill: (SeattlePI)

“We have churches that want to bless legal gay marriages. The only way to give them that option is to pass this bill,” Faust said.

So Faust will be siding with religious freedom and supporting equality. I don’t know if Faust’s church will be one that blesses legal gay marriages, but he is affiliated with Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and ELCA gives its member churches that choice.

Movement in Minnesota’s marriage bill

Timothy Kincaid

May 6th, 2013

There’s movement today on the Minnesota marriage bill, but it may be movement sideways. The StarTribune is reporting an impromptu committee hearing:

The House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to review the legislation Monday. That’s after a state analysis showed a small impact on Minnesota’s general fund.

The analysis by Minnesota’s budget office predicts that if gay marriage becomes legal, 114 state employees would enroll in state benefits for their married partners. That would cost the state about $688,000 a year. But it would be partly offset by about $190,000 from same-sex couples buying marriage licenses.

Minnesota lawmaker chooses integrity

Timothy Kincaid

May 3rd, 2013

From CBS Minnesota:

A freshman Democratic state representative from a socially conservative district said Friday that he’d support the bill to legalize gay marriage in Minnesota, a key pickup for supporters as votes on the issue get closer at the Capitol.

Rep. Joe Radinovich, of Crosby, had been undecided. He said he decided more than a decade ago that he personally supports letting same-sex couples legally marry, but was conflicted knowing that many residents of his Brainerd-area district are more skeptical.

“This was not an easy decision, but at the end of the day I’d rather protect my integrity than my job,” Radinovich told The Associated Press. The 27-year-old lawmaker won his seat by just 323 votes last fall.

I believe that by the time he runs again, this vote will likely not cost him. However, we can’t know that so he’s showing courage today. And regardless of the outcome, he gets to hold his head high.

GOP Billionaires lobby for equality

Timothy Kincaid

April 28th, 2013

We first became aware of American Unity PAC when a handful of Wall Street financiers who support Republican candidates decided that it was time that marriage equality came to New York State. And it was to a large extent their influence which resulted in the Republican Senate Majority Leader to bring marriage to a vote with enough Republican votes for passage.

Having had success locally, they’ve now decided to export their efforts to other states and to be proactive in lobbying for the cause. (WaPo)

American Unity PAC was formed last year to lend financial support to Republicans who bucked the party’s longstanding opposition to gay marriage. Its founders are launching a new lobbying organization, American Unity Fund, and already have spent more than $250,000 in Minnesota, where the Legislature could vote on the issue as early as next week.

The group has spent $500,000 on lobbying since last month, including efforts in Rhode Island, Delaware, Indiana, West Virginia and Utah.

I am certain their influence played some role in the five Republican Rhode Island Senators voting for equality and, as the vote in each of these states needs Republican support for passage, I am extremely grateful for their support.

GOP tries unsuccessfully to block Minnesota marriage bill

Timothy Kincaid

March 14th, 2013

A series of procedural votes suggest that marriage will pass the Minnesota Senate. (PostBulletin)

While the votes were procedural, Republicans portrayed a final floor vote as a functional vote on gay marriage. That motion, which adds the bill to a long list of bills awaiting action on the Senate floor, passed 35-31. One Republican senator joined all but four of the chamber’s Democrats to keep the bill moving.

But it is the argument in opposition that floors me. Having discovered that marriage equality is coming to Minnesota, Senate Republicans have suddenly found a concern over the fiscal impact of marriage.

On Wednesday, Senate Republicans produced a document they said shows that authorizing gay marriage could cost the state’s insurance fund over $600,000 a year to provide coverage to spouses of gay state employees. They questioned whether it could also increase court costs or have other ramifications on state spending, and said the bill should be reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees spending.

“I think it’s going to cost the state of Minnesota a bunch of money,” said Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson. “I think that impact is going to be significant. If I’m wrong, so be it.”

So that’s why they oppose equality. Not because it is gay people we are talking about, but because treating all of the state’s citizens equally would increase the annual state budget by 0.0018 percent.

As a fiscal conservative – and an accountant – this argument is far far more offensive than worries about The Children, or the Traditional Definition of Marriage, or even The End of Civilization As We Know It.

This is an acknowledgment that gay citizens are treated unequally. This is a calculation of the cost to the gay and lesbian citizens of Minnesota that they unfairly pay. And the argument is that although gays and lesbians receive $600,000 less in state services – services freely given to straight state employees but for which gay state employees have to reach in their own pocket – this discrimination should continue because equality would increase the budget by about 1.8 thousands of a percent.

As an argument for tossing the right to a citizen’s self determination out the window, this is about as offensive and stupid as it gets.

The Second Most Powerful Testimony in Favor of Equality (UPDATED)

Jim Burroway

March 12th, 2013

Timothy presented the most powerful testimony from a hearing held by a Minnesota House Committee. For your consideration, I present the second most powerful testimony from the same venue for our side – which just happens to be Mike Frey testifying for their side.

By the way, a Minnesota Senate committee was also holding hearings today on a bill to provide marriage equality to same-sex couples. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill in a 5-3 party-line vote, and it will now go on to the full Senate. Marriage supporters believed that the Senate committee posed a higher hurdle than the House committee, which is expecte to vote later this evening. Full floor votes will likely be weeks or months away, as legislative leaders vow to press on with budget bills before taking up the measure.

Update: The House Civil Law Committee passed the bill this evening on a 10-7 party-line vote. The bill now advances to the full House, but is not expected to be voted on until much later in the legislative session.

The most powerful testimony in favor of equality

Timothy Kincaid

March 12th, 2013

Today, former GOP Representative Lynne Osterman testified in favor of marriage equality. Her testimony is, in my opinion, the most powerful argument that can be made for why you must do what is right.

If you watch no other testimony on marriage, watch this.

Minnesota marriage bill has enough votes to pass Tuesday’s committee hearing

Timothy Kincaid

March 7th, 2013

AP is reporting:

Nine of 17 members of the House Civil Law Committee tell The Associated Press they’ll vote yes at a hearing Tuesday. That’s enough to move the bill to the House floor and a vote by all 134 representatives.

Passage by the Senate Judiciary Committee also looks likely. Four of eight members say they’ll vote yes, and a fifth says she supports gay marriage but wouldn’t reveal her vote.

Over at NOMblog, they are reporting crickets.

Some Minnesota kid’s pro-gay opinion is probably more important than we would guess

Timothy Kincaid

March 6th, 2013

My first response to this article was “that’s vaguely interesting”: (sfgate)

The two-term chairman of the Minnesota College Republicans on Wednesday became the latest from his party to support legalizing gay marriage in the state.

Ryan Lyk told The Associated Press he wants people to know that not just Democrats support gay marriage. He released a statement of support in conjunction with Minnesotans United, the political group pursuing a gay marriage bill that could get a vote later this spring at the Capitol.

But on second thought, this may be a story that has more importance than attention. Lyk’s opinion, as just some college kid, is fairly inconsequential. But as the head of an organization that liaises between Republican legislators and the youth vote, that brings speakers to campus, that facilitates and mans the get-out-the-vote and other precinct walking endeavors, his opinion matters a great deal.

And in today’s political climate, in which Republicans are desperately looking for youth to point at as evidence that they are not becoming irrelevant, someone like Lyk probably has greater access and influence than has most often been the case.

So perhaps it is worth noting that the chairman of the Minnesota College Republicans has come out for equality.

Minnesota GOP leaders fall on either side of marriage debate

Timothy Kincaid

February 27th, 2013

This week has seen a number of prominent Republicans speak out in favor of equality. But not all GOP members are signed on for a new perspective on marriage or ready to apply laws equally to all of a state’s citizens. Some Republican legislators in Minnesota rallied today to announce their opposition to that state’s move towards allowing same sex couples the same access to marriage law as heterosexual couples. (CBS)

The gay marriage bill was unveiled Wednesday at the Capitol. Its backers say last fall’s defeat of a constitutional gay marriage ban shows the state is ready for gay marriages.

But Republicans say voters only rejected putting the ban in the constitution, and that it shouldn’t be seen as an endorsement of gay marriage. About 15 GOP lawmakers gathered for a press conference against the bill.

Meanwhile one more prominent Minnesota Republican has added her voice in support. Patricia Anderson served as Minnesota State Auditor from 2003-07 and as Republican National Committeewoman from 2011-12. She has also run as a Republican candidate for governor and currently serves as the chair of the Fourth Congressional District Republicans. (Pioneer Press)

If we are truly the party of freedom and limited government, what justification is there to use the power of government to restrict people’s lives?

Overwhelmingly, younger generations support marriage for same-sex couples, and I agree with Sen. Petersen that it is inevitable. As a mother of generally Republican-leaning children in high school and college, it was difficult to explain to them why our party took the position it did. The philosophical double standard was troublesome, to say the least.

I believe it is time for Minnesota state law to finally reflect the fact that marriage is about the love, commitment and responsibility that two people share. Marriage is good for children, and it strengthens families and communities. If we truly believe these things, I cannot think of any valid reason for our state to continue to exclude same-sex couples from having the opportunity to marry and pursue happiness like anyone else.

See also a Minnesota Post interview.

Minnesota marriage bill to get bipartisan sponsorship

Timothy Kincaid

February 20th, 2013

From the StarTribune:

Republican state Sen. Branden Petersen is preparing to become a co-sponsor of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota.

Having a Republican co-author would be an enormous political coup for same-sex marriage advocates as they prepare to unveil their proposal in the days ahead. Petersen would become the first Republican legislator to publicly support same-sex marriage, highlighting the rapidly changing dynamics of the issue at the Capitol.

What makes this a bit interesting is that just a year ago he voted to put Minnesota’s anti-gay marriage amendment on the ballot. It failed by a 51 – 48 margin (1% left their ballot blank and they were counted as “no”).

What makes this shocking is where Petersen hails from, Anoka County. His neighbors’ kids attend the Anoka-Hennepin School District, perhaps the most hostile to their gay children in the nation. His hometown banned a support group for at-risk gay youth from participating in the Halloween Parade. His constituents regularly reelect Michele Bachmann.

Part of Petersen’s decision may be based in his observations about Illinois. There GOP Senators demanded changes to the proposed bill to appease concerns of their constituents. But just a month before they had been given a bill with those conditions in it and they rallied in opposition; so Democrats, who now control the legislature with votes to spare, felt no need to give any consideration to the Republicans’ newfound call for compromise.

Petersen said he has several concerns that must be addressed before he will sign onto the measure. He wants to add language guaranteeing that any religious leader can choose not to wed same-sex couples. He also insists that kids in same-sex marriages have the same financial guarantees as children of other married couples in time of divorce.

“It’s only a matter of time before same-sex marriage is legal,” Petersen said. “I thought it was important to engage the issue now, and when we do it, do it right, and that there’s some perspective from the people I represent in that.”

These are concerns that neither I nor the bill sponsors have a problem with. The first is constitutionally protected anyway, and the second is a responsible action that our community can support. And I think it is wise of Petersen to recognize that if you join the movement, you get to have a say in the details.

But, as will come as no surprise, Peterson is also strongly motivated by his personal relationships.

Petersen, 27, admits this is a wrenching issue for him and could be politically damaging back home. His father-in-law has been in a same-sex relationship for nearly 20 years, but Petersen says this issue has fiercely divided his family in the same way it has split the rest of the state. He started discussing the issue with colleagues, his pastor and close friends before taking his public stance.

Petersen’s support is a significant advantage for our community. As it is certain that some Democratic legislators will vote against us, we will need Republican support to win.

Marriage update – North America

Timothy Kincaid

January 25th, 2013

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

North America:

Canada - Marriage has been equal since 2005.

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

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

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

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

Current and upcoming movement on the marriage front includes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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