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“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for January, 2009

Gay Mayor Sworn In

Jim Burroway

January 3rd, 2009

Sam Adams, who was elected to replace Portland Oregon’s outgoing mayor Tom Potter, was sworn into office on New Years Day. About 40 people were present, including Adams’ partner Peter Zuckerman. Portland is now the largest U.S. city with an openly gay mayor.

Indian Tribe Recognizes Same-Sex Marriage

Timothy Kincaid

August 20th, 2008

The Coquille, a Native American tribe in southern Oregon have become the first in the United States to decide to recognize same-sex marriage (The Oregonian).

As a federally recognized sovereign nation, the tribe is not bound by Oregon’s constitution. And on May 8, the tribe adopted a law that recognizes same-sex marriage and extends to gay and lesbian couples all the tribal benefits of marriage.

And while the state cannot interfere in inter-tribal matters, the planned marriage between Kitzen and Jeni Branting could play a part in a larger legal question.

Because the Coquille is federally recognized, a marriage “occurring within the tribe would actually be federally recognized,” Gilley said. And that would violate the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that says the federal government “may not treat same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose.”

As a result, the marriage between the Brantings – who share the same last name after changing it to reflect their commitment – could become a test case if challenged by the federal government. Gilley said it could test the boundaries of tribal independence nationwide. .

“This could be a test of sovereignty,” he said.

Anti-Gay Activists Surrender From Coast to Coast

Jim Burroway

June 19th, 2008

Anti-gay activists in Maine and Oregon have abandoned efforts to repeal nondiscrimination laws.

First in Maine, where an effort to repeal that state’s anti-discrimination laws have floundered:

An initiative campaign to repeal Maine’s gay rights law and put in place roadblocks to gay marriages and adoptions is being abandoned, leaders of the campaign said Thursday.

“We’re pulling the plug,” said Michael Heath, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine. Heath said the evangelical group failed to attract voter, volunteer and financial support it needed to continue its campaign.

This is yet another indication that the tide may be turning. As we reported on Monday, Oregon anti-gay activists abandoned their efforts to repeal two state laws. One initiative targeted a state law banning discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. The other initiative sought to repeal that state’s domestic partnership law. Now they’ve conceded that they can’t collect enough signatures in time:

Organizers conceded Monday that their initiatives to repeal two Oregon gay rights laws will not make the November ballot.

The fact that the initiatives are stalled offers more evidence that opponents are losing support, say gay rights activists, who were also celebrating the legalization of same-sex marriages in California on Monday.

But conservatives and church groups that are pushing the Oregon initiatives say their support is growing. “We’re just getting stronger,” said Marylin Shannon of Brooks, a former Republican state senator and chief petitioner in the initiative drives. “The network is growing daily.”

Marylin’s bluster is so precious, isn’t it?

Oregonians Support Civil Unions

Timothy Kincaid

June 16th, 2008

Oregon Live reports:

Social conservatives and church groups are admitting defeat in their efforts to collect signatures for initiatives to repeal two Oregon gay rights laws in this November’s election.

The campaigns were aimed at derailing a domestic partnership law and another new law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. Both were enacted by the 2007 Legislature.

32% of US Citizens Covered by Couple Recognition

Timothy Kincaid

May 29th, 2008

With the announcement by Governor Paterson of New York that his state would enact policies to recognize out of state same-sex marriages (in accordance with a court ruling), the gay citizens of the first and third largest states now can rest assured that their state government will honor their marriages.

Though same-sex marriages may (as of June 17th) take place only in Massachusetts and California, such marriages are now recognized in New York and (perhaps) Rhode Island. In total 63 million Americans, or 20.7%, live in marriage recognition states.

States that allow all or nearly all of the attributes of marriage under some other name, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Oregon, contribute another 18 million, or 5.9%. Those who offer limited recognition, Washington, Maine, Hawaii, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, have populations totaling 15 million or 5.0%.

In total 31.6% of US residents are able to avail themselves of protections for their same-sex families.

The sky hasn’t fallen.

Portland Elects Gay Mayor

Jim Burroway

May 21st, 2008

Portland mayor Sam AdamsPortland elected Sam Adams to be the city’s mayor yesterday, making Portland the largest city so far to elect an openly gay city executive. As of 11:33 PDT last night, he was leading his closest rival, businessman Sho Dozono by a margin of 58% to 34% with 77% of the votes counted.

“I’m running not to be a gay mayor, but a great mayor,” he said after giving his victory speech last night. “But I’m very cognizant, very aware that I’m the first openly gay mayor of a major American city. That’s a real honor”

Marriage Rights Around the World

Timothy Kincaid

May 15th, 2008

The following countries offer some form of recognition to same-sex couples:

Marriage

Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, United States (Massachusetts, California)

Civil Unions

New Zealand, Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul), Argentina (Buenos Aires, Rio Negro), Mexico (Coahuila), Uruguay, United States (Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey)

Registered Partnership or Domestic Partnership

Denmark, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Finland, Luxembourg, , Slovenia, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Italy (City of Padua), Switzerland, Hungary, Australia (Tasmania), United States (Maine, Washington, Oregon)

Other Methods of Limited Recognition

France (PACS), Germany (Life Partnership), Croatia (Law of Same-Sex Relationships), Andorra (Stable Union of a Couple), Mexico (Mexico City – PACS), Colombia (Common-law marriage inheritance rights), Israel (Limited recognition of foreign legal arrangements), United States (Hawaii – Reciprocal Benefits; New York – recognition of out-of-state legal marriages)

Although recognition is in a rapid state of change, this is my best understanding of the current rights provided. Several nations are in the process of adding or revising recognition.

Oregon Activists Seek To Repeal Civil Unions

Jim Burroway

April 1st, 2008

Last February, we reported that Oregon’s civil unions law finally went into effect after a last minute court challenge was set aside. That victory however wasn’t enough to deter anti-gay activists from trying to turn back the clock.  State Rep. Sal Esquivel, state Senator Gary Georgeand former Sen. Marilyn Shannon filed Initiative Petition 146 Monday with the Oregon Secretary of State to repeal the Family Fairness Act. The group needs to collect 82,769 signatures to put it on the ballot.

This initiative petition joins two others which seek to set aside the new civil unions law. Another initiative seeks to set aside Oregon’s recently enacted anti-discrimination law.

Paying More – Getting Less

Timothy Kincaid

March 26th, 2008

gaytax1.bmpHey gay couples, grab your checkbooks. It’s that time of year where you get to pay more than your brother and his wife.

If you are part of a couple, you usually would benefit from filing an income tax return as a married couple. While this is not always the case, it is especially true for those couples in which one of the partners has a much lower income than the other.

Some states have decided that they value their gay citizens and seek to encourage stable families and have changed their laws so as to treat gay couples the same as heterosexual couples in their tax law. Massachusetts, California, Vermont, and Connecticut all allow for couples to file joint tax returns (this may also be the case in New Jersey, New Hampshire, Maine, Washington and Oregon and perhaps for some Rhode Island and New York residents – I haven’t researched every state).

But while this is to be commended and advanced in more states, it isn’t as simple as it seems. The federal government doesn’t care what the states have determined, they only recognize marriage as between a man and a woman. Thus, gay couples get to jump through hoops and make multiple tax returns. This becomes costly whenever you have a complicated return.

For example, a California couple in a Domestic Partnership has to prepare its state return as though they were a married couple. But CA tax law relies on federal tax treatment of certain situations, so this couple often has to prepare a federal income tax return as a married couple in order to apply the appropriate treatment on their state returns.

But they can’t file that federal joint return. The IRS won’t accept it. Instead they have to prepare federal returns as though they were unrelated roommates.

Add in some complexity, such as multiple state returns, and you may end up paying your accountant a much higher rate due to the extra time they incur.

If you can. Some accountants may not be familiar with the procedures at all.

H&R Block, the nation’s largest tax firm, is being sued by the ACLU because their online do-it-yourself system can’t accomodate Connecticut’s civil unions. Connecticut gay couples have to pay about $150 more and go into the H&R Block office in order to get their returns prepared correctly.

So the next time you hear some anti-gay whine about “special rights”, remind them that you pay more for your government than they do.

UPDATE

Reader John brought to my attention one of the stupidest and cruelest inconsistencies.

If your brother receives insurance covering his wife, it’s a tax free benefit. If you receive insurance covering your same-sex spouse, the federal government considers that to be a taxable part of your income. Yes, they actually make you pay income taxes on the amount of health insurance that you receive from your company for your spouse if you are gay.

I guess that concern about Americans without health insurance extends only to heterosexuals.

Oregon Civil Unions Get The Go-Ahead

Jim Burroway

February 1st, 2008

Just a few days before Oregon’s civil unions law was to go in effect on January 1, U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman issued a temporary injunction bringing the plans for countless couples to a halt.

Judge Mosman acted on a suit brought by opponents to Oregon’s civil unions law who sought to overturn the legislature’s action by placing a referendum on the ballot. Their petition drive however drive fell 96 signatures short of the 55,179 needed put the measure on the ballot. The lawsuit, brought by the Alliance Defense Fund, claimed that signatures were wrongly rejected.

Yesterday, Judge Mosman, a 2003 Bush appointee, lifted his injunction and ruled for the lawyers for the state and Basic Rights Oregon. The Alliance Defense Fund promised to appeal, and anti-gay activists said they would start another petition drive.

Were Oregon Domestic Partnerships Put on Hold by an Activist Judge?

Timothy Kincaid

December 31st, 2007

UPDATED

mosman.jpgWhen courts find that constitutional protections include gay people, anti-gays often raise the cry of “Activist Judge”. It seems to matter little if the judge has a long history of conservative affiliation or careful judicial determination.

Well, it may be that in the latest judicial decision on the rights of same-sex couples there actually was an activist judge, an anti-gay activist judge.

This is not Judge Michael W. Mosman’s first words on gay couples and their right to equivalent treatment. An Oregonian article from April 21, 2003 (via www.sodomylaws.org) provides us with some disturbing precedent.

Mosman, 46, emerged as the top candidate in January after Ray Baum, a lawyer for Smith’s family business, withdrew. But controversy erupted in March, when Basic Rights disclosed Mosman’s role in a pivotal 1986 case, Bowers V. Hardwick.

The group uncovered and presented to Smith two “bench memos” that Mosman had written as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. Mosman urged Powell to uphold Georgia’s anti-sodomy law against a claim that police invaded a man’s privacy by arresting him in his home.

Powell, who was the tie-breaking vote, later regretting making the legal decision to deny the same constitutional protections to the sex life of gay couples that the Supreme Court granted to heterosexual couples. It would not be until Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 that gay persons would no longer be automatic criminals in many states.

It is unclear at this point whether Mosman’s advice to Powell was due to legal position or how much was due to his own religious idealogy. In a book referenced by the article he suggest that another legal argument might have been more convincing. However, the language used by Mosman in 1986 makes quite clear that at that time he did not include gay and lesbian families within even the broadest definition of “family relationship”.

“Without belaboring the point, I am convinced that the right of privacy as it relates to this case has been limited thus far to marriage and other family relationships,” Mosman wrote to Powell. “So limited, the right of privacy does not extend to protect ‘sexual freedom’ in the absence of fundamental values of family and procreation.”

Judge Mosman met with the Democratic Oregon Senator, Ron Wyden, at the time of his confimation and convinced him of his impartiality and that he was not an anti-gay advocate. I am wondering if Wyden regrets his support. For that matter, I wonder if Senator Gordon Smith, the Republican who nominated him is having second thoughts. Both are long time allies of the gay community with Senator Smith often leading Republican support in the Senate.

In the upcoming months we will see whether or not this judge is abusing his authority to impose on Oregonians his own personal values. I’m not encouraged that the judge found a new “fundamental right” where none had been before – what appears to be a “fundamental right” not to have your signature disqualified if it doesn’t meet the established decades-standing requirements that were known to all upon the distribution of petitions. Further he determined that allowing gay Oregonians to form domestic partnerships would do irreparible harm to the anti-gay activists in Arizona (or perhaps to local anti-gays, I’m not certain) that were fighting against any measure of equality and dignity for gay persons.

We will, of course, keep you updated.

UPDATE

Judge Mosman ruled for the state and for gay couples. Clearly my concerns were unwarranted.

It feels wonderful to be wrong about him.

On Monday Night, Pop a Cork or Light a Candle

Timothy Kincaid

December 30th, 2007

us_ssm_laws.pngAfter midnight while the world is celebrating a new year, gay couples in New Hampshire will be celebrating new equality. Civil Unions will become legal there.

Meanwhile those couples in Oregon who were expecting to join in Domestic Partnerships will have a while longer to wait. The state has a peculiar system whereby a law can be delayed in implementation if there are enough signatures collected to force a vote of the populace.

Those who opposed allowing same-sex couples have any rights similar to those granted to opposite-sex couples gathered signatures but fell 96 short of the 55,179 required to stop the law. However they were able to find a judge to put the celebrations on a hold until he can hear their complaints about possible legal signatures that were invalidated.

The surprise ruling comes four days before the law would allow gay couples to gain most of the same legal benefits of marriage. Couples across Oregon were planning to show up at county offices Wednesday to register as partners.

But U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman ruled that they will have to wait. He set a Feb. 1 hearing to decide a lawsuit challenging the state’s methods for verifying signatures on a November 2008 referendum.

Mosman said attorneys for opponents showed that the rights of voters may have been violated if their signatures were wrongly rejected. Setting the next hearing in a month reduces the harm to people who would be affected by the new law, he said.

Those who had hoped to strengthen their families will instead light a candle.

In New Hampshire champagne will flow and tears and smiles abound in midnight ceremonies planned by those who just can’t wait any longer.

Whether you will be lighting a candle or toasting in new freedoms, have a very happy, healthy and sane New Year. And resolve to do your part in 2008 to bring about equality for gay couples across the nation and around the world.

Oregon Domestic Partners Breathe Easy Again

Timothy Kincaid

October 8th, 2007

As we reported a few weeks ago, the Oregon state legislature voted in a domestic partnership law. Oregon laws can be challenged by petition and signature efforts were made to halt this bill until it was defeated (or ratified) by referendum.

KVAL is reporting that although Let Oregon Vote had turned in 63,000 signatures, not enough were valid.

State elections officials reported Monday the effort fell only 116 valid signatures short of the 55,179 needed to suspend the law and place it on the November 2008 ballot for a popular vote.

That means that as of Jan. 1, Oregon will join eight other states that have approved spousal rights in some form for same-sex couples – Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, California, Washington and Hawaii.

It has not yet been announced whether a petition to reverse the companion non-discrimination bill has received enough valid signatures to go on the ballot.

Pro-Discrimination Group Seeking Last Minute Signatures

Timothy Kincaid

September 26th, 2007

Oregon has a provision whereby a vote of the legislature can be put to a vote of the people if adequate signatures can be obtained. Oregon has 2.1 million registered voters and requires 55,179 voters to sign a petition in order for the issue to reach the ballot.

Anti-gay activists in Oregon are collecting signatures to put SB2 – an anti-discrimination law – and HB2007 – a civil unions bill – up to the vote of the people.

Today at 3:00 pm is the deadline for turning in these signatures and placing the legislative action on the 2008 ballot. Otherwise they become law.

According to the Statesman Journal, as of Tuesday the group seeking to keep discrimination legal and civil unions absent had about 55,000 signatures. However, they are still seeking a buffer of about 8,000 signatures as there are always signatures that are not valid on every petition. If they do not get their buffer, they will not file.

UPDATE

Per Oregon Live,

Marylin Shannon, a former state senator and spokeswoman for Defense of Marriage Again, said the groups had delivered nearly 63,000 signatures to overturn each of the two laws.

Now the verification process begins (probably by sampling). If the Secretary of State determines that there are adequate signatures, the two bills go to the voters for confirmation in November 2008.

Domestic Partnership, Non-Discrimination Laws Signed In Oregon

Jim Burroway

May 9th, 2007

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed two important bills into law today. One will allow same-sex couples to enter into “domestic partnerships,” with many of the benefits currently available to married couples. The other bans discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders in employment, housing and other public accommodations. Both become effective January 1.

Oregon joins California, Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington state in offering civil unions or domestic partnerships, although the definitions vary widely among these states. Only Massachusetts allows same-sex marriage. New Hampshire’s legislature recently passed its own civil unions bill which is expected to be signed into law soon.

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