Washington Post -The Obama effect: Marriage equality gains ground

The Obama effect: Marriage equality gains ground
By Jonathan Capehart

A new Post-ABC News poll shows more evidence that President Obama’s announcement of support on May 9 for marriage equality may have had the power to change hearts and minds. Opposition to allowing same-sex couples to marry hit an all-time low while support is at a high.

Those giving the thumbs-up to gay nups stands at 53 percent. That’s an astounding 17-point turnaround since 2006. The number of those against is now down to 39 percent. A more startling datum shows support among African Americans spiking to 59 percent. The Post notes that this is up 18 points from polls taken before Obama’s announcement. This result comes after The Post poll last week showed that 54 percent of blacks supported the president on his completed “evolution.” Sure, the sample size of black voters in both polls was small, but that level of support is still noteworthy.

Of course, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is apoplectic over the rapid change of American public opinion. It’s especially perturbed by what appears to be a shift in black views.
Frank Schubert, NOM’s political director had this to say to The Post: “There is not a chance in God’s green earth that African Americans support same-sex marriage.” If my own born-again Christian mother is any indicator, Schubert doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Besides, Schubert’s views on blacks and marriage equality are not to be trusted. Remember, NOM is the same organization that was revealed to have a secret divide-and-conquer strategy that involved pitting white gays against black Democrats. Part of the plan was to “[f]ind, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage; develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots.” It went on to say, “No politician wants to take up and push an issue that splits the base of the party.”

But that’s exactly what Obama did. He’s doing just fine. And support for same-sex couples and their families most likely is up today because of what he did.

Los Angeles Times -Heart of gay marriage law unconstitutional, appeals court rules

Thursday, May 31, 2012
12:21 p.m. PDT

Heart of gay marriage law unconstitutional, appeals court rules

Associated Press
May 31, 2012, 8:21 a.m.
An appeals court ruled Thursday that the heart of a law that denies a host of federal benefits to gay married couples is unconstitutional.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, discriminates against married same-sex couples by denying them federal benefits.

The law was passed in 1996 at a time when it appeared Hawaii would legalize gay marriage. Since then, many states have instituted their own bans on gay marriage, while eight states have approved it, led by Massachusetts in 2004.

The appeals court agreed with a lower court judge who ruled in 2010 that the law is unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a state to define marriage and denies married gay couples federal benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including the ability to file joint tax returns.

The court didn’t rule on the law’s other provision, which said states without same-sex marriage cannot be forced to recognize gay unions performed in other states.

During arguments before the court last month, a lawyer for gay married couples said the law amounts to “across-the-board disrespect.” The couples argued that the power to define and regulate marriage had been left to the states for more than 200 years before Congress passed DOMA.

An attorney defending the law argued that Congress had a rational basis for passing it in 1996, when opponents worried that states would be forced to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere. The group said Congress wanted to preserve a traditional and uniform definition of marriage and has the power to define terms used to federal statutes to distribute federal benefits.

Since DOMA was passed in 1996, many states have instituted their own bans on gay marriage, while eight states have approved it, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, Washington state and the District of Columbia. Maryland and Washington’s laws are not yet in effect and may be subject to referendums.

Last year, President Barack Obama announced the U.S. Department of Justice would no longer defend the constitutionality of the law. After that, House Speaker John Boehner convened the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to defend it.

NY Times -Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Unions, and Domestic Partnerships (Obama)

Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Unions, and Domestic Partnerships

Lou Dematteis/Reuters
Updated: May 15, 2012

President Obama declared for the first time on May 9, 2012, that he supports same-sex marriage, putting the moral power of his presidency behind a social issue that continues to divide the country.

“At a certain point,” Mr. Obama said in an interview in the Cabinet Room at the White House with ABC’s Robin Roberts, “I’ve just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

The comments end years of public equivocating over the divisive social issue for the president, who has previously said he opposed gay marriage but repeatedly said he was “evolving” on the issue because of contact with friends and others who are gay.

Mr. Obama’s remarks — becoming the first sitting president to support extending the rights and status of marriage to gay couples — came after long-standing pressure from gay rights activists who are among his most loyal constituents but have been frustrated by his refusal to weigh in on the issue.

But the decision to risk the potential political damage in an election year appears to have been driven by the unexpected declarations of support for gay marriage by his vice president and several cabinet members.

His remarks came after Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on May 6 that he is “absolutely comfortable” with the idea of gay Americans marrying each other. Arne Duncan, the secretary education, said a day later that he flatly supports gay marriage.

In the interview, Mr. Obama spoke about how his views about same-sex marriage have changed over the years, in part because of prodding from friends who are gay.

“I had hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient,” Mr. Obama said. “I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word marriage was something that invokes very powerful traditions and religious beliefs.”

But he added that “I’ve always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally.”

Mr. Obama’s change of heart puts him at even sharper odds with his presumptive Republican rival, Mitt Romney, who opposes same-sex marriage and favors an amendment to the United States Constitution to forbid it.

Overview

Same-sex marriage became a reality in the United States in 2004 in the wake of a ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court that it was required under the equal protection clause of the state’s Constitution.

Prior to 2012, same-sex marriage was also legalized in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C.

In Washington State, a bill legalizing it was passed in February 2012, but opponents said they would seek to block it and put the question before the voters in a referendum.

In February, the New Jersey Assembly approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, setting up a confrontation with Gov. Chris Christie, who vetoed the bill and called on the Legislature to put the issue before voters instead.

Also in February, the State Legislature in Maryland gave its final approval to a same-sex marriage law, which was signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley in early March. Opponents vow to bring the measure to voters with a referendum.

In early May, North Carolina voted in large numbers for a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages, partnerships and civil unions, becoming the 30th state in the country and the last in the South to include a prohibition on gay marriage in the state constitution. North Carolina, a religious but also relatively moderate state on social issues, already has a law banning same-sex marriage. But Republican lawmakers pushed an amendment out of concern that the law was in danger of being struck down by judges.

Also in May, Colorado lawmakers reached an impasse over a bill to allow civil unions, as Republicans blocked a House vote until a deadline expired.

On May 14, a special legislative session was called by Colorado Gov. John W. Hickenlooper to debate the issue. The legislation was voted down by Republican lawmakers on a 5-to-4 vote along party lines after emotional testimony in the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, where it was assigned by Republican leadership in the House of Representatives.

In voting against the bill, Representative Don Coram, a Republican, said he was especially torn, because he has a gay son. “This is a situation that is very close to my heart,” he said. “But it’s very difficult because I also represent 75,000 people in southwest Colorado. What you are asking me to do here is to invalidate the vote of six years ago.”

Mr. Coram was referring to a 2006 amendment approved by the state’s voters that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Meanwhile, in California, a court battle continues. The state’s Supreme Court had ruled in May 2008 that a ban on same-sex marriage was discriminatory, and the state began performing them. The ban was restored in a referendum that fall by a ballot measure known as Proposition 8.

The legality of the Proposition 8 ban was upheld by the state’s Supreme Court, but in August 2011, a federal judge ruled that it was unconstitutional. In February 2012, a federal appeals court agreed. The case is expected to be resolved by the Supreme Court. For more on Proposition 8, click here.

Biden’s Comments Put Pressure on Obama

In May 2012, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriages. Until then, the Obama administration had endorsed civil unions but not marriage for gay couples.

Mr. Biden’s comments sent the White House scrambling to clarify that the vice president was not articulating an official change in policy. In the wake of Mr. Biden’s declaration, Mr. Obama was under mounting pressure to clarify his thinking on same-sex marriage.

On May 9, Mr. Obama sat down for an interview with ABC News, during which he said that he supports same-sex marriage, putting the moral power of his presidency behind a social issue that continues to divide the country.

“At a certain point,” Mr. Obama said in an interview in the Cabinet Room at the White House with ABC’s Robin Roberts, “I’ve just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

A Flashpoint in American Politics

For more than a decade, the issue has been a flashpoint in American politics, setting off waves of competing legislation, lawsuits and ballot initiatives to either legalize or ban the practice and causing rifts within religious groups.

The legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States had been a relatively recent goal of the gay-rights movement, but in the wake of the Massachusetts ruling, gay-rights organizers have placed it at the center of their agenda, steering money and muscle into dozens of state capitals in an often uphill effort to persuade lawmakers. At the same time, conservative groups pushed hard to forestall or reverse other courts through new laws or referendums.

Proponents of same-sex marriage have long argued that the institution of marriage is a unique expression of love and commitment and that calling the unions of same-sex couples anything else is a form of second-class citizenship; they also point out that many legal rights are tied to marriage. Those opposed to same-sex marriage agree that marriage is a fundamental bond with ancient roots. But they draw the opposite conclusion, saying that allowing same-sex couples to marry would undermine the institution of marriage itself.

Running Battles: Political and Legal

The issue of same-sex marriage came to the fore after the Supreme Court of Hawaii ruled in 1993 that the denial of marriage licenses to three homosexual couples amounted to unconstitutional discrimination on the basis of sex — not sexual orientation — unless the state could show a compelling reason for the denials.

The Hawaii Legislature passed a bill in 1994 affirming marriage as intended for “man-woman units” capable of procreation. But in 1996, conservatives, fearful that the court case would lead to the sanctioning of marriages of lesbian and gay couples in Hawaii by the end of 1997, campaigned across the nation to insure that the recognition of same-sex marriages would not spread to other states.

The legislative battle picked up momentum as more conservatives became convinced a federal law was required. In September 1996, the United States Congress, approving what was called the “Defense of Marriage Act,” voted overwhelmingly to deny Federal benefits to married people of the same sex and to permit states to ignore such marriages sanctioned in other states. The bill was signed by President Bill Clinton.

In 1998, Hawaii voters rejected the legalization of same-sex marriages.

Same-sex marriage first became a reality in the United States in 2004, after the Supreme Court in Massachusetts ruled that it was required under the equal protection clause of the state’s Constitution. Connecticut began allowing same-sex marriage in late 2008.

In April 2009, Iowa’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing gay couples to marry, and the legislatures of Maine and Vermont passed laws granting the same right in the following weeks. In California, after a court decision in 2008 allowed the marriages, a voter referendum that November, upheld in court in May 2009, barred them.

The New Hampshire legislature approved revisions to a same-sex marriage bill on June 3, 2009, and Gov. John Lynch promptly signed the legislation, making the state the sixth to let gay couples wed and changing the landscape surrounding an issue that brings together deeply held principles and flashpoint politics.

Civil unions, an intermediate step that supporters say has made same-sex marriage seem less threatening, are legal in New Jersey, Connecticut and Vermont. The latter two states are phasing them out after adopting same-sex marriage laws.

In February 2011, Mr. Obama, in a major legal policy shift, directed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act — the 1996 law that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages — against lawsuits challenging it as unconstitutional.

California

On May 15, 2008, the Supreme Court of California voted 4-to-3 that a state law banning same-sex marriage constituted illegal discrimination because domestic partnerships were not a good enough substitute. In its decision, the court wrote that whatever term is used by the state must be granted to all couples who meet its requirements, whatever their gender. The court left open the possibility that another term could denote state-sanctioned unions so long as that term was used across the board.

Opponents quickly organized, and launched the Proposition 8 initiative campaign, asking voters to ban same-sex marriages. After an expensive and hard-fought campaign, the measure passed on Nov. 4, 2008, with 52 percent of the vote. (Florida and Arizona also passed bans at the same time.)

Groups who had fought Proposition 8 immediately filed suit to block it. On May 26, 2009, the state Supreme Court upheld the voter-approved ban but also decided that the estimated 18,000 gay couples who tied the knot before the law took effect would stay wed. But in August 2010, a federal judge in San Francisco struck down the ban, saying it unfairly targeted gay men and women, handing supporters of such unions a temporary victory in a legal battle that seems all but certain to be settled by the Supreme Court.

In February 2012, a federal appeals court upheld the judge’s ruling. During the period when same-sex marriages were legal in the state, nearly 18,000 couples married; their unions remain in place.

New Hampshire

An attempt to repeal New Hampshire’s same sex marriage law failed in March 2012 in the House of Representatives, with members of the Republican-dominated chamber voting 211-116 to kill the bill.

Some opponents of repeal cited the state’s “Live Free or Die” motto, saying they were uncomfortable revoking any right that had already been granted. Others did not see the point of embracing the repeal when Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, had vowed to veto it.

Had the repeal succeeded in both chambers, New Hampshire would have been the first state in which a legislature reversed itself on the issue of same-sex marriage. National gay-rights groups had invested heavily in fighting the bill, focusing on lawmakers with libertarian leanings.

New York

In December 2009, the New York State Senate voted down a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage. The vote followed more than a year of lobbying by gay rights organizations, who steered close to $1 million into New York legislative races to boost support for the measure.

But in June 2011, the tide turned when four senators who had voted against legalizing same-sex marriage reversed course, saying their constituents’ thinking on the socially divisive issue had evolved. Lawmakers voted on June 24 to legalize same-sex marriage, making New York the largest state where gay and lesbian couples will be able to wed.

The marriage bill, whose fate was uncertain until moments before the vote, was approved 33 to 29 in a packed but hushed Senate chamber. In the end, four members of the Republican majority joined all but one Democrat in the Senate in supporting the measure after an intense and emotional campaign aimed at the handful of lawmakers wrestling with a decision that divided their friends, their constituents and sometimes their own homes.

The unexpected victory had a clear champion: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat who pledged in 2010 to support same-sex marriage but whose early months in office were dominated by intense battles with lawmakers and some labor unions over spending cuts. Mr. Cuomo made same-sex marriage one of his top priorities for 2011 and deployed his top aide to coordinate the efforts of a half-dozen local gay-rights organizations whose feuding and disorganization had in part been blamed for the defeat two years ago.

The new coalition of same-sex marriage supporters brought in one of Mr. Cuomo’s trusted campaign operatives to supervise a $3 million television and radio campaign aimed at persuading several Republican and Democratic senators to drop their opposition. In New York, passage of the bill reflects rapidly evolving sentiment about same-sex unions. In 2004, according to a Quinnipiac poll, 37 percent of the state’s residents supported allowing same-sex couples to wed. In 2011, 58 percent of them did. Advocates moved aggressively to capitalize on that shift, flooding the district offices of wavering lawmakers with phone calls, e-mails and signed postcards from constituents who favored same-sex marriage, sometimes in bundles that numbered in the thousands.

The law went into effect on June 24, with hundreds of couples marrying within the first hours.

President Obama and Gay Marriage

The flurry of activity in early 2009 put pressure on President Obama to engage in a variety of gay issues. Mr. Obama has said he opposes same-sex marriage as a Christian but describes himself as a “fierce advocate of equality” for gay men and lesbians.

In February 2011, Mr. Obama directed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act against lawsuits challenging it as unconstitutional. The 1996 law barred federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. sent a letter to Congress on Feb. 23 saying that his department will take the position in court that the act should be struck down as a violation of same-sex couples’ rights to equal protection under the law.

The move was welcomed by gay-rights advocates, who had often criticized Mr. Obama for moving too slowly in his first two years in office to address such issues.

Same-Sex Marriage and Religion

Religious institutions have struggled with policies, privileges and rites regarding homosexuality, including whether or not to bless same-sex unions and whether or not gays and lesbians may hold positions of authority. There is no consensus among Christian faith groups on what the Bible says about homosexuality. Meanwhile, many individuals yearn for acceptance from their houses of worship.

In 2005, The United Church of Christ became the first mainline Christian denomination to support same-sex marriage officially when its general synod passed a resolution affirming “equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender.” The resolution was adopted in the face of efforts to amend the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

In July 2009, at the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, delegates including bishops, clergy and lay members, voted to open “any ordained ministry” to gay men and lesbians, a move that could effectively undermine a moratorium on ordaining gay bishops that the church passed at its last convention in 2006. Delegates also voted not to stand in the way of dioceses that choose to bless the unions of same-sex couples. Both issues have roiled the church for years.

In May 2012, The United Methodist Church at its convention in Tampa, Fla. voted against changing long-contested language in its book of laws and doctrines that calls homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.” The delegates also defeated a compromise proposed by gay rights advocates, which said that Methodists could acknowledge their differences on homosexuality while still living together as a church.

In other historically mainline Protestant denominations in the United States, liberals have prevailed so far in the battles over homosexuality. In addition to The Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have voted in recent years to end their outright prohibitions on openly gay clergy members. But in the United Methodist Church, theological conservatives have held sway in the 40 years that the church has been debating the issue.

An influx of non-American members has bolstered the conservatives. The United Methodist Church is the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the United States, but its American membership has declined to about 7.8 million in recent years. Meanwhile, its membership abroad has grown to about 4.4 million, mostly in Africa and the Philippines, where homosexuality is not accepted.

Fundamentalist denominations have made significant efforts against homosexuality. The Southern Baptist Convention, for example, has expelled congregations that welcomed homosexuals to their memberships.

Reform Judaism, the largest of the main branches of Judaism, has for years allowed same-sex commitment ceremonies.

Islam prohibits same-sex marriage.

Demographics on Same-Sex Couples

In late August 2011, the Census Bureau released surprising data on where same-sex couples live in the United States. For example, the list of top cities did not include that traditional gay mecca, San Francisco. In fact, the city, which ranked third in 1990 and 11th in 2000, plummeted to No. 28 in 2010. And West Hollywood, once No. 1, dropped out of the top five.

According to the report, the No. 1-ranked town is Provincetown, Mass., at the tip of Cape Cod. Most surprising is how far same-sex couples have dispersed, moving from traditional enclaves and safe havens into farther-flung areas of the country. For instance, Pleasant Ridge, Mich., a suburb of Detroit; New Hope, Pa.; and Rehoboth Beach, Del., a beach town in southern Delaware, were in the top 10. All three had been popular destinations for gay people locally but had never ranked in the top 10.

The reordering reflects the growing influence of baby boomers, who are beginning to retire, and their life transitions are showing up in the data.

The Olympian.com -Opponents of gay marriage said Wednesday they have reached the number of signatures needed to qualify a proposed referendum seeking to overturn a new law legalizing same-sex marriage in Washington state

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Opponents of gay marriage said Wednesday they have reached the number of signatures needed to qualify a proposed referendum seeking to overturn a new law legalizing same-sex marriage in Washington state, and that they may turn them in as early as next Tuesday.

Joseph Backholm, with Preserve Marriage Washington, said that the campaign for Referendum 74 has at least 150,000 signatures on hand. Backers of R-74 need to turn in 120,577 valid voter signatures by next Wednesday in order to qualify for the ballot. The secretary of state’s office recommends that campaigns submit about 150,000 signatures in order to provide a cushion for invalid or duplicate signatures.

“We feel that it’s going to be adequate to get it on the ballot,” he said. “We’re quite confident of that.”

Backholm said that the 150,000 signatures were gathered by volunteers. He said that while they did hire professional signature gatherers, the amounts they’ve collected haven’t been added into the overall total yet. Backholm said that his group hopes to hit 200,000 signatures by next week, and that they want to turn the signatures in ahead of a June 6 deadline, possibly as early as Tuesday.

Zach Silk, a spokesman for Washington United for Marriage, a coalition that supports the gay marriage law in Washington state, said he wasn’t surprised that Preserve Marriage collected so many signatures.

“We always expected them to reach the number,” he said. “We’ve been preparing our campaign to talk to voters. We believe at the end of the day they’ll side with us to uphold the law.”

So far, Washington United for Marriage has raised more than $714,000 in their effort to fight back attempts to overturn the law. Preserve Marriage Washington has raised more than $43,000, according to the most recent numbers with the Public Disclosure Commission.

National groups have already promised time and money to the effort, including the Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage, which was involved in ballot measures that overturned same-sex marriage in California and Maine.

Washington state has had domestic partnership laws since 2007, and in 2009, passed an “everything but marriage” expansion of that law, which was ultimately upheld by voters after a referendum challenge. The Legislature approved gay marriage earlier this year, and Gov. Chris Gregoire signed it in February.

On Wednesday, a poll by a Seattle public affairs and consulting firm, Strategies 360, showed that 54 percent of voters think it should be legal for same-sex couples to get married, though the poll doesn’t specifically ask them how they’ll vote on R-74. The survey of 500 likely voters was conducted last week, and had a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

Another effort seeking to overturn gay marriage is still ongoing.

Initiative 1192 was filed in January by Everett attorney Stephen Pidgeon, seeking to reaffirm marriage as “between one man and one woman.” To qualify for the November ballot, he must submit at least 241,153 signatures of valid registered voters by July 6, a month after the referendum signature deadline. He said Wednesday that he has collected about 75,000. To date, Pidgeon’s effort has raised about $6,000.

Gay marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C. Maryland legalized gay marriage this year as well, though opponents there are promising to challenge it with a ballot measure and on Tuesday delivered more than twice the number of signatures required. Activists in Maryland say they submitted 113,000 signatures on petitions on Tuesday – double the 55,736 needed to put the issue on the ballot.

Online:

Read more here: http://www.theolympian.com/2012/05/30/2123195/gay-marriage-opponents-closer.html#storylink=cpy