Pink News – Activists apply for unattainable marriage licenses in Southern states to push for equality

US: Activists apply for unattainable marriage licenses in Southern states to push for equality

by Joseph Patrick McCormick
15 January 2013, 5:58am

The campaign aims to raise awareness about a lack of marriage equality in some Southern US states

Gay couples in two North Carolina cities lined up at government counters to ask for marriage licenses they knew would be denied, in an effort to push the US South towards marriage equality, despite opposition being strong.

Couples went out to join the, We Do Campaign, an effort by the pro-equality group, Campaign for Southern Equality, to protest against state laws believed by activists to be unjust, and in an effort to call for full equality under federal law, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

As part of the campaign, couples in seven Southern states have been applying for marriage licenses in January. At the final stop, on Thursday, couples expect to be denied licenses in Arlington, Virginia, before marching on to Washington DC, where equal marriage is legal.

“We have to leave our home state to get married, so that’s a little sad,” said L. Rankin, 45, after the assistant register of deeds in her city of Winston-Salem refused a license to her and partner Kristin Hedin, 38.

Participants say the point of the campaign is to ensure that lawmakers, and neighbours know that they are not going away, even if standing up for equality could prove uncomfortable because of strong opposition in a part of the US which has become known for it.

“The South has been written off as being unwinnable when it comes to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights,” said Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality and a United Church of Christ minister.

“One of the unintended consequences of that is that LGBT people also get written off,” she said.

Given that Maine, Maryland and Washington all legalised equal marriage in 2012, as well as Barack Obama becoming the first US president to declaire support for same-sex marriage, gay rights campaigners billed 2012, as a watershed year.

Despite these positives, however, North Carolina became the last state in the Southeast region to add a voter-approved ban on equal marriage to its constitution, back in May.

Some of the thirty-five couples taking part in the campaign this month have married outside of their home states, but said they still want to remain living there.

“I can go to a restaurant, and I can order sweet tea and grits and they have them,” said Sara Bell, 31, a lifelong resident of Mississippi. “I don’t think that I should have to leave those things behind just to be who I am.”

A report was released which suggests that there was a new, and rapid shift in support of equal marriage in the US, except in southern states.

The National Organization for Marriage, which opposes equal marriage, has not taken any action in response to the campaign spokesman Thomas Peters said.

“Obviously these are acts of civil disobedience against laws passed overwhelmingly by voters in those states,” he said.

Because it is unlikely that the Southern states will legalise marriage equality soon, activists aim to press for national change.

The US Supreme Court has announced that it will hear two days of arguments relating to same-sex marriage at the end of March.

With no imminent likelihood of winning same-sex marriage rights at the state level in the South, activists are pressing for national change. In March, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases challenging laws that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Seattle Times -Gay donors back GOP legislator who voted for same-sex marriage

Gay donors back GOP legislator who voted for same-sex marriage
When the Legislature legalized gay marriage, state Rep. Maureen Walsh’s passionate speech in favor of the law went viral. Now, as the Republican from Walla Walla gears up to defend her seat against a member of her own party, she is seeing an uptick in campaign cash from pro-gay marriage donors from around the country.

By JAVIER PANZAR
Seattle Times staff reporter

When the time came to vote on a historic bill legalizing gay marriage in Washington, state Rep. Maureen Walsh stood up and delivered an emotional speech explaining her decision to buck her party and vote in favor of same-sex marriage.

The 51-year-old Republican from Walla Walla told her fellow representatives about the death of her husband and how badly she missed the loving bond they shared: “How could I deny the right to have that incredible bond with another individual in life? To me it seems almost cruel.”

Her outspoken stance brought an outpouring of support from around the world — and something else: an infusion of campaign contributions from wealthy gay donors from across the country for her re-election.

A prominent national anti-gay-marriage group has promised to spend big to help challengers defeat Republican legislators who voted for gay marriage, but, so far, that money has not materialized in this race.

With the general election still months away, records from the Public Disclosure Commission show that more than 60 percent of Walsh’s individual contributions have come from out-of-state backers, amounting to just over $5,000. It is a small amount compared to the money she has received from political groups, but it is coming in at a faster pace than previous elections.

In 2008, before Walsh became a known champion of gay rights, she raised just $3,800 from individual contributors. Almost none of them were from outside Washington.

But Walsh came on the radar of pro-gay donors in 2010 after supporting domestic partnerships and receiving a censure from the Franklin County Republican Party in the process. In her re-election race that year, she received large donations from prominent gay-rights backers, including Colorado software giant Tim Gill, who chairs the powerful Gill Action Fund, a political-action group that supports gay-friendly legislators.

It is a pattern that is becoming more common as more state legislatures tackle gay marriage: A Republican or a conservative Democrat takes a bold public stance in favor of same-sex marriage, and soon after, receives the support of wealthy donors trying to offset possible backlash.

The four Republican senators from New York who provided crucial votes to legalize gay marriage there in 2011 are the most well-known examples. It was reported earlier this year that they were lavished with campaign contributions.

Walsh is the only legislator seeing a noticeable benefit in the form of donations in 2012 Washington state races. Of the six Republicans who crossed party lines during the gay-marriage vote, Walsh is the only one who will face a challenger from within her own party this fall.

Four of the six aren’t running for re-election this year, and state Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, who provided one of the key votes in the Senate, is running against a Democrat in a socially liberal district.

Conservative district

Walsh, on the other hand, is running for re-election in a staunchly conservative district against Mary Ruth Edwards, a teacher from Prosser and a former Marine who is anchoring her campaign in part with her opposition to gay marriage.

Edwards ran for a U.S. House seat in 2010 as a member of the Constitution Party but was eliminated in the primary. She said she decided to run this year after she learned redistricting would place her in Walsh’s district.

“After I looked up who my representative was, I said to myself: I don’t want to be represented by someone who says she is a Republican, but was a co-sponsor of the bill to redefine marriage,” she said.

Edwards has raised $807.75 for her campaign so far, but she could see a significant boost if the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) — one of the largest funders in the fight against gay marriage — makes good on its pledge to funnel $250,000 to any Republican willing to challenge GOP legislators in Washington who voted for the marriage bill.

NOM President Brian Brown won’t comment on specific plans for Walsh’s district, but he said his group is committed to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat gay marriage at the ballot in Washington, as well as individual races.

Despite that looming threat, Walsh, a mother of three who spends her time outside Olympia running a kitschy onion-themed restaurant in Walla Walla, is in a good position for re-election. Sixty-four percent of her district voted against extending domestic partnerships to gay couples in 2009, but a year later, they overwhelmingly re-elected Walsh, despite her support for the measure.

“It is certainly (NOM’s) right to pump all that money, but to be honest, I think I am on the right side of history,” she said. “It’s a waste of money for them to do that. My district knows me.”

It isn’t unusual for politicians to be out of step with their district on a high-profile issue and still be re-elected time and again, said Chris Vance, a political consultant and former chairman of the state Republican Party.

“Voters look at the whole person,” Vance said. “Voters are willing to re-elect people even if they take a position against them.”

Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, bucked his party and voted against gay marriage, but his staff took the time to respond to letters from voters explaining how he came to his vote. The personal touch helped, he said, and it hasn’t been an issue in his re-election campaign so far.

Rep. Glenn Anderson, the only other House Republican to vote with Walsh in favor of gay marriage, is now running in a crowded field for lieutenant governor. He said that the marriage vote has had a marginal effect on his campaign, which is lagging behind other candidates in fundraising. He is focusing on his conservative fiscal record and is not accepting any donations from interest groups.

Taking no chances

Despite Walsh’s incumbent advantage and strong margins in the past, gay donors don’t want to take any chances.

Notable gay philanthropists Mel Heifetz and Weston Milliken are among her top contributors. Both gave Walsh the maximum contribution of $900. Famed gay and lesbian advocate Urvashi Vaid has also given to Walsh.

With more states taking up the issue of same-sex marriage, there is more interest in state races among gay donors than ever before, said Mike Dively, who lives in Santa Cruz, Calif., and runs a foundation that supports gay and lesbian youth around the country.

He keeps an eye out for important state races and gave $250 to Walsh after a friend forwarded her video to him.

“Donors are becoming much more conscious of the importance of not just making a contribution here or there, but being very targeted and being very thoughtful about candidates,” he said. “And certainly it doesn’t matter if they are Republicans or Democrats.”

Edwards criticized her opponent for taking support from donors outside the state, calling Walsh out of touch with her district.

Walsh acknowledged that taking money from “out-of-towners” may turn off some, but added that she was happy people had been moved by her story.

Soon after her emotional vote, Walsh received a phone call from a gay teenager from the Midwest who had just come out of the closet and was contemplating suicide. He had seen her video and decided not to harm himself.

“Win or lose, my next campaign — and I certainly want to win — but when you hear things like that, you think, ‘My work is done.’ ”

Javier Panzar: 206-464-2250 or jpanzar@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @jpanzar

New York Times

WORLD U.S. N.Y. / REGION BUSINESS TECHNOLOGY SCIENCE HEALTH SPORTS OPINION ARTS STYLE TRAVEL JOBS REAL ESTATE AUTOS

To the Editor:

Connect With Us on Twitter
For Op-Ed, follow @nytopinion and to hear from the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, follow @andyrNYT.
Re “How My View on Gay Marriage Changed,” by David Blankenhorn, the founder of the Institute for American Values (Op-Ed, nytimes.com, June 23):

While I am pleased that Mr. Blankenhorn realizes that his earlier views against gay marriage are growing less mainstream, his logic continues to confound. According to his article, gay couples — because they cannot conceive — undermine the notion that parenthood is fundamental to marriage.

If this is the case, what of couples who cannot conceive or those who choose not to for fear of passing on a hereditary illness? Do these heterosexual couples also undermine marriage?

Furthermore, Mr. Blankenhorn remarks that gay marriage is “a significant contributor to marriage’s continuing deinstitutionalization.” How could gay marriage, which is outlawed in 42 states either by constitutional amendment or law, have such a deleterious effect on an institution as old as society itself?

Mr. Blankenhorn rightly asserts that gay couples should enjoy the same rights as their fellow heterosexual citizens. But his path to this conclusion is marred by its own contradictions.

TRAVIS C. STALCUP
Honolulu, June 23, 2012

To the Editor:

I’ve read most of what David Blankenhorn has published since “Fatherless America (1995),” and have always been impressed. His work has been a mixture of solid scholarship, moral acuity and concern for our children, in an era that devalues all three.

I have just finished his Op-Ed article and believe that he has done the right thing, for the right reasons and in the right way. This explanation of his position and how he came to it makes clear that the welfare of children remains his primary concern, and it demonstrates his continued faithfulness to the public roles of scholar, student and citizen.

His legacy will be found in the lives of those whose childhoods were made more secure because of his research.

JOHN HEARN
Jamestown, N.Y., June 23, 2012

New York Times -Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Unions, and Domestic Partnerships

Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Unions, and Domestic Partnerships

Lou Dematteis/Reuters
Updated: Feb. 28, 2012

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 had also been legalized in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C. In Washington State, a bill legalizing it was passed in February, 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.

Mr. Christie and most state Republican lawmakers want gay marriage put to a popular vote. Democrats say gay marriage is a civil right protected by the Constitution and not subject to referendum.

Also in February, the State Legislature in Maryland gave its final approval to the gay marriage law, which was expected to be signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley. The State Senate voted 25 to 22 on Feb. 23 to legalize same-sex marriage, less than a week after the House of Delegates barely passed the measure. Maryland will become the eighth state legalizing same-sex marriage when the governor signs the legislation, which he sponsored. Opponents vow to bring the measure to voters with a referendum.

In California, a court battle continued. 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.

A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted in February 2012 found that 40 percent of respondents supported same-sex marriage, while 23 percent supported civil unions for gay couples and 31 percent said there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship.

The issue has been a flashpoint in American politics for more than a decade, 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. Twenty-nine states have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, while 12 others have laws against it.

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, President 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

In New Hampshire, lawmakers may soon vote to repeal the state’s two-year-old law allowing gay couples to wed.

A repeal bill appears to have a good chance of passing in the State House and Senate, which are both controlled by Republicans. The bigger question is whether they can muster enough votes to overcome a promised veto from Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat.

Based on party lines, House and Senate Republicans both have veto-proof majorities. But this is an issue where party allegiance gets muddy.

In a state whose “Live Free or Die” motto figures into many a policy decision, even many opponents of same-sex marriage wish the issue would just disappear. Republican lawmakers with libertarian leanings, a sizable group, seem especially unhappy to be facing a repeal vote, as well as those who maintain that cutting spending should be the legislature’s sole concern. Both groups appear worried about a backlash from their constituents.

Should the repeal pass, New Hampshire would be the first state in which a legislature has reversed itself on the issue of same-sex marriage. In Maine, voters repealed a marriage law through a referendum in November 2009, shortly after the Legislature approved it.

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 has 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. While Mr. Obama has said he is “open to the possibility” that his views on same-sex marriage are misguided, he had offered no signal that he intended to change his position.

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. Coming after the administration successfully pushed late in 2010 for repeal of the military’s ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly, the change of policy on the marriage law could intensify the long-running political and ideological clash over same-sex marriage as the 2012 presidential campaign approaches.

A few years ago, the president’s decision might have set off an intense national debate about gay rights. But the Republicans’ reserved response suggested that Mr. Obama may suffer little political damage as he evolves from what many gay rights leaders saw as a lackluster defender of their causes into a far more aggressive advocate.

The Republican responses reflect a belief that the political focus in the near term will be on fiscal issues rather than social ones. Advocates for gay rights, meanwhile, argue that the political ramifications of the president’s decision should be limited because surveys suggest that, while the country is split on the issue, a growing number of people support gay marriage.

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.

Methodists, Presbyterians and American Baptist Churches have also debated the issues, and other Christian denominations have struggled with how to minister to gay and lesbian members.

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.