Tag Archives: same-sex marriage

Hawaii Senate Passes Civil Union Law; D.C. Judge Bars Same Sex Marriage Referendum

This past week saw two significant victories for the gay and lesbian community.  First, on Friday, the Hawaii State Senate passed a bill allowing civil unions in that state.  The vote in the Hawaii Senate was 18-7.  The matter must still be considered by the Hawaii State House of Representatives, which is widely expected to pass the measure.

If passed by the Hawaii House, the measure will then go to Governor Linda Lingle‘s desk.  Lingle is a Republican known for her support of former President George W. Bush.  It is possible that Lingle may veto the civil unions bill.  However, the Democratic super-majority in Hawaii may have enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto.

The second victory comes from the District of Columbia.  There, D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith N. Macaluso affirmed a D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics decision which disallowed a ballot proposal to outlaw same sex marriage in the District of Columbia.  In the District of Columbia, ballot measures that discriminate against minority groups, including gays and lesbians, is forbidden by the D.C. Human Rights Act.

The ballot proposal to outlaw same sex marriages in D.C. is backed by a local church group.  The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics has twice refused the ballot measure because it discriminates against gays and lesbians.

In her 23-page decision, Macaluso stated the board “properly rejected the proposed initiative” because of the Human Rights Act.

For further discussion of the developments in D.C., you can link to an excellent article from The Washington Post here.

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Graphically Speaking: Gay Marriage v. Marriage To First Cousins

Thanks to my good friend, Michael C., for alerting me to this excellent blog, The New Civil Rights Movement, which ran the graphic below.  These maps show those states in the U.S. that presently allow gay marriage versus those that allow marriage to first cousins.

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Other LGBT News: Portugal Approves Same-Sex Marriage; Obama Appoints Trans Female; First HIV+ Man To Visit U.S.

While states like California and New Jersey grapple clumsily with the issue of same-sex marriage and equality, Portugal apparently had little difficulty in approving legislation to allow such unions.  On Friday, Portugal’s Parliament voted by a sizeable majority – 125 to 99 – to permit same-sex marriages.  The nation’s President is not expected to veto the measure, and ceremonies are anticipated to begin as early as April 2010.

Before you go dismissing Portugal’s actions as just another liberal EU country showing off, Portugal is hardly a bastion of liberalism.  In fact, Portugal’s decision to approve same-sex marriage is significant given that the country is generally regarded as socially conservative.  Perhaps, in Portugal, the leaders were able to put aside their own petty squabblings and, well, lead.

You can link to a full article discussing Portugal’s decision here.

President Obama Appoints Transgender Female To Commerce Dept.

In other news this week, President Obama appointed transgender female, Amanda Simpson, to be Senior Technical Adviser to the Commerce Department.

“I’m truly honored to have received this appointment and am eager and excited about this opportunity that is before me,” she said in a press release by the National Center for Transgender Equality, an organization for which she has served on the board of directors.”

Simpson was most recently the deputy director in Advanced Technology Development at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson. A flight instructor and test pilot, Simpson also holds degrees in physics, engineering, and business administration.

You can link to other news articles discussing President Obama’s appointment here and here.

First HIV+ Traveler To Visit U.S. From The Netherlands

Clemons Ruland may become the first known HIV-positive person to legally visit the United States after he filed papers with the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security Monday, the day the HIV travel and immigration ban was officially lifted.  The ban was lifted on January 4 by President Obama after 22 years of barring HIV-positive people from entering the U.S.

Ruland, pictured on the right, will travel with his HIV-negative partner pictured left.  Ruland trip to the U.S. is being sponsored by Netherlands group, NGO AIDS Fonds, after he won an essay contest.

Thanks to The Advocate for reporting on this story, which you can link to here.

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New Jersey Turns Down Gay Marriage Bill; Rhode Island Legislature Owns Anti-Gay Gov.

{{w|Donald Carcieri}}, Governor of Rhode Island
Image via Wikipedia

The legislative news out of New England this week has been a mixed bag for the LGBT community.  Late Thursday night, New Jersey lawmakers voted 20-14 against a bill that would have made New Jersey the 6th state to allow gay marriage.  I tweeted an article yesterday discussing these developments which you can also link here.

In Rhode Island, however, the Legislature on Tuesday voted to over-ride the veto of one of America’s most anti-gay Governors, Gov. Donald Carcieri.  Carcieri had vetoed a bill that would allow domestic partners the right to to claim the bodies of and make funeral arrangements for each other.  The Legislature’s vote was a resounding thumbs-down to Carcieri – The house vote was 67 to 3, and the senate vote was 29 to 3.  You can link to an article from The Advocate discussing the Rhode Island developments here.

When I blog for CRW, one of the most enjoyable aspects of my writing is that I do not have to be objective on matters where editorial opinion might count.  I make no excuses for that.  And, folks, this is one of those times.  Who the Hell does this tool Carcieri think he is anyway?  I certainly hope he does not consider himself an advocate of limited government.  In my book, when the government steps in and decides whether I can take possession of my deceased partner’s remains and make funeral arrangements, the government is being pretty damned intrusive – and Fascist!

One of the comments following the article in The Advocate said it best:

“The next step is to work long and hard to get this homophobic, bigoted, discriminatory monster out as governor and replaced with someone who will follow the US Constitution for equal civil rights for all. Rhode Island needs to follow the other New England states for civil marriage equality now.”

I second those sentiments.  A free and democratic society is no place for someone like Gov. Carcieri.

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Latin America Ends Year With Major Advances In Gay Rights

While much attention has been focused – deservedly so – on the distressing developments with Uganda’s “death-to-gays” law, news of a far more optimistic type for gays and lesbians has emerged from Central and South America.  In November, a Buenos Aires court approved the marriage of a gay couple.  Under the rules of law in Argentina, the mayor of Buenos Aires has the right to appeal such a decision.  However, in a surprising decision, and one that he described as “difficult” due to tremendous pressure, Mayor Mauricio Macri chose not to appeal the ruling, making Buenos Aires the first Latin American city to recognize gay marriage.  In eloquent language, Mayor Macri stated:

“[I]t is important to accept and live with this new reality, which is the direction that the world goes, as to safeguard the right of every person to freely chose with whom to pair and be happy.”

Such strong sentiment makes the dribble that issues forth from the mouths of many right-wingers in this country seem downright arcane, if not idiotic, doesn’t it?

Then, today, Mexico City‘s legislative assembly voted overwhelmingly to approve gay marriage.  Unlike the U.S., where legal issues involving marriage are governed primarily at the state level, Mexican law allows for significant governance of marriage at the local level, including legislative and policy-making functions.  As a result, Mexico City’s officials are empowered to change the definition of marriage for the citizens of Mexico City — which is precisely what they did today by a vote of 39-20.  Rather than continuing the narrow definition that marriage is a union between a man and woman, a definition similar to the narrow definition upheld by California voters supporting Prop. 8 and similar to the dictates of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Mexico City’s new definition is:  marriage is “the free uniting of two people.”

Although perhaps not as eloquent as the words of Buenos Aires Mayor Macri, the elegance of Mexico City’s new definition of marriage is its utter simplicity.  In my opinion, Mexico City’s legislation is as remarkably inclusive and expansive of civil rights as California’s Prop. 8 is miserably exclusive, narrow-minded, and paranoid.

Mexico City’s mayor Marcelo Ebrard is expected to sign the legislation into law.

You can read more about the developments in Buenos Aires here and Mexico City here.

Update:  Argentine Couple Becomes First To Wed In Region

Following closely on the heels of recent developments in Argentina that expanded the right of gay couples to marry, the first gay couple has wed.

Alejandro Freyre, 39, and Jose Maria Di Bello, 41, tied the knot in a civil ceremony in the southern province of Tierra del Fuego.

As previously reported, in November of this year, a judge in Buenos Aires approved the marriage of the couple, and the mayor of the city decided not to appeal the decision.  Another judge, however, blocked that decision.  However, the couple obtained special permission from the provincial governor to wed.

This story is being widely reported throughout the world.  Here is a link to the source article I used from the BBC, which also contains links to additional stories.

Marriage Equality In Latin America

In 2007, Uruguay became the first country to approve civil unions nationwide, and in September 2009, it also became the first Latin American country to permit same-sex adoption. Other Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Brazil and Ecuador are debating same sex civil unions or marriage issues in the courts and legislatures.  Here is a link to an informative article on the subject, here.

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Same-Sex Couples Benefit From Un-Noticed Provisions Of Health Care Bill

140px-US-GreatSeal-Obverse.svgAccording to the New York Times and Metro Weekly, Washington D.C.’s lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) newspaper, the health care bill passed by Congress late last night may benefit gay and lesbian couples by reason of unnoticed provision sponsored by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Washington).  This new development is explained further by information posted on the Human Rights Campaign Fund (HRC) website.

According to the information HRC posted, the “Affordable Health Care for America Act,” H.R. 3962, contains several provisions of interest to the lesbian and gay communities.  As the law stands now, lesbian and gay couples are required to pay federal taxes on health benefits provided by their employer as if these benefits were extra income.  Married, heterosexual couples do not.  The health care bill designates lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as a “health disparities population.”  Significantly, this opens up health data collection and grant program focused on health disparities as they relate to sexual orientation and gender identity issues.

The health care bill will also effectively end the taxation of health benefits provided to same-sex couples by incorporating the language of the Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act.  This will immediately benefit same-sex families by freeing up additional monetary resources to pay for their needs.  Quoting M. V. Lee Badgett, a labor economist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the New York Times article stated that employees with domestic partner benefits paid an average of $1,100 a year more in taxes than married employees with the same coverage.

Rep. McDermott said these changes will ‘correct a longstanding injustice, end a blatant inequity in the tax code and help make health care coverage more affordable for more Americans.”

In addition, HRC  listed the “Early Treatment for HIV Act,” which would allow states to cover early HIV treatment through their Medicaid programs.  Presently, states may withhold treatment for Medicaid recipients until they develop full-blown AIDS.  This one addition to the health care bill alone will improve health care for low-income people living with HIV and will put the Medicaid system more squarely in the arena of best practices for HIV care, which emphasizes early treatment and not delaying until the onset of AIDS.  In the long run, early intervention also saves taxpayer dollars rather than waiting until emergency or life-threatening illnesses develop because those illnesses are more difficult and costly to treat.

Finally, and perhaps most significant from a civil rights perspective, the health care bill outlaws the considering of any personal characteristics unrelated to the provision of health care.  HRC reports that it worked with a coalition of civil rights groups to develop and lobby for this language.  No federal protections currently exist that prohibit the consideration of unrelated personal characteristics by private insurers.

Lesbian and gay couples are not the only ones to benefit from the health care bill.  The bill overhauls the current sex education system, which emphasizes abstinence from sex by young people.  This abstinence-based approach by the federal government is estimated to have cost taxpayers roughly $1 billion dollars, and is generally regarded as a failure particularly in terms of halting the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.  The health care bill provides funding for comprehensive sex education programs which focus not only on abstinence, but also reducing teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

The bill also mandates nutritional labeling changes for food that is sold in vending machines.  This new law would require vendors with 20 or more vending machines to post a sign near the vending machines that “clearly and conspicuously” states the number of calories in the food products.

From a progressive perspective, the new provisions pertaining to same-sex couples are definitely steps in the right direction.  However, when it comes to equalizing the federal benefits conferred on married couples with the near-total absence of benefits bestowed on same-sex couples, the health care bill is merely a first step.  In matters of federal taxation, in particular, enormous disparities remain.  For example, under the Internal Revenue Code, a spouse can transfer real property to the other spouse without triggering any adverse tax consequences under the “stepped up basis” provisions of the IRC.  Same-sex couples who transfer property to each other – even if they are registered under a domestic partnership or civil union system – do not receive such benefits.  Federal public benefits, like social security benefits, are another area where improvements are woefully lacking.

The federal government enacted legislation entitled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.  DOMA states:

  1. No state (or other political subdivision within the United States) needs to treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage, even if the relationship is considered a marriage in another state.
  2. The federal government defines marriage as a legal union exclusively between one man and one woman.

DOMA is largely responsible for creating a legislative roadblock to improvements in this area.  A Constitutional Amendment to strictly limit marriage to one man and one woman has been hotly debated, but has not garnered sufficient support to be a viable alternative for opponents of same-sex marriage.





Maine Voters Repeal Same-Sex Marriage Rights

k3newenglandOn November 3, 2009, in a closely divided election, Maine voters repealed gay marriage rights.  Previously, the Maine Legislature had approved a same-sex marriage law.  Yesterday, by a margin that was often “too close to call,” Maine voters said, “No Thanks.”  Link to full story as reported on ABC here.

Nationally, same-sex marriage proponents continue to face tough challenges.  With the results from Maine, only 4 states currently have laws permitting same-sex marriage and are actually performing such marriages:  Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and Iowa.

Same-sex marriages are legal in New Hampshire, but ceremonies are not set to begin until January 1, 2010.

In New York and the District of Columbia, same-sex marriages from other states or foreign countries are recognized, but they are not performed in either locale.

In a move similar to that in Maine, California voters rejected same-sex marriage rights in the highly publicized Prop. 8 contest.  On October 12, 2009, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed SB 54, allowing same-sex marriages from other states or foreign countries to be recognized.  However, the law only applies to marriages performed on or before November 4, 2008.

In Rhode Island, two Attorney General‘s opinions suggest that same-sex marriage should be recognized, but an opinion of the R.I. Supreme Court appears to suggest otherwise.

FireShot capture #023 - '' - upload_wikimedia_org_wikipedia_commons_d_dd_Same_sex_marriage_map_Europe_detailed_svgThe United States stands in stark contrast to our Western European allies on this issue.  As the map above reveals, the United States currently appears more allied with former Soviet-block nations on this particular issue.

The dark blue countries are those where same-sex marriage is legal.  The medium blue are countries where other types of domestic partnerships or civil unions are legal.  Light blue countries show countries where some form of unregistered cohabitation is recognized. The yellow countries represent those where the issue is currently under consideration.

Only the red countries restrict marriage solely to a man and woman.  The gray-shaded have yet to decide, either for or against legal recognition of same-sex relationships.

This map was obtained from Wikipedia.  You can link to the map and complete article here.  If you are interested in this topic, I strongly suggest you take a look at the Wikipedia article.  It contains many interesting links on the issue of same-sex marriage, including state-by-state and country-by-country analysis and a timeline of same-sex marriage rights.

So, what do you think about this issue?  Is same-sex marriage a civil right or a civil wrong?  Check out our forthcoming poll on this issue.

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