10 Cherokee court dismisses gay marriage suit 8/05
11 Gay & Lesbian Fund gives $1 million matching grant for hurricane relief 9/05
12 Gay parade goes on, despite hurricane Katrina 9/05
13 California governor will reject historic gay marriage legislation 9/05
Maine Governor signs legislation that protects gays and lesbians from discrimination
Augusta, Maine – Gov. John Baldacci on Thursday signed legislation that protects gays and lesbians from discrimination. Within hours, a religious group launched a campaign to overturn the new law. "This act not only offers essential civil rights, but serves as a welcome," the Democratic governor told supporters who packed the State House Cabinet Room. "Our doors are open to all people. This is a proud day for Maine."
The law, which received final House and Senate passage Wednesday night, takes effect in late June. The measure amends the Maine Human Rights Act by making discrimination illegal in employment, housing, credit, public accommodations and education based on sexual orientation or gender.
Maine law now prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, disability, religion, ancestry and national origin. The new law will exempt religious organizations that do not receive public funds. It also makes clear the law does not condone or authorize gay marriages. The Christian Civic League of Maine said it would fight the new law; the group, which represents evangelical churches in the State House, led successful referendum campaigns in 1998 and 2000 that defeated earlier gay rights laws. To initiate a referendum next November on the latest gay rights law, opponents must submit at least 50,519 voters’ signatures to state election officials by June 28, the Secretary of State’s office said. The league’s executive director Michael Heath set a goal of collecting 70,000 signatures, as well as $2 million to wage a referendum campaign.
April 15, 2005
Oregon Supreme Court nullifies 3,000 gay marriage licenses
Washington, DC – The Supreme Court of Oregon on Thursday nullified 3,000 marriage licenses that were distributed to same-sex couples last year in Multnomah County, saying the issuance of the licenses was a violation of established law. The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners began issuing the licenses on March 3, 2004, after deciding that limiting marriage to the union of one man and one woman was unconstitutional. The court ruled that the county had no authority to issue licenses to same-sex couples.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said, "We must commend the Oregon Supreme Court on their restraint and willingness to follow the law rather than making it. Last fall, Oregon voters joined 13 other states in recognizing the definition of marriage as one man and one woman." Concerned Women for America pointed out that the victory is even larger than it appears since the Oregon Supreme Court is considered to be liberal and activist. "This is a tremendous victory for marriage, especially from a very liberal, activist court," said Jan LaRue, CWA’s chief counsel. "This is the same court that in another case held that the state constitution protects obscenity."
April 21, 2005
Connecticut Approves Civil Unions for Gays
by William Yardley
Hartford – Gov. M. Jodi Rell on Wednesday signed into law a measure allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, making Connecticut the second state after Vermont to approve such unions and the first to do so without pressure from the courts.
"I think that it certainly bodes well for Connecticut that we didn’t have to be ordered to do this," said Mrs. Rell, a Republican, who signed the bill about an hour after the Democratic-controlled Senate approved the measure by a three to one ratio. The House passed the bill last week 85 to 63. Under the law, which takes effect on Oct. 1, couples in civil unions will essentially have all of the rights and protections the state provides married couples, from tax benefits and insurance coverage to hospital visiting rights to family leave from work.
The law also includes an amendment, added last week, that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Mrs. Rell had encouraged the amendment, though she stopped short of saying whether her support for civil unions depended on it. "I have said all along that I believe in no discrimination of any kind, and I think that this bill accomplishes that while at the same time preserving the traditional language that a marriage is between a man and a woman," the governor said outside her office after signing the bill.
The relative ease with which civil unions became law in Connecticut contrasts with the trend across the country. Fourteen states have voted to ban gay marriage since last year. Earlier this month, Kansas voted to ban gay marriage and civil unions. Yet in New England, Connecticut falls cleanly into a countertrend. Vermont approved civil unions in 2000, and Massachusetts last year began allowing gay couples to marry. Vermont and Massachusetts adopted new policies after courts ruled that gay couples were being discriminated against. Connecticut also faces a discrimination lawsuit, supported by the same gay activists who pushed lawsuits in Vermont and Massachusetts, but the suit could be years from resolution.
And many lawmakers said on Wednesday that their support for civil unions was less a defensive act against a potential court ruling than the obvious next step for a state with a 15-year history of expanding gay rights. In 1990, the state passed a law that included gay people among those protected under a hate-crimes law. The next year, the state added protections in housing and employment laws. In 2000, the state made it easier for gay couples to adopt children.
"This is a different state in many ways," said Representative Michael P. Lawlor, a Democrat from East Haven, who was the bill’s lead supporter in the House, which Democrats control 99 to 52. "I think Democrats and Republicans can disagree about the budget, but when it comes to basic human rights issues, we don’t disagree that much. There was more evidence of that today." Public opinion polls also showed support for civil unions.
A poll released this month by Quinnipiac University showed that 56 percent of Connecticut voters supported civil unions and 37 percent were opposed. The poll showed that 53 percent opposed gay marriage and 42 percent supported it. Some viewed the civil unions bill as a compromise. Earlier this year, the state’s most prominent gay marriage activist group, Love Makes a Family, opposed the bill for civil unions, vowing to settle only for marriage. A longtime lobbyist for gay rights, Betty Gallo, eventually broke from Love Makes a Family, saying she could not oppose increased rights for gay couples. Loves Makes a Family later said it would end its opposition to the bill, and the measure then moved quickly out of committee to the Senate floor two weeks ago.
"We don’t want to overplay the rights versus the status and dignity that come with marriage," said Anne Stanback, the president of Love Makes a Family. "But today we celebrate." Ms. Gallo said on Wednesday that opposition to civil unions was mostly rooted in wariness of a lifestyle foreign to many people. She said the bill’s passage was brought about partly by the activists’ strategy of having gay couples invite lawmakers and others into their homes, where such wariness "goes away when you know people and you go into their houses and have coffee and pastries."
The bill passed on the day that Roman Catholic clergymen in the state, and many parishioners, make their annual visit to the Capitol to lobby for their legislative agenda. This year the agenda included one item reflected in the stickers many wore: "Protect Marriage!" Peter Wolfgang, a lobbyist and the public policy director for the Family Institute of Connecticut, which opposes civil unions, said his group would make them an issue in next year’s election. He and others said that polls misrepresent voter sentiment and that lawmakers are being deceived by lobbyists who support civil unions. "This is basically the end of one phase and the beginning of another," Mr. Wolfgang said. "It’s all about 2006."
April 22, 2005
Navajo Council outlaws same-sex marriage
Window Rock, Ariz. – The Navajo Nation on Friday outlawed same-sex marriages on its reservation. The Tribal Council voted unanimously in favor of legislation that restricts a recognized union to that between a man and a woman, and prohibits plural marriages as well as marriages between close relatives. "Men and women have been created in a sacred manner. We need to honor this," said Del. Harriet Becenti. Critics have said the measure’s sponsor, Del. Larry Anderson, was attempting to rewrite cultural history to parallel the clash across the United States between conservative Christians and gay rights activists. But Del. Lorenzo Curley said Navajo leaders wanted to send a message to young people to respect and live by the tribe’s traditional beliefs. "We are here to defend the foundation of our society.
That’s what is at stake here," he said. The Navajo Nation, which has more than 180,000 residents, spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Same-sex marriages are not allowed in any of those states. Last year, the Cherokee National Tribal Council in Oklahoma voted to define marriage as between a man and a woman after a lesbian couple successfully filed for a tribal marriage application.
May 22, 2005
Gay and not so proud–Being gay in USA is still seen as a mark of shame; for conservative gays, it’s a source of hypocrisy as well
by Bradley Miller
Canadians may be split on the issue of gay marriage. But in other respects, this is a tolerant country. The era when gay men and women felt ashamed about their sexual orientation is fading quickly. The same, sadly, is not true in the United States. As a trio of cases in that country shows, being gay is still seen as a mark of shame. And for those gays who happen to also be conservative, it is a source of hypocrisy as well. Let’s start in Spokane, Wash., where the city’s 54-year-old Republican Mayor was recently caught in a gay online chat room trying to pick up a 17-year-old boy with promises of sports memorabilia and a city hall internship.
Making matters more inconvenient for Mayor James E. West is his legislative record: During his tenure as Republican majority leader in the Washington senate, he attacked every gay-rights measure he could. In the 1980s, he even attempted to bar gays from working in schools. True to form, when the Spokane city council recently tried to extend some basic benefits to domestic partners, he threatened a mayoral veto. Likewise, consider the recent "Gannongate" affair in Washington, D.C. Until last winter, Jeff Gannon was a reporter for the far-right Talonnews.com, notorious for lobbing embarrassingly soft questions at hard-line Republicans, and denouncing Democrats in all the usual ways. He’s also written about homosexual issues, leavening his pieces with sneering references to the "gay agenda" and "practising homosexuals."
But not long ago, Gannon was outed as a gay escort and the owner of the Web site hotmilitarystuds.com. His online profile described him as a "hardcore top"; pictures accompanied. Overnight, his conservative benefactors disappeared and Talonnews, now defunct, took his stories off-line. Until their closeted personal lives became public, these two men posed as loyal right-wing soldiers in America’s culture war. But even when they had nothing to hide, a culturally learned tinge of self-loathing shone through. West, for one, told his chat-mate that he doesn’t like "the massive political agenda" of most gays. Likewise, in this month’s Vanity Fair, Jeff Gannon tries to explain why the gay rights movement has attacked him so energetically: "People like me are a threat to them because there are things that are more important to me than sexual issues … That’s their whole world. It isn’t my whole world."
Fine. The dens of drugs and sex that pepper most urban gay villages are off-putting for many people, gay and straight alike. But it’s a spurious cop-out to pretend that this is all there is to the "gay agenda." Indeed, the most important "sexual issues" for most gays right now are questions of basic family values: marriage, benefits, adoption rights, hate crimes, anti-discrimination laws. In most of the United States, the battles in these areas are still pending. In some areas, what progress has been made is now being reversed in state legislatures, town councils and school boards — thanks in no small part to the political agitation of the likes of these two hypocrites.
Even worse is Arthur J. Finkelstein. He’s one of America’s best political tacticians and the brains behind many of the most outspoken opponents of gay rights.
Finkelstein has worked for a parade of fire-breathing social conservatives, including former senator Jesse Helms. In these circles, Helms’ assertions that gays are "disgusting people" who lead "immoral lives" are commonplace. For the Helms crowd, naturally, same-sex marriage is anathema. But not, apparently, for Finkelstein. A few weeks ago, he married his male partner of 40 years in a civil ceremony in Massachusetts, where the couple lives with their two adopted children. Safe in a blue state, Finkelstein has been able to buy his family some security from the hateful ripples of the politicians he helps elect.
Last month, when Finkelstein launched a massive "Stop Her Now" campaign against gay-rights supporter Senator Hillary Clinton, former president Bill Clinton suggested the Republican Finkelstein might be the victim of "some sort of self-loathing." That’s likely. At almost 60, Finkelstein — like West — is old enough to have internalized the bald-faced bigotry of pre-Stonewall America.
Canadians tend to go on a bit much about their tolerant ways. But better to bore people with your piety than assault them with intolerance. How fortunate we are to live in a country where gay men do not make careers out of defaming their own kind.
May 27, 2005
Surrogate Mothers’ New Niche: Bearing Babies for Gay Couples
by Ginia Bellafante
On a spring morning not long ago, Lura Stiller sat in her stocking feet in a sunny cottage in Cambridge, Mass., helping Cary Friedman and his partner, Rick Wellisch, calm their daughter, a 3-month-old in a pink T-shirt.
Ms. Stiller, 34, a homemaker from the Dallas suburbs, likes to say that the number of gay people in her acquaintance before she met Dr. Friedman, a psychiatrist, and Dr. Wellisch, an internist, amounted to zero. "Everything I knew about gay people I knew from TV, which meant that everything I knew about gay people I learned from ‘Will and Grace’ and ‘The L Word,’ " she said. In December, Ms. Stiller gave birth to the baby, named Samantha, for Dr. Friedman and Dr. Wellisch, conceived with a donor egg and the sperm from one of the partners. (They chose not to know which.) In her decision to work with them Ms. Stiller is part of a small but growing movement of surrogate mothers choosing gay couples over traditional families.
As legislatures debate giving gay couples the right to marry – 14 states have amended their constitutions to prevent it – hundreds of couples are finding ways to create families with or without marriage through surrogates like Ms. Stiller, who are willing to help them have children genetically linked to them and to bypass the often difficult legal challenges gay men face in adoption. The exact number of surrogates who have worked with gay couples is unknown, but close to half of the 60 or so agencies and law firms around the country that broker arrangements between surrogate mothers and prospective parents work with gay couples or are seeking to, through advertising.
Within the close-knit world of professional childbearers, many of whom share their joys and disillusionments online and in support groups, gay couples have developed a reputation as especially grateful clients, willing to meet a surrogate’s often intense demands for emotional connection, though the relationships can give rise to other complications within the surrogate’s family and community. Many surrogates who choose to work for gay couples say they feel ill equipped or reluctant to deal with the sense of hopelessness and failure expressed by married women and men who have struggled unsuccessfully for years to bear children. Still others are drawn to men as clients because they fear the possible resentments and jealousies in working so closely with other women.
Surrogates, who are paid about $20,000 above and beyond medical expenses to carry a child, are responsible for approximately 1,000 births a year, according to the Organization of Parents Through Surrogacy, a nonprofit group in Gurnee, Ill., that records births brokered through agencies and privately over the Internet.
The many surrogates who choose not to work with gay couples frequently cite a spouse’s disapproval or fears that their own children might be stigmatized by classmates and neighbors. In some instances surrogacy brokers bow to their own reservations. Ann Coleman, an adoption and surrogacy lawyer in Greenville, S.C., said she would not pair women with gay couples. Though she once represented a lesbian couple in a custody suit against their former husbands, Ms. Coleman said she believed gay couples should pursue children through adoption, not surrogacy. "I don’t know that I’d go to the extreme to help them do this," she added.
In the last 13 years, Ms. Stiller has had five children: one with her first husband, two with her current husband and two more as a surrogate. Her first excursion into the world of surrogacy, for a Florida husband and wife, left her feeling unappreciated and depleted, she said. Though the couple visited her in her 18th week of pregnancy and brought gifts for her children, Ms. Stiller sought a deeper relationship with the intended mother, a 40-year-old doctor.
"She would call me as if I were working on a project," Ms. Stiller said. "She wouldn’t say: ‘Hi, how are you feeling? Are you enjoying the weather?’ Nothing. There was never any chitchat." In her 37th week, Ms. Stiller experienced early contractions and called the woman, who drove to Texas right away, but Ms. Stiller remained displeased with her level of engagement.
" She was here for two and half weeks, and she never made an opportunity to share in my family," Ms. Stiller said. "It was very important for me to have my children see that we were helping to create a family, that Mommy wasn’t giving away a brother or a sister." A friend in the surrogate world suggested she find a gay couple through the agency Circle Surrogacy. John Weltman, a Boston lawyer, had a challenging time finding women to carry children for gay men when he founded Circle Surrogacy a decade ago. Today, he said, 80 percent of the surrogate mothers who come to him say they would be willing to work with gay couples, and half prefer to work with gay couples.
In Los Angeles, Growing Generations, a company formed to help gay couples become parents through egg donation and surrogacy, is responsible for over 300 births, increasing from four births in 1998 to 108 within the last 17 months. Dawn Buras, a Pennsylvania mother of four, has been to a fertility clinic in Los Angeles three times to receive embryonic transplants for a male couple in Milton, Mass. On each occasion the men accompanied her to the West Coast. They took adjacent hotel rooms, dined out and visited the set of "Desperate Housewives." The pregnancy attempts failed, but still the men try, refusing to work with anyone else.
And Ms. Buras remains committed, and plans to return for another attempt in June, despite the limitations their efforts have placed on her intimate life. According to her contract, Ms. Buras cannot have sex with her husband from one month before the transfer to one month after. Though her husband has been very supportive, she explained, "I can’t say that it doesn’t bother him, because it does."
Nearly all agencies require that surrogates already have children of their own and that they and their husbands undergo medical and psychological screening to determine that they can handle the strains surrogacy inevitably levies on families. When Ms. Stiller sent her 13-year-old son to school with a strip of pictures of Samantha and her two fathers in his knapsack, the boy tucked the pictures of the two men away, worrying that he or the situation itself would be made fun of.
Dr. Hilary Hanafin, the chief psychologist at the Center for Surrogate Parenting in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Encino, the country’s largest surrogacy agency, said many surrogates with teenage children shy away from working with gay couples for such reasons. "The mother does not want to show up for a middle-school track meet and say, ‘I’m pregnant for a gay couple,’ " Dr. Hanafin said.
And sometimes relatives cannot withhold their judgments. "I had one surrogate whose mother-in-law disowned her," said Amy Zaslow, a consultant in Acton, Mass., to surrogates and prospective parents. "She did not walk into the house through the entire pregnancy." At Christmas, Ms. Zaslow said, the woman’s children went to their grandmother’s house, and she was not invited along. Most surrogates today, for heterosexual or gay couples, work as gestational carriers, meaning they bring children to term but not with their own genetic material. (Couples availing themselves of surrogacy typically get eggs from banks where donors are identified by their height, weight, College Board and I.Q. scores.)
For Ann Nelson, 36, a mother of four in Wheeling, W.Va., an urge toward surrogacy began to surface in college. The first couple with whom she tried to work, a man and a woman from New England, asked her to sign a contract before insemination that stipulated she would eat no processed foods or refined sugars during her pregnancy.
" I thought, ‘Have you ever been to Wheeling, W.Va.?’ " said Ms. Nelson, who decided not to go forward with that couple. "Where was I going to find these things? I knew that surrogacy was not going to be a cakewalk, but I hadn’t expected and wasn’t prepared for this level of micromanagement." She has since borne three children for two gay couples.
The typical surrogate, according to the Center for Surrogate Parenting, is a woman of 21 to 37, who has had two children and 13 years of formal education. In many cases, she is motivated by a desire to be pregnant, as well as by a desire for attention. Working with gay couples, psychologists say, minimizes the need for a certain kind of emotional vigilance that can displace the surrogate’s own needs from center stage. "Surrogate mothers who work with heterosexual couples need to be incredibly sensitive to the loss and trauma that the infertile woman has suffered," Dr. Hanafin said.
Some surrogates also say they find the sense of defiance in providing gay couples with children meaningful. " In all honesty, there’s a bit of a rebellious nature in me," acknowledged Shannon Klein, a mother of three in Cypress, Calif., who home-schools her children. "I know that there are people who wouldn’t approve of being a surrogate for gay parents, and that has made it more intriguing."
Ms. Klein has borne two children for two gay couples, and she is pregnant with twins for a third. " When she initially approached me with this, I said, ‘You want to do what?’ " commented Ms. Klein’s husband, Mark. "But we’ve developed friendships with these people, not fly-by-nights, but lifelong relationships with people we may never have met otherwise."
Ms. Stiller’s visit to Cambridge in March was her second. She made her first, as a surprise to the future fathers, when she was 35 weeks pregnant, to reciprocate for the flowers they sent and the visits they made, including one for her ultrasound test. They cared for her children in Texas while she recuperated from giving birth to Samantha before Christmas. Seeing the baby for the first time, she said, "was like seeing the baby of your best friend."
Dr. Friedman said, "We didn’t go into this saying, ‘We want an intense relationship,’ but I didn’t necessarily expect that we’d develop the bond that we have." They will have little competition for Ms. Stiller’s affections. She will be working with no other couples in the future. When her husband, Keith, returned home last month from Iraq, where he had been stationed for a year, he told her he did not want her to work as a surrogate again.
" He was concerned for my health and emotional well-being," Ms. Stiller said. "For a year your life is devoted to someone else’s.’
"And physically I think he wanted me to get back to my wonderful size 8."
June 4, 2005
Native Nations Divided On Gay Marriage
Albuquerque, New Mexico – The Navajo Nation’s tribal government voted Friday to override its president’s veto of a measure banning same-sex marriage on the nation’s largest Indian reservation. The Dine Marriage Act of 2005 defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. It also prohibits plural marriages as well as marriage between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, brothers and sisters and other close relatives. Dine is the Navajos’ name for themselves.
" In the traditional Navajo ways, gay marriage is a big no-no," said Kenneth Maryboy, a delegate from Montezuma Creek, Utah. "It all boils down to the circle of life. We were put on the earth to produce offspring." The Tribal Council vote was 62-14, with 12 delegates abstaining or absent, to override Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr.’s veto last month. " My feeling is that the reason they overrode the president’s veto is that they have a huge animosity toward the president," said Percy Anderson, a gay rights organizer who started a Web site and petition to lobby against the marriage act. Anderson, who previously held an elected office in the tribe’s Manuelito, N.M., chapter, said he believes the council is locked in a power struggle. "They want to show the president that they are the governing body," Anderson said.
Maryboy disagreed, saying his constituents overwhelming oppose gay marriage and generally disapprove of gay relationships. " My supporters told me to stay firmly against it, especially the ministers who join people in marriage," he said. A spokesman for Shirley said he will issue a statement override over the weekend. Delegate Larry Anderson of Fort Defiance, Ariz., author of the Dine Marriage Act, did not return numerous phone calls seeking comment. The Navajo Nation, which has more than 180,000 residents, spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Same-sex marriages are not allowed in any of those states.
Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation’s highest court has agreed to hear the case of a lesbian couple attempting to file their marriage certificate. In May 2004, Cherokee members Dawn McKinley and Kathy Reynolds were married in Tulsa but have not been allowed to file the license with the tribe. Cherokee Tribal Council attorney Todd Hembree filed a petition June 16th, 2004, against the couple’s marriage. He says it didn’t follow the Cherokee gender-specific law, and asked the court to consider the marriage certificate null and void. Since the issue emerged, the tribe has said it doesn’t support same-sex unions. In 2004, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council unanimously approved language that defined a union as between one man and one woman.
June 10, 2005
Latinos played key role in California marriage defeat–Bill dies in close vote; co-sponsor abstains
by Eartha Melzer
After a close vote on a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage in California, advocates on both sides of the issue are examining the role of Latino lawmakers and religion in dooming the measure. The Religious Freedom & Civil Marriage Protection Act, AB 19, was sponsored by Assembly member Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and would have rewritten the marriage section of the California family code using gender neutral language and allowed licenses to be granted to same-sex couples.
The bill also specified that no churches or religious organizations would be required to perform any marriage, and acknowledged that the First Amendment protects religious _expression. The bill made it through committee and to a vote on the Assembly floor, where it failed to earn the 41 votes needed to pass, falling four votes short. There are 48 Democrats in the 80-member Assembly. Nine of them abstained or voted no on the bill. All of the Republicans voted against the bill.
Five of the nine Democrats who abstained or voted no were members of the Latino Caucus, prompting some observers to blame Latinos for the bill’s failure. Eddie Gutierrez, communications director for Equality California, said that most Latino representatives supported the bill, which he said was in the interests of the same-sex Latino couples in their districts. According to Assembly member Rudy Bermudez (D-Los Angeles), the power of the Catholic Church in the Latino community was a factor in why several Latino Democratic Assembly members did not support the bill.
Burmudez said that he voted for the marriage bill, though his office was visited by several religious groups that expressed opposition to the measure. Burmudez said that although he sees same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue, he is concerned about the backlash that AB 19 may provoke.
" When the Latinos were pushing hard for immigrants’ rights for children, the radical right came in and pushed actions that eroded affirmative action for all," Burmudez said. "The radical right, who sells bigotry and racism, they are going to attack in an initiative process. · We are going to lose rights we shouldn’t be losing." Monica Taher monitors the Spanish language media in California for its portrayal of gays as a media coordinator for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
" The media in California has evolved," Taher said. "They have been covering the issue from a human standpoint interviewing couples about how [AB 19] would affect them. This is an obvious difference from how gay and lesbian issues were covered 10 years ago."
Taher said that the Latino social conservatives, like social conservatives in general have promoted fear, ignorance and confusion with statements like, "If we let gay and lesbian people get married today, next they are going to want to marry their cats." The religious messages against same-sex marriage in California are coming not so much from the church directly as from outside groups that are using religious language to urge Latinos to oppose same-sex marriage, Taher said.
29 June 2005
California Supreme Court Upholds Domestic Partnership Law
Today, the California Supreme Court let stand the Court of Appeal’s April 4, 2005 decision upholding the validity of AB 205, the comprehensive domestic partnership law enacted by the California Legislature in 2003. The Court held that domestic partnership is not marriage, and that the voters did not intend to prohibit the legislature from extending legal protections to domestic partners when they enacted Proposition 22 in 2000, which prohibits California from recognizing marriages of same-sex couples from other states.
" This is a resounding victory for fairness and equality," said Kate Kendell, National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director. "Domestic partnership is not marriage, and the Court soundly rejected the tortured efforts of extreme right wing groups to distort the language of Proposition 22 to strike down validly enacted legislation protecting lesbian and gay people and their families. The voters in this state overwhelmingly support providing equal rights and benefits to same-sex couples. The notion that AB 205 violates the will of the people in this State is absurd, and the California Supreme Court rightly rejected it."
Since it went into effect on January 1, 2005, A.B. 205 has provided registered domestic partners in California with many basic protections and responsibilities including: community property, mutual responsibility for debt, parenting rights and obligations such as custody and support, and the ability to claim a partner’s body after death. The law does not allow for joint tax filing and certain other protections under state law, and does not provide access to over 1,000 federal protections that married couples enjoy.
" Today’s ruling is another victory for the tens of thousands of same-sex couples in California who now have the assurance their families will have the protections provided by this widely supported law," said Courtney Joslin, staff attorney for NCLR.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is co-counsel on behalf of the defendant-intervenor couples and Equality California, with the Law Office of David C. Codell in Los Angeles, the ACLU, and Lambda Legal. Equality California was the official sponsor of AB 205 and intervened to defend it. NCLR is also lead counsel in the California marriage equality lawsuit – Woo v. Lockyer. In April 2004, San Francisco Superior Court judge Richard A. Kramer held that excluding same-sex couples from the right to marry violates the California Constitution. The case is now on appeal.
NCLR is a national legal resource center with a primary commitment to advancing the rights and safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through a program of litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. We can be reached through our website at http://www.nclrights.org./
August 4, 2005
Cherokee court dismisses gay marriage suit
Tahlequah, Okla – A Cherokee Nation court has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the tribe from giving its legal blessing to a lesbian couple’s marriage. The Judicial Appeals Tribunal in its ruling yesterday said that tribe member and attorney Todd Hembree had no standing to sue and could not show that he suffered any harm by legal recognition of the same-sex marriage. Dawn McKinley and Kathy Reynolds have not decided whether they will try again to file their tribal marriage certificate. Since the tribe is sovereign, Cherokee Nation marriage certificates are recognized just like Oklahoma marriage licenses. The couple, both of whom are members of the tribe, exchanged vows in Cherokee in May 2004 after the tribe gave them the certificate without protest.
But Hembree sued and won an injunction that kept it from being filed. After the couple wed, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council unanimously approved language defining a union as between one man and one woman. Previously, tribal laws governing marriages used Cherokee terms for ”husband" and ”wife" that Hembree claimed were gender specific. The couple contended the terms were not gender specific, and that the Cherokee words used in the marriage ceremony are ”cooker" for wife and ”companion" for husband. The court would still have to accept the certificate before it is filed. ”We’re excited; we’re happy," Reynolds said. ”We’re determining what our next step is going to be." Hembree, who serves as counsel to the tribe’s legislative body, said the court’s decision ends the case for him.
Gay & Lesbian Fund gives $1 million matching grant for hurricane relief
September 2, 2005
Denver – Founder Tim Gill and his Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado are offering a $1 million matching grant to the American Red Cross, saying it’ll provide $2 million for hurricane relief.
The fund said it will match individual donations from Coloradans up to $250 through September 25th. Gill says it’s hard to imagine what it’s like for the hurricane victims, going from cozy homes to flooded streets littered with debris. Governor Bill Owens praised Gill and the fund for their efforts, saying it will save lives and "help our fellow citizens recover" from a catastrophe. Owens urged all Coloradans to take advantage of the opportunity to double the effect of their donations.
September 05, 2005
Gay parade goes on, despite hurricane Katrina
by Jay Root
New Orleans – A handful of die-hard revelers refused Sunday to let Katrina’s devastation kill their party spirit or snuff out a famous gay parade that normally draws thousands to New Orleans’ French Quarter. As military helicopters buzzed overhead, about two dozen holdout remnants of the annual Southern Decadence festival marched through the quarter, stopping at one of the only bars open, just barely – Johnny White’s Sports Bar & Grill. Dressed in drag, wearing plastic leis or sporting makeup, the participants said they were determined to fight back against overwhelming despair with a familiar celebration that always begins in front of a favorite Gay bar, the Golden Lantern.
Matt Menold was there, strumming "Smoke on the Water" on his guitar and sporting a black and white sombrero during the brief march. He said the few who did show up _ most from the neighborhood – were sending out an important message to the world. " Everyone that survived is here," said Menold. "They’re saying New Orleans isn’t going to be a town again, but it is." Another marcher, Joe Malinauskas, who’s been coming to New Orleans for the Labor Day weekend extravaganza for more than 15 years, said the parade had finally gone back to its non-commercial roots. " Now it’s real again," said Malinauskas, who wore pink and white Mardi Gras beads around his neck.
Southern Decadence is billed as the largest gay event in New Orleans. Organizers probably didn’t have Katrina in mind when they posted a history of the event on their official website, but it was oddly prophetic. " Not even the fire from a dragon’s breath would keep participants and watchers from assembling in the 1200 block of Royal Street on the first Sunday before Labor Day for a celebration that has gotten bigger and more wonderfully insane each year since its casual creation in 1972," it said.
The revelers found no ice or air conditioning once they got to the bar, where the cigarette supply had badly dwindled, but a drink of hard liquor was just what some of them needed. " Everyone’s drinking. We’re all happy," said Andy O’Brien, 23, a bare chested carpentar’s apprentice who has been getting by on canned goods, borrowed food from shuttered bars and help from friends and neighbors. The claim to fame at Johnny White’s is that bar has never closed. Volunteer bartender Joseph Bellomy, a regular patron who started on the job three days ago, said he had been in contact with the owner.
" He said for us to stay open at all costs," Bellomy said. "In 14 years, this bar has never closed." It has now become a rare gathering point and outpost for stranded neighbors, artists and even a man seeking medical care. Writer and computer network administrator Ride Hamilton, wearing a paramedic uniform he bought at a thrift store, stitched up the badly split ear of Vasilios Tryphonas, who had been mugged with a two-by-four and robbed of his last five dollars. One bar patron yelled at a passing police suburban to call for medics to check on Tryphonas. The officers, from the Washington, D.C. Metropolitian police, politely nodded, took snapshots of the revelers and sped off.
Contact Jay Roott at firstname.lastname@example.org
September 8, 2005
Governor will reject gay marriage legislation
by Bill Ainsworth
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced yesterday that he will veto a historic same-sex marriage bill passed by the Legislature, contending that the measure is unconstitutional. His action will put an end to the intense lobbying campaigns to sway him, but it will not stop the broader political and legal fighting over same-sex marriage. Schwarzenegger had been signaling for months that he would veto the measure, but yesterday his press secretary, Margita Thompson, issued a definitive statement saying he had rejected the bill. "Out of respect for the will of the people, the governor will veto AB 849," she said.
In 2000, California voters approved Proposition 22, which limits marriage to a man and a woman. Thompson said the state cannot have a system where "the Legislature derails that vote." "The governor believes the matter should be determined not by legislative action, which would be unconstitutional, but by court decision or another vote of the people of our state," she said. Thompson also noted the governor’s support for the state’s landmark gay rights laws, saying that he is proud that California provides the "most rigorous protections in the nation for domestic partners."
State Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, one of six openly lesbian and gay legislators, called the announcement a "big disappointment. We were hoping that the governor would support equal rights for gay and lesbian Californians," she said. The measure seeks to define marriage as between two persons rather than between a man and a woman. The bill’s author, Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said Schwarzenegger acted hastily. The move comes just a day after the Legislature became the first in the nation to pass a same-sex marriage bill. "It would be disrespectful to the millions of Californians who support this bill not to hear the arguments of its supporters," Leno said. "This is not just another bill."
Both sides had already begun lobbying campaigns to persuade the governor, including plans to inundate the governor’s office with petitions, postcards and telephone calls. Opponents of the bill rejoiced yesterday, just as backers had when it was passed the night before. "I’m thrilled that he chose to act sooner rather than later," said Karen Holgate, legislative director for the California Family Alliance. "Luckily, he didn’t hold anybody in suspense." Both supporters and opponents agree the battle is not over. "The issue doesn’t go away," Leno said. "Support will only increase. The more the public hears about same-sex marriage, the more the public supports it."
Over time, public support for same-sex marriage has grown, Leno said. A poll released last month by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that likely voters are evenly divided on the issue. In the past, polls showed that a majority of California voters opposed gay marriage.
In Massachusetts, whose state high court mandated recognition of same-sex marriage, acceptance has increased, he said. "When people realize that the sky does not fall, civilization does not end, people say this is a nonissue," Leno said. Opponents are pushing two measures for the June ballot that would amend the state constitution to guarantee that marriage in California remains only between a man and a woman. One of the initiatives would also roll back some benefits granted by to same-sex couples registered as domestic partners.
Outside the Capitol yesterday, Dick Otterstad was gathering signatures for one of the initiatives and called the governor’s decision "awesome." But he said he was going to continue collecting signatures because more permanent action is needed. "We’re saying for the long run what we really need to do is put a constitutional amendment for people to vote on and put this thing in stone," he said. "It would end the marriage wars."
Republican political analyst Allan Hoffenblum said Schwarzenegger had to veto the legislation to keep support among Republicans who are largely opposed to gay marriage. "If he was still up there with 61 percent approval and had broad support, he might sign it," Hoffenblum said. The Republican governor’s public approval ratings have sunk to about 36 percent, and the bulk of that support comes from Republicans. "He can’t alienate his base," he said. Democratic political analyst Darry Sragow said the veto further detracts from Schwarzenegger’s rapidly shrinking bipartisan appeal in a Democratic state.
"It reaffirms that he’s not a moderate. When push comes to shove, he’s another conservative Republican," Sragow said. Schwarzenegger had signed several gay rights bills last year.
But yesterday, he vetoed a bill to amend the Code of Fair Campaign Practices to prohibit any negative campaign appeals based on sexual orientation. Voluntarily, candidates often sign the code. Assemblyman Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, who voted against the same-sex marriage bill, said the veto will help the issue fade from public view. "It will give people a chance to regroup and see if they can find a way to come together," he said. State Treasurer Phil Angelides, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor next year, said Schwarzenegger missed a historic opportunity. "Signing this bill would have moved California forward on the right side of history," he said in a statement.
Leno has relentlessly pursued the same-sex marriage issue over the past three years. He contends that his measure does not conflict with Proposition 22, which declares "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." His bill wouldn’t change the initiative, but amend a law passed by the Legislature in 1978 that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Leno argues that Proposition 22 should be narrowly interpreted, meaning that it only bans California from recognizing same-sex marriages from out of state, but not from allowing them within the state. Opponents say Proposition 22 applies to all marriages.
In addition to the political battle, the issue is being fought in the courts. A San Francisco Superior Court judge has ruled that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violates the state constitution. The case is under appeal. Supporters of same-sex marriage say they have made progress and will be energized by the veto. " We’ll fight again," Kehoe said. "We believe that time is on our side.
October 5, 2005
U.S.A. Mr. Gay Captures Title Of First Ever Mr. Gay 2006 International Title
Austria and Germany Snag 1 st and 2 nd Runner-Up Positions
Palm Spring, CA – In a cliffhanger competition, where a tie-breaker was averted on a second ballot, the first ever Mr. Gay 2006 International title was captured by San Diego’s Jesse Bashem, who – just one hour earlier – had won the title of U.S.A. Mr. Gay.
(For photos go to http://www.mrgaycompetition.com/new/index.php )
The Competition, which took place at the Riviera Resort in Palm Springs, California, Columbus Day Weekend – October 7-9, 2005 included eleven additional contestants from cities such as, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Palm Springs, and national representatives from the Netherlands, Norway, Lappland, Bulgaria and Bosnia-Herzegovenia. Austria’s Aaron Michael Jackson was the first runner up and Germany’s Suat Bahceci landed in the second runner up slot. The title for Mr. Congeniality, voted on by his fellow contestants, was awarded to Palm Springs resident Robert (Bobby) Ficco Jr., leading Mayor Ron Oden (also a competition judge)to comment, “How gratifying to see a Palm Springs resident recognized for what the city prides itself on, a friendly nurturing community to all the world’s visitors.”
“ Competitions such as these have been popular in Europe for years and we’re thrilled to now have a U.S. based component looking for the ‘boy next door’ to represent the broader gay community,” said Producer Don Spradlin. “The winner will serve as a spokesman to raise the visibility of gay men, humanize gays in the media, create a positive role model and confront homophobia in today’s culture.”
November 1, 2005
Homosexual Activist Professor at New Jersey Catholic College Demoted
by Hilary White
South Orange, New Jersey – A Catholic university in New Jersey is under attack for censuring a homosexual activist on its faculty. A report from the Associated Press says that an associate dean at Seton Hall Univeristy, W. King Mott, was demoted for writing a letter published Oct. 19 in Newark’s Star-Ledger attacking the Church’s teaching on human sexuality.
In his letter, Mott accused the Church of “scapegoating” homosexuals for what he called the “pedophile scandal” of priests sexually molesting young men and boys. The day after the letter appeared, Molly Smith, the school’s dean, asked Mott to step down from his position as associate dean saying he had confused his stance with the school’s. Mott has complained that the university is quashing debate. He said to the press, “A university ought to be a sanctuary for the expression of ideas, diverse ideas, contrary ideas.”
The University, however, said that the problem was not in Mott expressing his private views on homosexuality and Church teaching, but that he had associated his views with those of the University. “Clearly, it is inappropriate to speak against the Catholic Church or its policies as if representing Seton Hall University,” University spokesman Tom White said. “If a university employee does this as Joe Q. Public, it’s a different matter altogether.”
In his letter to the Star Ledger, Mott wrote, "Once again the Catholic hierarchy attacks gay men as a scapegoat for what is truly unacceptable
The Catholic hierarchy, however, cannot ignore the report of an investigation into the sex abuse scandals that showed over 80% of the victims were young men and boys who had been attacked by priests with strong homosexual tendencies. Though Mott worked at Seton Hall for seven years, he was in open opposition to its teachings. “The Roman Catholic Church is prima facie homophobic,” he told the press. “The Roman Catholic Church considers me to be inherently disordered. I don’t know how much more homophobic one can be.”
Before Seton, Mott was an assistant professor at another Catholic college, the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Mott said that Seton Hall was aware that he was a homosexual, but he had not told them he lived with a man.