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History > 2008 > USA > Gay rights (II)




In Hartford, Crystal Pretzman of Willimantic, Conn.,

celebrated the State Supreme Court's

decision to legalize same-sex marriage.


Photograph: Shana Sureck

for The New York Times


Gay Marriage Is Ruled Legal in Connecticut


















Across U.S., Big Rallies

for Same-Sex Marriage


November 16, 2008
The New York Times


SAN FRANCISCO — In one of the nation’s largest displays of support for gay rights, tens of thousands of people in cities across the country turned out in support of same-sex marriage on Saturday, lending their voices to an issue that many gay men and lesbians consider a critical step to full equality.

The demonstrations — from a sun-splashed throng in San Francisco to a chilly crowd in Minneapolis — came 11 days after California voters narrowly passed a ballot measure, Proposition 8, that outlawed previously legal same-sex ceremonies in the state. The measure’s passage has spurred protests in California and across the country, including at several Mormon temples, a reflection of that church’s ardent backing of the proposition.

On Saturday, speakers painted the fight over Proposition 8 as another test of a movement that began with the riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York in 1969, survived the emergence of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, and has since made enormous strides in societal acceptance, whether in television shows or in antidiscrimination laws.

“It’s not ‘Yes we can,’ ” said Tom Ammiano, a San Francisco city supervisor, referring to President-elect Barack Obama’s campaign mantra. “It’s ‘Yes we will.’ ”

Carrying handmade signs with slogans like “No More Mr. Nice Gay” and “Straights Against Hate,” big crowds filled civic centers and streets in many cities. In New York, some 4,000 people gathered at City Hall, where speakers repeatedly called same-sex marriage “the greatest civil rights battle of our generation.”

“We are not going to rest at night until every citizen in every state in this country can say, ‘This is the person I love,’ and take their hand in marriage,” said Representative Anthony D. Weiner of Brooklyn.

In Los Angeles, where wildfires had temporarily grabbed headlines from continuing protests over Proposition 8, Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa addressed a crowd of about 9,000 people in Spanish and English, and seemed to express confidence that the measure, which is being challenged in California courts, would be overturned.

“I’ve come here from the fires because I feel the wind at my back as well,” said the mayor, who arrived at a downtown rally from the fire zone on a helicopter. “It’s the wind of change that has swept the nation. It is the wind of optimism and hope.”

About 900 protesters braved a tornado watch and menacing rain clouds in Washington to rally in front of the Capitol and on to the White House. “Gay, straight, black, white; marriage is a civil right,” the marchers chanted.

In Las Vegas, the comedian Wanda Sykes surprised a crowd of more than 1,000 rallying outside a gay community center by announcing that she is gay and had wed her wife in California on Oct. 25. Ms. Sykes, who divorced her husband of seven years in 1998, had never publicly discussed her sexual orientation but said the passage of Proposition 8 had propelled her to be open about it.

“I felt like I was being attacked, personally attacked — our community was attacked,” she told the crowd.

And while some speakers were obviously eager to tap crowds’ current outrage, others took pains to cast the demonstrations as a peaceful, long-term, campaign over an issue that has proved remarkably and consistently divisive.

“We need to be our best selves,” said the Rev. G. Penny Nixon, a gay pastor from San Mateo, Calif., who warned the San Francisco crowd against blaming “certain communities” for the election loss. “This is a movement based on love.”

The protests were organized largely over the Internet, and featured few representatives of major gay rights groups that campaigned against Proposition 8, which passed with 52 percent of the vote after trailing for months in the polls. The online aspect seemed to draw a broad cross-section of people, like Nicole Toussaint, a kindergarten teacher who joined a crowd of more than 1,000 people in Minneapolis.

“I’m here to support my friends who are gay,” said Ms. Toussaint, 23. “I think my generation will play a big role.”

The big crowds notwithstanding, it has been a tough month for gay rights. Proposition 8 was just one of three measures on same-sex marriage passed on Nov. 4, with constitutional bans also being approved in Arizona and Florida. In Arkansas, voters passed a measure aimed at barring gay men and lesbians from adopting children.

That vote was on the minds of many of the 200 people who protested Saturday in front of the State Capitol in Little Rock. One of those, Barb L’Eplattenier, 39, a university professor, said some of her gay friends with adopted children were fearful of state action if they appeared in public. “They think their families are in danger,” said Ms. L’Eplattenier, who married her partner, Sarah Scanlon, in California in July.

The protests over Proposition 8 also come even as same-sex marriages began Wednesday in Connecticut, which joined Massachusetts as the only states allowing such ceremonies. By contrast, 30 states have constitutional bans on such unions.

At a Boston rally on Saturday, Kate Leslie, an organizer, said the loss in California had certainly caught the attention of local gay men and lesbians who have had the right to marry since 2004.

“You’re watching people who could be you and are part of your community being stripped of their rights,” Ms. Leslie said. “And in some ways that’s why so many people are infuriated in Massachusetts and willing to stand up for a rally.”

In California, a State Supreme Court decision legalized same-sex marriage in May. As many as 18,000 couples married, some traveling from other states to tie the knot. Such marriages may be challenged in court.

David McMullin, a garden designer from Atlanta, was one of those who made the trip, marrying his partner in Oakland, Calif., in September, in part to let their two adoptive children feel part of a married family.

“We just want our kids to know we’re O.K.,” said Mr. McMullin, who had come to a protest in front of the Georgia State Capitol. “We have rights as people even if we don’t have rights as citizens.”

Supporters of the proposition have repeatedly argued that Proposition 8 was not antigay, but merely pro-marriage.

“The marriage is between a man and women,” said Frank Schubert, the campaign manager for Protect Marriage, the leading group behind passing Proposition 8. “If they want to legalize same-sex marriage, they are gong to have to bring a proposal before the people of California. That’s how democracy works.”

Equality California, a major gay rights group here, indicated this week that it would work to repeal Proposition 8 if legal challenges fail.

Such dry approaches seemed a million miles away, however, from the boisterous scene in front of San Francisco City Hall on Saturday, where as many as 10,000 people gathered, carrying signs, American flags and even copies of their marriage licenses.

One of those was Lawrence Dean, 57, who had married his partner, Steven Lyle, in San Francisco in July. It was the fifth time that the couple of 19 years had held a ceremony to announce their commitment, and, of course, accept wedding gifts.

“If we keep this up, maybe I won’t have to again,” Mr. Dean said, looking out at the protest. “I have enough pots and pans.”

Reporting was contributed by Robbie Brown from Atlanta; Steve Barnes from Little Rock; Christina Capecchi from Minneapolis; Francesca Segrè from Los Angeles; Katie Zezima from Boston; Ashley Southall from Washington; Steve Friess from Las Vegas; and C. J. Hughes from New York.

Across U.S., Big Rallies for Same-Sex Marriage, NYT, 16.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/16/us/16protest.html






Bans in 3 States on Gay Marriage


November 6, 2008
The New York Times


SAN FRANCISCO — A giant rainbow-colored flag in the gay-friendly Castro neighborhood of San Francisco was flying at half-staff on Wednesday as social and religious conservatives celebrated the passage of measures that ban same-sex marriage in California, Florida and Arizona.

In California, where same-sex marriage had been performed since June, the ban had more than 52 percent of the vote, according to figures by the secretary of state, and was projected to win by several Californian news media outlets. Opponents of same-sex marriage won by even bigger margins in Arizona and Florida. Just two years ago, Arizona rejected a similar ban.

The across-the-board sweep, coupled with passage of a measure in Arkansas intended to bar gay men and lesbians from adopting children, was a stunning victory for religious conservatives, who had little else to celebrate on an Election Day that saw Senator John McCain lose and other ballot measures, like efforts to restrict abortion in South Dakota, California and Colorado, rejected.

“It was a great victory,” said the Rev. James Garlow, senior pastor of Skyline Church in San Diego County and a leader of the campaign to pass the California measure, Proposition 8. “We saw the people just rise up.”

The losses devastated supporters of same-sex marriage and ignited a debate about whether the movement to expand the rights of same-sex couples had hit a cultural brick wall, even at a time of another civil rights success, the election of a black president.

Thirty states have now passed bans on same-sex marriage.

Supporters of same-sex marriage in California, where the fight on Tuesday was fiercest, appeared to have been outflanked by the measure’s highly organized backers and, exit polls indicated, hurt by the large turnout among black and Hispanic voters drawn to Senator Barack Obama’s candidacy. Mr. Obama opposes same-sex marriage.

California will still allow same-sex civil unions, but that is not an option in Arizona and Florida. Exit polls in California found that 70 percent of black voters backed the ban. Slightly more than half of Latino voters, who made up almost 20 percent of voters, favored the ban, while 53 percent of whites opposed it.

Julius Turman, a chairman of the Alice B. Toklas L.G.B.T. Democratic Club, a gay political group here, said he called his mother in tears when Mr. Obama won the presidency, only to be crying over the same-sex marriage vote in a different way not much later.

“It is the definition of bittersweet,” Mr. Turman said. “As an African-American, I rejoiced in the symbolism of yesterday. As a gay man, I thought, ‘How can this be happening?’ ”

Proposition 8’s passage left only Massachusetts and Connecticut as states where same-sex marriages are legal, though both Rhode Island and New York will continue to recognize such ceremonies performed elsewhere. Civil unions or domestic partnerships, which carry many of the same rights as marriage, are allowed in a handful of states. More than 40 states now have constitutional bans or laws against same-sex marriages.

On Wednesday, five months of same-sex marriages in California — declared legal by the State Supreme Court in May — appeared to have come to a halt. “This city is no longer marrying people” of the same sex, Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, announced at a grim news conference at City Hall, where hundreds of same-sex couples had rushed to marry in the days and hours leading up to Tuesday’s vote.

The status of those marriages, among 17,000 same-sex unions performed in the state, was left in doubt by the vote. The state’s attorney general, Jerry Brown, reiterated Wednesday that he believed that those marriages would remain valid, but legal skirmishes were expected.

The cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, and Santa Clara County, as well as several civil rights and gay rights groups, said on Wednesday that they would sue to block the ban.

Some opponents of the proposition were also still holding out slim hopes that a batch of perhaps as many as four million provisional and vote-by-mail ballots would somehow turn the tide.

The victory of the social and religious conservatives came on a core issue that has defined their engagement in politics over the past decade.

The Rev. Joel Hunter, an evangelical pastor in Florida, said many religious conservatives felt more urgency about stopping same-sex marriage than about abortion, another hotly contested issue long locked in a stalemate.

“There is enough of the population that is alarmed at the general breakdown of the family, that has been so inundated with images of homosexual relationships in all of the media,” said Mr. Hunter, who gave the benediction at the Democratic National Convention this year, yet supported the same-sex marriage ban in his state. “It’s almost like it’s obligatory these days to have a homosexual couple in every TV show or every movie.”

Supporters of the bans in California, Arizona and Florida benefited from the donations and volunteers mobilized by a broad array of churches and religious groups from across the ethnic spectrum.

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, a pastor in Sacramento and president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said the campaign to pass Proposition 8 had begun with white evangelical churches but had spread to more than 1,130 Hispanic churches whose pastors convinced their members that same-sex marriage threatened the traditional family.

“Without the Latino vote,” Mr. Rodriguez said, “Proposition 8 would never have succeeded.”

Frank Schubert, the campaign manager for Protect Marriage, the leading group behind Proposition 8, agreed that minority votes had put the measure over the top, saying that a strategy of working with conservative black pastors and community leaders had paid off.

“It’s a big reason why we won, no doubt about it,” he said.

Proposition 8 was one of the most expensive ballot measures ever waged, with combined spending of more than $75 million. Focus on the Family and other religious conservative groups contributed money to help pass the same-sex marriage measures in all three states.

Forces on both sides viewed California as a critical test of the nation’s acceptance of gay people, who have made remarkable strides in the decades since the 1969 riots in New York at the Stonewall Inn, considered the beginning of the gay rights movement.

Scholars were divided on how large a setback Tuesday’s votes would be for that movement. Andrew Koppelman, a professor of law at Northwestern University and the author of “Same Sex, Different States,” a study of same-sex marriage, said the outcome had a silver lining, namely that it was closer than in previous statewide measures.

A 2000 ballot measure establishing a California state law against same-sex marriage passed with 61 percent of the vote. That law was overturned in May by the State Supreme Court.

In Arizona, where same-sex marriage was already against the law, the victory for Proposition 102, which amends the State Constitution, was met with a shrug by some.

“I think the country was like, ‘Look, you get Obama, call it a day and go home,’ ” said Kyrsten Sinema, a Democratic state representative who led opponents against Proposition 102. “And frankly, I’ll take it.”

Jesse McKinley reported from San Francisco, and Laurie Goodstein from New York.

    Bans in 3 States on Gay Marriage, NYT, 6.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/06/us/politics/06marriage.html?ref=opinion






California Voters

Approve Gay-Marriage Ban


November 5, 2008
Filed at 2:04 p.m. ET
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Voters put a stop to same-sex marriage in California, dealing a crushing defeat to gay-rights activists in a state they hoped would be a vanguard, and putting in doubt as many as 18,000 same-sex marriages conducted since a court ruling made them legal this year.

The gay-rights movement had a rough election elsewhere as well Tuesday. Ban-gay-marriage amendments were approved in Arizona and Florida, and Arkansas voters approved a measure banning unmarried couples from serving as adoptive or foster parents. Supporters made clear that gays and lesbians were their main target.

But California, the nation's most populous state, had been the big prize. Spending for and against Proposition 8 reached $74 million, the most expensive social-issues campaign in U.S. history and the most expensive campaign this year outside the race for the White House. Activists on both sides of the issue saw the measure as critical to building momentum for their causes.

''People believe in the institution of marriage,'' Frank Schubert, co-manager of the Yes on 8 campaign said after declaring victory early Wednesday. ''It's one institution that crosses ethnic divides, that crosses partisan divides. ... People have stood up because they care about marriage and they care a great deal.''

With almost all precincts reporting, election returns showed the measure winning with 52 percent. Some provisional and absentee ballots remained to be tallied, but based on trends and the locations of the votes still outstanding, the margin of support in favor of the initiative was secure.

Californians overwhelmingly passed a same-sex marriage ban in 2000, but gay-rights supporters had hoped public opinion on the issue had shifted enough for this year's measure to be rejected.

''We pick ourselves up and trudge on,'' said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. ''There has been enormous movement in favor of full equality in eight short years. That is the direction this is heading, and if it's not today or it's not tomorrow, it will be soon.''

The constitutional amendment limits marriage to heterosexual couples, nullifying the California Supreme Court decision that had made same-sex marriages legal in the state since June.

Similar bans had prevailed in 27 states before Tuesday's elections, but none were in California's situation -- with about 18,000 gay couples already married. The state attorney general, Jerry Brown, has said those marriages will remain valid, although legal challenges are possible.

Elsewhere, voters in Colorado and South Dakota rejected measures that could have led to sweeping bans of abortion, and Washington became only the second state -- after Oregon -- to offer terminally ill people the option of physician-assisted suicide.

A first-of-its-kind measure in Colorado, which was defeated soundly, would have defined life as beginning at conception. Its opponents said the proposal could lead to the outlawing of some types of birth control as well as abortion.

The South Dakota measure would have banned abortions except in cases of rape, incest and serious health threat to the mother. A tougher version, without the rape and incest exceptions, lost in 2006. Anti-abortion activists thought the modifications would win approval, but the margin of defeat was similar, about 55 percent to 45 percent of the vote.

''The lesson here is that Americans, in states across the country, clearly support women's ability to access abortion care without government interference,'' said Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation.

In Washington, voters gave solid approval to an initiative modeled after Oregon's ''Death with Dignity'' law, which allows a terminally ill person to be prescribed lethal medication they can administer to themselves. Since Oregon's law took effect in 1997, more than 340 people -- mostly ailing with cancer -- have used it to end their lives.

The marijuana reform movement won two prized victories, with Massachusetts voters decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the drug and Michigan joining 12 other states in allowing use of pot for medical purposes.

Henceforth, people caught in Massachusetts with an ounce or less of pot will no longer face criminal penalties. Instead, they'll forfeit the marijuana and pay a $100 civil fine.

The Michigan measure will allow severely ill patients to register with the state and legally buy, grow and use small amounts of marijuana to relieve pain, nausea, appetite loss and other symptoms.

Nebraska voters, meanwhile, approved a ban on race- and gender-based affirmative action, similar to measures previously approved in California, Michigan and Washington. Returns in Colorado on a similar measure were too close to call.

Ward Connerly, the California activist-businessman who has led the crusade against affirmative action, said Obama's victory proved his point. ''We have overcome the scourge of race,'' Connerly said.

Energy measures met a mixed fate. In Missouri, voters approved a measure requiring the state's three investor-owned electric utilities to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021. But California voters defeated an even more ambitious measure that would have required the state's utilities to generate half their electricity from windmills, solar systems, geothermal reserves and other renewable sources by 2025.

Two animal-welfare measures passed -- a ban on dog racing in Massachusetts, and a proposition in California that outlaws cramped cages for egg-laying chickens.

Amid deep economic uncertainty, proposals to cut state income taxes were defeated decisively in North Dakota and Massachusetts.

In San Francisco, an eye-catching local measure -- to bar arrests for prostitution -- was soundly rejected. Police and political leaders said it would hamper the fight against sex trafficking. And in San Diego, voters decided to make permanent a ban on alcohol consumption on city beaches.


Associated Press writer Paul Elias in San Francisco contributed to this report.

    California Voters Approve Gay-Marriage Ban, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Ballot-Measures.html






California Same-Sex Couples

Race to Beat Ballot


November 4, 2008
The New York Times


SAN FRANCISCO — Sharna Fey and Kim Broadbeck have married three times. In 2004, they married in a daze. In 2005, they married on an island. And on Monday, when it really counted under the law, they married in a hurry.

“We’re doing this while we still can,” said Ms. Fey, 44, a life coach who has been with Ms. Broadbeck for 11 years and through two previous same-sex marriage ceremonies, neither recognized as legal. “I mean, trust me, we feel married. But this is a legal response.”

With polls showing the outcome of a ballot measure on Tuesday on outlawing same-sex marriage in California a tossup, couples were not taking any chances on Monday. They showed up early here at City Hall, wearing boutonnieres and blouses and holding hands — and their collective breath.

In West Hollywood, a gay-friendly city in Los Angeles County, John Duran, a city councilman, said he had performed 25 ceremonies since Friday, driving all over Los Angeles County to officiate.

“This is the modern-day version of a shotgun wedding,” he said. “We’re doing as many as we can before tomorrow.”

The rush to the altar was in anticipation of Proposition 8, which would amend the State Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman and end nearly five months of legalized same-sex marriages in the state. The ban, if approved, would take effect Wednesday.

“We’re here in case of what happens tomorrow,” said Michael Levy, who married his partner, Michael Golden, here on Monday. They wore identical tuxedo jackets, ties and beards.

“I’m scared,” Mr. Levy said. “It’s really close.”

Same-sex couples filled the hallway in front of the county clerk’s office here as weddings started at 9 a.m., with dozens of ceremonies scheduled throughout the day and dozens more already booked for Election Day.

Clerks in several other California counties reported a surge in the number of marriage licenses issued, with some offices booked to capacity. San Francisco has issued more than 800 marriage licenses to same-sex couples since Oct. 20 and nearly 5,000 since mid-June.

Elsewhere, couples held ceremonies on beachfronts and in backyards and living rooms.

“We kind of said Proposition 8 was like our version of getting knocked up,” said Benjamin Pither, 28, who married his high school sweetheart, Joseph Greaves, on Sunday at Mr. Greaves’s parents’ house in Santa Rosa. “We both liked the idea of marriage, but we wanted to do it in our own time. But when it looked like Proposition 8 might pass, we realized that we would regret it if we didn’t take the opportunity.”

Some couples traveled from afar to make Monday the big day. Allison and Rose, a lesbian couple from Tampa, Fla., said they had come to San Francisco to marry on the advice of friends who suspect that Florida will pass its own constitutional ban on Tuesday on same-sex marriage. The couple, who said they might relocate if Florida passed its ban, did not want their last names used because of fears that they would face discrimination at home.

“It isn’t like San Francisco,” Rose said.

While defeat of the California ballot measure would probably quell debate — at least for a time — over allowing same-sex unions in the state, it is expected that a victory would lead to a second round of legal wrangling over the validity of the thousands of marriages performed since June, when a State Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriages took effect.

California’s attorney general, Jerry Brown, has said he believes that the marriages will remain valid, but Geoff Kors, the executive director of Equality California, a gay rights group that opposes Proposition 8, said he expected challenges.

“It wouldn’t surprise me that people trying to eliminate constitutional rights would try to annul or divorce people that are married,” said Mr. Kors, who expressed optimism that the ballot measure would fail.

Supporters of the ban say no rights would be infringed by its passage but suggest that the California Supreme Court will “have to deal with the mess that it made” by allowing the marriages in the first place, said Sonja Eddings Brown, a spokeswoman for Protect Marriage, the leading group behind Proposition 8.

In the spring, opponents of same-sex marriage asked the court to stay its decision until the election, but the request was turned down. “They knew Proposition 8 was going to be on the ballot,” Ms. Brown said, “and they decided not to listen to the voice of the people.”

Each side has poured more than $25 million into the fight over Proposition 8, making it one of the most expensive ballot measures ever in a state known for its proclivities for direct democracy. Airwaves across the state have been blanketed in recent weeks with increasingly overheated advertisements, with opponents likening the measure to the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II and supporters suggesting that same-sex marriage would be taught to young schoolchildren.

The most recent Field Poll showed a five-point advantage for opponents of the measure, but backers of Proposition 8 say support for bans on same-sex marriage across the country has been traditionally understated in polls.

In 2000, when California voters approved a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, a Field Poll just before the election showed that 53 percent of those polled approved the measure. The final tally in favor of the law was 61 percent.

The 2000 law was overturned in May by the State Supreme Court. Hundreds of joyous couples were married on balconies and in atriums throughout San Francisco’s soaring City Hall after the court’s ruling took effect on June 16.

The mood was more subdued Monday, with bureaucracy — “Next, please!” — replacing much of the ebullience of that day. Ms. Fey and Ms. Broadbeck seemed almost to have a touch of same-sex-marriage fatigue. They were among the 4,000 couples that married in San Francisco in 2004, after Mayor Gavin Newsom suddenly ordered the city clerk to marry same-sex couples.

Those marriages were later invalidated by the courts. A year later, Ms. Fey and Ms. Broadbeck married again, in Hawaii, with friends and family in attendance, and “fully seen by those closest to us,” Ms. Fey said. But it was an unofficial ceremony in a state that does not allow same-sex marriage.

So it was that this time around, they had almost forgotten to tie the knot.

“All summer long we were like, ‘Oh yeah, we should do that,’ ” Ms. Fey said. “And then all of the sudden, it was like, ‘Uh oh.’ ”

Paul Ellis, 51, a retail manager in San Francisco, was at City Hall on Monday to witness Mr. Golden and Mr. Levy’s wedding. It was Mr. Ellis’s seventh same-sex marriage in the last five months, he said, attending most of them in the tartan kilt he wore on a muggy Monday, which he regretted.

“You wouldn’t want to wrap six yards of cloth around your hips on a day like this,” he said.

Mr. Ellis had also taken matters into his own hands, getting an online certification as a marriage officiate and presiding over two ceremonies for other gay friends — all ahead of Tuesday’s election.

“At this point,” he said of the ballot measure’s fate, “I think it’s a complete crapshoot.”

Rebecca Cathcart contributed reporting from West Hollywood.

    California Same-Sex Couples Race to Beat Ballot, NYT, 4.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/04/us/04marriage.html?hp






If Elected ...

Hopefuls Differ

as They Reject Gay Marriage


November 1, 2008
The New York Times


Several gay friends and wealthy gay donors to Senator Barack Obama have asked him over the years why, as a matter of logic and fairness, he opposes same-sex marriage even though he has condemned old miscegenation laws that would have barred his black father from marrying his white mother.

The difference, Mr. Obama has told them, is religion.

As a Christian — he is a member of the United Church of Christ — Mr. Obama believes that marriage is a sacred union, a blessing from God, and one that is intended for a man and a woman exclusively, according to these supporters and Obama campaign advisers. While he does not favor laws that ban same-sex marriage, and has said he is “open to the possibility” that his views may be “misguided,” he does not support it and is not inclined to fight for it, his advisers say.

Senator John McCain also opposes same-sex marriage, but unlike Mr. Obama’s, his position is influenced by generational and cultural experiences rather than a religious conviction, McCain advisers say.

But Mr. McCain, reflecting his strongly held views on federalism, has also broken with many Republican senators and joined Mr. Obama and most Democrats to oppose amending the United States Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, arguing that the issue should be left to the states to decide.

The candidates have very different positions, though, when it comes to the state level. Mr. Obama opposes amending state constitutions to define marriage as a heterosexual institution, describing such proposals as discriminatory. Mr. McCain, however, has been active in such efforts: On the most expensive and heated battle to ban same-sex marriage this year, a proposed constitutional amendment in California known as Proposition 8, he has endorsed the measure and sharply criticized a State Supreme Court ruling that granted same-sex couples the right to marry.

Mr. Obama has spoken out against Proposition 8, and opponents of the measure hope that a huge Democratic turnout in California on Nov. 4 — and, possibly, depressed turnout among conservatives — will help defeat it. At the same time, some Democrats say that if many socially conservative blacks and Hispanics turn out to support Mr. Obama, but oppose same-sex marriage, the amendment’s chances for passage could improve.

While same-sex marriage is not expected to play a consequential role in the elections on Tuesday — unlike in 2004, when a proposed ban in Ohio was widely seen as hurting the Democratic presidential nominee that year, Senator John Kerry — passions remain high for voters on both sides. Some gay Democrats had hoped, in particular, that Mr. Obama would extend his message of unity and tolerance to their fight on the issue.

“Barack is an intellectual guy, and I know he has been thinking through his position on gay marriage, and what is fair for all people,” said Michael Bauer, an openly gay fund-raiser for Mr. Obama and an adviser to his campaign on gay issues. “But he is just not there with us on this issue.”

Some gay allies of Mr. Obama thought, during a televised Democratic forum in Los Angeles in August 2007, that he might come out in favor of same-sex marriage, after he was asked if his position supporting civil unions but not same-sex marriage was tantamount to “separate but equal.”

“Look, when my parents got married in 1961, it would have been illegal for them to be married in a number of states in the South,” Mr. Obama said. “So, obviously, this is something that I understand intimately. It’s something that I care about.”

At that point, he veered onto legal rights, saying that — both in 1961 and today — it was more important to fight for nondiscrimination laws and employment protections than for marriage.

Mr. Obama has spoken only occasionally about his religious beliefs influencing his views on same-sex marriage, and he has indicated that he is wary of linking his religion to policy decisions.

“I’m a Christian,” Mr. Obama said on a radio program in his 2004 race for Senate. “And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman.”

In one of his books, “The Audacity of Hope,” however, Mr. Obama describes a conversation with a lesbian supporter who became upset when he cited his religious views to explain his opposition.

“She felt that by bringing religion into the equation, I was suggesting that she, and others like her, were somehow bad people,” he wrote. “I felt bad, and told her so in a return call. As I spoke to her, I was reminded that no matter how much Christians who oppose homosexuality may claim that they hate the sin but love the sinner, such a judgment inflicts pain on good people.”

“And I was reminded,” Mr. Obama added, “that it is my obligation, not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided, just as I cannot claim infallibility in my support of abortion rights.”

Advisers to Mr. McCain, meanwhile, say that he is not especially fervent on the issue — he simply believes that marriage has always been between a man and a woman, and that this is a culturally accepted norm that he sees no need to dispute.

Mr. McCain discussed his views with the openly gay entertainer Ellen DeGeneres in an appearance on her television talk show in May.

The California Supreme Court had just cleared the way for same-sex marriage, and Ms. DeGeneres had announced on her program that she planned to marry her longtime girlfriend. “We are all the same people, all of us — you’re no different than I am,” Ms. DeGeneres told Mr. McCain as they sat next to each other in plush chairs. “Our love is the same.”

Mr. McCain called her comments “very eloquent” and added: “We just have a disagreement. And I, along with many, many others, wish you every happiness.”

Ms. DeGeneres said: “So, you’ll walk me down the aisle? Is that what you’re saying?”

Mr. McCain replied, “Touché.”

As a matter of policy, Mr. McCain approaches same-sex marriage from his strong federalist viewpoint. He was one of seven Republican senators to vote in June 2006 against a proposed federal amendment banning such marriages, saying it was an issue for the states. That same year, he also worked to try to amend Arizona’s Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. That amendment failed — the first rejection in 28 statewide votes on similar measures since 1998; a new effort is on the ballot next week in Arizona, and Mr. McCain has endorsed it.

“He is a true federalist, seeing no need for the federal government to dictate laws on who can marry who,” said Jim Kolbe, a former Republican congressman from Arizona and a friend of Mr. McCain’s, and who is openly gay.

“As a personal matter, I think this is entirely a generational and cultural thing for him — he just doesn’t see a need for gay marriage,” Mr. Kolbe said. “I just think gay marriage is not part of the world and background that he comes from.”

    Hopefuls Differ as They Reject Gay Marriage, NYT, 1.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/01/us/politics/01marriage.html?hp






Gay Marriage Is Ruled Legal

in Connecticut


October 11, 2008
The New York Times


A sharply divided Connecticut Supreme Court struck down the state’s civil union law on Friday and ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. Connecticut thus joins Massachusetts and California as the only states to have legalized gay marriages.

The ruling, which cannot be appealed and is to take effect on Oct. 28, held that a state law limiting marriage to heterosexual couples, and a civil union law intended to provide all the rights and privileges of marriage to same-sex couples, violated the constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law.

Striking at the heart of discriminatory traditions in America, the court — in language that often rose above the legal landscape into realms of social justice for a new century — recalled that laws in the not-so-distant past barred interracial marriages, excluded women from occupations and official duties, and relegated blacks to separate but supposedly equal public facilities.

“Like these once prevalent views, our conventional understanding of marriage must yield to a more contemporary appreciation of the rights entitled to constitutional protection,” Justice Richard N. Palmer wrote for the majority in a 4-to-3 decision that explored the nature of homosexual identity, the history of societal views toward homosexuality and the limits of gay political power compared with that of blacks and women.

“Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same-sex partner of their choice,” Justice Palmer declared. “To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others.”

The ruling was groundbreaking in various respects. In addition to establishing Connecticut as the third state to sanction same-sex marriage, it was the first state high court ruling to hold that civil union statutes specifically violated the equal protection clause of a state constitution. The Massachusetts high court held in 2004 that same-sex marriages were legal, while California’s court decision in May related to domestic partnerships and not the more broadly defined civil unions.

The Connecticut decision, which elicited strong dissenting opinions from three justices, also opened the door to marriage a bit wider for gay couples in New York, where state laws do not provide for same-sex marriages or civil unions, although Gov. David A. Paterson recently issued an executive order requiring government agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

The opinion in Connecticut was hailed by jubilant gay couples and their advocates as a fulfillment of years of hopes and dreams. Hugs, kisses and cheers greeted eight same-sex couples as they entered the ballroom at the Hartford Hilton, where four years ago they had announced they would file a lawsuit seeking marriage licenses.

One of those couples, Joanne Mock, 53, and her partner, Elizabeth Kerrigan, 52, stood with their twin 6-year-old sons, choking back tears of joy and gratitude. Another plaintiff, Garret Stack, 59, introduced his partner, John Anderson, 63, and said: “For 28 years we have been engaged. We can now register at Home Depot and prepare for marriage.”

Religious and conservative groups called the ruling an outrage but not unexpected, and spoke of steps to enact a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, blamed “robed masters” and “philosopher kings” on the court. “This is about our right to govern ourselves,” he said. “It is bigger than gay marriage.”

But the state, a principal defendant in the lawsuit, appeared to be resigned to the outcome.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell said that she disagreed with the decision, but would uphold it. “The Supreme Court has spoken,” she said. “I do not believe their voice reflects the majority of the people of Connecticut. However, I am also firmly convinced that attempts to reverse this decision, either legislatively or by amending the state Constitution, will not meet with success.”

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said his office was reviewing the decision to determine whether laws and procedures will have to be revised — local officials will issue marriage licenses to gay couples without question, for example — but he offered no challenge and said it would soon be implemented.

The case was watched far beyond Hartford. Vermont, New Hampshire and New Jersey all have civil union statutes, while Maine, Washington, Oregon and Hawaii have domestic partnership laws that allow same-sex couples many of the same rights granted to those in civil unions. Advocates for same-sex couples have long argued that civil unions and domestic partnerships denied them the financial, social and emotional benefits accorded in a marriage.

The legal underpinnings for gay marriages, civil unions and statutory partnerships have all come in legislative actions and decisions in lawsuits. Next month, however, voters in California will decide whether the state Constitution should permit same-sex marriage.

The Connecticut case began in 2004 after the eight same-sex couples were denied marriage licenses by the town of Madison. Reflecting the contentiousness and wide interest in the case, a long list of state, national and international organizations on both sides filed friend-of-the-court briefs. The plaintiffs contended that the denial of marriage licenses deprived them of due process and equal protection under the law.

While the case was pending, the legislature in 2005 adopted a law establishing the right of same-sex partners to enter into civil unions that conferred all the rights and privileges of marriage. But, at the insistence of the governor, the law also defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Arguments in the case centered on whether civil unions and marriages conferred equal rights, and on whether same-sex couples should be treated as what the court called a “suspect class” or “quasi-suspect class” — a group, like blacks or women, that has experienced a history of discrimination and was thus entitled to increased scrutiny and protection by the state in the promulgation of its laws.

Among the criteria for inclusion as a suspect class, the court said, were whether gay people could “control” their sexual orientation, whether they were “politically powerless” and whether being gay had a bearing on one’s ability to contribute to society.

A lower-court judge, Patty Jenkins Pittman of Superior Court in New Haven, sided with the state, denying that gay men and lesbians were entitled to special consideration as a suspect class and concluding that the differences between civil unions and marriages amounted to no more than nomenclature. The Supreme Court reversed the lower-court ruling.

“Although marriage and civil unions do embody the same legal rights under our law, they are by no means equal,” Justice Palmer wrote in the majority opinion, joined by Justices Flemming L. Norcott Jr., Joette Katz and Lubbie Harper. “The former is an institution of transcendent historical, cultural and social significance, whereas the latter is not.”

The court said it was aware that many people held deep-seated religious, moral and ethical convictions about marriage and homosexuality, and that others believed gays should be treated no differently than heterosexuals. But it said such views did not bear on the questions before the court.

“There is no doubt that civil unions enjoy a lesser status in our society than marriage,” the court said. “Ultimately, the message of the civil unions law is that what same-sex couples have is not as important or as significant as real marriage.”

In one dissenting opinion, Justice David M. Bordon contended that there was no conclusive evidence that civil unions are inferior to marriages, and he argued that gay people have “unique and extraordinary” political power that does not warrant heightened constitutional protections.

Justice Peter T. Zarella, in another dissent, argued that the state marriage laws dealt with procreation, which was not a factor in gay relationships. “The ancient definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman has its basis in biology, not bigotry,” he wrote.

About 1,800 couples have obtained civil unions in Connecticut since the law was adopted three years ago, although gay-rights advocates say the demand has slowed. They cite complaints that the unions leave many people feeling not quite married but not quite single, facing forms that mischaracterize their status and questions at airports challenging their ties to their own children.

But marriage will soon be a possibility for gay couples like Janet Peck, 55, and Carol Conklin, 53, of West Hartford, who have been partners for 33 years. “I so look forward to the day when I can take this woman’s hand, look deeply into her eyes and pledge my deep love and support and commitment to her in marriage,” Ms. Peck said.

Sharon Otterman and Christine Stuart contributed reporting.

Gay Marriage Is Ruled Legal in Connecticut, NYT, 11.10.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/11/nyregion/11marriage.html





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