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History > 2009 > USA > Gay rights (I)

 

 

 

Rob Rogers

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania

Cagle

7 November 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Houston Is Largest City

to Elect Openly Gay Mayor

 

December 13, 2009
The New York Times
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.

 

HOUSTON — Houston became the largest city in the United States to elect an openly gay mayor on Saturday night, as voters gave a solid victory to the city controller, Annise Parker.

Cheers and dancing erupted at Ms. Parker’s campaign party as her opponent, Gene Locke, a former city attorney, conceded defeat just after 10 p.m. when it became clear he could not overcome her lead.

Twenty minutes later, Ms. Parker appeared before ecstatic supporters at the city’s convention center and then joked that she was the first graduate of Rice University to be elected mayor. (She is, by the way.) Then she grew serious.

“Tonight the voters of Houston have opened the door to history,” she said, standing by her partner of 19 years, Kathy Hubbard, and their three adopted children. “I acknowledge that. I embrace that. I know what this win means to many of us who never thought we could achieve high office.”

With all precincts reporting, Ms. Parker, the city controller, had defeated Mr. Locke 53 percent to 47 percent.

Throughout the campaign, Ms. Parker tried to avoid making an issue of her sexual orientation and emphasized her experience in overseeing the city’s finances. But she began her career as an advocate for gay rights in the 1980s, and it was lost on no one in Houston, a city of 2.2 million people, that her election marked a milestone for gay men and lesbians around the country.

Several smaller cities in other regions have chosen openly gay mayors, among them Providence, R.I., Portland, Ore., and Cambridge, Mass. But Ms. Parker’s success came in a conservative state where voters have outlawed gay marriage and a city where a referendum on granting benefits to same-sex partners of city employees was soundly defeated.

Turnout was light across the city on a rainy, foggy day, with only about 16 percent of registered voters going to the polls.

Ms. Parker’s sexual orientation did not become an issue in the race until after the general election produced no winner and led to a run-off between her and Mr. Locke, who is black and enjoys strong support among African-American voters.

The two candidates differed very little on the issues. Mr. Locke, who is 61, promised to crack down on crime and expand the police department. Ms. Parker, 53, said her experience as controller made her a better candidate to steer the city through the tough financial times it now faces.

The candidates also started slinging stones at one another in final weeks as it became clear neither had a huge advantage in the few polls conducted here. Mr. Locke bashed Ms. Parker as “soft on crime” and suggested she favors tax increases. She portrayed him as nothing more than a lobbyist for developers.

But the ugliest attacks came from a group of black pastors who spoke out against Ms. Parker for what they called her gay agenda and two separate anti-gay advocates who sent out fliers in the mail calling attention to her support from gay groups and to her relationship with her partner. Mr. Locke denied having anything to do with the attacks, but two members of his finance committee gave $40,000 to help finance one of the mailings.

Some national gay-rights groups, meanwhile, came to the aid of Ms. Parker’s campaign with money and volunteers to man telephone banks in a get-out-the-vote effort and to urge her likely supporters to vote.

Political strategists said that to win, Mr. Locke needed to carry a large majority of the black vote, which is usually around a third of the turnout, and to attract significant support from conservative whites, many of them Republicans, who are also about a third of the voting mix here.

The crowd at Ms. Parker’s speech included dozens of young gay men and lesbians who had volunteered on her campaign. Many were elated with the sense of history being made.

“It’s a huge step forward for Houston,” said one of the volunteers, Lindsey Dionne, who is lesbian. “It shows hate will not prevail in this city.”

Robert Shipman, who is gay and worked long hours for Ms. Parker, said: “The diversity in this room, it’s not just gay people, it’s gay, straight, black, white, Jew, Christian, Muslim, every kind of person. It took all of us to get to this point.”

For his part, Mr. Locke was gracious in defeat, calling for unity after what had sometimes been a heated campaign. “We have to all work together to bring our city closer and closer together,” he said.

Ms. Parker appeared to have cobbled together a winning coalition of white liberals and gay people, who were expected to turn out in large numbers.

 

Rachel Marcus contributed reporting from Houston.

    Houston Is Largest City to Elect Openly Gay Mayor, NYT, 13.12.2009,, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/13/us/politics/13houston.html

 

 

 

 

 

2nd Gay Bishop Elected for Episcopal Church

 

December 5, 2009
Filed at 7:58 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles elected a lesbian as assistant bishop Saturday, the second openly gay bishop in the global Anglican fellowship, which is already deeply fractured over the first.

The Rev. Mary Glasspool of Baltimore needs approval from a majority of dioceses across the church before she can be consecrated as assistant bishop in the Los Angeles diocese.

Still, her victory underscored a continued Episcopal commitment to accepting same-sex relationships despite enormous pressure from other Anglicans to change their stand.

The head of the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, is scheduled to consecrate Glasspool on May 15 in Los Angeles, if the church accepts the vote.

''Any group of people who have been oppressed because of any one, isolated aspect of their persons yearns for justice and equal rights,'' Glasspool said in a statement, thanking the diocese for choosing her.

Glasspool was elected on a seventh ballot that included two other candidates. She won 153 clergy votes and 203 lay votes, giving her just enough to emerge as the winner.

The election began Friday with six candidates vying for two vacancies for assistant bishops.

The winner for the first vacancy was the Rev. Diane M. Jardine Bruce, rector of St. Clement's-By-The-Sea Episcopal Church in San Clemente. As the balloting progressed for the second vacancy, two other candidates eventually withdrew.

The Episcopal Church, which is the Anglican body in the United States, caused an uproar in 2003 by consecrating the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

Breakaway Episcopal conservatives have formed a rival church, the Anglican Church in North America. Several overseas Anglicans have been pressuring the Anglican spiritual leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, to officially recognize the new conservative entity.

The Rev. Kendall Harmon of the traditional Diocese of South Carolina, which recently voted to distance itself from the national church, said Saturday's vote would further damage relations among Episcopalians, their fellow Anglicans and other Christians.

''This decision represents an intransigent embrace of a pattern of life Christians throughout history and the world have rejected as against biblical teaching,'' said Harmon, an adviser to the diocesan bishop.

The 77-million-member Anglican Communion is a family of churches that trace their roots to the missionary work of the Church of England. Most overseas Anglicans are Bible conservatives.

In 2004, Anglican leaders had asked the Episcopal Church for a moratorium on electing another gay bishop while they tried to prevent a permanent break in the fellowship.

Since the request was made, some Episcopal gay priests were nominated for bishop, but none was elected before Glasspool. Last July, the Episcopal General Convention, the U.S. church's top policy making body, affirmed that gay and lesbian priests were eligible to become bishops.

Jim Naughton of The Chicago Consultation, a group of Episcopal and Anglican clergy and lay people who advocate on behalf of gays and lesbians, called Glasspool's election ''a liberation.''

''We've been around this issue for 30 years,'' said Naughton, an adviser to the bishop of Washington. ''It's unreasonable to expect us to refrain from acting on the very prayerful conclusions that we've reached, especially when we think there are issues of justice involved.''

Robinson said he told Glasspool before the election that he was grateful she was willing to put herself in the stressful position of running for bishop.

''One of the reasons she is so the right person for this is that she knows who she is and she knows she belongs to God and she knows everything else falls in place when you keep that central,'' Robinson said in a phone interview. ''She's no stranger to people who think she shouldn't be a priest because she's a woman, or think she shouldn't be a priest because she's a lesbian.''

Glasspool, 55, an adviser, or canon, for eight years to the Diocese of Maryland's bishop, said in an essay on the Los Angeles diocese Web site that she had an ''intense struggle'' while in college with her sexuality and the call to become a priest.

''Did God hate me (since I was a homosexual), or did God love me?'' she wrote. ''Did I hate (or love) myself?''

She said she met her partner, Becki Sander, while working in Massachusetts, and the two have been together since 1988. When a colleague recently asked for permission to submit Glasspool's name as a candidate in Los Angeles, she agreed because she believed it was time ''for our wonderful church to move on and be the inclusive church we say we are.''

A graduate of Dickinson College and Episcopal Divinity School, Glasspool was ordained in 1981, and has led parishes in Annapolis, Md., Boston and Philadelphia.

Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno, who leads the diocese, urged Episcopal dioceses to approve Glasspool's election and not base their decision on fear of how other Anglicans will react.

The Los Angeles diocese has 70,000 members and covers six Southern California counties. Jardine and Glasspool, whose titles will be suffragan bishops, are the first women bishops in the Los Angeles diocese.

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On the Net:

http://www.ladiocese.org

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Weber reported from Los Angeles; AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll reported from New York.

    2nd Gay Bishop Elected for Episcopal Church, NYT, 5.12.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/12/05/us/AP-US-Episcopalians-Gay-Bishops.html

 

 

 

 

 

Letters

The Battle Over Gay Marriage

 

December 4, 2009
The New York Times

 

To the Editor:

Re “New York Senate Turns Back Bill on Gay Marriage” (front page, Dec. 3):

Dispiriting, depressing, infuriating and deeply saddening — all these reactions are appropriate given the failure of New York State to protect my rights.

Anyone who mentions “sacred unions” in this debate is surely not talking about the same marriage I am. When I say marriage I mean the civil contract two adults enter into, sanctioned by their state government, agreeing to take on each other’s obligations in return for certain benefits.

There’s nothing sacred about that civil contract; nobody at the clerk’s office will ask about the Bible, or a commitment to raise children, or any of the straw-man issues the anti-marriage crowd waves around. Over 18 and not married to anyone else? You’re done, you’re married. Next!

Clearly we need two different words — one for the sacred unions that can be blessed in churches, mosques, synagogues or wherever else people apply noncivil criteria to marriage, and another for the civil contract. Because this debate is going nowhere as long as we’re talking about two different things with one word. Keep your sacred unions in your churches, and let me have my civil marriage.

Subjecting my civil rights to popular vote and legislative fear is a travesty of justice. On to the Supreme Court!

Roseann Foley Henry

Bayside, Queens, Dec. 3, 2009



To the Editor:

As a gay person in over a 15-year committed relationship with my partner, I’m very disappointed that the New York State Senate declined to pass a bill allowing us to get married.

Senator Tom Libous’s comment — “I just don’t think the majority care too much about it at this time because they’re out of work, they want to see the state reduce spending, and they are having a hard time making ends meet” — is ludicrous.

If the majority doesn’t care about legalizing gay marriage, then why not just pass it and get on to more important topics? And certainly gay marriage has nothing to do with reducing state spending, finding a job or making ends meet.

Claude M. Gruener

Albany, Dec. 3, 2009



To the Editor:

As a former New York City resident (born and raised), I’m no stranger to the culture. But the vast majority of Americans either don’t want to redefine marriage as it stands now, or simply have more pressing issues to worry about.

The good citizens in the boroughs, upstate and on Long Island sent that message through the Legislature on Wednesday. It must have been quite a shock to you that this measure could be defeated in, of all places, New York!

Conversely, if you offer civil unions as an alternative, most people have no problem. You would have thought this lesson would have been absorbed by now. Don Piontek

Eden Prairie, Minn., Dec. 3, 2009



To the Editor:

The New York State Senate apparently does not understand economics. I have heard about its notorious inability to pass a budget, but now it is rejecting income it could get from marriages of gay and lesbian couples. How?

The state already recognizes marriages entered into by same-sex couples in other states or countries where they are legal. New York is surrounded on two sides by equal marriage rights jurisdictions: Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Canada.

The Senate is basically saying to its residents: “Please take your money (receptions, wedding planners, hotel rooms and so on) across the border, get married there, and then come home, where we will recognize your marriage anyway.”

The City Council of the District of Columbia has just passed an equal marriage rights bill that should take full effect by spring.

To all you gay and lesbian New Yorkers: Come on down! Hop on an Amtrak train and get married in your nation’s capital. We’ll gladly accept your money. Our hotels, our reception halls, our tourist bureau, our city treasurer and our cherry blossoms await you.

Bob Dardano

Washington, Dec. 3, 2009



To the Editor:

Like all gay married citizens, I was crushed to read that yet another “liberal” state has fallen prey to religious dogma and heterosexism. I am particularly disappointed because New York was on our short list of places to move to when my husband soon retires.

I was willing to leave our warm tropical home for a warm, “welcoming” state like yours. Apparently, I was wrong: New York is as cold as ever.

Hans Anderson

Honolulu, Dec. 3, 2009

    The Battle Over Gay Marriage, NYT, 4.12.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/04/opinion/l04gay.html

 

 

 

 

 

New York State Senate

Votes Down Gay Marriage Bill

 

December 3, 2009
The New York Times
By JEREMY W. PETERS

 

ALBANY — The New York State Senate decisively rejected a bill on Wednesday that would have allowed gay couples to wed, providing a major victory for those who oppose same-sex marriage and underscoring the deep and passionate divisions surrounding the issue.

The 38-to-24 vote startled proponents of the bill and signaled that political momentum, at least right now, had shifted against same-sex marriage, even in heavily Democratic New York. It followed more than a year of lobbying by gay rights organizations, who steered close to $1 million into New York legislative races to boost support for the measure.

Senators who voted against the measure said the public was gripped by economic anxiety and remained uneasy about changing the state’s definition of marriage.

“Certainly this is an emotional issue and an important issue for many New Yorkers,” said Senator Tom Libous, the deputy Republican leader. “I just don’t think the majority care too much about it at this time because they’re out of work, they want to see the state reduce spending, and they are having a hard time making ends meet. And I don’t mean to sound callous, but that’s true.”

The defeat, which followed a stirring, tearful and at times very personal debate, all but ensures that the issue is dead in New York until at least 2011, when a new Legislature will be installed.

Since 2003, seven states, including three that border New York, have legalized same-sex marriage. But in two of the seven — California last year and Maine last month — statewide referendums have restricted marriage to straight couples, prohibiting gay nuptials. Pollsters say that while support generally is building for same-sex marriage, especially as the electorate ages, voters resist when they fear the issue is being pushed too fast.

In Albany on Wednesday, proponents had believed going into the vote that they could attract as many as 35 supporters to the measure; at their most pessimistic, they said they would draw at least 26. They had the support of Gov. David A. Paterson, who had publicly championed the bill, along with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the Senate Democratic leadership.

The defeat revealed stark divides: All 30 of the Republican senators opposed the bill, as did most of the members from upstate New York and Long Island. Support was heaviest among members from New York City and Westchester County and among the Senate’s 10 black members. Seven of the Senate’s 10 women voted for it.

“I’m a woman and a Jew and so I know about discrimination,” said Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan.

Senators who are considered politically vulnerable also voted almost uniformly against the bill, including four first-term Democrats. All but one of those whose districts border or lie within the 23rd Congressional District, where the marriage issue erupted in a recent special election, opposed it. In that race, a Republican who supported gay marriage withdrew after an uproar from conservatives in her district.

“I think that there were political forces that in some respects intimidated some of those who voted,” said Mr. Paterson. “I think if there’d actually been a conscience vote we’d be celebrating marriage equality right now.”

While gay rights supporters such as Mr. Paterson had prominently pushed for passage, the opposition was less visible but ultimately more potent. That was reflected in the floor debate Wednesday: Opponents remained mostly silent; all but one of those who spoke on the floor supported the measure.

The state’s Roman Catholic bishops had consistently lobbied for its defeat, however, and after the vote released a statement applauding the move.

“Advocates for same-sex marriage have attempted to portray their cause as inevitable,” Richard E. Barnes, the executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, said in the statement. “However, it has become clear that Americans continue to understand marriage the way it has always been understood, and New York is not different in that regard. This is a victory for the basic building block of our society.”

Several supporters said they felt they had been betrayed by senators who promised to vote yes but then, reluctant to support an issue as politically freighted as same-sex marriage if they could avoid it, switched their votes on the floor when it became evident the bill would lose.

“This is the worst example of political cowardice I’ve ever seen,” said Senator Kevin S. Parker, a Brooklyn Democrat. “Clearly people said things prior to coming to the floor and behaved differently.”

Republican advocates who supported the bill insisted that the agreement they struck with Democrats called for Democrats, who have 32 seats in the 62-member Senate, to deliver enough support so only a handful of Republicans were needed to take such a politically risky vote.

“Several Republicans wanted to vote for this,” said Jeff Cook, a legislative adviser for the Log Cabin Republicans. “But those Republicans aren’t willing to take a tough political vote when the bill has no chance of passage. And that’s the political reality.”

It is rare for legislation to reach the floor in Albany when passage is not all but assured. And initially, gay rights advocates resisted bringing this bill to a vote, fearing the consequences of a defeat. But they shifted that strategy over time, becoming convinced that an up or down vote was necessary so they could finally know which senators supported the bill.

That was in part because gay rights groups, which have become major financial players in state politics, wanted to know which senators they should back in the future and which ones to target for defeat.

Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York’s largest gay rights group, hinted that senators who voted against the bill on Wednesday could face repercussions. And Christine C. Quinn, the New York City Council speaker, echoed that sentiment, saying, “Anybody who thinks that by casting a no vote they’re putting this issue to bed, they’re making a massive miscalculation.”

Polls suggest that voters in New York favor same-sex marriage, though the electorate is clearly split. A poll released Wednesday by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie showed that 51 percent of registered voters supported same-sex marriage while 42 percent opposed it.

On Wednesday, as news of the vote made its way to demonstrators standing outside the Senate chamber, some erupted in angry chants of “Equal rights!” and surrounded a senator who opposed the measure.

 

Correction: A previous version of this article stated incorrectly that the California State Legislature adopted a same-sex marriage law. Same-sex marriage in California was legalized by the state's Supreme Court.

    New York State Senate Votes Down Gay Marriage Bill, NYT, 3.12.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/03/nyregion/03marriage.html

 

 

 

 

 

Editorial

The Church and the Capital

 

November 23, 2009
The New York Times

 

Gay people will eventually win full civil rights — including the right to marry — throughout the United States. Between now and then, there will be many more disputes like the one unfolding between the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and the District of Columbia City Council over a bill recognizing same-sex marriages that could be voted on as soon as next week.

City lawmakers who are negotiating with the archdiocese over the language of the bill should try to settle it without acrimony — but not by abandoning the District’s equal-rights tradition or by selling out same-sex couples.

The District of Columbia has a distinguished tradition of statutes dating back to the 1970s that protect the rights of gay people. It passed its first domestic partnership law nearly 20 years ago and recently recognized same-sex marriages created in other jurisdictions.

The pending bill appropriately exempts religious institutions from having to marry same-sex couples, promote same-sex marriage or rent church property to them for receptions or other affairs. But this bill rightly requires that employers providing spousal benefits to employees extend those same benefits to same-sex partners who marry.

This law, which deals in the civic institution of marriage and not religious doctrine, would cover Catholic Charities, an organization that receives public funds and that does extraordinary work feeding and housing the poor in Washington and elsewhere in the country.

In an article in The Washington Post on Sunday, the archbishop of Washington said the diocese “has long made it clear that all people have equal dignity, regardless of sexual orientation.” But he said the new definition of marriage laid out in the bill could end the decades-old partnership between the church and the city in the mission of caring for the needy.

This has troubled some Catholics, who believe the church is holding the poor hostage to force changes in the bill. It has also disturbed other churches and denominations that have long wanted to perform same-sex marriages but were precluded from doing so by city law.

Critics of the archdiocese’s position rightly point out that other Catholic leaders have found a way to accommodate same-sex partnerships without compromising their values.

As has been noted by some members of the City Council, Georgetown University, a Catholic university, has written eligibility for its staff and faculty benefits program broadly, so that employees can extend benefits to other eligible adults with whom they may or may not be romantically involved. Lawmakers point to a similar arrangement in San Francisco, where church officials reached an agreement with the city in the late 1990s under which church-related employers allowed employees to designate a member of the household as a “spousal equivalent.”

These agreements preserved the beliefs of the church and the legal rights of the employees, without compelling the church to explicitly recognize gay marriages or domestic partnerships.

The Washington City Council was on the mark when it said in its committee report that the same-sex marriage bill was “in keeping with fundamental fairness and recognition of basic civil rights for all District residents.” Lawmakers should keep that basic requirement in mind as they negotiate over any changes in this bill.

    The Church and the Capital, NYT, 23.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/23/opinion/23mon1.html

 

 

 

 

 

New York Gay Rights Foe Sees Nuance in His Stand

 

November 10, 2009
The New York Times
By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE and JEREMY W. PETERS

 

ALBANY — Every Sunday morning, the deep, melodious voice of State Senator Rubén Díaz Sr. rumbles across the congregation at his Bronx church. On weekdays, it echoes across the Senate chamber as he rails against Medicaid cuts or abortion. Earlier this year, it enthralled thousands at a boisterous rally against same-sex marriage.

But ask him about the gay people in his own life, and Mr. Díaz’s voice grows quiet. His smile vanishes.

Two of his brothers are gay, he murmurs, one of them recently deceased. So is a granddaughter. There is an old friend who works for him in the Senate. And a former campaign aide.

“I love them. I love them,” says Mr. Díaz, who grew up one of 17 children in Puerto Rico. “But I don’t believe in what they are doing. They are my brothers. They are my family.”

His voice rises again. “So how could I be a homophobe?”

For those fighting to expand gay rights, Mr. Díaz, a Pentecostal minister, represents the most outspoken and unpredictable of foes. He was forced to resign from the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board years ago for suggesting that the Gay Games would encourage homosexuality and spread H.I.V. In 2003, he sued the city to shut down a high school for gay and transgender students.

As advocates push for a vote on same-sex marriage in the State Senate on Tuesday, Mr. Díaz is again speaking out, arguing that last week’s election results show that the tide has turned against allowing gay people to wed.

And, given the Democrats’ fragile majority — the party has 32 senators to the Republicans’ 30 — Mr. Díaz’s stubbornness often yields results.

“The people of the nation don’t want gay marriage,” Mr. Díaz said in an interview Monday. “They didn’t want it in California; they didn’t want it in Maine. And the people of upstate New York, after what happened to the candidate in the 23rd Congressional District, they sent a message they don’t want gay marriage. Forget about it. People don’t want it.”

Mr. Díaz argued that the bill legalizing same-sex marriage should not be allowed to come to the floor, saying the Legislature has more important issues to attend to.

And some of his colleagues on Monday, while avoiding his provocative language, appeared to be moving to that position, worried that the political climate is too tense and the state’s fiscal crisis too urgent for the issue to be taken up now. On Monday evening, it was not clear whether the Senate would consider the measure.

The fight over same-sex marriage has thrust Mr. Díaz, 66, back into a familiar role — dissenting from and exasperating Democratic Senate leaders and some of his colleagues.

Earlier this year, he and three other Democrats initially refused to back Malcolm A. Smith, the Senate’s top Democrat, for majority leader, throwing the Democratic caucus into chaos until Mr. Smith offered them perks and committee chairmanships.

Mr. Díaz is also the Senate’s most outspoken opponent of abortion, and he once likened the harvesting of stem cells for research to Hitler using “the ashes of the Jews to make bars of soap.”

“He always comes into conference or onto the floor with his mind made up, ready to argue,” said Senator Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat who represents Manhattan and the Bronx. “And he loves to argue.”

But to Mr. Díaz and his friends, the senator’s steadfast opposition to same-sex marriage seems at times incongruous.

Christopher R. Lynn, Mr. Díaz’s chief counsel, who is gay and lives with his partner in Queens, said that he has undergone three back operations, and that every time he goes into the hospital, Mr. Díaz has been there.

“He is a true believer in Christian values, in treating people the way you want to be treated,” Mr. Lynn said.

Mr. Díaz describes Mr. Lynn as “my brother.” They often double-date with their respective better halves. Mr. Lynn has not been able to move Mr. Díaz on the issue of marriage.

“He said to me, ‘For me to accept this, I have to turn my whole value system upside down,’ ” Mr. Lynn said.

Mr. Díaz, whose South Bronx district is the second-poorest in New York, also raises his voice loudly on behalf of the poor, leaving some liberals in the Capitol reluctant to criticize him for his social views because he has been a reliable ally on economic issues.

“I see people looking at me, like, ‘Look at this guy,’ ”Mr. Díaz said, rolling his eyes. “And in the end, I get what want.”

In many ways, Mr. Díaz seems conflicted. He relishes the role of the lonely dissident, sometimes practically taunting Democratic leaders to throw him out of the party. Still, the senator resents those who brand him a bigot for his views, and seems to plead for understanding.

“My religion doesn’t allow me to dance,” he said. “But that does not mean I don’t go to the party. My religion doesn’t allow me to drink. But that doesn’t mean I can’t hang around with my friends. My religion is against gay marriage. It means, I don’t agree with what you do. But let’s go out. Let’s go to the movies. Let’s be friends.”

Mr. Díaz grew up in Puerto Rico. His father, a carpenter, had five children with his mother; Mr. Díaz also had 11 half-brothers and sisters. He joined the Army out of high school, in 1960, and served in Fort Jackson, S.C.

He moved to New York in 1965 and fell into drugs. Arrested for possession of heroin and marijuana, he got probation. Not long after, he found God. He became a pastor, a community leader, a city councilman, a senator.

Affection seems to flow to him from unexpected places. On a tour of his district, Mr. Díaz eagerly showed a reporter Christian Community in Action, an agency he founded in the burnt-out ruins of the Bronx to provide home health aides to the sick and elderly. There, Mr. Díaz greeted Vincent Ortiz, a supervisor he has known for 18 years.

“We fight, of course,” said Mr. Ortiz, who is gay. “But it is mostly good years.”

But then there are moments of coldness. Last year, Lisa Winters, who runs the Bronx Pride Community Center, a group for gay youth, requested a meeting with the senator. He never responded. She showed up anyway, with a group of gay teenagers, and was told that Mr. Díaz was not in. Moments later, she said, they saw Mr. Díaz leaving his office by a side door.

(The senator said he does not recall this happening. “I never hide from anyone,” he said.)

This spring, Mr. Díaz led a small delegation of legislators to Puerto Rico, and at the end of the trip, he hosted a barbeque at his family’s home.

His brother — whom Mr. Díaz will not name because, he says, the brother is not openly gay — was there to greet the guests. There was no discussion, Mr. Díaz said, about how he would vote on gay marriage.

“We don’t need to talk about that anymore,” Mr. Díaz said.

    New York Gay Rights Foe Sees Nuance in His Stand, NYT, 10.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/nyregion/10marriage.html

 

 

 

 

 

Maine Voters Repeal Law Allowing Gay Marriage

 

November 4, 2009
Filed at 1:51 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- Maine voters repealed a state law Tuesday that would have allowed same-sex couples to wed, dealing the gay rights movement a heartbreaking defeat in New England, the corner of the country most supportive of gay marriage.

Gay marriage has now lost in every single state -- 31 in all -- in which it has been put to a popular vote. Gay-rights activists had hoped to buck that trend in Maine -- known for its moderate, independent-minded electorate -- and mounted an energetic, well-financed campaign.

With 87 percent of the precincts reporting, gay-marriage foes had 53 percent of the votes.

''The institution of marriage has been preserved in Maine and across the nation,'' declared Frank Schubert, chief organizer for the winning side.

Gay-marriage supporters refused to concede, holding out hope that that the tide might turn as the final returns came in.

''We're here for the long haul and whether it's just all night and into the morning, or it's next week or next month or next year, we will be here,'' said Jesse Connolly, manager of the pro-gay marriage campaign. ''We'll be here fighting. We'll be working. We will regroup.''

At issue was a law passed by the Maine Legislature last spring that would have legalized same-sex marriage. The law was put on hold after conservatives launched a petition drive to repeal it in a referendum.

The outcome Tuesday marked the first time voters had rejected a gay-marriage law enacted by a legislature. When Californians put a stop to same-sex marriage a year ago, it was in response to a court ruling, not legislation.

Five other states have legalized gay marriage -- starting with Massachusetts in 2004, and followed by Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Iowa -- but all did so through legislation or court rulings, not by popular vote. In contrast, constitutional amendments banning gay marriage have been approved in all 30 states where they have been on the ballot.

The defeat left some gay-marriage supporters bitter.

''Our relationship is between us,'' said Carla Hopkins, 38, of Mount Vernon, with partner Victoria Eleftherio, 38, sitting on her lap outside a hotel ballroom where gay marriage supporters had been hoping for a victory party. ''How does that affect anybody else? It's a personal thing.''

The contest had been viewed by both sides as certain to have national repercussions. Gay-marriage foes desperately wanted to keep their winning streak alive, while gay-rights activists sought to blunt the argument that gay marriage was being foisted on the country by courts and lawmakers over the will of the people.

Had Maine's law been upheld, the result would probably have energized efforts to get another vote on gay marriage in California, and given a boost to gay-marriage bills in New York and New Jersey.

Earlier Tuesday, before vote-counting began, gay-marriage foe Chuck Schott of Portland warned that Maine ''will have its place in infamy'' if the gay-rights side won.

Another Portland resident, Sarah Holman said she was ''very torn'' but decided -- despite her conservative upbringing -- to vote in favor of letting gays marry.

''They love and they have the right to love. And we can't tell somebody how to love,'' said Holman, 26.

In addition to reaching out to young people who flocked to the polls for President Barack Obama a year ago, gay-marriage defenders tried to appeal to Maine voters' pronounced independent streak and live-and-let-live attitude.

The other side based many of its campaign ads on claims -- disputed by state officials -- that the new law would mean ''homosexual marriage'' would be taught in public schools.

Both sides in Maine drew volunteers and contributions from out of state, but the money edge went to the campaign in defense of gay marriage, Protect Maine Equality. It raised $4 million, compared with $2.5 million for Stand for Marriage Maine.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, voters in Washington state voted on whether to uphold or overturn a recently expanded domestic partnership law that entitles same-sex couples to the same state-granted rights as heterosexual married couples. With half the precincts reporting, that race was too close to call.

In Kalamazoo, Mich., voters approved a measure that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation.

 

 

 

Among other ballot items across the country:

-- In Ohio, voters approved a measure that will allow casinos in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo. Four similar measures had been defeated in recent years, but this time the state's reeling economy gave extra weight to arguments that the new casinos would create thousands of jobs.

-- Maine voters defeated a measure that would have limited state and local government spending by holding it to the rate of inflation plus population growth. A similar measure was on the ballot in Washington state.

-- Another measure in Maine, which easily won approval, will allow dispensaries to supply marijuana to patients for medicinal purposes. It is a follow-up to a 1999 measure that legalized medical marijuana but did not set up a distribution system.

-- The Colorado ski town of Breckenridge voted overwhelmingly to allow adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana.

------

David Crary reported from New York.

    Maine Voters Repeal Law Allowing Gay Marriage, NYT, 4.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/11/04/us/AP-US-Gay-Marriage-Maine.html

 

 

 

 

 

Gay Renters to Get Some Discrimination Protection

 

October 30, 2009
Filed at 11:32 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

When it comes to negotiating a lease or paying fair rent, gay and transgender renters may soon get more protection.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said it's fast-tracking a nationwide study to determine the extent of housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It's also proposing regulations to insure these individuals won't be denied public housing or government housing vouchers because of their identities.

HUD's initiatives will soon be posted for public comment, but the agency offered no timeline for the study or regulations.

If the regulations pass, gay and transgender renters would get legal firepower they've never had, though not as extensive as other protected classes. The proposed regulations only cover HUD rental programs, so not all apartments will be included.

Still, the regulations would cover the most vulnerable, those who depend on government help for housing.

''This is huge,'' says Jaime Grant, the director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's policy institute. ''It's the first time (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people will have leverage to stop practices that are demeaning and discriminating.''

The apartment industry also supports HUD's initiatives, according to the National Multi Housing Council, and the group said in an e-mail it ''reinforces the professional commitment through ongoing education and outreach programs.''

The federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, which covers all housing, prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It was amended in 1988 to include familial status and handicap. HUD investigates about 10,500 discrimination complaints a year. In cases involving threats of force, offenders can be criminally prosecuted.

Protections for sexual orientation and gender identity weren't included in the law, and only 17 states and 80 cities ban housing discrimination based on sexual orientation. Not all cover transgender individuals.

Many gay rights advocates and housing authorities say discrimination -- from neglecting maintenance to denying applications -- in this area is rampant yet underreported because often there are no ways to fight it. Gay rights advocates also hope results from HUD's nationwide study will lead to further protections.

The initiatives could alter the sobering realities for these renters nationwide.

In 2007, Michigan's Fair Housing Centers compared the treatment of same-sex couple versus heterosexual couples by landlords, real estate agents and lenders. Though the same-sex couples were given higher incomes and credit scores than their counterparts, one-third reported landlord discrimination.

For example, a lesbian couple in Ypsilanti, Mich., was quoted $625 per month for a rental, while a heterosexual couple was offered $600 for the same unit. In Battle Creek, Mich., a heterosexual couple was shown two units and was offered $200 off the first month's rent. A lesbian couple saw only one unit and wasn't offered any incentive.

And in Detroit, a landlord ticked off the apartment rules: ''No drugs, prostitution, homosexuality, one-night stands.''

Other recent studies in Salt Lake City and Jacksonville, Fla., showed similar housing discrimination. Some of the gay and transgender individuals interviewed for the Salt Lake City study said they had been denied rental housing or threatened with eviction, while one in 10 in the Jacksonville study reported some kind of discrimination, including neglect from landlords and refusals to renew leases.

Salt Lake City is holding a public hearing Nov. 10 on its proposed fair housing and employment bill that specifically includes protections for gay and transgender people. And Jacksonville's Human Rights Commission is drafting a local ordinance to address anti-gay discrimination.

''We hope to build a community where all members are free to participate in all aspects of public life,'' said Ben Warner, deputy director of the Jacksonville Community Council Inc. ''That's what civic engagement is all about.''

    Gay Renters to Get Some Discrimination Protection, NYT, 30.10.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/10/30/business/AP-US-Wheres-My-Rent.html

 

 

 

 

 

Gay Rights Marchers Press Cause in Washington

 

October 12, 2009
The New York Times
By JEREMY W. PETERS

 

WASHINGTON — Impatient and discouraged by what they see as a certain detachment by President Obama on their issues, gay rights supporters took to the streets Sunday in the largest demonstration for gay rights here in nearly a decade.

The rally was primarily the undertaking of a new generation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocates who have grown disillusioned with the movement’s leadership.

Known as Stonewall 2.0 or the Prop. 8 Generation (a reference to the galvanizing effect that the repeal of California’s same-sex marriage law had on many young people), these activists, in their 20s and 30s, are at odds with advocates urging patience as Mr. Obama grapples with other pieces of his domestic agenda like the health care overhaul and the economic recovery.

“I think this march represents the passing of the torch,” said Corey Johnson, 27, an activist and blogger for the gay-themed Web site Towleroad.com. “The points of power are no longer in the halls of Washington or large metropolitan areas. It’s decentralized now. You have young activists and gay people from all walks of life converging on Washington not because a national organization told them to, but because they feel the time is now.”

The rally on Sunday and a black-tie gala on Saturday hosted by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights advocacy group, made for a glaring dichotomy. Mr. Obama, who spoke at the dinner, had the crowd on its feet reiterating his pledge to end the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and declaring his commitment to gay rights as “unwavering.”

But at the rally, some gave the speech low marks for lacking anything new and failing to acknowledge several major issues confronting the movement. In the words of Billie Myers, a musician who spoke to an eager crowd of tens of thousands on the west lawn of the Capitol, “I’m sorry, but I didn’t like your speech.”

The president did not lay out a timetable to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, voice support for any of the battles going on at state levels to allow same-sex couples more recognition under the law nor mention the march.

“He knows this march is happening, and he can’t even acknowledge it?” said Robin McGehee, 36, a co-director of the march. Ms. McGehee took issue with people she believes are giving the president a pass.

“In our community, there are people working hard to build a relationship with the president and people screaming in the streets for their rights,” she said. “There is an urgency with the people on the streets and a sense of ‘Oh, he’ll come around’ with the people who ate dinner with him.”

The Human Rights Campaign, which helped organize the last gay rights march on Washington in 2000 but had virtually no involvement in Sunday’s event, stirred up some controversy over the weekend after its president, Joe Solmonese, wrote a letter to supporters urging them to take Mr. Obama at his word. “It’s not January 19, 2017,” he wrote, referring to what would be the last day of Mr. Obama’s presidency if he were to win a second term.

While generally supportive of the president, many marchers said they felt that he had not delivered on campaign promises he made to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans.

“I think he has a lot on his plate,” said Rachael McIntosh, 25, of Worcester, Mass. “But I’d hoped we’d be a priority.” Ms. McIntosh raised a sign that read “Nobel Peace Prize. Earn It!”

Organizers of the march encountered considerable opposition from within gay political circles and from those who argued that it was hastily planned and would divert resources from campaigns at the state level.

Representative Barney Frank called the march “emotional satisfaction” for its organizers and said of their intention to pressure the Obama administration, “The only thing they’re going to put pressure on is the grass.”

The organizers were rating the march a success, saying that at least 150,000 people had attended, though the authorities gave no official estimate of the crowd size.

The marchers included many who were not gay but attended to support gay friends.

Lisa Kimmey, 25, drove all night with gay friends from Chicago so she could attend the march with them. “If I can get married, if I can get my partner’s health insurance, then everyone else in this country should be able to. It’s 2009, and it’s unbelievable to me that they don’t have that,” Ms. Kimmey said.

Dave Valk, 22, the student outreach coordinator for the march, said he believed that many people his age were embracing gay rights as the civil rights struggle of their time. “There are a lot of people getting involved not just because it’s a gay rights movement but because it’s a generational movement,” he said. “People feel like they’re part of a shift, that this is important.”

 

Ashley Southall contributed reporting.

    Gay Rights Marchers Press Cause in Washington, NYT, 12.10.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/12/us/politics/12protest.html

 

 

 

 

 

Same-Sex Unions Begin in Vermont

 

September 1, 2009
Filed at 1:33 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

DUXBURY, Vt. (AP) -- After 17 years together, Bill Slimback and Bob Sullivan couldn't wait another minute to get married. So they didn't.

With Vermont's new law allowing same-sex marriage only a minute old, they tied the knot in a midnight ceremony at a rustic Vermont lodge, becoming one of the first couples to legally wed under a law that took effect at midnight Tuesday.

Dressed in suits, saying their vows under a large wall-mounted moose head, the two Whitehall, N.Y., men promised their love, exchanged rings and held hands during a modest 17-minute ceremony. Moose Meadow Lodge co-owner Greg Trulson, who's also a Justice of the Peace, presided.

''It feels wonderful,'' said Slimback, 38, an out-of-work Teamster who is taking Sullivan's last name as his own. ''It's a day I've been long waiting for, and a day I truly honestly thought would never come.''

Slimback said he and Sullivan, 41, have long wanted to cement their relationship with a wedding, but since they couldn't legally marry in New York they chose to wed even before Vermont's gay marriage era officially dawned.

Vermont is one of five states that now allow same-sex couples to marry. Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Iowa are the others.

Vermont, which invented civil unions in 2000 after a same-sex couple challenged the inequality of state marriage statutes, was a mecca for gay couples who to that point had no way to officially recognize their relationships.

Since then, other states have allowed gay marriage, as did Vermont, which in April became the first state to legalize gay marriage through a legislative decree and not a court case.

Some couples -- including many who obtained civil unions in Vermont -- plan to return to the state to get married. But most are in no rush. City and town officials say only a handful of licenses had been issued to same-sex couples in anticipation of Tuesday's start.

''We've waited a long time to do this -- basically, our whole lives,'' Slimback said Monday. ''We've been waiting for a chance to actually solidify it,'' he said. He and Sullivan said they never wanted to obtain a civil union because they believe that's a kind of second-class recognition.

Gay people aren't the only ones taking note of Vermont's addition to the list of states that allow same-sex unions.

Westboro Baptist Church, an anti-gay group that claims U.S. combat deaths are God's punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality, planned to picket Tuesday in Montpelier, Vermont's capital.

    Same-Sex Unions Begin in Vermont, NYT, 1.9.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/09/01/us/AP-US-Gay-Marriage.html

 

 

 

 

 

Lutheran Group

Eases Limits on Gay Clergy

 

August 22, 2009
The New York Times
By MICHAEL LUO
and CHRISTINA CAPECCHI

 

After an emotional debate over the authority of Scripture and the limits of biblical inclusiveness, leaders of the country’s largest Lutheran denomination voted Friday to allow gay men and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as members of the clergy.

The vote made the denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the latest mainline Protestant church to permit such ordinations, contributing to a halting sense of momentum on the issue within liberal Protestantism.

By a vote of 559 to 451, delegates to the denomination’s national assembly in Minneapolis approved a resolution declaring that the church would find a way for people in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships” to serve as official ministers. (The church already allows celibate gay men and lesbians to become members of the clergy.)

Just before the vote, the Rev. Mark Hanson, the church’s presiding bishop, led the packed convention center in prayer. When the two bar graphs signaling the vote’s outcome popped up on the hall’s big screens seconds later, there were only a few quiet gasps, as delegates had been asked to avoid making an audible scene. But around the convention hall, clusters of men and women hugged one other and wept.

“To be able to be a full member of the church is really a lifelong dream,” said the Rev. Megan Rohrer of San Francisco, who is in a committed same-sex relationship and serves in three Lutheran congregations but is not officially on the church’s roster of clergy members. “I don’t have to have an asterisk next to my name anymore.”

But the passage of the resolution now raises questions about the future of the denomination, which has 4.6 million members but has seen its ranks steadily dwindle, and whether it will see an exodus of its more conservative followers or experience some sort of schism.

“I think we have stepped beyond what the word of God allows,” said the Rev. Rebecca M. M. Heber of Heathrow, Fla., who said she was going to reconsider her membership.

Conservative dissenters said they saw various options, including leaving for another Lutheran denomination or creating their own unified body.

A contingent of 400 conservative congregations that make up a group that calls itself Lutheran Core is to meet in September. Leaders of the group said their plans were not to split from the Evangelical Lutheran Church but to try to protect its “true tenets” from within.

Among so-called “mainline” Protestant denominations, distinguishable theologically from their more conservative, evangelical Protestant counterparts, both the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ already allow gay clergy members.

The Episcopal Church has endured the most visible public flashpoints over homosexuality, grappling in particular in the last few years with the consecration of gay bishops. It affirmed last month, however, that “any ordained ministry” was open to gay men and lesbians.

Earlier this year the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) rejected a measure that would have opened the door for gay ordination, but the margin was narrower than in a similar vote in 2001. The United Methodist Church voted not to change its stance barring noncelibate homosexuals from ministry last year, after an emotional debate at its general conference.

But the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s heavily Midwestern membership and the fact that it is generally seen as falling squarely in the middle of the theological milieu of mainline Protestantism imbued Friday’s vote with added significance, religion scholars said.

Wendy Cadge, a sociology professor at Brandeis University who has studied Evangelical Lutheran churches grappling with the issue, said, “It does show, to the extent that any mainline denominations are moving, I think they’re moving slowly toward a more progressive direction.”

Describing the context of Friday’s vote, several religion experts likened it to the court decision last year in Iowa legalizing same-sex marriage.

“In the same sense that the Iowa court decision might have opened people’s eyes, causing them to say, ‘Iowa? What? Where?’” said Laura Olson, a professor of political science at Clemson University who has studied mainline Protestantism. “The E.L.C.A. isn’t necessarily quite as surprising in the religious sense, but the message it’s sending is, yes, not only are more Americans from a religious perspective getting behind gay rights, but these folks are not just quote unquote coastal liberals.”

The denomination has struggled with the issue almost since its founding in the late 1980s with the merger of three other Lutheran denominations.

In 2001, the church convened a committee to study the issue. It eventually recommended guidelines for a denominational vote. In 2005, however, delegates voted not to change its policies.

On Friday, delegates juggled raw emotion, fatigue and opposing interpretations of Scripture.

Before the vote but sensing its outcome, the Rev. Timothy Housholder of Cottage Grove, Minn., introduced himself as a rostered pastor in the church, “at least for a few more hours,” implying that he would leave the denomination and eliciting a gasp from some audience members.

“Here I stand, broken and mournful, because of this assembly and her actions,” Mr. Housholder said.

The Rev. Mark Lepper of Belle Plaine, Minn., called for the inclusion of gay clergy members, saying, “Let’s stop leaving people behind and let’s be the family God is calling us to be.”

 

Michael Luo reported from New York, and Christina Capecchi from Minneapolis.

    Lutheran Group Eases Limits on Gay Clergy, NYT, 22.8.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/22/us/22lutherans.html?hp

 

 

 

 

 

Episcopals’ First Openly Gay Bishop Speaks

 

July 17, 2009
The New York Times
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN

 

ANAHEIM, Calif. — This week, gay-rights advocates at the Episcopal Church convention here chalked up two major victories — moves that both liberals and conservatives agree are probably a turning point in their church’s history.

Earlier in the week, the church voted to open the door to ordaining openly gay bishops. And on Thursday the bishops voted to start the process of developing rites for blessing same-sex marriages, and to give the green light to bishops who are already doing so.

At the center of all these battles has been Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. He has been something of a human lightning rod ever since the church voted at its convention in 2003 to consent to his consecration as bishop of New Hampshire.

Since then, he has been lauded as a gay rights hero and vilified as the cause of schism in both the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, the world’s third largest network of churches. But as a bishop, he has an insider’s seat at the proceedings.

What follows is an interview with Bishop Robinson, conducted during a break at the convention:

Q: Thank you for making the time. You must have a lot of interview requests.

A: Yes, and I’m not doing any interviews, except this one. A lot of requests came in after the bishops’ first vote on Monday (to allow for the consecration of more gay bishops). Of course, the possibility of there being another gay bishop in the House is something I’ve longed for for a long time. But I didn’t feel like talking. I felt very sober. I know that what we’ve done here will be very difficult for a lot of people in that room, and in the Communion.

Q: Many conservatives I’ve talked to say they are feeling very isolated at this convention, and even railroaded.

A: Progressives stayed around and in the Episcopal Church for 30, 40 years when we were the minority, and our voices weren’t heard, and we were pushed out. I think a lot of them have never felt what it felt like to be in the minority. A bunch of straight white guys are now sitting there and having that experience, which is something I think could be valuable for anyone to experience.

Q: But conservatives have been saying for years that the Episcopal Church has been taken over by the liberals.

A: The General Convention in 2003 might have looked like that to people, when there was the vote for my consent (to be consecrated as a bishop). The difference there is they were voting on a person. I had been so active in the church, it was really hard for them to say no. What happened yesterday (with the vote to move ahead on blessings for same-sex marriages) is they opened the way for people they don’t know, and that’s a new and significant thing. It felt much more theological and philosophical than being about an individual.

Q: Going into this convention you said you had a lot of trepidation because you had recently been feeling a cold shoulder from your fellow bishops, and you anticipated that they were prepared to vote against the gay-related legislation. But on both key resolutions, your side prevailed. What happened?

A: The most significant thing that happened was on Tuesday, after the House of Bishops stopped the debate on same-sex blessings and decided to have a smaller group of bishops meet to discuss it further. They said anyone could come, and it turned out it wasn’t a small group at all. There were 25 to 30 of us, and it turned out to be the most significant interaction I’ve had with the bishops since I’ve been elected.

It was profound and it was inspiring. People stood up and spoke their own truth, both the pain and the joy. Everyone spoke honestly about what they needed to go home with, what they could live with and what they couldn’t.

Q: So how do you explain the vote counts? The bishops passed both of these measures resoundingly, and we are starting to hear of many moderate-to-conservative bishops who voted “yes” on both ordinations and gay blessings.

A: Everyone acknowledges they know where this is going, that gay marriage is becoming a reality. But we’re trying to bring our people along. One bishop said to me he voted “no” so he could go home and do this work, as he explained it, “so I can bring my people along.” He used the Nixon in China analogy. This was a bishop who voted “no” on my consent in 2003.

Another bishop said that in his diocese he will never have to deal with gay marriage. I told him, you don’t know where this is going. Gay marriage could go to the Supreme Court, it could become the law of the land. Maybe part of your responsibility is to get your people ready for where the country is going.

Also among the bishops, there was a real sympathy for those of us in jurisdictions who are faced with this new reality (ie. legalization of gay marriages or same-sex unions).

Q: Do you think there will now be an exodus from the church.

A: I think it will hold. Now that we’ve done the, quote, unthinkable, the church won’t look much different than before. Opponents of marriage equality predict the end of Western civilization as we know it if gay couples are allowed to marry. And then when it comes, there’s no big whoop.

Q: I heard Bishop Bill Love of Albany yesterday saying how pained he was at these actions the church has taken, and the reporters at this news conference really pressed him on whether he would take his diocese out of the Episcopal Church and he said no — that that was not where he felt that God was leading them.

A: Bill Love is a faithful Episcopalian, a man of integrity, and I respect him deeply. (Bishop) Edward Little (also a conservative), I would trust my life to him. He is the one I asked to intervene with (Archbishop of Canterbury) Rowan Williams when Rowan told me I could not go to Lambeth (the convention of Anglican bishops held last year in England).

I think maybe that’s what people don’t get about the House of Bishops. We have longstanding relationships. We meet several times each year, at length, and relationships build over time. We have a commitment to hang in there with one another, though we have disagreements. The ones that did not have that commitment are gone. The conversation has been a lot less shrill this year because a lot of those shrill voices are gone. It’s given people permission to listen better.

Q: So where do you expect to see the next openly gay bishop?

A: There are two dioceses that are electing bishops soon, who I think are capable of electing a gay bishop. Minnesota is electing a diocesan bishop, and Los Angeles is electing two suffragan bishops (assistant bishops). But no diocese is going to elect someone because they are gay. Who your bishop is matters too much, affects too many people. Nobody is going to not take the best person. But there’s no question it will happen, because there are just great people out there who would make great bishops.

Q: Will Susan Russell (a priest who is the president of Integrity, a church advocacy group for gay people) run in Los Angeles?

A: I don’t think so. I think she’s not interested. I think she understands there is a need for people who do what she does, who can have a prophetic voice outside of the episcopate. And there are lots of people who think she’s strident.

Q: What has been the fallout of all of this on your own diocese, in New Hampshire? Have you lost many church members?

A: Except for one parish in Rochester early on, no. That left about 15 people in that congregation, they met for about a year, and then asked me to close them down because there weren’t enough people to sustain a continued parish. That’s all. That’s it. There’s no one, no priests or parishes associated with the breakaway groups. Our diocese grew by 3 percent last year.

Q: And that makes how many church members?

A: There are 15,000 people in the diocese of New Hampshire.

Q: Who are you pulling in?

A: We have received so many Roman Catholics and young families, particularly families who are saying, “We don’t want to raise our daughters in a church that doesn’t value young people in our church.”

Q: Which vote that you’ve taken here do you think will have more impact, the one on bishops, or the one on same-sex blessings?

A: Blessings. There are a lot of gay and lesbian people out there who are looking for affirmation, who have no desire to be a bishop. I’ve been saying to them, give the Episcopal Church a try, give church another try, and this is the one I wanted to go home with. Were you there after the vote?

Q: I had to run off and file my story — it was late and I was missing my deadlines.

A: It was amazing. We took the vote, there were closing prayers, and usually somebody says amen and we’re up and out of there. But last night not a person moved, for 10 minutes. There was absolute silence. I think we realized the momentousness of what we’d done. People just sat their quietly praying. It was amazing. It was almost as if we didn’t want to leave each other.

    Episcopals’ First Openly Gay Bishop Speaks, NYT, 17.7.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/17/us/17bishop.html

 

 

 

 

 

Outcry on Federal Same-Sex Benefits

 

June 18, 2009
The New York Times
By JIM RUTENBERG

 

WASHINGTON — The package of domestic partnership benefits that President Obama established for federal workers on Wednesday drew the loudest protests from some of those it was intended to help, gay men and lesbians who criticized the move as too timid.

The administrative memorandum extending some partnership rights to federal workers in same-sex relationships, which Mr. Obama signed late Wednesday, allows administration personnel to take leave to care for sick partners and requires the government to recognize their partners as household members when determining overseas housing allocations for State Department employees, among other things.

But several of the nation’s most prominent gay and lesbian political leaders quickly attacked the president for failing to extend full health care benefits to the same-sex partners of federal workers, questioning the administration’s explanation that it is precluded from doing so by the Defense of Marriage Act, which Mr. Obama had vowed to repeal during his presidential campaign.

Their outcry put the administration on the defensive for an action it had hoped would help address increasing complaints from gay activists who supported Mr. Obama’s election but now say he is ignoring the issues he promised to address, like a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay men and lesbians in the military. And it has tested the balance the administration has tried to strike between avoiding hot-button cultural issues that could distract it from pushing its ambitious economic agenda and avoiding angering key liberal constituencies that expect Mr. Obama to make good on campaign promises.

Fueling the protest, the president’s move came just days after the administration filed a legal brief defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act — which defines marriage as between a man and a woman only — in a case challenging the law.

“I think it’s insulting,” David Mixner, a prominent gay rights advocate, said of the new benefits plan. “Without minimizing how it will improve lives to some extent, what they said to us today is we will give you family leave, some things like that, but the most important thing, health care, we’re not giving you.”

Mr. Mixner announced earlier this week that he was boycotting a coming fund-raiser being hosted by the Democratic Party’s gay and lesbian committee and featuring Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. because of what he considers the administration’s inaction on gay issues, and he said the president’s memorandum had not changed his mind.

Speaking from the Oval Office on Wednesday, Mr. Obama said the memorandum — which represents his interpretation of existing law — represented just a start. “This is only one step,” Mr. Obama said. “Unfortunately, my administration is not authorized by existing federal law to provide same-sex couples with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.”

Mr. Obama said he would indeed work to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, calling it “discriminatory.” He also announced his support for legislation that would extend full health care benefits to federal workers, a measure whose sponsors include Senators Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Representative Tammy Baldwin, Democrat of Wisconsin, both of whom stood behind the president Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier, John Berry, the administration’s director of personnel management, noted that the memorandum would extend some health-related benefits to same-sex couples. For instance, Mr. Berry said, United States medical facilities overseas would now be open to the partners of State Department employees.

But during an occasionally contentious conference call with reporters, Mr. Berry acknowledged that some federal supervisors were already conferring some of the benefits the administration was presenting as new. He did so after a blogger on the call, John Aravosis, told him about a note on his AmericaBlog Web site from a Defense Department employee, Lisa Polyak, who said the Army had allowed her to take sick leave to care for a same-sex partner, and nonbiological child, under existing provisions.

Mr. Berry said, however, that Mr. Obama’s memorandum would ensure that such decisions would not vary among supervisors.

“Not every supervisor is similarly situated,” he said. “What the president is doing today is he is making this no longer optional; he is making this mandatory.”

He did not address accusations from some gay and lesbian activists that the Defense of Marriage Act, which does not directly address domestic partnership rights, did not in fact preclude the administration from extending full health benefits to the same-sex partners of its employees.

But late Wednesday, Elaine Kaplan, general counsel for the office of personnel management, said federal statutes dictated that many vital health care benefits be conferred only to “spouses” and children of federal employees, effectively making it a benefit of marriage as defined by the marriage act. Ms. Kaplan said the new legislation the president is supporting would remedy that prohibition. In the meantime, she said, his memorandum would cover those benefits that do not fall under the more restrictive statutory language.

The debate resulted in a muddled message that added to the White House’s struggles on gay issues this week.

When news leaked out Tuesday night that the president would extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, some gay and lesbian leaders mistakenly took that to include health insurance and said they were let down to learn otherwise.

Mr. Obama’s comments late Wednesday served to ameliorate some of the initial confusion and dismay. For instance, Brad Levenson, a federal public defender in California who is waging a well-publicized fight to secure health benefits for his husband, expressed anger earlier in the day at the more limited scope of the memorandum, saying it fell short of what he had been led to believe the previous evening. Mr. Levenson called back later to say he took Mr. Obama at his word that he would keep trying to do more.

But gay and lesbian activists said suspicion remained that the president was trying to put their issues on the back burner to avoid the sort of furor that former President Bill Clinton faced when he announced early in his term that military recruiters would no longer ask applicants if they were homosexual.

“They decided early on that these gay issues were going to be trouble, and they decided to avoid them,” said Richard Socarides, an adviser to the Clinton administration on gay issues. “I think now they’re paying a much steeper price than they ever thought they’d have to.”

 

Jeff Zeleny contributed reporting.

    Outcry on Federal Same-Sex Benefits, NYT, 18.6.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/18/us/politics/18benefits.html?hp

 

 

 

 

 

Op-Ed Contributor

Why I Now Support Gay Marriage

 

June 13, 2009
The New York Times
By TOM SUOZZI

 

Mineola, N.Y.

WHEN I ran in the Democratic primary for governor against Eliot Spitzer in 2006, I vocally supported civil unions for same-sex couples but did not endorse equal marriage. I understood the need to provide equal rights for gays and lesbians, but as a practicing Catholic, I also felt that the state should not infringe on religious institutions’ right to view marriage in accordance with their own traditions. I thought civil unions for same-sex couples would address my concerns regarding both equality and religious liberty.

I was wrong.

I have listened to many well-reasoned and well-intentioned arguments both for and against same-sex marriage. And as I talked to gays and lesbians and heard their stories of pain, discrimination and love, my platitudes about civil unions began to ring hollow. I have struggled to find the solution that best serves the common good.

I now support same-sex marriage. This is a subject of great debate before the New York State Legislature (although the legislators there are a little distracted right now), and I hope that same-sex civil marriage will be approved within the month.

Under current New York State law, same-sex couples are deprived of access to the employment benefits, life and health insurance and inheritance laws that heterosexual couples have. If the state were to institute civil unions for same-sex couples, that discrimination would end, but we’d still be creating a separate and unequal system.

Civil unions for both heterosexual and same-sex couples would be an equal system, but this compromise appears unlikely at the current time. Few heterosexual couples would give up their current civil marriage for a civil union. While some states would recognize civil unions for all, others would not, causing legal problems for New York couples. Advocates of same-sex marriage don’t seem in favor of such a compromise either.

According to the last census, there are an estimated 50,000 households headed by same-sex couples in New York, many who were married in other states. Those marriages are recognized by New York courts as valid. As a result, we have same-sex marriage for some in New York (albeit performed out of state) and no marriage at all for other same-sex couples.

Any change in the New York law can, and must, balance equality while making sure that religious institutions remain free to choose whether to marry same-sex couples. By following the example of Connecticut and Vermont, which included protections for religious institutions when they recently legalized same-sex marriage, we can ensure that churches are not forced to consecrate marriages they do not endorse. This will require a strong liberty clause allowing religious institutions to opt out of solemnizing same-sex marriage, which also applies to the provision of services and programs at religiously affiliated institutions.

Many civil marriages are not considered “holy matrimony” by religious institutions because they do not conform to the rules of the religious institution. Those marriages have not challenged religious liberty. We must see that civil marriage, which has always been separate from religious marriage, will remain so.

But most important, gays and lesbians have suffered too long from legal discrimination, social marginalization and even violence. They are entitled to clear recognition of their equal status as citizens of a country that is founded on the principle that we are all inherently worthy. By delivering a clear message that same-sex couples can no longer be treated as separate and unequal in New York, we will also reduce discrimination in everyday life. We will all be better for that.

Equal civil marriage should, and likely will, pass because of the public’s growing unwillingness to sustain inequality. Society will also be strengthened as more people take responsibility for one another in marriage. I now encourage others who oppose gay marriage to re-examine the reasons they do so, and to consider changing their minds too.

 

Tom Suozzi is the Nassau County executive.

    Why I Now Support Gay Marriage, NYT, 13.6.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/13/opinion/13suozzi.html

 

 

 

 

 

California High Court

Upholds Gay Marriage Ban

 

May 27, 2009
The New York Times
By JOHN SCHWARTZ

 

The California Supreme Court upheld a ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday, ratifying a decision made by voters last year. The ruling comes at a time when several state governments have moved in the opposite direction.

The court’s decision does, however, preserve the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed between the justices’ ruling last May that same-sex marriage was constitutionally protected and voters’ passage in November of Proposition 8, which banned it.

The court’s opinion, written by Chief Justice Ronald M. George for a 6-to-1 majority, noted that same-sex couples still had a right to civil unions. Such unions, the opinion said, gives those couples the ability to “choose one’s life partner and enter with that person into a committed, officially recognized and protected family relationship that enjoys all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage.”

Justice George wrote that Proposition 8 did not “entirely repeal or abrogate” the right to such a protected relationship. Instead, he said, it “carves out a narrow and limited exception to these state constitutional rights, reserving the official designation of the term ‘marriage’ for the union of opposite-sex couples as a matter of state constitutional law.”

The 18,000 existing marriages can stand, he wrote, because Proposition 8 did not include language specifically saying it was retroactive.

Heated reaction to the decision began immediately, with protesters blocking traffic near the Supreme Court building in San Francisco and advocates for same-sex marriage making plans for their own ballot initiative.

In Los Angeles, Jennifer C. Pizer, marriage project director for the gay rights organization Lambda Legal, said the decision “puts it to us to repair the damage at the ballot box.” One of the state’s largest gay rights groups, Equality California, sent an e-mail message to supporters pleading for contributions to raise $500,000 toward “a massive campaign to put an initiative on the ballot and win.”

Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, called the decision “a terrible blow to the thousands of gay and lesbian Californians who woke up this morning hoping and praying their status as equal citizens of this state would be restored.”

Those who backed Proposition 8 were elated. Andrew P. Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, the leading group behind last year’s initiative, said he and his allies were “very gratified” by the decision.

“This is the culmination of years of hard work to preserve marriage in California,” Mr. Pugno said in an e-mail message.

Kenneth W. Starr, dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law, who had argued before the justices in favor of Proposition 8, said the ruling “represents a ringing judicial affirmation of the right of the people of California to amend the State Constitution at the ballot box.”

The California court ruled last May that same-sex couples enjoyed the same fundamental “right to marry” as opposite-sex couples. That sweeping 4-to-3 decision provoked a backlash from opponents that led to Proposition 8, which, after a bitter campaign fight, garnered 52 percent of the vote in November.

Tuesday’s opinion focused on whether the use of a voter initiative to narrow constitutional rights under Proposition 8 went too far.

Supporters of same-sex marriage, who filed several suits challenging the proposition after its adoption, argued that the change to the state’s Constitution was so fundamental that the initiative was not an amendment at all but instead a “revision,” a term for measures that rework core constitutional principles.

Under California law, revisions cannot be decided through a simple signature drive and a majority vote, as with Proposition 8. Instead, they can be placed on the ballot only with a two-thirds vote by the Legislature.

But the justices said the proposition was an amendment, not a revision. It has been historically rare for the state’s courts to overturn initiatives on the ground that they are actually revisions, and many legal scholars had deemed the challenge to Proposition 8 a long shot.

During oral arguments, in March, the justices’ questions clearly anticipated the reasoning of Tuesday’s majority opinion, with Justice Joyce L. Kennard suggesting then that even if the initiative took away the “label of marriage,” it did not undermine the substantive rights involved. Mr. Minter, representing the plaintiffs, disagreed, arguing that without the word “marriage,” same-sex couples would find “our outsider status enshrined in our Constitution.”

Chief Justice George’s opinion dealt directly with that point, stating that the court understood the importance of the word and was not trying to diminish that importance. But, he wrote, the legal right of people to call themselves married is only one of the rights granted to same-sex couples in the decision last May, and so “it is only the designation of marriage — albeit significant — that has been removed by this initiative measure.”

Karl M. Manheim, a professor at Loyola Law School Los Angeles who had filed a brief with the court opposing Proposition 8, called the decision a “safe” one from justices who can be recalled by voters. The change wrought by Proposition 8 was anything but narrow, Professor Manheim said, and claiming that the word “marriage” is essentially symbolic is like telling black people that sitting in the back of the bus is not important as long as the front and the back of the bus arrive at the same time.

In nearly three months since the case was argued, three other states have legalized same-sex marriage, joining Massachusetts and Connecticut, which had already done so. On April 3, the Iowa Supreme Court, repeatedly citing California’s decision of last May, struck down a state statute that limited civil marriage to the union of a man and a woman.

Less than a week later, the Vermont legislature narrowly overrode Gov. Jim Douglas’s veto of a bill that allowed same-sex couples to marry.

Then, on May 6, Maine’s legislature, too, passed a bill allowing same-sex marriage, and Gov. John Baldacci promptly signed it.

Initiatives legalizing same-sex marriage are also moving forward in New York and New Jersey. A similar measure stalled by a slim margin in the New Hampshire legislature this month but could come up for a new vote in June. In addition, opinion polls of Americans’ attitude toward same-sex marriage indicate that they favor allowing it.

The sole dissenting vote in Tuesday’s decision came from Justice Carlos R. Moreno, previously mentioned as a possible choice by President Obama for the United States Supreme Court.

Justice Moreno wrote that Proposition 8 means “requiring discrimination,” which he said “strikes at the core of the promise of equality that underlies our California Constitution” and, he added, “places at risk the state constitutional rights of all disfavored minorities.”



Jesse McKinley and Malia Wollan contributed reporting from San Francisco, and Rebecca Cathcart from Los Angeles.

    California High Court Upholds Gay Marriage Ban, NYT, 27.5.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/27/us/27marriage.html?hp

 

 

 

 

 

California Couples Await Gay Marriage Ruling

 

May 26, 2009
The New York Times
By JESSE McKINLEY

 

SAN FRANCISCO — After more than 30 years together, Brent Lok and Wade French have accumulated more than a few possessions, including a hilltop home, an impressive collection of Asian art and, alongside their diplomas, vacation photos and family portraits, a framed marriage license, dated June 17, 2008.

On Tuesday, Mr. Lok and Mr. French will discover what that license means in the eyes of the law, as the California Supreme Court hands down its decision on Proposition 8, the voter initiative passed in November that outlawed same-sex marriage. Previously, in May 2008, the court legalized same-sex marriage, and since the election, several groups have sued, saying the proposition’s revocation of that right was unconstitutional.

In addition to answering that legal question, however, the seven-member court is expected to address the legal status of some 18,000 same-sex couples who were married in California between June — when the legalization took effect — and Election Day in November.

The state’s attorney general, Jerry Brown, said last year that he believed those same-sex marriages would be legal regardless of Proposition 8. But opponents of same-sex marriage argue that it is illogical to continue to recognize marriages that can no longer be legally performed here.

Andrew P. Pugno, the general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, the leading group behind Proposition 8, said it was meant to be “a blanket unqualified statement that applies to all marriages.” Allowing some same-sex marriages to stand, Mr. Pugno said, would “create two classes of gay couples” in the state.

“Hopefully, the court is thinking about the future,” he said.

The tone of the court’s questions during oral arguments in March suggested that it would be unlikely to overturn Proposition 8. But several justices suggested that the proposition’s spare language — 14 words, stating that only male-female marriages were “valid or recognized” — was not explicitly retroactive.

Karl M. Manheim, a professor of law at Loyola Law School Los Angeles, said that if the marriages were invalidated, the same-sex couples might be able to sue in federal court on due-process grounds. Professor Manheim added that judges were generally averse to applying laws retroactively unless there was “unmistakable intent” to do so.

“It needs to be on the face of the law,” he said.

Mr. Pugno said his group was more concerned about the fate of Proposition 8 and was unlikely to challenge the marriages if they were allowed to stand. “It’s such a tiny number,” he said. “And it’s not the core issue.”

Last November, hundreds of same-sex couples went to the altar in the days before the election in California, which had become the second state to legalize same-sex marriage. (Massachusetts was the first, in 2004.) One couple who wed in 2008, Chloe Harris and Frankie Frankeny, had already had a commitment ceremony, and they hold domestic partnerships for San Francisco and for California.

“Keeping up with anniversaries is difficult,” Ms. Harris said.

But Ms. Harris, a freelance writer, and Ms. Frankeny, a photographer, said, their marriage last fall “was a big moment.”

“We had said ‘I do’ before, but this time it carried a lot more weight particularly because our families were there,” said Ms. Harris, who, like Ms. Frankeny, is from Texas. “What really changed was the relationship with our families. It’s when our relationship really gelled in their minds. They may not understand how — or why — we’re gay, but now they get why we wanted to get married.”

Since the passage of Proposition 8, several states have legalized same-sex marriage, including Iowa, Maine and Vermont. Connecticut, where a court decision legalized same-sex marriage shortly before Election Day, began performing ceremonies shortly after California banned them. At the moment, married same-sex couples in California have the same rights as straight, married couples under California law, though same-sex couples have no federal recognition.

Like several other states, California allows members of the same sex to enter into domestic partnerships, which afford many of the same rights as marriage. But Kate Kendell, the executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, says domestic partnerships are not equivalent to marriage.

“It is more than symbolism to say that an entire category of recognition is off limits to one class of people,” Ms. Kendell said. “And the category that is off limits is the one that is most culturally desirable.”

And, it seems, an institution not taken lightly. Gerardo Marin and Jay Thomas said they debated whether to codify their decade-long relationship last fall, but opted against getting married at the last moment, because “we didn’t feel we should be rushed into it,” said Mr. Marin, 35.

Nonetheless, they decided to join a lawsuit against Proposition 8, in part, Mr. Marin said, because “future generations are going to want to get married.”

Mr. Marin, who is Mexican-American and active in the Latino gay rights movement, said he planned to protest on Tuesday if Proposition 8 was upheld. If it is struck down, however, it does not necessarily mean wedding bells, Mr. Thomas said.

“We would continue the conversations we were having,” said Mr. Thomas, 37, a data analyst.

For those couples who already took the plunge, the idea that their marriage may be allowed while other couples are denied the right is unsettling. “I’d always feel like there was an asterisk,” Mr. French said.

Mr. Lok, his legally recognized spouse, at least for now, was more sanguine.

“The 18,000 marriages will be evidence that California is not going to fall apart if gay people get married,” Mr. Lok said. “It’s not like there’s not going to be an earthquake.”

    California Couples Await Gay Marriage Ruling, NYT, 26.5.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/26/us/26gay.html?hp

 

 

 

 

 

White House Memo

As Gay Issues Arise, Obama Is Pressed to Engage

 

May 7, 2009
The New York Times
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG

 

WASHINGTON — President Obama was noticeably silent last month when the Iowa Supreme Court overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

But now Mr. Obama — who has said he opposes same-sex marriage as a Christian but describes himself as a “fierce advocate of equality” for gay men and lesbians — is under pressure to engage on a variety of gay issues that are coming to the fore amid a dizzying pace of social, political, legal and legislative change.

Two of Mr. Obama’s potential Supreme Court nominees are openly gay; some advocates, irked that there are no gay men or lesbians in his cabinet, are mounting a campaign to influence his choice to replace Justice David H. Souter, who is retiring. Same-sex marriage is advancing in states — the latest to allow it is Maine — and a new flare-up in the District of Columbia could ultimately put the controversy in the lap of the president.

Mr. Obama’s new global health initiative has infuriated activists who say he is not financing AIDS programs generously enough. And while the president has urged Congress to pass a hate crimes bill, a high priority for gay groups, he has delayed action on one of his key campaign promises, repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule.

Social issues like same-sex marriage bring together deeply held principles and flashpoint politics, and many gay activists, aware that Mr. Obama is also dealing with enormous challenges at home and overseas, have counseled patience.

But some are unsettled by what they see as the president’s cautious approach. Many are still seething over his choice of the Rev. Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor who opposes same-sex marriage, to deliver the invocation at his inaugural, and remain suspicious of Mr. Obama’s commitment to their cause.

In the words of David Mixner, a writer, gay activists are beginning to wonder, “How much longer do we give him the benefit of the doubt?” Last weekend, Richard Socarides, who advised President Bill Clinton on gay issues, published an opinion piece in The Washington Post headlined, “Where’s our fierce advocate?”

The White House, aware of the discontent, invited leaders of some prominent gay rights organizations to meet Monday with top officials, including Jim Messina, Mr. Obama’s deputy chief of staff, to plot legislative strategy on the hate crimes bill as well as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Among those attending was Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, who said afterward that while the gay rights agenda might not be “unfolding exactly as we thought,” he was pleased.

“They have a vision,” Mr. Solmonese said. “They have a plan.”

While Mr. Obama has said he is “open to the possibility” that his views on same-sex marriage are misguided, he has offered no signal that he intends to change his position. And as he confronts that and other issues important to gay rights advocates, he faces an array of pressures and risks.

Anything substantive he might say on same-sex marriage — after the Iowa ruling, the White House put out a statement saying the president “respects the decision” — would be endlessly parsed. If Mr. Obama were to embrace same-sex marriage, he would be seen as reversing a campaign position and alienating some moderate and religious voters he has courted.

And if he appoints a gay person to the Supreme Court, he would be viewed by social conservatives — including many black ministers, another of his core constituency groups — as putting a vote for same-sex marriage on the highest court in the land. Two gay women, Kathleen M. Sullivan and Pamela S. Karlan, both of Stanford Law School, have been suggested as potential nominees.

“That would be tantamount to opening the gate for the other side,” said Bishop Harry J. Jackson Jr. of the Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., who is organizing protests in Washington, where the City Council passed an ordinance this week recognizing same-sex marriages in other states. “If he meant what he said about marriage then I think he has got to stand up and be a president who acts on his beliefs.”

Some say change is inevitable, not only for Mr. Obama but also for other Democratic politicians who have embraced civil unions but rejected same-sex marriage. Now that the Iowa ruling has pushed the battle into the nation’s heartland, the issue will inevitably come up during the 2010 midterm elections and the 2012 presidential campaign.

“We’ve elected probably the most pro-gay president in history; he’s very good on the issues but he is not good on gay marriage,” said Steven Elmendorf, a gay Democratic lobbyist. “From the gay community’s perspective, he and a lot of other elected officials are wrong on this. My view is that over time, they’re going to realize they’re wrong and they’re going to change.”

Mr. Obama has chosen a number of openly gay people for prominent jobs, including Fred P. Hochberg as chairman of the Export-Import Bank and John Berry to run the Office of Personnel Management. And he is the first president to set aside tickets for gay families to attend the White House Easter Egg Roll.

But on legislation, allies of Mr. Obama’s are not surprised that he is charting a careful course. In addition to calling for the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military, Mr. Obama supports a legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that said states need not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Opponents of same-sex marriage say that is an inconsistency.

Tobias Wolff, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania who was Mr. Obama’s top campaign adviser on gay rights, said the president needed time to build political consensus.

“I think he has a genuine sense,” Mr. Wolff said, “that in order to move these issues forward you need broader buy-in than you are going to get if you poke a stick in too many people’s eyes.”

    As Gay Issues Arise, Obama Is Pressed to Engage, NYT, 7.5.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/07/us/politics/07obama.html

 

 

 

 

 

Group Renews Fight

for Same-Sex Marriage in California

 

May 7, 2009
The New York Times
By JESSE McKINLEY

 

SAN FRANCISCO — As the California Supreme Court mulls the fate of a 2008 ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriage, one of the state’s largest gay rights groups is laying the groundwork for a campaign to overturn the measure, perhaps as soon as next year.

The announcement by the group, Equality California, comes almost a year after the court’s initial decision to legalize same-sex marriage, a ruling that voters negated in November when they passed the ballot measure, Proposition 8. The proposition has since been challenged in court, but gay rights advocates worry the court will uphold it, and are preparing for the next stage of the fight.

“We’re hoping the court rules the right way, but we’re not counting on it,” said Marc Solomon, Equality California’s newly hired marriage director. “And we believe that 2010 is the right time to go back to the ballot.”

The possibility of a ballot measure to overturn Proposition 8 has been floated online and elsewhere since the election, but the announcement is a concrete signal that California might soon be embroiled in another electoral fight over same-sex marriage. The November campaign ranked as one of the most divisive and expensive ballot measure fights ever, with the two sides spending more than $80 million combined.

Opponents of same-sex marriage said a second campaign would be a mistake. “The fact is that the people of California have already spoken,” said Brian S. Brown, the executive director in National Organization for Marriage, in Princeton, N.J. “And they don’t like being told they were wrong the first time.”

Mr. Solomon, who came to California after several years of working on behalf of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, the first state to legalize such unions, in 2004, stopped short of announcing of a formal campaign to put the issue on the California ballot, which would require an extensive signature-gathering effort.

But his group appeared to be ramping up. It announced a statewide advertising campaign starting Monday, which will feature gay and lesbian couples talking about marriage. The group also said it would open outreach offices in conservative parts of the state in coming weeks — including Orange County, the Central Valley and the so-called Inland Empire, east of Los Angeles — where voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 8. (An outreach office is also planned for San Francisco, one of the state’s most liberal enclaves.)

The group also expects to begin canvassing neighborhoods as soon as this weekend, using an on-the-ground approach to elicit voters’ views about same-sex marriage and try to sway opponents, an approach that worked well for the opposite side in the November election. “You can call it taking a page from their playbook,” Mr. Solomon said. “I’d prefer to call it taking a page from the playbook we used in the Northeast.”

California advocates of same-sex marriage have been astonished at recent developments on the East Coast, including in Maine, where Gov. John Baldacci signed a bill on Wednesday legalizing same-sex marriage in the state, though Mr. Brown said opponents would pursue a public referendum to overturn the law before it becomes official. Even so, Maine joined a roster of states that have legalized gay marriage in recent months, including Iowa and Vermont. Connecticut began allowing same-sex marriages last fall.

All of which has supporters here feeling cautiously optimistic, even those for whom the Proposition 8 victory still stings.

“Usually we measure social change on controversial issues on, at a minimum, years, and more often, generations,” said Kate Kendell, the executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who served on the “No on 8” executive committee. “On this issue, we’re measuring it by days.”

The court has several more weeks to decide on Proposition 8, which passed with 52 percent of the vote. But critical lines of questioning from several judges during oral arguments in March seemed to suggest that the measure would be upheld.

Frank Schubert, a spokesman for Protect Marriage, the leading group behind Proposition 8, said he had expected that the measure would eventually be challenged at the ballot box but was surprised that it could come so soon. “But,” he said, “if they think it’s right for them, we’ll meet them on the field of battle.”

While Mr. Schubert said the recession might cause fund-raising problems for both sides, he noted that anti-Proposition 8 protests after the election and recent support for same-sex marriage elsewhere had generated enthusiasm among Californians in the opposing camp.

“There is this sense of activism that has arisen from folks that were not in their campaign in the fall,” he said of the “No on 8” camp. “And I’m sure they want to capitalize on that while passions are high.”

    Group Renews Fight for Same-Sex Marriage in California, NYT, 7.5.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/07/us/07calif.html?hpw

 

 

 

 

 

Opponents Challenging New Maine Gay Marriage Law

 

May 7, 2009
Filed at 12:23 p.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times

 

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- Maine officials say gay marriage opponents are challenging a new law allowing same-sex couples to wed.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said Thursday that opponents filed a challenge under the state's ''people's veto'' provision.

It allows for a referendum to overturn laws if opponents can collect enough signatures.

The filing came Wednesday, the same day the Legislature passed the bill and Gov. John Baldacci (bahl-DAH'-chee) signed it.

Opponents need to get at least 10 percent of people who voted in the last governor's election to force a referendum in November.

The signature-collecting deadline will probably fall in mid-September.

------

On the Net:

Maine people's veto: http://tinyurl.com/dj5knf

    Opponents Challenging New Maine Gay Marriage Law, NYT, 7.5.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/05/07/us/AP-US-XGR-Gay-Marriage-New-England.html

 

 

 

 

 

Maine Governor Signs Same-Sex Marriage Bill

 

May 7, 2009
The New York Times
By ABBY GOODNOUGH

 

BOSTON — Gov. John Baldacci of Maine signed a same-sex marriage bill on Wednesday minutes after the Legislature sent it to his desk, saying he had reversed his position because gay couples were entitled to the state Constitution’s equal rights protections.

“It’s not the way I was raised and it’s not the way that I am,” Mr. Baldacci, a Democrat, said in a telephone interview. “But at the same time I have a responsibility to uphold the Constitution. That’s my job, and you can’t allow discrimination to stand when it’s raised to your level.”

Yet gay couples may not be able to wed in Maine anytime soon. Laws typically go into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns, which is usually in late June. But opponents have vowed to pursue a “people’s veto,” or a public referendum, in which Maine voters could overturn the law.

The opponents would be required to collect about 55,000 signatures within 90 days of the Legislature’s adjourning to get a referendum question on the ballot. If they succeeded, the law would be suspended until a vote could be held. Depending on how soon signatures were collected, that would be in November or the following June.

The Rev. Bob Emrich, a leader of the Maine Marriage Alliance, one of the chief opposition groups, said he believed the law would be overturned but not without an intensive campaign.

“It’s not automatic by any means,” Mr. Emrich said. “The proponents of changing the law and redefining marriage, they are very well funded, they have a great organization, and they’ve been at this a long time.”

Maine is the fifth state to legalize same-sex marriage, and the bill’s enactment comes almost five years after Massachusetts became the first in the nation to do so. The other states are Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont.

The New Hampshire legislature gave final passage on Wednesday to a same-sex marriage bill, but Gov. John Lynch has not said if he will sign it. Mr. Lynch, a centrist Democrat, has said in the past that marriage should be limited to a man and a woman. Once the bill reaches his desk, he will have five days to act on it.

Mr. Baldacci announced his decision in Augusta, Me., about an hour after the State Senate gave final passage to the bill, which codifies marriage as a legally recognized union between two people regardless of sex. Under state law, the governor had 10 days to sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature.

But Mr. Baldacci, who cannot seek re-election because of term limits, said he had spent considerable time researching the legal ramifications of denying gay men and lesbians the right to marry.

Mr. Baldacci earlier supported civil unions for gay couples, which are legally recognized and provide many of the state rights and privileges that marriage does. Civil unions are legal in New Jersey, Connecticut and Vermont, but the latter two states are phasing them out after adopting same-sex marriage laws.

Since Vermont became the first state to allow civil unions in 2000, gay-rights supporters have increasingly said they relegate same-sex couples to a separate and unequal category.

Mr. Baldacci said his past opposition to same-sex marriage stemmed from his Roman Catholic upbringing. Exploring his feelings on the matter — and listening to those of other Maine residents — was, he said, “very emotional, very much a sort of baring of the soul that you’re listening to and going through yourself.”

He described voters as “the ultimate political power in this state,” and said it was important for them to weigh in, too.

“I think they will see the reasoning that I had in regards to the issue,” he said, “but it’s their right to put their stamp on it.”

 

Katie Zezima contributed reporting from Augusta, Me.

    Maine Governor Signs Same-Sex Marriage Bill, NYT, 7.5.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/07/us/07marriage.html

 

 

 

 

 

US Endorses UN Gay Rights Text

 

March 18, 2009
Filed at 3:54 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration on Wednesday formally endorsed a U.N. statement calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality, a measure that former President George W. Bush had refused to sign.

The move was the administration's latest in reversing Bush-era decisions that have been heavily criticized by human rights and other groups. The United States was the only western nation not to sign onto the declaration when it came up at the U.N. General Assembly in December.

''The United States supports the U.N.'s statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity and is pleased to join the other 66 U.N. member states who have declared their support of the statement,'' said State Department spokesman Robert Wood.

''The United States is an outspoken defender of human rights and critic of human rights abuses around the world,'' Wood told reporters. ''As such, we join with other supporters of this statement, and we will continue to remind countries of the importance of respecting the human rights of all people in all appropriate international fora.''

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the administration would endorse the statement.

Gay rights groups hailed the move.

''The administration's leadership on this issue will be a powerful rebuke of an earlier Bush administration position that sought to deny the universal application of human rights protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals,'' said Mark Bromley of the Council for Global Equality, which promotes equal rights for homosexuals.

''This is long past overdue and we are encouraged by the signal it sends that the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will now be considered human rights,'' said Rea Carey, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Human rights groups had criticized the Bush administration when it refused to sign the statement when it was presented at the United Nations on Dec. 19. U.S. officials said then that the U.S. opposed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but that parts of the declaration raised legal questions that needed further review.

According to negotiators, the Bush team had concerns that those sections could commit the federal government on matters that fall under state jurisdiction. In some states, landlords and private employers are allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation; on the federal level, gays are not allowed to serve openly in the military.

But Wood said a ''careful interagency review'' by the Obama administration had concluded that ''supporting this statement commits us to no legal obligations.''

When it was voted on in December, 66 of the U.N.'s 192 member countries signed the nonbinding declaration, which backers called an historic step to push the General Assembly to deal more forthrightly with anti-gay discrimination. It was endorsed by all 27 European Union members as well as Japan, Australia and Mexico.

But 70 U.N. members outlaw homosexuality -- and in several, homosexual acts can be punished by execution. More than 50 nations, including members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, opposed the declaration.

Some Islamic countries said at the time that protecting sexual orientation could lead to ''the social normalization and possibly the legalization of deplorable acts'' such as pedophilia and incest. The declaration was also opposed by the Vatican.

US Endorses UN Gay Rights Text,
NYT,
18.3.2009,
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/03/18/
washington/AP-Obama-Gay-Rights.html