History > 2009 > USA > Gay rights (I)
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania
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
“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
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,,
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
Still, her victory underscored a continued Episcopal commitment to accepting
same-sex relationships despite enormous pressure from other Anglicans to change
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 election began Friday with six candidates vying for two vacancies for
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
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
''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
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
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.
On the Net:
Weber reported from Los Angeles; AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll reported from
2nd Gay Bishop Elected
for Episcopal Church, NYT, 5.12.2009,
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Honolulu, Dec. 3, 2009
The Battle Over Gay
Marriage, NYT, 4.12.2009,
New York State
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
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
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,
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
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
The Church and the
Capital, NYT, 23.11.2009,
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
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
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
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
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
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,”
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,
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 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
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
Another Portland resident, Sarah Holman said she was ''very torn'' but decided
-- despite her conservative upbringing -- to vote in favor of letting gays
''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
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
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
-- 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,
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
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
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
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,
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
The rally was primarily the undertaking of a new generation of gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgender advocates who have grown disillusioned with the
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
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
“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
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,
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,
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
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
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
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,
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
What follows is an interview with Bishop Robinson, conducted during a break at
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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,
Why I Now Support Gay Marriage
June 13, 2009
The New York Times
By TOM SUOZZI
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
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
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,
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
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
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,
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
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
“We would continue the conversations we were having,” said Mr. Thomas, 37, a
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,
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
“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,
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
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
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
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,
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
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:
New Maine Gay Marriage Law, NYT, 7.5.2009,
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
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
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,
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
The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the administration would endorse
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
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
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
US Endorses UN Gay