New York Governor announces actions limiting reparative therapy

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this weekend he is taking steps to protect LGBT youth from the practice of reparative therapy.

Cuomo is the first governor to use his executive authority to protect LGBT youth from this widely denounced practice, also called conversion therapy.

Cuomo’s actions authorize three state agencies to limit access and coverage of the practice and revoke the licensure of therapists who violate the law. State Department of Financial Services will issue regulations prohibiting insurance providers from covering conversion therapy on patients under the age of 18.

The state Office of Mental Health will prohibit mental health providers from using conversion therapy on youth under the age of 18, and violations of these important protections will result in revocation of licenses.

The state Department of Health will also ensure the practice is not covered by the state’s Medicaid plan.

“No young person should be coerced or subjected to this dangerous so-called therapy, which has been linked to youth substance abuse, depression, homelessness and even suicide,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.

“The regulations announced today are historic, not only representing the first time a governor has taken executive action to protect youth from conversion therapy, but also ensuring that protection doesn’t stop when they turn 18,” said the National Center for Lesbian Rights’ #BornPerfect campaign coordinator and staff attorney, Samantha Ames in a statement.

Proponents of conversion therapy argue they can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Though widely discredited by every major medical and mental health association, including the American Medical Association and American Psychological Association, some therapists continue use the practice.

Last April, the White House called for an end to the practice. A bill to bar the practice in Texas, filed by state Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, died during the past legislative session.

Six other jurisdictions have taken action to end this dangerous practice on minors. Laws banning conversion therapy have been passed in California, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Illinois, and Cincinnati, Ohio.

—  James Russell

WHAT’S BREWING: King family banned from court and marriage equality grows

Larry King

1. The Lawrence King murder trial got heated yesterday as the victim’s mother was banned from the rest of the trial, according to the LA Times. A teacher testified that she had given King a formal gown. As the King family stormed out of the courtroom, the victim’s mother whispered an expletive at the teacher, which got her banned from the courtroom.

2. Marriage equality has come to part of the Northwest. The Suquamish Tribal Council in Washington state voted this week to recognize same-sex marriage. The new law allows the tribal court to issue a marriage license to two adults. The rest of the state does not have marriage equality but recognizes marriages performed elsewhere.

3. New Jersey’s largest newspaper, the Newark Star Ledger, which has been a supporter of same-sex marriage, said that Gov. Chris Christie should do what Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York did. He should heed the polls that show that a majority of people in New Jersey support equality and should push a same-sex marriage bill through the legislature.

—  David Taffet

Is NY the Stonewall of marriage equality?

Activists in other states look to capitalize on momentum

DANA RUDOLPH | Keen News Service

Hundreds of same-sex couples married in New York on Sunday, the first day they could legally do so. And just as the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969 gave a lift to the nascent movement for equal rights for gays across the country, marriage equality in the Empire State appears to be giving a boost to marriage equality efforts outside its borders.

Activists in at least two states (Maine and Colorado) are pushing for 2012 ballot measures to seek marriage equality there, a lawsuit has been launched in New Jersey for full marriage rights, and in Maryland, a Democratic governor is prepared to follow the example of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat, in leading the state legislature to marriage equality.

With the addition of New York, the percentage of same-sex couples living in states that allow them to marry has now more than doubled—from 6.9 percent to 14.3 percent, according to an analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey by the Williams Institute of UCLA.

And the percentage of the U.S. population living in a state that allows same-sex couples to marry has more than doubled, from 5.1 to 11.4 percent, according to Census 2010 and the Williams Institute.

“Having New York end marriage discrimination is a turning point for the country,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of the national Freedom to Marry group, in an essay on the group’s Web site June 27, three days after Cuomo signed a marriage equality bill into law. “The world watches New York, and, as New Yorkers say, if we can make it here, we’ll make it anywhere.”

Wolfson noted that passage of the bill in New York was the first time a legislative chamber with a Republican majority — the state Senate — had “voted to advance a bill to end marriage discrimination, and Republican senators provided the winning margin.” He called the bipartisan vote “a major shift in the national political calculus for both parties” that “points the way to more victories.”

The New York Legislature was also the first to pass a marriage bill without first passing civil unions or domestic partnerships, Wolfson said.

In New Jersey, which allows same-sex couples to enter civil unions, but not marriages, Steven Goldstein, the chair of the LGBT advocacy organization Garden State Equality, said in a statement June 24 that “the victory in New York, and its choice of marriage equality over civil union inequality, set the stage for our continuing fight for marriage for same-sex couples in New York’s sister state just a mile away.”

Four days after the New York bill became law, Garden State Equality and Lambda Legal, a national LGBT legal group, filed a lawsuit in a New Jersey Superior Court in Trenton on behalf of seven same-sex couples. They argue that the state’s existing civil union laws do not provide the couples with full equality—an equality the state Supreme Court said, in October 2006, is guaranteed by the state constitution.

Garden State Equality also held a rally on July 24, the first day of the New York marriages, at a New Jersey park closest to New York, with a view of the Manhattan skyline across the Hudson River.

In Maryland, where a marriage equality bill passed the state House but failed to pass the Senate in March, Gov. Martin O’Malley seems now to be following the example of Cuomo, saying he will take a more active role in pushing for marriage equality next session.

Cuomo, whom Freedom to Marry’s Wolfson called the “indispensable champion” of the New York bill, had worked closely with marriage equality advocates and sent the initial version of the marriage bill to the Legislature. He then met with legislative leaders to work out a final version of the bill that addressed some lawmakers’ concerns about additional protections for religious groups and the charities and educational institutions they operate.

Maryland’s O’Malley announced July 22 that he would sponsor marriage equality legislation in the 2012 legislative session. He tasked his director of legislative affairs, Joseph Bryce, with coordinating efforts among a broad coalition of LGBT, civil rights, and faith-based groups, as well as people across the state.

O’Malley said at a press conference that the law provides equal protection and the free exercise of religion to all, adding “Other states have found a way to protect both of these fundamental beliefs.”

And in Maine, the executive director of Equality Maine, Betsy Smith, said in a statement June 28 that the “victory in New York generates wind in the sails of the national movement to win marriage, and more specifically, of our efforts here in Maine.”

EqualityMaine and Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) announced June 30 that they are taking steps to place a citizen’s initiative on the November 2012 ballot, asking Maine voters to approve a law giving same-sex couples the right to marry. The move comes after a referendum in November 2009 overturned a marriage equality law passed by the legislature and signed by Governor John Baldacci (D) in May 2009.

Colorado may also see a question on its 2012 ballot to approve marriage equality. The state Title Board on July 20 approved language for such a question. Supporters of marriage equality must now collect 86,105 signatures in order to place it on the ballot.

Similar measures could also appear in California and Oregon.

An exception to the trend comes in Minnesota, where the legislature has approved a ballot question that seeks to ban marriage of same-sex couples under the state constitution. It is already banned under state law. The same could happen in North Carolina, where the legislature is considering bills for such a ballot measure.

Cuomo, in a press conference after he signed the marriage equality bill, called New York “a beacon for social justice,” noting that the movements for equally for women, for protection of workers, for preservation of the environment, and for equality of gays each have roots in New York.

“New York,” he said, “made a powerful statement, not just for the people of New York, but the people all across this nation.”

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

NY MARRIAGE UPDATE: T-Minus 56 hours

As the number of people living in jurisdictions with marriage equality doubles this weekend, here are some of the things going on around New York to celebrate — and protest that state’s new law:

Niagara Falls will be lit in rainbow colors on Sunday.

• To avoid delays and confusion, New York City will limit the number of marriages on Sunday to 764. Licenses will be distributed through lotteries for specific slots in each of the five NYC boroughs. The lottery opened on Tuesday and closed today at noon. Winners will be announced Friday. A lottery — what a great way to ensure the sanctity of marriage.

• Sunday will be a record day for marriages in New York City. The previous record was set on Valentine’s Day in 2003, when 621 opposite-sex couples wed.

• Rod and Ricky, the same-sex puppets who meet and fall in love in Avenue Q, plan to be among those in line for marriage licenses at City Hall.

• In Albany, Mayor Jerry Jennings will marry up to 10 couples at city hall right after midnight. A state Supreme Court judge will be at the Common Council chambers to waive the 24-hour waiting period.

• Mayor Bloomberg said he doesn’t expect people to be camping out in line waiting for marriage licenses. He says it’s not like buying an iPad 2. Right. Priorities. After all, which is more important?

—  David Taffet

BREAKING: New York Senate approves same-sex marriage in 33-29 vote; Gov. Cuomo signs bill

More than 45,000 people watched the Senate’s vote online.

Advocates say victory in 3rd-largest state could be turning point

REX WOCKNER  |  Wockner News Service

New York state legalized same-sex marriage late Thursday.

The Senate passed the bill 33-29 at 10:29 p.m. Eastern time and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law less than 90 minutes later.

Same-sex couples can begin marrying July 24.

“This state, when it is at its finest, is a beacon of justice,” Cuomo said.

Twenty-nine of the Senate’s 30 Democrats voted for the bill, along with four of the body’s 32 Republicans.

Some activists said New York’s legalization of same-sex marriage marks the end of the road for the anti-same-sex-marriage movement, which took away gay people’s right to marry in California in 2008 and in Maine in 2009, removed from the bench Iowa Supreme Court justices who legalized same-sex marriage there, and persuaded a majority of U.S. states to ban same-sex marriage by law or in their constitutions.

“Game over,” said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“Now that we’ve made it here, we’ll make it everywhere,” said Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson, calling it an “epic win.”

“There’s no doubt that today will be revered as a major turning point in civil rights history,” said American Foundation for Equal Rights Board President Chad Griffin. “A bipartisan group of legislators have affirmed that equal rights for every citizen is not a partisan issue, but an American value.”

Revelers shut down Christopher Street outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City after the vote. (Photos by Scott Wooledge)

AFER is behind the federal lawsuit against California’s Proposition 8, via which voters re-banned same-sex marriage in 2008. The state constitutional amendment was struck down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution in 2010, but the ruling is now stalled in the federal appeal process.

“This victory sends a message that marriage equality across the country will be a reality very soon,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York “honors New York’s unique history as being the place where the modern gay rights movement sprang to life 42 years ago this month at the Stonewall Inn in New York City — a place where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people stood up and fought back for their dignity and rightful place in society.”

Longtime New York City activist Corey Johnson called it “a watershed moment.”

“It’s a turning point,” he said. “This is a significant and tremendous loss for NOM (the anti-gay activist group National Organization for Marriage). In many ways, it takes the wind out of their sails.”

The White House issued a tepid statement saying: “The states should determine for themselves how best to uphold the rights of their own citizens. The process in New York worked just as it should. … The president has long believed that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and legal protections as straight couples.”

President Barack Obama has refused to come out in support of same-sex couples’ right to marry, saying he prefers “civil unions.” He has said, however, that his views on same-sex marriage are “evolving.” In recent days, the media has again highlighted the fact that in 1996, when he was running for the Illinois Senate, Obama told the Chicago gay newspaper Outlines, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”

In New York City, at least 1,000 people took to the streets in celebration outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. When police made an early attempt to clear the unauthorized street party, those gathered reportedly chanted, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re fabulous, don’t fuck with us.”

New York has no way for voters to undo laws or amend the state constitution. The only ways to re-ban same-sex marriage in New York would be to pass a repeal measure through the Legislature or call a constitutional convention. Both possibilities are extremely unlikely.

Same-sex marriage also is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C. Same-sex marriages from elsewhere are recognized as marriages in Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and California (if the marriage took place before Proposition 8 passed).

Eleven other nations allow same-sex couples to marry — Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Mexico (where same-sex marriages are allowed only in the capital city but are recognized nationwide).

—  John Wright

WATCH LIVE: New York State Senate expected to vote tonight on marriage equality

Watch live streaming video from nysenate at


The New York State Senate is expected to vote sometime tonight on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s marriage equality bill, after an agreement was reached this afternoon on exemptions for religious groups. The Senate is currently at ease, but once it reconvenes, you’ll be able to watch live above. Stay tuned to Instant Tea for updates.

UPDATE, 8:04 p.m. CST: The Senate is in a 15-minute recess. They’re expected to vote on the marriage bill once they return.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: New York marriage vote could come tonight or early Thursday

Jon Huntsman

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The New York State Senate’s vote on a marriage equality bill is now likely to come late today or early Thursday, as talks continue over protections for religious groups, the Associated Press reports. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he remains “cautiously optimistic” the bill will pass.

2. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman entered the Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, and his campaign is making a pitch to gay donors based on his support for civil unions. But Huntsman took a step back this morning when he called marriage equality “impossible.”

3. Britney Spears new video for “I Wanna Go” premiered Tuesday night. Watch it below. Spears’ Femme Fatale tour comes to Dallas on July 12.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Gov. Perry’s camp prepared to address gay rumors if he runs for president

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Gov. Rick Perry’s team is prepared to address longstanding rumors that he’s gay if he jumps into the Republican presidential race, according to Politico. The story doesn’t specifically say how Perry’s team plans to address the rumors, and the fact that they’re still around after seven years — and that Politico is writing about them — would seem to indicate that their efforts haven’t been overly effective to this point. Then again, how do you prove you’re not gay, especially if you are? Perry’s top political strategist, Dave Carney, told Politico that the rumors must be false because the governor has survived several well-funded political challenges in Texas. But needless to say, there’s a monumental difference between running for governor of Texas and running for president. Dallas Voice was contacted by a reporter from the Huffington Post on Monday about the Perry gay rumors, so clearly the national media is starting to pick up on them. And Perry hasn’t even declared his candidacy yet. (Yes, that sound you hear is us licking our chops.)

2. A vote by the New York State Senate on marriage equality legislation could come at any time, as negotiations continue over language related to religious exemptions. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s marriage equality bill has already passed the state Assembly but remains one vote short of the majority needed to pass the Senate.

3. Harry Potter star Emma Watson was spotted at the Round-Up Saloon in Dallas last Thursday, according to the Round-Up’s Facebook page and now TMZ. Oddly, the TMZ report doesn’t mention the fact that the Round-Up is a gay bar. Watson, who plays Hermione Granger, reportedly is the world’s highest-paid actress.

Emma Watson dances at the Round-Up last Thursday. (Via Facebook)


—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: GLAAD president resigns; deal may be near on marriage equality bill in New York

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

Jarrett Barrios

1. GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios has resigned in the wake of a controversy over a letter the organization sent to the FCC in support of Dallas-based AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile. Or at least we think Barrios has resigned. GLAAD’s letter to the FCC led to backlash in the gay blogophere because the telecom merger isn’t an LGBT issue and because the organization receives donations from AT&T.

2. The New York State Senate could vote as early as today on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s marriage equality bill, but at least one more Republican vote is still neeeded to ensure the measure’s passage. Republican aides spent the weekend working on the language of the bill to strengthen religious protections, and they reportedly made some headway. Today is the last day of New York’s regular legislative session, but it’s likely the session will be extended for a few days. Again, this is a huge impending victory for LGBT equality, as New York is the nation’s third-most populous state and the bill would double the number of Americans living in jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is legal. Watch video below of a New York couple who’ve been waiting 61 years to marry.

3. A growing number pastors in the United Methodist Church are marrying same-sex couples in defiance of the church’s ban on the practice, the AP reports. Pastors who violate the ban risk dismissal from the church, and it’s unlikely that will change anytime soon.

—  John Wright

Gov. Cuomo ‘putting his skin in the game’ for marriage equality in New York

MICHAEL HILL | Associated Press

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo has become a prominent champion of legalized gay marriage, pushing his state into the center of the national debate over an emotional and divisive issue.

In the past week, the Democrat has personally lobbied wavering Republican lawmakers and has said the extension of marriage rights to gays and lesbians is “a matter of principle, not politics.”

“This state has a proud tradition and a proud legacy as the progressive capital of the nation,” he said Friday. “We led the way, and it’s time for New York to lead the way once again.”

The effort carries some political peril but could be potentially rewarding, given evolving public sentiment on gay rights in New York and the nation.

“It looks like a profile in courage, and maybe it is,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “But it also may be politically smart in the long run.”

Cuomo’s support for gay rights is already known to New York voters. His efforts this past week to get the bill through the Republican-controlled state Senate — the lone roadblock to passage — make good on an issue he ran on last year. During that campaign, he took his daughters to a gay pride parade in New York City, drawing sharp criticism from his Republican opponent.

“The governor is putting skin in the game and has a steadfast commitment to the issue,” said Kevin Nix of the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay rights group. “That he’s made marriage equality a priority for this legislative session speaks volumes about his commitment.”

As a purely political matter, advocating for gay marriage makes sense for Democrats in a state like New York, where gay groups are players in party politics. Cuomo’s lobbying, coming after he pushed through a fiscally conservative budget, also could burnish his image among liberals.

Cuomo is an astute politician who was a key player in his father’s campaigns for New York governor three decades ago, then was schooled in President Bill Clinton’s Cabinet, where he served as Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary.

The lessons learned from both are at play during this debate: The lofty, inclusive idealism of his father matched by Clinton’s practical politics.

He is opposed, though, by some conservative groups and religious leaders. Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York last week in a blog likened the effort to “redefine” marriage to something that would be done in China or North Korea.

Still, polls this year have shown that more than half of voters in New York support gay marriage, with backing heaviest among Democrats. Cuomo’s position is also in line with New York’s last two governors and its two Democratic U.S. senators. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has been a high-profile advocate of gay rights issues, and Sen. Charles Schumer came out in support of gay marriage in 2009.

In fact, the reason Cuomo can push for gay marriage is that he holds office in a relatively liberal state. Nationwide, governors supporting same-sex marriage appear to be in the minority. Among them are Democrats Deval Patrick in neighboring Massachusetts and Jerry Brown in California.

Cuomo, less than six months in office, has not said publicly that he wants to run for national office. But his ambition, record of success and relatively young age (53), raises the question: Could his stance on gay marriage hurt him if he aspires to be president?

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said the strong opposition to gay marriage around the country is evidenced by the 30 states with constitutional language defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

“We never lost a public vote on marriage in any state,” he said.

A Gallup poll last month found national support for same-sex marriage going up 9 points from the previous year to 53 percent (support was at 27 percent in 1996). Support is highest among younger people, a major reason why many analysts believe the trend will continue.

And Sabato said that could make Cuomo’s issue a winner for him in the coming years, particularly since many Democratic constituencies who will choose the party’s nominee favor same-sex marriage.

“The earliest he could run is 2016,” Sabato said. “And I think his gamble is that the country is evolving on this issue and moving in New York’s direction.”

Cuomo has actually shifted on the issue himself, at least in public.

He favored civil unions for same-sex partners during his first, aborted run for New York governor in 2002. At that time, Vermont allowed civil unions. No states would have legal same-sex marriage until Massachusetts in 2004.

By the time he ran for attorney general in 2006, he was using the words “gay marriage.” And he won the race easily. The New York Times had quoted Cuomo as saying he had supported gay marriage in his heart during the 2002 campaign, but didn’t make it an issue because the political focus then was on civil unions.

—  John Wright