TX Dems won’t vote on marriage in 2012

Party leaders opt against placing nonbinding resolution on primary ballot

Graney.Don

Don Graney

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

AUSTIN — Democrats in Texas won’t get to vote next year on whether they support same-sex marriage, after the party’s Executive Committee shot down a proposal to place a non-binding resolution on the March 2012 primary ballot.

Meeting in the capital on Saturday, Nov. 19, the State Democratic Executive Committee voted 33-22 against placing the resolution in support of same-sex marriage on the ballot, according to Dan Graney, president of the party’s LGBT caucus.

The resolution, backed by the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, called for same-sex couples to receive “equal access to civil marriage and all its benefits,” and stated that “all state and federal laws denying such access should be repealed.”

In addition to gauging support for marriage equality among Democrats in Texas, the resolution was designed to boost interest and turnout in the primary, especially among young voters, given that President Barack Obama is running unopposed, Graney said.

However, some SDEC members feared backlash from the marriage resolution and said it could be used against Democratic candidates by their Republican opponents, Graney said.

“Unfortunately, many SDEC members are afraid to let Democratic voters have their say on issues they regard as too controversial,” Graney said after the SDEC’s vote. “Polling data shows that legal recognition of same-sex relationships is now supported by 63 percent of all Texans, so I don’t understand the fear about allowing voters to weigh in on this.”

Some openly LGBT members of the SDEC argued passionately in favor of the marriage resolution, Graney said. However, two openly gay SDEC members — both from Tarrant County — opposed it.

SDEC member DeeJay Johannessen, former president of Stonewall Democrats of Tarrant County, said he voted against placing the resolution on the ballot because he didn’t think it would accomplish the stated purpose of increasing voter turnout. Johannessen said valuable resources would have been spent trying to get the resolution passed, even though it would have no practical impact.

Erin-Moore3668

Erin Moore

Johannessen was joined in voting against the resolution by openly gay Tarrant County SDEC member Mary Edwards.

“My thoughts are that we should be dealing with issues about jobs and education and the economy,” Johannessen said. “We need to be focused on issues where we can affect change.

“It wasn’t about marriage equality,” he said of his vote. “It was about whether or not putting this on the ballot would bring more people out to vote, and I didn’t think that would happen.”

Graney said he feels the majority of SDEC members support same-sex marriage. But he said a majority, like Johannessen, opposed the measure for strategic reasons.

The state Republican Party has placed resolutions on primary ballots in at least the last two election cycles, but Democrats have not, Graney said.

Other resolutions voted on by the SDEC last weekend called for abolishing the death penalty, legalizing marijuana, passing the DREAM Act, mandating affordable college tuition and legalizing casino gambling.

The SDEC approved the resolutions related to the DREAM Act, college tuition and casino gambling, and they will appear on the March 6 primary ballot.

Graney noted that the marriage resolution received more support than those calling for abolishing the death penalty and legalizing marijuana, which got only 14 and 12 votes, respectively.

He also commended Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie and Resolutions Committee Chairman Dennis Teal for allowing the full SDEC to consider the marriage resolution even though the committee voted against it.

“We had a 45-minute discussion and debate on the issue,” Graney said. “They could have squashed it, but they didn’t.”

Although their votes drew attention because they’re openly gay, Johannessen and Edwards weren’t the only SDEC members from North Texas who opposed the resolution.

In fact, only one of six SDEC members from Dallas County — Theresa Daniel — voted in favor of placing the marriage resolution on the ballot, according to Omar Narvaez, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.
Daniel, a straight LGBT ally and Stonewall member, is running for the Precinct 1 seat on the Dallas County Commissioners Court in 2012.

Erin Moore of Dallas, vice president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, is a non-voting SDEC member and spoke in support of the marriage resolution during Saturday’s meeting.

“We just thought this was the perfect opportunity to get the pulse of the electorate again,” Moore said of the resolution.

Regardless of whether the resolution appears on the ballot, Moore said, Republicans will try to attack Democrats over gay rights, and voters will ask candidates about their views on same-sex marriage.

Moore said she thinks the SDEC’s vote against placing the resolution on the ballot amounted to Democrats “running scared instead of running strong.”

“They’re scared of losing what we’ve got, which is very little,” she said.

The tally was based on a headcount of SDEC members who stood up, and there is no written record of how each person voted. But both Moore and Graney recalled a clear demographic split over the marriage equality resolution.

They said most members who opposed the resolution were older white males, and they called for the party to respond by electing more progressives and minorities to the SDEC next year.

“The SDEC needs to look like Texas is now, not like Texas was,” Moore said.

Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, said he also would have liked to see the resolution on the ballot.
Smith said opponents of LGBT equality frequently point to results from 2005, when three-fourths of Texas voters supported a constitutional amendment banning both same-sex marriage and civil unions.

“We would like to see every candidate for every office asked where they stand on marriage equality,” Smith said. “It’s a subject we need to talk about, and the more we talk about it, the more we’re going to find how significantly the numbers have changed since six years ago.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

UPDATE: Maryland marriage bill dead for the year

An Associated Press article posted online by The Washington Post is saying that the decision in the Maryland House of Delegates today send to send the Civil Marriage Protection Act back to the House Judiciary Committee has effectively killed the legislation for this year.

According to the article, supporters chose to send the bill back to committee rather than take a final vote because they did not believe they had the 71 votes necessary to pass the measure. House Speaker Michael Busch said supporters will try again next year.

Marriage equality opponents, of course, claimed the outcome as a victory.

—  admin

Maryland House sends marriage bill back to committee; no word on what happens next

After three hours of debate on a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the state, Maryland House of Delegates Chairman Del. Joseph Vallario today sent the Civil Marriage Protection Act back to the House’s Judiciary Committee.

The move came during the final reading of the bill. Delegates were expected to vote on the measure today. Supporters were sure of getting only 69 ot 70 of the 71 votes the bill needed to pass in the House. It has already passed in the Senate, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he will sign it into law if it reaches his desk.

Immediately after the bill was sent back to committee, the LGBT rights organization Equality Maryland sent out a press release containing statements attributed to “the staff and board of Equality Maryland; Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director, and Charles Butler, board president,” saying that while they are disappointed the House did not pass the measure today, “we are confident we will win in the future.

“With so much at stake today for thousands of Maryland families, we are thankful that our legislative allies have taken such care with this vote. It is best to delay this historic vote until we are absolutely sure we have the votes to win. We look forward to working strategically with our amazing allies in the legislature, and our supporters across the state, to continue to build support for, and win, marriage equality in the Free State,” the Equality Maryland statement said.

I have seen no explanation yet of what happens now with the bill.

 

—  admin

Catholics For Equality urging support for marriage equality bill in Maryland

The Maryland House of Delegates is expected to take up consideration of the same-sex marriage bill there about 11 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time, I assume) on Friday, and according to Maryland Catholics for Equality, “out-of-state anti-gay calls are flooding Annapolis” to try and get the bill defeated.

So the organization is urging pro-equality Maryland residents to be sure and call their delegates to counteract the anti-gay forces.

In an e-mail that just hit my inbox, Maryland Catholics for Equality say: “Call NOW and let your Delegates know three important things: you are an actual constituent (not out of state), you are Catholic, and that you stand with the majority of Catholics in Maryland in support of HB175 — Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act. Ask them not to bow down to out of state pressure.”

The measure has already passed the Maryland Senate and Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he will sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk. But things are close in the House of Delegates, where the bill was initially expected to pass easily.

If you aren’t a resident of Maryland, don’t cheat by calling the delegates and saying you are. But keep an eye on Instant Tea tomorrow, and we’ll let you know what happens.

—  admin

Maryland senator does a 180 on gay marriage

Sen. Jim Brochin

Maryland State Sen. Jim Brochin, a Democrat, used to say that while he supported civil unions for same-sex couples, he did not support full marriage rights for those couples. This week, he changed his mind and said he will vote for legislation giving full marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Why? Because he listened.

First of all, Brochin listened to the stories of same-sex couples when they testified during public hearings in favor of the proposed Religious Marriage and Civil Marriage Protection Act. But most importantly, he listened to those who testified against the bill. And he was appalled by what he heard.

“The people who are against the bill, all they did was demonize homosexuality, call them pedophiles, androids, and I just, I can’t oppose the bill and be on the same side as people who would do that,” Brochin told AM 630 WMAL radio in explaining his change of heart. “It’s destructive, it’s insulting to the same-sex families who are trying to raise their kids.”

The bill needs 24 votes to pass the Maryland Senate and 29 to avoid any debate. Brochin’s decision makes him the 21st senator to publicly pledge support, and he said this week he believes the bill has a good chance of passing.

—  admin

Ecuador is latest South American country to consider marriage equality; Bolivia may follow

A bill to allow civil marriage will be introduced in Ecuador’s National Assembly on Thursday, according to the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio.

In 2008, Ecuador adopted a new constitution that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Bolivia has a similar provision in its new constitution called “The Law Against Racism and All Types of Discrimination.” The LGBT rights group Equidad participated in a presentation and analysis of the Bolivian provision chaired by a member of the National Assembly. Recommendations will be made this week, and they’ll presumably include a marriage equality law.

This summer, South America has been a hotbed of equality legislation. Marriage equality passed in Argentina. An upgrade from civil unions in Uruguay, which have been legal for several years, is being debated. Civil union bills also have been introduced in Chile and Peru.

Chilean Senator Fulvio Rossi, who introduced the bill there, doesn’t expect it to pass. El Mercurio doesn’t predict what the chances are for passage of the bill in Ecuador.

Translation assistance by Miguel Flores.

—  David Taffet

ABA agrees with Judge Walker’s ruling

David Boies

This week, the American Bar Association agreed with Judge Vaughn Walker. Gays and lesbians should have the right to civil marriage. They said marriage should be legal in all 50 states.

Only one person spoke against the policy, which passed overwhelmingly on a voice vote by the ABA’s House of Delegates. This is the first endorsement of the Prop 8 ruling by a national organization.

David Boies, one of the attorneys who argued the California case, called the endorsement significant.

“The ABA obviously is the most respected legal organization in the United States, and probably the world, and its opinion will be listened to by legislators and courts,” he said.

—  David Taffet

Will marriage equality spread in Latin America?

Palacio legislativo, Montevideo, Uruguay

Since Argentina legalized same-sex marriage, other countries in the region have taken notice, and some are beginning to take action. But the process is not without setbacks.

In Costa Rica, one of Latin America’s oldest and most stable democracies, a referendum on civil unions was scheduled for the December ballot. According to the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio, the Costa Rican Supreme Court has suspended the process.

One of the issues with the referendum is that putting civil and human rights up for a vote may be unconstitutional. The referendum had been called by El Observatorio por la Vida y la Familia, a group related to the Catholic church and Evangelical groups. By removing the referendum from the ballot, the Costa Rican Supreme Court may be moving LGBT rights forward.

Since the Argentine marriage law was signed, the Chilean government declared that same-sex marriages performed in Argentina are not valid in Chile. The Santiago newspaper reports that the country’s 2004 civil marriage law recognizes marriages performed abroad, but only if they are between a man and a woman:

“A marriage celebrated in a foreign country in accordance with the laws of that country, Chile will produce the same effect as if it is concluded in Chilean territory, provided question of the union between a man and a woman. “

In Chile, where a civil union bill is being considered, the president said civil unions wouldn’t be the equivalent of marriage, but many rights would be granted.

In Bolivia, Vice President Álvaro García Linera said legalizing same-sex marriage is not a priority for the government, according to the Bolivian newspaper La Jornada. Linera is single and shares the official residence with Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca and President Evo Morales, who are also single.

But in neighboring Uruguay the situation is different. Civil unions were approved in 2007 and became law in 2008. Since the Argentine law, Uruguay is considering upgrading to full marriage.

Paraguay has also begun discussing same-sex marriage since the law passed in Argentina. Vice President Federico Franco came out against the proposal. He gave as reasons that he is Catholic and that it’s inappropriate to legislate for a small group, according to Ultima Hora.

Civil unions were approved in the new Ecuadorian constitution in 2009. At the same time the country banned same-sex marriage.

Translation assistance by Miguel Flores.

—  David Taffet

Over the weekend while I was reading the Klan's website…

KlanFred Phelps is apparently too extreme for the Ku Klux Klan.

Here’s what they say on their website:

News Release

Disclaimer :

NOTE: The Ku Klux Klan, LLC. has not or EVER will have ANY connection with The “Westboro Baptist Church”. We absolutely repudiate their activities.

Actually, that’s really not too surprising. Phelps has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. But what surprised me over the weekend, while I was reading the Ku Klux Klan’s website, was that on the issue of same-sex marriage, they’re to the left of the official platform position of the Republican Party.

On same-sex marriage (click here for their full statement), they say:

We define Marriage as: a religious solemnization of vows between one man and one woman. Even those performed by a Justice of the Peace or Judge are not, by our understanding “marriages” but rather civil ceremonies (unions). We see no issue with civil unions for homosexuals or those who choose to avoid Holy Wedlock.

In other words, the Klan believes that “marriages” are performed by churches. “Civil unions” are performed by government. A justice of the peace does not perform a marriage, they claim, just a civil union.The legal rights we have come from the civil union. And it’s OK for gays and lesbians to get the same civil union straight people get when they take out a license at city hall.

And that’s exactly what the gay and lesbian community has been arguing since the marriage debate began. Separate civil marriage from religious marriage.

Now, just in case anyone thinks they’re embracing the LGBT community, they’re not. Their membership requirements state, “Under NO circumstances will we accept for membership: homosexuals, atheists, or those who have been found mentally insane.” I’d get tossed out on several other counts. There’s that Jewish thing. And dating people of other races thing.

I guess my favorite part of the website is where they explain how accepting gays goes against “Judeo-Christian values.” Hmmm … I wonder how they explain Israel recognizing same-sex marriages performed where they are legal? Or isn’t Israel Judeo enough for them?

—  David Taffet

More on the AMA

As noted earlier here on Instant Tea, the American Medical Association today approved a resolution calling for an end to the U.S. military’s ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the armed forces. I just received n e-mail from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force saying that the AMA has also ” officially recognized that bans on civil marriage may lead to health care disparities for same-sex couples and their families.”

NGLTF Executive Director Rea Carey said: “While opponents of marriage equality and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights try to stigmatize our relationships and limit our access to health benefits and other economic safety nets, the AMA is making it clear that these discriminatory policies pose significant, real-life threats to the health and well-being of thousands and thousands of people across the country.”

—  admin