What’s Brewing: Highland Park Presbyterian says it won’t allow gay clergy despite policy change

Pastor Ron Scates

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Minnesota Senate voted 38-27 Wednesday to place a constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot that would ban same-sex marriage. Minnesota already has a statute limiting marriage to one man and one woman, but Republicans in the Legislature are apparently looking for a boost in next year’s election. Only one Democrat in the Senate voted in favor of the amendment, which now goes to the Republican-controlled House, where it is also expected to pass. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton opposes the measure but cannot veto it. Constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage have passed in all 31 states where voters have considered them. On the bright side, Delaware’s civil unions bill was signed into law Wednesday night and will take effect next year.

2. Highland Park Presbyterian Church, led by our old friend Pastor Ron Scates, plans to send a letter to its 5,000 members reaffirning the congregation’s commitment to “traditional” marriage and celibacy for unmarried clergy, the Associated Press reports. The letter comes in the wake of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s decision this week to remove the celibacy requirement for unmarried clergy, thus paving the way for the ordination of gays and lesbians. Pastor Scates has long been a vocal opponent of gay clergy, and Highland Park Presbyterian has formed a task force to study the impact of the new policy. In 2009, Scates admitted in a personal letter to Instant Tea that he’s “been taken into the world of homosexual sex …” and sent us a copy of a newsletter from an “ex-gay” group.

3. Contrary to some published reports, Uganda’s Parliament still plans to consider an Anti-Homosexuality Bill this year that currently includes a death penalty provision for repeat offenders and other violators. The Uganda parliament is now scheduled to debate the bill on Friday.

—  John Wright

New York may be next to legalize gay marriage

Evan Wolfson

Rhode Island considering civil unions; efforts under way in 6 states to ban gay marriage

DANA RUDOLPH | Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

The openly gay sponsor of a marriage equality bill in Rhode Island said last week he would push for a civil unions bill instead, setting off a slew of criticism from LGBT groups.

Six states are considering legislation that would ask voters to amend their state constitutions to ban recognition of any legal relationships for same-sex couples. And all this was on the heels of a dramatic loss for a marriage equality bill in Maryland in March.

Has the state legislative fight for marriage equality lost momentum?

Not according to Evan Wolfson, executive director of the national Freedom to Marry group.

“Both Rhode Island and Maryland are very much still in play,” said Wolfson. “. . . The fact that we don’t win it exactly on the day we want . . . doesn’t change the overall momentum that is strongly in our direction.”

The “highest priority” right now, said Wolfson, is New York. He said he is “very hopeful” a marriage bill that is expected to pass the New York State Assembly, which is under Democratic control, will also pass the Senate, where Republicans hold a 32-to-26 majority.

Wolfson acknowledges the Senate may be more difficult. While a marriage equality bill passed the Assembly three times in the past four years, an attempt to pass it in the Senate in 2009 failed by 14 votes.

New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican who opposes marriage equality, has nevertheless said he would let a marriage equality bill come to the floor.

And several recent polls show that a majority of voters in the state support marriage equality. A Siena College poll April 11 showed that 58 percent of New Yorkers support it, with 36 percent opposed. An April 14 Quinnipiac poll showed 56 percent support, with 38 percent opposed, and a New York Times estimated projection on the same date also showed 58 percent support.

Additionally, two dozen New York business leaders, including Lloyd C. Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, and John Mack, chairman of the board of Morgan Stanley, on April 28 issued an open letter arguing that legalizing marriage for same-sex couples would help the state attract talent and remain competitive.

“Winning New York would really be transformative,” said Wolfson, “because New York has enormous cultural and political leadership in the United States and in the world.”

Freedom to Marry and several other LGBT advocacy groups — the Empire State Pride Agenda, the Human Rights Campaign, the League of Women Voters, the Log Cabin Republicans and Marriage Equality New York — have formed the New Yorkers United for Marriage coalition, which is coordinating efforts to lobby for the marriage equality bill this session, which adjourns in June.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has expressed strong support for passing such a bill this year, has asked members of his staff to work with the coalition.

In Rhode Island, openly gay Democratic House Speaker Gordon Fox, a sponsor of that state’s marriage bill, said in a statement April 27 that “there is no realistic chance for passage of the bill in the Senate,” and that he will not move forward with a vote in the House.

But the Providence Journal newspaper also reported that Fox said he did not have the votes to pass the bill even in the House, where Democrats hold 65 seats to Republicans’ 10.

Fox instead introduced a bill for civil unions on Tuesday, May 3, and said he is “optimistic” that the bill could pass both chambers this session.
But Fox’s decision has not gone over well with LGBT groups.

Marriage Equality Rhode Island, which supports full marriage, held a rally at the State House to protest Fox’s decision to drop the marriage equality bill. Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and others, issued statements criticizing Fox’s decision and calling it “completely unacceptable.”

“Nothing short of marriage is equality for Rhode Island’s gay and lesbian citizens and their children,” said Karen Loewy, a GLAD senior staff attorney. “More to the point, civil unions tell gay people and their kids that they are second-class citizens and that their families matter less than other families.”

Wolfson called Fox’s decision a “miscalculation.” He noted that polls show a majority of support among voters, that Rhode Island already recognizes marriages of same-sex couples performed elsewhere, and that nearby Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont all began with civil unions and have moved to full equality.

Similar to Rhode Island, marriage equality supporters never had a clear majority in Maryland either, even with the support of Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat. The bill passed the Senate in Maryland, but on March 11, the House voted unanimously to send the bill back to committee.

But in Maryland, several LGBT groups, including Equality Maryland, the leading state organization behind the bill, expressed approval for the move.
Wolfson noted, however, that Maryland was “within a couple of votes” of passage. With “a little more time to make the case and organize,” he thinks achieving equality could happen in early 2012.

Meanwhile, three states have enacted civil union laws this year — Delaware, Hawaii and Illinois. Wolfson said that, while civil unions are not the true goal, they still “sometimes can be a stepping stone.”

Camilla Taylor, marriage project director for Lambda Legal, agreed, saying that civil unions “are an important step forward” in states where same-sex couples have no benefits or protections. She added that Lambda is “often very involved,” as it was in Illinois, in drafting such legislation.

But Lambda also brought a suit before the New Jersey state Supreme Court claiming the state’s civil union law did not provide full equality. The court last June refused to hear the case, saying it must first go through the trial court process.

Taylor said she could not say whether Lambda would be filing any further cases to contest civil unions, noting that it is important in each state to first “develop a record of the ways in which it harms people to deny them equal access to marriage.”

Six states — Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington — also have active legislation that would ask voters to amend the state constitutions to ban marriage, and in some cases, recognition of any legal relationships, such as civil unions for same-sex couples.

New Mexico and Wyoming both considered but did not pass such bills this year. Wyoming also rejected a bill that sought to prevent the state from recognizing marriages and civil unions of same-sex couples from other jurisdictions.

Washington state has seen a mish-mash of marriage-related bills. The state already allows same-sex couples to register as domestic partners and, on Feb. 14, bills were introduced in both chambers of the legislature for marriage equality.

On April 5, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, signed a bill to recognize legal relationships of same-sex couples from other jurisdictions as domestic partnerships. But there is also a bill in the House that would ask voters to ban marriage for same-sex couples under the state constitution.

Democrats have a majority in both chambers.

The situation in New Hampshire is also mixed. A House committee voted March 3 to table a bill that would repeal the state’s existing marriage equality law, thus postponing further consideration until January 2012.

But opponents of marriage equality have said they will also introduce a bill next year seeking to ask voters in November 2012 to approve amending the state constitution to ban marriage for same-sex couples.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Kobe Bryant fined $100,000 for anti-gay slur; Laura Miller to endorse Kunkle

Kobe Bryant

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for using an anti-gay slur against a referee on Tuesday night. Bryant was caught on video calling ref Bennie Adams a “fucking faggot” after Adams gave him a technical foul. Bryant apologized before the fine was handed down Wednesday, and he later reportedly phoned Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese personally. In case you’re wondering, Bryant earns about $25 million a year in salary (not counting endorsements). If you earn $50,000 annually, Bryant’s $100,000 fine would be the equivalent of a $200 speeding ticket. Even though Bryant wasn’t suspended, we suppose the fine is progress as the NBA moves to become more gay-friendly. On the same day that Bryant used the slur, Phoenix Suns player Grant Hill taped an ad that will air during the NBA Finals for GLSEN’s “Think Before You Speak” campaign.

2. Former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller will endorse ex-Police Chief David Kunkle for mayor tonight, The Dallas Morning News reports (subscription required). Miller’s endorsement could hurt Kunkle in South Dallas, where she wasn’t particularly popular, but will help him in other parts of the city. It will almost certainly help Kunkle among LGBT voters, who view Miller as an icon. Kunkle has already received the endorsement of Stonewall Democrats.

3. Delaware is poised to legalize civil unions and become the eighth state to offer same-sex couples a comprehensive legal status short of marriage. The Delaware House is expected to vote today on the civil unions bill, which already cleared the Senate and has the support of Gov. Jack Markell.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Farmers Branch Mayor Timothy O’Hare rails against Gay Straight Alliance

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Farmers Branch Mayor Timothy O’Hare, best known for his efforts to crack down on immigrants, recently used his Twitter account to rail against the formation of a Gay Straight Alliance at R.L. Turner High School in Carrollton (screen grabs above). O’Hare wrote on Twitter on March 23 that the GSA “promotes homosexuality and transgender lifestyles … to our children.” Then he asked children and parents in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District, “what do you plan to do about it?” In addition to his immigration crackdowns, O’Hare has led a controversial campaign for Farmers Branch to start its own school district and secede from the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, a proposal that will appear on the ballot in May. O’Hare is not seeking re-election. It’s unclear whether the GSA at R.L. Turner has been allowed to meet. Stay tuned to Instant Tea for more on this story.

2. A judge in California has ruled that Target can’t stop a grassroots group from circulating petitions in support of marriage equality outside its stores, according to the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News. Last Month the retail giant sought an injunction against Canvass for a Cause, saying the group was scaring away customers and creating the perception that the company supports marriage equality. Target is expected to appeal the judge’s decision.

3. The Delaware Senate approved a civil unions bill on Thursday by a vote of 13-6. The bill, which now goes to the House, would make Delaware the eighth state to legalize civil unions.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Bronx Cafe to close Sunday after 35 years; gay staffer for Rep. Johnson dies

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Bronx Cafe, a staple on the Cedar Springs strip since 1976, will close its doors for good after brunch on Sunday, The Dallas Morning News reports (paid subscription required). The Bronx property — four parcels totaling 30,000 square feet — reportedly has been purchased by a sister company of the adjacent Warwick Melrose Hotel. In a statement, representatives from the hotel declined to comment on the company’s development plans because the sale of the property is not yet final. For more, see Friday’s Dallas Voice (no subscription required).

Chris Crowe, shown at a rally in Washington in March, died Wednesday at 29.

2. Chris Crowe, a gay staffer for Democratic Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, died Wednesday at age 29 as a result of complications from a staph infection that damaged his heart, according to The Washington Blade. Crowe was president of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association. Kat Skiles, spokesperson for the LGBT Congressional Staff Association, said: “It’s devastating to fathom an individual as kind, strong and spirited as Chris leaving us due to troubles with of all things — his heart. We send our deepest condolences to his loved ones and family.”

3. A civil unions bill cleared a Senate committee in Delaware on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Lesislature in Washington state approved a bill to recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships from out of state.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Gays celebrate in Hawaii; Atlanta Eagle cops were drunk; Rick Santorum

Kristin Bacon gets a kiss on the cheek from partner Siobhan Ni Dhonacha after the Hawaii Senate voted to approve the Civil Unions bill.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Lawmakers in Hawaii, one of the earliest battlegrounds for same-sex marriage two decades ago, on Wednesday gave final approval to a civil unions bill that will make the Aloha State the seventh in the nation to grant gay and lesbian couples rights equivalent to marriage. And just before the civil unions vote, the state Senate confirmed the first openly gay member of the Hawaii Supreme Court, the same body whose 1993 ruling almost legalized same-sex marriage and led to passage of the nation’s first constitutional amendment banning the practice. It’s only 5 a.m. in Hawaii, so we imagine the gays are still partying as we write this.

2. Speaking of partying, undercover officers who raided the Atlanta Eagle in September 2009 were drunk with more than just power and anti-gay hate — they’d also been downing shots of Jagermeister. Wait, did anyone ever check those Rainbow Lounge receipts?

3. Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who’s seeking the Republican presidential nomination, is struggling with name recognition in key primary states. Which is somewhat strange because we recognize his name just fine: He’s the “frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Civil unions in Hawaii; drug bust aboard world’s largest gay cruise; Lady Gaga

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Hawaii is set to become the seventh state to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples, after the House passed the measure Friday. The civil unions bill now returns to the Senate, which has already passed it once and could send it to Gov. Neil Abercrombie as early as this week. Abercrombie’s predecessor, Linda Lingle, vetoed similar legislation last year. But Abercrombie supports the bill.

2. Authorities arrested a suspected drug dealer aboard the Atlantis ship that’s been billed as the world’s largest gay cruise, during a stop in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Steven Barry Krumholz, 51, of West Hollywood, Calif., was arrested after authorities searched his cabin and found more than 142 ecstasy pills, nearly 3 grams of methamphetamine, a small quantity of ketamine and about $51,000 in cash.

3. In case you missed it, Lady Gaga (above) was hatched out of an egg at the beginning of her performance of “Born This Way” on Sunday night at the Grammy Awards. (Video of the performance, at least until it gets pulled, is below.)  For a full list of Grammy winners in major categories, go here.


—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Ill. governor signs civil unions bill; the DMN straight-washes a bullying story

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn used 97 pens to sign a civil unions bill on Monday, in front of hundreds of people who packed a ballroom in downtown Chicago for the ceremony. The law, which takes effect June 1, will make Illinois the sixth state with civil unions that provide state-level protections equivalent to marriage. If you’ve got nothing better to do on this snow/ice day, you can count the pens in the video above.

2. The Dallas Morning News has a piece today about anti-bullying bills in the Texas Legislature. And it’s great that the DMN has finally decided to devote some space — even if it is on Page 5B — to efforts to curb an epidemic that’s claiming young people’s lives. But there’s one small problem, and it actually happens to be a huge problem. Incredibly, the DMN story manages to avoid any mention of the word “gay” or “homosexual” or “sexual orientation.” In fact, the newspaper clearly goes out of its way to avoid these words. Case in point: Equality Texas, the statewide gay-rights group, is referred in the story as “a group that works to prevent school violence.” WTF? It’s arguably the biggest straight-washing since this one.

3. This item is canceled due to the weather.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: GLAAD slams SNL commercial; UT study on gay cheating; civil unions in Illinois

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. GLAAD is outraged over a Saturday Night Live spoof commercial for “Estro-Maxxx,” which the organization says mocked the lives of transgender people. If the commercial were the least bit funny, we’d accuse GLAAD of not having a sense of humor. GLAAD is demanding that the commercial be pulled from Hulu and all future airings of the show. At the same time, the controversy ensures that thousands of smart people who don’t watch SNL because it’s not funny will see the commercial, which is above.

2. Half of men would forgive their female partner for cheating with another woman, while only 21 percent of women would forgive their male partner for cheating with another man, according to a study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin. This could mean  straight guys are more forgiving and tolerant of homosexuality than straight women, or it could mean they’re just pigs who see a lesbian affair as an opportunity for a three-way.

3. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn will sign a civil unions bill today, in a ceremony that’s expected to draw a capacity crowd of about 900 gays. Meanwhile, a Wyoming House committee voted down a civil unions bill on Friday.

—  John Wright

Will civil unions delay gay marriage in Illinois?

As state Legislature sends bill to governor’s desk, some wonder whether new legal status will make it harder to achieve full equality

CHRISTOPHER WILLS and CARLA K. JOHNSON  |  Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — Gay rights advocates celebrated Wednesday, Dec. 1 as the state Legislature voted to legalize civil unions, although some wondered whether the measure that the governor is expected to sign will make it easier or harder to someday win approval of same-sex marriage.

The state Senate approved the legislation 32-24, sending it to Gov. Pat Quinn. It passed despite complaints from some senators that civil unions threaten the sanctity of marriage or increase the cost of doing business in Illinois.

After Quinn signs the measure, gay and lesbian couples will be able to get official recognition from the state and gain many of the rights that accompany marriage — the power to decide medical treatment for an ailing partner, for instance. Illinois law will continue to limit marriage to one man and woman, and the federal government won’t recognize the civil unions at all.

Five states already allow civil unions or their equivalent, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Five other states and Washington, D.C., let gay couples marry outright.

Some supporters of civil unions in Illinois hope they’ll be a step toward full marriage.

“The ultimate goal is not to be separate but equal,” said Jacob Meister, president of The Civil Rights Agenda, a gay rights organization. Meister said civil unions are a necessary compromise because they will provide important protections for gay couples.

But even advocates acknowledge it’s possible that by accepting civil unions now, they may be delaying movement toward being able to marry. The compromise could weaken any arguments that gay people are being treated unfairly by not being allowed to marry.

The sponsors of the civil unions bill said Wednesday they don’t plan to push for legalizing same-sex marriages, which have limited support in the Legislature.

“As soon as the governor signs it, it’s the law of the state of Illinois and that’s what we’re going to live with and going to make work,” said state Sen. David Koehler.

The executive director of a gay community center in Chicago said he welcomes civil unions but worries the legislation may stall ultimate approval of same-sex marriage. Modesto Valle of the Center on Halsted said it will take “tremendous work” to turn civil unions into “a platform to move toward marriage equality” in Illinois.

Courtney Reid, 48, of Chicago said she and her partner of 12 years have decided they won’t pursue a civil union, preferring to wait until same-sex marriage is recognized by federal law and homosexual couples get all the tax benefits and other rights available to heterosexual couples.

“It’s a stand on principle for us,” Reid said.

Supporters presented the civil unions legislation as a matter of basic fairness for all Illinois residents. With civil unions, state law will treat gay and lesbian couples as if they were married. They would inherit property when a partner dies, for instance.

“It’s time for us to look history in the eye and not flinch,” said Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg, D-Evanston.

Opponents argued it moves Illinois closer to legalizing same-sex marriages. They said civil unions are basically marriage by another name and that they could give the courts a reason to step in and order Illinois to allow full marriage to everyone.

Some senators also criticized the time being spent on civil unions at a time when the state faces a massive budget crisis.

“Here we are, forced to debate an issue that may be political payback to a small but very politically powerful special interest group,” said state Sen. Chris Lauzen. He called gay sexual activities dangerous and questioned whether the state has a role in regulating relationships that don’t produce children.

State Sen. Rickey Hendon accused some opponents of hypocrisy.

“I hear adulterers and womanizers and folks cheating on their wives and down-low brothers saying they’re going to vote against this bill. It turns my stomach,” he said. “We know what you do at night, and you know too.”

The Illinois Family Institute said legislators failed to examine the legislation clearly.

“Proponents engaged in embarrassing and maudlin displays of sentimentality intended to emotionally manipulate rather than intellectually persuade their colleagues,” said executive director David E. Smith.

Cardinal Francis George and other Catholic leaders fought civil unions vigorously. Conservative groups also lobbied to block the measure. They argued it could hurt religious institutions.

The measure wouldn’t require churches to recognize civil unions or perform any kind of ceremony, opponents acknowledge, but critics fear it would lead to other requirements, such as including same-sex couples in adoption programs run by religious groups or granting benefits to employees’ partners.

The law won’t take effect until June 1, assuming Quinn signs it. Having it take effect immediately would have required approval by three-fifths of legislators.

Some religious leaders welcomed the legislation. In Chicago, Rabbi Larry Edwards said he’s looking forward to planning celebrations for couples in his Jewish congregation who may decide to form civil unions under Illinois law.

“To those who say it’s a slippery slope and eventually will lead to marriage, I say, ‘I hope so,”’ said Edwards of Or Chadash synagogue. “I would like to be on a slippery slope that slides in the direction of justice.”

The Rev. Vernice Thorn, associate pastor of Broadway United Methodist Church in Chicago said she considers the vote a hopeful sign. “Same-sex legalized marriage is going to happen. It’s just a matter of when.”

——————————————————————————————————————-

Illinois lawmakers have approved civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, and Gov. Pat Quinn says he’ll sign the measure into law. Civil unions would provide many of the benefits of marriage but not all of them. The chief difference is that the federal government doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions, so federal programs treat gay partners as if they are completely unrelated.

Here are some examples of how different types of couples would generally be treated under the law, based on interviews with the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, a gay rights group.

Ability to visit partner in the hospital and make medical decisions

• Heterosexual marriage: Yes

• Same-sex marriage: Yes

• Civil Unions: Yes

Joint filing of federal taxes

• Heterosexual marriage: Yes

• Same-sex marriage: No

• Civil Unions: No

Joint filing of state taxes

• Heterosexual marriage: Yes

• Same-sex marriage: Varies

• Civil Unions: Not in Illinois (But Illinois’ flat-rate tax removes any advantage of joint filing.)

Right to sue over partner’s death

• Heterosexual marriage: Yes

• Same-sex marriage: Yes

• Civil Unions: Yes

Receive Social Security payments upon partner’s death

• Heterosexual marriage: Yes

• Same-sex marriage: No

• Civil Unions: No

Immigration rights for foreign partner

• Heterosexual marriage: Yes

• Same-sex marriage: No

• Civil Unions: No

Inherit partner’s property without paying federal estate taxes

• Heterosexual marriage: Yes

• Same-sex marriage: No

• Civil Unions: No

Employer provides health insurance to worker’s partner

• Heterosexual marriage: Yes

• Same-sex marriage: Yes

• Civil Unions: Unclear

Right to live together in nursing homes

• Heterosexual marriage: Yes

• Same-sex marriage: Yes

• Civil Unions: Yes

Religious institution required to recognize relationship

• Heterosexual marriage: No

• Same-sex marriage: No

• Civil Unions: No

Right to officially dissolve relationship in court

• Heterosexual marriage: Yes

• Same-sex marriage: Yes

• Civil Unions: Yes

Pension benefits for surviving partner

• Heterosexual marriage: Yes

• Same-sex marriage: Yes

• Civil unions: Yes

Federal benefits for partner of military veteran

• Heterosexual marriage: Yes

• Same-sex marriage: No

• Civil unions: No

State benefits for partner of military veteran

• Heterosexual marriage: Yes

• Same-sex marriage: Yes

• Civil unions: Yes

Both partners automatically considered legal parents of children in the relationship

• Heterosexual marriage: Yes

• Same-sex marriage: Yes

• Civil unions: Yes

Other states automatically recognize relationship as official

• Heterosexual marriage: Yes

• Same-sex marriage: No

• Civil unions: No

—  John Wright