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

ANNIVERSARIES: Louise Young and Vivienne Armstrong, George Amerson and Mike Grossman

ARMSTRONG-YOUNG  | Louise Young and Vivienne Armstrong celebrated their 40th anniversary Monday, April 18. The couple met on the campus of the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1971 through the Gay Liberation Front organization there. They had a civil union in Vermont in 2000 and were legally married in California in August 2008.

 

GROSSMAN-AMERSON  | George Amerson and Mike Grossman marked their 40th anniversary Wednesday, April 20, after celebrating the event with a gathering of family and friends the previous weekend. Grossman is a Minneapolis native who had lived in Dallas a year when he met Amerson, a native of west Texas who had already lived in Dallas several years when they met. The couple say they are most proud of their children, Laura and Devon Cloud and Barney and Stephanie Grossman, and their grandchildren, Miles and Rachel. The two work in residential real estate, Grossman for 50 years and Amerson for more than 35 years.

—  John Wright

Local Briefs

CCGLA surveys candidates, sets meet-and-greet events

As municipal elections approach, the Collin County Gay & Lesbian Alliance has sent an online survey to city council, school board and mayoral candidates in Allen, Frisco, Plano and McKinney, and “meet-and-greet” sessions for candidates are planned in Frisco, Plano and McKinney in April.

The organization will also create and distribute a voters’ guide.

The Plano “meet-and-greet” will be held on Friday, April 8, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at a private residence. For more information, go online to CCGLA.org.

Results of CCGLA’s candidate surveys will be posted on the CCGLA website prior to each event. The events are informal, non-partisan, and all candidates are invited.

Oak Cliff Earth Day to feature vendors, info booths and more

Oak Cliff Earth Day, which has become the largest all-volunteer-run Earth Day since it started five years ago, will be held on Sunday, April 17, from noon to 5 p.m. at Lake Cliff Park, located at the intersection of Colorado Street and Zang Boulevard in Oak Cliff.

There is no charge to attend the event, which will include art, food, plants and other environmentally-friendly products available for purchase.

There will also be educational booths on topics such as how to save energy and clean up the environment, along with locally-grown honey, animals to adopt and native plants for gardens.

Parking at the park is limited, however, free parking is available at Methodist Hospital, in Lot 10 only, located at 1400 S. Beckley Ave. across from the hospital entrance on Beckley Ave. Methodist Hospital is providing a shuttle bus from the parking lot to the event.

Participants are also encouraged to take DART to the event or walk or ride a bicycle. There are a number of bike racks, funded by Oak Cliff Earth Day, at the park.

Mayoral candidates to speak Sunday on animal issues in Dallas

Dallas’ mayoral candidates will participate in a forum on animal issues in the city of Dallas on Sunday, April 10, at 2 p.m. at the Central Dallas Library, 1515 Young St., in downtown Dallas. The Metroplex Animal Coalition is sponsoring the forum, with is free and open to the public. Journalist Larry Powell with Urban Animal magazine will moderate.

The mayoral candidates are former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle, Councilman Ron Natinsky, real estate consultant Edward Okpa and Mike Rawlings, former Pizza Hut CEO and Dallas homeless czar.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2011.

—  John Wright

Civil Unions Bill Makes for Happy Valentine’s Day in Colorado

Today, Sen. Pat Steadman, an openly gay Democrat in Colorado, introduced a Civil Unions bill (SB 172) in the state legislature.  The legislation provides that equal rights and responsibilities of married couples in Colorado be afforded to thousands of non-married couples in the state.

If you live in Colorado, please send your legislators a note asking them to support this important civil rights legislation!

“Today is an exciting day. Civil unions will provide committed same-sex couples in Colorado with the critical legal protections and responsibilities they need to take care of one another. Protections like the ability to visit one another in the hospital, live together in a nursing home, or inherit property. Responsibilities like making medical decisions for your partner or adopting children.” -  Brad Clark, Executive Director

Now is our best chance to make Civil Unions in Colorado a reality. Join our friends at One Colorado and a growing list of supporters at their lobby day to tell your legislators face to face that equality for all communities, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity is important to you.

One Colorado Lobby Day
Monday, February 21 | 8am-3pm
The Center | 1301 E. Colfax | Denver, CO
Register for Lobby Day

One Colorado will make sure that you have all of the tools and information needed to make your visit a success. Tell your legislators that Coloradans value equality. Can’t make it?  The Human Rights Campaign has made it quick and easy to stay involved. Send your legislators an email telling them that you support equality.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  David Taffet

Civil Union Bill Introduced in Colorado

Colorado state Senator Pat Steadman has introduced his promised civil union bill, One Colorado tells us:

Steadman Today, Senator Pat Steadman introduced the Colorado Civil Unions Act. The bill allows committed gay and lesbian couples to enter into a civil union, a form of state-level relationship recognition that provides critical legal protections.

“Especially in these difficult economic times, gay and lesbian couples need the critical protections that civil unions offer to provide for their families,” said Brad Clark, Executive Director of One Colorado. “Civil unions will ensure that thousands of gay and lesbian couples all across the state can protect the ones they love.”

The Colorado Civil Unions Act provides committed gay and lesbian couples with critical legal protections and responsibilities, such as the ability to insure a partner, to inherit property, to take family leave to care for a partner, to visit a partner in the hospital, and to make medical and end-of-life decisions for a partner.

“Civil unions will allow committed couples to share in the responsibilities and protections in Colorado law that most families take for granted. Our society is stronger when we promote personal responsibility and taking care of one another, and civil unions do just that,” said Senator Pat Steadman, sponsor of the bill.

A key provision of the civil unions bill includes a religious exclusion. The bill explicitly protects freedom of religion by not requiring priests, ministers, rabbis, or other religious officials to certify a civil union. Religious leaders who want to certify a civil union may do so.

Last week, the Colorado Independent reported on a new Public Policy Polling survey that showed strong support for civil unions.

One Colorado also reports that they'll be delivering more than 1,000 Valentine's messages to state lawmakers today asking them to support and protect all families.


Towleroad News #gay

—  David Taffet

Colorado: officer resigns – posted hundreds of racist, homophobic comments on news sites on the job

It must be really difficult for someone to handle their own racism and homophobia that is so intense that you can’t think straight, as it were. A 13-year member of the Douglas County (Colorado) Sheriff’s office resigned for posting bigoted statements on public news sites while on duty and on a county computer.

Lt. Jeff Egnor resigned Tuesday after Douglas County officials confronted him about hundreds of postings on the 7NEWS website, www.thedenverchannel.com, and the KUSA-TV website, according to Undersheriff Tony Spurlock.

Posting under the screen name “Abu Mybutt“, Egnor commented on various stories from police shootings to the elimination of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that will let gay soldiers serve openly in the military. “New miltary slogans: The few, the queer, the Marines! Butt Rangers lead the way! Be as gay as you can be! Aim for a high hard one, Air Force! Join the Navy, see naked men!” Egnor posted on Dec. 20, 2010, misspelling military.

Two similar posts: “Now we have a new weapon against our enemies: the sissy slap! :-P ” and “I hear the Army is forming a new division: The Rump Rangers! :-D .” Egnor also made comments about religious figures and attacked liberals, saying Democrats are ruining the United States.

Egnor made it clear that he worked in government and when other readers of TheDenverChannel.com complained, 7NEWS filed an open records request to determine who was using the Douglas County Internet Provider address linked to the postings. After the 7NEWS request, Spurlock said superiors confronted Egnor Tuesday morning. He resigned that afternoon.

He also commented on stories about sports figures like the arrest of Parrish Cox for sex assault.

“Another member of the ‘thug’ culture that the NFL promotes. You can take the player out of the hood, but you can’t take the hood out of the player! Hey I’ve got a great idea, let’s take a gangbanger from the hood, throw millions of dollars at him, worship him as a god, kiss his butt night and day, let the media slober all over him! Then they are all suddenly shocked when the thug acts like a thug!”

I think this shows you that many news sites (that often times are not moderated), are  havens for some of the most, um, unbalanced extreme commenters, who like to hide under the cloak of anonymity. That this ass disclosed that he worked for the taxpayers in Douglas County, saved everyone the trouble of purging Abu Mybutt/former Lt. Jeff Egnor from the comments. For now. Abu can now look for work.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  David Taffet

Diocese of Colorado Springs starts 12-step program for gays

In case anyone thinks the enablers and protectors of child rapists, a.k.a. the Catholic Church, can’t sink any lower in their attempts to demonize gay people, they have — again.

Pam Spaulding posted a blurb about a 12-step program for gays started by the Diocese of Colorado Springs. Pam, as usual, appropriately sums up the situation:

You don’t know whether to laugh or cry at news like this given the current reputation of the Catholic Church.

Exactly.

This is dangerous stuff. They’re just ruining more people’s lives.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Colorado Diocese Adopts Snake-Oil “12 Step Program” For Gay Men

Today we called on the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs to listen to mental health professionals and discontinue their newly adopted “12-step program” for gay men.  The Colorado Springs Gazette reported that the diocese has adopted Twelve Steps of Courage, a counseling program for gay men based on Alcoholics Anonymous.  Part of the program asks participants to admit they are “defective.”

“The diocese should be ashamed for selling this snake-oil therapy that mental health professionals have denounced,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.  “Programs like this say they offer hope but in reality they demean and denigrate LGBT people’s sense of self-worth.”

Both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have concluded that same-sex attraction is normal and that “reparative” therapy is unhealthy and can be harmful.  In fact in a recent report the American Psychological Association instructs mental health professionals to be honest with clients about the inefficacy of such treatments and to help patients deal with distress over sexual orientation in a positive manner.

The APA report noted that many who seek psychological interventions do so because of distress over the perceived irreconcilability of their sexual orientation and religious beliefs.  They encourage mental health professionals to be respectful of those religious beliefs and work to help patients “address the reality of their sexual orientation while considering the possibilities for a religiously and spiritually meaningful and rewarding life.”

“Homophobia, bias and discrimination are what make it difficult for people to accept and be open about their sexual orientation,” said Solmonese.  “Those who wish to give counsel to people struggling with their identities should offer acceptance, not rejection.”


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

Doing Our Part in Colorado for Pro-Equality Candidate Betsy Markey

The following post comes from  HRC’s Email Communications Coordinator David Salisbury. David is just one of 30 HRC staff that will be on the ground in 16 states by Election Day, working with HRC-endorsed candidates and engaging our membership about the upcoming elections:

I just returned from a week in beautiful Colorado helping to elect Betsy Markey for Congress.  As HRC’s Email Communications Coordinator, I get to read about the many fair-minded candidates that HRC supports. Helping a local campaign was great way to step out of my online advocacy role and hit the streets for equality directly. During my time in Colorado, I’ve spoken to hundreds of potential voters. From all the calls I made, one thing is clear across the board; HRC members and supporters are getting out to the polls, voting early and making a real difference in Colorado’s future.

The race for Colorado’s 4th District is tight this year. Recent polls have Markey tied with her opponent Cory Gardner.  However, there’s been an impressive outpouring of early voters and volunteer support thanks to the efforts of folks that have been out making calls and knocking on doors.  Colorado’s values are certainly in line with Markey’s voting record. She supports the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and  voted for the passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Voters know that the best way to pass laws that protect all citizens is to elect officials who support equal rights for all. Betsy Markey is one of those officials.

One of my favorite conversations last week was with an elderly woman in Fort Collins who’s been an HRC member for years.  She told me that though she hasn’t been able to get out much, she’s making arrangements to get to the voting polls because HRC told her how important this year’s elections are. This is how HRC is making a difference for LGBT Americans across the country; one conversation at a time. When I met Betsy Markey and thanked her for her action on issues that matter to the LGBT community, her response was “It’s easy!” And it can be; each one of us can do something to make life better in the workplace, in schools and for our families. Betsy is doing her part to make America better, will you?

Paid for by the Human Rights Campaign PAC and authorized by Markey for Congress


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

Thanking Our Allies in Colorado

The following is from HRC’s Colorado Steering Committee political co-chair, Aydrian Richardson:

On September 8th, three volunteers from the Human Rights Campaign had the privilege to personally meet Senator Mark Udall and discuss bills that are moving through Congress, and pieces of legislation that are anticipated to reach Congress this year or next. Attending alongside the senator was Alan Salazar, the senator’s senior political and policy adviser.

At the heart of discussions was the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that forces America’s service members to lie about who they are, and discharges able-bodied members of our Armed Forces. Senator Udall expressed his true sentiment in taking the lead of repeal when he stated that it was an easy thing to take the lead on because it is simply the right thing to do. As he put it, why discharge a man or woman who willingly gives themselves up to the possibility of dying for their country.

One area of concern which Senator Udall is currently struggling with is, “What are we going to say to the last person dishonorably discharged after we’ve announced plans to repeal DADT?” The groundwork has been laid for repeal, but that does not halt discharges from continuing, which greatly troubles the senator. The urgency is great, as expressed by Senator Udall, which is why it is at the top of his list for legislation to bring to the Senate floor for a vote now that has Congress returned from recess.

In addition to the repeal of DADT, we discussed passage of an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Senator Udall promised to vote in favor of ENDA when it comes to the Senate for a vote. Sandy Hickerson, a transgender woman present, expressed the need for the bill to be inclusive, which the Senator understood and promised to push for.

In addition to these upcoming pieces of legislation that will be impacting the LGBT community, we also discussed the need for national anti-bullying laws to be passed and implemented immediately in our public school system. I took the time to bring up the bill that Colorado Representative Jared Polis is moving through the lower chamber of Congress; The Student Non-Discrimination Act. Ray Rodriguez shared the struggles of an elementary-aged child in Longmont that is transgender. He shared about the harassment that the little girl is dealing with from both classmates and teachers, and the lack of education and understanding surrounding these issues in schools. Senator Udall was deeply troubled from hearing about this situation and promised to work with Congressman Polis in advancing LGBT protections in public schools.

On behalf of the three HRC volunteers that attended the meeting, I would like to express appreciation to Senator Mark Udall and senior political and policy advisor Alan Salazar for providing us the forum to share our concerns and hopes for the LGBT community with them. I would also like to thank them for talking with us well beyond the time allotted, and for taking such interest in a cause which is not easy to stand up and be a leader on. We look forward to working with you both several more times for many more years.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright