Marriage equality activist Ed Watson has died — before he could legally marry his husband

All that Ed Watson wanted was to see the courts overturn Proposition 8 so that he could legally marry his partner of 40 years before his Alzheimer’s robbed him of the ability to remember his wedding. But Watson died last week, at age 78, as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals continues to consider arguments in the lawsuit against the California constitutional amendment that robbed same-sex couples of the right to wed.

Ed Watson, left, and Derence Kerneck

Watson and his partner, Derence Kerneck, met more than 40 years ago on the campus of Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, and have “been together ever since, happy, devoted and dearly in love,” Kerneck said in a video to couple made earlier this year for the Courage Campaign Institute (watch it below), urging the 9th Circuit Court to uphold Judge Vaughn Walker‘s trial court ruling overturning Prop 8 and to lift the stay placed on Walker’s ruling so that they could get married.

At the time they made the video last spring, Watson had just recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and it was, Kerneck said at the time, advancing rapidly. He explained that they wanted to have their service while Watson could still remember “the service and remember the commitments and the enduring love. It’s difficult because every day that goes by, you don’t know how many good days there are left. Already there are more bad days than there are good days.”

Unfortunately, the stay of Walker’s ruling remained in place, leaving Watson and Kerneck in an ever-worsening situation, especially financially since, because they were not legally married, Kerneck’s retirement insurance wouldn’t cover Watson’s medical expenses. Now, it is too late.

I believe that we will, eventually, win the battle for marriage equality, and that our relationships will soon be legally recognized. But no matter when that happens, it will be too late — and not just for Ed Watson and Derence Kerneck. There are hundreds — thousands — of loving couples out there who are denied hundreds of basic rights and privileges they deserve every day: those who die of treatable diseases because their partners’ insurance wouldn’t cover them, those who lose their homes and savings to inheritance taxes after a partner dies, those who lose children to anti-gay laws, those who are not allowed into hospitals to see their dying loved ones one last time.

It’s already too late for so many. But we will keep fighting, because there are more of us out there. We will keep fighting until we win. And when we win, we have to remember those like Ed Watson and Derence Kerneck who helped make the victory possible, but did not live long enough to enjoy the victory.

—  admin

What’s Brewing: 3rd El Paso suspect arrested

Ivan Gallardo

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A third suspect has been arrested in a brutal beating outside a gay nightclub in downtown El Paso on May 7. Ivan Gallardo, 17, is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Two other suspects, ages 16 and 19, have also been arrested in connection with the attack outside the Old Plantation, which police say was gang related. The 22-year-old victim, Lionel Martinez, remains in critical condition after suffering a fractured skull and brain swelling. A total of six people reportedly jumped Martinez while he was waiting for a ride, punching him, kicking him and hitting him with a baseball bat. Martinez is straight, but LGBT advocates say it was a hate crime because the suspects were yelling anti-gay slurs, and the FBI is investigating the incident as a possible civil rights violation. Police have increased patrols around the nightclub in the wake of the incident, and an anti-hate crime rally reportedly is planned for next week outside the County Courthouse.

2. Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which calls for the death penalty in some cases, is still alive. The bill is one of three that have been carried over to the new Parliament, which convenes today, after the old Parliament was dissolved without considering them.

3. The Minnesota House is expected to vote today on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The amendment, which would appear on the 2012 ballot, has already cleared the Senate. On Wednesday the House Rules Committee voted 13-12 to approve the amendment. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton opposes the amendment but cannot veto it.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: El Paso teen arrested in brutal beating outside gay nightclub

The Old Plantation in downtown El Paso.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A 16-year-old has been arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault in connection with a brutal beating last weekend outside the Old Plantation gay nightclub in downtown El Paso, the El Paso Times reports today. Police say they believe the attack was gang related and aren’t treating the incident as a hate crime, even though family members and LGBT activists insist the victim, 22-year-old Lionel Martinez, was targeted only because he was outside a gay venue. Martinez, who’s straight but had been to the Old Plantation with friends, remains in critical condition and has not regained consciousness since the attack last Friday night or Saturday morning. The FBI reportedly is investigating the incident as a possible civil rights violation, and more arrests are expected. A total of six people were involved in the attack, and a security guard says there’s been an upswing of gang activity around the nightclub. But just because something is gang related doesn’t mean it’s not a hate crime. In fact, it’s quite common for gang initiations to include bashing a queer, and here’s a story about another hate crime that occurred just a week before.

2. The Ugandan Parliament has adjourned without taking up an Anti-Homosexuality Bill that includes a death penalty provision, the Associated Press reports. The bill was slated to be considered today, but the speaker of the parliament says there isn’t enough time to debate the bill before the session ends next week.

3. A new poll shows that a majority of Minnesotans oppose a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The Minnesota Senate voted to place such an amendment on the 2012 ballot this week, and the House is expected to follow suit. But the poll shows that 55 percent oppose the amendment, while only 39 percent support it. Just seven years ago, a poll found that 58 percent of Minnesotans supported a ban on same-sex marriage.

—  John Wright

Anti-gay bills dead or stalled in Iowa

Newt Gingrich

It appears that Republican efforts to force a referendum to appeal that state’s same-sex marriage equality law are dead, at least for the time being — as are a couple of other anti-gay measures.

The Des Moines Register reports that one of two resolutions being considered that would have put same-sex marriage to a referendum vote has died, and the second has stalled. A resolution that had been passed by the Republican-controlled House is effectively dead after Democrats in the Senate chose not to advance it.

A bill that would have allowed businesses to deny services or public accommodations to same-sex couples based on religious beliefs has failed, as has a second measure that would have prohibited country recorders from giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples until a referendum could be held on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.

Three of the Iowa Supreme Court justices who were part of a unanimous ruling in 2009 that overturned the gay marriage ban in Iowa were ousted in recall election efforts last November. A small group of Iowa House Republicans is calling for the other four justices to be impeached. They have not yet filed any articles of impeachment, the Register reports, but that could happen at any time.

In related news, other sources — including TPMMuckraker.com — are reporting that Republican former Congressman Newt Gingrich, himself a veritable bastion of traditional marriage values, helped get the justice recall effort jump-started last year in Iowa by rounding up about $200,000 to help Iowa For Freedom campaign for the recall.

Gingrich, by the way, is on his third marriage. He left his first wife for his mistress when his first wife was hospitalized and fighting for her life against cancer. Then he married the mistress, only to cheat on her with another women to whom he is now married. Gingrich is also contemplating a run for the White House in 2012; he launched a website to “test the waters” Thursday.

—  admin

NC poll: Most support rights for same-sex couples

MIKE BAKER | Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. — More than half of North Carolina residents now support legal recognition of same-sex couples, and more than one-quarter believe they should have full marriage rights, according to a poll released Monday, Feb. 28.

The Elon University survey found that 29 percent of respondents in the state support civil unions or partnerships for gay couples but not full marriage rights. About 28 percent of people support full marriage rights.

Meanwhile, only 35 percent of respondents opposed all legal recognition for same-sex partners, down from 44 percent when the question was asked two years ago.

“That’s a substantial move,” said Elon Poll Director Hunter Bacot. “We’re seeing people becoming more comfortable with the issue.”

About two dozen Republican senators in North Carolina have proposed a constitutional amendment to ban gay unions. Similar measures have previously been filed in the General Assembly but gone nowhere, but Republicans now control both chambers of the Legislature for the first time in more than a century.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-rights group, has given money to a North Carolina group opposing the constitutional change.

The Elon poll was conducted last week and surveyed 467 North Carolina adults. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.

—  John Wright

Equality Texas sets LGBT lobby day for March 7

Equality Texas hoping for more than 400 to participate in lobbying effort; Stonewall Democrats, TENT planning weekend gatherings

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Equality Texas is calling on the LGBT community and its allies to converge on Austin on March 7 to lobby the Texas Legislature on a slate of already-filed bills.

Bills filed include anti-bullying legislation; a bill to prohibit of insurance discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression; a bill allowing both same-sex parents to be listed on an adopted child’s birth certificate; a bill banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression; and a bill to repeal Section 21.06 of the Texas Penal Code, the sodomy statute that has been ruled unconstitutional.

In addition, Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston has filed a joint resolution to repeal the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Coleman has filed a similar resolution in each legislative session and, as is past sessions, the resolution is not expected to pass.

Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas, asked that people planning to attend the lobby day pre-register on his organization’s website.

Those who do register in advance and indicate an interest in a particular bill will be sent to offices of legislators who will hear those bills in committee.

The day begins with registration at 7:30 a.m. followed by a press conference at 9 a.m. Rep. Garnet Coleman and the parents of suicide victim Asher Brown are expected to speak.

Dennis Coleman

Dennis Coleman said that an hour of orientation is meant to put people at ease, teach them to simply tell their own stories and put together small groups of people that pair first-timers with more experienced lobbyists.

“Lobbying is about telling your own story,” Dennis Coleman said. “You never know who you’ll meet.”

Legislators are lobbied daily, Dennis Coleman said. Sometimes the lawmakers are in their offices and receive constituents. Other times those constituents meet with the lawmaker’s legisltive director. He said that senators and representatives who are allies need to hear support from their districts, but opponents need to hear from the LGBT community as well.

He said Equality Texas is working with legislators on bills that would benefit the LGBT community and hasn’t had to spend much time this session fending off discriminatory legislation.

Local representatives have taken the lead in proposing much of the positive legislation.

Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth submitted a bill prohibiting bullying in public schools. That law would also address cyberbullying.
Rep. Mark Strama of Austin filed similar legislation in the House.

Rep. Roberto Alonzo of Dallas wrote HB 208 that would prevent insurance discrimination. The bill would keep insurance companies from refusing to insure, charging a different rate or limiting coverage in amount, extent or kind because of bias or prejudice based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Dallas Rep. Rafael Anchia authored HB 415, the bill that would repeal language that states that only a mother and father may be listed on the birth certificate of an adopted child.

Lobbying will begin at 11 a.m.

“That should give people a chance to visit about three offices before lunch,” Coleman said.

Equality Texas is providing a continental breakfast in the morning as well as lunch. After lunch, constituents will visit offices until 3 p.m. followed by a one-hour debriefing session.

Coleman said more than 200 people are already registered but he’s hoping for 400. Among those participating are members of Stonewall Democrats who will be in Austin for a weekend conference.

Arizona state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who is openly bisexual, will be the opening keynote speaker for the Texas Stonewall Democrats Caucus statewide conference on March 5.

The conference takes place at the Hilton Garden Inn on 5th Street. Among the weekend’s other highlights, Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, will lead a roundtable discussion on transgender issues on Sunday morning. On Sunday afternoon, the Transgender Education Network of Texas will hold its second Transgender Caucus, also at the Hilton Garden Inn.

To register for Lobby Day, visit EqualityTexasLobbyDay.com.

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

—  John Wright

We’re used to state-by-state laws on same-sex marriage, but what about county by county?

Conservative House Republicans in Iowa have introduced a bill that would prohibit county recorders form issuing marriage licenses — and block the state Supreme Court from reviewing the issue.

The apparent goal of the legislation is to prevent additional same-sex marriages in Iowa before a constitutional amendment can be passed to ban them. The Iowa House has already approved a resolution that would launch such an amendment.

But even the state’s attorney general says the latest proposal is unconstitutional because it would block review by the state Supreme Court:

That possible outcome: Iowans could challenge a recorder’s decision in trial courts, but those decisions could not be appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.

That would make the lower court ruling final and would mean Iowa could become a patchwork of counties in which some recognized the law and others did not.

“I think the result is that you would have a hodgepodge of rulings across the state,” Bartrum said. “It would depend on whatever the local district judge thought because there would be no uniform appeal.”

While this legislation would clearly be a bad thing for Iowa, where same-sex marriage is already legal, we wouldn’t mind seeing a different version of it in Texas. Since our state leaders claim they’re all about local control, why not let the gays marry in Dallas County?

—  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: Key Prop 8 decision coming; marriage ban advances in Ind.; Gaga hatefest

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The California Supreme Court is set to consider today whether it believes Prop 8 supporters have legal standing to defend the same-sex marriage ban in federal court, after state officials refused to do so. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is currently reviewing the case, has asked the California Supreme Court for an opinion on the matter. And the decision about standing could determine whether the Prop 8 case applies only to California or affects same-sex marriage throughout the country. In other words, this is kinda big.

2. If and when same-sex marriage bans are ultimately declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, Indiana apparently wants to be one of the states that was on the wrong side of history. Indiana’s newly Republican-dominated House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would ban not only same-sex marriage, but also civil unions and domestic partnerships. The good news is the amendment can’t actually appear on the ballot until 2014 because it must first be approved by two separately elected legislatures. But in case it hadn’t dawned on you yet, those tea party nuts were lying to your face when they said they only care about fiscal issues.

3. Some gays are turning against Lady Gaga and rejecting their own so-called anthem, “Born This Way,” according to various media reports including this one. But the most amusing critique we’ve seen thus far comes from the Zeitgeisty Report, which suggests that Gaga HATES gay people: “Take for instance the very first part of the song where Gaga comes right out and accuses gay people of having paws instead of hands or feet. Yep, Lady Gaga officially thinks gay people are animals.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Valentine’s Day recap edition

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. THE GOOD: Legislators in Washington state and Colorado were struck by Cupid’s arrow, as they introduced bills Monday to legalize same-sex marriage and civil unions, respectively. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that 24 Maryland senators have now said publicly that they’ll support pending marriage equality legislation, giving the bill the votes it needs to pass by the slimmest of margins.

2. THE BAD: The Indiana House was scheduled to vote Monday on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, but the measure, which is expected to pass, was postponed because some lawmakers who want to go on record supporting the ban were absent. Meanwhile, lawmakers in New Hampshire are moving forward with hearings on a proposed repeal of same-sex marriage, despite polls showing a majority of residents oppose the repeal. And, in Chicago, six activists were arrested when they refused to leave a marriage bureau after a same-sex couple was denied a license.

3. THE UGLY: If you want to get really angry, or need a reminder as to what the struggle for equality is all about, watch the above video of police in Lima, Peru, using violence to break up a Valentine’s Day “Kisses Against Homophobia” demonstration that took place Saturday. According to Living in Peru, one activist needed 10 stitches to the back of her head.

—  John Wright