Gay weddings become reality in Hawaii with new law

imagesHONOLULU (AP) — Six same-sex couples tied the knot in Hawaii early Monday, moments after a law granting them the right to do so took effect in the state often credited with starting the national gay marriage debate.

Even more couples watched and waited their turn at the Waikiki resort.

Across town, an openly gay Unitarian minister wed his partner of 15 years in a ceremony attended by clergy who pushed for the new law, plus Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who called the special legislative session that led to the law.

“It’s about making that commitment to the person that I want to spend the rest of my life with,” said Saralyn Morales, moments after cutting a small wedding cake after marrying her partner, Isajah Morales.

Hawaii’s gay marriage debate began in 1990 when two women applied for a marriage license, leading to a court battle and a 1993 state Supreme Court decision that said their rights to equal protection were violated by not letting them marry.

That helped lead Congress to pass the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which denied federal benefits to gay couples. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the act this year.

An additional 14 states and the District of Columbia also allow same-sex marriage. Illinois was the 16th state to legalize it, and the law takes effect June 1.

Hawaii’s marriage laws allow couples to register for a license and be married the same day, a process conducive for tourists only in the state a short time.

Couples can sign up for a license online, then be verified by any license agent throughout the state. Agents have set up shop throughout the islands, from resorts on Maui and the Big Island to hard-to-reach places on Kauai.

—  Steve Ramos

Mississippi judge refuses to grant gay couple a divorce

images-1JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi judge on Monday refused to grant a divorce to a lesbian couple who got married in California, saying the marriage wasn’t recognized under state law, according to the woman who filed and her lawyer.

Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham, who filed for the divorce in September in north Mississippi’s DeSoto County, said in a telephone interview Monday that the judge seemed sympathetic and that she plans to appeal the ruling.

Czekala-Chatham, a 51-year-old credit analyst and mother of two teenage sons from an earlier straight marriage, said she was “a little bit disappointed.”

“I would have liked to have had the divorce, but either way he ruled, it was going to be appealed,” she said.

Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood’s office had argued that Mississippi can’t grant a divorce in a marriage it doesn’t recognize. Hood’s office said in a motion to intervene on Nov. 15 that Mississippi “has no obligation to give effect to California laws that are contrary to Mississippi’s expressly stated public policy.”

—  Steve Ramos

WATCH: A 13-year-old uses his Bar Mitzvah speech to champion gay marriage

A 13-year-old Jewish boy championed for equality and same-sex marriage during his Bar Mitzvah speech recently. Duncan Sennett spoke at a synagogue in Oregon, a state that where gay marriage isn’t legal, and eloquently unravels the arguments used against equality.

Watch his video:

—  Steve Ramos

WATCH: Sen. Ted Cruz talks gay marriage, Obamacare with Jay Leno

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz appeared on The Tonight Show Friday night, discussing his public image, Obamacare and gay marriage with host Jay Leno.

Leno jumped right in, asking Cruz during his late-night debut about his unflattering image during his 10 months in Washington.

“I’ve been reading a lot about you lately,” Leno said, “and they describe you as aggressive, arrogant and abrasive. Accurate?”

“I don’t know that you can believe everything you read,” Cruz said. “You know, what I’m trying to do is do my job. And occasionally people don’t like that.”

Leno later touched on Obamacare and how the 25 percent of uninsured Texans must want the coverage, but Cruz countered with it wouldn’t help people who have insurance keep their plans and would hurt jobs.

Asked if he’s against gay marriage, Cruz said, “I support marriage between one man and one woman. But I also think it’s a question for the states. Some states have made decisions one way on gay marriage. “Some states have made decisions the other way. And that’s the great thing about our Constitution, is different states can make different decisions depending on the values of their citizens.”

Leno then brought up Cruz’s father, Dallas-based pastor Rafael Cruz, who’s made headlines recently for saying that the goal behind gay marriage is to destroy the traditional family in order to pave the way for communism.

“My father is a pastor. He’s a man of deep integrity and you know, some folks have decided to try to go after him because they want to take some shots at me,” Cruz said. “… I think the critics are better off attacking me. My dad has been my hero my whole life.”

A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released last week found that 32 percent of Texas Republicans favor Cruz as the GOP presidential nominee in 2016. As for other possible nominees, 13 percent of Texas Republicans favor Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, 10 percent favor Rand Paul, 6 percent favor Bobby Jindal, and 5 percent favor Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan.

Watch the three-part interview below.

—  Anna Waugh

Additional states turn away National Guard spouses, one reverses itself

MilitaryPartnerMore states are following Texas’ lead and refusing to process ID cards for same-sex spouses of National Guard troops, American Military Partner Association reports, but one state reversed course.

Indiana and South Carolina joined Texas this week in sending same-sex spouses of National Guard troops to federal facilities to register. Both states accept applications from opposite-sex spouses.

But after further legal review, Indiana reversed itself and again began taking applications at National Guard bases.

“We applaud the Indiana National Guard for doing the right thing,” said Stephen Peters, president of AMPA. “We urge other state national guards who are refusing to comply with the Defense Department directive to process all spouses for federal benefits to immediately follow suit.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., ranking member of the House Armed Service Committee, wrote to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asking him to intervene.

Louisiana, Oklahoma and Mississippi also began signing up all spouses but then stopped after Texas turned away applicants. In Texas, Alicia Butler was turned away from Camp Mabry on the first day same-sex spouses could sign up for IDs and is now being represented by Lambda Legal’s Dallas office.

—  David Taffet

My favorite image of the summer

Favorite image

There always a lot of good photos to enjoy over the course of a year, but perhaps my favorite — and certainly of the summer — is this one from the Associated Press, which says so much with so little. (It also reminds me of another iconic photo, which you can see after the jump.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Ted Cruz wants to cram his anti-gay religious beliefs down America’s throat

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz

The other day we wondered whether anti-gay Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who’s likely running for president in 2016, would support a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, given that he seems to think marriage is a state issue — at least when it suits his argument.

Not surprisingly, Cruz’s office never responded to our inquiry, but we may have gotten our answer anyway in the form of an interview Cruz did with the Christan Broadcasting Network’s David Brody this week. In the interview, Cruz warned that marriage equality in the U.S. threatens religious freedoms.

“If you look at other nations that have gone down the road towards gay marriage,” Cruz said, “that’s the next step of where it gets enforced. It gets enforced against Christian pastors who decline to perform gay marriages, who speak out and preach biblical truths on marriage, that has been defined elsewhere as hate speech, as inconsistent with the enlightened view of government.”

It’s sad but not surprising that Cruz would resort to such an over-the-top scare tactic in an effort to pander to evangelical voters. Can he point to a single case from any of the 13 states where same-sex marriage is legal in which a pastor has been prosecuted for refusing to perform same-sex weddings? Of course not, and that’s partly because marriage-equality laws are being specifically and carefully written to protect religious freedoms. The problem is that Cruz’s definition of religious freedom has nothing to do with the First Amendment. To him, religious freedom means the “freedom” of anti-gay zealots like himself to impose their religion on other people.

Watch Cruz’s comments to Brody below.

—  John Wright

Texas lawmaker files bill to legalize same-sex marriage

State Rep. Lon Burnam

Rep. Lon Burnam

Yes, you read the headline right.

As the Texas Legislature convened today for a second special session — and what is expected to be round 2 of an abortion fight — Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, quietly filed HB 20, a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Texas if the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is first repealed.

Burnam announced his plan to file the bill last week in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

“The Supreme Court found today that the federal government acted to ‘impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages.’ I can assure you the Texas Legislature did the same. As such, it is time to renounce our homophobic state laws and usher in marriage equality in Texas,” Burnam said in a statement at the time.

—  John Wright

Job applicant sues Williamson County after question on gay marriage

Williamson_county_courthouse_2008Robert Lloyd filed a lawsuit against Williamson County this week after being asked during an employment interview about his religion, whether he voted Republican and his views on abortion and same-sex marriage.

Lloyd was applying for an open constable position.

Williamson County officials defended their questions on the grounds that the position is normally elected. The previous constable resigned and voters would want to know the candidate’s position on these issues, they argued.

“He said to the commissioners it was tough to answer the question about gay marriage,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants did not approve of this attitude, and even told Mr. Lloyd he needed a better answer to their questions about gay marriage.”

After the interview, commissioners voted unanimously to hire the brother-in-law of the of the person who serves as attorney for the Commissioners Court.

According to KXAN in Austin, other candidates were asked the questions as well.

In addition to protections in the U.S. Constitution, the Texas Bill of Rights protects against religious discrimination in Article 1: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State.”

Williamson County is north of Austin.


—  David Taffet

WATCH: LGBT protesters ‘shame’ Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings

Screen shot 2013-05-30 at 8.05.50 PM

The good news is, Mayor Mike Rawlings is no longer afraid to show up at an event where he knows there will be LGBT protesters. The bad news is, LGBT protesters are still forced to gather outside places where Rawlings is scheduled to show up.

Although Rawlings tried to look diplomatic by greeting the protesters in front of the TV news cameras, activists like Cd Kirven of GetEQUAL weren’t having it, and they ultimately chanted, “Shame, shame, shame!” as Rawlings walked back to his vehicle.

Watch the report from WFAA-TV’s Jonathan Betz below.

—  John Wright