Maryland panel advances marriage bill

Sam Arora

After three days of drama, a Maryland House committee has finally advanced a marriage equality bill, voting 12-10 to send it to the floor.

Democratic Del. Tiffany T. Alston, once a co-sponsor of the bill, voted against it after attempting to amend it to establish civil unions instead of same-sex marriage. However, Democratic Del. Sam Arora, who’s also wavered in his support for the bill in recent days, voted for it and issued a statement saying he will also do so again on the House floor.

“I have heard from constituents, friends, and advocates from across the spectrum of views and have thought about the issue of same-sex marriage extensively,” Arora said in a statement before the committee vote. “I understand their concern—this is a very serious issue, and one that many people feel passionately about. As the vote drew nearer, I wrestled with this issue in a way I never had before, which led me to realize that I had some concerns about the bill. While I personally believe that Maryland should extend civil rights to same-sex couples through civil unions, I have come to the conclusion that this issue has such impact on the people of Maryland that they should have a direct say. I will vote to send the bill to the floor because it deserves an up-or-down vote. On the floor, I will vote to send the bill to the governor so that Marylanders can ultimately decide this issue at the polls. I think that is appropriate.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Marriage updates from Maryland, New Hampshire; poll shows U.S. evenly divided

Sam Arora

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A marriage equality bill once thought to be assured of passage in the Maryland House remains stalled in committee, with lawmakers who once supported the measure now wavering under intense pressure from the religious right. The most notable flip-flopper is Democrat Sam Arora, who campaigned on his support for the bill but now says he’ll vote against it on the floor.

2. New Hampshire lawmakers put off until next year consideration of proposals to repeal marriage equality, saying they want to focus on fiscal issues first. A House committee voted 15-0 to retain the repeal bills until 2012, and LGBT advocates are disappointed the measures weren’t killed outright. 

3. But Ti-i-i-ime is on our side, yes it is. A new Pew poll shows the nation is now evenly divided on marriage equality, with a strong trend of increasing support. According to the poll, 46 percent say same-sex marriage should not be legal, while 45 percent say it should, with a 3 percent margin of error that makes for a statistical tie. Just two short years ago, a Pew poll found that 54 percent of Americans opposed marriage equality, while only 37 supported it.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Marriage on rocks in Maryland; Lady Gaga premieres ‘Government Hooker’

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. It’s all hands on deck in Maryland, where the fate of a marriage equality bill may be decided today. One pro-marriage equality lawmaker says if a committee vote doesn’t happen, the bill will die. The House committee vote was delayed Tuesday when two supporters of the bill didn’t show up. Now, other co-sponsors are backtracking on their support. As someone who spent part of his childhood on a sailboat in the Chesapeake Bay, I sincerely hope this ship can be righted and sail safely through the stormy waters of Annapolis.

2. Gay students at Harding University in Searcy, Ark., launched an online magazine Wednesday called HU Queer Press, only to have the administration immediately block access to the website on school computers. Change.org has launched a petition, but this is hardly the first time the Church of Christ-affiliated school has tried to stifle free speech.

3. Lady Gaga made her runway debut in Paris — and premiered a song called “Government Hooker.” Watch video from the Thierry Mugler fashion show above and listen to the song here.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Debating discrimination in Montana, West Virginia and the United Kingdom

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A Montana House committee approved a bill Monday that would ban cities from enacting ordinances to protect LGBT people from discrimination. The bill, which cleared the committee by a 13-7 vote, would overturn existing LGBT protections in Bozeman and Missoula. The same House committee also blocked a proposal to ban anti-LGBT discrimination statewide, after a 14-6 vote against the measure. But really, what else would you expect in a state where the GOP platform calls for criminalizing gay sex and where tea party leaders like to joke about Matthew Shepard’s murder?

2. A gay coal miner who filed a discrimination lawsuit against his former employer is leading the push for statewide LGBT protections in West Virginia. Sam Hall, who filed a lawsuit against Massey Energy Co. last year, spoke at a rally Monday at the Capitol in support of anti-discrimination bills, as onlookers chanted, “stand with Sam.” Watch video of the rally above.

3. Across the pond, the United Kingdom’s Equality and Human Rights Commission is investigating whether gay-only hotels violate anti-discrimination laws. The EHRC, which recently found a Christian-owned hotel guilty of violating the laws for refusing to rent a room to a same-sex couple, says it must establish an “objective balance.” Owners of gay-only hotels fear that if they’re forced to rent to heterosexual couples, it could put them out of business.

—  John Wright

TX Lege: Pro-LGBT bills see ‘flurry of activity’

Chuck-Smith
Chuck Smith

It’s been a good week for pro-LGBT bills in the Texas Legislature.

Three bills backed by Equality Texas were referred to House committees and another three were filed as lawmakers started getting down to business in the 2011 session.

“There was kind of a flurry of activity this week,” said Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas. “The lower your bill number is, the greater opportunity you have to have a committee hearing sooner rather than later. It’s possible that either the birth certificate [bill] or some of the bullying bills may have hearings in the next couple weeks, and that’s certainly positive.”

HB 415, by Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, would allow same-sex parents to record both of their names on an adopted child’s birth certificate. The bill was referred Wednesday to the House Committee on Public Health. Two years ago, Anchia’s birth certificate bill received a very favorable hearing in the same committee, Smith said.

“There’s a decent chance we could have another good hearing. I’m hopeful that we might be able to win a vote in that committee,” he said, adding that testimony two years ago came from children of same-sex parents who told legislators they merely want accurate birth certificates. “It’s a pretty straightforward and compelling argument.”

—  John Wright

Polygamy, Sharia law cited as reasons to repeal marriage equality in New Hampshire

Supporters of marriage equality wore red to Thursday’s hearing. (From HRC)

Back in 2009, when Democrats controlled the New Hampshire Legislature, lawmakers there voted to give legal recognition to same-sex marriages. Gov. John Lynch signed the legislation into law.

Now, two years later, Republicans control the Legislature in New Hampshire, and are considering a bill to repeal marriage equality in the state. On Thursday, the House of Representatives held a public hearing to get citizens’ input on the repeal effort. More than 500 people were there to oppose repeal while less than 50 showed up to support repeal.

While the supporters were far fewer in number, their arguments are getting a lot of attention in the press today — because those arguments were so totally asinine.

One guy claimed that allowing legal same-sex marriage would open the door to polygamy and Sharia (Islamic religious) law in the U.S. Rep. Alfred Baldasaro claimed that New Hampshire would end up like Canada, which legalized same-sex marriage several years ago and now “they’re fighting in the courts to get three husbands, three wives.”

And Sen. Fenton Groen brought up the age-old indoctrinating-the-children and “health risk” bugaboos: “[Homosexuality] will significantly increase their risk of serious disease and can be expected to significantly shorten their lives.”

The National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher was there, of course, spouting her usual nonsense about marriage being specifically about raising children and how same-sex marriage would infringe on religious freedom.

For more, check out jpmassar’s post at Daily Kos or watch the video after the jump compiled by Igor Volsky at Think Progress.

Just so you know, John Lynch is still governor of New Hampshire, and he has said if the repeal bill is passed by the Legislature, he will veto it, although Republicans have a supermajority in both legislative houses and could override a veto. On the other hand, the House committee considering the repeal measure is expected to vote to “retain” it, which means hold the bill over until the next legislative session (which starts next January) and not vote on it this time around.

—  admin

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