Wash. House panel advances marriage bill

RACHEL La CORTE | Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A House committee on Monday approved a measure to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state, setting the stage for final passage this week.

The House Judiciary committee advanced the measure on a 7-5 vote after a public hearing. The bill could be up for a vote on the House floor as early as Wednesday. The Senate passed the measure on a 28-21 vote last Wednesday. Once passed by the House, the bill goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature.

Opponents have promised a referendum challenge at the ballot.

Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, testified in support of the bill, joined by her partner of 23 years, Laura Wulf, and their son.

“We all understand that marriage is not just about contracts and rights and responsibilities,” she said. “It’s about love and commitment.”

Maureen Richardson, the state director for Concerned Women for America, argued that the measure would negatively affect families.

“Marriage is just too important to the culture to be redefined,” she said.

Several Republican amendments were rejected, including one that would have added private businesses and individuals, such as bakers and photographers, to the exemption in the measure that doesn’t require religious organizations or churches to perform marriages and doesn’t subject them to penalties if they don’t marry gay or lesbian couples. Another would have added a referendum clause.

Opponents must turn in 120,577 signatures by June 6. If opponents fall short in the number of signatures they turn in, gay and lesbian couples would be able to be wed as soon as the signature count is done, likely sometime in June. Otherwise, they would have to wait until the results of a November election.

Washington state has had a domestic partnership law since 2007, and an “everything but marriage” expansion of that law since 2009.

Same-sex marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

Under the measure that passed the Senate Wednesday, the more than 9,300 same-sex couples currently registered in domestic partnerships would have two years to either dissolve their relationship or get married. Domestic partnerships that aren’t ended prior to June 30, 2014, would automatically become marriages.

Domestic partnerships would remain for senior couples where at least one partner is 62 years old or older. That provision was included to help seniors who don’t remarry out of fear they could lose certain pension or Social Security benefits.

—  John Wright

WATCH: House hearing on ‘defending marriage’

As we noted earlier, a U.S. House subcommittee held a pointless hearing this morning on “defending marriage.” The Wonk Room reports:

This morning’s “defending marriage” hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution invited anti-LGBT witnesses Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage and Edward Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center to reinforce stigma against gays and lesbians. Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and subcommittee Chairman Trent Franks (R-AZ) also used the hearing to attack the White House.

Watch The Wonk Room’s video compilation from the hearing above.

Outside the hearing, activists from GetEQUAL presented Gallagher with the “Anita Bryant Unparalleled Bigotry Award.” Watch below.

—  John Wright

UPDATE: Maryland marriage bill dead for the year

An Associated Press article posted online by The Washington Post is saying that the decision in the Maryland House of Delegates today send to send the Civil Marriage Protection Act back to the House Judiciary Committee has effectively killed the legislation for this year.

According to the article, supporters chose to send the bill back to committee rather than take a final vote because they did not believe they had the 71 votes necessary to pass the measure. House Speaker Michael Busch said supporters will try again next year.

Marriage equality opponents, of course, claimed the outcome as a victory.

—  admin

Lamar Smith has questions to answer

Texas Republican is throwing stones over ‘secret negotiations,’ but he’s got conflicts of interest of his own

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith

On April 22, 2010, House Judiciary Committee ranking member Lamar Smith of Texas and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Darrell Issa of California — both Republicans — asked asked nine automobile company CEOs to answer questions about their “secret negotiations” with the Obama administration on setting greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards under the Clean Air Act.

“Given the clear conflict of interest issues at play, which naturally arise when the government is in a position to pick winners and losers and the future viability of private entities, it’s imperative to act with the utmost of transparency,” Smith said, regarding the secret greenhouse emission arrangement.

Smith — the fifth richest member of the Texas delegation to Congress, vehemently anti-gay and a former partner of the law firm of Maebius and Duncan — has some “secret negotiation” issues himself that he needs to explain to Texas voters.

From 1989 to 2010, Smith received $403,547 in political campaign donations from big oil and gas companies.

Valero Energy and Lewis Oil, a distributor for Chevron, donated thousands of dollars to his campaign. Smith’s former law firm partner, Jeb Mabius Jr., worked for the Gulf Oil Company rebranded as Chevron in the 1980s.

The apparent conflict of interest doesn’t end there. Smith co-sponsored House Congressional Resolution 417, which would open the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil shale reserves exploration and extraction.

Smith is a staunch advocate for big oil companies and is opposed to the American Clean Energy and Security Act, stating it would raise gas prices and eliminate more than 2 million jobs.

According to the University of California at Berkley, the ACES bill would boost annual household income by $1,200 and create more than 1.9 million jobs.

So, why does our state representative oppose the bill that would limit green house emissions and help kick start our fledgling job market? I will allow you to decide as I lay out the results of my investigation.

Smith and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, recently submitted a brief to the federal appellate court in Case No. 09-17490, arguing that the U.S. Constitution gives the legislative and executive branches, not judiciary, the authority to make political determinations about the impacts or injury as a result of greenhouse emissions.

Around 400 indigenous villagers of the city of Kivalina, Alaska, claim they were forced to relocate due to floods destroying their homes and business — floods that they feel were a result of global warming.

The villagers, with the help of Steve Susman, filed a lawsuit against the big oil companies whose business operations, they felt, were responsible for the global warming that lead to the destruction of their city.

The oil companies in question included ExxonMobil, BP America, Chevron and other big oil producers.

Are you starting to see a pattern? Why would a Texas representative file a brief in an Alaskan case? Why would

Lamar Smith want to stop the court from determining damages that were a result of global warming?

Once the head of the Ethics Committee and currently up for re-election, Smith needs to answer what appears to be a quid pro quo issue.

So my questions are, given the clear conflict of interest issues at play — which naturally arise when the government is in a position to pick winners and losers and the future viability of private entities — will Lamar

Smith resolve the issues around questionable campaign donations? Will he explain his opposition to the ACES bill? Will the Texas Ethic Commission investigate these issues?

C.D. Kirven is an activist and the Lambda Literary Award-nominated author of the book What Goes Around Comes Back Around. She is also a former GetEqual member and co-founder of Get Equal Now, a founding board member of DFW Pride Movement, an artist and a filmmaker who created the first LGBT cell phone documentary about same-sex intimate partner abuse. She has an online clothing line at Zazzle.com/cdkirven and is editing her online reality show about her life called: SOULPRINT. She is currently working on a screenplay, her second book and a documentary. E-mail her at cdkirven@aol.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas