TX Dems won’t vote on marriage in 2012

Party leaders opt against placing nonbinding resolution on primary ballot

Graney.Don

Don Graney

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

AUSTIN — Democrats in Texas won’t get to vote next year on whether they support same-sex marriage, after the party’s Executive Committee shot down a proposal to place a non-binding resolution on the March 2012 primary ballot.

Meeting in the capital on Saturday, Nov. 19, the State Democratic Executive Committee voted 33-22 against placing the resolution in support of same-sex marriage on the ballot, according to Dan Graney, president of the party’s LGBT caucus.

The resolution, backed by the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, called for same-sex couples to receive “equal access to civil marriage and all its benefits,” and stated that “all state and federal laws denying such access should be repealed.”

In addition to gauging support for marriage equality among Democrats in Texas, the resolution was designed to boost interest and turnout in the primary, especially among young voters, given that President Barack Obama is running unopposed, Graney said.

However, some SDEC members feared backlash from the marriage resolution and said it could be used against Democratic candidates by their Republican opponents, Graney said.

“Unfortunately, many SDEC members are afraid to let Democratic voters have their say on issues they regard as too controversial,” Graney said after the SDEC’s vote. “Polling data shows that legal recognition of same-sex relationships is now supported by 63 percent of all Texans, so I don’t understand the fear about allowing voters to weigh in on this.”

Some openly LGBT members of the SDEC argued passionately in favor of the marriage resolution, Graney said. However, two openly gay SDEC members — both from Tarrant County — opposed it.

SDEC member DeeJay Johannessen, former president of Stonewall Democrats of Tarrant County, said he voted against placing the resolution on the ballot because he didn’t think it would accomplish the stated purpose of increasing voter turnout. Johannessen said valuable resources would have been spent trying to get the resolution passed, even though it would have no practical impact.

Erin-Moore3668

Erin Moore

Johannessen was joined in voting against the resolution by openly gay Tarrant County SDEC member Mary Edwards.

“My thoughts are that we should be dealing with issues about jobs and education and the economy,” Johannessen said. “We need to be focused on issues where we can affect change.

“It wasn’t about marriage equality,” he said of his vote. “It was about whether or not putting this on the ballot would bring more people out to vote, and I didn’t think that would happen.”

Graney said he feels the majority of SDEC members support same-sex marriage. But he said a majority, like Johannessen, opposed the measure for strategic reasons.

The state Republican Party has placed resolutions on primary ballots in at least the last two election cycles, but Democrats have not, Graney said.

Other resolutions voted on by the SDEC last weekend called for abolishing the death penalty, legalizing marijuana, passing the DREAM Act, mandating affordable college tuition and legalizing casino gambling.

The SDEC approved the resolutions related to the DREAM Act, college tuition and casino gambling, and they will appear on the March 6 primary ballot.

Graney noted that the marriage resolution received more support than those calling for abolishing the death penalty and legalizing marijuana, which got only 14 and 12 votes, respectively.

He also commended Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie and Resolutions Committee Chairman Dennis Teal for allowing the full SDEC to consider the marriage resolution even though the committee voted against it.

“We had a 45-minute discussion and debate on the issue,” Graney said. “They could have squashed it, but they didn’t.”

Although their votes drew attention because they’re openly gay, Johannessen and Edwards weren’t the only SDEC members from North Texas who opposed the resolution.

In fact, only one of six SDEC members from Dallas County — Theresa Daniel — voted in favor of placing the marriage resolution on the ballot, according to Omar Narvaez, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.
Daniel, a straight LGBT ally and Stonewall member, is running for the Precinct 1 seat on the Dallas County Commissioners Court in 2012.

Erin Moore of Dallas, vice president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, is a non-voting SDEC member and spoke in support of the marriage resolution during Saturday’s meeting.

“We just thought this was the perfect opportunity to get the pulse of the electorate again,” Moore said of the resolution.

Regardless of whether the resolution appears on the ballot, Moore said, Republicans will try to attack Democrats over gay rights, and voters will ask candidates about their views on same-sex marriage.

Moore said she thinks the SDEC’s vote against placing the resolution on the ballot amounted to Democrats “running scared instead of running strong.”

“They’re scared of losing what we’ve got, which is very little,” she said.

The tally was based on a headcount of SDEC members who stood up, and there is no written record of how each person voted. But both Moore and Graney recalled a clear demographic split over the marriage equality resolution.

They said most members who opposed the resolution were older white males, and they called for the party to respond by electing more progressives and minorities to the SDEC next year.

“The SDEC needs to look like Texas is now, not like Texas was,” Moore said.

Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, said he also would have liked to see the resolution on the ballot.
Smith said opponents of LGBT equality frequently point to results from 2005, when three-fourths of Texas voters supported a constitutional amendment banning both same-sex marriage and civil unions.

“We would like to see every candidate for every office asked where they stand on marriage equality,” Smith said. “It’s a subject we need to talk about, and the more we talk about it, the more we’re going to find how significantly the numbers have changed since six years ago.”

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

—  Kevin Thomas

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

UPDATE: Gay marriage bill gets final approval in Maryland Senate

We told you yesterday that the Maryland Senate had given preliminary approval to legislation giving legal recognition to same-sex marriage in that state. Now comes word from GayPolitics.com that the Senate has given final approval to the measure. The final vote, just like the preliminary vote, was 25-21, according to NPR.

The bill now heads to the Maryland House of Delegates and if it is approved there, it will go to Gov. Martin O’Malley who must sign it before it becomes law. If that happens, it will make Maryland the sixth U.S. state to recognize gay marriage.

—  admin

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

Marriage equality battles ramping up across U.S.

N.H. Republicans working to repeal marriage law; other states offer mixed bag in legislative actions

DANA RUDOLPH | Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

Two New Hampshire legislators have recently introduced bills to repeal that state’s marriage equality law, even though Republican leaders said Jan. 13 that such a repeal is not a party priority in 2011.

And several other states saw legislative moves toward or away from equality in recent weeks.

New Hampshire: State Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, and 11 cosponsors filed a bill that would repeal marriage equality and prevent New Hampshire from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples contracted outside the state. New Hampshire same-sex couples that married in the state before the bill became effective would continue to be recognized as married.

Same-sex couples that married in another state would no longer be recognized.

State Rep. Leo Pepino, R-Manchester, and five cosponsors filed a separate bill that would repeal marriage equality and prohibit civil unions or any other form of legal recognition for same-sex couples. The Associated Press reported Jan. 25, however, that Pepino will ask the committee hearing the bill “to retain it until next year when they have more time.”

Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who signed the original marriage equality bill into law, has said he would veto a repeal bill. But Republicans hold a veto-proof majority in both houses.

Mo Baxley, executive director of New Hampshire Freedom to Marry, said in an interview that she thinks marriage equality supporters can sustain the governor’s veto by finding supporters among older, more libertarian-leaning Republicans.

“The public is solidly on our side,” Baxley asserted, but he cautioned, “We can’t just presume that we’ve got the votes . . . .We’ve got to be full throttle out there.”

She said state Republicans also plan to introduce a bill next year for a ballot measure that would amend the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. With a spotlight on New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary, she said, a ballot fight in 2012 could help motivate a stronger conservative turnout.

Maryland: Marriage equality bills were introduced into both the Senate and House in the past week. Democrats have a majority in both chambers. Gov. Martin O’Malley, also a Democrat, has said he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk. Cosponsor Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, said in a press briefing Jan.y 21 that he expects a fight on the Senate floor and will need 29 votes out of 47 to break a filibuster. An up-or-down vote on the bill, after the filibuster is broken, will require 24 votes. Democrats have a 35 to 12 majority in the Senate. A public hearing on the Senate bill is scheduled for Feb. 8.

Hawaii: The full Senate on Jan. 28 passed a bill to legalize civil unions for same- and opposite-sex couples. It now heads to the House, where it is expected to pass. Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, has said he will sign it.

Illinois: Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, signed a civil union bill Jan. 31 giving same- and opposite-sex couples many of the same rights as married ones.

Iowa: The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill Jan. 24 that would allow voters to decide on a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex couples from marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships. In the Senate, however, Sen. Kent Sorenson, R-Indianola, attempted to bypass Senate rules and bring to the floor a vote on the Senate version of the bill. Democrats, who hold a 26-24 majority, voted down the attempt.

New Mexico: Three bills were introduced in the House and one in the Senate that would variously put before voters a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and ban New Mexico from recognizing such marriages enacted outside the state.

Wyoming: The House passed a measure Jan.y 25 to prevent the state from recognizing same-sex marriages contracted elsewhere. The next day, the state Senate passed a bill that would allow voters to decide whether to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. A civil union bill introduced by openly gay State Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, failed by one vote to make it out of committee Jan. 28.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Marriage amendment introduced in Iowa

The Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in a unanimous ruling in 2009. Now, state legislators are seeking to overturn that decision by putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would ban not only same-sex marriage, but also civil unions, domestic partnerships and any legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples. The Iowa Independent reports that 56 of the 60 Republicans in the Iowa House — where the GOP has a 60-40 majority — have signed on as co-sponsors. However, Democrats still have a majority in the Iowa Senate, and Majority Leader Mike Gronstal has vowed to block the amendment.

The statewide LGBT group One Iowa reports:

DES MOINES – An amendment that seeks to exclude gay couples from marriage was introduced in the Iowa Statehouse today. The bill (House Joint Resolution 6) seeks to amend the Iowa Constitution to exclude gay and lesbian couples from the freedom to marry. If passed through the legislature in two consecutive General Assemblies, the issue could be on the ballot as soon as 2013.

“Amending the Iowa Constitution to exclude gay couples will harm thousands of Iowa families,” said One Iowa Executive Director Carolyn Jenison. “Marriage says ‘we’re a family’ like nothing else and is an important way we care for those we love. Writing discrimination into the Constitution will only divide us at a time when we need to work together to tackle common concerns. Iowans expect their elected officials to focus on issues that matter to everyone, like creating jobs, providing educational opportunities, and improving healthcare. Going backward on equal rights sends the wrong message.”

HJR6 goes beyond marriage, and would ban civil unions, domestic partnerships, and any other legal recognition of same-sex couples.

“This bill intends to forever strip basic protections from loving and committed gay couples,” Jenison said.  “It goes against Iowa’s cherished tradition of protecting equal rights for all.  Now is the time for Iowans to come together and send a clear message to their legislators that discrimination has no place in Iowa’s Constitution. Our legislators should continue to uphold Iowa’s long-held value of equal rights for all.”

—  John Wright

Poll: U.S. divided in thirds on gay marriage

When it comes to same-sex marriage, the nation is divided roughly into thirds, according to a new poll from Daily Kos.

Thirty-four percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, 31 percent favor civil unions and 31 percent are opposed to any legal recognition for gay couples, the poll showed.

The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 percent, and Daily Kos says it will be asking the question every four weeks.

Not surprisingly, younger people and Democrats were more likely to support marriage equality, while Republicans, Teabaggers and older people were more likely to oppose it:

But there are some surprises in this poll, if one believed the claims that African Americans and Latinos are less tolerant than whites. In fact, this poll suggests the exact opposite. Of course, the sample sizes for both those demographics is small, so these numbers could just be a function of a large margin of error. It’ll be interesting to track them over time to see if they hold up as the number of Latino and African American respondents add up over time.

—  John Wright

Some radical ideas about the DADT ruling

This week, a federal court judge issued an extreme ruling regarding “don’t ask don’t tell”: An injunction, forbidding the U.S. military from enforcing the policy worldwide. As part of the ruling, she gave the government up to 60 days to appeal. Attorneys for the Log Cabin Republicans, which brought the lawsuit, have counseled caution, discouraging servicemembers from coming out.

Now, it’s been a long while since I practiced law actively, but I have some ideas radical ideas about how those in the military should approach this ruling.

COME OUT NOW. I know the LCR doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but here’s the thing: It is, for now, the law. Just like years ago, when San Francisco and New Paltz, N.Y., declared they would recognize same-sex marriages and performed dozens of them, the act itself has repercussions. The courts had to decide the legality, but in the interim, who could say they were not legal?

Relatedly, everyone who got married in California after same-sex marriage was allowed but before Prop 8 was passed were deemed to be legally and forever married. Those unions were not negatively affected from legal recognition by Prop 8. I would argue that anyone who does come out in reliance on a federal ruling cannot later be discharged, anymore than someone who drives 30 mph can be given a ticket a year retroactively later when they change the speed to 25.

It also provides the Obama administration with political cover. Obama claims to want to discontinue DADT, but is relying, disgustingly, on some bullshit “study” before acting. (The details of that study offend me to the core, as it will evaluate such things as whether gay troops should be given “separate living facilities” or whether the other servicemembers will be “OK with it.” Since when did the military care what grunts think, or act like a democracy? What if a soldier is gay but doesn’t want to come out — should he be forced to so he can be segregated in the pink barracks? It’s really very easy: The ruling should be “gay troops are no different than any others; effectively immediately, they are treated identically.” So if they wouldn’t do something for single gays or gay couples they do for straight singles or couples, don’t do it.) But Obama does not have to appeal the ruling; he shouldn’t. Let the courts decide it for him. Continue on with the legislative agenda just in case, but don’t appeal the ruling.

HOLD OBAMA TO HIS PROMISES. I mean this in the most threatening way possible. If the Obama administration does appeal the ruling, I personally will do everything in my power to throw my support to someone else. If a black man who is president cannot stand up for minorities and keep the promises he made the gay community as a candidate, he does not deserve my financial support. Or my vote. This is a test, Brarack: If you fail it, do not expect to get extra credit from me.

I know there are many out there who’ll say, “you’d prefer a Republican over a Democrat in the White House?” No. But I know this: If my rights are trod by someone who doesn’t have the political will to respect me, I don’t care what political party he or she is a member of. Keep in mind: DADT and DOMA were signed by Clinton; the first sitting president to express any support for civil unions for gays was W. (Granted, W did it in the context of opposing marriage, but Clinton never came out in favor of it, and even counseled John Kerry in 2004 to come out against civil unions! “The gays will forgive you and it might help you win,” he supposedly said. Shameful.)

We are at the brink of huge changes in the law and recognition for gay rights at a level I could not have conceived when I was a college student. This is no time to back down. This is the time to fight. Bloody some noses. Shame people into acknowledging their own bigotry. Because I assure you, in 50 years, public high school students will look back on how the current culture treated gays with the same puzzled disgust that we look on Jim Crow laws. Orville Faubus and George Wallace were probably more popular in public opinion polls in their day than Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. And how many streets have you seen named after Faubus and Wallace?

This is the time to create our heroes, our Rosa Parkses. Don’t shy away, guys. Don’t go to the back of the bus. Come out and say “In accordance with a federal order, I am saying I am gay. What are you gonna do about it?” Because right now, they can’t. And even if they can down the road, they will appear vindictive to discharge those with the courage to come out later.

Obama pledged change we can believe in. We’re ready for the change, Mr. President. Keep your word.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Marriage battle continues in Latin America, with more wins for our side

The Mexico Supreme Court ruled last week that a Mexico City law, passed by legislators there earlier this year, is constitutional. The ruling came in a challenge to the new law pressed mainy by the country’s Roman Catholic religious leaders.

In another victory for LGBT civil rights, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled yesterday (Tuesday) that same-sex marriages performed legally in Mexico City must be legally recognized throughout the country, even though other Mexican states have not legalized gay marriage.

Mexico’s Supreme Court was expected to rule Thursday on an appeal of another law — passed by the Mexico City Legislature the same day that lawmakers legalized gay marriage there — that gives same-sex couples the right to adopt.

And today comes word that the Supreme Court of Costa Rica has ruled that a referendum that had been set to go to voters on Dec. 5 and that would have banned legal recognition of same-sex civil unions is unconstitutional.

“Minority rights that are derived from claims against the majority cannot be subject to a referendum process where majorities are needed,” the court said in a statement, according to Inquirer.net.

The referendum, again pushed by the Catholic Church, had come in response to draft legislation, introduced in 2008, that would give Costa Rican gays and lesbians access to legal civil unions that would carry some of the legal rights of marriage, including inheritance, health benefits and the right to hospital visitation in the event of injury or illness. The legislation has been stalled since it was introduced.

—  admin