Gov. Rick Perry links job creation, gay marriage

We’ve commented here repeatedly about how Texas Republicans — and most notably Gov. Rick Perry — have been largely avoiding LGBT issues so far this election cycle. But obviously Perry hasn’t completely forgotten about same-sex marriage, the issue he rode to re-election in 2006.

The Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey, who followed Perry during a day of campaigning last week, reports that the incumbent is still willing to gay-bait, only now he’s picking his spots — like barbecue restaurants in Temple. Or who knows, maybe Perry has just been saving it all for the stretch run.

In any case, Perry is also keeping his anti-gay rhetoric current, as he’s now linking same-sex marriage to job creation. We’ve bolded Perry’s quotation in this passage from the Tribune:

Social issues might be in the back seat, but they’re still in the car: “There is still a land of opportunity, friends — it’s called Texas,” Perry said. “We’re creating more jobs than any other state in the nation. … Would you rather live in a state like this, or in a state where a man can marry a man?”

So there you have it, folks. If you want to live in a state where a man can marry a man, you’ll have to sacrifice job creation. Never mind those studies showing the economic benefits of legalizing same-sex marriage. If you ask Perry, gays are probably to blame for the recession!

—  John Wright

1st foreign gay couple marries in Nepal — a new destination

BINAJ GURUBACHARYA  |  Associated Press

KATMANDU, Nepal — A Hindu priest performed the first wedding ceremony in Nepal for a foreign gay couple, a rights group said Wednesday, Aug. 18, as activists and tourist agencies increasingly promote the Himalayan nation as a gay-friendly destination.

The ceremony was held Tuesday night in Katmandu for Sanjay Shah, 42, a Briton from Leicester, and an Indian man who did not want to be identified, said Sunil Pant, a member of Nepal’s parliament and the nation’s most prominent gay activist.

Pant’s gay rights group, Blue Diamond Society, organized the ceremony and issued the pair a certificate for a $200 fee.

The two men were not legally married because Nepal has no laws legalizing same-sex marriage and does not marry foreigners. However, marriages performed by priests are generally accepted by society and most people who live in rural areas do not register their marriages with authorities.

Gay rights have improved dramatically in a country where just five years ago police were beating gays and transsexuals in the streets.

Now, in addition to having an openly gay parliamentarian, Nepal is issuing “third gender” identity cards and appears set to enshrine gay rights — and possibly even same-sex marriage — in a new constitution.

The charter, however, has been delayed because of bickering among political parties that have been unable to choose a new leader since Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned in June.

Tuesday’s private ceremony was attended by a small number of gay rights activists and members of Pant’s group. Pant said there have been a few same-sex wedding ceremonies among Nepalese people, but it was the first for a foreign gay couple.

The improvements in gay rights have become a major marketing opportunity in a country where tourism is a main driver of the economy. Government officials hope gay tourists will spend more money than the backpackers who now stay in cheap hotels and travel on shoestring budgets.

Pant’s group has established Pink Mountain tour company, which caters to gay tourists and promotes Nepal as a safe destination for them. It offers gay honeymooners trekking trips in the Himalayas and has proposed same-sex wedding ceremonies at the Mount Everest base camp.

—  John Wright

Dallasite creates local Marriage Equality group

Couple starts Dallas chapter of national group that promotes equality for same-sex couples

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

 Eric Crawford, right, and his fiance Marcus Watson
ENGAGED IN CHANGE | Eric Crawford, right, and his fiance Marcus Watson, pictured here in Central Park, first heard of Marriage Equality USA during a June trip to New York City.

Last week in California, federal District Judge Vaughn Walker issued a ruling striking down the state’s anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment, known as Proposition 8.

Earlier this year, legislators in Mexico City passed a law legalizing same-sex marriage, and last week the country’s Supreme Court issued a decision declaring the law constitutionally valid. Then this week, that same court ruled that same-sex marriages performed in Mexico City must be legally recognized throughout the country.

Portugal legalized same-sex marriage in May, and Argentina followed suit in July. And this week, Costa Rica’s Supreme Court ruled that an initiative on the ballot there for December, on whether to ban same-sex civil unions, is unconstitutional and cannot go forward.

The fight for marriage equality continues to advance around the globe.
But not in Texas.

It’s not that LGBT Texans aren’t trying. And Dallasite Eric Crawford said this week that he is joining the battle full force by starting a Dallas chapter of the national organization Marriage Equality USA.

“Right now, we are just having an organizational meeting,” Crawford said. But he has big plans for the future.

“We want to plan events throughout the year, things like maybe a Valentine’s Day dance in February and other things to focus attention on marriage equality,” he said. “There are a variety of efforts we could take on, letter-writing campaigns, attending events like the Prop 8 celebration here.

“I will get ideas from the people who participate, see what they are up for and how far they want to take it,” he added. “I know Marriage Equality USA needs funds to help fight the appeal on Prop 8 in California. Maybe we could help them raise the money they need.”

Crawford explained that he and his partner, Marcus Watson, first heard about the organization when they went to New York in June for the gay Pride celebration there.

Marriage was already on their minds since they got engaged the day before the left on the trip and are now planning a wedding for next July.

“We heard about Marriage Equality New York and what they are doing, and it really got me excited and engaged,” Crawford said. “So I started checking around in Dallas and I didn’t find any groups here specifically pertaining to marriage equality. Then I went online and found Marriage Equality USA.

“That’s when I really just got tired of being complacent and waiting on other people to do something, and I decided to start up a group here.”

His first step was to go to the MeetUp.com website and form a meet-up group for people in the Dallas area interested in promoting marriage equality to “gauge interest” in a marriage equality organization here. Crawford said he was surprised by the large number of straight allies who responded.

“I was really impressed by that,” he said. “It’s not just the gay community that cares about this.”

Although Dallas County has turned blue in recent elections, most of Texas remains decidedly red when it comes to political affiliations. And the Republican Party has, for the most part, stood firmly in opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage, especially in Texas where the state GOP platform even includes platforms calling for the return of sodomy laws and more.

But Crawford said he isn’t willing to concede the state to anti-gay forces.

“I think a lot of people in Texas have become complacent. They think, ‘Hey. It’s Texas. We can’t really do anything here to make a difference,’” he said.

“But the fact is, if it weren’t for two men from Houston who were willing to fight all the way to the Supreme Court, we’d still have sodomy laws on the books in this country. So that shows that change can get started in Texas, that we can accomplish things in Texas.

“And the first thing I think we need to do is make sure that our legislators in Austin know there is a huge group here in Texas that are for marriage equality. That is something we can do.”

The organizational meeting for Marriage Equality Dallas will be held Tuesday, Aug. 17, at 7:30 p.m. in the Park Room at Park Towers, 3310 Fairmont St. The meeting is open to all interested persons.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Will marriage equality spread in Latin America?

Palacio legislativo, Montevideo, Uruguay

Since Argentina legalized same-sex marriage, other countries in the region have taken notice, and some are beginning to take action. But the process is not without setbacks.

In Costa Rica, one of Latin America’s oldest and most stable democracies, a referendum on civil unions was scheduled for the December ballot. According to the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio, the Costa Rican Supreme Court has suspended the process.

One of the issues with the referendum is that putting civil and human rights up for a vote may be unconstitutional. The referendum had been called by El Observatorio por la Vida y la Familia, a group related to the Catholic church and Evangelical groups. By removing the referendum from the ballot, the Costa Rican Supreme Court may be moving LGBT rights forward.

Since the Argentine marriage law was signed, the Chilean government declared that same-sex marriages performed in Argentina are not valid in Chile. The Santiago newspaper reports that the country’s 2004 civil marriage law recognizes marriages performed abroad, but only if they are between a man and a woman:

“A marriage celebrated in a foreign country in accordance with the laws of that country, Chile will produce the same effect as if it is concluded in Chilean territory, provided question of the union between a man and a woman. “

In Chile, where a civil union bill is being considered, the president said civil unions wouldn’t be the equivalent of marriage, but many rights would be granted.

In Bolivia, Vice President Álvaro García Linera said legalizing same-sex marriage is not a priority for the government, according to the Bolivian newspaper La Jornada. Linera is single and shares the official residence with Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca and President Evo Morales, who are also single.

But in neighboring Uruguay the situation is different. Civil unions were approved in 2007 and became law in 2008. Since the Argentine law, Uruguay is considering upgrading to full marriage.

Paraguay has also begun discussing same-sex marriage since the law passed in Argentina. Vice President Federico Franco came out against the proposal. He gave as reasons that he is Catholic and that it’s inappropriate to legislate for a small group, according to Ultima Hora.

Civil unions were approved in the new Ecuadorian constitution in 2009. At the same time the country banned same-sex marriage.

Translation assistance by Miguel Flores.

—  David Taffet