Victory Fund candidates fare well in Tuesday’s primaries

Mike_Michaud

Rep. Mike Michaud

According to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, eight of nine endorsed candidates running in yesterday’s primaries won their election.

In Maine, five LGBT candidates will face challengers in November. Among them is U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, who is running for governor. Michaud has served in Congress since 2003 but only came out as gay in 2013. Another is Ryan Fecteau, 22. If elected to the state House of Representatives, Fecteau will become the youngest LGBT state lawmaker in the U.S.

Other wins include Kyle Thorson who secured the Democratic nomination for a North Dakota House seat and Andrew Martin who won the Democratic nomination for Nevada state controller.

—  David Taffet

Maine gubernatorial candidate: I’m gay, ‘but why should it matter?’

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud

WASHINGTON — A Maine gubernatorial candidate maneuvered around his opponents Monday by announcing he’s gay, road blocking what he calls their “whisper campaigns.”

Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat, came out in op-ed columns in the Portland Press and Bangor Daily News, USA Today reported. He said he was doing it to silence his opponents who were trying to turn his personal life into an issue.

“Allow me to save them the trouble with a simple, honest answer: Yes, I am. But why should it matter,” Michaud wrote. “That may seem like a big announcement to some people. For me, it’s just a part of who I am, as much as being a third-generation millworker or a lifelong Mainer. One thing I do know is that it has nothing to do with my ability to lead the state of Maine.

Michaud is 58 and single, and he becomes the seventh openly gay or bisexual member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., is the only out senator.

Michaud is considered the Democrats’ best hope for winning the governor’s race in 2014. He was first elected to the House in 2012.

—  Steve Ramos

Marriages in Maine to begin at midnight

Marriage begins in state No. 8 tomorrow. Several city and town halls in Maine are planning special hours to accommodate people planning to marry as soon as the marriage-equality law fully takes effect.

Two other states that voted for equality in November are Washington and Maryland. Marriages began in Washington earlier this month and will begin in Maryland on Tuesday, Jan. 1.

The Portland Press reported that Portland’s city hall will open at 12:01 a.m. and stay open until 3 a.m. to issue licenses and perform ceremonies. Officials said they can accommodate up to 100 couples. Doors open at 10 p.m. tonight.

In Maryland, one company is pulling a Baylor Health Care System and will no longer offer its services for weddings of any type. Discover Annapolis Tours said it would lose $50,000 a year when it stops its business rather than serve same-sex couples.

“If they’re providing services to the public, they can’t discriminate who they provide their services to,” said Glendora Hughes, general counsel for the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights.

Gay Weddings In Maine is a new website to help couples getting married in Maine. The site includes legal advice, practical information and more than 300 vendors happy to provide everything from flowers, limousines and catering halls to rehearsal dinner and honeymoon spots around the state.

—  David Taffet

When will same-sex marriages begin in Washington, Maryland, Maine?

On Election Day, three states approved same-sex marriage and one, Minnesota, defeated an anti-equality constitutional amendment. But marriages have not yet begun in the three states — Maine, Maryland and Washington — that voted for marriage equality.

Maryland’s new marriage law takes effect on Jan. 1, but according to state officials, it will be a few more days after the New Year before marriage licenses will be issued. According to the Washington Post, that’s because Jan. 1 is a holiday and Maryland has a 48-hour waiting period from the time licenses are issued.

In Maine, marriage will go into effect sometime between Dec. 6 and and Jan. 5. The initiative goes into effect 30 days after the governor makes a “public proclamation of the result of the vote,” within 10 days after the result has been determined.

Maine voters on Tuesday overturned a 2009 ballot initiative that blocked a marriage equality law passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor. Equality lost in 2009 by 47 to 53 percent. The overturn vote this year was 53 to 47 percent.

Because Washington’s elections are done by mail, results came slower, but marriage passed by roughly the same margin here that it passed by in Maine and Maryland. Washington’s procedure is for the ballot initiative to be certified on Dec. 5. Marriage is expected to begin in that state the next day.

The biggest prize this year may still be California. If the Supreme Court decides not to hear the Proposition 8 case at its next conference Nov. 20, the lower court’s ruling stands and marriage begins immediately or within weeks in that state. If the high court decides to hear the case, a ruling would probably not be issued until June.

Marriage opponent Brian Brown, president of National Organization for Marriage, said his group was outspent 4 to 1, which he blames for the first successful votes for equality. Polls show 53 percent of Americans support marriage equality.

—  David Taffet

Is NY the Stonewall of marriage equality?

Activists in other states look to capitalize on momentum

DANA RUDOLPH | Keen News Service

Hundreds of same-sex couples married in New York on Sunday, the first day they could legally do so. And just as the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969 gave a lift to the nascent movement for equal rights for gays across the country, marriage equality in the Empire State appears to be giving a boost to marriage equality efforts outside its borders.

Activists in at least two states (Maine and Colorado) are pushing for 2012 ballot measures to seek marriage equality there, a lawsuit has been launched in New Jersey for full marriage rights, and in Maryland, a Democratic governor is prepared to follow the example of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat, in leading the state legislature to marriage equality.

With the addition of New York, the percentage of same-sex couples living in states that allow them to marry has now more than doubled—from 6.9 percent to 14.3 percent, according to an analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey by the Williams Institute of UCLA.

And the percentage of the U.S. population living in a state that allows same-sex couples to marry has more than doubled, from 5.1 to 11.4 percent, according to Census 2010 and the Williams Institute.

“Having New York end marriage discrimination is a turning point for the country,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of the national Freedom to Marry group, in an essay on the group’s Web site June 27, three days after Cuomo signed a marriage equality bill into law. “The world watches New York, and, as New Yorkers say, if we can make it here, we’ll make it anywhere.”

Wolfson noted that passage of the bill in New York was the first time a legislative chamber with a Republican majority — the state Senate — had “voted to advance a bill to end marriage discrimination, and Republican senators provided the winning margin.” He called the bipartisan vote “a major shift in the national political calculus for both parties” that “points the way to more victories.”

The New York Legislature was also the first to pass a marriage bill without first passing civil unions or domestic partnerships, Wolfson said.

In New Jersey, which allows same-sex couples to enter civil unions, but not marriages, Steven Goldstein, the chair of the LGBT advocacy organization Garden State Equality, said in a statement June 24 that “the victory in New York, and its choice of marriage equality over civil union inequality, set the stage for our continuing fight for marriage for same-sex couples in New York’s sister state just a mile away.”

Four days after the New York bill became law, Garden State Equality and Lambda Legal, a national LGBT legal group, filed a lawsuit in a New Jersey Superior Court in Trenton on behalf of seven same-sex couples. They argue that the state’s existing civil union laws do not provide the couples with full equality—an equality the state Supreme Court said, in October 2006, is guaranteed by the state constitution.

Garden State Equality also held a rally on July 24, the first day of the New York marriages, at a New Jersey park closest to New York, with a view of the Manhattan skyline across the Hudson River.

In Maryland, where a marriage equality bill passed the state House but failed to pass the Senate in March, Gov. Martin O’Malley seems now to be following the example of Cuomo, saying he will take a more active role in pushing for marriage equality next session.

Cuomo, whom Freedom to Marry’s Wolfson called the “indispensable champion” of the New York bill, had worked closely with marriage equality advocates and sent the initial version of the marriage bill to the Legislature. He then met with legislative leaders to work out a final version of the bill that addressed some lawmakers’ concerns about additional protections for religious groups and the charities and educational institutions they operate.

Maryland’s O’Malley announced July 22 that he would sponsor marriage equality legislation in the 2012 legislative session. He tasked his director of legislative affairs, Joseph Bryce, with coordinating efforts among a broad coalition of LGBT, civil rights, and faith-based groups, as well as people across the state.

O’Malley said at a press conference that the law provides equal protection and the free exercise of religion to all, adding “Other states have found a way to protect both of these fundamental beliefs.”

And in Maine, the executive director of Equality Maine, Betsy Smith, said in a statement June 28 that the “victory in New York generates wind in the sails of the national movement to win marriage, and more specifically, of our efforts here in Maine.”

EqualityMaine and Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) announced June 30 that they are taking steps to place a citizen’s initiative on the November 2012 ballot, asking Maine voters to approve a law giving same-sex couples the right to marry. The move comes after a referendum in November 2009 overturned a marriage equality law passed by the legislature and signed by Governor John Baldacci (D) in May 2009.

Colorado may also see a question on its 2012 ballot to approve marriage equality. The state Title Board on July 20 approved language for such a question. Supporters of marriage equality must now collect 86,105 signatures in order to place it on the ballot.

Similar measures could also appear in California and Oregon.

An exception to the trend comes in Minnesota, where the legislature has approved a ballot question that seeks to ban marriage of same-sex couples under the state constitution. It is already banned under state law. The same could happen in North Carolina, where the legislature is considering bills for such a ballot measure.

Cuomo, in a press conference after he signed the marriage equality bill, called New York “a beacon for social justice,” noting that the movements for equally for women, for protection of workers, for preservation of the environment, and for equality of gays each have roots in New York.

“New York,” he said, “made a powerful statement, not just for the people of New York, but the people all across this nation.”

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Civil unions in Rhode Island; marriage in Maine; White House Pride reception

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Rhode Island Senate on Wednesday approved a civil unions bill that’s already passed the House, but LGBT groups are calling on Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee to veto the measure because they say its religious exemptions are too broad. For example, church-affiliated hospitals could deny same-sex partners visitation or decision-making, and religious employers could refuse family medical leave.

2. Two LGBT groups are set to announce this morning that they’re launching a citizens initiative to put marriage equality back on the ballot in Maine in 2012. Maine voters rejected same-sex marriage 53-47 percent in 2009 after the Legislature approved it, but new polls show a majority in the state support marriage equality.

3. Speaking at an LGBT Pride Month Reception at the White House on Wednesday, President Barack Obama said, “I’ve met my commitments to the LGBT community.” Obama also said he plans to certify DADT repeal “in a matter of weeks, not months.” Watch video of Obama’s full speech below, and read a recap of the event here.

—  John Wright

About Maine Gov. LePage’s Black “Son”

Over the weekend, newly-elected Tea Party-backed Maine Gov. Paul LePage called the NAACP a “special interest group” and told them to “kiss my butt” when they requested his presence at an event honoring Martin Luther King. LePage then offered up his black adopted son as proof that he isn’t a racist. Only, wait. That black “son” of his is actually the son of LePage’s golf caddy and was never adopted, although he did begin living with the LePage family in 2002. A spokesman for the governor said Raymond, now 25 and living in Louisiana, is not available for interviews.

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Braving the Cold in Maine for Repeal

It has been a long year for the Human Rights Campaign and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” My DADT year started in sunny southern Florida successfully working to secure the support of Senator Bill Nelson.  As my HRC colleagues worked in their DADT priority states, I worked my way through Virginia and finally to my last DADT state, Maine, where I joined two additional HRC staffers already on the ground. The HRC team has been all over the country this year for DADT, from as far west as Alaska, down south to Florida and Arkansas, and up to Massachusetts and Maine.

With the end of the 111th Congress just around the corner, I am doing everything in my power to help Mainers speak out one last time for repeal this year. We must make repeal a reality. With so much on the line, the Senate must act this year! We have worked so hard over the past 17 years and have come too close to DADT repeal to allow our window of opportunity to close. In order to make repeal a reality, HRC field staff in Maine are working around the clock to ensure their voices are heard. It is vital that Senators Snowe and Collins both understand that the majority of Mainers, like our military men and women and their families, are ready to repeal DADT now.

As we headed out to our afternoon Stop and Dial in Portland, we ran into two surfers on their way out to catch some afternoon waves in below freezing weather! Of course, we asked them to dial for repeal and got to snap a quick photo. As a native Californian, I could not believe they were heading out to surf in that weather; I am just happy we got them to dial first. Our afternoon was very productive and cold, logging over 50 calls into the offices of both Senators Collins and Snowe. Even though our fingers were frozen, we kept on dialing knowing our opportunity to repeal is at hand.

HRC is hosting nightly phonebanks and daily Stop and Dial events statewide to ensure Senators Snowe and Collins know where we stand.

If you are a family member of a veteran or active duty service member from Maine, please call the offices of Senators Snowe and Collins today by dialing the Capitol swithboard at  202-224-3121. Remind them how important it is to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year.

To get involved in our DADT efforts in Maine, please call David Turley at 202-330-3790 or email me at David.Turley@hrc.org Time is short. We need your help today.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

BREAKING: No Senate vote on DADT tonight

The Senate will not vote tonight on the Defense spending bill that includes a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” Majority Leader Harry Reid postponed the previously scheduled vote after Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins said she’s not ready to proceed on the bill. Collins is one of the key Republican votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Talking Points Memo reports:

Late this evening, per Collins’ request, Reid delayed a test vote he’d planned to hold tonight.

“Everyone on the Republican side wants to see the tax package completed first,” Collins said.

Collins reminded Reid that Republicans don’t want to debate anything until the tax issue is resolved. “I have urged the majority leader to postpone the vote…so that we could get the tax bill considered first — which I believe could be on the floor tomorrow — and completed by Saturday, and then move immediately to the DOD bill, but under a fair agreement.”

Though Reid has backpedaled somewhat, he still plans to hold a vote later this week. Collins warns that any test vote before the tax cut issue is resolved will fail, even if he agrees to her terms.

“If we’re in the same situation that we are now, I don’t see how I could vote for it. But I’m obviously going to think further. But frankly they won’t get to 60 votes even if I did vote for it. So why not take the path that would lead to 60 votes”

The Washington Blade reports that the vote could come at any time on Thursday:

Jim Manley, a Reid spokesperson, said the decision to hold off on the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill was made to allow for further discussions on the legislation.

“There’s a sense that we’re getting closer to working out an agreement,” Manley said. “Instead of having a vote tonight, we’ve temporarily postponed it until tomorrow as we try and see if we can reach an agreement.”

Pro-repeal groups are continuing to ask people to contact Senators and urge them to support repeal. To take action, go here.

—  John Wright

Mobilizing with Allies in Maine for DADT repeal

It’s been an incredibly busy week in Maine, with HRC staff on the ground working with our partners and allies across the state to make sure that Senators Collins and Snowe vote to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

In the spirit of sixties-era college student activism, HRC met this week with the University of Southern Maine’s student organization, the Queer Straight Alliance. Located in Gorham, Maine, students were more than eager to contact their Senators about repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I was pleased to meet such an enthusiastic and large group of students who are active on their campus and in their community. They all signed the petition and phoned their Senators. They wrote letters describing how discrimination is never okay and urged the repeal of this heinous, un-American law. In fact, as some of Americas’ brightest and most committed young activists, many signed up to volunteer for HRC’s collaborative phone banks, hosted in coordination with Organizing for America and Equality Maine.

Last night was our most successful phone bank yet in Portland.  With eleven volunteers we made over 400 calls, many of which resulted in constituents all over Maine leaving voicemails for Senators Snowe and Collins. And we successfully kept the ball rolling by garnering more volunteers for our next phone bank in Portland. Please join us this week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 5:30pm to 8:30pm at the Equality Maine headquarters; 550 Forest Avenue, Suite 101, Portland, ME 04101.

The Pentagon report is in, and its conclusions are unequivocal:  This discriminatory law has to go. Please join us in telling your Senators to do the right thing.

Even if you have already called, emailed or visited your Senators about repealing DADT, please do it again. We are so close to victory.  We are in a state of emergency now and we need all hands on deck.  Contact your friends, your family, and your neighbors and ask them to call their Senators and urge them to vote for repeal.  To call your Senators at (202) 224-3121 and urge your Senators to support the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” If you’d like to volunteer with us in Maine, please contact Jessica Osborn at Jessica.osborn@hrc.org.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin