Marriage equality arrives in France, inches closer in Delaware, Rhode Island

Hollande.Francois

President Francois Hollande

France became the third country this month to legalize same-sex marriage when a bill passed the National Assembly today. Meanwhile, two more states in the U.S. are moving closer to marriage equality as well.

France became the 14th country with marriage equality when a bill passed the National Assembly following weeks of violent demonstrations and attacks on gay couples by conservatives. Civil unions have been legal in France since 1999.

President Francois Hollande said he will sign the bill and marriages should begin in June. He campaigned on a marriage-equality pledge and the issue didn’t become controversial until after he came into office.

Last week, New Zealand legalized same-sex marriage. Earlier in April, Uruguay did the same.

In the U.S., a marriage equality bill passed the House Administration Committee in Delaware and now moves to the House floor. The House is scheduled to vote on the bill today.

Delaware already has civil unions and a state law, but not a constitutional amendment, prohibiting same-sex marriage. The bill would repeal the law and upgrade civil unions to equal marriages.

Gov. Jack Markell has said he would sign the bill into law, according to Equality Delaware.

Rhode Island has been debating marriage equality ever since it passed a civil union law that is unpopular with both sides.

For the first time, an entire party delegation is supporting marriage equality. All Republican members of the Rhode Island Senate will vote for the marriage equality bill, according to the Associated Press.

The latest versions of the bill include more protections for religious organizations but fewer protections for businesses that want to discriminate against same-sex couples marrying, according to the Providence Journal.

Finally, Nevada’s legislature is debating repeal of its constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. During the debate, Sen. Kelvin Atkinson came out as the second gay member of the Senate. USA Today reports that if the bill passes this year, it must be voted on again by the legislature in 2015. Then it goes to the voters the following year.

Same-sex marriage bills have also been introduced this year in Illinois and Minnesota.

—  David Taffet

Nevada gay households up by 87 percent

CRISTINA SILVA  |  Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — The number of same-sex couples sharing a home in Nevada nearly doubled from 2000 to 2010, revealing a budding constituency in a state where voters have banned gay marriage, but embraced domestic partnerships.

Nearly 4,600 homes in Nevada were headed by lesbian couples at the end of the last decade, according to Census data released last week, while 4,724 households were headed by two male partners. The data shows that the number of gay and lesbian households in Nevada jumped 87 percent during the last decade, and about a quarter of those couples are raising children. Lesbian couples were more likely than the male couples to have children at home.

In all, Nevada had more than 9,000 households led by same-sex couples in 2010, up from fewer than 5,000 such households counted in 2000.

To be sure, same-sex couples living together remained a minuscule population among Nevada’s more than a million households. But their swelling ranks reflect Nevada’s increasingly gay friendly stance less than a decade after 67 percent of the state’s voters defined marriage as “between a male and female person.”

“Folks who are LGBT may not have been excited (before) to move here from, say California, where they enjoy a lot of legal protections,” said Michael Ginsburg, southern Nevada director for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. “Now that Nevada is catching up, that may not be a factor for people anymore.”

It’s also possible some of the new same-sex households reflect an increased willingness among gay couples to come out to the government, rather than actual growth. The Census doesn’t capture the overall gay population in Nevada, because it doesn’t allow single people to identify their sexual orientation.

Gay activists insist Nevada is home to many more gay couples who cohabitate, and that the 2010 Census numbers only reflect people who were comfortable identifying themselves as gay to Census takers.

“Are there even more? Absolutely,” said Candice Nichols, executive director for The Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada. “I don’t think it’s a clear cut view of how many same sex households there are actually are in Nevada. People don’t identify for various reasons, it just depends on their own comfort levels.”

Ginsburg said he couldn’t recall if he or his live-in partner had confirmed that they were a couple to the Census. He wondered if gay couples were not coming out to the federal government because the survey does not allow unmarried participants to identify themselves by specific terms, such as transgender or domestic partners. The questionnaire asks homeowners to identify the people sharing their roof under specific familiar categories, such as child, parent or spouse. Couples who live together but are not married may only self-identify themselves as an unmarried partner.

“You could look at those Census numbers and say, ‘Wow, there are no gay people in this state,’ which is laughable,” Ginsburg said.

The Las Vegas Valley, where most of the state’s 2.6 million people live, is home to the majority of Nevada’s same-sex households.

As with many states, Nevada has become more gay friendly in recent years, passing local and state laws recognizing the rights of domestic partners. The state Legislature passed a law recognizing domestic partners in 2009, but only after then Republican Gov Jim Gibbons vetoed it. State leaders went further this year, passing a series of laws that extended discrimination protections to transgender people and prohibited housing or employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Casino executives, the state’s business elite, have supported the pro-equality measures.

Still, overturning a gay marriage ban passed by Nevada voters in 2002 could take years because of the state’s complicated constitutional amendment process.

Nichols said marriage equality proponents in Nevada agree their best option is to wait for the federal government to recognize gay marriage.

“It’s going to be much easier for the states to say, ‘Wait a minute, the federal government finds this unconstitutional,”’ she said.

—  John Wright

NEVADA: Reid & Angle Still Tied

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

Anti-gay Tea Party candidate wins Nevada Republican primary, will face Harry Reid

Sharron Angle
Sharron Angle

Sharron Angle won the Republican primary for the Senate seat held by Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid. She has strong Tea Party backing.

In October 2009, she stated her support for a federal law to define marriage as between a man and a woman. But she would also like to intrude into private family life even deeper, saying that it’s wrong for both parents to hold jobs.

Among her other controversial positions, she favors making alcohol illegal. And yes, Las Vegas is the largest city in the state she wants to represent.

She has spoken out against fluoride as a communist plot.

While in the Nevada legislature, she sponsored legislation to require doctors to inform women that abortion causes breast cancer.

Her ideas for drug rehab for prisoners is based on ideas linked to the Church of Scientology.

How did Angle win? She beat Sue Lowden, who proposed people pay for doctors’ visits with a chicken.

—  David Taffet