Marriages to begin Thursday in Minn., R.I.; Colorado grants 1st gay divorce

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Gay Rhode Island state Rep. Frank Ferri will marry Thursday.

In Minnesota and Rhode Island, same-sex couples can begin to marry at midnight tonight. Meanwhile, Colorado granted its first same-sex divorce.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Minnesota marriage equality bill into law on May 14. Courthouses in Minneapolis, St. Paul and other large cities will be open at midnight tonight to accommodate couples who want to be among the first to take advantage of the new law.

Minneapolis Mayor Ron Stein plans to marry about 40 couples on the first day of marriage equality.

Betty Crocker, based in Minnesota, is donating wedding cakes for the first day of wedding celebrations.

The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., the largest shopping mall in the U.S., will host a wedding on Aug. 1 in its Chapel of Love.

Rhode Island already had civil unions and recognized marriages performed elsewhere. When the civil union bill passed, it satisfied no one. Opponents of the bill wanted no relationship recognition and marriage-equality proponents saw no purpose in getting a civil union when all surrounding states offered marriage.

Now, couples may go to city or town clerks to turn their civil unions into marriages. Other couples are expected to marry beginning Thursday morning.

Rhode Island state Rep. Frank Ferri is planning to marry his partner Tony Caparco. They were married in Canada in 2006, but will remarry on Thursday. House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is also gay, will preside, according to the local NBC affiliate.

Also this week, Colorado granted its first same-sex divorce. Earlier this year, the state passed civil unions. Although same-sex couples can’t marry in Colorado, they can now dissolve marriages from other states.

—  David Taffet

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

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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

NY marriage a success; RI civil unions not so much

Speaker of Rhode Island House of Representatives Gordon D. Fox

In Dallas and cities across Texas, marriage equality marches and demonstrations will be held this weekend. The Dallas march takes place at 4:30 p.m. at Founder’s Square outside the County Records Building in Downtown Dallas.

This year one state — New York — has legalized same-sex marriage and two — Rhode Island and Illinois — have legalized civil unions.

Marriage in New York has been a success. Since the law began effective in July, one in five marriages — 20 percent — have been gay or lesbian couples.

The civil union laws? Not so much. In Illinois, 1,600 couples have taken advantage of civil unions since it went into effect on June 1. In Rhode Island, just 14 couples.

A number of reasons for the lack of enthusiasm for civil unions in Rhode Island include the proximity to states with full marriage and disappointment that the openly gay Speaker of the state House of Representatives, Gordon Fox, couldn’t deliver marriage equality.

Nowhere in the state is anyone more than 20 miles from either Connecticut or Massachusetts, both marriage equality states. And Vermont, New Hampshire and New York are short drives. So why settle for second class?

Even given Rhode Island’s small population, the rate is 10 times lower than other states that began offering civil unions. And the Illinois law does not have the number of exemptions where the civil unions can be disregarded as the Rhode Island law.

The Rhode Island law puts those who married elsewhere into the same position as Texans who marry elsewhere. The civil union law prohibits divorce. So while the state won’t recognize their marriages, it insists that couples who split remain married.

—  David Taffet

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

Neither side happy with civil unions in R.I.

Karen Loewy

While Equality Delaware called the signing of Delaware’s new civil union bill on Wednesday historic, activists in Rhode Island said a civil union compromise would make gays and lesbians second-class citizens in that state.

According to the Providence Journal, opponents and proponents of same-sex marriage were united in their opposition to a civil union bill for Rhode Island.

Supporters of a marriage equality bill are frustrated. Rhode Island is the only New England state that hasn’t passed a marriage bill (although Maine’s was repealed). Speaker of the House Gordon D. Fox is gay and in November voters elected David Ciccilline, former mayor of Providence, as the fourth openly gay member of Congress. And the state already recognizes marriages performed elsewhere.

Karen Loewy, a Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders attorney, said, “Nothing short of marriage is equality for Rhode Island’s gay and lesbian citizens and their children. By citing DOMA, Speaker Fox lets the federal government set the standard for discrimination and sells out the gay community for the sake of political expediency. DOMA’s days are numbered as it comes under increasing legal and political attack.”

With civil unions, if the federal Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex couples in Rhode Island would continue to be treated as second-class citizens federally, Loewy said.

Since same-sex marriages from out of state are recognized in Rhode Island, and because the state is so small, anyone in Rhode Island can drive less than 20 miles to a state where same-sex marriage is legal.

Delaware became the fourth state with civil unions  — in addition to Illinois, Hawaii and New Jersey. Four — California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington — have domestic partnerships.

Smaller packages of protections have passed in Maryland, Maine, Colorado and Wisconsin.

Five states — Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire plus the District of Columbia — have marriage equality.

—  David Taffet

Rhode Island House to debate same-sex marriage

Gordon D. Fox

The speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, Gordon D. Fox, he is doing everything he can to move a marriage equality bill forward, according to the Providence Journal. Fox is openly gay.

Rhode Island’s new governor, Lincoln Chaffee, is an independent. He replaced a Republican governor who did not support a same-sex marriage bill. Chaffee supports passage of marriage equality in the state.

Currently, Rhode Island recognizes marriage performed elsewhere but does not issue licenses to same-sex couples.

Fox said there is strong support for the bill in the House but passage in the Senate was not certain.

The bill would recognize “civil marriage” between persons of the same sex.

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Gay couple burned out of home; trans discrimination study; marriage updates

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A gay couple in Clayton, N.C., was burned out of their home (above) in a possible hate crime on Friday after suffering anti-gay harassment repeatedly over the last year. A neighbor says the couple had their tires slashed, had a gay slur written on their home in marker and received a note with a gay slur in their mailbox telling them to move. Police, however, still aren’t convinced it was a hate crime. Watch a video report here.

2. The largest study ever on discrimination against transgender people showed that 41 percent have attempted suicide, compared to 1.6 percent of the general population. The study, by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, also showed that trans people are four times more likely to live in extreme poverty, and that 26 percent said they’d lost a job because of their gender identity/expression. Read more here, or download the full study here.

3. Same-sex marriage updates from Maryland, Rhode Island and Indiana.

—  John Wright

The Nooner: Leppert unlikely to run; 1st gay museum opens; R.I. marriage fight heats up

Mayor Tom Leppert appears in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade in 2007.

Your lunchtime quickie from Instant Tea:

• It’s “all but certain” that Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert won’t seek re-election, according to The Dallas Morning News, and Councilwoman Angela Hunt says she’s considering a run.

• Westboro Baptist Church says it has decided not to picket 9-year-old Tucson shooting victim’s funeral after all, but it will picket that of federal judge killed in attack.

• First LGBT history museum opens in San Francisco.

• Marriage fight heats up in Rhode Island.

• Jewish groups condemn Sarah Palin‘s use of “blood libel.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Chick-fil-A update; Anti-gay lawmakers to have majority in U.S. House

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. After reports surfaced Tuesday that Chick-Fil-A planned to sponsor two conferences hosted by a rabidly anti-gay group in Pennsylvania, the company’s name was abruptly removed from a website promoting the events. Chick-Fil-A also said this on Twitter: “For those seeing reports of a CFA sponsorship w/ the Penn Family Inst, we are looking into the issue and will provide a response ASAP.” Of course, this isn’t the first time Chick-Fil-A has backed an anti-gay group, but the good news is the company still treats us slightly better than chickens.

2. Republicans will take over the U.S. House when it convenes at noon Eastern time today, and the Human Rights Campaign says anti-gay lawmakers will also now have a majority in the chamber. According to a report released by HRC this morning (screen grab above), anti-LGBT lawmakers now hold 225 seats, a gain of 53 from the last Congress. (Read more here.) On the bright side, the House will gain its fourth openly gay member — David Cicilline of Rhode Island.

3. Speaking of Rhode Island, the new governor there, Lincoln Chafee, is calling for marriage equality.

—  John Wright

Cicilline becomes 4th gay member of Congress

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund is reporting that Providence Mayor David Cicilline has won his race for Congress in Rhode Island.

“Mayor Cicilline will be a strong advocate for all Rhode Islanders, but he will also be an authentic voice for the millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans who long for the day when we will be treated equally under law,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund. “We are enormously proud of him and grateful to Rhode Island voters.”

Cicilline will join openly gay Reps. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Jared Polis of Colorado, all Democrats.

—  John Wright