Marriage bills to be debated in Wash. state

Public hearings on House, Senate measures set for Monday

gregoire.chris

BACKING EQUALITY | Gov. Chris Gregoire speaks at a news conference where she said that she wants Washington to become the seventh state in the nation to make same-sex marriage legal, on Jan. 4 in Olympia. (Associated Press)

FROM STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A bill to legalize same-sex marriage has been filed in the Washington House as a companion bill to the measure filed last week in the Senate.

The House bill, requested by Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire, is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jamie Pedersen, of Seattle.

The House version of the legislation, which was filed late last week and officially introduced Tuesday, Jan. 17 has 49 Democrats signing on in support and one Republican.

Democrats hold a 56-43 majority in the House, and the gay marriage measure already has enough support to pass that chamber.

The Senate is still short of the 25 votes needed for passage there. Sen. Ed Murray is the sponsor of the Senate bill, and 22 other senators, including two Republicans, have signed on in support.

Both the House and Senate will have public hearings on the bills on Monday, Jan. 23.

Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, said in a statement on Friday, Jan. 13 that the House bill represented “the next step towards making the promise of equality a reality in Washington State.”

“The introduction of this bill not only recognizes the value that lesbian and gay families in Washington make to our united community, but also upholds the longstanding tradition of the separation of church and state in this country,” Silk said. “Marriage is about dignity, commitment, love and respect — it is the ultimate expression of a pro-family society. The foundation of marriage helps us build stable families, and now is the time to recognize the importance of treating all families in Washington State equally.”

Washington state has had a domestic partnership law since 2007. An “everything but marriage” bill was passed in 2009, greatly expanding that law. Opponents later challenged it at the ballot box, but voters upheld the law. Nearly 19,000 people in Washington are registered as domestic partners.

Under the bills being considered by the Legislature, people currently registered in domestic partnerships would have two years to either dissolve their relationship or get married. Domestic partnerships that aren’t ended prior to June 30, 2014, would automatically become marriages.

Domestic partnerships would remain for senior couples in which at least one partner is 62 years old or older. That provision was included by lawmakers in 2007 to help seniors who don’t remarry out of fear they could lose certain pension or Social Security benefits.

At this time, six states plus the District of Columbia recognize marriage for same-sex couples under state law: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.      Nine states — California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington — provide same-sex couples with access to the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships. Same-sex couples do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state.

The anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has pledged $250,000 to work against Republicans who vote for a proposed gay marriage law in Washington state.

“It’s fairly incredible that some legislators would try to legalize homosexual marriage so soon after giving same-sex couples all the rights and privileges of marriage through domestic partnerships,” said NOM President Brian Brown in a statement. “This effort proves that the question is not one of rights but preserving marriage as a child-focused institution that has served families since the dawn of time.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

U.S. Supreme Court: Religious groups exempt from employment discrimination laws

U.S. Supreme Court Building

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, Jan. 11, issued a ruling exempting religious groups from nondiscrimination in hiring laws when it comes to ministers and those who teach religious subjects, according to this report in The New York Times.

“The interest of society in the enforcement of employment discrimination statutes is undoubtedly important,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote. “But so, too, is the interest of religious groups in choosing who will preach their beliefs, teach their faith and carry out their mission.”

The ruling came in the case Hosanna-Tabor Church v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in which former teacher Cheryl Perich claimed she was fired from her job at a Lutheran School in Redford, Mich., because she pursued a discrimination complaint based on a disability (Perich suffers from narcolepsy).

School officials said Perich — who was called a teacher that had completed religious training and who taught mostly secular classes but did also teach a religion class and attend chapel with her class — was fired because she violated church doctrine by pursuing litigation rather than trying to resolve the dispute within the church.

The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said he fears the court’s decision this week will make it harder to combat the “social evil” of “blatant discrimination,” and suggested the ruling could prevent pastors who are sexually harassed from filing suit against their harassers.

But Bishop William E. Lori, chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops‘ ad hoc committee for religious liberty, told the Times the ruling was “a great day for the First Amendment.” The Catholic Church has in some cases shut down programs to avoid having to abide by state and federal nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBT people, including the decision in December by bishops in Illinois to close most of their church’s adoption and foster care services rather than allow same-sex couples to adopt or foster children, as per new state requirements for agencies that receive state funds. Catholic Church officials in Washington, D.C., and Massachussets had made similar decisions previously.

Although this particular case had nothing at all to do with issues of sexual orientation or gender identity, it’s not hard to imagine how easily it can be used against the LGBT community. As Florida Courier columnist Charles W. Cherry II writes: “Can predominately white churches and religious schools now fire black ‘ministers’ (who are also teachers) because of their race and be legally protected from a race discrimination lawsuit? Sounds like it to me — and the court ruled unanimously. Could this case be interpreted to mean that black churches can now legally fire effeminate (or openly gay) ‘ministers’ of music without worrying about a lawsuit in places where sexual orientation is legally protected?”

—  admin

The Dallas response to ‘The Response’

Protesters gather outside Dallas City Hall on Saturday during Rick Perry’s day of prayer in Houston.

About 25 people gathered at Dallas City Hall on Saturday to protest Gov. Rick Perry’s “The Response,” the day of prayer and fasting that was under way in Houston at the same time.

Transgender activists Pamela Curry and Kelli Ann Busey were among the protesters in Dallas, while others were from church groups or were individuals who said they believe in separation of church and state.

Among those at Dallas City Hall was Transforming Words, a Bible study group from Garland that represented several churches. “We’re here to love on ‘em and give ‘em some water,” a representative from Transforming Words said. The representative said the group didn’t necessarily support the protest but, “the AFA said some really horrible things.” He said the group particularly disliked some of the statements from AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer.

A few of the protest signs referred to anti-gay hate messages of the AFA, such as “The AFA=Anti-Gay” using the Human Rights Campaign equal sign logo, and “The AFA is anti gay. Fed up. Fight to save America from hate groups. No H8 in TX. Represent all Texans.”

Most of the signs, however, referred to separation of church and state or were specifically anti-Perry: “Blatant exclusion has no place in political office,” “Political office is not your pulpit” “Rick Perry for ex-governor” were among the messages.

Using the Bible to fight religious bigotry, one sign read, “Jesus opposes prayer rallies Matthew 6:5-14 NIV,” referring to the passage that translates as, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.”

—  David Taffet

Gov. Rick Perry issues proclamation calling for ‘Days of Prayer for Rain in Texas’

HARDY HABERMAN  |  Dungeon Diary

It’s been awfully dry in Texas and the wildfires are spreading big-time. What we need is help to fight the fires and more importantly, RAIN. Now I am a religious guy, even though some of my readers might not believe it, however I am not a big believer in intercessory prayer.

Not so our governor. He has issued an official state proclamation stating in part, “it seems right and fitting that the people of Texas should join together in prayer to humbly seek an end to this devastating drought and these dangerous wildfires.”

Though I applaud his sentiment, the idea of a state proclamation urging prayer really treads heavily on the line between separation of church and state. More importantly, instead of asking people to just pray, why not ask them to volunteer to fight the fires? Actions speak louder than words, Gov. Perry.

—  admin

Baptists from Venus (Texas) crash LGBT tax day demonstration outside Dallas Main Post Office

Last-minute tax filers encountered two opposing groups while driving toward the Main Dallas Post Office on Monday: about a dozen queer activists protesting anti-gay tax laws, and an equal number of Kingdom Baptist Church members protesting the queer protesters.

The gay group’s hand-painted posterboards read, “Equal Taxes, Equal Rights,” “Love Knows No Gender,” and “With Liberty and Justice For ALL.”

Kingdom Baptist’s professionally printed signs read, “REPENT ABORTION AND MURDER,” “TURN OR BURN” and  “GAY IS NOT OK.” Over bullhorns the church members yelled ceaselessly about sin and sodomy while the gay folks occasionally shouted back about a loving God and the separation of church and state.

As it currently stands, federal law makes it illegal to lie on tax forms. But the Defense of Marriage Act requires legally married same-sex couples to file as two separate single individuals, which is, well, a lie. A recent campaign called “Refuse to Lie” urged wedded gays to file as married couples. Married gay couples pay higher taxes for filing separately and risk a potential IRS audit if they try to file as a married couple.

According to protest organizer Daniel Cates, “Today in America [marriage] brings with it 1,138 rights on a state and federal level. That’s what we’re after. We’re not asking [for people] to change what they believe religiously or to even to endorse our marriages in their churches. But we are asking for equality under the law.” The gay protesters want to reform the tax law through a DOMA repeal and full LGBT equality nationwide.

—  admin

From the files of emails I never sent

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I get lots of pitches sent my way. The most frequent, probably, are requests for book reviews. We can’t review everything of interest to the gay community anyway, so I am especially skeptical of ones that waste my time. This may have wasted it more than most:

While many are fighting for the separation of church and state, one man believes that secular humanism is the cause of the unraveling moral fabric of America. In his new book The Pagans Are Revolting, S. D. Lake advances the argument that secular beliefs and practices are eroding the fabric of American moral life and, in turn, destroying the nation itself. Can I send you a copy of The Pagans are Revolting?

I wrote a response, but for good or bad, I didn’t send it immediately. Not sure if I should. Here’s what I wrote:

As a pagan myself, what I find revolting is anyone who declares himself an expert on the moral fabric of anything other than himself. Church and state united creates a theocracy like in many right wing totalitarian regime. Tell your client to sell his brand of crazy to the ignorant masses. People who think for themselves don’t need his misinformed bullshit. So, to answer your question, that’s a no.

Whadaya think? Worth hitting send? Or a further waste of my time and the universe’s electrons?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Goal!!!!! Argentina legalizes same-sex marriage

You can finally stay in a country in the New World, get married to your same-sex partner and not learn to ice skate. Yes, Mexico City approved it, but it’s not national law there, just like it’s not here; you had to go to Canada to stay in the West and be legally gay.

Of course, you have to go south of the border. Really far south, too.

Early this morning, the senate in Argentina voted to approved a gay marriage bill which had already passed the lower house. All that’s left is for the president to sign the bill, which seems certain.

Of course, there have been protests, mostly organized by the Catholic Church in Argentina. But see, there’s this thing, called separation of church and state. Maybe the Mormons in the U.S. need to read about it. After all, Argentina is a Catholic nation; so is Spain. And they have same-sex marriage despite protests. It’s called governing. It’s called fairness. It’s what the U.S. is supposed to be about.

Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry issued this statement:

“Today’s historic vote shows how far Catholic Argentina has come, from dictatorship to true democratic values, and how far the freedom to marry movement has come as twelve countries on four continents now embrace marriage equality. Argentina’s vote for the freedom to marry marks an important advance for fairness and family values as more couples around the world will now share in marriage, with families helped and no one hurt. Today’s vote adds momentum to the international movement to secure the freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples. Key to Argentina’s human rights achievement was strong leadership from legislators and the president. It is time we see more of our own elected officials standing up for the Constitution and all families here in the United States. America should lead, not lag, when it comes to treating everyone equally under the law.”

It’s a little late to lead, guys. But if we must follow, let’s hope our politicians don’t follow too far behind.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones