Marriage bill clears Washington Senate

House vote expected as early as next week, but referendum looms

WAVES OF JOY | Openly gay Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, from left, and his partner Michael Shiosaka wave at spectators in the upper gallery after the Senate voted for a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage Wednesday evening, Feb. 1 in Olympia, Wash. (Associated Press)

LISA KEEN  |  Keen News Service

Washington State is well-poised to become the seventh state — and the second-largest — where same-sex marriage is legal.

The Washington State bill for marriage equality cleared a crucial hurdle Wednesday night, Feb. 1, passing the state Senate on a vote of 28-21 after senators first shot down an attempt to put the issue on the ballot in November — even though a public vote is still likely through a referendum. Four Republicans in the Senate voted in favor of the marriage equality bill, while three Democrats voted against it.

The bill now goes to the full House, where headcounts gives it a clear margin for victory. Washington United for Marriage, a coalition of groups working for passage of the legislation, said the vote in the House could come as early as next week.

“The overwhelming support we’re seeing from businesses, labor, faith communities and people all across the state is a testament to the momentum of this movement and sensibilities of Washingtonians,” Lacey All, chair of Washington United for Marriage, said in a statement shortly after Wednesday’s vote. “Volunteers from every part of the state have contributed thousands of hours of their time to make today possible, and we thank them for their commitment to this issue.”

The Senate dealt quickly Wednesday night with 11 amendments, most dealing with proposed religious exemptions. It adopted seven of the amendments but, on a 26-23 vote, rejected an attempt to put the issue before voters in November.

Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Olympia, who proposed the referendum, announced before the debate that he would vote in favor of the marriage equality bill. But during debate, he warned his colleagues that groups opposed to same-sex marriage are already preparing to gather signatures to force a referendum on the measure this November. Such opponents will likely have until early June to collect more than 120,000 signatures.

Sen. Edward Murray, an openly gay Democrat  from Seattle and a 15-year veteran of the Legislature, sponsored the bill. It calls for “ending discrimination in marriage based on gender and sexual orientation to ensure that all persons in this state may enjoy the freedom to marry on equal terms, while also respecting the religious freedom of clergy and religious institutions to determine for whom to perform marriage ceremonies and to determine which marriages to recognize for religious purposes.”

CHEERS AND TEARS | Members of the gallery look down and applaud as the Senate passes the bill. (Associated Press)

Murray said on the floor prior to the vote that those who voted against the bill, “are not, nor should they be accused of bigotry.”

“Those of us who support this legislation are not, and we should not be accused of, undermining family life or religious freedom,” Murray  added. “Marriage is how society says you are a family.”

Murray said he and his partner of more than 20 years — Michael Shiosaki — plan to marry and added that “regardless of how you vote on this bill, an invitation will be in the mail” to their wedding.

The religious protection language in the bill stipulates that “no official of a religious denomination or non-profit institution … may be required to solemnize any marriage in violation of his or her right to free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or by the Washington state Constitution.” It also enables religious institutions to bar use of their facilities to same-sex couples for marriage ceremonies.

Many of the amendments approved Wednesday night sought to add to the religious exemptions. One particularly ominous amendment sought to add that no state or local government can “base a decision” to do business with “any religious organization” based on the organization’s refusal to accommodate same-sex marriage ceremonies. That amendment failed.

The Senate also rejected, by 27-22, an attempt to enable individual judges, justices and commissioners to refuse to solemnize a same-sex ceremony due to their personal religious beliefs. And it rejected an amendment seeking to allow individuals and businesses — including wedding planners, photographers and florists — to refuse to provide services and accommodations for same-sex ceremonies.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat and longtime supporter of rights for same-sex couples but not always a strong supporter of marriage equality, announced Jan. 4 that she would support the bill. Local news media reported that the governor was in the Senate for the debate and she issued a statement immediately after the vote.

“Tonight the Washington State Senate stood up for what is right and told all families in our state that they are equal and that the state cannot be in the business of discrimination,” said Gregoire. “I believe that this decision should be made by our state Legislature, and I’m proud our elected leaders recognized that responsibility.”

Gregoire thanked Murray for his leadership on the bill.

Murray has been a key mover behind much of Washington State’s legislation to prohibit discrimination against LGBT people. He led the successful effort in 2006 to pass a statewide non-discrimination law to protect LGBT people and, in 2007, led the fight for passage of a domestic partnership law. In 2009, he sought passage of the state’s “Everything but Marriage” bill.

Lambda Legal National Marriage Project Director Camilla Taylor issued a statement saying same-sex couples in Washington State are now “one step closer to enjoying the freedom to marry, thanks to the impressive efforts of Washington United for Marriage, and the bravery of supporters of equality in the State Senate.”

Washington State, which has 6.8 million residents, would become the second-largest state behind New York where same-sex marriage is legal.

If the bill is signed by Gregoire and opponents are unable to gather the necessary signatures for a referendum, same-sex couples could wed as early as June. However, if the opposition does force a referendum, marriages would have to wait until after the November election.

© 2012 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Ft. Worth ordinance could affect Pride, AIDS walk

Council approves higher fees, new rules on outdoor events, but attorney says city plans to ‘phase in’ enforcement to lessen impact

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Tony Coronado and Allan Gould
Tony Coronado and Allan Gould

The Fort Worth City Council has enacted a new outdoor event ordinance that changes requirements and increases fees for some outdoor events.

The changes, which go into effect Oct. 1, could impact future Tarrant County Gay Pride parades and picnics held in October each year, and it could also affect the Tarrant County AIDS Outreach Center’s AIDS Walk, held each spring.

Senior Assistant City Attorney Sarah Fullenwider acknowledged that fees for such events were increased, but the rest of the ordinance is primarily about codifying rules already in place.

“We took current policy and put it into an ordinance,” Fullenwider said.

She noted that the ordinance “doesn’t apply to First Amendment activity,” but that it does require organizers give the city at least 48 hours’ notice for an event that will close a street.

First Amendment activities refer to protests or other gatherings that are political in nature and involve exercising free speech rights.
The new Fort Worth requirements are for events that expect 500 or more participants and spectators. In Dallas, permits are required for 75 or more people.

The fee in Dallas is on a graduated scale based on number of expected attendees. For more than 20,000 expected attendees, such as the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, the city charges $500, plus a late fee for applications received less than 45 days before an event.

Fort Worth will now require event planners to attend a calendar committee meeting. To provide enough police protection, the city is trying to prevent overlapping scheduling.

Organizers must also attend a pre-event meeting and submit a traffic plan if streets are to be closed, Fullenwider said.

Special rules apply to downtown, the Stockyards and the Near South Side, which includes the area where Fort Worth’s annual Pride parade is held.

Fullenwider said there was no request from the Museum District for any special consideration,  probably because events there do not affect the surrounding neighborhoods to the same extent.

Walks, runs and races have some special rules. Normally, all business and homeowners in the affected area need to be notified that an event will take place in front of their property.

For longer routes, area property owners may be notified by e-mail, signs, mail or newspaper ads.

ROYALTY ON PARADE | The 2009 Tarrant County Gay Pride Week titleholders wave to their fans lining the route of the parade down South Jennings last October.

Fees, which are currently $150 will not rise immediately, and Fullenwider said officials have not yet determined what the new fees will be.

She did note, however, that the city is aware of the effect increased costs can have on organizations.

She said that officials are talking about phasing in any eventual increase.

Tony Coronado of the Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association said his organization isn’t sure yet how the new ordinance might affect the Pride Week events. But so far, he added, he hasn’t seen any big changes

In the past, Fort Worth’s annual Pride Picnic was considered a private event that was permitted through the parks department. Because of its size, it would now be considered a public event and require a city permit as well, Coronado said.

Coronado said that a large expense for the parade is hiring extra off-duty police officers.While the number of streets to be closed has not changed, he said the number of entries could affect the number of officers needed.

The parade this year will be held on Oct. 3, after the ordinance takes effect. But permits are already in place and Coronado said he has already met with the police department.

One change in this year’s parade will be a block party that will be held at Pennsylvania and South Jennings streets. A block in each direction from the intersection will be closed all day.

That required extra coordination with the city, Coronado said, but the new ordinance presented no obstacles.

However, by next year, higher fees may be in place.  If that happens, Coronado said, “We’ll just have to bump it up.”

AIDS Outreach Center Executive Director Allan Gould said the new ordinance will affect several events benefiting his organization, including the annual AOC AIDS Walk next spring and the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS next month.

“We’ll have new due diligence on our part” to make sure the proper permits are in place, Gould said.

While this year’s Lone Star Ride happens before the new ordinance goes into the effect, if the bike ride follows the same route next year, fees will be higher and organizers will have to follow new rules about notifying everyone along the course.

The AIDS walk would also be subject to higher fees, which Gould said he hoped the city would consider waiving for fundraising events for local nonprofit organizations.

Gould said a bigger factor was that the walk is in the museum district, as is Artists Against AIDS, and the free lot outside the Community Arts Center has recently become paid parking.

Gould said hoped that wouldn’t have a negative impact on participation.

But he said AOC has been considering several solutions, including moving events out of the city or to a large, private downtown venue such as the Tandy Center.

Fort Worth Councilmember Joel Burns said that a mandatory insurance ordinance was passed last year that goes into effect at the same time. He said the new rules, however, shouldn’t materially impact neighborhood or LGBT groups.

“My hope is they’d be even better,” Burns said.

He said he thought the new ordinance would help police and city staff coordinate with groups and help make events safer.

“We held five public meetings,” Fullenwider said. “We’re hoping we did a good job. In a year, we plan to meet with event holders and see how it’s working.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Picking apart today’s press release on Dallas Pride from the Convention and Visitors Bureau

OK, so I shouldn’t criticize. The Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau means well. They want to attract people to Dallas. They want to attract gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender people to Dallas. I’m just not sure they’re really comfortable with that idea. From the press release DCVB sent out today:

DALLAS (July 15, 2010) – The Dallas lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is gearing up for the city’s 27th annual gay pride celebration. This year’s theme, “One Heart, One World, One Pride”, will highlight the direction of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and subsequent Pride Festival at Lee Park on September 19, 2010.

Hmmm. Well, if the LGBT community is your audience, you don’t really have to explain to them what LGBT means.

“Dallas appreciates and celebrates its cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, and September is the perfect time for visitors to enjoy one of the nation’s largest pride parades and the many other festivities throughout the weekend,” said Phillip Jones, president and CEO of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau.

If only that were more true, but good quote.

Dallas Pride weekend offers numerous events across the city. The highlight of the weekend is the annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade. Now in its 27th year, the parade is expecting to include nearly 2,000 marching participants and draw more than 40,000 spectators from across the nation and around the world. Immediately following the parade will be the Pride Festival at Lee Park. For more information and a schedule of events, please visit www.dallasprideparade.com.

Not held when anyone else holds Pride, so if you didn’t get your fill in your own hometown, come to ours. We celebrate in September to commemorate our own history, not to celebrate something that happened in New York City. Also, it’s a little cooler then.

Like many gay pride celebrations, Dallas Pride roots back to the late 70s when up to 300 men and women marched through downtown Dallas waving flags and shouting gay rights slogans. The Dallas Tavern Guild adopted the parade from volunteers in 1982 and named it the Texas Freedom Parade in 1983. The organization remains committed to making the celebration grow each year.

This year, grand marshals of the Parade will include Erin Moore, known for her work with the Dallas Young Democrats organization, and Paul Lewis, the long-time organizer of the Parade who also worked with Alan Ross for many years.

Oops. Dallas Young Democrats? Erin? Young?

Beautiful and sexy, maybe. But shouldn’t that read Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, one of the largest Democratic groups in North Texas? But she’s better known for her work forcing the city and many of its agencies to write equality into their non-discrimination policies. But I understand. “Erin Moore, known for forcing equality down the throats of often unwilling agencies,” just doesn’t have that press release ring to it.

Lewis is also loved in the community for heading the PWA Holiday Gift Project. And served on the board of OLCS and threw Daire Center dinners. Just wanted to mention. He’s done a lot. His commitment to the community is more than a once-a-year parade thing. But they’re right. He coordinated it for years.

Just as it has for the past 27 years, the Parade will begin at Wycliff Avenue at 2 p.m. and march down Cedar Springs Road to Robert E. Lee Park.  The celebration will continue with a festival that includes vendor booths, live music performances and more.

For more information on Dallas’ LGBT community and to book a trip to Dallas, complete with a customized itinerary, visit www.glbtdallas.com.

Nice. OK, so maybe if I were writing the press release, I would have included a quote from a gay person. I might have mentioned something about the entertainment or a lesbian venue or something the transgender community is planning.

And I wouldn’t have been afraid to mention that all these activities take place in Oak Lawn. I know part of Oak Lawn was renamed “Uptown” by developers and real estate people to dissociate all that new development from the queers. (Look at a city plat — there’s no such thing as “Uptown.” Up to the corner of Central and Fitzhugh is Oak Lawn.) But when your intended audience is LGBT, not mentioning Oak Lawn is kind of odd.

And unfortunately, glbtdallas.com doesn’t really give much information on the LGBT community of Dallas. No links to community businesses other than bars. Art galleries are listed, but no list of gay- and lesbian-owned galleries. No list of LGBT-owned restaurants and stores. No link to the city’s award-winning LGBT newspaper.

But no one asked me.

—  David Taffet