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

WATCH: Wash. Gov. Chris Gregoire signs marriage bill, predicts voters will defeat referendum

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Gov. Christine Gregoire

Gov. Christine Gregoire signed marriage equality into law in Washington state in a ceremony this afternoon. However, same-sex couples can’t begin marrying there yet pending a possibly ballot measure.

State Rep. Jamie Pedersen introduced his partner and future husband and their four children at the signing ceremony. He credited Gregoire with doing more to advance LGBT rights than anyone else in the country. Gregoire supported the state’s original domestic partnership law and anti-bullying legislation.

“This is a very proud moment,” Gregoire said before signing the bill. “I’m proud that our same-sex couples will not be treated as separate but equal. They will be equal.”

Opponents have two options. They can collect signatures to put the marriage-equality law on the ballot and attempt to repeal it. If the law goes on the ballot, marriage cannot start until after the November election and then only if the proposition fails.

Another option would be to put forth a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman. That option would take half the number of signatures to get on the ballot. But the law would go into effect in June, same-sex couples could get married and if the constitutional amendment passes, courts would have to decide if those marriages would remain legal. In California, 18,000 marriages are still considered valid even though Prop 8 stopped the additional marriage licenses from being issued in the state.

If signatures are not collected to stop marriage equality, the law goes into effect in June. In a referendum on Washington’s domestic partnership laws, voters upheld the law with 53 percent of the vote.

“If asked, the voters in Washington will say yes to equality,” Gregoire said.

—  David Taffet

WATCH LIVE: Wash. Senate vote on marriage

Via Twitter, above is a shot of the standing-room-only crowd tonight in the gallery of the Washington Senate, which is reportedly set to debate and vote on a marriage equality bill at 8 p.m. Central time (6 p.m. Pacific).

We’re told you’ll be able to watch the proceedings live here. The Twitter hashtag is #WA4M.

The bill is widely expected to pass both the Senate tonight and the House at a later date. Gov. Christine Gregoire supports the bill and would sign it. However, Washington is a referendum state so once the bill becomes law, the opposition will have until June to collect 120,557 valid signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.

UPDATE, 8:05 p.m.: The Senate convened at 8 p.m. Dallas time but quickly stood at ease so the two parties could caucus. The Senate is expected to reconvene shortly.

UPDATE, 8:50 p.m.: The Senate has reconvened and is working its way through several amendments to the bill, many of which deal with exemptions for religious institutions.

UPDATE, 10 p.m.: The Senate voted 28-21 to approve the bill. Here’s a press release from Washington United for Marriage:

Washington State Senate Approves Historic Legislation Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage
Bill passes 28-21 on bipartisan vote; house approval expected as soon as next week

OLYMPIA – Washington United for Marriage, a broad statewide coalition of organizations, congregations, unions and business associations that will work to obtain civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples in Washington State in 2012, today cheered the Washington State Senate’s vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage legislation in Washington State.  The measure passed by a bipartisan vote of 28-21, with 23 Democrats and four Republicans joining together to advance the bill.  

“We thank Majority Leader Brown, Sen. Murray and the bipartisan coalition of senators who stood with us today in the name of equality,” said Lacey All, Chair of Washington United for Marriage.  “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.  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.”

“As small business owners who pride ourselves on contributing to our community, we are so grateful that today has arrived, and especially for the support of our senator, Mary Margaret Haugen,” said Larry Lowary and Gerry Betz, longtime residents of Washington who live on Whidbey Island.  “We’ve been together for 23 years and entered into our domestic partnership five years ago.  Now we’re looking to the day when we’ll be able to look into each other’s eyes, exchange our vows and finally say ‘I Do’ just like anybody else.”

“The action of the senate today means so much to us, and we thank all the senators who supported this legislation” said Tara Wolfe and A.J. Stolfus, longtime partners from Olympia.  “We moved to Washington years ago in part because of the open and welcoming nature of the people here – something we didn’t always see in Kansas.  We’re simply overjoyed that our friends, family and neighbors can soon recognize us as spouses and our family as being whole.”

The bill now awaits final house approval, which could come as early as next week.  Once the house has passed the legislation, Gov. Chris Gregoire would have five business days to sign it into law, which she has indicated she will do.  Opponents wishing to challenge the new law would have until June to collect 120,557 valid signatures – the amount required to place a referendum on the November 2012 ballot.

—  John Wright

Marriage equality advances in Washington state; Senate floor vote scheduled for Wednesday

On Monday, the Washington state House Judiciary Committee voted 7–6 along party lines to send a marriage-equality bill to the floorfor a vote. A Senate committee voted similarly last week, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

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Gov. Chris Gregoire

The Senate has scheduled a floor vote for Wednesday, and a majority have already announced they’ll vote for the bill. Supporters say House passage is also assured. Gov. Christine Gregoire supports equality.

Washington is a referendum state so once the bill passes and the governor signs, the opposition will have until June to collect 120,557 valid signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.

If marriage equality becomes law, Washington will be the seventh state to perform same-sex marriages. The state already has domestic partnerships.

Two additional states — Maine and California — passed marriage equality before voters rescinded it.

—  David Taffet

Marriage bills to be debated in Wash. state

Public hearings on House, Senate measures set for Monday

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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

What’s Brewing: Valentine’s Day recap edition

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. THE GOOD: Legislators in Washington state and Colorado were struck by Cupid’s arrow, as they introduced bills Monday to legalize same-sex marriage and civil unions, respectively. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that 24 Maryland senators have now said publicly that they’ll support pending marriage equality legislation, giving the bill the votes it needs to pass by the slimmest of margins.

2. THE BAD: The Indiana House was scheduled to vote Monday on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, but the measure, which is expected to pass, was postponed because some lawmakers who want to go on record supporting the ban were absent. Meanwhile, lawmakers in New Hampshire are moving forward with hearings on a proposed repeal of same-sex marriage, despite polls showing a majority of residents oppose the repeal. And, in Chicago, six activists were arrested when they refused to leave a marriage bureau after a same-sex couple was denied a license.

3. THE UGLY: If you want to get really angry, or need a reminder as to what the struggle for equality is all about, watch the above video of police in Lima, Peru, using violence to break up a Valentine’s Day “Kisses Against Homophobia” demonstration that took place Saturday. According to Living in Peru, one activist needed 10 stitches to the back of her head.

—  John Wright

Gay legislators – we need to get us one

This state house has more LGBT legislators than any other
This state house has more LGBT legislators than any other

Yesterday, I wrote about a Utah state representative who is lesbian and acting as surrogate mother for a gay couple. What I thought was interesting was that she was one of three openly gay legislators in that very red state. Yet Texas has none. How are other states doing?

According to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, 79 LGBT legislators serve in state houses across the country. Here are some of the stats I came up with:

28 states have at least one LGBT legislator.

The state with the most is no surprise: Massachusetts has six. Marriage equality. Sky not fallen. Even has an openly gay Republican running for lieutenant governor. Elaine Noble was the first open gay or lesbian elected to a state legislature in the United States. In 1975, she was elected to the Massachusetts State House.

States with five LGBT legislators are mostly no surprise: Arizona, Connecticut, New York, Vermont, Washington state. Connecticut and Vermont have marriage equality. Washington has an equality law that gives domestic partners everything that marriage does, but with a different name. New York recognizes marriages performed elsewhere. Arizona is a purple state. John McCain is one of their senators. Republican John Kyl is the other. But Janet Napolitano was their governor and now serves in Obama’s cabinet. It’s only only state to have had three women governors in a row. (Jane Hull preceeded Napolitano and Jan Brewer is the current governor).

Three states have four LGBT legislators: California, Maryland and New Hampshire. New Hampshire has marriage equality. California has thousands of legally married couples and Prop. 8 currently is tied up in court. Maryland does not ban marriage equality and they tried but failed to pass it last session.

In addition to Utah, Rhode Island has three gay legislators. Despite a governor who killed marriage equality last year and vetoed a bill that would allow gays or lesbians to make funeral arrangements for their partners, the state is generally very blue. The legislature overrode the governor’s veto and the mayor of Providence is also gay.

Texas? Glen Maxey was one of the first openly gay state legislators nationally. But since he left office, we’ve had none.

—  David Taffet