Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Principal Apologizes for Punishing Student for Pro-Gay T-shirt

A principal at a central New York high school who sent a student home for wearing a pro-gay T-shirt has issued an official apology. Heathyre Farnham, a 16-year-old student at Spencer–Van Etten High School, was sent home in September because her shirt, which read "Gay? Fine by Me," was deemed a disruption.

According to a press release from the Student Press Law Center, principal Ann Sincock apologized to Farnham privately after school district officials said that Farnham's shirt was a form of protected expression.

Barrie Gewanter, director of the local chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, pressed the school board on October 23 to issue an apology as well as a public statement that the district would uphold students' right to expression.

"You can't cure the chill of censorship with silence," Gewanter said in a statement.

On November 2, an announcement was made over the school's public address system that the school dress code "does not prohibit students from displaying controversial or political messages" and that tolerant messages are acceptable for expression, according to the release.

Uruguay approves gay civil unions

Isn't it sad that countries around the world continue to pass the states of the United States of America on issues of gay marriage and civil unions!

The Eastern Republic of Uruguay's congress has approved a bill which would allow civil unions for both gay and unmarried straight couples.

It is the first country in Roman Catholic-dominated Latin America to approve such a measure nationwide.

The Uruguayan President, Tabare Vazquez, is now expected to sign the bill into law.

Under its provisions, couples who have lived together for five years will have rights similar to those already enjoyed by married couples.

Couples will have to register their relationship with authorities to gain the cohabitation rights - covering areas such as inheritance, pensions and child custody - and will also be able to formalise the end of their union.

Several cities across Latin America, including Buenos Aires and Mexico City, have recently adopted similar measures.

Gay marriage remains illegal in Uruguay.

Uruguay has traditionally been better off than many other countries in South America, and is known for its advanced education and social security systems and liberal laws governing social issues such as divorce.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

U.S. Church splits over gay rights

A Californian diocese has voted to become the first to break away from the US Episcopal Church in protest at its support for gays in the Church.

Delegates of the San Joaquin diocese in Fresno voted 173-22 to secede.

It follows years of disagreement with Church authorities triggered by the consecration of a gay bishop in 2003.

The Episcopal Church is the US wing of the 77m-member Anglican Communion, which is threatened by a deep split between conservatives and liberals.

The Episcopal Church says that in recent years 32 of its 7,600 congregations had left, with another 23 voting to leave but not taking the final step.

San Joaquin is the first of the Church's 110 dioceses to complete the split.

In a later vote, the diocese accepted an invitation to join a conservative South American Anglican congregation.

'Contrary to teachings'

"This is the first time, I believe, that a diocese has finally said 'enough' in terms of the liberal theology of the Episcopal Church," said Bishop John-David Schofield of the San Joaquin diocese ahead of the vote.

Anglican leaders in many parts of the world were angered by the consecration of openly-gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

Conservative churchgoers believe active homosexuality is contrary to the Anglican Communion's teachings, which are rooted in the bible.

However, liberal Anglicans have argued that biblical teachings on justice and inclusion should take precedence.

Rhode Island court won't let gay couple from Massachusetts divorce.

Some people have to try to "rock the boat" and possibly destroy things for everyone else.

In a split decision, Rhode Island's top court said yesterday that it will not allow a lesbian couple who married in Massachusetts to get a divorce in the Ocean State.

The 3-to-2 ruling was viewed by advocates of gay marriage as a setback and by those who oppose the recognition of same-sex unions as an act of wisdom.

The court concluded that a key 1961 Rhode Island law defines marriage as an legal union between a man and a woman, not same-sex couples. Unless and until the Legislature changes the wording, same-sex couples married in Massachusetts cannot get divorced in Rhode Island family courts, it said.

Cassandra Ormiston, who married Margaret Chambers in Fall River in 2004 after Massachusetts became the first state in the country to legalize same-sex marriages, denounced the ruling, saying it discriminates against same-sex couples.

"There have been people throughout history who have been discriminated against," said Ormiston, 60. "And they have fought the good fight and prevailed. It will be the case with my minority as well."

"It won't stand," she said.

Louis Pulner, the lawyer for Chambers, said his 70-year-old client has stayed out of public view during the high-profile litigation triggered by her failed marriage.

In a statement, Governor Donald L. Carcieri of Rhode Island and at least one group that opposes gay marriage praised the ruling.

"I believe this is the appropriate result based on Rhode Island law," Carcieri said. "It has always been clear to me that Rhode Island law was designed to permit marriage, and therefore divorce, only between a man and a woman."

But Rhode Island's attorney general, Patrick Lynch, and the Boston group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders criticized the ruling. "It is unfair to the couple in question and other couples similarly situated," because they cannot legally end their marriages, Lynch said in the statement. He said the ruling does not affect the status of same-sex marriages of Rhode Island couples not seeking divorce.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Gay nonprofit in financial trouble

ANOTHER LGBT non-profit in financial trouble:

A Capitol Hill institution important to Seattle's lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual community is in financial trouble and likely will close by year's end at its current location.

The Seattle LGBT Community Center, which last year stepped forward to keep a gay Pride march and festival on Capitol Hill after the traditional sponsors moved the annual event downtown, is struggling to pay its suppliers.

The revelations cap a year that witnessed the financial troubles of Seattle Out and Proud, another gay-focused nonprofit group and the traditional sponsor of Seattle's annual Pride festivities. The group still owes the city more than $100,000 for last year's events.

Now serious questions are being raised about whether the LGBT center — whose director resigned this summer — will be up to staging a Pride celebration on Capitol Hill next summer.

"It's tough all around for nonprofits, particularly gay and lesbian nonprofits," said Breanna Anderson, co-president of the LGBT center's board of directors.

With rents as high as they are on Capitol Hill, finding a new home is the "fiscally responsible thing to do," she said. "So we're looking at a few options right now, including sharing space with other community organizations."

Calls to other board members and the LGBT center's interim director, Dennis Poplin, were not immediately returned Wednesday, and the center's former executive director, Shannon Thomas, could not be reached for comment.

Established in 1996, the LGBT center provides a range of support services to the local gay community.

Last year, Capitol Hill businesses and activists, outraged with Out and Proud's transfer of the Pride parade from Broadway to downtown, asked the LGBT center to restore festivities on the Hill — a march along Broadway and a festival in Volunteer

Several sponsors of the original Pride celebration shifted their event support to the center. Anderson said those and other funds go into a general fund to pay center costs. It gets most of its money from private donors and about $16,000 from the city of Seattle to help run a hotline.

"None of our money is earmarked," Anderson said.

She said that in the spring, a burned-out Thomas told the board she was resigning but was talked into staying long enough to see the June Pride events on Capitol Hill through to completion.

Thomas left shortly after and was compensated for significant paid time off that she had accrued, along with her last month's salary, Anderson said.

The center reportedly owes about $30,000 to vendors that supplied lighting, sanitation and other services during this past summer's Pride events. Anderson said the center is trying to raise money and hopes to pay its debts within the next 45 days.

James Ball, lead technician for AV-Pro Inc., which provided projection lighting, said his company has not been paid.

"We understand that they are going through some hard times, and we're trying to work with them. I hope they can make this whole thing come together," he said.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) gives Wal-Mart a "do not buy" rating.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights group, is giving Wal-Mart (WMT) a red "do not buy" rating in its new consumer guide, bestowing a lump of coal on the retail giant just in time for the holiday shopping season.

Citing Wal-Mart's refusal to offer domestic partner benefits to its gay and lesbian workers, the HRC said Tuesday that the USA's biggest private employer has "more work to do in furthering equality." It advised gays and their supporters to shop elsewhere.

Wal-Mart rated a red 40 on a scale of 100, down from a yellow 65 in 2006. It was among 54 companies that scored 45 or lower in HRC's 2008 Corporate Equality index, which assigns ratings to 519 large companies. Also in the red: Toys R Us, RadioShack (RSH) and AutoZone (AZO).Wal-Mart rival Target (TGT) rated a "green" 80, meaning that "consumers should make every effort to support these businesses."

Last year's guide was downloaded from the group's website ( more than 250,000 times.

Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer’s Comments: It looks like the Human Rights Campaign is finally catching up to what Kentucky Equality Federation told its members nearly six months ago VIA email campaigns and our official blog. Avoid Wal-Mart when possible.

United We Stand (Kentucky Equality Federation’s Official Blog):

Some of the comments we sent to our members back in June 2007:

If you shop at Wal-Mart you can find the same (or better) prices at Meijer, K-Mart, Family Dollar, Kroger, or Save-A-Lot. Stop shopping at Wal-Mart! Forget about the so called "convenience" of "everything" being in one store, it is time for the gay community to stand their ground against Wal-Mart.Let us forget for a moment that this company destroys the "American Dream," exploits their employees, and contracts labor for less than $1.00 per hour in other countries.Let us not forget that Sam Walton, Wal-Mart's founder sit on the Board of Directors of Winn-Dixie for nearly a decade (thereby learning the grocery business) and opened the first Supercenter (with groceries) less than a year after Winn-Dixie retired him. Let us not forget that Wal-Mart targets other stores to run them out of business: K-Mart, Winn-Dixie, Sloan's (Lexington), Rose's, Kroger, Toys "R" Us, Publix (Florida), Food Lion, A&P, Grand Union, Colonial/Big Star and Piggly Wiggly, and Target.

As it stands Wal-Mart remains the only national discount chain that does not offer partnership benefits (both Sears Holding Company and Target offer same-sex domestic partnership benefits). Wal-Mart also has the dubious distinction of being one of the few companies to ever pull back a GLBT initiative.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Another fight in the State of California

As the 2007 California legislative session begins its final throes, the annual duel between gay-rights groups and their conservative foes is being rejoined.

The former have already scored one victory in the much-delayed budget that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed last month, a first-ever appropriation for aid to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) victims of domestic violence.

"These types of government and non-profit partnerships have for many years kept many Californians healthy, safe and self-sufficient, and for the first time the California budget includes such funds for LGBT-specific services," Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, declared after the budget was signed.

There's no shortage of other issues to fuel the perpetual battle between pro- and anti-LGBT rights groups in the dying days of the session. If history is a guide, the pro side will pretty much have its way in a Legislature dominated by liberal Democrats, but the final decision will rest with Schwarzenegger, who sometimes supports the LGBT agenda and sometimes does not.

The American Civil Liberties Union dispatched letters to its activists last week, urging them to pressure Schwarzenegger on this year's batch of bills and noting that during the last biennial legislative session, "Our top five pieces of (LGBT) legislation were vetoed by this governor."

The biggest casualty was a bill to allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses and marry. Schwarzenegger said in his veto message that he was upholding the expression of popular sentiment in Proposition 22, enacted in 2000 and aimed at restricting marriages to opposite-gender couples.

The measure is back as Assembly Bill 43, again carried by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and is one of the most fiercely contested LGBT measures awaiting final action.

Both sides, however, are also gearing up on Senate Bill 777 by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Los Angeles, which would add sexual orientation to the conditions that schools must protect by prohibiting instruction or other action that "promotes a discriminatory bias."

Kuehl and other proponents characterize it as protecting the civil rights and safety of LGBT students, but opponents such as the California Family Council see it as discriminating against those with religious opposition to homosexuality.

"Passage of this bill would essentially silence students and teachers from the free expression of any beliefs and opinions contrary to a total and complete acceptance of all forms of sexual behavior," the council says in one of its call-to-action bulletins. The Capitol Resource Institute brands SB 777 as "homosexual indoctrination in schools."

Another flash point is Assembly Bill 14 by Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, which expands the reach of the 4-decade-old Unruh Civil Rights Act, including sexual orientation. And still another is Senate Bill 11 by Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, which would expand "domestic-partner" rights now held by same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples over 62 years old to all opposite-sex couples over 18 years of age.

Assembly Bill 102 by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, would, among other things, allow same-sex couples registering as domestic partners to change their names, and anti-gay rights groups say it's another step toward legalizing same-sex marriage. Those groups may, however, be fighting a losing battle, regardless of what happens on this year's bills, the court battles over Proposition 22 and same-sex marriage or pending ballot measures.

Gay rights advocates, recent polls indicate, appear to be winning the battle of public opinion on same-sex marriage, which is the most symbolically important of the LGBT issues.

Friday, August 31, 2007

First gay couple legally marries in the State of Iowa

Two men were married outside a minister's home in the state's first legal same-sex wedding Friday morning, less than 24 hours after a judge threw out Iowa's ban on gay marriage.

It was narrow window of opportunity.

At 11 a.m., after about 20 gay couples had applied for marriage licenses, the Polk County Recorder announced that she had been instructed to stop accepting their applications.

Recorder Julie Haggerty said the instruction came from the county attorney's office after Judge Robert Hanson, the same judge who threw out the ban on Thursday, verbally issued a stay of his ruling at the county's request. Hanson was expected to file the written ruling later in the day, his clerk said.

Haggerty said she is not permitted to accept any more marriage applications from gay couples until the Iowa Supreme Court rules on the county's appeal.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Civil union supporters lead White House race - Democrats could win if election held today

In the long and crowded race for the White House, candidates who support civil unions are pulling ahead.

New polls by Rasmussen Reports, Quinnipiac University and others show civil union supporters Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, all Democrats, could beat their Republican rivals if the election were held today.

Clinton, in a poll of 800 likely voters done Aug. 15-16 by Rasmussen, beat Sen. John McCain of Arizona by two points and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney by 11 points. Neither GOP candidate supports civil unions.

In earlier polls by Quinnipiac, NBC News and Fox News, Clinton also beat former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani by an average of five points.

Quinnipiac’s poll of 1,545 registered voters was conducted Aug. 7-13; the NBC News poll of 1,005 adults was done July 27-30; and the Fox News poll of 900 registered voters collected its data July 17-18.

Giuliani’s campaign, which has long opposed civil unions that represent “the equivalent of marriage,” told the Boston Globe this month that the GOP frontrunner backs only domestic partnerships similar to those extended to couples in New York City.

Joe Tarver of Empire State Pride Agenda said the city law, which primarily ensures benefits to the partners of public employees, does little for other gay city residents.

“Unless you’re a city employee, you don’t get much of anything except a piece of paper,” he said. “And you may or may not be in a position to use that with your employer.”

Tarver said the nation’s next president should support civil unions, if not marriage equality, and Giuliani’s stance comes up short.

“It has been disappointing to see him pivot away from some of our issues,” he said, “particularly where he stands on recognizing our families.”

Giuliani also comes up short in polls when pitted against Obama and Edwards.

Obama and Giuliani tied in this month’s Quinnipiac poll. That poll also shows Obama besting McCain by four points, while a Rasmussen poll of 1,029 likely voters conducted July 16-17 shows Obama topping Romney by nine points.

Edwards faired similarly. Quinnipiac’s poll shows him one point ahead of Giuliani and beating McCain by eight points. In last month’s Rasmussen poll, Edwards won by seven points against Romney.

Dan Pinello, a gay City University of New York government professor, said it’s unusual for early polls to so heavily favor one political party.

“Usually, you’re pitting the lead candidate of one party against the lead candidate of another party,” he said. “It seems that any Democrat is going to beat any Republican.”

But not all Democratic candidates are celebrating the early polls.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who supports marriage equality for same-sex couples, lost in a Rasmussen poll that pitted him against Giuliani. In that poll of 1,200 likely voters, conducted July 27-29, Kucinich lost by 14 points.

Despite the favorable polling for civil union supporters, Pinello noted that a win by one of those candidates could represent only a symbolic victory for gay Americans.

He said presidents have “no real power” over civil unions or marriages.

“States are the primary sources of regulation of marriage and other related issues,” Pinello said. “So at most, the president can serve as the kind of figurehead or bully pulpit person, to be a voice of inspiration for others to act.”

Activists, however, noted White House support would be a key step toward achieving expanded rights for gay couples. Solmonese said it’s therefore important that the leading candidates support civil unions.

“To me, how they move us in the direction of marriage or civil unions or the benefits that same-sex couples would like to enjoy, that is a much more comprehensive conversation,” he said. “It’s about moving public opinion.”

Tarver agreed. He said that’s why gay Americans should be working to move public opinion — because where the public goes, politicians will follow.

“I think it’s important for us to continue pushing the candidates to be for equality,” he said. “And when it comes to marriage, that means marriage equality.”

Friday, August 24, 2007

Gay Adoption Ban Proposed in Arkansas

"Family" groups continue to push extreme agendas across the nation. This is the latest:

A group called Family Council wants to make it illegal for a couple living together - gay or straight - to adopt children, if voters approve the change.

The wording on a proposed ballot measure that would bar gays and lesbians from actually adopting children has been submitted to the Arkansas Attorney General. The group, working out of Little Rock, wants to ban unmarried sexual partners who live together from adopting or becoming foster parents.

If it is approved by Attorney General Dustin McDaniel the Arkansas Family Council would be able to begin collecting the 61,974 signatures of registered voters needed to have the question put to voters in 2008.

“As we looked into this issue, we discovered that cohabiting heterosexual homes were not good places for children, either,” said Jerry Cox, president of the Family Council.

Unlike a Family Council bill that lawmakers rejected in the recent legislative session, the proposed ballot initiative doesn’t target gays specifically. But gays and lesbians who live as couples need marriage equality, and want to grow families. Arkansas recently approved a constitutional amendment codifying marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution.

The Family Council, which is affiliated with Colorado-based Focus on the Family, was the leading organization behind the constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.

Arkansas’s Child Welfare Agency Review Board had established a policy in 1999 that banned gay people from serving as foster parents, and the Arkansas Supreme Court struck it down after a seven-year legal battle between the state and the ACLU.

Governor Beebe has declined to comment on the ballot measure while the Attorney General's office is reviewing it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Gay Marriage On Agenda As California Lawmakers Return To Work

Lawmakers in the State of California returned to work in Sacramento today with legislation allowing same-sex marriage on the Senate agenda.

But with only four weeks to complete its work and a major budget battle at hand it is unclear whether the marriage bill will make it to a vote on the floor.

The measure passed the Assembly in June.

Even if the bill makes to a floor vote and passes Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vowed to veto it, as he did an identical bill in 2005.

Both bills were authored by Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). The 2005 bid passed both the House and Senate - the second legislative body in the nation to approve a measure allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Schwarzenegger said in vetoing it that the issue should be decided by voters.

Called the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act it would amend the Family Code to define marriage as a civil contract between two persons instead of a civil contract between a man and a woman, and again reaffirms that no religious institution would be required to solemnize marriages contrary to its fundamental beliefs.

California law allows same-sex couples to register as domestic partners, which gives them many state protections. However, domestic partnership remains a separate institution from marriage and shuts out same-sex couples from the universal recognition and consideration married couples enjoy, LGBT activists say.

Meanwhile, the California Supreme Court will hear arguments later this year in three cases wrapped together on the issue of the constitutionality of preventing same-sex marriage. On Friday attorneys in the case submitted answers to a series of questions posed by the court earlier this year.

The justices sought the answers after both sides in the case filed their initial briefs in June, saying the briefs failed to address three key issues.

First, the court asked for a detailed description of the differences between the legal rights accorded by domestic partnerships and those of marriage under California law. California has one of the nation's most inclusive domestic partner laws providing many of the rights of marriage, but not all.

The second question asked for the lawyers' positions on what marriage rights, if any are enshrined in California's constitution. The question is important because only a constitutional amendment could alter those - not the legislature nor a voter initiative.

That question led to the third, involving Proposition 22, an initiative passed by voters in 2000. "Do the terms 'marriage' or 'marry' themselves have constitutional significance under the California constitution," the court asked.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Florida Mayor Stands by His Comments, and Gay Advocates Stand Against Him

An uproar began last month when Mayor Jim Naugle said that installing a single-occupancy restroom on a local beach could deter “homosexual activity.”

Mr. Naugle, a six-term mayor in this city that draws legions of gay tourists and residents, went on to tell a local newspaper that he preferred the word “homosexual” to “gay” because he believed many gay people were “unhappy.” Soon after, he criticized a plan to house a private gay book collection in a public library because it contained pornography.

Outraged local residents called for his resignation, started a “Flush Naugle” campaign and organized a protest rally that brought hundreds to City Hall in late July, a time of year when South Florida usually verges on comatose. That day, Mr. Naugle announced that he would issue an apology.

And he did — to “the children and parents of our community,” for not being aware of “how serious the problem was of the sexual activity that’s taking place in bathrooms and public places and parks.” He questioned whether Broward County should continue telling tourists to “come on down,” citing 2004 statistics that found it led the nation in new AIDS cases.

Outspoken gay residents say Mr. Naugle’s comments have prompted more activism and solidarity than this city of 185,000 has seen in years. A new group, Unite Fort Lauderdale, has formed to “reclaim the respect and dignity of our citizens and the reputation of the city of Fort Lauderdale,” according to its Web site.

Michael Albetta, president of the Florida Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Democratic Caucus, said that Mr. Naugle had rankled gay residents before, but that they had not actively sought a more inclusive mayor until now.

“Shame on us,” Mr. Albetta said. “We’re definitely going to be more cognizant of which candidates are going to run for mayor next time.”

In an interview, Mr. Naugle — who described himself as “extremely” conservative despite being a registered Democrat, like half the city’s registered voters — said he had received 4,000 e-mail messages in recent weeks, mostly supportive. A “climate of permissiveness” has developed in the city, he said, similar to when Fort Lauderdale was a magnet for rowdy spring breakers several decades ago.

“It has become kind of like the days of spring break,” he said, “when we ended up clamping down because people were jumping off balconies and other things. We are kind of going in that direction with the gay tourism.”

The city has many gay bars, guesthouses and other businesses, but its gay social scene is generally more spread out and laid back that of Miami, about 30 miles to the south.

Gay newspapers and blogs around the country have blasted Fort Lauderdale in recent weeks; The Bay Area Reporter in San Francisco even urged gay tourists to boycott the city.

Last week, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Broward County Commission sent a letter to gay groups and meeting planners who have events scheduled here in the coming year. It describes the region as “a warmly welcoming destination that is safe, unbiased and gay friendly.” The bureau estimates that 950,000 gay tourists contribute $1.2 billion a year to the local economy.

“I’m concerned about the $1 billion,” Mr. Naugle said in the interview, “but I’m more concerned about protection of parks for our kids and saving lives.”

Mr. Naugle said that only four people had been arrested since 2005 on charges of having sex in public restrooms, but that such arrests were somewhat more common in city parks. He encouraged residents to call the police if they spot “homosexual activity” in public places, he said, adding that an arrest was made recently across from a Little League ball field.

“Frankly, people have been complacent with all this inclusiveness, political correctness,” Mr. Naugle said. “Our goal is to change behavior.”

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

New Jerseyans Favor Gay Marriage

Twice as many New Jerseyans "would be fine" with allowing gay couples to marry as would be upset if lawmakers enacted a marriage equality law, according to a new poll.

The Zogby survey of 803 New Jersey voters was commissioned by the gay rights group Garden State Equality to mark the six-month anniversary of New Jersey's civil unions law on Sunday.

Gay couples were granted the same legal rights, if not the title, as married couples on Feb. 19 when New Jersey became the third state to offer civil unions. Gay rights activists have continued to press for full marriage equality, saying civil unions do not satisfy a state Supreme

Court ruling that entitles gay couples to the same benefits as married couples.

The poll, released Wednesday, showed 63 percent of voters surveyed said they would not be upset if the Legislature upgraded civil unions to marriage equality, compared with 31 percent who would be upset.

And some 72 percent said lawmakers would not jeopardize their re-election bids by enacting marriage equality, compared with 21 percent who felt such a vote could effect an incumbent's chances of remaining in the Legislature.

Regardless of their personal beliefs, those polled believe New Jersey will allow gay couples to marry within a couple of years, by a margin of 61 percent to 29 percent.

"Regardless of whether any public official supports marriage equality or wants to maintain the state's failed civil unions law, no official in New Jersey can credibly say that marriage for gay couples is a divisive issue in the state," said Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality.

"Even voters who oppose marriage equality are ready to accept an upgrade of the state's civil unions law to real marriage equality," he said.

The poll was conducted from Aug. 8-10 and has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percent. Though Garden State Equality commissioned the poll, Zogby collected the data independently.

Illinois teen gets probation for anti-gay fliers

A 17-year-old girl, 1 of 2 who distributed anti-gay fliers in their school parking lot, will serve a year of probation.

A McHenry County judge also sentenced the Crystal Lake girl to a 14-day suspended jail term.

The girl won't serve the jail sentence as long as she follows the terms of her probation.

The second girl is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

Police arrested the two girls after they were caught placing fliers showing a picture of 2 boys kissing on cars in the school parking lot. The fliers contained hateful language and identified 1 of the boys as a fellow student at Crystal Lake South High School.

Prosecutors dropped a felony hate-crime charge after the girls pleaded guilty to lesser misdemeanor charges.

Equality Arizona and Scottsdale work toward change

Gay rights activists said Wednesday’s sit-down with Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross was a good first step toward reversing the perception that the city is hostile to the gay community.

“I think Scottsdale is absolutely on stride to combat an image issue and the crimes that are out there right now,” said Barbara McCullough-Jones, executive director of Equality Arizona, a Phoenix-based gay rights group. “These folks are on our side.”

Talks between city officials and activists are expected to continue and ultimately result in some city action meant to reassure gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered that it’s safe to come to Scottsdale, McCullough-Jones said.

Manross pointed to an ordinance under consideration by the city’s Human Relations Committee that, if approved by the City Council, would prohibit discrimination against the LGBT community.

“We have the same interests, the same goals and the same concerns when it comes to diversity in our community,” Manross said. “Scottsdale is a very welcoming community. We have tried to demonstrate through all our actions over the years that we care about being inclusive.”

Manross, along with Scottsdale Police Chief Alan Rodbell and Don Logan, the city’s diversity and dialogue director, met with McCullough-Jones and other Equality Arizona members Wednesday afternoon in an attempt to diffuse the national attention the city has received for several recent incidents involving the LGBT community.

Incidents that caught the attention of local activists and the New-York based Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination include two separate attacks on gay men within the last nine months, a local club owner’s decision to ban transgendered people from his Old Town nightclub after female patrons complained about them using the women’s restroom and men harassed them in the men’s restroom, and Manross’ decision to alter a proclamation meant to honor the contributions of gay residents so much that the final product didn’t even mention gays.

Manross attributed the dissatisfaction many felt about the revised proclamation, issued in June, to a “misunderstanding,” and said the changes were meant to make the document more inclusive. She said she doesn’t feel she made a mistake by changing its wording.

“I really felt it was very narrowly worded and narrowly focused,” Manross said.

At the time, some in the gay community called the changes an insult and a slap in the face, and accused the mayor of turning a blind eye toward increasing hostility against them.

Rodbell said the two recent attacks on gay men are still under investigation.

One of the victims, Nicholas Gearing, 27, who was attacked outside an Old Town bar in June, said that despite some initial missteps, police have done a good job.

“I’d never run into an instance like that. You get that shocked feeling, then you feel kind of sad and don’t know what to do,” Gearing said. “I’m not going to allow this to be a situation that makes me fearful to hang out in Scottsdale.”

He said the mayor’s appearance with gay rights advocates is reassuring.

“It definitely makes me feel a lot better,” Gearing said. “It’s nice to hear her firsthand.” McCullough-Jones said Manross demonstrated a commitment to making Scottsdale safe for LGBT visitors.

“We’re going to continue to provide assistance, whatever they ask for,” McCullough-Jones said. “I think there will be some end result to this.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Giuliani continues his conservative shift

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani continues to discard the moderate and liberal positions of his past. The latest is civil unions for same-sex couples, which the Republican presidential candidate has been backing away from in recent months.

A campaign aide told the Globe this weekend that Giuliani favors a much more modest set of rights for gay partners than civil union laws in effect in four states offer.

Giuliani has described himself as a backer of civil unions and is frequently described that way in news reports. But he began distancing himself from civil unions in late April, when his campaign told The New York Sun that New Hampshire's new law goes too far because it is "the equivalent of marriage," which he has always opposed for gays.

Giuliani's aides offered little explanation of what specific rights he would support for same-sex couples.

In an interview and follow-up e-mails, Maria Comella, the campaign's deputy communications director, told the Globe that Giuliani supports domestic partnership laws similar to the one he initiated in New York in 1998.

The New York law primarily ensures benefits to partners of municipal employees. The law created a registry of partnerships that also helps city residents obtain partner benefits from private companies that extend them. However, most of the registrants are unmarried heterosexual couples.

Comella said Giuliani has always supported the New York model of domestic partnership laws but she did not explain what is widely viewed as an inconsistency in his position.

"It's really disappointing he's stepped back from his position on civil unions," said Joe Tarver, spokesman for the Empire State Pride Agenda, a group that advocates for gay rights in New York state that worked with and against Giuliani on a number of issues during his eight years as mayor.

Calling the former mayor's shifting stance "pretty un-Giuliani-like," Tarver said: "It's quite obvious he's playing to the people whose votes he needs to get the Republican nomination."

Tarver has company. Representatives of New York groups who advocate for abortion rights, gun control, and rights for immigrants, also said Giuliani's actions on the presidential trail, presenting himself to a more conservative GOP electorate, bears little resemblance to the man they knew as the stand-up mayor of Gotham in the 1990s who was open to moderate and liberal arguments.

More than any candidate in the Republican presidential field, rival Mitt Romney has been tagged with the flip-flopper label. But Giuliani, with late shifts on civil unions and federal campaign finance laws, is a political makeover in progress.

Giuliani often cites a states' rights rationale as the basis of his new views, though his objection to states adopting civil unions is a notable exception. What was right for his city when he was mayor might not be for other states, he says frequently to explain changing stances. Of Giuliani's past assertions endorsing civil unions, Comella said the definition has changed over time beyond what Giuliani supports.

Giuliani has used the terms civil unions and domestic partnerships interchangeably, as in comments in 2004 to Fox News's Bill O'Reilly. "I'm in favor of . . . civil unions," Giuliani said. "So now you have a civil partnership, domestic partnership, civil union, whatever you want to call it, and that takes care of the imbalance, the discrimination, which we shouldn't have."

"It's about rights and benefits more than the title," Comella wrote in an e-mail to the Globe. "The mayor supports the benefits and rights as they are written in the domestic partnership law in New York City."

Like New Hampshire, civil union laws in Vermont, Connecticut, and New Jersey "confer upon same-sex couples all of the state (though none of the federal) rights, protections, and obligations afforded married spouses," according to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, a national advocacy group.

Benefits of domestic partnerships can also be broader than those under the New York law.

Kentucky Museum draws more fire.

From United We Stand, Kentucky Equality Federation's Official Blog:

The anti-gay Northern Kentucky Museum arbitrarily throws science out the door and creates their own evolution timeline. The museum has made a lot of publicity around the commonwealth and indeed, the nation.

We felt the following posts from other bloggers in Kentucky was important enough to post on this site to inform our readers.

From DitchMitchKY: Three days after the Memorial Day opening of Answers in Genesis’ $27 million Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky, a group called Creation Ministries International filed suit in the Supreme Court of Queensland in the Commonwealth of Australia. Among other things, the suit claims the Kentucky group stole subscribers for its Answers magazine by claiming that the Australians’ Creation magazine was “no longer available.”

(Note: This post is a follow-up to the excellent piece that Daniel Phelps, President of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, wrote about the "Anti-Museum" (aka Creation Museum), as well as his disturbing discovery concerning the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau, as discussed below.)

From: Bluegrass Report: If someone wants to believe that humans once put saddles on the back of dinosaurs and rode them (per the display at left from the Creation Museum), well, knock yourself out. I'm sure they're one of those rare voting blocks that Governor Fletcher (R) has in his pocket.

But when legislatively-created agencies like the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau start pimping a place that promotes the fraudulent notion that humans and dinosaurs once happily co-habitation, where we rode them like something straight of The Flintstones, well, I have a problem with that.

Here's a page directly from the Bureau's website:

The 50,000 sq. ft. Creation Museum located within the greater Cincinnati area will proclaim the Bible as supreme authority in all matters of faith and practice in every area it touches on. Set to open in June 2007, this “walk through history” museum will counter evolutionary natural history museums that turn countless minds against Christ and Scripture.

According to this legislatively-created group we're told that national history museums "turn countless minds against Christ and Scripture." Got that?

After doing a little research, I learned that the President and CEO of the Bureau is a gentleman named Thomas P. Caradonio. Aside from the offensive proselytizing of his organization's depiction of the whackjob museum, I also noted that Caradonio was just appointed by Governor Fletcher as the Chairman of Kentucky's Tourism Development Finance Authority, a public agency that is charged to "assist small tourism attractions obtain financing necessary for the development or expansion of small tourism attractions."

So I guess this begs the question whether the Caradonio-led Tourism Development Finance Authority will be recruiting and spending state dollars on more Creation Museums as they accuse science-based activities as the shunning of Jesus Christ and Scripture?

Seems like another sad black mark on a state that spends so much money trying woo high-tech companies (i.e., those whose business models are firmly rooting in the very science its leadership mocks) to relocate to Kentucky while blasting those of us who (gasp) rely on science to explain things in our history...

Additional United We Stand Comments: I was shocked when I followed the link to the Northern Kentucky CVB and found the page Bluegrass Report mentions. The Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) is charged with collecting 1% in transient room taxes from hotel owners in the Northern Kentucky area. Anytime someone stays in a hotel in Kentucky they pay a 1% tax the hotel owners then pays to local CVB's to promote tourism.

In order to remain impartial, I agree that the CVB should list the Museum on their website. However, the words "museum will counter evolutionary natural history museums that turn countless minds against Christ and Scripture" should not be listed on the CVB's website.

Would they allow a hotel to place "the best place to have sex in the world," or "the only hotel without roaches," or how about "the best hotel in Northern Kentucky" on their website? I don't think so.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Gay Lutherans can love, but not have sex

Gay Lutheran pastors got the same-sex go ahead Saturday, minus the sex. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Assembly voted voted 538-431 to “curb discipline” against gay pastors in “faithful relationships.”to allow gay pastors to love up on their lovers.

I interpret that as a way to reflect this journey of conversation, discussion, decision, seeking to be faithful to the authority of Scripture, the interpretation of our confession and mindful of the very context in which we are engaged in God’s mission.

This engagement, however, doesn’t involve any sex. Yet. The Assembly also voted that gay pastors must remain celibate, an ungodly request if you ask us.

These new moves come after the two ink-grabbing developments. One came last week, when 82 clergy and lay folk came out en masse, but it’s Reverend Brad Schmeling who grabbed the most ink.

While the Assembly isn’t ready to address gay pastors’ sexuality, they did recommend a task force compose a “comprehensive” study of sexuality, which will be delivered at the next Lutheran conference in 2009. Discussing the 4.8 million strong church’s ethics, Pacific Lutheran University professor Dr. Marit Trelstad reminded the Assembly that Martin Luther took an “anchored, yet flexible approach” to the Scripture. Trelstad also stressed Lutheran’s hands on approach to community building:
We are free in Christ to love and serve the neighbor. [We should] develop a relevant, healthy understanding of sexuality where ‘health’ is understood as cultivating a growing love and concern for God, neighbor and self. What would a social statement on human sexuality look like if it were shaped by God’s promises, our common identity, and our call to love and serve the neighbor?

Struggle for Kentucky LGBT rights continues

The battle for Kentucky continues......

The American Family Association of Kentucky has sent mailers in recent days
touting a "rally to protect marriage" on the Capitol steps at 2 p.m. Monday,
even though no one will be there!

Click here to read more from United We Stand.

Texas church cancels memorial service for war veteran because he was gay

Well folks the headline says it all, but below is the rest of the story. What is this nation coming to? If this isn't blatant hatred I don't know what is. What if this had been a memorial service for an atheist, etc.? Where do you draw the line?

A megachurch canceled a memorial service for a Navy veteran 24 hours before it was to start because the deceased was gay.

Officials at the nondenominational High Point Church knew that Cecil Howard Sinclair was gay when they offered to host his service, said his sister, Kathleen Wright. But after his obituary listed his life partner as one of his survivors, she said, it was called off.

Simons said the church believes homosexuality is a sin, and it would have appeared to endorse that lifestyle if the service had been held there.

“We did decline to host the service — not based on hatred, not based on discrimination, but based on principle,” Simons told The Associated Press. “Had we known it on the day they first spoke about it — yes, we would have declined then. It’s not that we didn’t love the family.”

Simons said the decision had nothing to do with the obituary. He said the church offered to pay for another site for the service, made the video and provided food for more than 100 relatives and friends.

“Even though we could not condone that lifestyle, we went above and beyond for the family through many acts of love and kindness,” Simons said.

Wright called the church’s claim about the pictures “a bold-faced lie.” She said she provided numerous family pictures of Sinclair, including some with his partner, but said none showed men kissing or hugging.

The 5,000-member High Point Church was founded in 2000 by Simons and his wife, April, whose brother is Joel Osteen, well-known pastor of the 38,000-member Lakewood Church in Houston. Now High Point meets in a 432,000-square-foot facility in Arlington, near Dallas.

Wright said relatives declined the church’s offer to hold the service at a community center because they felt it was an inappropriate venue. It ultimately was held at a funeral home, but the cancellation still lingered in some minds, she said.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Gay and lesbian voting power

Candidates should note that this is one group that knows how to get out the vote.

It's a perennial complaint: Too many Americans don't vote. But based on a massive new survey, one population segment -- gays -- surely must be excluded from this rebuke.

A recent study by San Francisco-based Community Marketing Inc. found an eye-popping 92.5% of gay men report they voted in the 2004 presidential race, and almost 84% said they cast ballots in the 2006 midterm election. Among lesbians, the results were almost as impressive; nearly 91% in 2004 and 78% in 2006.

By comparison, the Washington-based Committee for the Study of the American Electorate puts the turnout for all Americans eligible to vote at about 61% in 2004 and roughly 40% in 2006.

Consider that last statistic for a moment: a turnout rate among gay men more than twice that for the nation's voters as a whole.

The survey questioned more than 12,000 gay men and more than 10,000 lesbians, giving its results a minuscule error margin of plus or minus 1%.

The figures "demonstrate that the political parties would be smart to pay attention to the issues that mean the most to gay and lesbian voters," said Tom Roth, president of Community Marketing. "We have far more at stake than the average voter, and we're therefore far more engaged in the political process."

Indeed, the turnout results were released -- not coincidentally -- as the Democratic presidential contenders met in Los Angeles for the first candidate debate devoted to issues of particular interest to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

In raw numbers, the survey estimates gay voters total nearly 9 million. In the 2004 election, about 122 million Americans went to the polls.

The study did not examine the partisan preferences among the gay constituency. But given the parties' respective positions on gay rights, one can assume the tilt is heavily Democratic.

So the candidate walks into a bar . . .
Now you know the presidential campaign is really underway.

The candidates are flocking to Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," many of them second-tier wannabes desperate for any TV exposure -- even if they get laughed at late at night by young people who probably don't vote.

Sen. Joe Biden, known for his hilarious backyard stand-up routine about the president being brain-dead, appeared Wednesday. He's pushing a new book, which presumably uses his own words this time. Next comes former GOP front-runner Sen. John McCain, who will make his 10th appearance on show on Thursday -- what's he got to lose these days? Former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who broke up audiences with his statistical PowerPoints as secretary of Health and Human Services, is scheduled for Aug. 20 -- unless he gives up before then.

On Aug. 22, Sen. Barack Obama, who made that recent funny joke about bombing Pakistan, will make his first "Daily Show" appearance as a candidate. Who knows which other American ally he might pick for the next attack? Sen. Chris Dodd and Gov. Bill Richardson have already appeared this political season -- and just look what it did for their poll numbers. Former Sen. John Edwards has also appeared, although his routine about poor people fell flat.

Hillary Clinton has never been on the "Daily Show" despite her genuine smile, warm charm and spontaneous wit. . .

Depends on your definition of lobbyist
Keeping true to his pledge not to take campaign funds from federal lobbyists, Barack Obama was raising bundles of money today way out in Sacramento, where, everybody knows, there are surely no lobbyists. Not unless you count the 1,032 registered California lobbyists who billed their clients $77.9 million in the first half of this year, according to The Times' Dan Morain.

Obama and John Edwards have been very critical of Hillary Clinton, and Obama wagged his finger at her at a Chicago forum for accepting campaign donations from lobbyists in Washington. She says they can represent "real Americans." Obama maintains lobbyist donations create special influence, which he says he is really, really against.

But apparently state lobbyists are something different because, everyone knows, none of them can have any connections in Washington. And, Obama claims, he would have no influence in Sacramento as president, no influence unless you include, say, holding executive authority over the Department of the Interior, which has final approval over all state gambling compacts with Indian tribes.

"It's not perfect," Obama explained to reporters. "I still have to raise money."

Hosts for Obama's fundraiser included former controller and failed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Westly, who sent letters to the capital lobby corps inviting them to "an intimate fundraiser" for Obama. The cost: $1,000 for the lunch, $2,300 for lunch and reception.

California lobbyists aren't in the habit of donating to candidates. State law bars them from contributing to state lawmakers. That suits them fine. Of course, no law bars them from urging clients to donate, and they regularly do that and, you'll be surprised to learn, the clients readily respond with donations.

Parsing the polls
Hillary Clinton is rightfully pleased with a new national poll showing her extending a lead in the Democratic presidential race to where she's almost lapping the field. But she's also experienced enough not to get too excited.

The new USA Today/Gallup poll gives Clinton a 22-point advantage over Barack Obama, 48% to 26%, among Democratic-leaning voters, with John Edwards a distant third at 12%. The margin over Obama also is nearly double her lead in the same poll in mid-July, possible evidence their recent foreign policy spats worked to her advantage.

As we've noted, national polls at this stage can be illusory. They show trends and underscore general perceptions. But they also reflect lots of voters only vaguely paying attention to the campaign and whose allegiance remains malleable. The polls that matter more are in states that kick off the nomination process: Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Surveys there indicate a far more competitive Democratic race.

The new Gallup poll also tested the Republican race, and to an even greater degree than among Democrats, the results signify less than meets the eye.

Rudy Giuliani is ahead, at 33%, followed by the as-yet-unannounced Fred Thompson at 21% and John McCain at 16%. Running a distant fourth, with 8%, is the fellow leading in surveys of GOP-leaning voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, Mitt Romney.

Much more in line with the political world's view of Romney's prospects is a column by E.J. Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post that details the momentum the former governor is building. Dionne asserts: "Romney has the most comprehensive strategy not only to win the Republican presidential nomination but also to position himself for next year's election."

Excerpted from The Times' political blog, Top of the Ticket, at topoftheticket.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

UPS caves to New Jersey's Governor and Attorney General

After persuasion from New Jersey's governor and attorney general, UPS Inc. said Monday that it would extend health insurance benefits to the civil union partners of gay employees in New Jersey covered by a union contract.

The policy change has to do with New Jersey's civil unions law, which took effect in February, and seeks to give gay couples the same rights in the state as married couples.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine sent Atlanta-based UPS a letter on July 20 asking the shipping company, also known as United Parcel Service, to change its stance. The letter was sent on behalf of a UPS driver and her partner.

"The governor is extremely pleased to learn that UPS has done the right thing," Corzine spokeswoman Lilo Stainton said.

The company had previously said civil union partners were legally different from spouses, and therefore, the partners were not entitled to the same benefits that spouses of the company's hourly workers receive.

Aliens face gay union 'bias' in U.S.

Tom Richardson and Salvador Valenzuela first marked their commitment to each other with a city domestic partnership in Seattle. When Massachusetts became the first US state to allow same-sex marriage, they married there, and hyphenated their last names.

Now back in Washington state, the Richardson-Valenzuelas plan to register for a state domestic partnership, taking advantage of a new state law giving same-sex couples some of the benefits that married heterosexual couples have. The only problem is that by doing so, they risk getting Salvador, who is from Mexico, deported, because registering could jeopardise the temporary tourist visa he uses to enter the US.

Only Massachusetts allows same-sex marriage, and a handful of other states recognise civil unions or domestic partnerships. Civil unions and same-sex marriage are unrecognised at the federal level, which means Valenzuala cannot get legal resident status through a domestic partnership or gay marriage.

“When it comes to gay and lesbian issues, change is coming at the state level,” said state Senator Ed Murray, sponsor of the domestic partnership law and one of five openly gay lawmakers in the state Legislature.

“It's really important for our relationship to be recognised,” said Tom Richardson-Valenzuela, who said they both realise that the immigration laws may catch up with them. Because immigration law does not recognise same-sex couples, an American citizen would not be able to sponsor his or her partner if her or she is on a temporary visa.

Robinson criticized over Obama endorsement - Baldwin says she backs Clinton for president

A well-known gay bishop came out in support of a Democratic presidential candidate last week, much to the consternation of another religious leader who thinks the bishop is being used as a political tool.

In a statement issued Aug. 2, Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, criticized New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson’s endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama, calling it a misuse of religious influence for political gain.

“While endorsements like today’s raise the possibility of legal action against religious leaders, our concerns are rooted more in the impact on the sanctity of religion and the integrity of government,” Gaddy said.

Robinson defended his endorsement of Obama in a teleconference by saying his decision was made as a private citizen, not as a religious leader. He told reporters that he has never endorsed a candidate before and that he will not use the pulpit to expound on his political views.

“For me as a citizen, Barack Obama represents, I think, our greatest hope,” he said. “I’m excited to be in on the ground, if you will, of this campaign because here in New Hampshire it’s important that we get involved early. We do have such an important impact on the future of the election.”

Robinson was the first openly gay priest to be elected a bishop in the Episcopal Church USA in 2004. Robinson, who has announced plans to commit to his partner in a civil union, supports gay marriage rights and disagrees with Obama’s support of civil unions instead of full same-sex marriage equality.

“At this moment we have no viable candidate who is where we would like them to be on these issues,” he said.

Robinson said he was unimpressed by the experience and track records of “other politicians,” but felt Obama’s experience as a community organizer could lead the United States in a better direction.

Sen. John Edwards’ campaign picked up 25 gay endorsements in April and another seven this week. Among them are: Kevin Jennings, founder and executive director of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network; Gregory Simoncini, commissioner of the Illinois Human Rights Commission; Jeff Anderson, former co-chair of John Kerry’s LGBT Finance Committee; and Jeff Soukup, former president and chief operating officer of PlanetOut, Inc.

“As a first-generation college graduate from rural North Carolina, I come from a similar background to Senator Edwards,” Jennings said. “I believe he understands on a gut level issues of justice and equality.”

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) announced her endorsement of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) for president and her appointment as co-chair of Clinton’s Wisconsin campaign the same day as Robinson made his announcement.

“Senator Clinton is supremely prepared and the candidate best able to ensure health care for all, reaffirm our commitment to the Constitution and rule of law and re-establish our position of leadership in the world,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin, one of two openly gay members of Congress, was also named co-chair of the campaign’s LGBT steering committee and a member of its Health Care Policy Task Force.

“Tammy is such a strong voice on behalf of those who are too often left out of the political process,” Clinton said in a prepared statement. “I’m honored she’ll play a leading role in our national campaign and in Wisconsin.”

Baldwin said she has had contact with all but two of the Democratic campaigns but said she decided on Clinton because she wants to see full equal rights for gays at the federal level and because of Clinton’s views on health care.

“I am compelled by the health care issue,” she said. “We have 47 million uninsured people in the wealthiest nation on Earth.”

Baldwin said Clinton is “strong and vocal” in her support of the hate crimes and employment nondiscrimination bills and lends “just the type of visibility to help bring other senators along.”

Although Clinton is supportive on a number of gay issues, Baldwin admitted she differs with her about full marriage equality. Clinton supports civil unions and domestic partnerships, but does not support same-sex marriage.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Six Democrats at Candidate Forum Wear Shades of Gray on Gay Marriage

Six of the candidates seeking the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination participated Thursday in a two-hour forum in Los Angeles devoted to issues of concern to gays and lesbians. The event — moderated by journalist Margaret Carlson and sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights activist group — was broadcast live by co-sponsor Logo, a lifestyle cable channel aimed at gay and lesbian viewers.

Taking questions separately in a talk-show-like setting were front-running candidates New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. Also participating were New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Ohio Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel.

Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd and Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., did not attend, citing scheduling conflicts. Logo offered to hold a second forum for Republican candidates, but the leading candidates for the party’s nomination declined to participate, Carlson said.

Unlike several candidate debates held earlier this year, the Democrats never appeared on stage together, but took questions at 15-minute intervals from Carlson and a panel made up of Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese, singer Melissa Etheridge and Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart. Candidates were questioned in the order in which they agreed to commit to the forum, with chief rivals Obama and Clinton book-ending the discussion as first and last, respectively.

The questions covered a mix of topics, including same-sex marriage, AIDS funding and employment rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples.

The following is a roundup of some of the forum’s key moments:

Most Discussed Issue: Debate about same-sex marriage dominated the forum. With only two candidates, Kucinich and Gravel, supporting full marriage rights for same-sex couples most of the scrutiny went to Obama, Edwards, Richardson and Clinton: All of them proclaimed their support for civil unions that provide many partnership rights to same-sex couples but do not constitute marriage under the law.

“The country isn’t there yet,” said Richardson of his opposition to gay marriage. “Civil unions with full marriage rights is achievable.”

Clinton described her opposition as “a personal position,” adding that marriage laws should be determined by state legislatures.

Obama, who served in the Illinois Senate for eight years prior to his 2004 election to the U.S. Senate, would not say if he would have voted for a bill to legalize gay marriage. “It depends on how the bill would’ve come up,” he said.

In one of the most direct moments of the night, Edwards backtracked on recent comments that his personal faith influenced his opposition to gay marriage. “I shouldn’t have said that,” Edwards said, adding, “My position on same-sex marriage has not changed. I believe strongly in civil unions.”

The discussion also focused heavily on the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, a 1996 statute that was crafted by a Republican-controlled Congress and signed by a Democrat, President Bill Clinton, who is married to Hillary Clinton. The law prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage.

Edwards went the farthest in calling for an outright repeal of the law. “We desperately need to get rid of DOMA,” Edwards said. Edwards has said he would not have voted for the bill if he had been in the Senate in 1996.

Richardson was a member of the U.S. House in 1996 and did vote for the DOMA bill. But he said he backed it as part of an effort to block conservatives from pushing through a more stringent measure, a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Richardson described DOMA as “a cheap political way to decimate a bad initiative.”

Clinton, whose husband was heavily criticized by gay rights groups for signing the law, gave a more defensive response, saying it helped Democratic candidates in 2004 deflect Republican efforts to brand them as pro-gay marriage.

“DOMA provided great protection against the Republican strategy to cynically use marriage as a political tool,” she said. But she expressed support for repealing the section of the law that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman, leaving in place only the section that gives states jurisdiction over marriage laws.

Most Uncomfortable Moment: Capehart grilled Richardson for using the Spanish word for the anti-gay epithet “faggot” on the Don Imus radio show in March 2006, then asked Richardson pointedly if he believes being gay is a personal choice or an inherent biological trait.
Richardson voiced the most conservative view among the candidates. “It is a choice,” he said quickly, looking down. Etheridge repeated her question in a friendly tone, wondering aloud if Richardson did not understand her the first time.

“I’m not a scientist,” he answered. “I don’t see this as an issue of science or definition. I see gays and lesbians as people...I don’t like to answer definitions like that that are grounded in science or something else that I don’t understand.”

Most Impassioned Moment: Kucinich, one of the most vocal supporters of gay rights among the candidates, won high praise from the panel for his support of full marriage rights for homosexuals. Carlson joked that Kucinich is “so evolved” for a member of Congress and asked how he got that way. Kucinich said that, as mayor of Cleveland, he was attacked for hiring a police chief who was sympathetic to gay rights.

“To me, who cares? It really doesn’t matter,” he said, over cheers from the crowd. “Every one of us taking a stand has the potential to help any one of us evolve. That’s the gift we give to each other.”

Most Nuanced Response: For the candidates who don’t fully support legalizing same-sex marriage, the challenge at the forum was to explain their positions on issues in a way that made them palatable to the gay constituency, while not alienating the majority of voters who are not gay.

All the candidates endorsed repealing the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ ban on gays in the military, but Clinton had a little more to prove. She was first lady when the law was signed by President Clinton in 1993, and said she only came out against the policy in 1999.

Clinton said that at the time the law was enacted, “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was meant to be a defensive bill designed to prevent more restrictive measures that moderates as well as conservatives might have been tempted to endorse.

Best Line: “Back then, mainstream media marginalized me. Oh, I was a maverick. Oh, I was ‘Kooky Gravel.’ Well, I tell you what, all you gotta do is live long enough that they look back and say, ‘My God, was he a courageous leader.’” — Gravel, who was initially not invited to the debate, playfully acknowledging his role as an outsider candidate in the race.

Top Point of Agreement: All the candidates agreed that federal marriage benefits should be extended to all couples, regardless of sexuality. The disagreements only b egan when candidates were asked what they would call such a union and why. While candidates who supported anything less than full marriage rights didn’t impress the moderators, they all agreed that homosexuals should be guaranteed equality under the law.

By Sara Lubbes, Josh Stager and Jesse Stanchak, CQ Staff