VOLUME 3, ISSUE 311 | March 11 – 17, 2004
Mass. Constitutional Convention Resumes
State Senate President Robert E. Travaglini and House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran are co-sponsoring a compromise amendment that would ban gay marriage but create civil unions in Massachusetts when the constitutional convention reconvenes on March 11. A similar amendment was defeated last month by a margin of 104-94. Both lawmakers told the Boston Globe they spent much of the weekend urging lawmakers to support the amendment, but cautioned that the situation remains fluid. Other lawmakers told the Boston Globe they were merely polled on their position and expressed skepticism about Finneran’s support of the amendment he is co-sponsoring, and not a more conservative proposal, because in discussions last week Finneran offered a different strategy—offering voters two separate amendments, one banning gay marriage and one creating civil unions. House Republicans issued a statement saying they will support offering voters two separate amendments while Senate Republicans stood firm in their support of the Traviglini-Finneran compromise. But, supporters and opponents of gay marriage are both among those opposed to that compromise. Supporters said the compromise takes away from the rights bestowed by the Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling in favor of gay marriage, while opponents said the compromise would give gays so many rights that it would destabilize marriage as a societal institution.
Gay Marriages Continue in Oregon
Gay marriages won their first legal victory in Oregon when a Multnomah County judge ruled on Monday that the right wing Defense of Marriage Coalition did not present clear evidence that county commissioners violated open meetings laws when four of the five officials decided last week to issue gay marriage licenses. Judge Dale Koch said he would not issue a temporary restraining order and then he transferred the case to another judge for trial. Next week, same-sex marriage opponents go back to court seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the issuance of licenses to gays and lesbians.
Couples Get Tax Relief in Israel
The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that gay couples should not have to pay “purchase and betterment taxes” on their apartments, an exemption that until now was only extended to straight couples who are either married or have lived together for a year, Haaretz reported. The decision came in the case of a Tel Aviv gay couple that filed suit in 2000 and experienced bureaucratic rejections before going before the highest court in the country. Adir Steiner and Tzach Granit had been living together since 1996, but in 2000 Steiner transferred half the rights to the apartment to his partner, requesting an exemption from the taxes. The decision, according to the paper, “opens a new stage in the recognition of equality before the law for same-sex couples in Israel.”
Domestic Partner Rights in Ohio Challenged
The LGBT community of Cleveland Heights won a victory at the polls last November when voters approved a domestic partners registry by a 55 to 45 percent margin, the first time in the nation such a registry had been created by referendum. Now, Councilman Jimmie Hicks, Jr. has filed a lawsuit along with the Alliance Defense Fund, a right wing, anti-gay marriage group, challenging the legality of the registry under Ohio’s Defense of Marriage Act, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported. About the only rights that couples get when they sign up is hospital visitation and a certificate they can show to private employers who provide domestic partner benefits.
NY Secretary of State Opposes Same-Sex Marriage
An appointee of Gov. George Pataki and a potential Republican gubernatorial candidate, Randy Daniels said on NY-1 News that he opposes the right of gay people to marry because, “I cannot reconcile it with my faith.”
Hilary Back at HRC
Hilary Rosen, who back in 1986 was the first paid lobbyist for the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C., has returned as the “campaign strategist” for the group’s same-sex marriage campaign. Rosen will “manage the effort to defeat any attempt to discriminate against same-sex couples and their children in the U.S. Constitution,” a release said.
For many years, Rosen was the chair and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America. A former paid consultant for Senators Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), Rosen is the wife of Elizabeth Birch who recently stepped down as HRC executive director.
Connie Ress Full-Time at Marriage Equality
Connie Ress, a legislative aide to Assemblymember Dick Gottfried (D-Manhattan), the lead sponsor of the Right to Marry Bill in Albany, is taking a one-month leave of absence to work full time for Marriage Equality/New York, the group that has been working since 1998 to win marriage rights for same-sex couples. Ress was the lead organizer of the rally at City Hall on Sunday, February 29 where activists and elected officials demanded that Mayor Bloomberg start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in New York City.
Gays Beat Fox on Big Night
Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” makeover program had a higher rating than the vaunted Fox News on Super Tuesday, the Drudge Report noted. The Fab 5 pulled in a 1.6 Nielsen rating while the Rupert Murdoch right wing news outlet scored a 1.4.
Clinton and Schumer on Gay Immigrant Partners
Last week we reported that New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton are not among the 11 Senate sponsors of the Permanent Partners Immigration Act that would let same-sex bi-national partners of American citizens remain in the United States after their visas expire. Clinton did make a statement of support for the concept at the Empire State Pride Agenda dinner last October, saying, “We have to work to change our nation’s immigration laws to make sure that partners of gays and lesbians have the same rights as others.” But she has yet to become a sponsor.
The bill has 120 sponsors in the United States House of Representatives. _________________________
NAACP Opposes Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment
At Senate hearings on the proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage last week, Hilary Shelton, director of the Washington Bureau of the NAACP, said his organization was “greatly disappointed that President George Bush and others have decided to enter this election cycle by endorsing an amendment that would forever write discrimination into the U.S. Constitution, rather than focusing on the crucial problems and challenges that affect the lives of all of us.”
Gay Bush Appointee Quits Over Marriage Amendment
Donald Copaccia, an out gay man who was appointed to the Commission of Fine Arts by President Bush, has resigned because he was “disgusted” with Bush’s call for amending the Constitution to ban marriage for gays and lesbians, Newsweek reported.
The story also found that David Catania, the gay Republican city council member in Washington, D.C. who is a Bush delegate at his party’s convention and on the party’s platform committee, has stopped raising money for the campaign and will not vote for the president. “You know the concept of buyer’s remorse? I’ve got it,” he told the magazine. “I want my money back.”
Sweden to Marry Gay Couples
Sweden has recognized civil “partnerships” for same-sex couples since 1995, but now their government is proposing full marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.
A debate in the Parliament is scheduled on the proposal for April 28. The leftist parties, representing 117 of 349 seats, support the measure, according to Agence France-Presse. But the governing Social Democrats, with 144 members, and the conservative Moderate Party with 55 have yet to take a stand. The right wing Christian Democrats with 33 seats are vehemently against same-sex marriage and have proposed limiting marriage to straight couples “for the sake of the children.”
The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) issued a statement saying, “We are convinced that many people think that the time has come for one law that defines a deep relationship between two individuals and that this is important regardless of the gender of the people.”
Andy Humm can be contacted at AndyHumm@aol.com