VOLUME 3, ISSUE 310 | March 4 – 10, 2004
Mass. Constitutional Convention to Resume
Massachusetts legislators will reconvene their historic constitutional convention on March 11 and revisit a state constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage. Lawmakers failed to agree on language banning marriage to gays and lesbians during their February constitutional sessions at which another measure failed that sought to limit marriage to straight couples but guarantee certain benefits to gay couples through civil unions. House Speaker Tom Finneran now supports that latter proposal, which also received the backing of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the party’s presumptive presidential nominee. Previously, Kerry opposed a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in 2002 as did Mitt Romney, the Republican governor. Romney now says he was against that amendment because it precluded domestic partner benefits, though he won’t clarify what benefits he favors. Kerry opposes Pres. Bush’s attempt to pass a federal marriage amendment banning gay marriage, regarding the issue as a matter for respective states to decide. However, Kerry now supports writing anti-gay discrimination into the Massachusetts constitution.
Dick Cheney: No Marriage for My Daughter
Vice Pres. Dick Cheney announced his support for President Bush’s effort to amend the Constitution to ban marriage for gays and lesbians. Told by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that passage of such an amendment would prevent his lesbian daughter, Mary, from marrying her partner, Cheney responded, “The president has made a decision.” Cheney explained that Bush needed to act, “partly because of what happened in Massachusetts and San Francisco,” adding, “and that’s his decision to make.” When Blitzer asked the Veep if he supported Bush’s move, Cheney said, “I support the president.”
In an MSNBC interview, Cheney was again asked about his daughter. “One of the most unpleasant aspects of this business is the extent of which private lives are intruded upon when these kinds of issues come up… I really have always considered my private—my daughters’ lives private and I think that’s the way it ought to remain,” replied Cheney.
John Aravosis, who created the DearMary.com website to call upon Mary Cheney, who works on her father’s re-election campaign, to stand up to her father on the same-sex marriage issue, said, “The vice president had no problem using his daughter’s lesbianism to woo gay votes and gay money for the Republican Party. But now that the party has gone anti-gay, suddenly his daughter’s sexual orientation is something too horrible to mention. The only thing horrible about this entire affair is a father who is selling his daughter for votes in the name of ‘family values.’”
Time magazine, in noting that there are now 1,138 federal rights and responsibilities associated with marriage (up from the previous General Accounting Office count of 1,049), wrote, the “law makes it a federal crime to threaten the husband of Elizabeth Cheney, one of the vice president’s daughters. But it does not outlaw threats against the lesbian partner of Mary Cheney, his younger daughter. Legally speaking, Mary’s partner is not a member of the vice president’s family but, rather, a total stranger to it.”
Arnold Bucks Bush on Amendment
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger went on NBC’s The Tonight Show this week where Jay Leno asked the Republican about same-sex marriage. The governor said that while current state law forbids it, “if the people change their minds and they want to overrule that, that’s fine with me.” He also said he has “no use for a constitutional amendment” backed by President Bush to ban marriage for gays and lesbians.
Cal. Youth Support Gay Marriage
California teens met in Sacramento last weekend in mock legislative session and voted overwhelmingly to support the right of gay and lesbians to wed despite an impassioned plea to the youth from a Republican anti-gay state senator, Pete Knight. He expressed hope that the youth will become more conservative as they grow older.
“We are more accepting because we are young,” San José high school student Brad Speers told the Sacramento Bee. “We know so many people in California who are out and we know they are not deviant.” A Field Poll found that while 44 percent of all Californians are supportive of same-sex marriage, 58 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds are.
HRC Condemns Bush Official for Gay Rights Reversal
The Human Rights Campaign “strongly denounced” the Bush administration’s Office of the Special Counsel “for actively trying to roll back a 23-year-old interpretation of a statute that prevents federal workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.” Scott Bloch, special counsel for the OSC, removed mention of sexual orientation protections from the agency’s website, insisting that the protections arose from an executive order during the Clinton administration. The agency now says that it is re-evaluating whether gay discrimination claims are legally valid.
Elaine Kaplan, a former special counsel, wrote to Bloch: “I cannot imagine where you derived this understanding of the basis for OSC’s pre-existing policy regarding sexual orientation discrimination complaints.”
“The OSC is undermining policies that were implemented during the Reagan administration, and then claiming that these protections have only recently been added,” said Cheryl Jacques, executive director of HRC. “This looks like a thinly veiled attack on gay Americans that it being covered up by the OSC.”
The earlier protections were based on a law that prohibits discrimination against federal employees or job applicants on the basis of off-duty conduct that does not affect job performance. A 1998 executive order explicitly banned job discrimination based on federal employees’ sexual orientation.
N.Y. Reps. Support Immigrant Partners
Seventeen House members from New York joined 103 colleagues to co-sponsor the Permanent Partners Immigration Act that would allow American citizens in bi-national relationship to sponsor their partners for U.S. citizenship. In the Senate, neither Sen. Clinton or Schumer support the legislation, where 11 senators support the bill, according the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign.
“By denial of the most basic right of legal marriage, American citizens who have a same-sex partner often find their family ripped apart when visas run out and the foreign partner must leave the country. Or their foreign partner is not allowed to legally work to help support their family,” wrote the Partners Task Force for Gay and Lesbian Couples.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan), the bill’s author, called the current policy of forced separation of gay bi-national couples “gratuitous cruelty.”
In Western Europe, one of the first rights to be granted to gay couples was the right not to have a foreign partner deported after visa expiration. Some Americans, like performance artist Tim Miller, have emigrated rather than be separated from their foreign same-sex partners.
NY Reps. Oppose Anti-Gay Amendment
A survey of the state’s Congressional delegation found that 20 representatives oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment and two support it, according to the Empire State Pride Agenda. Seven lawmakers took no position and two did not respond to the organization’s query. “History will record those who vote in favor of this amendment as being no different from those who opposed interracial marriage in the last century,” said Alan Van Capelle, ESPA executive director. Nearly all members of the city’s Congressional delegation have spoken out against amendment, including Republican Vito Fossella of Staten Island.
ESPA has been holding a series of town meetings statewide, hoping to build local political support for the right of gays and lesbians to marry.
New Yorkers Head for Massachusetts
New York’s Civil Marriage Trail group is organizing a bus trip to Boston on March 11 to show solidarity with those in Massachusetts fighting to preserve a state court decision ordering marriage licenses for gay couples by mid-May. A bus will leave at 9 a.m. from in front of the LGBT Community Center at 208 W. 13th St. Round trip passage, including lunch, costs $22. (Students and children ride for $5.) To register, go to civilmarriagetrail.org or call Brendan Fay at 718 721 2780.
Vatican Condemns Pro-Gay Marriage Officials
Pope John Paul II called on government officials, especially Roman Catholics like San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, to stop letting gays and lesbians marry. “This is a time in which there is no lack of attempts to reduce marriage to a mere individual contract, with characteristics very different from those that belong to marriage and the family, and that end up degrading it as if it were a form of accessory association within the societal body,” the pontiff said during an audience with Argentina’s new Vatican ambassador. In 2002, Buenos Aires became the first city in Latin America to provide partial legal recognition to same-sex couples.
Andy Humm can be contacted at AndyHumm@aol.com