VOLUME 3, ISSUE 335 | August 26 – September 1, 2004
Virginia Refuge for Woman Fleeing Lover
Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins entered a civil union in Vermont in 2000, becoming the Miller-Jenkinses. Lisa gave birth to Isabella in 2002 and the couple was raising the child together. But now Lisa considers herself a “former lesbian” and has moved with her child to Virginia where the law does not recognize out-of-state civil unions or same-sex marriages. Janet has filed for joint custody in Vermont court. Lisa just obtained a ruling from a Winchester, Virginia judge that the state has jurisdiction over the case, citing the state’s Affirmation of Marriage Act that voids same-sex unions.
In Vermont last year, Lisa had asked for dissolution of the civil union and that Janet be given visitation rights. Lisa also waived her right to challenge Janet’s parentage of their child, the Washington Post reported. But this week, she testified via phone in the Vermont courtroom that she wanted Janet denied parental rights. Lisa’s attorney told the paper, “There’s nothing in civil union law that defines Janet as a parent,” even though the Vermont 2000 law was meant to confer nearly all the rights of marriage save federal benefits.
Joseph Price, an attorney who is chair of Equality Virginia, the state LGBT rights group, who is representing Janet pro bono, told the Post, “Virginia could become the Las Vegas of gay divorces. You would simply pack up and move to Virginia, and your partner would have no rights, according to Virginia law.”
Janet’s Vermont lawyers attacked the ruling in Winchester for not recognizing that a custody proceeding was already in progress in another state. Virginia law, the Virginia Pilot reported, “says Virginia courts can’t intervene in a custody battle under way in another state.”
Demo versus Mean Beenie Man
The murderously anti-gay lyrics of the Jamaican dancehall star Beenie Man have led venues across the U.S. and U.K. to cancel his concerts. But there is still one on for the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York on Friday, September 3, that will be met by an LGBT demonstration at 7 p.m. Protesters will gather across the street at the Loew’s 34th Street Theater.
Update on the States
Voters in as many as 12 states this fall may take up constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriages and, in some cases, domestic partnership benefits. Last Friday in Louisiana, a state civil court judge ruled that the ballot proposal was unconstitutional and could not appear on the September 18 ballot because it addressed more than one issue. Then on Monday, the state appeals court ruled that the measure could go forward. Other lawsuits are pending that will likely go before the state’s Supreme Court.
Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, a Democrat, said she would “probably” vote for the amendment, saying, “marriage is sacred, a sacrament, in my opinion, between a man and a woman.” She told the AP, “I always see the danger of social issues used to hurt people and this should not be an excuse to bash or hate.”
In Michigan, the Board of State Canvassers, the state’s election board, voted 2-2 along party lines not to certify the signatures to put the anti-gay amendment on November’s ballot. Petitioners are appealing to the Michigan Supreme Court.
In Ohio last week, approval was given to the wording of an amendment to ban same-sex marriage and barring “the state and its political subdivisions” from creating or recognizing “a legal status for relationship of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.” However, opponents of the measure have found what they call “numerous errors” on the petitions for it and are planning a legal challenge. If enacted, state universities that already offer domestic partner benefits would have to rescind them.
In Oregon, where national gay groups think they have the best shot at defeating an amendment proposal, the November 2 vote will occur two weeks before the Oregon Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether the state Constitution requires the state to grant licenses to same-sex couples. Voter approval of the amendment could render the court case moot.
In Oklahoma, the ACLU is filing suit to remove an amendment banning same-sex marriage from the November 2 ballot. That measure also makes it a misdemeanor to issue a license to gay couples.
And in Utah, the three candidates for attorney general signed a joint statement against the proposed amendment, saying it “goes far beyond simply defining marriage, and would prove unnecessarily hurtful to many Utahans and their families.” In addition to banning same-sex marriage, the measure seeks to prohibit recognition of common law marriages and civil unions. –––––––––––––––––––––––––
Republican Delegates Deeply Opposed to Same-Sex Marriage
Just 2.4 percent of delegates to the Republican National Convention support the right of gay couples to marry, an AP survey found. Seventy percent are opposed and 27 percent “gave another answer,” which varied from not wanting to talk about it to supporting some form of legal recognition.
Dallas Can’t Just Provide Gay Domestic Partner Benefits
City attorneys in Dallas have told City Council proponents of a bill to extend health benefits to same-sex partners of city employees that it must also provide them to unmarried heterosexual partners, the Dallas Morning News reported. Mayor Laura Miller had said that the benefits policy would bring the city into compliance with its 2000 law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, but is now withholding her support until she assesses the fiscal impact of the new policy.
Mayor Pro Tempore John Loza told the paper that support for his proposal is “pretty widespread” on the Council.
Cherokees Limit Marriage
The Cherokee Tribal Council in Tulsa has voted to define marriage as between a man and a woman. They acted after a lesbian couple successfully filed for a tribal marriage application and were married in a Cherokee ceremony. That marriage will stand for now, because the tribal laws are not retroactive. But the Cherokee Nation District Court will meet Friday to hear arguments from a group seeking to void the marriage of Kathy Reynolds and Dawn McKinley.
The Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Seas
Gay Australians, outraged by their government’s decision to ban same-sex marriage last week, have proclaimed the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands based on the island of Cato, about six hours by boat off the coast of Queensland. The organizers have drawn up a constitution and declaration of independence and cited Australian and British case law to back up their claims, ukgaynews.org reported. The settlers have chosen the Gloria Gaynor version of “I Am What I Am” as their national anthem. Emperor Dale Anderson is the first prime minister of the island nation, a paid member of the Brisbane LGBT Pride Committee.
Cato Island previously had no inhabitants and is three kilometers square. The nation’s new website is www.gaykingdom.org.
South African Lesbians File Landmark Suit
Marie Fourie and Cecilia Bonthuys have been fighting for the right to marry in South Africa since 2002. After being turned away by lower courts, they will appeal on Monday to the Supreme Court of Appeals that the common law definition of marriage be changed to embrace them.
Nepalese Released After Police Bashing
Police in Nepal have released on bail 39 members of an LGBT rights group, the Blue Diamond Society, after subjecting the memnbers to violence in custody. The gay and transgendered group was arrested August 9 in a club in Katmandu. Gay.comUK reports that at least one of those imprisoned was beaten so badly he required medical attention.
Human Rights Watch has condemned the actions of the government. Scott Long told the Gay News Service, “In the context of an escalating civil war, respect for rule of law is steadily eroding in Nepal.”
Those arrested must appear in court on September 20.
Zanzibar Bans Gay Sex
A new law on the island nation of Zanzibar that provides for penalties of up to 25 years in prison for men who engage in sex with other men went into effect this week, gay.comUK reported. Peter Tatchell, of the British gay group Outrage! has called for a tourist boycott of the country, which has fallen increasingly under the sway of Islamic fundamentalists.
Andy Humm is a co-host of “Gay USA” seen Thursdays at 11 p.m. on Time-Warner 34 and RCN 107, simulcast at mnn.org channel 34, and on Directv nationwide._
Andy Humm can be contacted at AndyHumm@aol.com