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Anti-Gay Amendments: Media Recognizes Measures as Unnecessary October 28, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in amendments, anti-gay activists, lgbt Issues, marriage equality, media, public opinion.
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As progressives prepare for what might be the most exciting election year since 1992, campaigns in eight states are fighting to keep their state constitutions free of discriminatory amendments. There has been much optimism over the potential to defeat anti-marriage equality amendments in two states, Wisconsin and Virginia, but with only a week left it is looking like an uphill battle.

Fair Wisconsin has waged a smart and effective campaign that emphasizes the amendment’s far-reaching consequences… not only would it ban marriage, it would ban civil unions and possibly other forms of same-sex relationship recognition. The message seems to have played well over the past year or so, but as it comes down to the wire, there is still a sizeable gap between supporters and opponents. A St. Norbert College Survey Center poll released last week shows 51 percent of likely voters supporting the amendment, compared to 44 percent who are opposed. Support for the amendment has been pushed by conservative churches, most likely with the help of national organizations such as Focus on the Family.

The Commonwealth Coalition in Virginia has also run a promising campaign that has faced a more skeptical public than Fair Wisconsin has. In July of this year, 56 percent of Virginians supported the amendment and only 38 percent were opposed. Today that gap has narrowed by 8 percent, with only 52 percent of Virginians supporting the amendment and 42 percent opposed. The Commonwealth Coalition has been able to sway Virginians using a number of tactics, one of which asserts that Virginia’s bill of rights was a model for the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Right, and that changing it would be fundamentally misguided (see ad here).

The passion that flamed anti-gay sentiment in the 2004 elections seems to have calmed a bit, and newspaper editorial staffs now seem to be able to see through anti-gay rhetoric and analyze the amendments for what they truly are.

Of the seven mainstream Wisconsin newspapers that have run editorials on the amendment, only one has supported banning same-sex marriage (the Green Bay Press-Gazette). The state papers with the largest circulations (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin State Journal and The Capital Times) have all opposed the amendment.

Some highlights from Wisconsin editorials:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [from before the Assembly approved the measure]:

…the law of the land is secular, not sectarian. Moreover, we note that not everyone who claims religious faith has the same views on gays. And some note that the New Testament, at least, says much more about such virtues as charity, kindness and eschewing wealth than about homosexuality…

The other reason given for the amendment usually has to do with the “will of the people” or the need “for the people to be heard.” In other words, “we” can do this because there are more of “us” than “them,” otherwise known as “you people.”

We hope there are far fewer in this other editorial “we” than amendment backers hope. We’ve heard variations of this discrimination argument applied to other groups of people. It doesn’t sound any better this time.

The Capital Times:

This is not merely discrimination. It is cruelty. And it is a form of cruelty that will cause young people to leave the state, convince pioneering researchers to leave the University of Wisconsin and force responsible businesses to locate their factories and offices elsewhere…

Wisconsin is about more than its business climate, however. Even if the amendment did not pose such a clear threat to the state’s economic prospects, it would be wrong for Wisconsin.

Amending the constitution to require discrimination goes against everything that Wisconsin stands for. It breaks faith with the most fundamental of the values that have guided this state for all of its 158 years.

***

Editorials on Virginia’s amendment have often expressed little doubt that the measure will pass, but of the seven newspapers that have taken a clear stand on the amendment, only two have encouraged support for the amendment (Danville Register & Bee and the Washington Examiner).

Some highlights from Virginia editorials:

Daily Press:

But at the core the truth is that this amendment speaks of two things: A deep-seated prejudice against gays and lesbians.

The reality that there are among us, always, people who seek to use fear and prejudice for their own political advancement…

Make no mistake, this amendment goes beyond its stated intent of protecting marriage. It hurts gays and lesbians. It will hurt unmarried partners regardless of their sexual orientation. It will hurt us all.

Bristol Herald Courier:

Tampering with either state’s constitution in this manner is redundant. It reinforces an attitude of intolerance or hostility toward those who are different. It is a dangerous government foray into the realm of religion and a blow to individual rights.

In this nation’s history, most constitutional amendments have granted freedoms rather than taking them away – prohibition being the obvious exception. Virginia and Tennessee voters should think twice before altering these hallowed precepts to ban that which is already illegal.

A “no” vote is not a vote for same-sex unions. It is a vote to protect our constitutions and to respect freedom. We cannot think of a more traditionally conservative stand to take.

***

While the majority of media outlets seem to have taken a hard stance against marriage amendments, the American public has not quite reached that point. Fear created by the anti-gay right has fueled opposition to same-sex marriage, yet many who support the amendment still struggle to find a reason for the amendment beyond “protecting marriage.” Ask them how it protects marriage and their arguments usually hit a dead-end.

The recent New Jersey Supreme Court ruling, which requires the legislature to give all the rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples (without forcing them to call it marriage), has renewed anti-gay rhetoric about “activist judges.” Although New Jersey did not ban same-sex marriage while all the states with proposed amendments do, anti-gay activists refuse to explain this to voters and have distorted the ruling for their own gain. Whether the New Jersey decision hurts efforts to defeat state amendments has yet to be seen, but with only a week to go, we can only hope that voters realize these amendments are unnecessary measures designed to bolster cynical election campaigns.

Let’s hope Wisconsinites and Virginians recognize the media’s fair analysis of anti-gay amendments while they enter the voting booths on November 7.

Visit the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) for more editorials on amendments in the eight states with anti-gay ballot initiatives.

Watching Colorado: Gay Rights Strategy Could Become a Model for Change August 8, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in amendments, domestic partnerships, lgbt Issues, marriage equality.
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Colorado residents will vote on a number of same-sex union initiatives when they reach the ballot box this November. It is part of a new strategy on behalf of Coloradans for Fairness & Equality and the Gill Foundation to give voters the opportunity to protect same-sex couples even if they support a proposed anti-marriage equality amendment.

Anti-gay activists’ petition drive to ban domestic partnerships failed to collect enough signatures and will not appear on the ballot. But three other initiatives did make the cut:

  • Constitutional Amendment to Ban Marriage Equality: This now classic ballot proposal will attempt to write discrimination into the constitution by banning same-sex marriage through an amendment.
  • Referendum 1 – Domestic Partnerships: Proposed by Colorado lawmakers, this initiative aims to give same-sex couples many of the rights and responsibilities of married couples through domestic partnerships.
  • Domestic Partnership Amendment: This initiative proposed by Coloradans for Fairness & Equality would write domestic partnerships law into the state constitution. The amendment would ensure that anti-gay forces could not constantly threaten to take away same-sex couples’ rights through ballot initiatives or legislation. The Domestic Partnership Amendment would clarify that domestic partnerships are not the same as marriage.

Assuming voters understand the purpose of the ballot initiatives, which may be a big assumption, there is a good chance all three measures will be voted into law. LGBT advocates in Colorado have decided to forgo the failed strategy of so many other states: throw all your money into opposing an anti-marriage equality amendment that is destined to pass anyways.

Instead, Colorado LGBT groups have decided to provide voters who don’t support marriage equality with an alternative to protect same-sex couples: domestic partnerships. Polling consistently shows broad support for domestic partnerships and even civil unions, so those who enter the ballot box and vote against marriage may find domestic partnerships to be a fair compromise. In more moderate or conservative states, focusing on domestic partnerships instead of defeating the marriage amendment may prove an important strategy for achieving incremental social change in the face of tremendous opposition.

Most Americans are decent people. They may not understand LGBT people and they may think God does not approve, but most do not want same-sex couples to suffer. Those who understand the purpose of domestic partnerships, but oppose marriage equality, may be half-guilted into voting for the measure.

Many LGBT advocates are angry with Colorado groups for not vigorously opposing the anti-marriage equality amendment, but it is important to remember the purpose of social justice groups. LGBT groups are supposed to fight for the rights and protections of LGBT people and to secure them as quick as possible. We can not always work on principles alone… it would be shameful for gay rights advocates to deny LGBT families the vital protections of domestic partnerships in favor of fighting an anti-marriage equality amendment that would undoubtedly succeed.

The court rulings of the past few weeks have forced us to realize that marriage equality will be a long and difficult struggle. In the meantime, it is important to obtain as many protections as possible in the shortest amount of time. If the strategy in Colorado plays out as many are hoping, I expect to see it emulated in many other parts of the country.

Survey Gives Hope to Those Wanting Equal Rights for Same-Sex Couples August 5, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in amendments, civil unions, lgbt Issues, marriage equality, politics, public opinion.
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Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has just released a comprehensive public opinion survey on America’s attitude towards gay and lesbian people and their issues. The polling numbers will leave LGBT people with a fairly optimistic view of the future, but also reveals a relatively long road towards achieving equality and respect from the American people.

The majority of Americans oppose marriage equality, but a majority also support civil unions for same-sex couples. Americans seem to realize the unfairness of denying benefits to committed partners and their families simply because they are of the same sex, yet the general public is hesitant to repair this inequity through same-sex marriage. Fifty-six percent of Americans oppose same-sex marriage and 54 percent support civil unions, which are generally believed to grant the same rights and benefits of marriage if enacted at the federal level. It seems as if Americans are generally supportive of equal rights for same-sex couples, but are opposed to using the word “marriage” to describe those rights.

The number of Americans in support of equal rights for same-sex couples is higher than the media or polling numbers would suggest. Although 42 percent are opposed to civil unions, a portion of those “opposed” likely support same-sex marriage and are opposed to civil unions only because they believe it is a compromise that voids the likelihood of obtaining marriage equality. The number of Americans who are in favor of granting same-sex couples marriage rights, without using the word “marriage”, could be as high as 60 percent.

This 60 percent estimate is bolstered by poll numbers showing that only 30 percent of those who oppose same-sex marriage also support a Federal Marriage Amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. The Federal Marriage Amendment would likely block access to both marriage rights and civil unions, which the public does not support. Americans are less divided than their representatives in Congress would suggest considering less than 30 percent of Americans support writing a ban on marriage equality into the United States Constitution. President Bush was hesitant to speak in favor of the amendment because poll numbers suggest that outside the Republican base, the support is simply not there.

Only a minority of Americans (35 percent) support full marriage equality for same-sex couples, but the Pew survey suggests support for marriage will increase in the future. Since 1996, support for same-sex marriage has increased by eight percent despite a large dip in 2003 and 2004. The Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v Texas which outlawed bans on sodomy, and the 2004 Goodridge decision in Massachusetts which legalized same-sex marriage in the state, created a backlash in support for marriage equality. Support for same-sex marriage dipped to 29 percent following the two court rulings, but has managed to return to pre-Lawrence and Goodridge numbers as people’s fears about same-sex marriage subside.

The trend is clearly moving towards support for marriage equality. The future of America, people ages 18-29, support same-sex marriage by large numbers (53 percent in favor and 38 percent opposed). The age group that currently has a tremendous impact on American politics, ages 65 and over, remains adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage (with only 16 percent in favor). Young people are less likely to vote and seniors have high voter turnout, which is part of the reason rights for same-sex couples are more divisive in Congress than in the general public. As today’s 18-29 age group grows older and begins to represent a larger portion of America’s voting block, members of Congress will naturally begin to reflect their viewpoints, including support for same-sex couples.

The media tends to look at polling numbers for marriage equality and conclude that Americans are not supportive of rights for same-sex couples. But looking beyond the initial “number in support” and “number opposed” statistics reveals a much more complicated and optimistic trend for LGBT people and their families. As today’s seniors begin to play a less significant role in politics and today’s youth become more engaged, support for marriage equality will become a majority position and all but the most conservative Americans will be supportive of civil unions. It is difficult to build a timeline that can predict when these changes will occur, but the increasing visibility of loving same-sex couples will play a crucial role in expediting that change.

The optimistic numbers on marriage are complimented by an increasing number of Americans who believe sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be changed. Forty-nine percent of those polled believe sexual orientation is unchangeable compared to only 39 percent who believe it can be altered. The number of Americans who believe sexual orientation is unchangeable has risen by seven percent in the last three years, a remarkable change in public opinion. Most believe that as more Americans realize sexual orientation is no more a choice than skin color or ethnicity, people will become more supportive of equal rights for LGBT people.

While many LGBT people and their allies have been disheartened by the judicial branch’s reluctance to protect same-sex couples, it appears as if public opinion may play a crucial role in changing the status of gay and lesbian people in American society. All polling numbers continue to move towards acceptance and a better understanding of LGBT people, and it is only natural for protections and equal rights to follow. It is relatively safe to assume that Americans can talk about when, not if, marriage equality becomes law of the land. As democracies across the globe continue to stand up for the rights of same-sex couples, the United States will realize it can either support equal rights or fail to protect all of its citizens.

Congress May Not Understand Priorities, but Today the Media Did July 18, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in amendments, congress, lgbt Issues, marriage equality, media, politics.
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Today’s Headlines:

  • Israeli Planes Batter Lebanon Again, Killing 30 People [NY Times]
  • Gonzales: Bush Blocked Eavesdropping Probe [Washington Post]
  • Over 3,000 Iraqi Civilians Killed in June, U.N. Report Says [NY Times]
  • Car Bombing Kills Dozens in Iraq [BBC]

And as the worldwide crises deepen, the U.S. House takes decisive action… by debating the Federal Marriage Amendment for half the day. The amendment failed, as predicted, but somehow our representatives felt discussing same-sex marriage has priority over Iraq, domestic spying and the Middle East conflict.

Conservatives in the House are no longer just avoiding domestic issues to placate their base, they are avoiding taking action to save human lives. Our soldiers are dying on foreign soil, innocent Israeli and Lebanese civilians are being bombarded with rockets and missiles, but gay frickin’ marriage remains on the debate schedule?

The Good News: Republicans in the House were hoping to get another media blitz by debating the Federal Marriage Amendment… hoping against hope that if same-sex marriage is brought up enough by the mainstream media, moderate conservatives will forget about Iraq and the economy and still vote for them in the November elections.

However, cable news channels barely covered the debate today. The mainstream media (despite what you may think of them), realizes the loss of human life is much more important and immediate than banning gay people from walking down the aisle. Republicans did not get the media blitz they were hoping for because most Americans have found better things to worry about.

Political pandering to this degree is a disgrace to our democracy and our institutions. Let’s hope that November will help bring us a Congress that cares about real people, not just another group of politicians that place fundraising issues over real issues.

Today’s Heroes: Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and the 27 Republicans who had the courage to vote against their anti-gay base.

Good Poll Numbers in Wisconsin July 10, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in amendments, lgbt Issues, marriage equality.
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Good news out of Wisconsin. The latest poll shows 48.5 percent of Wisconsin residents support a proposed anti-marriage equality amendment with 47.8 percent of opposed. Those are excellent numbers with four months left before the ballot measure goes up for a vote.

I was somewhat skeptical of Fair Wisconsin‘s messaging around the amendment. They argue the amendment “goes too far” by banning both marriage and civil unions. To me, the message seemed to imply that the ban would be okay if it only prevented marriage equality. However, these latest poll numbers show that their campaign is working, and working well. It would not be surprising if the more moderate message may eventually be used in other ballot campaigns across the country. I still don’t like what the message implies, but Fair Wisconsin seems to know their audience.

Wisconsin may be the first anti-marriage equality amendment to fail in a popular vote at the ballot box. Fair Wisconsin are just beginning an ad campaign and the television ad looks effective. If you have relatives or friends in Wisconsin, tell them to speak out against the amendment and to make sure they show up to the ballot box in November.

Download the Fair Wisconsin ad.