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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.

Political Activists, Not True Models of Christianity, At Liberty Sunday October 16, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in anti-gay activists, lgbt Issues, marriage equality, politics, religion distorted.
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Anti-gay Family Research Council held a “Liberty Sunday” event this last weekend in hopes of rallying social conservative voters by attacking gay and lesbian people and their lives. It seems ridiculous that spending over an hour attacking a small group of people would be considered as a way to mobilize voters, but anti-gay activists believe it is a tested and proven method.

I know it is almost cliche to say this now, but why are these allegedly Christian political activists focusing on attacking gay people when they could use those resources and platforms to fight for causes that are truly Christian: helping America’s poor, encouraging a fair health care system and providing relief to the people of Sudan. The Family Research Council was able to gather dozens of influential conservative Christians and politicians: Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, American Family Association’s Don Wildmon. When is the last time these conservative leaders gathered to support a cause that would actually help people, or a cause that truly lives up to Jesus’ teachings? It doesn’t happen… and it doesn’t happen because these men are political activists, not representatives of Christianity.

Included below are some statements from speakers at Liberty Sunday. With all the issues facing America and the world, do these leaders sound like Christians looking out for the betterment of God’s world? You can decide…

Bishop Wellington Boone, Wellington Boone Ministries:

My wife said to me, well okay then, if sodomites, because they are not gays, it’s a misnomer, they’re sodomites. There were sodomy laws all over this country from 1600’s and it was one time a capital offense, how could we make it a capital offense?.. The Bible! If God calls homosexuality an abomination, if he calls it a vile affection, if he calls it wickedness, I can’t call it inappropriate behavior. So, if this is just a small matter, then let two women go on an island. All women, if you’re a sodomite go on an island and stay by yourself, all women and then put all the men on another island… I called this whole idea of trying to get rights and trying to get on the African American’s side, I called it the rape of the civil rights movement.

Don Wildmon, American Family Association:

The day will come when they’re walking in your church and if you say one thing wrong or bad about homosexuality they will walk in your church and they will shut you up and you will be arrested for a hate crime. That sounds far removed, but it is the truth.

Kris Mineau, Massachusetts Family Institute:

The leadership in this state is beholden to the homosexual lobbyist. Homosexual money is flooding into the state to deny citizens the right to vote and to deny our freedom of speech.

Let me remind you, dear readers, that Focus on the Family alone has a higher budget than all the national LGBT organizations combined. It is absurd to think that the majority of lobbyist money flooding a state is from the LGBT movement… anti-gay activists have a tremendous financial advantage in every way.

Just as David Kuo, author of the new book Tempting Faith, worries: “the name of God is being destroyed in the name of politics.”

Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Freedom Are Not at Odds August 24, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in anti-gay activists, lgbt Issues, marriage equality, religion, religion distorted.
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Running out of reasons to oppose same-sex marriage, anti-gay organizations have once again resorted to the argument that same-sex marriage conflicts with religious freedom. Let’s go to the First Amendment of the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

According to anti-gay activists, allowing same-sex civil marriage (which has no official relationship to the church) will somehow violate the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. Does government recognition of civil marriage equality make a law that respects an establishment of religion? Nope. Does same-sex civil marriage prohibit a particular religions’ ability to carry out its practices freely? Don’t think so.

Government marriage licenses have nothing to do with religion. Atheists, Protestants, Muslims, Mormons and Satanists can all get married under the laws of the federal government. There is no requirement to state your religious beliefs or get married in a church… hell, drunk couples get married by an Elvis in Vegas. Government recognition of marriage would not require any church or religious institution to allow a same-sex ceremony.

Anti-gay religious leaders claim legalizing same-sex marriage violates their religious freedoms, but what about the religious freedoms of churches that do recognize same-sex couples? Several denominations, including the United Church of Christ, marry same-sex couples and bless their relationships. If the religious freedoms of anti-gay churches would be violated by legalizing same-sex marriage, it is just as valid to say that more inclusive denominations have their religious freedoms violated by the ban on marriage equality. Or is one religious institution supposed to be respected more than the other? Maybe they should look back at the “no establishment of religion” part of the First Amendment. I guarantee that when same-sex marriage is finally legalized (which it will be), anti-gay churches will be able to continue to condemn gay people from the pulpit without government interference.

Civil marriage is a government contract that extends over a thousand rights and benefits to help protect couples and their families. To say same-sex couples do not deserve protection, that their children do not deserve protection, is a gross violation of the equal protection clause of the constitution.

Anti-gay organizations will continue to use the “religious discrimination” argument as a grounds for continuing discrimination against same-sex couples and LGBT people. Don’t be too surprised though… allowing discrimination because of Bible verses or “religious freedom” is nothing new. Let’s see what good old Wikipedia has to say:

Today nearly all modern Christians are united in the condemnation of slavery as wrong and contrary to God’s will. Nearly all Christian leaders before the late 17th century recorded slavery, within specific Biblical limitations, as consistent with Christian theology. In both Europe and the United States, progressive Christians were at the forefront of the abolitionist movements.

Let’s hope progressives once again use compassion and common-sense when applying Bible verses to our modern world.

Still Fighting for Equal Rights in Massachusetts August 17, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in healthcare, lgbt Issues, marriage equality.
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It has become apparent that even in the “gay paradise” state of Massachusetts, same-sex married couples will continue to face devastating discrimination until federal marriage equality is legalized. One of the most vital protections, health care for a spouse, can still be denied even though marriage equality was granted over two years ago.

After same-sex marriage became legalized in Massachusetts, the Tennessee-based company Essent Healthcare contacted Blue Cross and forced them to use the federal definition of marriage when administering health benefits to same-sex couples. Using the federal definition of “one man and one woman”, Essent was able to deny healthcare benefits to married same-sex couples in Massachusetts and continue the discriminatory practice of providing employment benefits based on sexual orientation.

A nurse at Merrimack Valley Hospital in Massachusetts, which uses Essent Healthcare, was told her spouse cannot receive healthcare benefits because she is a lesbian. The cost of this discrimination, beyond the emotional impact, can be easily assessed… the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that covering an extra spouse costs $7,110 a year.

Opponents of marriage equality often times argue that gays and lesbians want special rights, not equal rights. When the entire staff at this hospital is given spousal healthcare benefits except for the same-sex married couple, the absurdity of the “special rights” argument is glaring. Denying marriage equality is discrimination and can only fall into two categories: ignorance or prejudice. It is harming real people and real families.

Fair-minded Americans, whether they support marriage equality or not, should be outraged over this blatant violation of equal rights. We must bug the hell out of Essent Healthcare until they respond. Write to their President & Ceo W. Hudson Connery, Jr. at hud.connery@essenthealthcare.comand tell him all couples deserve equal rights. Let him know that healthcare is not something to play politics with.

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.