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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.

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.

Iraq Rhetoric Instead of Action is Killing U.S. Troops and Iraqi Civilians July 1, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in bush administration, congress, iraq, politics, public opinion.
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The Oklahoma City bombing was the worst terrorist attack in American history up until 9/11. Killing 168 people, a shocked nation mourned the loss and remained stunned over the evil necessary for such an attack to occur.

That same evil has manifested itself in Iraq this morning, as another domestic terrorist attack in a crowded Baghdad market killed 62 people and wounded 114 others. These 62 Iraqis will be added to a civilian death toll whose low estimate is currently at 38,764 dead. Dozens of unnecessary deaths is just another day in a country that feels unsafe walking city streets or waiting in line at checkpoints.

Congress continues to “debate” whether American troops should remain in Iraq. President Bush insists we will remain until the “job is done”, which continues to look increasingly unlikely. The majority of Democrats insist on a phased withdrawal, a withdrawal timeline or an immediate end to American troops in Iraq. Republicans are combating the Democratic strategy with electoral rhetoric like “cut and run,” but isn’t it time sound bites are traded in for a substantive conversation about why our troops should remain?

We can no longer trust Bush on Iraq. We have had “mission accomplished” and four years worth of guarantees that the country is headed in the right direction. This has been meet with increased violence and increased hopelessness in the country. I strongly support a phased withdrawal and non-binding timeline for Iraq, but I am less sure about an immediate withdrawal for American troops.

When considering these various withdrawl plans, it is imperative that Congress put aside politics and find answers to the following:

  • Will the deaths of more U.S. troops make an impact on the situation in Iraq?
  • Will Iraqi civilian deaths increase or diminish once American troops exit Iraq or remain in much smaller numbers?
  • Does a continued American presence give the Iraqi government the force it needs to succeed or does it hinder the government’s ability to be seen as an institution separate from the U.S.?
  • Is an American withdrawal a win for insurgents in Iraq or will it undermine their validity and lose favor in the eyes of most Iraqis?
  • Will terrorists thrive in Iraq without American troops and if so, will these terrorists be a threat to the United States?

For all the debate among Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill, on Fox News and in the New York Times, I rarely hear any consideration of these questions.

My criticism for Democrats: Are we considering withdrawal plans because of increased American troop deaths or because we have considered all the questions above? In my opinion, all of these questions hold equal weight in whether we should consider withdrawing significant numbers of American troops.

My criticism for Republicans: We have been hearing victory is near for four years. Are we avoiding withdrawal in Iraq because it is admitting the war was a mistake or because you truly believe we can win the war? Do you believe we should have stayed in Vietnam longer… would that have helped us achieve our objectives?

The war was a mistake… as far as I’m concerned that debate is over among Americans. It is now a lose-lose proposition… but which “lose” is worse? We must decide what the next step is instead of blindly “staying the course”. Congress must begin to address the important questions about Iraq instead of using rhetoric and politics to win support or keep face. Congressional leaders, Democrat or Republican, using rhetoric instead of substance should be condemned for patronizing Americans and choosing politics over policy in Iraq. Americans want a plan and a solution.

Here’s what Americans said in a June 20 Pew Poll:

  • 52 percent want a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal; 42 percent oppose such a measure
  • 34 percent say Democrats have better judgement on Iraq; 28 percent say Republicans; 24 percent say both or neither
  • 17 percent have heard “a lot” of debate or Iraq in Congress; 44 percent have heard “a little” debate and 38 percent have heard “nothing at all”

It appears the American people believe Congress has been ignoring the financial and political drain that is Iraq in favor of other issues like same-sex marriage and flag burning. Republicans ignoring Iraq in favor of these social issues should be ashamed of their lack of concern for American troops’ lives. Force Congress to have true debates about Iraqi policy.