Monday, December 26, 2011

Virginia Inches Toward Marriage Equality

A bare majority of Virginia voters say they oppose gay marriage, just 53%. This is according to a recent poll by Public Policy Polling. Virginians tend to be conservative. The poll shows that only 24% define themselves as very liberal, or somewhat liberal, compared to 42% who are in the conservative camp. One third, 34%, say they are moderates.

34% of voters there fully support marriage equality. Only 38% of Virginians oppose any kind of legal recognition for gay couples while 28% will accept marriage-lite, in the form of civil unions. Total support for some sort of legal recognition of same-sex relationships stands 62%.

The key for the direction in which is going is the total percentage supporting both civil unions and full marriage equality. All the trends have shown that people who support civil unions start coming around to full marriage rights rather quickly. Civil unions are the half-way house for people, where they pause and take a breath before embracing full equality.

There are also reasons to suspect that support for marriage equality is higher than they indicate in this poll. According to their site 20% of the people they polled are over the age of 65, a generation that is very unsupportive of equal rights. But, according to the US Census, 12.2% of the state population falls into this age category. And it appears that younger voters, who tend to favor marriage equality, were under polled. About 20% of the population falls into that age group, but only 14% in this poll did. In general older voters were over represented in the poll.

Even among those who define themselves as "very conservative" 17% say they support either marriage equality or civil unions. For those who are "somewhat conservative" the figure jumps to 46%. For moderates it is 70%, for "somewhat liberal" it is 87% and for "very liberal" it drops to 78%. Among women support for legal recognition was 61%, for men it was 56%. And according to political identification, 70% of Democrats favor some form of marriage equality—41% for full equality and 29% for civil unions. For Republicans 14% support marriage equality and 25% support civil unions, a totla of 39%. With independent voters the total is 37% for marriage, 29% for civil unions, or 66% support for one of the two.

The trending is all in the right direction which means it is just a mater of time before full marriage equality has majority support in Virginia.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Uncomfortable Questions for the DOMA Defenders.

There are numerous court cases that are investigating the legality of the sort of discriminatory policies which where imposed by the Defense of Marriage Act.  The Republican congress passed a measure to spend millions of taxpayer’s dollars in order to defend this intrusive regulation. They even created a misnamed  Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to handle defending the undefendable.

 One of the cases winding its way through the coursts is Golinski v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The court that will be hearing the case has asked BLAG and attorneys for Golinski to address numerous questions in a hearing scheduled for December 16. These are all good questions and we are reprinting them here, though in shorter format geared for non-legal audiences. These questions get to the heart of DOMA and why it was such a radical assault on the traditional separation of powers between the states and the federal government. I shall be curious to see how the Republicans answer these question and what mental gymnastics will be required for them to justify this unprecedented attack on the federalist principles that apply to marriage laws.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mr. Santorum: Are you an idiot, or do you just play one on television?

Santorum demonstrates health classes after marriage equality.
No doubt Rick Santorum thought speaking at a Christian college made him safe from annoying questions. Jason Kornelias, who just graduated from the college, asked Santorum about his stand on marriage equality for same-sex couples and compared it to the opposition to interracial marriage that restricted the rights of Americans in the past.

Santorum was confused when Kornelias said he couldn't think of any way that equal marriage rights would "be a hit to faith and family in America." Santorum then tried to concoct an answer. He said that if marriage equality was passed then "their sexual activity," we presume same-sex couples, would be seen as "equal." And then it would be taught in the schools.

I was unaware that classes teach sexual activity. I know they teach health and they teach the risks for various sexual practices, or exaggerate them in the case of the abstinence classes the Religious Right pushed through. But they don't teach sexual activity. They describe risks of various sex acts.

Now, I don't know what Mr. Santorum thinks that gay couples do sexually. But, there is nothing that same-sex couples can do sexually that differs from what heterosexuals can do. Every act that gay couples are capable of committing in bed, can be done by heterosexuals as well.

Santorum said, "So, what is going to be taught to our people in health class in our schools?" Answer: nothing that ought not be taught there now. Any health class that covers the risks of heterosexual sexual activity would also cover the risks of homosexual activity. In other words, there is nothing new to teach folks. Oral sex between two men carries the same risks as oral sex between a man and a woman. Anal intercourse works the same in straight couples as in gay couples. There is no "gay" plumbing that somehow offers gay couples options that are closed off to straight couples. The answer is that nothing new needs to be taught. Any basic information on sexual practices and risks would already cover the topic.

Then Santorum worried about "What families look like in America?" Here the danger appears to be that at some point in their life individuals learn that gay people exist and form families. Really? That's a risk. Are we to assume that these people never watch television? Have they no gay relatives, or family friends? Are they in such an insulated bubble that this widely-known fact will harm them? In other words, families will look just like they look now. Like it not, Mr. Santorum, gay people exist and they are committed to one another and they form families. Even worse, for you, most Americans know this.

This fact is in the newspapers. It is on television. It is apparent in grocery stores, schools, and churches across America. Thanks to your harping on the issue, even your followers are fully aware that gay families exist. You told them so! If this information is so damaging, maybe you should have kept your mouth shut. Well, even if it were not damaging, maybe you should have kept your mouth shut.

After the remark of what families look like, Santorum went even more incoherent: "So, you are going to have in our curriculum spread throughout our curriculum worldview that is fundamentally different from what is taught in schools todays? Is that not a consequence of gay marriage?" My question is: Is there a complete sentence? If it is what, does it mean?

This was almost as brilliant as his response on people dying for a lack of health care. He said: "People die in America because people die in America." This is a man incapable of intelligent thought.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Gary Johnson Endorses Marriage Equality

Presidential candidate and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson announced during an on-line Town Hall Thursday night that he supports civil marriage for gay Americans.  Having long supported civil unions for gay couples, Johnson’s decision to endorse gay marriage is based on “a great deal of deliberation, discussion with the gay community, and a conclusion that government has no business choosing who should be allowed the benefits of marriage and who should not.”

Announcing his support for gay marriage, Johnson said, “As a believer in individual freedom and keeping government out of personal lives, I simply cannot find a legitimate justification for federal laws, such as the Defense of Marriage Act, which ‘define’ marriage.  That definition should be left to religions and individuals – not government.  Government’s role when it comes to marriage is one of granting benefits and rights to couples who choose to enter into a marriage ‘contract’.  As I have examined this issue, consulted with folks on all sides, and viewed it through the lens of individual freedom and equal rights, it has become clear to me that denying those rights and benefits to gay couples is discrimination, plain and simple.

“Certainly, religions and people of various faiths have the right to view marriage as they wish, and sanction marriage according to those beliefs.  Just as government shouldn’t interfere with individual rights, government should not interfere with how marriage is treated as a ceremony, a sacrament or a privilege within a set of religious beliefs.  However, when it comes to the rights of individuals and couples under the law, government’s promise should be to insure equal access to those rights to all Americans, gay or straight.

“For a very long time, society has viewed gay marriage as a moral and, yes, religious issue.  Today, I believe we have arrived at a point in history where more and more Americans are viewing it as a question of liberty and freedom.  That evolution is important, and the time has come for us to align our marriage laws with the notion that every individual should be treated equally.”

Johnson’s announcement came during an on-line Town Hall co-hosted with GOProud, an organization of gay conservatives and their allies.

Johnson is running for the Republican nomination for president but both the media and GOP have frozen him out of the debates. At points they change rules for admittance to debates mid-stream after it was shown Johnson actually qualified. After failing to keep him out of two debates the debate sponsors came up with a rule saying only people who had been in three debates prior could enter the debate. So, they basically made their exclusion of him a reason to exclude him.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Australia Moves Closer to Marriage Equality: PM Still Fighting

Left-wing Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, continues to fight marriage equality in the name of defending traditional marriage. She also continues to refuse to marry her long-time male partner while do so.

Now, one Australia's more conservative states has legalized gay civil unions. In Australia marriage is entirely regulated by the federal government and while states can vote for civil unions they are forbidden to vote on marriage—the sort of centralized system that conservative Republicans are now trying to foist on the United States.

Same-sex civil partnerships were voted in law in Queensland by a 47-40 vote.

Meanwhile Gillard is having to fight her own party. Given widespread public support for same sex marriage, the Labor Party delegates are starting to feel that their party is out of sync with the voters. Now 400 delegates from the Australian Labor Party are holding their meeting in Sydney. And delegates are going to be asked to buck Gillard and openly support equality.

A measure will be introduced by Andrew Barr, a leader of the conservative wing of the Labor Party. And it will seconded by Penny Wong, the second highest official in the Labor government. Wong is in a same-sex relationship and she and her partner are expecting a child shortly. Barr has said that enough delegates from the right wing of the party will support the delegates from the left wing, and that the party platform will be changed.

Meanwhile the relatively small fundamentalist Christian sects are up in arms trying to scare members of parliament into supporting inequality of rights.

But five of the eight Australian states have already spoken. And public opinion polls show a clear majority of Australians are in favor of marriage equality. As things stand, only Gillard is stopping marriage equality from happening now, through her use of office to prevent the Labor Party from adopting equality. If the party platform is change she will lose and Labor MPs will have to vote with the platform, meaning marriage equality will become a reality.

Below is an ad from Australia on marriage equality that has taken Youtube by storm.