Sunday, November 27, 2011

Australia's PM Stiffs Charity to Avoid Gay Couples

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, of Australia, said she wanted to help raise funds for charities. She auctioned off a dinner with her. Now the idea of a having a pleasant meal, while eating with a politician, may be contradictory. But the winning couples who bid on the dinner were more anxious to talk to Gillard, a fervent opponent of equality of rights for gay couples.

The left-wing politician has been doing her best to "defend traditional marriage." Oddly, her defense of traditional marriage doesn't mean she will marry the man she has been living with. But neither does she want gay men (or women) to marry either.

Six months ago the group GetUp! won the charity auction of with a bid of $31,000AUS. But Gillard has refused to set a date, especially since her own party has been pushing for a vote on marriage equality, which Gillard is attempting to sabotage. So far Gillard has stiffed the charity refusing to set a date for the dinner. After bad publicity for her deceit her office now claims they will set the dinner sometime in the new year. Anyone want to bet that if it happens it will be after any parliamentary vote the matter.

Typical politician.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pastor May Lose Church Over Support for Marriage Rights

Pullen Memorial Baptist Church
Rev. Matt Glover, of the Lillydale Baptist Church in Australia is facing a church vote to throw him out as pastor. Glover says that church members are "happy with my work here, my preaching and my care of people struggling, they're all okay with that, it's just my option that the government should recognize gay marriage which is the sticking point."

"I've said the church doesn't have to recognize gay marriage," said Glover, "the church doesn't have to practice gay marriage, but I think the church needs to stand up for the right of gay people to have their relationships, their marriages, legally recognized by the government." Apparently the good reverend's view are far too libertarian for some in his congregation.

Meanwhile, in Raleigh, North Carolina another Baptist Church is breaking with tradition. The congregation voted to forbid the minister to perform any legally-binding marriages until same-sex couples are given the right to marry. The congregations issues a formal statement attacking a Republican-sponsored measure to ban gay couples from entering into marriage contracts. The vote of the congregation was unanimous.

The church says the minister may perform religious ceremonies but is forbidden to sign state issued documents making the marriage legal. In 1992 the Southern Baptist Convention threw the church out because it wasn't considered sufficiently anti-gay. (Did they thrown out churches that were not sufficiently pro-slavery in the past? The denomination was founded when southern Baptist churches split from northern churches because the southern Baptists supported enslaving human beings as being the will of God.) Pullen also welcomed black members to the church during the late 50s.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Australia to Vote on Equality: PM Scuttles Chances

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, from the left-of-center Labor Party, is a staunch opponent of marriage equality. Most of her own party supports the measure and polls show that 62% of all Australians feel the same way.

But Gillard has a "strong conviction that the institution of marriage has come to have a particular meaning and standing in our culture and nation and should continue unchanged." Gillard, like so many defenders of "traditional" marriage does not live by her own words. She is not married and instead is shacked up with man. In "traditional" terms she is "living in sin."

Gillard and the man she "shacks up" with.
She also reveals her ignorance of this history of marriage by saying it should "continue unchanged." If that were the case Ms. Gillard would be in jail for living in sin and would be forced to marry her partner, Tim Mathieson. Ms. Gillard would not be an attorney in all likelihood, unless her husband permitted such a scandalous thing. Any wages she earned would belong to him. Traditionally she would be denied the right to vote, or run for office, and thus wouldn't be prime minister, or even local dog catcher. It would be assumed that her husband represented her at the polls. She would be very restricted in her ability to divorce him if she saw the need. Traditionally she would be legally incapable of refusing his sexual demands, and if she did, he would have the right to take it forcefully. It would not be considered rape under traditional marriage. I suspect that Mrs. Mathieson would be a relatively unhappy woman, but she would be fulfilling her traditional role, in traditional marriage.

Perhaps she should be thankful that marriage has not remained unchanged instead.

Gillard has faced a growing complaint within her own ruling party about her constant attempts to prevent a vote on marriage equality. So she is pulling a parliamentary maneuver to allow a vote while making sure it fails.

In the parliamentary system the normal process if for the party caucus to determine the position of the party as whole. Members of Parliament represent their party and are normally bound to vote along with the decision of the caucus. If this were followed, the Labor caucus would vote for marriage equality and all MPs would vote along with that decision. Given that Labor holds 72 of 150 seats, their votes with a handful of independents and/or Green Party MPs would be sufficient to pass the measure.

But, a handful of Labor MPs, such as Gillard herself, are opposed to equal rights for gay couples. So Gillard is calling for "conscience" vote which would allow MPs to ignore the party caucus and vote against the measure. This would divide the Labor Party vote in parliament and is likely to send the measure to defeat.

However, supporters of marriage equality, such as Senator Arbib, say that if the opposition Liberal Party allows their MPs a conscience vote as well, then social liberals in this economically conservative party would be sufficient to make up for Labor Party defectors.

Gillard has made it clear she will not allow her Party to reflect the wishes of party members or MPs. She says the government will not bring forth legislation for equality but any Labor MP is free to introduce a private member's bill. Gillard has promised to fight the party membership on the matter at party conference.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Proposal Made: Will Washington Say "I Do?"

A campaign will be launched this week for the state of Washington to become the 7th state to enshrine the idea that all are created equal, when it comes to marriage.

Voters in Washington have previously supported a "all but marriage"  measure of civil unions meant to mimic an actual marriage contract. State Sen. Ed Murray said he and colleagues are "going to push it" and that they think 2012 will be the year that marriage equality happens.

Opposing this deregulation of marriage are Republicans who insist that state controls are necessary to "preserve marriage in its traditional form." Apparently they are ignorant of history otherwise they would not speak of a "traditional form" of marriage at all. It was once deemed that marriage meant women should not vote because their husbands represented them. Before marriage their fathers did that job. Women could not own their own property at times, all property had to be owned by the husband. Even the income of women from employment was deemed to belong to their husband. This was "traditional" marriage. While Sen. Dan Swecker, a big government Republican, wants to preserve "traditional" marriage he only wants to preserve some aspects of traditional marriage.

Marriage to Republicans is like the Bible to fundamentalist—they insist on the right to pick and choose which parts to like and ignore the rest.

Currently the Democrats have a majority in the state Senate and House, but conservative Democrats have previously voted with Republicans to keep government restrictions on marriage contracts in place. Some Republicans will have to jump ship and support deregulation and smaller government in order for the marriage measure to become law. Swecker says there is a 50/50 chance of the deregulation becoming law.

Conservatives pledge to have the rights of the gay minority put up to a public vote where the majority gets to decide whether a minority has the same rights as themselves. Jefferson said that the "most sacred" duty of government is "to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens." He wrote that the best principles of the country was to "secure to all its citizens a perfect equality of rights." He said no man "has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another." The concept of equality of rights, in Republican views means, everyone has the same right to vote the rights of minorities and deny them equality of rights because they are not the majority. It is the very sort of democracy that the Founders warned us to avoid in favor of a Republic.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Rhode Island Loses Millions with Second Best Civil Union Option

Gay residents of Rhode Island are leaving Rhode Island and getting married out of state. They are taking their marriages and the costs to fund them to other states. There is no financial advantage to ignoring the marriage rights of same-sex couples. The NOM spokesperson doesn't even try to marshal an argument here. He just asserts that allowing gay marriage won't fix the budget. I doubt anyone thought it would fix the budget but it would help.

Once in a Century Wedding

Sheila Barnett and Melissa Patrick, a same-sex couple from Florida, was one of 11 couples to win a lavish wedding from the Crowne Plaza in Manhattan. The brides have picked out matching dresses, one in white, the other in purple. In New York the couple will be legally married, but Republicans in Florida have made sure that the marriage will have no legal standing there. The couple have known each other for over 20 years, since high school.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Senate Committee Votes to Abolish DOMA Regulations

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act which regulates which marriages the federal government will recognize, in violation of the 10th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution—in this writer's opinion.

All the Democrats voted for deregulation and all the Republicans voted to keep federal interference in the marriage contract. Republicans have vowed to continue their fight for big government and federalizing marriage. In addition DOMA imposes high costs on private employers and raises the cost of regulatory compliance for any employer who hires individual with same-sex partners.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Will Maine Vote Again on Marriage Equality?

Advocates for marriage equality in Maine had 396 volunteers at the polls yesterday asking voters to sign petitions to put a referendum on the ballot to legalize gay marriage. In that one day some 36,000 signatures were gained for the pro-marriage side. The total number of signatures, on hand, now exceeds 100,000.

This means that another vote can be held next year to legalize marriage contracts for same-sex couples. Voters in Maine previously turned down the idea in a close election. Since then public opinion polls have shown voters shifting their stand on the issue. If the polls are correct a narrow victory is now possible.

But, what proponents have to remember is that the National Organization for (sic) Marriage is a "terrorist" organization that invents lies and distortions to literally scare voters. NOM has regularly produced dishonest advertisements to promote their bigoted agenda. In addition NOM acts as if it above the law. It is a political action committee yet it regularly refuses to report where it's funding is coming from, unlike every other PAC in the country. NOM has argued that they should be required to obey financial reporting laws because they are afraid—if you remember their "I am afraid" commercial you will realize NOM spends a lot of time wallowing in fear and inventing bogeymen to scare the public.

Below is that commercial. What is astounding is that almost every single line they use is a lie. It is astounding how many lies they can pack into one commercial to scare the bejesus out of people. It should be noted that when NOM's allies in California tried to defend Proposition 8 in court that they left out the claims that NOM makes in their advertisements? Under cross-examination their lies would be exposed easily and quickly. But in campaigns the only way to expose their lies is to outspend them massively trying to get accurate information to people. And, as long as their are bigots like John Templeton, Jr., willing to throw a $1 million into hate campaigns fighting their lies is difficult.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ripping Into the Sex Police and

The Family Research Council insists that they have to defend the "family" from the threat of marriage equality. So, to show their support for the family, they gave a award to a deadbeat dad who has refused to pay child support for his own kids. Yep, another marriage defender who defends everyone's family but his own.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Maine Residents Reverse Course on Marriage Equality

Two years ago the National Organization for Marriage and other Religious Right groups mounted a scare campaign about marriage equality in order to convince voters in Maine to overturn a marriage equality law—before voters actually had a chance to see that no harm was inflicted because of it. The vote at the polls was 47% to keep marriage equality and 53% to strip gay people of the right enter legal marriage contracts.

Public Policy Polling revisited the issue in March of this year and their poll showed that 47% now supported marriage equality and 45% opposed it. Now they have released their newest polling results and find that 51% support marriage equality while 42% would oppose it.

But once again they have broken down support and opposition into more nuanced positions. When you include the supposed "separate but equal" position of civil unions support for legal recognition of gay couples jumps dramatically. In Maine only 17% of the residents say they oppose all legal recognition of gay relationship. Support for gay marriage and/or civil unions garners support from 82% of the residents—36% supporting civil unions, and 46% supporting full marriage rights.

A similar pattern in shifting views on the topic is seen over and over. Individuals had strong opposition to the issue. As the matter is discussed and debated the percentage of people supporting civil unions increases, as does the percentage supporting full marriage rights. At first the percentage supporting civil unions tends to be greater than the percentage supporting marriage. Individuals who support civil unions rather rapidly move over to supporting full marriage rights as opponents to equality shift their views to support civil unions.

As things are currently going "civil unions" is not the compromise position where the consensus will settle. It is a half-way house where the public pauses for a second breath before moving on to supporting marriage equality. In other words, all the evolution is going against the Christian Right—they have already lost this issue, it is now just waiting for the final results.

Gay Marriage Inspires Joy Behar to Marry

Joy Behar, of The View, has married Steve Janowitz. The two have been a couple for 29 years but never married. Behar said that gay marriage caused  her to think about marriage. The campaign for marriage equality "brought to my consciousness why gays needed to get married. And I thought it was a good reason for me to get married. And so did Steve, so we did it."

One of the ways marriage equality is good for marriage is that it does cause people to consider why marriage is important. People simply do not understand the function of the marriage contract, they seem to think it is some nice ceremony, but it is much more than that. It is a legal structure which, like the legal structure of property rights, allows individuals to flourish. It is a set of protections for a contractual agreement that allows the couple to move forward the way property rights allow people to create and transfer wealth.

North Carolina and Marriage Equality

Elon University has released its most recent poll regarding marriage equality. A Republican measure has been put on the ballot to make it unconstitutional to allow same-sex couples enter into marriage contracts. These constitutionally-imposed regulations would mean that no gay couple could have a legally valid marriage contract.

Opposition to all forms of legal recognition of gay couples remains steady in the state. It was at 35% in February, 34.4% in September, and is shows up at 34.5% now. This indicates that the most hard core anti-gay population is around one-third of the public. Support for the "civil unions" option—an attempt to be separate but equal—has been slowly eroding. It was at 29% in February, 28.6% in September, and is now at 26.4%. This would seem to indicate a shift in views. But with opposition standing steady it would have to mean the shift was going in the direction of full marriage equality for same-sex couples. And that is what the poll shows. In February 27.8% supported full marriage equality, it rose to 33% in September and is holding steady at 33% now. This would indicate that about two-thirds of residents of the state support some legal recognition of gay relationships.

Asked if they would support an amendment to the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage contracts a majority of residents still express opposition to the idea, again there is slow evolution in attitudes. In February 21.8% of residents said they strongly opposed the idea of the ban, now it is 32.1%. In February 34% said they opposed the idea, just not strongly so, today it is 24.9%. This indicates that opponents to the measure have been firming up their opposition.

Similarly, those who wish to ban marriage contracts for gay couples have also become more firm in their desires to enshrine unequal protection before the law. In February only 16.3% strongly supported a constitutional ban, today it is 21.8%. Those who supported the ban, but not strongly, stood at 21.6% in February and is now at 14.7%

Add them together and you find that opposition to the amendment stood at 55.8% in February and is at 57% today. Total support for the discriminatory clause was at 37% in February and is now at 36.5%. In other words, neither side is gaining or losing ground, but opinions are becoming more polarized.

The real issue on election day is who turns out. An issue can have majority support in the state but still lose at the polls depending on whether the opponents turn out in greater numbers than the supporters. If the Republicans lose one of their hate campaigns in a Southern, Bible-belt state, it could mark a turning point on the issue. Long-term trends are against the Republican strategy of stirring up hatred for gays and immigrants and at some point those trends will tip the votes against the Republican agenda.

John Leguizamo on Marriage Equality

Ricky Martin Takes Spanish Citizenship Over Marriage Issue

Martin and Gonzales
Ricky Martin is an American citizen by virtue of his birth in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. But now he is a Spanish citizen instead. Martin, who is the father of two children, wishes to marry his partner Carlos Gonzalez, something he can not do in Puerto Rico.

Martin's grandmother was born in Spain and the very wealthy singer owns a home there. The Spanish government granted him citizenship and it also allows same-sex marriage. Martin has not been asked to give up his U.S. citizenship, but in my thinking, why should he remain a citizen of a nation that treats him as a second class citizen, in spite of the massive amount of taxes he is forced to pay.

Martin says his twin boys love Gonzalez and Gonzalez loves them. He has expressed his wish to marry but lamented how he was not allowed to do so in Puerto Rico, his home. Martin is currently set to star in a Broadway production of Evita. Gonzales is an economist.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The High Cost of Government Mandated Discrimination: DOMA and the Regulatory State

Conservatives frequently talk about the cost of regulations. For instance, Freedomworks, a well-known conservative organization, published a piece called The Hidden Cost of Regulation. It said: “Complying with regulations is not cheap,” noting that regulations aren’t paid for by just corporations, but by “the entire economy.” It notes that consumers pay higher prices as well, due to these regulations, and that they “act as a drag on economic growth.”

Allow me to add two other points Freedomworks did not mention, but which I believe they would agree with. 1) Motives of the regulators do not change costs imposed by the regulations. That is, costs are not lower if the motives of regulators are good. 2) Costs are not changed if regulations are imposed by one political party rather than the other. In other words, the cost of Republican-imposed regulations would be just the same if Democrats had been the guilty party.

With this in mind, let us turn to a set of regulations Republicans put into place, with the claimed motive of “protecting the family:” The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

On the surface, DOMA doesn’t appear to create new regulations. It says: “In determining the means of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” It sounds simple, but then some of the worst results come out of the simplest of regulations.

Until DOMA, for the entirety of American history, marriage was defined at the state level. Over the last couple of centuries the federal government and the states have woven a web of rules and regulations around the marriage contract. Until DOMA the federal government accepted state-recognized marriages as valid on the federal level. Now there are federal regulations that don’t correspond with the laws in 10 states and the District of Columbia. 

To read the full article go here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Just a Piece of Paper Says Florida Official

Marriage licenses are legal documents issued by the states recognizing the legal nature of a marriage. They recognize the rights that couples have in relationship to one another as well as recognize certain rights that each of the partners have. One such right is that upon marriage it is legally accepted that a spouse can change their name to reflect the name of the person to whom they are married. And, contrary to assumptions, there is no obligation to do so, and both partners have the same rights. Even though a woman traditionally changes her name to reflect that of her husband, there is nothing to prevent the opposite from happening.

If you are married in California and live in Illinois your marriage is recognized by the state of Illinois as valid. The reason for this is that the U.S. Constitution guarantees that: "Full faith and credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records and Judicial Proceedings of every other state." Similarly a divorce granted in one state is recognized in another state. This has been the case since the Constitution was ratified.

Rachel Jolley was married in Connecticut. She went to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles—a bureaucratic hell on earth— and presented her marriage license in order to register a name change on her driver's license. She was refused service. Ann Howard, speaking on behalf of the state of Florida, said: "The out-of-state marriage certificate is a piece of paper that means nothing to the state of Florida."

Now, if a man a woman get married in Connecticut that marriage certificate is no longer just "a piece of paper," but is considered a legal document. The ONLY time this marriage certificate loses its legal validity, according to Florida, is if the couple holding the certificate are gay.

Republicans argue that the Defense of Marriage Act "protects" the States and their right to violate the equal rights of citizens. But, acts of Congress, do not trump the Constitution. Republicans have it ass-backwards and are embracing a totalitarian concept. If the legislature can pass laws superior to the Constitution then there is no restriction on the powers of Congress. The entire Constitution becomes just "a piece of paper" with no validity on any measure.

Republicans are actually arguing that there are NO restrictions on government because any law passed by the legislature is superior to any right guaranteed in the Constitution. And they call this "limited government!"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Republicans Push to Strip Gay Employees Only of Health Benefits for Spouse

Republicans continue their campaign to attack gay couples. A new law is being pushed in Michigan to strip gay state employees of any benefits that their spouses or children receive, even though the same benefits are offered to straight couples. In addition, the law would make it illegal for unions to discuss such benefits during collective bargaining.

Andries Coetzee and partner Gary Woodall, one of the gay
couples under attack by the Republican Party
In 2004 state universities agreed to offer the same health benefits to gay employees that are offered to straight employees. Numerous individuals signed labor agreements with the universities based on these promised forms of compensation. And though universities in Michigan are supposed to have independence from political manipulation of their budgets, according to the state constitution, Republicans are attempting to do a run around the constitution and pass legislation that would prohibit any benefits for the spouses of gay employees along with their children. For 160 years universities had constitutional autonomy with management and control of the universities resting solely with the governing boards.

Republicans, in order to punish people for being gay, are happy to violate Constitutional restrictions on the powers of the legislature. This meant the universities were free to make budgetary decisions of how to spend their funds. So much for constitutional restrictions on the power of the state. Republicans clearly will violate any "principle" they claim to uphold in order to conduct their jihad against gay people.

The bill has already passed the House and is now under consideration by the Senate.

Republicans insist that "defense of marriage" acts previously passed give them the right to go after the benefits of gay university employees since giving their spouses benefits is a form of recognizing their relationships, something the GOP doesn't want to do under any circumstance. This indicates that the Religious Right intends to use such laws a wedges that allow them to go after gay people in ways that were not part of the original legislation. Laws preventing marriage are now used to say that gay couples don't have a right to health coverage even if the coverage is part of the labor contract.

Andries Coetzee is a linguistics professor and has been with his partner, Gary Woodall, for seven years. Woodall's health insurance is included in Coetzee's policy as an employee of the university. Woodall, has been combating cancer and is now in remission. The new legislation would strip Woodall of his health coverage.

University officials say that they will be hampered in hiring good professors because most other universities offer the spouses of gay employees coverage. A vice president of the university said: "These benefits are important for the successful recruitment and retention of our top-flight faculty and staff. We're in competition on lots of levels, this would be an added competitive disadvantage."

Coetzee has said he has already started applying for positions in other states. Of course, the legislation, if passed, would not only drive away current staff but would also make it harder for the university to recruit employees by limiting the pool they have to select from. The result will be a increase in search costs as the university will need to look longer to find the same number of employees.

The sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Dave Agema—a Republican, of course—says "It is not the responsibility of taxpayers to support the roommates and unmarried partners of public employees."

This is the typical Catch-22 that bigoted politicians use. They have regulations that prevent gay couples from legally marrying and they say that because they are not legally married they should not receive the same compensation for employment that married heterosexual couples have.

Julian Bond on Marriage Equality

Julian Bond, the chairman emeritus of the NAACP, speaks out in support of marriage equality. As a bit of trivia, the first president of the NAACP was Moorfield Storey, after whom our Institute was named. Storey was an advocate of civil liberties, a fighter for the rights of black Americans and immigrants, an opponent to war and global interventionism, and a staunch supporter of depoliticized markets with free trade and property rights.