it's not gay rights it's equal rights
off to work Tuesday, July 21, 2009
As we described in Part
One of this series,
the battle over same-sex marriage in the United States has been hard-fought
in legal, political, and social arenas. Proponents and opponents have scored
both victories and losses, leading to the checkered current landscape, in
which same-sex couples' rights can vary widely from state to state. The
rights of same-sex couples to gain formal recognition of their relationship
differ by state - in terms both of whether any recognition is available and,
if it is, what kind of recognition.
Here, in Part Two, we describe in detail the states in which same-sex
couples can obtain formal recognition from the state - whether in the name
of "marriage" or some alternative status - and the states in which
recognition is banned. We also explain why significant additional changes to
the landscape are unlikely in the near future.
Formal Recognition of Same-Sex Relationships: A Sliding Scale of Rights
Through the combination of court rulings and legislative action, a sliding
scale of relationship rights has developed - ranging from full marriage
equality to a complete ban on formal recognition. (An excellent graphic
representation of the current landscape is made available here
by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.)
As of today, six states - Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New
Hampshire, and Maine - have authorized full marriage rights for same-sex
couples, though each has reached that endpoint by proceeding along a
different path. (Three of these states have not yet started issuing marriage
licenses, but will within the next several months.) Seven foreign countries
also grant full marriage rights: The Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain,
South Africa, Norway, and Sweden.
As we discussed in Part One, in 2004, Massachusetts became the first state
to permit the celebration of same-sex marriages and, for more than four
years, was the only state to do so. When same-sex marriages first began to
be celebrated there, state officials enforced a century-old marriage evasion
law, which Joanna Grossman discussed in a previous column , restricting same-sex marriage to
Massachusetts residents alone. (In general, states do not impose residency
requirements for marriage, though they do for divorce.) That law withstood a
legal challenge , but
it was ultimately repealed by the Massachusetts legislature in 2007, thereby
opening the door to the celebration of the marriages of same-sex couples
from other jurisdictions.
The second state to grant full marriage rights was California, though,
perhaps confusingly, it does not count towards the six states that currently
provide marriage equality. As detailed in a previous column
, the California
Supreme Court ruled in May 2008, in In re Marriage Cases, that the state's
ban on same-sex marriage violated California's state constitution. Though
more than 14,000 same-sex couples had been married in California after that
ruling, the right of same-sex marriage was stripped away by voters in the
November 2008 election. Proposition 8, which amended the California
constitution to ban same-sex marriage, was recently upheld by the California
Supreme Court in Horton v.
Though the Court preserved the validity of the same-sex marriages that had
already been contracted in the state, it upheld the ban going forward.
Connecticut's highest court invalidated that state's ban on same-sex
marriage. The October 2008 ruling focused
heavily on the
importance of the name "marriage," since the state already offered a
marriage-like form of recognition (civil union) for same-sex couples.
Iowa followed suit in April 2009, with a ruling that emphasized
the Iowa way of life
and equality for all "Iowans."
Then, in a somewhat unexpected New England cascade, the legislatures of
Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine all adopted same-sex marriage without a
court ruling nudging them along. (The Vermont law and its unique history are
discussed here .)
Same-sex marriage licenses will begin to issue in each of those states over
the next six months, although an attempt is underway to gather signatures to
put marriage for same-sex couples on the ballot in Maine through a "People's
Veto," a feature of the state constitution that allows citizens to gather
signatures to try to overturn recently-enacted legislation. For this reason,
the status of same-sex marriage in Maine will be in limbo for a while.
The Points on the Sliding Scale: Marriage, Civil Unions, Domestic
In these six states with full marriage rights, there are no state-level
distinctions between same-sex and different-sex married couples. Marriage
has simply been opened to include same-sex couples.
Because of the federal law known as DOMA (we will have more to say about
this law in Part III), however, validly celebrated same-sex marriages will
not be recognized for any federal law purpose such as tax status,
immigration, Social Security, etc. (This state/federal split leads to
sometimes odd conundrums such as the need to create "dummy" federal tax
returns to include with state tax returns that permit joint-filing status
for same-sex spouses.) But within the state in which the marriage was
celebrated, a spouse is a spouse, regardless of sex.
One step away from full marriage equality on the sliding scale is the civil
union - an alternative legal status that provides all of the benefits and
obligations of marriage under a different name. Civil unions were invented
in Vermont (which has since upgraded to full marriage equality) as an
alternative legal status that would be identical to marriage in every
respect other than name. Civil unions spread beyond Vermont - eventually
being adopted in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New Jersey, too. But
because Connecticut and New Hampshire have also upgraded to marriage
equality, civil unions are now confined to New Jersey. (The New Jersey
ruling that led to the legislature's adoption of civil unions is discussed
California offers a domestic partnership status to same-sex couples, which
is very close to marriage, but not identical. Oregon and Washington also
offer a domestic partnership status that is a near-equivalent to marriage,
though not as close as California's. The District of Columbia offers
domestic partnership with many of the same rights as marriage, although the
rules of dissolution are not identical. Most recently, Nevada adopted a new
domestic partnership status, but it is not identical to marriage. It offers
many of the same rights and obligations, but it imposes a different set of
rules regarding formation and dissolution of the partnership and,
importantly, it exempts employers from providing spousal health insurance
benefits for same-sex couples.
Further down on the sliding scale from civil unions and "robust" domestic
partnerships are the handful of states that offer same-sex couples a legal
status that provides a bundle of relationship rights, but falls far short of
marriage. Colorado, Hawaii, and Maryland fall into this category.
And still further down on the scale are six states -- Alaska, Arizona,
Illinois, Montana, Rhode Island, and New Mexico - that provide limited
benefits to same-sex partners of state employees only.
Finally, many municipalities, including New York City, Boston, Philadelphia,
and San Francisco, as well as smaller cities, have adopted ordinances to
provide limited rights for same-sex couples who register for them. City
employees tend to be the main - or, in some cases, only -- beneficiaries of
In New York City, for example, city employees with a registered domestic
partner can obtain spousal health insurance benefits. In this same vein,
President Obama recently issued a memorandum
granting some very modest benefits to the same-sex
partners of federal employees, excluding, notably, the right to obtain
spousal health insurance benefits.
Anti-Same-Sex-Marriage States: Mini-DOMAs and Constitutional Amendments
In Part One of this series, we discussed how the marriage litigation in
Hawaii triggered a backlash. During the three-and-a-half years between the
Hawaii Supreme Court's remanding the case and the trial court's ruling that
prohibitions on same-sex marriages were unconstitutional, fifteen states
passed laws that effectively refused recognition in their state for valid
marriages between two people of the same sex from other jurisdictions, even
though not a single valid same-sex marriage had yet taken place anywhere in
the United States.
Also, in that time period, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was
enacted. It exempted states from having to recognize marriages of same-sex
couples from other states and defined marriage, for purposes of federal law,
as a union between one man and one woman.
Many states have taken the same approach that the legislature and voters of
Hawaii did by amending their state constitutions to prohibit same-sex
marriage. Twenty-nine states have "constitutionalized" a prohibition against
same-sex marriage (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado,
Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi,
Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon,
South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and
Moreover, nineteen of these states have passed broader amendments that
prohibit not only same-sex marriages but also explicitly deny any
recognition to other jurisdictions' same-sex marriages, civil unions, and
other such relationships between people of the same sex (Alabama, Arkansas,
Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska,
North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah,
Virginia, and Wisconsin).
Whatever the future holds, the present polarization of attitudes toward
relationships between people of the same sex has led to a legal patchwork
across the nation of recognition and non-recognition for couples in same-sex
relationships. A relationship that is recognized as a marriage or its
equivalent in some states may not be recognized in others. Forty states have
either a law or a constitutional amendment explicitly restricting marriage
in that state to one man and one woman, and almost all of these also deny
recognition to same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions.
The only states that do not have such provisions are the six states that
have legalized same-sex marriage, plus New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and
Rhode Island. (An updated graphic representation of the current landscape
for non-recognition is made available here
the group Freedom to Marry.)
Potential for Changes in the Landscape? Why the Status Quo Is Likely to Hold
Steady for a While
Although same-sex marriage developments and setbacks have sometimes been
unpredicted and even surprising, the current landscape is probably going to
hold steady, in large part, for the near- and medium-term future. Laws
legalizing marriage between same-sex couples can come about either through
voluntary legislative enactment, a ruling by the state's highest court that
an existing ban violates the state's constitution, or a ruling by a federal
court finding that bans on same-sex marriage violate the federal
constitution. As we explain in this section, there are a limited number of
states in which either of these possibilities exist, or are likely to occur.
In the twenty-nine states that have enshrined their same-sex marriage bans
in a constitution, state courts do not have the power to intercede. A ruling
from the U.S. Supreme Court that same-sex marriage bans violate the U.S.
Constitution would effectively invalidate all such bans, but such a ruling
is not likely given the current composition of the Court. Constitutional
amendments can only be overridden by a new constitutional provision, and
such a new provision would be an unlikely development given the wide margin
by which most of the amendments passed, and the unlikelihood that
legislators and voters would have changed their views in such a relatively
short period of time. Thus, those states will very likely continue to ban
same-sex marriage for some time.
In five of the six states that currently provide, or will soon provide, full
marriage rights, change is also unlikely. Connecticut, Iowa, and
Massachusetts cannot eliminate same-sex marriage without amending their
constitutions because the highest court in each of those states has ruled
that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Given the cumbersome
nature of the process and the political forces in each of those states,
constitutional amendment is unlikely. In Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine,
the legislature could take away same-sex marriage in the same manner it was
granted, but that seems unlikely given that the enactments were voluntary
(i.e., not ordered by a court ruling) and very recent. In Vermont, the
legislative support was strong enough to override a gubernatorial veto.
However, as previously mentioned, a possible state ballot initiative could
eliminate same-sex marriage in Maine before the first same-sex couple
There are thus thirty-five states in which the law of same-sex marriage is
more or less fixed for the near future. Although fifteen states remain,
significant movement is probably unlikely in most of them, as well, at least
in the short run.
Let's consider briefly those remaining states:
* In New York, Maryland, and Washington, the state's highest court has
ruled that neither same-sex marriage, nor an alternative like the civil
union, is constitutionally-required. Maryland and Washington have statutory
bans on same-sex marriage, but these states have recently expanded their
recognition for same-sex relationships. In New York, the governor supports
same-sex marriage and legislative adoption is possible, though history
suggests that New York's legislature often evades easy prediction.
* In New Jersey, the state's highest court has ruled that civil unions
are constitutionally sufficient. However, the state's civil union review
commission has issued a report, which is discussed here
, detailing the
problems created by an alternative legal status for same-sex couples, so
there has been some movement towards legislative adoption of full marriage
rights in the state.
* In Hawaii, the legislature is constitutionally empowered to ban
same-sex marriage and did so, but it could change its mind.
* Rhode Island and New Mexico are the only two states with no statute
or court ruling relating to same-sex marriage rights. In those states, we
could see either voluntary legislative adoption of same-sex marriage, or a
court ruling ordering it as a matter of constitutional necessity.
* In eight additional states -- Delaware, Illinois, Indiana,
Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wyoming - there
is a statutory ban on same-sex marriage, but no constitutional ban. Thus, it
is theoretically possible in any of these states that the highest court
could invalidate the existing ban on constitutional grounds. It is also
possible that the state legislatures could reverse themselves, but, again,
that is unlikely given how recently most of the bans were enacted.
If we had to make a prediction as to which state would be the next to
legalize same-sex marriage, it would be one of the following: Maryland,
Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, or Washington. Beyond these states,
change in the landscape seems unlikely to come soon.
Same-Sex Marriage Will Gain Support, But Progress May be Modest in the Near
In sum, although the developments in the same-sex marriage have been fast
and furious at times, we are likely to see a slower pace in the coming
years. Same-sex couples have earned important recognition rights in several
states, but still face substantial obstacles in others.
Time, however, will work in favor of greater support for same-sex marriage,
as we have seen a narrowing of the margin between those who oppose same-sex
marriage and those who support it since it became legal in Massachusetts.
Joanna Grossman, a FindLaw columnist, is a professor of law at Hofstra
University. Her columns on family law, trusts and estates, and
discrimination, including sex discrimination and sexual harassment, may be
found in the archive of her columns on this
Edward Stein is Acting Dean, Professor of Law, and Director, Program in
Family Law, Policy, and Bioethics at Cardozo Law School. His current
research focuses on issues at the intersection of family law and sexual
orientation, gender and the law.
The Washington Post
A Sanctuary From Hate
Pastor, D.C. Church Offer Gay African Americans A Message of Acceptance and Responsibility
By Darryl Fears
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 26, 2009
In the middle of a sermon, Bishop Rainey Cheeks felt his medicine bottle bulging in his pocket and realized he hadn't taken his pills. He paused in the pulpit and faced the congregation in his tiny storefront church.
"Excuse me," Cheeks remembers telling his parishioners last year as he poured three pills into his hand. "This is my HIV medicine. I'm going to take it now."
As he washed down the pills with water, Cheeks saw some members staring with wide eyes. Everybody knew that their pastor, an imposing man with flowing dreadlocks who once competed in taekwondo championships, is gay. But not everyone knew that he is HIV-positive.
"Go ahead, Rev," a few congregants urged. But most shrugged and waited for the bishop to swallow and get on with delivering the good word.
Inner Light Ministries in the District's H Street corridor might seem like a traditional black church, with fiery sermons, electric gospel music, a soulful choir and a congregation that sways and claps in rhythm. But it is hardly that.
For 16 years, it has served as a sanctuary for a small community of black gays and lesbians who say they feel shunned from all directions -- by black men and women who give them cutting looks of disapproval, by mainstream black ministers who condemn homosexuality, and by white gays who make them feel unwelcome in subtle ways, such as switching from hip-hop to country music in a club when too many black men hit the dance floor.
At Inner Light, members say they can be themselves. In the pews on a recent Sunday, a woman adoringly placed an arm around the shoulders of her girlfriend. A man with a linebacker's strong build sat near the front wearing mascara. And condoms sat in a basket near the door in case any worshipers wanted to grab some on their way out.
Safe sex is part of the message Cheeks preaches. Two-thirds of his 100 or so parishioners are gay and lesbian, a congregation that includes the young and the old; the healthy and the sick; those who are open about their sexual orientation and those who are more guarded.
They come to the church to pray for forgiveness and seek redemption. But many also come to share their experience of being black and gay, living and loving in a city where HIV and AIDS lurk in epidemic proportions in nearly every community.
Nearly 60 percent of men in the city who contracted HIV through sex with men are black, according to a D.C. government survey released in March. Every minister and deacon at Inner Light Ministries has had a close encounter with the disease. Four of them are HIV-positive, including deacon Ronnie Walker, 54, who said that 20 years ago he had unprotected sex with a partner who never mentioned that he was sick and dying.
Cheeks, 57, contracted HIV in the early '80s, when few people knew much about the strange new infection that was sending so many gay men to their graves. Much to the bishop's chagrin, HIV continues to ravage his city almost three decades later.
A 'Time of Being Proud and Black'
In 1980, Cheeks stood on a perch over the dance floor of the ClubHouse disco in Columbia Heights and watched Nona Hendryx belt out a song to a packed room of about 1,200. The singer strode boldly into the throng of dancers, who bodysurfed her back onto the stage.
At 28, Cheeks felt he was at the center of an amazing world. He'd grown up in Northeast Washington, where only his mother knew he was gay. In a neighborhood where gay men were derided as sissies, Cheeks was instead an accomplished practitioner of taekwondo -- so skilled that he competed in the 1973 taekwondo world championship in South Korea.
Now, Cheeks was a manager at one of the country's hottest black gay nightclubs during a heady time for homosexuals in Washington.
A year earlier, gay black intellectuals had emerged from the first National Conference of Third World Lesbians and Gays vowing to transform the District into a "Paradise on the Potomac." They wanted to work toward electing an openly gay black D.C. Council member, maybe even an openly gay black mayor.
"For black folks, there was the time of being proud and black," Cheeks recalled. "And then you had these black gay men coming out in the open and saying: 'I'm proud, too. Don't let your sexuality stop you. Embrace it.' " But before the revolution could take hold, dozens of gay black men came down with a frightening illness that caused pneumonia, skin lesions and dementia. In 1982, Cheeks began suffering from fever and night sweats that doctors eventually diagnosed as AIDS.
The symptoms went away, and Cheeks felt fine, but he was an exception. "You would watch people get sick, and two months later they would be dead," he said.
The ClubHouse's membership, which peaked at 2,000 in 1985, nosedived. It closed in 1990.
"I remember going through the book and scratching out the names of people who died of AIDS," said Cheeks, who founded the group Us Helping Us to help black men pay for food and medicine. "When we got to 300, we were so numb we couldn't continue. Half our staff was gone."
Cheeks, who had been ordained by the nondenominational National Spiritual Science Center in Takoma Park, found himself praying at the bedside of men taking their last breaths and presiding at dozens of funerals.
In November 1988 alone, he said, "I preached at 17 funerals." He was exhausted. "I didn't have another sermon in me. I was so angry that I told God to stop it."
A year later, Cheeks fell ill with pneumonia and a condition that attacked his nervous system. Doctors at George Washington University Hospital told him that he wouldn't walk again and might die. He thanks God that they were wrong.
'I Felt Like I Was in Heaven'
"If you are HIV-positive, stand up," Cheeks commanded during a morning service at Inner Light in 1999.
Ronnie Walker, who had just moved to the District from New York, remembers fidgeting in his pew. He'd always hidden his HIV-positive status.
Then, to his surprise, about a dozen HIV-positive men and women answered Cheeks's call. Finally, Walker stood, too.
"I felt like I was in heaven," said Walker, who always heard homosexuality condemned from the pulpit of other churches he had attended. "The only place I feel safe is in my church."
He credits Cheeks with changing his life. The bishop told him to let God in and stop living in the shadows.
Walker was able to confess a deep secret for which he had long sought forgiveness. On the night of his honeymoon in 1973, he had slipped away from his wife to have sex with his best man. During his seven years of marriage, he betrayed her again and again.
The acceptance Walker found at Inner Light gave him the strength to stop abusing drugs and alcohol, he said. But it hasn't entirely erased the stigma of having HIV. Every morning, Walker opens a chest drawer filled with about 20 brown and white bottles of medicine for HIV, staph infection and failing kidneys. He doesn't keep the pills in the medicine cabinet of his Northwest Washington apartment for a reason, said his partner, Keith Short, who is also HIV-positive.
"You don't want visitors to come into the bathroom and say, 'Oh my God,' " Short said.
The desire to hide being HIV-positive -- not just from visitors but from prospective sexual partners -- is powerful and difficult to change. Some men are reluctant to reveal their health status to possible partners for fear of being rejected. Short said he might avoid the subject if he and Walker broke up and he were dating again.
"It would depend on how I feel," Short said, adding that he would probably use a condom but that in the heat of the moment, he couldn't guarantee it. "Sex is a very powerful thing."
That attitude, Cheeks said, is part of why gay black men in the District are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS. And why he has to keep preaching the message of safe sex.
A light rain drummed on Cheeks's umbrella as he walked to the downtown offices of the Washington Blade several weeks ago. He had been invited there by the newspaper's editors for a roundtable discussion about gay life in the District to mark the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots -- the clashes between police and homosexuals in New York that sparked the modern gay rights movement.
The discussion among older gay activists and younger participants was congenial until the conversation turned to HIV and AIDS. Cheeks listened as 22-year-old Antoine Smith, a former Bojangles' shift manager who lives in Prince George's County, matter-of-factly described the disease as "manageable. It's not the death sentence it used to be."
"I dated someone with it," Smith said, "but I'm still free of it." Although he said he is tested every three months, he said he hadn't always protected himself from HIV. Then a friend who had AIDS died two years ago.
"That's what gave me my fright to stop doing what I was doing," he said. "I was the one being carefree, knowing that this was out there, but at the same time thinking I couldn't be touched."
To Cheeks, Smith sounded too cavalier about AIDS. The bishop lurched back in his chair when Smith described it as "an everyday disease." Even today, Cheeks said, distraught gay black men frequently call his cellphone, asking him to help them cope with their new HIV infections.
Although powerful antiviral drugs keep many people with HIV from developing AIDS, "there's no guarantee that your body will react well to the medicine," Cheeks said. The medical advances have made too many people complacent about HIV, especially young men such as Smith who don't fully grasp its threat.
Twenty-two percent of men in Washington who contracted HIV through sex with men are between the ages of 20 and 29, the District government reported in March. And 40 percent are between 30 and 39.
As he left the Blade's offices, Cheeks said the discussion had driven home the need to start a youth mentoring program at Inner Light. "Most messages . . . to young folk is if you're gay or lesbian, you're going to hell," he said. "So why take responsibility if you're already condemned?
"They need to understand God loves them. But they also need to be accountable for their sexual behavior. Not everything goes."
The Gay Marriage Debate: Where It Stands
by David Masci, Senior Research Fellow, Pew Research Center's Forum on
Religion & Public Life
July 10, 2009
The following is the introduction to a special report on the same-sex
marriage debate by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The complete
package can be found on their website, pewforum.org
In recent years, the debate over same-sex marriage has grown from an issue
that occasionally arose in a few states to a nationwide controversy. Indeed,
in the last five years, the debate over gay marriage has been heard in the
halls of the U.S. Congress, at the White House, in dozens of state
legislatures and courtrooms, and in the rhetoric of election campaigns at
both the national and state levels. Moreover, the battle over whether gays
and lesbians should be allowed to wed shows no signs of abating. In the last
year alone, three states have banned same-sex marriage and four states have
legalized the practice.
Recently, both sides in the debate have scored important victories. In April
2009, for example, Iowa's Supreme Court ruled that the state's constitution
guarantees gays and lesbians the right to wed; the high court in Connecticut
had issued a similar ruling in May 2008. Meanwhile, gay marriage advocates
also won important legislative victories in a number of states, beginning in
April 2009 when the Vermont Legislature legalized same-sex marriage. The
Vermont law marked the first time gay marriage was legalized as the result
of a statute rather than a court ruling. By the end of May 2009, two other
state legislatures, those in Maine and New Hampshire, followed suit,
bringing the total number of states
that allow same-sex marriage to six. Finally, in June 2009, President Barack
Obama granted family medical leave and certain other benefits to the
same-sex partners of federal workers. (The presidential memorandum did not
include health insurance coverage, which would require congressional
Opponents of gay marriage also have had some success in recent years. In
November 2008, for instance, voters in California, Florida and Arizona
approved ballot initiatives amending their state constitutions to prohibit
same-sex marriage, raising the total number of states that have passed such
constitutional amendments to 29.
(Arizona voters had previously rejected a constitutional ban in November
2006.) The vote in California, on a ballot measure known as Proposition 8,
was particularly notable since it overturned a May 2008 California Supreme
Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in that state. Passage of
Proposition 8 also prompted an entirely new court battle over whether the
just-approved ballot initiative itself was constitutional. That battle ended
in May 2009, when the California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality
of Proposition 8. (See The Constitutional Dimensions of the
Same-Sex Marriage Debate at
Most supporters of same-sex marriage contend that gay and lesbian couples
should be treated no differently than their heterosexual counterparts and
that they should be able to marry like anyone else. Beyond wanting to uphold
the legal principles of nondiscrimination and equal treatment, supporters
say there are very practical reasons behind the fight for marriage equity.
They point out, for instance, that homosexual couples who have been together
for years often find themselves without the basic rights and privileges that
are currently enjoyed by heterosexual couples who legally marry -- from the
sharing of health and pension benefits to hospital visitation rights.
Most social conservatives and others who oppose same-sex marriage argue that
marriage between a man and a woman is the bedrock of a healthy society
because it leads to stable families and, ultimately, to children who grow up
to be productive adults. Allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed, they
contend, will radically redefine marriage and further weaken it at a time
when the institution is already in serious trouble as a result of high
divorce rates and a significant number of out-of-wedlock births. Moreover,
many predict that giving gay couples the right to marry will ultimately lead
to granting people in polygamous and other nontraditional relationships the
right to marry as well.
The American religious community is
deeply divided over the issue of same-sex marriage. The Catholic Church and
many evangelical Christian groups have played a leading role in public
opposition to gay marriage, while mainline Protestant churches and other
religious groups wrestle with whether to ordain gay clergy and perform
same-sex wedding ceremonies. Indeed, the ordination and marriage of gay
persons has been a growing wedge between the socially liberal and
conservative wings of the Episcopal, Lutheran and Presbyterian churches,
leading some conservative congregations and even whole dioceses to break
away from their national churches. (See Religious
Groups' Official Positions on
Same-Sex Marriage at pewforum.org.)
Meanwhile, opponents of legalizing same-sex marriage have consistently
outnumbered supporters, although by varying margins at different points in
time. For instance, in 2004, just months after Massachusetts became the
first state to allow gay marriage, a joint survey
by the Pew Research Center's Forum on
Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the
Press found that about twice as many Americans opposed legalizing same-sex
marriage (60%) as supported it (29%). More recently, an April 2009
survey by the Pew Research
Center for the People & the Press found that opposition to legalizing
same-sex marriage stood at 54%, with 35% supporting the right of gays and
lesbians to wed. (See Public Opinion on Gay Marriage:
Opponents Consistently Outnumber
Supporters at pewforum.org.)
The same-sex marriage debate is not solely an American phenomenon. Many
countries, especially those in Europe, have grappled with the issue as well.
Since 2001, seven nations -- the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South
Africa, Sweden and Norway -- have legalized gay marriage. (See Gay Marriage
Around the World at pewforum.org.)
The Beginning of the Debate
Gay Americans have been calling for the right to marry, or at least to
create more formalized relationships, since the 1960s, but same-sex marriage
has only emerged as a national issue within the last 20 years. The spark
that started the debate occurred in Hawaii in 1993, when the Hawaii Supreme
Court ruled that an existing law banning same-sex marriage would be
unconstitutional unless the state government could show that it had a
compelling reason for discriminating against gay and lesbian couples.
Even though this decision did not immediately lead to the legalization of
gay marriage in that state (the case was sent back to a lower court for
further consideration), it did spark a nationwide backlash. Over the next
decade, legislatures in more than 40 states passed what are generally known
as Defense of Marriage Acts (DOMAs), which define marriage solely as a union
between a man and a woman. While a few of these laws have been struck down,
36 states still have DOMAs on the books. In addition, in 1996 the U.S.
Congress passed, and President Bill Clinton signed, a federal DOMA statute
that, for purposes of federal law, defines marriage as a union between a man
and a woman. The statute also asserts that no state can be forced to legally
recognize a same-sex marriage performed in another state. The enactment of a
federal DOMA is significant since the federal protections and benefits
conferred by marriage are stipulated in over 1,000 laws and policies,
including Social Security, family medical leave and federal taxation and
In the late 1990s, Alaska, Nebraska and Nevada amended their state
constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriage. These constitutional changes
were aimed at taking the issue out of the hands of judges. Conservatives, in
particular, feared that without constitutional language specifically
defining marriage, many judges would take it upon themselves to interpret
other constitutional provisions broadly so as to allow a right to same-sex
Amid widespread efforts in many states to prevent same-sex marriage, there
was at least one notable victory for gay-rights advocates during this
period. In 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that gay and lesbian
couples were entitled to all the rights and protections associated with
marriage. However, the court left it up to the Vermont Legislature to
determine how to grant these rights to same-sex couples. The following year,
the legislature approved a bill granting gay and lesbian couples the right
to form civil unions, which grant most of the legal rights of marriage but
not the title.
The Massachusetts Decision and Its Aftermath
For a while, the debate over gay marriage seemed to fade from the public
eye. But the issue was suddenly catapulted back into the headlines in
November 2003, when the highest state court in Massachusetts ruled that the
state's constitution guaranteed gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.
Unlike the Vermont high court's decision four years earlier, the ruling in
this case, Goodridge v. Massachusetts Department of Public Health, left the
Massachusetts Legislature no option for how to implement the court's
decision: the court required the legislature to pass a law granting full
marriage rights to same-sex couples. (See The Constitutional Dimensions of
the Same-Sex Marriage Debate at
In the days and weeks following the 2003 Massachusetts decision, some cities
and localities -- including San Francisco, Portland, Ore. and New Paltz,
N.Y. -- began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. Television images of
long lines of same-sex couples waiting for marriage licenses outside
government offices led some social conservatives and others to predict that
same-sex unions would soon be a reality in many parts of the country. But
these predictions proved premature.
To begin with, the marriage licenses issued to gay couples outside
Massachusetts were later nullified, since none of the mayors and other local
officials involved had the authority to grant marriage licenses to same-sex
couples. More significantly, the Massachusetts decision led to another major
backlash at the federal and state levels. In the U.S. Congress, conservative
lawmakers, with support from President George W. Bush, attempted to pass an
amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have banned same-sex marriage
nationwide. However, efforts to obtain the two-thirds majority needed in
both houses to pass the amendment fell short in 2004 and again in 2006.
Recent State Actions
Opponents of gay marriage have had better luck at the state level,
especially in recent years. Prior to 2004, only four states had approved
constitutional amendments either banning same-sex marriage or, in the case
of Hawaii, taking the issue away from the state's courts. In 2004, however,
voters in 13 states passed referenda amending their constitutions to
prohibit same-sex marriage. Thirteen additional states took the same step
between 2005 and 2008, bringing the total number of states with gay marriage
bans in their constitutions to 29. (See State
Policies on Same-Sex Marriage at
Most of the states that have approved constitutional amendments banning gay
marriage are in the more socially conservative South and Midwest, although,
as noted, voters in a more socially liberal state, California, narrowly
approved a ban in 2008. On the East Coast, however, all but one state in New
England (Rhode Island) allows same-sex marriage. Between the coasts, only
one state, Iowa, has so far recognized gay marriage. In other states,
including more socially liberal jurisdictions such as New York, Washington
state and Maryland, high courts have rejected the argument that gay marriage
is a constitutional right.
Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships
While battles have been raging in many states over whether to accept or ban
same-sex marriage, a number of states have enacted laws that establish civil
unions or domestic partnerships, both of which aim to give gay and lesbian
couples many or most of the rights and responsibilities of matrimony without
actually granting them the right to wed. Civil unions were first created in
Vermont in response to the1999 ruling by the Vermont Supreme Court ordering
the state legislature to provide same-sex couples "the common benefits and
protections that flow from marriage under Vermont law." (Vermont has since
enacted a same-sex marriage law that supersedes its civil union statute.)
Currently, only one state, New Jersey, allows for civil unions.
California and Oregon have nearly identical provisions that allow both
heterosexual and homosexual couples to register as domestic partners and
claim all state benefits conferred on husbands and wives. California's law
was enacted in 1999 and was extended to include all marital benefits in
2005. During a brief period of time, from June 16 to Nov. 4, 2008,
California allowed same-sex couples to wed, but gay and lesbian couples who
did not marry during this brief period may once again register under the
state's domestic partnership statute. Oregon's law was enacted in 2007.
Washington has a domestic partnership law -- adopted in 2007 and expanded in
2008 -- that includes most, but not all marital benefits. Nevada recently
enacted a broad domestic partnership law that will take effect in October
2009. Hawaii has a narrower domestic partner registry, put in place in 1997,
that conveys only a handful of benefits, including hospital visitation
rights and inheritance without a will.
Finally, a number of states that have not approved same-sex marriage,
including New York and Rhode Island, now recognize gay nuptials legally
performed elsewhere, as does the District of Columbia.
The Road Ahead
Gay marriage advocates hope that their recent victories in Iowa and Vermont
will give their cause momentum in other states. And indeed, other state
legislatures -- in New Jersey and New York -- have recently considered
measures that would make gay marriage legal.
Opponents of same-sex marriage note that whenever voters have had an
opportunity to weigh in on the issue -- even in a more socially liberal
state such as California -- they almost always vote against gay marriage.
These opponents hope to continue placing constitutional bans on the ballot
and are targeting Iowa, among other states, in the hope of reversing that
state's recent Supreme Court decision.
Both sides also are gearing up for a renewed fight at the federal level. For
example, there has been some movement in the U.S. Congress to amend or
repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a step President Obama supports.
Indeed, in June 2009, when Obama granted limited benefits to the same-sex
partners of federal workers, he stated that he could not offer them medical
insurance because of the federal DOMA and took the opportunity to call for
its repeal. While it is difficult to predict where the next battle will be
fought and what the outcome will be, it is safe to assume that the gay
marriage debate will remain part of the nation's legal and political
landscape for years to come.
Find extensive resources on
intersection of same-sex marriage, politics and religion, including an
overview of the debate, the latest public opinion and more at pewforum.org
Gays need NAACP in fight against bias
By Deb Price
At the recent centennial celebration of the NAACP's founding and courageous achievements, President Barack Obama challenged the nation's oldest civil rights group to throw itself in the coming 100 years into eradicating the "prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination" that still mar America.
Obama declared, "The pain of discrimination is still felt in America. By African American women paid less for doing the same work as colleagues of a different color and a different gender. By Latinos made to feel unwelcome in their own country. By Muslim Americans viewed with suspicion simply because they kneel down to pray to their God. By our gay brothers and sisters, still taunted, still attacked, still denied their rights.
"... (D)iscrimination cannot stand -- not on account of color or gender; how you worship or who you love. Prejudice has no place in the United States of America." he added.
The president's inclusive message had special resonance for black Americans who are also lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. A great many remain closeted for fear of rejection by the African-American community.
Here was the nation's first black president including gay people's struggles under the umbrella of civil rights in speaking to the movers and shakers of the black community, which sadly is torn over the rightful place of gay Americans.
Jason Bartlett of Connecticut, one of the nation's two openly gay black state legislators, said the significance of Obama's message can't be overstated.
"LGBT issues still are seen as different, and that supporting them is supporting white LGBT people rather than black LGBT people," says Bartlett, who is also deputy director of the gay National Black Justice Coalition.
"That is why the president's wording was so important. The phrase 'brother and sister' has a special cultural meaning. We need the NAACP out there saying, 'LGBT rights are civil rights,' and saying it because we who are LGBT and black are part of the black family," Bartlett adds.
The NAACP's help is badly needed. As the National Black Justice Coalition's "At the Crossroads" reported, black LGBTs can be disproportionately hurt by government policies harming gay families because, for example, black same-sex households are nearly twice as likely as white ones to having children. (Read report at NBJCoalition.org.)
Of course, some of the most passionate supporters of full equality for gay Americans include such civil rights titans as NAACP Chairman Julian Bond and Congressman John Lewis of Georgia.
But the NAACP as an organization has yet to throw its full weight into the push for gay equality. Bartlett and other black LGBTs hope that the centennial convention marked a turning point.
Barlett used the occasion to urge the NAACP board of governors to pass supportive resolutions. Black LGBT people "need you," he stressed.
The NAACP's LGBT Equality Task Force was unveiled at a session that spotlighted anti-gay hate crimes and discrimination in schools, employment and marriage. Alicia Skillman, executive director of Michigan's gay Triangle Foundation, addressed the tragic consequences when LGBT youth don't feel safe at school: Bullied or even beaten, many drop out. Some commit suicide.
"It was an important step to be able to focus on these issues at the NAACP convention," Skillman says. "We need the NAACP to be more vocal."
Sylvia Rhue, interim executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, agrees and believes "change is in the air" at the NAACP.
The 100-year-old giant, which grew great by demanding that America heed her better angels, could play an amazing role in the fight to free black gay men and lesbians from the pain of discrimination.
of course this has nothing to with living here but it might help someone young that already lives here and thats why post this stuff http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/how-the-forces-finally-learnt-to-take-pride-1762057.html
TRW. just a question to provide me with some insight and not to vex you in any way but, As a gay man, have you encontered any discrimination or harrassment as a result of your orientation?
here? only from statesiders,in mpls from the downtown rednecks,which is usual,in omaha only from the downtown redneckss,i've only experienced homophobia here from fellow gay people which we've seen on this thread
I don't get involved with this debate on a regular basis, and I am definately not "homophobic" however, I must say that I do not believe this website was set up for this type of debate. I appologize if I have hurt anyones feelings, but, this website was designed to give information about the USVI.
I think it can be credibly argued that some people considering a move want to know the degree to which civil rights are extended to homosexuals in the USVI. That said, I don't think everything posted in this thread is relevant to that concern. But then most threads fail to stay exclusively on topic, and it is easy enough to skip threads if the topic is of no interest. I would rather the board remain a venue for free expression (as long as you don't try to use thewordbitch in a PM) than be heavily edited by a moderator.
look,i'm gay and i get alot of email from different gay groups on the internet,and so i post it on this thread,it's a spot that i use to compile all the info i get,i could care less if you read it or not,BUT someone on this board might want to read it or could be so closeted that they don't want anything "gay" showing up in their computor history,christ almighty people give it a rest already,it's one thread out of hundreds
more outrage,lol,Christian hate Pastor Steven Anderson prays for Obama's death
August 24, 1:30 PM Portland Humanist Examiner Micha J. Stone
Christian hate Pastor Steven Anderson is praying for President Barack Obama's death. Anderson, yet another hate spewing homophobic Christian, is Pastor of the Faithful World Baptist Church, in Tempe, Arizona.
Aside from praying for President Barack Obama's death, Pastor Anderson seems fixated on homosexuality. His fixation is clearly unhealthy, and could very well be indicative of an individual unable to process his own sexual confusion.
Anderson trots out the usual Christian slander and smear on the gay lifestyle. Anderson claims that homosexuals recruit through rape and the molesting of children. Yet Anderson goes one better than most hate filled Christians. Christians usually mask their hatred and bigotry with a cutesy expression like: "hate the sin but love the sinner".
To his credit Anderson is not so two-faced. Anderson says what many Christians are frightened to admit: Anderson wants the death penalty for homosexuals. The source for such a draconian response? The Bible, of course.
Christian Pastor Steven Anderson wants homosexuals put to death, just as the Bible mandates. In addition, the good Pastor prays for President's Obama's death. One can only suppose that his flock shares similar hopes and aspirations.
Her is a quote from the good Christian, the good Pastor, a man of God:
Let me tell you something: Barack Obama has wrought lewdness in America. America has become lewd. What does lewd mean? L-E-W-D? [Pause] Obscene. Right? Dirty. Filthy. Homosexuality. Promiscuity. All of the -- everything that's on the billboard, the TV. Sensuality. Lewdness! We don't even know what lewdness means anymore! We're just surrounded by it, inundated with it!
... And yet you're going to tell me that I'm supposed to pray for the socialist devil, murderer, infanticide, who wants to see young children and he wants to see babies killed through abortion and partial-birth abortion and all these different things -- you're gonna tell me I'm supposed to pray for God to give him a good lunch tomorrow while he's in Phoenix, Arizona.
Nope. I'm not gonna pray for his good. I'm going to pray that he dies and goes to hell. When I go to bed tonight, that's what I'm going to pray. And you say, 'Are you just saying that?' No. When I go to bed tonight, Steven L. Anderson is going to pray for Barack Obama to die and go to hell.
Wow, TRW, I have to agree with you! Anderson does sound way off the mark. Obama didn't bring lewdness into the US.....it was here a long time ago. Praying for anyone's death is absurd. He sounds like an idiot.
i just don't understand stuff alot of the time, we have one of these guys here on island,his name is adelbert, he said pretty much the same thing during the televised debates about the constitution with oreilly morgan and ross about gays being pedophiles
The old testament also says we should stone adulterers and fornicators. I don't know about STT and STJ, but here on STX, I doubt we have that many stones. I wonder if we can use coconuts instead?
The Jewish folks are still under the old covenant and ought to be using coconuts, I suppose, like the Taliban still does, but Christians are under a new covenant and are to "love our neighbors as ourselves" (no, that's not a sexual inference) Jesus said, "let him who is without sin cast the first stone" ....and everyone just stood around after that. There is no room for praying for someone to die and there is no room for hating people. Just sins.
i just read an article about a highly decorated air force pilot accused of male rape,he was cleared of all charges when the cops investigated him and the"victim" but the airforce got wind of it and are trying to kick him out under don't ask don't tell because he had to admit to the police he is gay,dudes got 18 years in and wants to fill out his last 2 years so he can get his pension so he's going to court over the whole thing,it's this type of crap that pisses the hell out of me, i used to go out with an airforce colonel up in grand forks back when i had hair and my roommates father called the airforce and turned him in and he got booted and he was a lutheran minister which is all the more sickening because the lutherans will now take "active"gay men as ministers