Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Mass. Marriage Ban Initiative 

Not satisfied with the legislature's proposed constitutional amendment that would limit marriage to one man/one woman but at the same time allow civil unions for same sex couples, a group of Massachusetts anti-marriage activists, both citizens and lawmakers, announced yesterday that they will be announcing tomorrow their their ballot initiative petition for a state constitutional amendment both limiting marriage and barring civil unions.

First, let me just toss in an aside that these announcements of announcements make me nuts. They're not announcing it tomorrow - they announced it yesterday. They'll be providing more details tomorrow, both regarding the petition itself and the people and groups behind it. I know, I know - it's a strategy designed to ensure a large turnout at the "official" announcement tomorrow. It still bothers me.

But back to the initiative. While the legislative proposal has already passed the required simple majority votes at the Constitutional Convention last year, and if it passes again this year (the convention is expected this fall) will be presented to the state's voters at the 2006 elections, this ballot initiative will not be able to go to the voters until the 2008 elections. Before getting there, though, the initiative's backers must convince 66,500 registered voters to sign their petition to limit marriage and deny legal recognition of or protection to same sex couples by way of civil unions. These signatures must be gathered between September 21 and November 23. If they get these signatures (and enough of the signatures pass scrutiny), then 50 of the state's 200 legislators must approve the measure in two consecutive constitutional conventions before the measure could go to the voters. The earliest it could be on the ballot is in the fall of 2008, when it would need a simple majority in order to have the marriage limitation and civil union ban written into the constitution.

Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus co-chair Arline Isaacson (who spoke at NESL this spring) questions the group's strategy, as it will likely lead to defeat of the legislative proposal and delay the general vote for two years. Many who voted for the marriage limiting/civil union establishing compromise amendment oppose the idea of civil unions, but supported the measure as the one most likely to pass last year (which it did). If these legislators see an option more palatable to their desire to invalidate same sex relationships, they are likely to vote this one down at the constitutional convention this fall. At that point same sex couples could continue marrying until at least November 2008, giving the citizenry a total of 4.5 years to experience the world not ending while thousands more couples choose to enter into the legally binding committment of marriage.

Exactly who all the backers of this petition are isn't clear yet, but they include State Representative Emile J. Goguen, who last year led the effort to impeach the Supreme Judicial Court justices in the majority on Goodridge, and Ronald A. Crews, former head of the Massachusetts Family Institute. Crews lost his bid to become a state rep. in last fall's elections. The MFI is expected to back the petition, but it has not yet made a formal statement. If you're interested in keeping tab on what the MFI is keeping tab, you can check their weblog. Always good to know what the other side is talking about.


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

NJ Appeals Court: No Same-Sex Marriage 

An appellate court in NJ today affirmed 2-1 a lower court decision that barring same sex couples from marrying is not a violation of the NJ state constitution. The dissenter argued that denying same sex couples from marrying bars them from the right to marry their (individual adult, nonrelated, consenting, etc.) partner of choice, thereby effectively denying them the right to marry. The case will inevitably be appealed to the Supreme Court of New Jersey. This is the same course that Goodrich went through in Massachusetts, with the plaintiffs losing at the trial and appellate level, but prevailing at the state high court level.

The NJ trial and appellate courts held that the state legislature would have to amend the state's marriage laws before same sex couples could legally marry.

The appellate decision in Lewis v. Harris can be found here.


Friday, June 10, 2005

Boston Pride 2005 

NESL OUTLaws will be taking part in tomorrow's Boston Pride parade, so if you're in the area, please join us - remember that you don't have to be GLBT to be an OUTLaw, straight allies are always welcome!

We've been assigned to Section E of the parade, directly behind the Ramrod float - so expect it to be raucus!!!!! We'll be assembling on Exeter Street, between Boylston St. and Blagden St. They request that all marchers be in place "on the left side of the street" by 11:00 am tomorrow (6/11). We are Group E2.

I have to hit the registration table for us between 9:30 and 10:00, so after that I'll be at our assembly area. Remember that we're a marching only group, so no motor vehicles.
Please come join us if you possibly can, and bring your friends and families!!! Wear NESL clothing/schwag if you have it. Hope to see you there!


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Texas Governor Angers Gay Veterans 

After signing a bill this past Sunday proposing a ballot initiative to ban same sex marriages, Texas Governor Rick Perry held a press conference in the library of the Calvary Christian Academy. The signing ceremony had been held in the gymnasium of the school. One of the questions presented to him was what, if anything, he would say about the bill to gay and lesbian service members returning to Texas after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. His response:

"Texans made a decision about marriage and if there's a state that has more lenient views than Texas, then maybe that's a better place for them to live."

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Lesbian and Gay Rights Lobby of Texas have issued statements calling for the governor to apologize to the estimated 66,000 gay and lesbian veterans residing in Texas.


Keeping Pressure on Bloch 

Human Rights Campaign and Federal Globe are keeping up the pressure on the White House to do something about Special Counsel Scott Bloch's insistence that gay federal employees have no protection against workplace discrimination.

Following up on the initial criticism against Bloch's recent statements before a Senate committee, HRC and Federal GLOBE (GLBT federal employees' association) have issued a joint statement and sent a letter to President Bush, calling for the administration to convince Bloch either to change his official position or to resign.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Pseudo Marriages 

Pope Benedict XVI continued his pre-elevation assault on the GLBT community yesterday in Rome during an address on the family.
"The various forms of the dissolution of matrimony today, like free unions, trial marriages and going up to pseudo-matrimonies by people of the same sex, are rather expressions of an anarchic freedom that wrongly passes for true freedom of man," he said.

He also condemned divorce and the use of contraception. Human Rights Campaign has issued a statement expressing concern at the Pope's blanket condemnation, citing a long church tradition of love and compassion, and reiterating that marriage equality legislation does not seek that any particular church perform or even recognize same sex marriages, but instead are concerned with governmental recognition.


Driving While Gay 

365gay.com reports that police in Sicily took it upon themselves to suspend a man's driver's license pending an investigation into his suitability to drive, when during a "routine road check" they discovered that he is gay. The twenty-three year old man challenged the suspension in court, where fortunately he prevailed, but unfortunately the written court ruling revealed an attitude not much better than that of the roadside officers:
"It is clear that sexual preferences do not in any way influence a person's ability to drive motor cars safely." The judges added that homosexuality "cannot be considered a true and proper psychiatric illness, being a mere personality disturbance."

The Italian GLBT community, and activists worldwide, are feeling personally disturbed over the judicial statement.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Transgender "Not a Good Fit" at Library of Congress 

Diane Schroer retired last year from her 25 year career in the US Army, with the rank of Colonel and a record that included service as an Airborne Ranger qualified Special Forces officer, 450+ parachute jumps, the Defense Superior Service Medal, and being the head of a "classified nation security operation."

For the next stage in her life, she applied for, was offered and accepted a job at the Library of Congress, as senior terrorism research analyst.

One catch - Schroer's military career and Library of Congress interview were as David Schroer, before she had completed her transition from male to female. Since her Army retirement she had been living as a man during work hours but as a woman on her own time. Prior to starting her new position at the Library of Congress, she met with her soon-to-be boss to discuss the situation, and to suggest that she be Diane from day one on the job. The next day, the no-longer-to-be boss called Schroer and rescinded the job offer, because it was "not a good fit."

The ACLU filed a discrimination suit against the Library of Congress today on behalf of Schroer. You can download a copy of the federal court complaint from this ACLU page.


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