Wednesday, April 22, 2009

April 22 news roundup

Marriage round up

New York Gov. David A. Paterson introduced a bill Thursday to legalize same-sex marriage, and vowed to personally involve himself in the legislative debate at a level that is rare for a chief executive in New York.

In 2007, the New York State Assembly passed a same-sex marriage bill by a strong margin which is expected to widen further when the measure is reconsidered this spring. But the path in the Senate is less clear: 32 votes are needed, and Democrats say about 25 of their 32 members now support it. The outcome will most likely hinge on whether Mr. Paterson and other advocates can persuade Republican senators to back the bill.

In 2002, 13 Republicans joined 21 Democrats to pass a law that specifically banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.
And in Maine almost 4,000 supporters and opponents turned out today at the Augusta Civic Center for a hearing on a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in that state.

And in New Hampshire last week, members of the Senate Judiciary committee heard testimony from supporters and opponents on a bill legalizing same-sex marriage that narrowly passed the House last month.

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch has said he opposes same-sex marriage but has not said whether he would veto a bill. If the bill were made law, New Hampshire would join Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Iowa as the states that recognize same-sex marriage.

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Gates cautious on changing 'don't ask, don't tell'


Changing the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gay troops is "very difficult," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday, indicating that doing so could take years — if it ever happens.

Gates said he had not yet taken a position about whether gay troops should be able to be open about their sexuality, which could lead to their discharge under current military rules.

He also noted it took five years for the U.S. military to racially integrate during the Truman administration.

President Obama committed during the 2008 presidential campaign to move toward ending the Clinton administration-era policy that was enacted as a compromise between openly gay people serving in the armed forces and those opposed to gays in uniform.

Jon Soltz, an Iraq War veteran and chairman of VoteVets.org, disputed claims that the change couldn’t happen quickly, saying: "It's not like integration, where we had to move African American troops into units. This would simply allow people to continue to serve where they're currently serving."

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Rainbow flags illegal?

A Casa Grande, Ariz., police officer is under investigation after allegedly threatening to arrest a group of gay demonstrators last week for carrying a rainbow flag within city limits.

The small group of demonstrators was protesting US tax law, which does not allow same-sex couples to file joint return.

The police officer was apparently called by a driver complaining that the 8 foot by 5 foot flag had obstructed his view of traffic.

Protest organizer Christopher Hall said he checked with city officials before holding the demonstration. The protesters were abiding by a requirement they be at least seven feet from the sidewalk.

Hall said the officer asked for their identification and the protesters complied. They were then told they could not fly the flag “anywhere” in the city limits or they would risk arrest.

Hall said the group has filed a complaint with police, and that he has a meeting with the city’s Police Chief.

A statement issued by the Police chief said the department will continue to work with this and any other citizen group to respect their right to assemble and demonstrate in a safe manner and apologized for any inconvenience or misunderstanding.

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Alaska attorney general nominee rejected

The Alaska Legislature on Thursday rejected Gov. Sarah Palin’s nominee for state attorney general, the latest of several clashes between lawmakers and the governor since she became a national figure as the GOP’s vice presidential nominee last year.
Nine Republicans and 26 Democrats rejected Anchorage attorney Wayne Anthony Ross in a 35-23 vote by a joint session of the House and Senate. Ross had been criticized for, among other things, refusing to disavow his past characterization of gays as “immoral” and “degenerate.”

In a statement, Palin said: “I believed I knew what Alaskans wanted when I selected an individual who is a strong backer of Second Amendment rights, a staunch supporter of the state Constitution and a defender of life.”

Ross, a former two-time candidate for governor, served as an honorary co-chair of Palin’s successful 2006 gubernatorial bid.

Ross refused to say at his confirmation hearings whether his earlier opinions about gays and lesbians have changed, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee: “My job is to represent all Alaskans. My personal opinions have no place.”

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Ideology, religion trump other factors when it comes to supporting gay marriage

According to a new study led by Dietram Scheufele, a professor of life sciences communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the two main factors shaping a person’s attitudes about gay marriage are ideology and religiosity, a duo that overpowers the influences of other important factors such as knowledge, tolerance and media consumption.

Scheufele explained: "In other words, religion matters beyond just influencing attitudes. It actually crowds out the influences of other democratic values when people are forming attitudes about gay marriage."

These findings, published in the current issue of International Journal of Press/Politics, come from a national survey conducted one year before the 2004 presidential election, a time when moral issues were being widely discussed.

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