Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Queery News – May 20, 2009

Marriage round up:

A proposed amendment to Pennsylvania’s state constitution banning same-sex marriage that failed twice before resurfaced Tuesday.

The state already has a so-called Defense of Marriage law limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.

Democrats and LGBT rights groups plan to fight the amendment, saying the measure would enshrine discrimination into the constitution.

Last year, a poll found that although most Pennsylvanians oppose same-sex marriage, there was widespread support for civil unions.

Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons is warning the legislature not to bother sending him a bill that would allow same and opposite-sex couples to register as domestic partners and receive many of same rights as married couples have in the state.

The bill is expected to pass later this week, but Gibbons has reiterated his threat to veto the measure when it reaches his desk.

The governor has said domestic partnerships are essentially the same as marriage and state law limits marriage to opposite-sex couples because of a 2002 voter- approved constitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.

Supporters say the bill makes it clear that domestic partnerships does not equal marriage, but states that domestic partners would have the “same rights, protections, benefits, responsibilities, obligations and duties” as traditionally married couples. The bill also has been amended ensure public sector employers would not be required to provide health care benefits to employees’ partners.

The New Hampshire Senate has begun work on an amendment to marriage equality legislation to make it more acceptable to that state’s governer, John Lynch.

The original bill passed the legislature earlier this month, but last week, the governor said he would refuse to sign it unless there was clearer language protecting churches, church organizations and staff from lawsuits if they refused to permit same-sex marriages.

If the amendment satisfies the governor, New Hampshire would become the sixth state to allow gays and lesbians to marry.

And in Washington, Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday signed legislation granting domestic partners almost all the state rights of married spouses.

The legislation makes domestic partnerships equal to marriage in areas of community property, guardianship and powers of attorney. It allows partners the right to refuse to testify against each other in court. And it provides the same remedies as married couples to end a relationship, including the division of property.

The legislation expands on previous domestic partnership laws by adding reference to partnerships alongside all remaining areas of state law where currently only married couples are mentioned.

Since July 2007 when the original domestic partner law went into effect, more than 5,000 couples have registered as domestic partners.

And right here in Wisconsin, a legal analysis prepared for lamakers says Gov. Jim Doyle's plan to give same-sex couples some legal protections likely does not violate Wisconsin's ban on gay marriage. The opinion boosts Doyle's bid to make Wisconsin the first state to create domestic partnerships for same-sex couples despite having a ban on gay marriage and "substantially similar" relationships.

Doyle's plan would provide gay and lesbian couples who register their partnerships with 43 rights, including the ability to visit each other in the hospital, make end-of-life decisions and inherit assets.

A memo by the nonpartisan Legislative Council concludes the plan should survive a challenge because it does not give "comprehensive, core aspects of the legal status of marriage to same-sex couples." Those include the ability to divorce and share marital property, the memo said. The plan also does not allow domestic partners to adopt children or jointly file taxes.

Speaking of Wisconsin’s ban on gay marriage, the state Supreme Court on Thursday said it will hear a challenge to the 2006 constitutional amendment.

The order added the case to the agenda for the court's next term, which begins this fall and ends in June 2010. No date for oral arguments was set.

The challenge to the constitutional change was filed in 2007 by Bill McConkey, a Door County resident who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and has a lesbian daughter.

McConkey argued that the constitutional change was improperly put before voters in 2006, but a Dane County judge ruled against him. McConkey said voters should have been asked to vote on two separate amendments, instead of the one put before them.

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GOP Chairman Michael Steele has told Republicans they can reach a broader base by recasting gay marriage as an issue that could dent pocketbooks as small businesses spend more on health care and other benefits.

Steele said that’s just one example of how the party can retool its message to appeal to young voters and minorities without sacrificing core conservative principles. Steele said he used the argument while chatting on a flight with a college student who described herself as fiscally conservative but socially liberal on issues like gay marriage.

Vermont and Iowa have legalized gay marriage in recent weeks, and a poll released in April found that 57 percent of people questioned support civil unions that provide marriage-like rights. Although 55 percent said they opposed gay marriage, the poll indicated a shift toward more acceptance.

The chief of the Republican National Committee has been criticized by some social conservatives in recent weeks after GQ magazine quoted him as saying he opposed gay marriage but wasn’t going to “beat people upside the head about it.”

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Business owners in Massachusetts might disagree with Steele, after a study found that same-sex marriage has resulted in a $111 million windfall for the state’s economy.

The study was one of two by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law showing the state has significantly gained as a result of the legalization of gay marriage five years ago.

One study looked at money spent by same-sex couples on their weddings. The other examined the impact of people moving to Massachusetts because of the law.

The survey of married same-sex couples shows that the typical gay or lesbian couple spent $7,400 on their weddings in Massachusetts, with one in ten couples spending more than $20,000. The study’s analysis hotel occupancy tax payments confirmed a boost from out-of-state guests at these weddings.

The second study found that Massachusetts gained a competitive edge in attracting young, highly educated professionals who are in same-sex relationships.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey show that same-sex couples in the ‘creative class’ were 2.5 times more likely to move to Massachusetts after 2004 than before. According to the study, this infusion of younger and highly educated same-sex couples could help improve the long-term economic prospects for Massachusetts.

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The gay community in tightly controlled Singapore held its first-ever rally Saturday, taking advantage of looser laws on public gatherings to call for equality.

About 2,500 participants wore pink clothing, played music and sang songs at a park known as Speaker’s Corner, according to the group Pink Dot, which represents Singapore’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.

Singapore’s government has become more tolerant toward gays and lesbians in recent years, but sodomy is still illegal.

The government eased a ban on public demonstrations last year, encouraging Singaporeans to air grievances at Speaker’s Corner as long as they don’t discuss race, language or religion. The government says public discussion of those subjects could inflame passions and create instability in the multi-ethnic city-state.

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The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Tennessee filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against two Tennessee school districts, charging the schools are unconstitutionally blocking students from accessing online information about LGBT issues.

Students at Knox County and Metro Nashville schools and others are being denied access to content that is protected speech under the First Amendment as well as the Tennessee state constitution, the lawsuit says.

When public schools only allow access to one side of an issue by blocking certain websites, they’re engaging in illegal viewpoint discrimination, the ACLU said.

While non-sexual websites advocating the fair treatment of LGBT people are blocked, websites that urge LGBT persons to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through so-called “reparative therapy” or “ex-gay” ministries can still be easily accessed by students, the ACLU said.

A 17-year-old senior at Central High School in Knoxville, was at the school library searching for scholarships for LGBT students when he discovered he couldn’t access websites for non-profit advocacy and educational organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

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