All posts from “Same-sex Marriage”

May 25, 2012

Black Americans on Gay Marriage: Is Obama Changing Opinion?

New poll shows opinion jump from African Americans in favor of same-sex marriage

President Obama's announcement supporting same-sex marriage could have an impact on opinion among black Americans. A new poll finds that 59 percent of black Americans support same-sex marriage, a jump from just 41 percent before Obama's announcement.

In previous surveys, support among black Americans for same-sex marriage has been consistently lower than among whites. A majority of black Americans polled over the past two years have opposed same-sex marriage (38 percent support vs. 52 percent opposition), according the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

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Black Americans who attend church are more likely to oppose same-sex marriage than are others.  According recent Pew polls, 70 percent of black Americans who attend church regularly oppose gay marriage, compared to 47 percent among those that do not.

With the relatively small number of black Americans in the Washington Post-ABC poll, it would be difficult to tell if the change in opinion occurred among more religious black Americans.

Continue reading Black Americans on Gay Marriage: Is Obama Changing Opinion?...

April 3, 2012

Republican Congressional Leaders Get Cold Feet on Marriage

Leaders are more focused on the economy ahead of the election.

Republican leaders in the House are avoiding legislation dealing with traditional marriage, Congressional Quarterly (CQ) and Politico report. The economy—not social issues—will be the focus of the congressional agenda.

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At the beginning of March, House conservatives introduced the Marriage Protection Act, which would kick all marriage cases from federal courts to states. A second bill would amend the Constitution to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman. Both pieces of legislation are now off the table.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) cosponsored the federal marriage amendment, but he acknowledged that the issue is not front-and-center on the agenda. “That’s not something we’re focused on now,” Gohmert told Politico.

Continue reading Republican Congressional Leaders Get Cold Feet on Marriage...

February 24, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage Bills Pass in States

Maryland is the latest state to pass a bill approving same-sex marriage.

A same-sex marriage bill passed the Maryland Senate Thursday, sending it to Gov. Martin O'Malley who said he will sign the bill into law.

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Maryland will become the eighth state to legalize same-sex marriage, though opponents are collecting signatures to put a referendum on the November ballot.

The governor of Washington signed a bill this month legalizing same-sex marriage in the state. New Jersey also passed a same-sex marriage bill, but it was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie. Christie and other state Republican lawmakers want to make the issue a ballot question for voters.

A question on same-sex marriage will likely be on the November ballot in Maine, the Portland Press Herald reports. Minnesota voters will also vote on a marriage amendment in November. North Carolina will be the final Southern state to vote on a constitutional amendment declaring marriage between a man and a woman. The vote will take place on May 8, which is also the same day as the Republican State primary.

Continue reading Same-Sex Marriage Bills Pass in States...

February 7, 2012

Ninth Circuit Declares California's Proposition 8 on Marriage Unconstitutional

A panel ruled that a proposition to define marriage as between a man and a woman violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

A federal appeals court ruled that California's Proposition 8 defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman is unconstitutional. A three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit ruled that California's state constitutional amendment violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 2-1 decision is likely to be appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples,” Stephen Reinhardt wrote for the majority. The opinion rejected arguments that the proposition advanced the state's interests in child-rearing, procreation, education, or religious freedom.

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Judge Michael Daly Hawkins (appointed by President Clinton) agreed with Reinhardt's opinion.
Judge Randy Smith (appointed by President George W. Bush) dissented, at least in part, to the majority decision. Smith said that Proposition 8 is “rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest” because it “preserves the fundamental and historical purposes of marriage.” However, Smith disagreed with proponents who said the state had an interest in promoting child-rearing by opposite-sex couples as the best family structure for children.

National Organization for Marriage (NOM) president Brian Brown said the decision “was as predictable as the outcome of a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition game.”

"We have anticipated this outcome since the moment San Francisco Judge Vaughn Walker's first hearing in the case. Now we have the field cleared to take this issue to the US Supreme Court, where we have every confidence we will prevail,” Brown said.

Continue reading Ninth Circuit Declares California's Proposition 8 on Marriage Unconstitutional...

January 26, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage Bills Coming to State Legislatures

Maryland, New Jersey, and Washington are expected to vote on bills to legalize same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage is back in the national spotlight this week as Maryland, New Jersey, and Washington are expected to vote on bills to legalize same-sex marriage.

Bills in Washington in favor of same-sex marriage were backed this week by Starbucks, Microsoft, and Nike. Last year, Microsoft and Starbucks were among 70 groups who filed friend-of-the-court briefs challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which states that the definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.

Today, a Washington Senate committee moved the measure one step closer to passage. The 25th vote needed in Washington's Senate was confirmed by state senator Mary Margaret Haugen who made the following statement earlier this week:

I have very strong Christian beliefs, and personally I have always said when I accepted the Lord, I became more tolerant of others. I stopped judging people and try to live by the Golden Rule. This is part of my decision. I do not believe it is my role to judge others, regardless of my personal beliefs. It’s not always easy to do that. For me personally, I have always believed in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. That is what I believe, to this day.

But this issue isn’t about just what I believe. It’s about respecting others, including people who may believe differently than I. It’s about whether everyone has the same opportunities for love and companionship and family and security that I have enjoyed.

Those who oppose the same-sex marriage bills in Maryland and Washington will likely bring referendums to overturn laws. New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie says he will veto a bill if it reaches him. "This issue that our state is exploring — whether or not to redefine hundreds of years of societal and religious traditions — should not be decided by 121 people in the State House in Trenton," Christie said, calling for a referendum.

Same-sex marriage is currently legal in six states and the District of Columbia. Republicans who control New Hampshire's legislature could possibly repeal the 2009 law legalizing gay marriage.

Maine could see a same-sex marriage proposal on the November ballot. The state's legislature previously approved gay marriage, but it was overturned by a close statewide vote in 2009.

Today, Rep. Barney Frank's office said that the retiring 71-year-old Democrat from Massachusetts will marry his longtime partner in Massachusetts.

September 30, 2011

Military Chaplains Allowed to Perform Gay Weddings

The Pentagon has issued a memo allowing military chaplains to perform same-sex marriages if it is allowed by the law and the chaplain's beliefs.

Last week, the military ended its "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, raising questions about the ability military chaplains will have to express their views on homosexuality.

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"A military chaplain may participate in or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation, provided that the ceremony is not prohibited by applicable state and local law," a memo released Friday says. "Further a chaplain is not required to participate in or officiate a private ceremony if doing so would be in variance with the tenets of his or her religion."

In May, the Navy initially said it would same-sex marriages and then reversed its decision on marriages on military bases.

Under Secretary of Defense Clifford Stanley said in the new memo that "a military chaplain's participation in a private ceremony does not constitute an endorsement of the ceremony by [the Department of Defense]."

The Pentagon says Defense Department property may be used for private functions as long as it is in line with the Federal Defense of Marriage Act and local laws. Five states recognize same-sex marriage: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont.

September 7, 2011

Hearing: Speed Bump Unlikely to Derail Proposition 8 Appeal

Alliance Defense Fund attorneys went before the California Supreme Court Tuesday to argue that they should be allowed to continue to appeal an earlier ruling. The ruling overturned Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment authored by ProtectMarriage.com and passed by the voters in 2008. Tuesday’s hearing addressed a much more narrow question, one that could stop the appeal from proceeding.

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At issue is whether or not ProtectMarriage.com has “standing.” In federal courts, people cannot sue someone simply because they believe a law is unconstitutional. The party bringing the lawsuit must be able to show that they are actually impacted by the law. For example, when Proposition 8 passed, same-sex couples sued the state of California who were able to claim that the proposition kept them from marrying. The lawsuit could not be brought by a heterosexual couple who wanted to argue against the amendment.

When the Proposition 8 case went to the federal courts, the state of California refused to defend the amendment. Then attorney general (now governor) Jerry Brown said he agreed with the plaintiffs' claim that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. The court allowed ProtectMarriage.com to stand in and provide a defense of the proposition. But when Chief US District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the proposition was unconstitutional, he also warned that the ProtectMarriage.com may not have standing to file an appeal because they had failed to show how they were personally harmed by same-sex marriage.

Continue reading Hearing: Speed Bump Unlikely to Derail Proposition 8 Appeal...

July 26, 2011

Poll: Majority of Americans Say Same-Sex Relations Are OK

Recent data suggests that Americans for the first time since 1973, a minority says homosexual relations are 'always wrong.'

The state of New York began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples earlier this week. New York's decision to expand the definition of marriage to include gay couples, which affects the third-largest state population in the U.S., is seen by many as an important symbolic victory in the fights over gay rights and marriage.

In the days leading up to the new legislation, proponents of gay marriage said that traditional marriage advocates would find themselves on the wrong side of history. A long-running beliefs poll indicates a dramatic shift in views of homosexuality in recent years: What was once widely believed to be wrong is now considered morally acceptable by a majority of Americans.

From 1973 to 2010, the General Social Survey (GSS) has asked Americans if they think sexual relations between same-sex couples are wrong. Up until 2008, a majority of Americans have answered that such behavior is 'always wrong.' But the latest GSS, conducted in 2010, finds that only 46 percent of Americans hold this position.

The GSS, a federally-funded survey, is considered the gold standard for polling on social behaviors, attitudes, and values and has asked the same question on homosexual behavior since its inception: “Are sexual relations between two adults of the same sex always, almost always, sometimes, or never wrong?” Until the 1990s, opposition to homosexuality ran high. Nearly seven-in-ten Americans said same-sex sexual relations were always wrong.

But the early 90s saw a dramatic change in views toward homosexuality.


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Continue reading Poll: Majority of Americans Say Same-Sex Relations Are OK...

July 8, 2011

The Surge in Sexuality Debates

President Obama had declared June as national “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month,” just in time for heated debates over same-sex marriage and similar issues.

1. Social Conservatives: New York Gay Marriage is Harbinger of Civilization's Decline

By far, the most important event—symbolically and substantively—in June was the extension of marriage to same-sex couples in New York. Social conservatives were not reticent in expressing their concern. CBN's Pat Robertson compared the America to Sodom, warning that God may withdraw his favor for the United States because of laws like the New York marriage law.

“In history there’s never been a civilization ever in history that has embraced homosexuality and turned away from traditional fidelity, traditional marriage, traditional child-rearing, and has survived,” Robertson said. “It’s not a pretty world we live in right now, and we need all of God’s help we can get. And I don’t think we are not exactly setting ourselves up for His favor.”

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Breakpoints's Chuck Colson said the redefinition of marriage would lead to “social pathologies of every sort.”

“Redefining marriage and family is precisely what the same-sex 'marriage' debate is all about … If same-sex 'marriage' advocates are successful in spite of their meager support, make no mistake, [social] pathologies will only grow, just like I've seen in prisons for 35 years,” Colson said.

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said the New York law was the result of political arm-twisting and possible vote buying.

"Enormous political coercion has resulted in a profound failure of moral courage in the New York Senate. A clear majority of the people of New York oppose counterfeit 'marriage,' but Gov. Cuomo and anti-family lawmakers have shown that their allegiance is to a small but vocal minority seeking to redefine marriage and family,” Perkins said.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the greatest concern was the lack of a residency requirement. Couples do not need to live in New York to receive a marriage license. Land said this would mean that same-sex marriage throughout the country.

“This is probably the biggest challenge to traditional marriage that we've seen. New York, what happens in New York matters. Probably even more than what happens in California when it comes to the culture. Particularly since there is no residency requirement to get married,” Land said. “I guarantee you this action by the New York State Assembly and Cuomo has already signed it will bring same-sex marriage to a house near you."

Land's warning echoes his concern with same-sex marriage became legal in Iowa two years ago, when he said Iowa would become “the Las Vegas of same-sex 'marriage' for America.”

“And you know those folks won’t be resettling in the Hawkeye State, but will be heading back home–perhaps to your state,” Land said.

2. Al Mohler Targeted for “Appearing to Pander to the Homosexual Lobby”

Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, responded to a question during the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting on comments he made to the Christian Science Monitor. Mohler was quoted as saying that Christians had practiced a “form of homophobia” by not being truthful about the nature of sexuality. Mohler said it was wrong to say that sexuality is only a choice.

Continue reading The Surge in Sexuality Debates...

June 24, 2011

New York Approves Gay Marriage

New York will become the sixth state to approve same-sex marriage (the District of Columbia also allows gay marriage). Because of the state's large population, the number of Americans living in states that allow gay marriage will more than double. With New York, 35 million Americans will live in states with gay marriage, one in nine Americans.

The New York Senate approved a new same-sex marriage bill tonight by a vote of 33 to 29. Even though nearly all Republicans voted against the bill, the Republican-controlled Senate passed the bill because of four Republicans who voted with the Democrats. Only two Republican Senators openly backed the bill until just before the vote when Sen. Stephen Saland (Rep.) said he would give the bill the 32nd vote needed for passage. Only one Democrat, Sen. Ruben Diaz, voted against the measure. Only two Republican Senators openly backed the bill prior to the vote.

Additional votes were gained only after a majority in the Senate reached agreement on religious protections in the bill. Shortly before the gay marriage bill vote, the religious exemptions were reportedly passed by a 36-26 vote. The bill passed by the State Assembly included protections for clergy and churches. It did not include explicit protections for faith-based nonprofits. In Illinois, for example, the recent civil unions law has meant that Catholic Social Services could no longer receive state funds for its foster care and adoption services. The nonprofit has a policy against placing children with same-sex couples.

Opponents of the Assembly bill also wanted exemptions for individuals and businesses who objected to gay marriage for religious reasons. These individuals could be in violation of local ordinances. They could also be forced to allow gay couples to use their facilities. For example, without exemptions, critics argued, a business that rents its facilities for weddings could not refuse a couple simply because they were a same-sex couple.

The bill also included language making it impossible for a judge to strike down only the religious exemptions. If the exemptions are ruled to be unconstitutional, the extension of marriage to same-sex couples would be struck down, too.

Even the broadest religious exemptions would not be enough for some opponents of same-sex marriage. Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg said “the principal objection to homosexual 'marriage' has nothing to do with religion.”

“At its heart, marriage is neither a civil institution nor a religious institution. Instead, marriage is a natural institution—rooted in the order of nature itself,” Sprigg said. “The core message of the opposition to homosexual 'marriage' is not just, 'Don’t make us perform same-sex weddings in our church.' Instead, it is: 'Society needs children, and children need a mom and a dad.'”

Continue reading New York Approves Gay Marriage...

June 22, 2011

Same-Sex Marriage Polls: It's All in How You Ask

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) recently released results from a poll suggesting that a majority of Americans believe in traditional marriage. The poll found 62 percent of Americans believe that “marriage should be defined only as a union between one man and one woman.”

The poll results seem to run counter to other recent polls showing a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage, but like all polling, the results depend on how the question is asked. What makes the ADF poll unique is that it is the first to ask a question that borrows the same language often used in ballot initiatives.

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One explanation given for this difference has been to question the poll's sponsorship. The ADF’s lawyers are the key defenders of Proposition 8, which effectively bars same-sex marriage in California. The poll was conducted by Polling Opinion Strategies, a research firm often works with Republican candidates.

The sponsorship may explain why the poll was conducted, but the methodology provided by ADF is in line with standard practice in polling.

In 31 states, voters have approved initiatives that define marriage as being between one man and one woman. While these ballots effectively prohibit same-sex marriage, they are worded in the affirmative (should the state define marriage as the union between one man and one woman?) not the negative (should the state ban same-sex marriage?).

The importance of question wording has been long recognized by pollsters. For example, the Pew Center for the People and the Press (Pew) asked “Do you think it should be legal or illegal for gay and lesbian couples to get married?”A majority (53 percent) said it should be “legal.”

But another Pew survey conducted just weeks earlier found less support for gay marriage when it asked, “Do you strongly favor, favor, oppose, or strongly oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally?”

This seems to be asking the same idea, but it is not. This question is about “allowing” gays and lesbians to marry, not whether those marriages should be “illegal.” This change in the question wording dropped support for same-sex marriage from a majority to 45 percent (versus 46 percent who oppose same-sex marriage). An August 2010 AP-National Constitution Center Poll found nearly six-in-ten Americans think “couples of the same sex be entitled to the same government benefits as married couples of the opposite sex” and oppose having “the government distinguish between them.”

Continue reading Same-Sex Marriage Polls: It's All in How You Ask...

May 13, 2011

Is Same-Sex Marriage Legal Under Federal Law? Maybe. Sometimes.

The status of same-sex marriage is confusing enough with some states allowing it and most states expressly prohibiting it. The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was supposed to define marriage under federal law as being between one man and one woman. What this means in practice is in flux and can change by the day.

One reason for the controversies is that the Department of Justice is opposed to the law. The opposition, however, only applies in certain jurisdictions. Contrary to headlines, the Department of Justice will defend DOMA in some courts. In February, Attorney General Eric Holder informed the Congress that the Department of Justice is opting out of defending DOMA in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In other words, the DOJ will no longer defend the act if a gay couple appeals a decision in New York, Connecticut, or Vermont, but it will defend the act in other states.

Immigration cases, however, fall under a unique set of courts. Attorney General Holder recently vacated a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals, an administrative body that interprets immigration law.

A board decision can be vacated by the Attorney General, which Holder did in the case of Paul Wilson Dorman, an Irish immigrant who is in a civil union with a New Jersey man. The board ruled that the two men were not spouses because of DOMA. Holder vacated the ruling, asking what the ruling would be if DOMA did not exist.

In light of Holder's decision, an immigration judge in New Jersey ruled that Henry Velandia, a Venezuelan, could not be deported because he is married a man who is a U.S. citizen. The two were married in Connecticut.

Department of Justice spokesperson Tracy Schmaler told the New York Times that this does not mean that same-sex couples will now be treated as spouses. “As we have made clear, we will continue to enforce DOMA,” said Schmaler.

Continue reading Is Same-Sex Marriage Legal Under Federal Law? Maybe. Sometimes. ...

May 10, 2011

Navy’s Same-Sex Marriage Allowance Draws Complaints

The Navy’s plan to allow chaplains to perform same-sex marriages in military chapels has led to opposition.

Last week, Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins tweeted, “Hearing Navy chaplains are now being trained to perform same sex weddings following [Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT)] changes. Major religious liberty implications.” Later, Perkins reported on the FRC website that the Navy had “jumped ship on DOMA.”

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The memo to Navy chaplains posted on the FRC website states that chaplains are not being trained on how to conduct marriages, nor will they be forced to conduct weddings. Instead, the training on DADT now allows chaplains to conduct same-sex weddings if the chaplain serves  in a state where same-sex marriages are legal. In addition, military facilities (that allow weddings on base) must be open to same-sex weddings.

“Call it what you will, but that's not a change to 'training'--that's a circumvention of U.S. law,” said FRC's Perkins.

Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) and 62 other Members of Congress also object to the new policy. They sent a letter to the Secretary of the Navy accusing the Navy of violating federal law.

"We find it difficult to understand how the military is somehow exempt from abiding by federal law. Not only does this document imply recognition and support of same-sex marriage in opposition to DOMA, it also implies that the Navy will now perform these marriages so long as they do not violate state statutes,” Akin wrote.

The Navy has responded by saying that the new policy does not violate DOMA. Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez sent an e-mail stating that DOMA only defines federal marriage; it does not make any policy regarding religious ceremonies, which would include weddings.

Continue reading Navy’s Same-Sex Marriage Allowance Draws Complaints...

May 3, 2011

Gay Marriage Opponents Push Appeal of Prop 8 Judge, Iowa Court Impeachment

Activists seeking to overturn court decisions in favor of same-sex marriage are focusing on the judges. In the on-going court process over California's Prop 8, those opposing same-sex marriage filed an appeal last week claiming that federal judge Vaughn Walker should have recused himself because he is in a long-term relationship with a man.

Alliance Defend Fund (ADF) lawyers representing ProtectMarriage.com (Proposition 8's sponsors) said that Walker's sexuality per se was not an issue. “It is important to emphasize at the outset that we are not suggesting that a gay or lesbian judge could not sit on this case,” said the appeal.

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Instead, the ADF and ProtectMarriage.com claimed that Walker would have benefited from the same-sex marriage California because he was in a long-term relationship with a man.

ADF lead attorney in the case, Andy Pugno, said in a statement, “The American people have a right to a fair judicial process, free from even the appearance of bias or prejudice. Judge Walker’s 10-year-long same-sex relationship creates the unavoidable impression that he was not the impartial judge the law requires.”

During the Proposition 8 trial, talk of Walker's sexuality were rumors. Earlier this month, however, Walker told reporters that he did not recuse himself because no one asked him too and because it did not think it was relevant.

“If you thought a judge’s sexuality, ethnicity, national origin (or) gender would prevent the judge from handling a case, that’s a very slippery slope. I don’t think it’s relevant,” Walker said.

In Iowa, freshmen legislators are also attacking the credibility of judges.

Continue reading Gay Marriage Opponents Push Appeal of Prop 8 Judge, Iowa Court Impeachment...

March 18, 2011

Poll: Growing Public Approval of Gay Marriage

The House of Representatives picks up defense of DOMA.

A new ABC-Washington Post poll finds that, for the first time, a majority of Americans now believe that same-sex marriages should be legal. The poll finds 53 percent think “it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married.” About 45 percent said it should be illegal.

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The survey also finds that most Americans hold strong views on the issue. Just over a third—36 percent—feel strongly that same-sex marriage should be legal, while 35 percent strongly think that it should be illegal. As late as 2006, a majority strongly opposed it.

The survey's results reflect findings by other surveys that find increasing support for allowing gay marriage. Last year's surveys by Pew Research Center for the People and the Press (Pew) found, that for the first time, less than 50 percent of Americans oppose gay marriage. Only 48 percent oppose “allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally.” However, only 42 percent favor gay marriage in the Pew polls.

Pew also finds a majority of evangelicals remain opposed to same-sex marriage, with 72 percent of white evangelicals stating that it should be illegal. 62 percent of black Protestants also oppose gay marriage. Mainline Protestants support gay marriage. In 2008-2009, 40 percent of mainline Protestants approved of gay marriage. In 2010, 48 percent think gay marriage should be legal.

National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) president Leith Anderson is one of several evangelical leaders who are lobbying Congress to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. In February, the Obama administration informed Congress that it would no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA in some federal lawsuits.

Anderson said that the NAE disagreed with Obama's decision. “We hope that Congress will hire its own lawyers to vigorously defend DOMA in federal courts,” said Anderson. “Marriage is foundational to a healthy society in which children enjoy the care and nurture of both their mother and father. Radically redefining marriage will have a far-reaching impact on the health of our nation.”

Last week, the leaders in the House of Representatives decided to defend DOMA in court. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, “The constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts—not by the president unilaterally—and this action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our Constitution.”

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins commended the Speaker's position while also accusing the president of violating his constitutional oath.

"We thank Speaker Boehner for working to protect the rule of law and the institution of marriage,” said Perkins. “The Speaker is sending a bold message that Congress will not stand idly while the President picks and chooses which laws will be nullified by Executive Branch surrender to antagonistic litigants.”

In general, the administration defends U.S. law even when it goes against White House policy positions. However, presidents are not bound to defend laws that it determines are violations of the U.S. Constitution. Though extremely rare, previous presidents have also chosen to not defend a law.

Continue reading Poll: Growing Public Approval of Gay Marriage...

February 24, 2011

If Obama Won't Fight Gay Marriage, Conservatives Will

If President Obama and the U.S. Department of Justice no longer want to defend the Defense of Marriage Act from challenges by gay rights activists, who will?

Leading conservative law firms say they're eager to defend the 1996 law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman, but that may not be so easy.

Could a conservative firm like Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based group that often opposes the administration, be the stand-in for the U.S. attorney general before a judge hearing DOMA challenges?

"That's what we're pursuing," said Mathew Staver, founder of the firm and dean of Liberty University School of Law. "Somebody has to step in and do the job when the attorney general and the president will abandon theirs."

Liberty Counsel had filed friend-of-the-court briefs in two DOMA court cases and is now strategizing with members of Congress to intervene on their behalf to defend the law that bans federal
recognition of same-sex marriages.

"It's early in the process," said Staver, whose firm has litigated dozens of cases related to marriage -- including DOMA -- and represented Congress, state legislators and private organizations on other issues.

"We're still doing a lot of preliminary discussion."

Staver and other conservative lawyers have harshly criticized the announcement Wednesday (Feb. 23) by Attorney General Eric Holder that Obama had determined that DOMA is unconstitutional when applied to same-sex couples married legally under state law.

Last month, the Alliance Defense Fund submitted a brief on behalf of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, in response to a Massachusetts challenge of DOMA being heard in a federal appeals court. Now it could be turning its attention to the cases in Connecticut and New York that prompted the administration's new decision.

"I have no doubt that the Alliance Defense Fund and other organizations will involve themselves in these cases," said Austin R. Nimocks, senior legal counsel for the Arizona-based firm. "The question is what is going to be the nature of the role. If somebody with (legal) standing to intervene in these cases wants ADF to represent them, we will certainly explore that with them."

California's Proposition 8 -- which ended same-sex marriages in the state but was later ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge -- offers some clues to the road ahead.

The ADF is representing the group ProtectMarriage.com to defend the 2008 voter referendum after the state's governor and attorney general opted not to defend it; the California Supreme Court is weighing whether the group has legal standing to step in as the case heads to a federal
appeals court.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a law firm founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, also is mulling its role in the fight over DOMA.

Continue reading If Obama Won't Fight Gay Marriage, Conservatives Will ...

December 6, 2010

Appeals Court Hears Proposition 8

A federal appeals court began considering Proposition 8, California’s ban on gay marriage today, reviewing Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling that it was unconstitutional. The Associated Press reports that the Proposition 8 defense was less than stellar.

The defenders of California's gay marriage ban took a pummeling during the first federal trial to explore the civil rights implications of outlawing same-sex marriages. They summoned only two witnesses, one of whom left the stand looking thrashed. Even the lead attorney was left groping for words when pressed to explain how allowing gays and lesbians to wed would undermine traditional unions.

If the courtroom had been a boxing ring, the referee would have called a knockout.

Yet lawyers for the ban's sponsors say their side was on the ropes for a reason: They disputed that live testimony and reams of evidence were relevant to a lawsuit against the voter-approved Proposition 8, so they did not provide it. In their view, the proceedings were a "a show trial," and they were willing to invite the unfavorable verdict they eventually got while betting they would win in a later round where the ground rules would be different.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the the case could also be appealed again to Ninth Circuit judges or to the Supreme Court, which would consider same-sex marriage for the first time. Court proceedings were televised on C-SPAN.

Update: Several evangelicals joined an interfaith statement released Monday by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops describing marriage as "the permanent and faithful union of one man and one woman." The list of signers included the following:

Leith Anderson
President
National Association of Evangelicals

Dr. George O. Wood
General Superintendent
Assemblies of God

Dr. Richard Land
President
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Continue reading Appeals Court Hears Proposition 8 ...

November 3, 2010

3 Justices Booted in Iowa after Same-sex Marriage Ruling

In Iowa, voters spoke on gay marriage, but not through a ballot measure. Iowa voters ousted three Supreme Court members who legalized gay marriage in 2009. Chief justice Marsha Ternus and justices David Baker and Michael Streit lost their bids to stay on the state's highest court.

Conservative groups rallied Iowa voters to vote the judges out of their seats this year in response to their decision last year. “Kicking out those three justices would be a warning shot across the judiciary's bow,” said Drake University political science professor Dennis Goldford.

Iowa is one of a dozen states that uses the "Missouri Plan" for judicial selection. Justices are nominated by a nonpartisan commission based on merit. The Governor then makes an appointment. However, the justices seek reelection at the end of their terms to retain their place on the bench. They do not face an opponent. It is an up or down vote on the justice.

Justices in states with a Missouri Plan rarely face defeat. But in this election, the retention vote was a referendum on the Court's marriage ruling. Tonight, Iowa voters gave the justices a thumbs down.

November 2, 2010

FRC Takes Aim at Republican Rep. on Gay Rights

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Family Research Council Action PAC launched a late radio ad campaign against Republican Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao of New Orleans for his support of gay rights legislation.

Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana legislator who leads the organization, told the Times-Picayune that Cao was the only Republican candidate targeted with an FRC attack ad this fall. The ad ends with the tag line, "Washington doesn't need more liberal Republicans. Stop Joe Cao on Election Day."

"Who is Rep. Joseph Cao representing in Washington?" the FRC ad asks. "Cao has repeatedly voted for extra protections for homosexuals at the cost of religious liberty. Cao voted to use the military to advance the radical social agendas of homosexual activists and he voted for a so-called hate crimes bill that places your personal liberties at jeopardy."

Cao co-sponsored both the Hate Crimes Protection Act of 2009 and House legislation to repeal the policy that prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the armed forces, known as "don't ask, don't tell."

"I believe it is a human rights violation to impose government-sanctioned penalties on a group of people just because of their sexual orientation, just as it would be a human rights violation to impose penalties on a group because of its religious affiliation or race," Cao said. "I will continue to fight for the protection of human rights for all people."


Cao told the newspaper, "As a former Jesuit seminarian and practicing Catholic, it is ridiculous to say that I have ever taken a position against religious liberties. I am, however, a champion of human rights and justice for all."

Cao faces Democratic state Rep. Cedric Richmond and Perkin's preference, independent candidate Anthony Marquize. In 2008, FRC endorsed Cao and Tony Perkins included Cao in his column, "The Good News on November 4."

In the 2nd congressional district Anh "Joseph" Cao defeated the ethically challenged Congressman William Jefferson. Jefferson has pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery, laundering money and misusing his congressional office. The pro-life Cao won despite running in a district that is 28 points more Democrat than the national average.

October 28, 2010

Obama: Same-sex Marriage Views Evolving

President Obama said to a group of liberal bloggers Wednesday that his views on same-sex marriage are evolving. Adam Smith of Time magazine suggests that Obama might be setting himself up for a "Clinton-esque shift" on the issue. Here's the transcript from Joe Sudbay:

I think that -- I am a strong supporter of civil unions. As you say, I have been to this point unwilling to sign on to same-sex marriage primarily because of my understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage.

But I also think you’re right that attitudes evolve, including mine. And I think that it is an issue that I wrestle with and think about because I have a whole host of friends who are in gay partnerships.

Obama addressed the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that he's working to overturn. "I think 'don’t ask, don’t tell' is wrong," he said. "I think it doesn’t serve our national security, which is why I want it overturned."

The larger issue, he said, was the attitude that the LGBT has disillusionment and disappointment with Obama.

"I guess my attitude is that we have been as vocal, as supportive of the LGBT community as any President in history," he told a group of liberal bloggers. "I’ve appointed more openly gay people to more positions in this government than any President in history."

July 8, 2010

U.S. Judge: Gay Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

A Massachusetts-based judge ruled today that a federal ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional because it interferes with state's rights to define marriage, according to the Associated Press.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled on two challenges to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The state had argued the law denied benefits such as Medicaid to gay married couples in Massachusetts, where same-sex unions have been legal since 2004.

Tauro agreed, and said the act forces Massachusetts to discriminate against its own citizens.

"The federal government, by enacting and enforcing DOMA, plainly encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state, and in doing so, offends the Tenth Amendment. For that reason, the statute is invalid," Tauro wrote in a ruling in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Ruling in a separate case filed by Gays & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Tauro found that DOMA violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.


The Family Research Council's Tom McClusky issued a statement saying the organization is confident the decision will be overturned on appeal.

"The federal DOMA does not violate equal protection principles and has not interfered with Massachusetts' freedom to determine its own definition of marriage," he said. "In part, this decision results from the deliberately weak legal defense of DOMA that was mounted on behalf of the government by the Obama administration, which has called for repeal of the law."

The Boston Globe has more on the case.

April 13, 2010

Repeal of Calif. Same-Sex Marriage Ban Misses Ballot

Proponents of an effort to repeal the California's ban on same-sex marriage failed to get enough signatures to get the measure on the November ballot.

Monday was the deadline for submitting the nearly 695,000 signatures needed. A San Francisco federal court is weighing whether the U.S. Constitution prohibits Proposition 8, which was passed 52 to 48 percent in 2008 vote defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman. The court case is expected to be appealed up to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to Reuters.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that volunteers supporting an initiative to outlaw divorce only collected 8,000 signatures of the 694,000 needed.

March 2, 2010

Catholic Charities Halts Spousal Benefits as D.C. Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Catholic Charities in Washington D.C., has stopped offering benefits to spouses of employees who are not already enrolled in the plan, William Wan and Michelle Boorstein report for the Washington Post. The law prohibits contractors of the city from discriminating against same-sex married couples, and the decision came just before the District made same-sex marriage legal.

The move is an effort to prevent offering benefits to same-sex partners. The Supreme Court declined to put on hold a new law that allows same-sex couples to marry in Washington, D.C., according to Reuters.

Other items from the news:

  • Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison Perry conceded to Texas governor Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday night as Perry gained 51 percent of the votes to Hutchison's 30 percent.
  • Here's what Mike Huckabee had to say to the National Religious Broadcasters last weekend, according to Christian Heinze at GOP 12.

    "I don’t consider myself a religious broadcaster in the sense that my programming is religious, but I consider myself unapologetically a Christian believer and I take my Christian faith to work with me everyday. I don’t leave it at the door.

    .... people ask me why I don’t do more Gospel orientated content on my show. Fox isn’t a Christian channel, it’s a news channel. They want me to be careful not to look sectarian but if anybody watches the show regularly they’re certainly going to see spiritual content whether it’s a Christian music artist or people giving very powerful testimonies of their own faith and walk with God. I’m careful to ensure we do that in the balance.”

  • Move over, evangelicals. Tea partiers are taking your slot as the group to woo. Gerald F. Seib writes in the Wall Street Journal that the time is similar to when Ronald Reagan told a convention of evangelicals in August 1980: "I want you to know I endorse you and what you are doing."

    Republicans today are trying something similar with the Tea Party movement. Yet even as Republicans relish this thought, it's worth remembering that, just as their embrace of the religious right created occasional heartburn alongside electoral success, so too does their slow embrace of the Tea Party movement carry downside risks as well as upside potential.

  • Elrena Evans writes about Michelle Obama's campaign against obesity for Her.meneutics.

January 13, 2010

Court Mulls California's Proposition 8

A federal court turned to historians Tuesday as it considers the constitutionality of Proposition 8, an amendment that banned same-sex marriage in California.

Harvard professor Nancy Cott told a federal court in San Francisco that child rearing was only one of several purposes of marriage, not "the central or defining purpose," the Los Angeles Times reports.

She noted that that divorce rates rose steeply in the 1960s and marriage continued to be viewed negatively in the 1970s as heterosexuals advocated "open marriages" and "swinging." But divorce rates hit a plateau in the 1980s, and marriage is now held in high esteem in the U.S., she said.

She attributed the higher status of marriage to advocacy by the Christian right and the growing clamoring of gays and lesbians to participate in it.

During cross-examination, lawyers for the Proposition 8 campaign noted that racial restrictions on marriage in the U.S. were never as "uniform" or widespread as the ban on same-sex marriage. He also asked Cott if it was possible to predict the consequences same-sex marriage would have on society.

The Alliance Defense Fund has been posting regular Twitter updates of the trial.

The U.S. Supreme Court overruled U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker Monday and blocked video coverage of the trial on YouTube, according to the Los Angeles Times.

This is the second time in recent months in which the high court has intervened on behalf of the defenders of "traditional marriage" and granted an emergency appeal.

In October, the justices blocked officials in the state of Washington from releasing the names of 138,000 people who signed ballot petitions seeking to overturn a state law giving equal benefits to gay and lesbian couples. Under Washington law, the names were considered public record.

Meanwhile, a group of conservative leaders gathered in Washington, D.C. yesterday for a press conference lobbying congress to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act. Leaders included Maryland pastor Harry Jackson, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

“This right has been illegally taken from the people by the Council and it is the responsibility of Congress to restore it,” Jackson said.

The group also wants Congress to veto a bill passed in December that legalized same-sex marriage marriage Washington, D.C.

December 15, 2009

D.C. Council Passes Bill Allowing Same-Sex Marriage

The Washington, D.C. City Council passed a measure Tuesday legalizing same-sex marriage, and opponents plan to try to get it overturned in Congress or at the polls, The New York Times reports.

“The City Council’s action today is not the final word,” said Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville and chairman of a group called Stand4MarriageDC.

Mr. Jackson said he would lobby Congress to intervene, but he acknowledged that such a move threatened to upset some of his local supporters, who may be put off by the prospect of subverting local autonomy.

Mr. Jackson’s group is challenging in court on Jan. 6 the city’s Board of Elections and Ethics decision not to hold a referendum on the matter.

Last month, Maine voters overturned the state legislature's passage of a same-sex marriage law. The New York state Senate recently rejected a bill that would have allowed same-sex marriage while New Jersey's legislature postponed a vote on same-sex marriage after the measure seemed headed for defeat.

December 2, 2009

New York State Senate Defeats Same-Sex Marriage Bill

The New York State Senate voted 38-24 against a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. The State Assembly had approved the legislation, and Gov. David A. Paterson had said he would sign the bill.

Had the legislation passed, New York would have become the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Last month, Maine barred same-sex marriage through a referendum after the legislature had legalized it. New York does not have a referendum process like Maine. Here's more from Reuters:

New York's Democratic-controlled state assembly has easily passed the bill legalizing same-sex marriage three times, but the legislation was never voted upon in the senate until now.

The Democrats hold a senate majority of 32 to 30, but several Democratic senators opposed legalizing gay marriage.

...Gay marriage activists will likely now turn their attention to New Jersey, where the Democratic-controlled state legislature is considering taking up the issue before Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine leaves office in January.

November 4, 2009

Maine's Same-Sex Marriage Opponents Claim Victory

Early exit polls show Maine heading towards a repeal of a state law that would have allowed same-sex marriage.

The Legislature passed the law in May, but the election offered voters the chance to repeal the measure.

With more than 84 percent of precincts reporting early Tuesday, voters seeking to repeal the law claimed 53 percent of the vote.

In Washington state, early election results showed that voters were approving the state’s “everything but marriage” law, which gives registered domestic partners additional state-granted rights currently given only to married couples.

Continue reading Maine's Same-Sex Marriage Opponents Claim Victory...

November 2, 2009

Maine Voters to Decide on Same-Sex Marriage

The Maine Legislature legalized same-sex marriage in May, but voters will get a chance to repeal the new law on Tuesday.

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This is the first time voters have had a chance to repeal a legislature-initiated law that extends marriage to same-sex couples. If voters repeal it, the law will not be implemented.

The campaign to approve the law, Protect Maine Equality, and the campaign for repealing the law, Stand For Marriage Maine are still fighting hard as Election Day approaches to get the voters out. Protect Maine Equality raised $4 million for advertising and other campaign material, compared to $2.6 million raised by Stand for Marriage Maine, according to The New York Times. In addition, Gov. John Baldacci (D) publicly supports the law.

The final public opinion polls taken before the election suggest that the vote is a dead heat, the Washington Post reports.

Continue reading Maine Voters to Decide on Same-Sex Marriage...

October 12, 2009

Gay Rights Activity Escalates in Washington

Sexual orientation is on the brink of being added to the list of federally prosecuted hate crimes, after the House approved the Matthew Shepard Act last week. Fifteen Democrats and 131 Republicans opposed the act, which was attached to a $680 billion defense bill. The Senate is expected to approve the bill this week.

President Obama, who has promised his approval, also renewed his pledge to end the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy while speaking to the nation's largest gay advocacy group Saturday night.

The flurry of gay rights activity in Washington last week started with a decision by the D.C. City Council to consider allowing gay marriage in the district. If approved, Washington will become the first city below the Mason-Dixon line to allow gay marriage.

Continue reading Gay Rights Activity Escalates in Washington...

August 25, 2009

Judge Dismisses DOMA Challenge

A judge dismissed a California gay couple's lawsuit claiming that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, a week after U.S. Justice Department lawyers defended the law.

The couple had argued that the law, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, discriminated against gay men and lesbians. U.S. District Judge David O. Carter ruled that the court lacked jurisdiction to consider the broader constitutional questions.

During his campaign, Obama promised to work for DOMA's repeal. While defending the law, government attorneys wrote that it was discriminatory. "This administration does not support DOMA as a matter of policy, believes that it is discriminatory, and supports its repeal," they wrote.

Here's more from the Associated Press:

Brian Raum, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group that has joined the government in defending the federal marriage law, said Carter was right to dismiss the case on procedural grounds.

The federal government cannot be sued in state courts, Raum said.

Smelt and Hammer's lawsuit could be back in a federal court in a matter of months, when "ultimately it will come down to the merits," he said.

Earlier this year, a gay rights group in Massachusetts filed a lawsuit challenging the Defense of Marriage Act on constitutional grounds, and the state brought a separate case arguing that the law interferes with its right to establish its own marriage laws.

August 17, 2009

Having it Both Ways on Same-Sex Marriage?

The Department of Justice defended the Defense of Marriage Act again while claiming the law discriminates against gays, according to the Associated Press. "This administration does not support DOMA as a matter of policy, believes that it is discriminatory, and supports its repeal," government attorneys wrote. The DOJ asked the court to dismiss a lawsuit brought on by a gay couple who married in California last year.

"The administration believes the Defense of Marriage Act is discriminatory and should be repealed," said Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler, because it prevents equal rights and benefits.

The Justice Department, she added, is obligated "to defend federal statutes when they are challenged in court. The Justice Department cannot pick and choose which federal laws it will defend based on any one administration's policy preferences."

The law prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, permitting states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. The White House issued the following statement by Obama.

"This brief makes clear, however, that my Administration believes that the Act is discriminatory and should be repealed by Congress. I have long held that DOMA prevents LGBT couples from being granted equal rights and benefits. While we work with Congress to repeal DOMA, my Administration will continue to examine and implement measures that will help extend rights and benefits to LGBT couples under existing law."

June 15, 2009

Dept. of Justice Defends Defense of Marriage Act

The Department of Justice filed a brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act, a law President Obama has condemned in the past.

The 1996 law bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage and enables states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages in other states.

Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle breaks down the differences between the Bush administration and Obama administration for defending the law.

Its court filing steered clear of the justification of the law it had offered under President George W. Bush: that it promotes a traditional form of marriage best suited for procreating and raising children.

Instead, the Obama administration argued that the law preserves long-standing state authority to define marriage while saving taxpayer dollars.

With societal attitudes in flux, the department said, the law adopted "a cautious policy of federal neutrality towards a new form of marriage," allowing states to expand the traditional definition of wedlock but declining "to obligate federal taxpayers in other states to subsidize a form of marriage their own states do not recognize."

A spokesperson gave Ben Smith at Politico this statement:

As it generally does with existing statutes, the Justice Department is defending the law on the books in court. The president has said he wants to see a legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act because it prevents LGBT couples from being granted equal rights and benefits. However, until Congress passes legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to defend the statute when it is challenged in the justice system.

June 2, 2009

Obama Issues Gay Month Proclamation, Cheney Endorses Same-sex Marriage

President Obama issued a proclamation honoring "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Pride Month 2009," while former Vice President Dick Cheney issued his support for same-sex marriage on a state-by-state basis.

"Forty years ago, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted police harassment that had become all too common for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community," Obama's proclamation states. "Out of this resistance, the LGBT rights movement in America was born. During LGBT Pride Month, we commemorate the events of June 1969 and commit to achieving equal justice under law for LGBT Americans."

Cheney said at the National Press Club yesterday that "people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish, any kind of arrangement they wish." Cheney's position appears to put him to the left of President Obama, who has said he supports civil unions, rather than same-sex marriage.

Continue reading Obama Issues Gay Month Proclamation, Cheney Endorses Same-sex Marriage...

May 26, 2009

California Supreme Court Upholds Prop. 8

But the 18,000 same-sex marriages between May and November are still valid, court says.

Christianity Today readers interested in the California Supreme Court decision and related news coverage will also be interested in Books & Culture's new review of Andrew Marin's Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community.

May 5, 2009

Maine Lawsmakers Approve Same-Sex Marriage

D.C. votes to recognize other states' gay marriages.

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Lawmakers in Maine voted to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage this afternoon. Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, could veto the bill, The New York Times writes. The Catholic Diocese of Maine and the Maine Family Policy Council, an affiliate of the Family Research Council, will be among the groups lobbying Mr. Baldacci to veto the bill.

Mr. Baldacci opposed same-sex marriage before the bill was introduced this year, but he has since said he is keeping an open mind.

Mr. Baldacci’s spokesman, David Farmer, said he was still mulling his position on the bill and would not make a final decision until after it reached his desk. That could be as soon as tomorrow, when the State Senate is scheduled to formally enact it. Mr. Baldacci will have 10 days to act on the bill once it is delivered to him.

The D.C. Council also voted today to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. The New Hampshire House is expected to take up the bill at tomorrow.

In case you've lost track, Maine would join Vermont, Iowa, Connecticut, and Massachusetts in legalizing same-sex marriage.

Update: Maine Governor John Baldacci signed the bill today legalizing same-sex marriage.

May 5, 2009

Miss California Says Racy Photos Posted to Mock Faith

Miss California Carrie Prejean responded to a Web site that posted racy photos of her by saying it was an attempt to mock her Christian faith.

"I am a Christian, and I am a model," Prejean said in a statement. "Models pose for pictures, including lingerie and swimwear photos. Recently, photos taken of me as a teenager have been released surreptitiously to a tabloid Web site that openly mocks me for my Christian faith. I am not perfect, and I will never claim to be."

A gossip blog posted photos of Prejean wearing only pink panties with her back turned to the camera.

Prejean was praised by several conservative Christian groups for her voicing her opposition to same-sex marriage during the Miss USA beauty pageant. She was then offered a scholarship by Liberty University and portrayed in a National Organization for Marriage advertisement. According to the website this morning, she was invited to the Values Voter Summit, a conference put on by Family Research Council Action.

Katelyn Beaty has posted previous commentary over at Her.meneutics, CT's new women's blog.

April 30, 2009

Miss California Becomes Spokeswoman for Ad Campaign

Liberty University offers a scholarship to the woman who said during a beauty pageant that she opposes same-sex marriage.

The National Organization for Marriage is promoting Miss California as a spokeswoman to oppose same-sex marriage.

Carrie Prejean told NBC's "Today show today that marriage is "something that is very dear to my heart" and she's in Washington to help save it.

Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. offered a scholarship to Prejean, who was visiting the conservative Christian school yesterday. Prejean told judge Perez Hilton that she opposed same-sex marriage during the April 19 pageant.

Yesterday, the New Hampshire Senate passed a bill allowing gay marriage. If the governor signs the bill, New Hampshire could become the fifth state to allow same-sex marriages.

April 21, 2009

Miss California: Gay marriage answer cost me Miss USA crown

Support for Proposition 8 draws gay judge's ire.

Carrie Prejean, 21, says her honest answer about whether she supports marriage by homosexuals cost her an opportunity to win Sunday's Miss USA pageant. The question came from gay judge Perez Hilton, who apparently set her up.

In an appearance Monday on MSNBC, Hilton said he was absolutely "shocked and incredibly frustrated and disappointed" with Prejean's stance.

"That's not the kind of woman I want to be Miss USA," he said. "Miss USA should represent all Americans and, with her answer, she instantly alienated millions of gays and lesbians and their friends."

Earlier, Hilton had said on his video blog he would have run onstage and ripped the tiara off Prejean's head had she won the title.

And the blogger would not have been the only member of the Miss USA family to go apoplectic had Prejean advanced in the competition. Keith Lewis, executive director of California's Miss USA operations, said in a statement released to Hilton that "religious beliefs have no place in politics in the Miss CA family."

Prejean Monday said she was raised in a way that you can never compromise your beliefs and your opinions for anything.

...

Prejean said she has received 2,000 friend requests on Facebook since the weekend controversy began unfolding.

April 7, 2009

Vermont Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Vermont just became the first state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage through the legislature. The legislature overturned the governor's veto. Vermont was the first state to legalize same-sex civil unions and the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage, following Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa.

Here's a story from Religion News Service by Kevin Eckstrom.

Nine years after becoming the first state to allow same-sex civil unions, Vermont on Tuesday became the first state to approve same-sex marriage without a court order.

At the same time, the District of Columbia took the first step toward recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, a move that some predict may ultimately lead to legalized gay marriages in the nation's capital.

Continue reading Vermont Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage...

April 3, 2009

Iowa Court Approves Gay Marriage, Vermont Passes Same-Sex Bill

The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously decided today that a law declaring marriage to be between a man and a woman is unconstitutional, making its state the first in the Midwest to approve same-sex marriage.

The rest of this article was posted to CT's main site.

March 30, 2009

Less Religious New England States Create Same-Sex Marriage Buzz

New England states are weighing same-sex marriage legislation, especially where religious presence may be lacking, according to USA Today analysis.

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"A USA TODAY analysis finds that states where the percentage of "nones" - people who say they have no religion - is at or above the national average of 15% are more likely to push expanding the scope of marriage, civil unions or same-sex partner rights," write Cathy Lynn Grossman and Jack Gillum.

Vermont's legislature is expected to vote on a same-sex marriage bill later this week, and the AP outlines other debates going on in the Northeast.

Continue reading Less Religious New England States Create Same-Sex Marriage Buzz...

March 25, 2009

Vermont Gov. to Veto Gay Marriage Bill

Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas said he will veto a state bill to allow same-sex marriage if it makes it to his desk.

The Vermont state Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill earlier this week, and the House is expected to vote next week. Here's more from WCAX:

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The governor told reporters he doesn't typically announce his intentions like this so far ahead of time, but said he thinks it's the only way to stop speculation about what his move may be, to refocus lawmakers' attention on the state budget.

"I'm announcing I will veto this legislation when it reaches my desk," Douglas said.

Explaining same-sex marriage is a deeply personal issue that crosses political lines, Vermont's Republican governor said he will not sign a bill into law allowing gays and lesbians to marry.

"I believe marriage has always been and ought to remain the union of a man and a woman," Douglas said. "I believe the civil unions law has offered equal rights and benefits under state law to same-sex couples and that should suffice."

March 24, 2009

Vermont Moves to Legalize Gay Marriage

The Vermont state Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Monday to allow same-sex marriage, putting the state one step closer to becoming the first to approve same-sex marriage by legislative means.

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The Democratic-dominated state Senate voted 26 to 4 in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. House Speaker Shap Smith, a Democrat, predicted to USA Today that a majority of the House would also vote in favor.

Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, has said he opposes the bill, but has not indicated whether he would veto the measure.

If the measure is approved, Vermont would become the third state (following neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut) to allow same-sex marriage. Vermont was the first state to grant civil unions in 2000.

If approved, the law would replace Vermont's civil-unions law starting September 1. Civil unions performed in the past nine years, however, would still be recognized, according to The New York Times.

Opponents say changing state laws to allow same-sex marriage is both unnecessary and morally questionable.

"Same-sex marriage in Vermont can offer only one benefit to Vermont's gay population: Hopes of increased social acceptance," said the Vermont Marriage Advisory Council. "All legal experts agree that civil unions already provide every legal benefit and protection Vermont can give."

March 6, 2009

California Court Likely to Uphold Gay Marriage Ban

Surprising headline from the San Francisco Chronicle: "Justices seem to be leaning in favor of Prop. 8."

I don't find it surprising because I thought Proposition 8, the California ballot measure that amended the the state constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman. Legal challenges were inevitable, but Prop. 8's constitutional defeat was not. I'm just surprised the Chronicle's already started the 10 count.

Here's the story:

"There have been initiatives that have taken away rights from minorities by majority vote" and have been upheld by the courts, said Chief Justice Ronald George. "Isn't that the system we have to live with?"

George wrote the majority opinion in the court's 4-3 ruling in May striking down California's ban on same-sex marriages - which voters, in turn, reversed in November by approving Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

Another member of last year's majority, Justice Joyce Kennard, said the challenge to Prop. 8 brought by advocates of same-sex marriage involved "a completely different issue" from the court's ruling that the marriage laws violated gays' and lesbians' rights to be treated equally and wed the partner of their choice.

"Here we are dealing with the power of the people, the inalienable right, to amend the Constitution," Kennard said. Speaking to a lawyer for same-sex couples, she said those who want to overturn the voters' decision "have the right to go to the people and present an initiative."

There were some indications of divisions among the justices on the validity of Prop. 8 during the hearing, which lasted more than three hours at the court's San Francisco headquarters. But on a separate issue, all seven appeared to agree that the 18,000 same-sex couples who married before Prop. 8 passed would remain legally wed.

The Los Angeles Times says more of the same. Something that's different and worth reading is this article that Mollie Ziegler Hemingway wrote for Christianity Today before Thursday's California Supreme Court hearing. Here's the lede:

Continue reading California Court Likely to Uphold Gay Marriage Ban...

February 17, 2009

Student Sues over Gay-Marriage Speech

A student in California is suing Los Angeles City College, saying his professor reacted inappropriately to his speech in class against same-sex marriage, Gale Holland writes for the Los Angeles Times.

Student Jonathan Lopez says his professor called him a "fascist bastard" and refused to let him finish his speech against same-sex marriage during a public speaking class last November, weeks after California voters approved the ban on such unions.

When Lopez tried to find out his mark for the speech, the professor, John Matteson, allegedly told him to "ask God what your grade is," the suit says.

Lopez is represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, sued unsuccessfully to stop the release of the names and addresses of Proposition 8 donors, who said they had been harassed during the weeks of demonstrations after it passed.

Holland writes that the case tests the balance between free speech and offensive speech, and it's all part of "the emotional aftermath of Proposition 8."

February 3, 2009

California's Proposition 8: $83M Price Tag

The opponents of California's Proposition 8, which place a ban on gay marriage, raised more money than the measure's sponsors, according to a new report.

The Associated Press reports that campaign filings released Monday show that more than $83 million was donated to support or oppose the ballot initiative.

Opponents: $43.3 million
Proponents: $39.9 million

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which took the heaviest beating from protesters after it passed, gave nearly $190,000 to promote the measure. Focus on the Family gave more than three times the amount as the LDS Church, reportedly giving $657,000 in cash and services to promote Proposition 8.

The new round of reports also list about 530 small and late donors whose contributions in support of the same-sex marriage ban had not been publicly available until Monday. Proposition 8's sponsors had sought permission to keep the identities of those contributors secret, arguing that the identifying information in previous campaign reports had led to donors being harassed.

The measure passed on Election Day with 52 percent of the vote.

January 13, 2009

Obama Supported Same-sex Marriage in '96

Documents revealed on the Windy City Times suggest that Barack Obama supported same-sex marriage in 1996, indicating that the president-elect made a more conservative shift before running for president.

"I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages," he said in a questionnaire the same year he was elected to the Illinois Senate.

Obama now favors civil unions and opposes a federal same-sex marriage ban, but he opposes same-sex marriage.

Fifty-five percent of Americans oppose gay marriage, with 36 percent favoring it, according to an August 2007 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

(h/t Ben Smith, Politico)

December 22, 2008

Kenneth Starr to defend gay marriage ban before state court

Most people remember Kenneth Starr from his days as the special investigator of Whitewater and President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. But for the last few years he has served as dean of the law school at Pepperdine University, which is affiliated with a conservative Christian denomination that I grew up in.

After rumors circulated last month, Starr was named today the lead counsel for the chief proponents of Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment, passed last month by 52 percent of Californians, that would limit marriage to unions between a man and a woman. Legal challenges have been filed, and proponents are preparing for a battle.

"We are confident that the will of the voters and Proposition 8 will ultimately be upheld," said Andrew Pugno, General Counsel for ProtectMarriage.com and the Proposition 8 Legal Defense Fund. "The addition of Dean Starr to this legal conversation will provide useful guidance for the Court in resolving these important issues."

Starr, like me, grew up in the Church of Christ (not to be confused with the United Church of Christ, which resides on the other end of the theological spectrum). I'm curious as to how his faith shapes his practice of law. I couldn't find much online. The best window I got into Starr's Christian worldview comes from a comment he made during his speech at Christian Business Men's Committee in Washington. It appeared in a 1998 Washington Times article, no longer online:

"When you think of the blessed life that Jesus led on earth, think of his time utilization," Mr. Starr said. "He didn't waste a lot of time. Three years, that's the length of time . . . that this individual, human yet God, ended up shaping not just history, but each person who will say, ?I want to come to know Christ.? "

(Originally published at The God Blog.)