May 9, 2011
This was published on the old site this morning by accident. Here it is on the new one -Adam
By Matt Baume
Disagreement over marriage versus civil unions could drive Rhode Island’s LGBT activists against each other. Meanwhile, an unknown source is funneling millions of dollars to anti-gay groups in fifteen states. We’ll talk about Target’s role in Minnesota’s proposed double-ban on marriage, and share some good news from Brazil, Scotland, and Taiwan.
The fight for marriage grew even more heated this week in Rhode Island with the introduction of a civil unions bill. One week earlier, sponsors of a marriage bill decided to pull their legislation due to what they felt was a lack of votes. But now, this civil unions compromise, introduced by Representative Peter Petrarca, is coming under fire from groups like Marriage Equality Rhode Island and Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders.
GLAD criticized House Speaker Gordon Fox for giving up on the marriage bill, and Rhode Island Marriage Equality began formulating plans to vote out anti-marriage legislators in 2012. That’s likely to include Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed, a Democrat who opposes marriage.
But in order for that effort to be successful, Marriage Equality Rhode Island still needs the House to vote on marriage to determine out who exactly needs to be voted out. Marriage bill sponsor Arthur Handy may be able to force a House vote by attaching an amendment to the civil unions bill, which would also endanger its chances of passage.
Meanwhile, around the country, we’re starting to see a mysterious surge in spending on anti-gay campaigns through a program called Ignite an Enduring Cultural Transformation. The cash is flowing to Family Research Councils in 15 states, which have created 3-year plans to oppose marriage, as well as anti-discrimination and abortion legislation.
The source of the money is unclear, but it adds up to millions more than has been spent in past years. It includes anti-gay initiatives in Idaho, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Arizona, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kansas, Louisiana, Florida, Indiana, and Massachusetts.
The biggest spending is in Virginia, where an anti-gay group is getting $1.2 million; New Jersey, which is getting $1.3 million; Pennsylvania with $1.5 million, and Minnesota, with $4.7 million.
Pennsylvania and Minnesota are of particular importance, because they’re both facing Constitutional amendments to ban marriage. Pennsylvania’s was introduced this week by Republican Representative Daryl Metcalfe. Minnesota’s, which would duplicate a ban that already exists, has been working its way through the legislature for several weeks.
That’s thanks, in part, to Target. You’ll remember several months ago when it came to light that the retailer was pouring huge amounts of cash into the campaigns of anti-gay candidates. And now two of those politicians, Representatives Doug Magnus and Kurt Zellers, are likely to play a role in passing Minnesota’s double marriage ban. To this day, Target still won’t pledge to stop funneling money to anti-gay politicians.
But there’s some good news in Illinois, where civil unions will begin on June 2nd. Lawmakers and LGBT couples will mark the occasion with a ceremony at 10am at Wrigley Square, where Governor Pat Quinn will oversee the civil unioning of thirty couples. Click over here to watch our interview with Phil Reese about exactly how Illinois activists were able to make civil unions a reality.
And in New York, both sides continue to lay foundations for an upcoming marriage fight. Bill Clinton released a statement this week endorsing marriage, which is better late than never, and Chelsea was photographed phonebanking for our side.
But anti-gay groups are pushing back hard. They’ve pledged to spend $1 million to unseat any Republican who supports marriage, and they’re planning an anti-marriage rally on May 15th. The same day as New York’s annual AIDS Walk.
There was also big news this week in immigration, with Attorney General Eric Holder taking the extraordinary move of personally intervening to stop the deportation of Paul Wilson Dorman. The Board of Immigration Appeals had previously ruled that Dorman should be deported, despite having a civil union with an American citizen.
In his ruling, Holder ordered the BIA to re-examine whether couples with civil unions can be considered spouses, and whether their finding would have been different in the absence of DOMA. While it’s unclear how this changes the playing field, it’s a sign that Holder could be exploring legal justifications for ending the long-standing practice of deporting gay spouses.
And the move had immediate ramifications for Henry and Josh, the bi-national couple in New Jersey who faced a deportation hearing on Friday. At that hearing, the judge decided to put Henry’s removal on hold for another six months, due to the uncertainty around DOMA’s application. Courage Campaign’s joint petition with AllOut.org is here.
Click here to watch our interview with Josh about how he and Henry met, and what it would mean if the government ordered them to be separated.
Let’s take a quick look at some other major headlines this week. At the GOP debate in South Carolina, nobody had anything nice to say about LGBTs, with Ron Paul expressing support for DOMA because, he says, it protects states. It’s great that Ron Paul is more concerned about the welfare of the state than of the people who actually live in it.
Representative Pete Stark introduced the “Every Child Deserves a Family Act,” which seeks to end adoption bias. Despite 100,000 children awaiting adoptive families in this country and 2 million LGBT adults willing to adopt, one third of adoption agencies reject parents simply because they’re gay. Stark’s law would divert adoption funding to states that practice inclusive adoptions, and could save the country $3 to $6 billion.
And one the many legal cases against DOMA could move forward on Monday with a judge potentially setting a schedule for arguments in Windsor versus United States, in which Edie Windsor was charged a $350,000 gay death tax when her spouse of 44 years passed away.
Turning to international news, the Supreme Federal Court in the heavily Catholic country of Brazil voted in favor of civil unions this week by a margin 10-0, joining Argentina and Uruguay in offering protections to same-sex couples.
The Scottish National Party won a majority in Parliament, and is expected to open talks on marriage equality.
And Taiwan is moving ahead with plans to implement age-appropriate lessons in elementary schools about LGBT issues.
Those are the headlines, join us over at MarriageNewsWatch.com for more on all of these stories and more. Remember to check us out at Facebook.com/MarriageNewsWatch and follow mnwatch on Twitter. Click here to subscribe to us on YouTube, and over to the right to get caught up on previous episodes, including last week’s news about the turmoil on DOMA’s legal defense team and more background on the fight for immigration equality.
We’ll see you next week.