January 19, 2012
By Matt Baume
Washington, Colorado, New Jersey — state legislatures are moving even faster than we thought on marriage equality. But it’s not all good news. Meanwhile, Canadian turmoil calls thousands of marriages into question, and preparations continue for the impending decision in the Prop 8 case.
If you haven’t already, check out our extended interview with Stephen Hill and Josh Snyder. Everyone knows Stephen as the soldier who questioned Rick Santorum about DADT, but you may be less acquainted with Stephen and Josh the couple. In our interview, you can see them together at home, talking about how they were once cut off by an explosion, how they secretly kept in touch during deployment, and why they decided to take a risk and get married before DADT was lifted. Head over to youtube.com/AmericanEqualRights to watch and subscribe.
This was a busy week around the country as legislatures got to work. Colorado introduced a civil unions bill. A similar law was blocked by Republicans last year, but a lot’s changed since 2011. This time, a group of Republicans is actively campaigning for its passage. They’re joined by Governor John Hickenlooper, and 76% of Colorado voters who support legalized relationship recognition.
New Jersey’s marriage bill was the first order of business this week. It’s expected to easily pass the Senate and Assembly, probably this month or next, but Governor Chris Christie has promised a veto. Legislators may be able to override him with a two thirds vote.
We’re just two votes away from passing a marriage bill in Washinton, but don’t celebrate yet: finding those two votes will be extremely challenging. And even if marriage advocates succeed in passing the bill, a referendum is likely. Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna is running for Governor this year, and he’s said that rights like marriage should be put to voters. While it’s never okay to hold a popular vote on taking away rights, polls in Washington are at least encouraging: an October survey by the University of Washington showed 55 percent of voters would uphold marriage equality, with just 34 percent opposed.
Perhaps inspired by the progress in those states, more organizers than ever are pushing for equality around the country. Preliminary meetings are underway to push for marriage equality in Illinois, and Rhode Islanders are pushing Democratic Senator Jack Reed to support the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA. Reed promised a decision on DOMA “very quickly” — but that was months ago, and he’s been dodging the issue ever since. Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, unconfirmed rumors predict a vote on marriage repeal at some point this week.
There’s a been some international turmoil this week, with a Canadian government attorney arguing that Americans who went to Canada to marry aren’t really married. This came out of left field and is fortunately not the last word on the topic. Almost immediately, higher-level officials stepped in to clarify that Canadian marriages are, in fact, still valid.
Things are a bit shakier in Mexico, where planned marriages have been called off by government decree. Although not specifically allowed, marriage equality isn’t prohibited in Cancun, so organizers were planning to get married and then see what happened. But when officials got wind of their plans, they ordered a halt to the ceremonies pending legal review.
But there’s some good news coming out of Australia, with an endorsement for marriage equality this week from a professional organization of wedding officiants.
Meanwhile, back here in the US, the wait continues for a ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Prop 8 case. That ruling could come any day now with little or no advance notice. The court will either affirm last year’s ruling that Prop 8 should be overturned because it violates the Constitution; or they’ll reverse that finding, thereby denying the freedom to marry from thousands of LGBT couples. They’ll also decide whether the tapes of the initial District Court trial can finally be released to the public.
Either way, AFER is ready to respond the moment that ruling comes. We’ll have immediate news coverage as soon as the ruling’s released, with our all-star legal team explaining what it means and what comes next. And you’ll hear from our plaintiffs — Sandy and Kris and Jeff and Paul — as they explain why their families need the strength and stability that comes with marriage.
In addition, Marriage Equality USA is busy organizing rallies all around California. Stay tuned for more details on those rallies from MEUSA soon.
And while we wait for a ruling, preparations are underway to bring the trial to communities all around the country. After its gala premiere on Broadway, Dustin Lance Black’s play “8” is coming to a theater near you. This week AFER announced 43 planned productions from New Hampshire to St. Louis to Seattle over the next few months. Visit http://8theplay.com for more info.
Meanwhile, Equality California continues its rebound from a rocky year. This week the organization posted a job listing for an Interim Executive Director, so polish up your resume, and they released their 2011 Annual Report. Highlights include the successful sponsorship of 12 pro-LGBT bills, record-setting electoral victories for LGBT officials around the state, and bolstered research and field operations.
And there’s still more news from California: on January 21st, GetEQUAL will donate some items of historical significance to the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives in Los Angeles. Items include banners from Meet in the Middle, a post-Prop-8 rally that re-energized the community and drew thousands to Fresno in 2009. Visit GetEQUAL.org for tickets to next week’s induction event.
And finally this week, new data from the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study has yielded some positive news: out of all the lesbian households studied, the rate of child abuse was zero percent. In addition, according to the Journal Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, quality of life for lesbian-headed households was comparable to that of heterosexual-headed households. Not a big shock, but nice to have it reaffirmed — again — that LGBT families are strong, healthy, positive places for kids.
Those are the headlines, join us over at MarriageNewsWatch.com for more on all these stories and more. And head over to AFER.org for more on the federal fight for marriage equality, and to learn more about Dustin Lance Black’s play, “8.” We’ll see you next week.