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Canadian Marriages Might be in Danger After All

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By Matt Baume

UPDATED: This video was scheduled for January 23, but didn’t get posted until today.  As some have asked in the comments, there are indeed a full 25 votes for marriage equality in Washington state.  Also, Gov. Chris Christie has pledged to veto the marriage equality bill in consideration in New Jersey.

Canadian marriages may not be so safe after all, with an author of the country’s marriage equality law raising the possibility of an anti-gay attack. Here in the US, nearly a hundred mayors come out for marriage equality, including one who testified during the Prop 8 trial. We’re just one vote away from passing marriage equality Washington state Senate, but time’s quickly running out. And remember that cute Australian ad with the first-person courtship? I’ll talk to the American college student who’s raising funds to bring that ad to the states.

We’re still on the edge of our seats for a Prop 8 ruling — it could come at any moment. You can be the first to find out when it comes. Visit AFER.org to sign up for a breaking news alert. You can either get an email or text alert. Meanwhile more cast members have been announced for the LA premiere of “8,” Dustin Lance Black’s play based on the transcripts of the Prop 8 trial. Joining the March 3 reading are George Clooney, Martin Sheen, Jane Lynch, Matthew Morrison, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Christine Lahti, George Takei, and Book of Mormon’s Rory O’Malley.

Marriage equality got a huge nationwide boost this week from eighty US mayors. The group includes Seattle, Denver, Austin, St. Louis, Bloomington, Newark, and a whole host of cities in states that have marriage or civil union legislation in the works. One of the leaders of the group is Jerry Sanders, the Republican Mayor of San Diego whose testimony at the Prop 8 trial was instrumental. On Day 6 of the trial, Sanders said, “if government tolerates discrimination against anyone for any reason, it becomes an excuse for the public to do exactly the same thing.”

Anti-gay groups in New Hampshire have been struggling even more than usual lately. A small group of politicians is working to undo the state’s marriage equality law, but their colleagues have repeatedly delayed action on the proposal. A tentatively scheduled vote this week has been pushed at the last minute to February. It wasn’t long ago that marriage for LGBTs was a wedge issue that anti-gay politicians could use to their advantage. But these days, only 27% of New Hampshire adults support repeal of the state’s marriage law, so the wedge has clearly flipped.

Meanwhile in North Carolina, an anti-gay constitutional amendment has dipped slightly in the polls, but retains majority support. Although momentum is slowly building to block the law, it may not be enough in time for the vote in May. It’s important to note just how extreme and draconian this measure is. It wouldn’t just ban marriage — North Carolina already does that. This law would ban all protections for LGBT families, and even unmarried straight couples. In Ohio, a similar measure allowed multiple domestic abusers to go free, simply because they weren’t married to their victims.

One North Carolina group is fighting back with two new videos this week, featuring a collection of talking heads. Ads like these were once commonplace, but have fallen out of favor as we’ve found that emotional appeals are more effective than appeals to logic. That’s why the internet’s responded so strongly to “It’s Time,” the ad from Australia, featuring a first-person courtship of what turns out to be a gay couple. You’ve probably seen the ad already on Facebook, but soon you may see it on television. This week I spoke to Daniel Wein, a Washington DC college student who’s managed to acquire rights and raise thousands for a stateside airing of “It’s Time.” Stay tuned for our full conversation later this week — for now, here are some highlights from our interview. I asked Daniel why he was motivated to get the ad on television, and how he’s making that happen.

“I was back home for Thanksgiving break when I was just sitting on my couch and I came across this “It’s Time” ad from GetUp Australia, and I was really just deeply deeply moved. And I started to get a team together to see what we can do about getting this on TV. Luckily I was able to find — I actually had two people reach out to me who are digital strategists, one based in DC and one based in New York, who are both taking on this project pro bono. And then soon after that, we were able to locate who has a background in the same kind of nonprofit work. He was able to consult with us. There’s a think tank in DC called Third Way that conducted some very preliminary study, and they found that this ad tested very well in the United States. Given the opportunity to play to a just larger audience in the United States beyond just YouTube, I think that it could definitely make a big impact.”

New Jersey will hear testimony on Tuesday of this week concerning a proposed marriage equality bill. Governor Chris Christie has so far avoided making a firm commitment on signing or vetoing the bill, and some legislators claim that they can reach a veto-proof majority. That may be wishful thinking, but public support for the bill continues to rise. A survey this week shows that 52% support the bill, with only 42% opposed.

We’re agonizing over every vote in Washington State, where legislators are just one vote shy from passing a marriage equality bill. The bill enjoys bi-partisan support, including Republican Attorney General candidate Reagan Dunn. And this week some of the state’s largest employers, including Microsoft and Nike, signed a letter of support. But five senators still have not stated their position. In order to reach the governor this session, the bill will need to pass either the House or Senate before February 14.

Internationally, there’s good news from Cuba, where officials have pledged to consider enacting civil unions.

But turmoil has continued in Canada. Last week a government lawyer argued that Americans who have traveled to Canada to marry aren’t really married. That was quickly followed by a clarification from the government that tourist marriages are, in fact, legal in that country, even if they aren’t recognized in the tourists’ home country. Some politicians have promised to amend the law to clarify those couples’ legal standing. But this week one of the lawyers who worked on the original law, Kathleen Lahey, has pointed out that the law doesn’t really need any amendment — it’s already perfectly clear. This has sparked fears that the so-called clarifications could actually be a sneaky attempt to weaken the law and create exemptions that would deny equal protections to some LGBTs. We’ll be following that situation closely as it develops.

Those are the headlines, head over to AFER.org for more on the federal fight to overturn Proposition 8 and win full nationwide marriage equality. And visit MarriageNewsWatch.com for breaking news headlines throughout the day. I’m Matt Baume at the American Foundation for Equal Rights. We’ll see you next week.

9 Comments

  • 1. Mike  |  January 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Whats going on in Canada? Why not elaborate a little more on whats going on there?

  • 2. mattymatt  |  January 25, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Here's some more background on the Canadian situation. http://www.globalnews.ca/canada/hands+off/6442563

  • 3. grod  |  January 25, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/Defending+ri
    You would never know from today's editorial in the Ottawa Citizen that there was a negative change in the status of Canadian civil marriages of out-of-country persons. Indeed if anything, the federal government appears to have undertaken to enact legislation that will make divorce from these marriages possible – in Canada – without the usual waiting period for all marriages of two years. This situation is familiar to Americans who married in states that perform civil marriages, but live in states that do not recognize ss civil marriage and thus will not divorce them. These couples will well appreciate the favorable change the Canadian government intends to make. Readers to this post will recall the two Texas cases of persons seeking divorce there. Both were granted, but one on appeal was overturned, while the other, on a procedural defect, on appeal, remained in place.

  • 4. Kevin Sours  |  January 25, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    I thought the 25th vote already announced for Washington, did something change?

  • 5. Jacob Combs  |  January 25, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Nothing has changed–this was filmed to come out on January 23. The 25th vote has been announced!

  • 6. fiona64  |  January 25, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Can someone from Canada answer this for me? Is ex post facto law allowed there? I cannot see how …

  • 7. Sagesse  |  January 25, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Not a lawyer, but I think the changes that are being suggested are of a 'for greater certainty' nature. Stating explicitly what is already the case, or closing a loophole. If they do pass legislation to permit divorce for non-residents, it would be prospective in any case. I think you could also pass a law that legally recognizes all marriages performed in the past.

    I could be wrong, but this whole debate strikes me as a tempest in Chicken Little's teapot.

  • 8. grod  |  January 25, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    fiona64 While I leave to those more knowledgeable about Canadian federal and provincial law to answer your general question, the subject matter of your question I believe relates to civil marriages, and an aspect of these related to marriages of non residents. These civil marriages were and are just as valid marriages as those of Canadian residents. The issue that arose here was divorce, and narrowly law granting divorce of non-residents. Although settled for same-sex couples residing in Canada, the law was not settled regarding divorce – to date being guided by international conventions. The federal government will not tamper with its divorce law [and these conventions] but will amended its marriage laws to provide a means to dissolve these Canadian marriages – as I understand it. The lawyer for the couple seeking a “Canadian” divorce stated that the couple was satisfied with the proposed solution.

  • 9. fiona64  |  January 26, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Okay, so what this really is, is a misleading headline. One cannot just judicially dissolve a marriage without a couple seeking such (i.e., divorce).

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