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  1. #1

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    June 19, 2003

    Gay Marriage Plan: Sign of Sweeping Change in Canada

    By CLIFFORD KRAUSS

    TORONTO, June 18 — Canada's decision to allow marriage between same-sex couples is only one of many signs that this once tradition-bound society is undergoing social change at an astonishing rate.

    Increasingly, Canada has been on a social policy course pursued by many Western European and Scandinavian countries, and over the last few decades it has been moving gradually more out of step with the United States.

    Even as the government announced on Tuesday that it would rewrite the definition of marriage, it was also in the process of transforming its drug policies by decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and, to combat disease, permitting "safe-injection" clinics in Vancouver, British Columbia, for heroin addicts.

    The large Indian population remains impoverished, but there are signs that native peoples are taking greater control of their destinies; their leaders now govern two territories, occupying more than a third of Canada's land mass.

    As far as the ease with which society changes, Canada is virtually in a category by itself.

    Canada is a country that has never had a revolution or civil war, and little social turbulence aside from sporadic rebellions in the 19th century and a splash of terrorism in Quebec in the 1960's and 1970's.

    The country's demographics have changed dramatically since then, when the government of Pierre Trudeau opened wide the country's doors to Africans, Asians and West Indians as part of an attempt to fill Canada's huge, underpopulated hinterland. Eighteen percent of the population is now foreign-born compared with about 11 percent in the United States, with little or no debate over whether the effects of such change in culture, demographics and national identity is good or bad.

    Only in the last generation have Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, with one third of the population, become multicultural polyglots, with the towers of Sikh temples and mosques becoming mainstays of the skylines and cuisines and fashion becoming concoctions of spices and patterns that are in the vanguard of globalization.

    Toronto, once a homogeneous city of staid British tradition, now counts more than 40 percent of the people as foreign born. There are nearly 2,000 ethnic restaurants, and local radio and television stations broadcast in more than 30 languages.

    "Everything from marriage laws to marijuana laws, we are going through a period of accelerated social change," said Neil Bissoondath, an immigrant from Trinidad who is a leading novelist. "There is a general approach to life here that is both evolutionary and revolutionary."

    Mr. Bissoondath said the balance went back to the ideals of the Tory founders of Canada, who remained loyal to the British crown and who instilled a laissez-faire conservatism "that says people have a right to live their lives as they like."

    That philosophy was a practical necessity in a colony that was bilingual after the British conquered French Quebec, creating relative social peace by allowing greater religious freedoms than even Catholics in England had at the time.

    The live-and-let-live approach was codified by the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canada's Bill of Rights. Being as young as it is, the charter occupies a vivid corner of the Canadian psyche. So when three senior provincial courts ruled recently that federal marriage law discriminated against same-sex couples, the Liberal Party cabinet decided to go along and not appeal.

    While the new law will have to be passed by the House of Commons, little organized resistance has developed.

    Few have complained that a national policy pertaining to something as intimate as marriage would be set by courts in Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario rather than a federal body. In part, that reflects the great relative political strength that regional governments have developed in what is known as the Canadian Confederation, where the federal government is weaker than most central governments in the West.

    But it also reflects poll results that show a majority of Canadians support expanding marriage to gay couples. Last year, the Quebec provincial assembly enacted unanimously a law giving sweeping parental rights to same-sex couples, with even the most conservative members voting in favor despite lobbying by the Roman Catholic Church.

    "Canada has always been in the vanguard in relation to many societies in the world," Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said Tuesday, speaking in French to reporters after he announced the cabinet's decision. "We have met our responsibilities."

    Nowhere has the social change been more dramatic than in Mr. Chrétien's home province of Quebec, which as recently as the 1960's was deeply conservative and where the church dominated education and social life. Since the baby-boomer generation started the "quiet revolution" in favor of separatism, big government social programs and secularism, abortion and divorce rates there rose to among the highest in Canada. Meanwhile, church attendance plummeted.

    Now the pendulum is moving in the other direction, ever so slightly.

    "There is a centrist mentality in Canada that translates into the political system not tolerating the Pat Buchanans nor the leftist equivalent," Michel C. Auger, a political columnist for Le Journal de Montréal, said. "There is a unified fabric here that is a lot stronger on social issues than it seems to be in the United States."


    Canada's Celebration of Marriage

    The landmark ruling came down from the north with some of the simple delight of a June wedding announcement: "Same-sex couples are capable of forming long, lasting, loving and intimate relationships." In unanimously affirming the obvious, an Ontario appeals court opened the way for Canada to end the bar on marriage between partners of the same sex. Final approval of a milestone law striking down discrimination against gay couples is expected within months. But the northward flow by gay couples from the United States has already begun. Canada has no residency requirements for love-struck people intent on marriage, while Belgium and the Netherlands enacted tighter restrictions in pioneering legal gay unions.

    When they head home after the vows and rice, the newlyweds will expect to be treated as legally married people here, as will gay Canadian couples visiting the United States. They should get that respect, both out of simple decency and because this nation has a long history of recognizing legal marriages performed across borders.

    Unfortunately, the United States has a long way to go to match Canada's record of tolerance on this issue. In contrast to Canadian jurists, our Supreme Court is only now considering a ban on the antediluvian Texas law criminalizing intimate relations by homosexuals in the privacy of the home. And, far from liberalizing the law of the land as Canada is choosing to do, Congress responded to the gay-marriage issue in 1996 by hastily defining heterosexual union alone as the marriage standard for purposes of federal benefits in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

    Right now Vermont recognizes civil unions, a step short of full marriage rights, with a handful of other states installing domestic partner protections. There are cases pending in Massachusetts and New Jersey that could lead to decisions ending marriage discrimination in those states. The American public is not yet as ready to accept marriages between same-sex partners as a natural part of the landscape as polls show Canadians are, but change will be unstoppable in time, whatever the pace proves to be. Canada's choice of a clean break with the past is a stirring moment. Gay couples have a place where they can legally be joined in matrimony, and life goes on, happily ever after or not.

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  2. #2

    Default Canada's Gay Marriage Plan

    I was impressed in that marijuana was being sold in front of the new city hall in Toronto....

  3. #3
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    Default Canada's Gay Marriage Plan

    I'd give it four or five days before Rev. Fred Phelps brings his whining cultists (a.k.a.: the members of his family comprising the congregation of the Westboro Baptist Church) up to Toronto in protest. *Despite the fact that I consider said cult to be so over; they haven't gotten any coverage in a while. *Not to mention that that wife-beating child slaver is not really one to be exhorting good Christian values.

  4. #4

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    > Rev. Fred Phelps... cultists... protest... wife-beating child slaver...

    What?

    Whatever that was about, it sounds like it could constitute a a thread all unto itself.

    Dang!

  5. #5

    Default Canada's Gay Marriage Plan

    I don't care what anyone thinks of the Times editorial page. Stick to the topic.

  6. #6

    Default Canada's Gay Marriage Plan

    Evidently, this thread took a direction after 02:30 PM which led to several posts (2 of mine included) being deleted.
    I would appreciate an explanation.

  7. #7

    Default Canada's Gay Marriage Plan

    There was nothing wrong with your posts. They were deleted only because they made no sense on their own. Sorry.

  8. #8

    Default Canada's Gay Marriage Plan

    OK
    I never realized Canada was such a volatile subject.

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    Default Canada's Gay Marriage Plan

    I don't know what I missed - I'm gone for ONE DAY, and look what happens - anyway, go Canada! I grew up being proud of my country for being the most free of all nations, now other western democracies are clearly taking the lead. Is it the conservative grip on our government? Too much t.v.? Too much sugar?

  10. #10
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    Default Canada's Gay Marriage Plan

    Quote: from chris on 5:58 pm on June 19, 2003
    > Rev. Fred Phelps... cultists... protest... wife-beating child slaver...

    What?

    Whatever that was about, it sounds like it could constitute a a thread all unto itself.

    Dang!
    Heh. *Fred Phelps is some Baptist fundie from Kansas. *The whole crux of his twisted version of Christianity is the idea that homosexuality is the most despicable of all sins. *He also says that God hates everybody because some Psalm says so ("The foolish shall not stand in thy sight; though hatest all workers on iniquity, blah blah" ), even though the passage was obviously written by the Psalmist and not inspired directly by God, so the point may very well be moot. *And then there's his whole thing with old-school Calvinism, which states that God picks like ten thousand people to be saved and the rest burn--and we all know that if that were the actual case, then Christianity never would have gotten off the ground.

    So anyway, Phelps is a not-very-nice individual. *His church website has the IP address www. god hates[insert nasty three-letter word for gays beginning with F here]s.com. *He's been known to use archaic epithets in reference to gays and lesbians: though his use of the aforementioned f-word is partially explained in the FAQ section of his Website (apparently gays will stoke the fires of hell), it still does not justify his use of words like "queer," "homo," "dyke," etc. *His congregation is comprised mostly of his rather large family (he has thirteen sons and daughters, several of whom are now estanged from him), and they are known for picketing high-profile events that conflict with their (read Phelps') theology--examples: Matthew Sheppard's funeral, as well as those of other prominent homosexuals; the subsequent verdict hearing at Sheppard's murder trial; the AIDS Walk in Washington, where his infuriating presence nearly sparked a riot; the Gay Pride Parade in New York; and Baghdad during Clinton's Presidency to protest his attacks on Iraq, his affair with Monica Lewinsky and the implementation of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military regarding gay servicemen. *They hold a daily rally in a municipal park in their hometown of Topeka.

    Aside from the fact that many Biblical scholars have picked apart his ideology left and right (he has been known to decline requests for debate), one of the biggest weapons his detractors use against him is the so-called Fred Phelps Exposé, a lengthy court document chronicling Phelps' history of domestic violence and insight unto the mental state of his wife and family (those of his children who are still members of his congregation are grossly obese, perhaps due to overeating influenced by severe depression; while those who have disassociated themselves from him are in relatively good health). *From the excerpts of it that I've read so far, it's quite an excellent muckraker.

    (Edited by TLOZ Link5 at 6:17 pm on June 20, 2003)

  11. #11

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    Associated Press:

    Mass. Court Strikes Down Gay-Marriage Ban

    BOSTON - Massachusetts' highest court ruled Tuesday that same-sex couples are legally entitled to wed under the state constitution, but stopped short of allowing marriage licenses to be issued to the couples who challenged the law.

    The Supreme Judicial Court's 4-3 ruling ordered the Legislature to come up with a solution within 180 days.

    The ruling closely matches the 1999 Vermont Supreme Court decision, which led to its Legislature's approval in 2000 of civil unions that give couples many of the same benefits of marriage.

    The decision is the latest in a series of victories for gay rights advocates, but fell short of what the seven couples who sued the state had hoped to receive: the right to marry their longtime companion.

    The Massachusetts question will now return to the Legislature, which already is considering a constitutional amendment that would legally define a marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The state's powerful Speaker of the House, Tom Finneran of Boston, has endorsed this proposal.

    A similar initiative, launched by citizens, was defeated by the Legislature last year on a procedural vote.

    Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press.


    Welcome back Rush Limbaugh.

  12. #12

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    November 20, 2003

    A Victory for Gay Marriage

    "Without a doubt, this is the happiest day of our lives," declared Gloria Bailey, a 62-year-old Cape Cod resident. Ms. Bailey and her partner were two of the plaintiffs in this week's landmark Massachusetts ruling that says gay people have the right to marry. When the rights of disadvantaged groups are newly recognized, there is often opposition, some of it fierce, and the road ahead may be rough. But like the early court rulings striking down segregation, this has the feel of a legal revolution beginning.

    The Supreme Court has begun to find privacy and equal protection rights for gays in the federal Constitution, notably earlier this year, when it struck down Texas' sodomy law. But the Massachusetts court, observing that its state constitution "is, if anything, more protective of individual liberty and equality," leapfrogged over the federal courts, ruling that at least in Massachusetts, gay equality extends to marriage.

    The court's logic is persuasive. It notes that marriage is both a social institution and a privileged legal status for things like child custody and survivor benefits. Denying gays the benefits of marriage deprives them of equal protection. The court rejected the state's arguments, including its chief one, that "marriage's primary purpose is procreation." Heterosexuals can marry, the court noted, even if they are unable to have children. The ban is simply about prejudice, the court concluded, much like state laws barring interracial marriage, which lasted until 1967, when the Supreme Court struck them down in Loving v. Virginia.

    This week's decision has been greeted with both dismay and joy in Massachusetts and the nation. Gov. Mitt Romney has called for a state constitutional amendment overturning it. But such an amendment cannot be put on the ballot until November 2006, and the ruling's supporters say that by then the voters will have seen that gay marriage does no harm. The decision is also likely to reverberate in the presidential election. President Bush was quick to criticize it, while most Democratic candidates expressed support for gay civil unions, which provide most of the benefits of marriage. Some opponents of gay marriage are talking about amending the federal Constitution to ban it. The Constitution has never been amended to take away minority rights, and now would be a poor time to start.

    In recent years, support for gay rights has sharply increased. A newly released poll found that although most Americans oppose gay marriage, views vary a lot by age. Older people oppose it 4 to 1, while young respondents are equally divided. That strongly suggests that eventually the views expressed by the Massachusetts court will be widely held. And Americans will come to regard this week's decision as they now do Loving v. Virginia — as a statement of the obvious.


    Toward More Perfect Unions

    By WILLIAM B. RUBENSTEIN and R. BRADLEY SEARS

    LOS ANGELES — On Tuesday, the highest court in Massachusetts issued a path-breaking decision, making the state the first to extend to gay couples not just many of the rights and benefits of marriage but the right to marry itself. In another sense, however, the decision is simply one more in a series of steps that have already provided legal rights to tens of thousands of same-sex couples throughout America.

    According to data from the 2000 United States census, about one in five people who identified themselves as living with an "unmarried partner'` of the same sex now resides in a jurisdiction that grants some legal recognition to gay unions. While the census didn't count all same-sex couples — only those who identified themselves as such — it greatly advanced our knowledge about the prevalence and distribution of gay couples throughout the United States.

    Counting Massachusetts, there are now four states that extend at least some of the rights of marriage to gay couples. Although their laws have no impact on federal rights or religious recognition of same-sex unions, these states have already begun the experiment of gay marriage.

    The Hawaii legislature passed a law in 1997 that provides a range of marital benefits and responsibilities to same-sex couples. The Vermont legislature voted in 2000 to allow civil unions between gay couples. And in a series of laws passed in the last several years, California has extended benefits and responsibilities to same-sex couples nearly equivalent to those enjoyed by married couples.

    All told, these four states have about 42 million residents, or about 15 percent of the United States population. They are also home to more than 113,000 gay couples, or 19 percent of the 600,000 or so same-sex couples the 2000 census identified in the United States. If the entire gay population is distributed throughout the country in the same way that gay couples are, that would mean that about one in five gay Americans now lives in a jurisdiction that provides some significant legal recognition for his or her relationship.

    Opponents of same-sex marriage argue that recognition of such unions undermines the sanctity of marriage, harms children and demoralizes society. There is no evidence of any of this — or of any other harmful impact — in Hawaii, Vermont or California. On the contrary, studies have shown that parents' sexual orientation doesn't hurt their children. As the census shows, gay people are already parents to hundreds of thousands of children. Aren't those children better off if their family's relationships are protected by law?

    Partnership is a legal reality for thousands of gay Americans, and a social reality for millions more. Thus the debate over gay marriage need not be distorted by doomsday claims that the future of America is at stake. In many ways that future is already here — and those fears have not come to pass.

    William B. Rubenstein, professor of law, and R. Bradley Sears direct the Williams Project of Sexual Orientation Law at UCLA


    Massachusetts Ruling on Gay Marriage Bolsters Hopes in N.J.

    By LAURA MANSNERUS

    TRENTON, Nov. 18 — Gay and lesbian couples who want to marry lost a round in New Jersey two weeks ago, but the Massachusetts Supreme Court's ruling that same-sex couples have the right to marry is expected to bolster the New Jersey case as it goes to a higher court.

    In New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, the Massachusetts decision on Tuesday is giving new impetus to a political and legal effort that was foundering, gay rights advocates say.

    The Massachusetts ruling "should have persuasive value in the New Jersey Supreme Court," said Frank Askin, the director of the Constitutional Litigation Clinic at the Rutgers Law School in Newark. The New Jersey court has given broader rights to gays than the federal courts have, affording more protections, for example, to gays in adoption and parental rights cases.

    Still, the prospects for legislative action, in all three states in the New York region, remain doubtful. In New York, Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, said Wednesday that legislation to extend the right to marry to gays and lesbians "is not on our agenda at all."

    "I don't believe people of the same sex need or ought to be legalized in marriage," Senator Bruno said. Speaker Sheldon Silver, the leader of the Assembly's Democratic majority, has remained publicly neutral on the issue.

    In New Jersey, the current legislature has only a few more voting sessions, and legislation recognizing domestic partnerships is stalled in committee.

    Gov. James E. McGreevey said in a radio interview on Tuesday night that he opposed the state's sanctioning gay marriages. But Mr. McGreevey does support domestic partnership legislation, said his press secretary, Micah Rasmussen. "He wants to find ways for same-sex couples to enjoy the same benefits that other couples do," Mr. Rasmussen said.

    Gov. John G. Rowland of Connecticut said after the Massachusetts ruling on Tuesday that he saw little support for such proposals in the legislature and would veto any that reached his desk.

    The Massachusetts court's 4-to-3 decision was the first by a state supreme court to recognize a constitutional right of marriage for same-sex couples, although Vermont recognizes civil unions.

    The New Jersey case, Lewis v. Harris, is already being closely watched around the nation. A Superior Court judge in Trenton, Linda Feinberg, dismissed the case on Nov. 5, finding that only the Legislature could establish a right to marry.

    But civil liberties advocates said they thought the higher state courts would be more receptive.

    And two of the plaintiffs, Cindy Meneghin and Maureen Kilian, partners since 1974, said they were encouraged that Judge Feinberg gave the case close attention. Since the Massachusetts court "acknowledged our humanity," Ms. Meneghin said, "I have equal confidence — more confidence — in New Jersey. We know New Jersey also sees this as a social justice issue, a human rights issue."

    But John Tomicki, the executive director of the League of American Families, a conservative lobbying group, said the judge had issued "a clear decision that says the courts must not legislate from the bench."

    "The New Jersey courts would be courting disaster for themselves if they moved in that direction," Mr. Tomicki added.

    Mr. Tomicki also said that the bill recognizing domestic partnerships had run into difficulty in the Legislature because its language was too broad and that it did not have enough votes in either the Senate or the General Assembly to pass during the current lame-duck session.

    But the Assembly sponsor, Loretta Weinberg of Bergen County, said she expected to bring the measure to a committee vote next month. "With a little good will, we'll get it passed in the lame duck," she said.

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

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    February 5, 2004

    Massachusetts Gives New Push to Gay Marriage in Strong Ruling

    By PAM BELLUCK

    BOSTON, Feb. 4 — Massachusetts' highest court removed the state's last barrier to gay marriage on Wednesday, ruling that nothing short of full-fledged marriage would comply with the court's earlier ruling in November, and that civil unions would not pass muster.

    The ruling means that starting on May 17 same-sex couples can get married in Massachusetts, making it the only state to permit gay marriage. Beyond that, the finding is certain to inflame a divisive debate in state legislatures nationwide and in this year's presidential race.

    "The dissimilitude between the terms `civil marriage' and `civil union' is not innocuous," four of seven justices on the state's Supreme Judicial Court found. "It is a considered choice of language that reflects a demonstrable assigning of same-sex, largely homosexual, couples to second-class status."

    The ruling came in response to a request by the Massachusetts Senate asking the court whether a bill giving same-sex couples the same rights and benefits of marriage, but calling their relationships civil unions, would comply with its November decision saying that gays had a constitutional right to marry.

    The court said that such a bill "would have the effect of maintaining and fostering a stigma of exclusion that the Constitution prohibits. It would deny to same-sex `spouses' only a status that is specially recognized in society and has significant social and other advantages."

    "The Massachusetts Constitution," the court said, "does not permit such invidious discrimination, no matter how well intentioned."

    The ruling will probably give new impetus to a push by many conservatives for a constitutional amendment that would limit marriage to unions joining a man and a woman.

    In a statement Wednesday, President Bush condemned the Massachusetts court's latest ruling but stopped short of explicitly endorsing a constitutional amendment. "Marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman," he said. "If activist judges insist on redefining marriage by court order, the only alternative will be the constitutional process. We must do what is legally necessary to defend the sanctity of marriage."

    Wednesday's decision caused an uproar in the Massachusetts Legislature, where lawmakers are scheduled on Wednesday to vote on an amendment to the state's Constitution banning same-sex marriage. Many lawmakers in the largely Democratic, largely Roman Catholic body had supported civil unions but not gay marriage and were hoping the court would not force them to make an all-or-nothing decision.

    At least one influential legislator, State Representative Eugene O'Flaherty, the chairman of the House Judiciary committee and a backer of civil unions, said he was almost certain to vote for the amendment now.

    An amendment could not take effect until November 2006, because it would need to win passage in two consecutive legislative sessions and be approved in a voter referendum.

    Nationally, the decision vaults the issue to a more prominent role in the presidential election, especially since the Democratic front-runner, Senator John Kerry, who supports civil unions and opposes same-sex marriage, is from Massachusetts.

    It will also undoubtedly unleash activity in legislatures and courtrooms nationwide, as activists on each side of the issue seek to use the Massachusetts ruling to influence policy elsewhere.

    Already, 38 states have laws defining marriage as a heterosexual institution, and 16 states are considering constitutional amendments that would ban same-sex marriages. Congress also passed a law in 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act, prohibiting federal recognition of gay marriages and relieving states of any obligation to recognize gay marriages from states where they might be legal.

    As recently as Tuesday, fueled in part by the November court decision in Massachusetts — like Wednesday's, a 4-3 ruling — the Ohio Legislature approved a strict ban on same-sex unions, barring state agencies from giving benefits to both gay and heterosexual domestic partners.

    Opponents of gay marriage vowed on Wednesday to increase their efforts further and push for an amendment to the federal Constitution.

    "This case will determine the future of marriage throughout America," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. "If same-sex couples `marry' in Massachusetts and move to other states, the Defense of Marriage Act will be left vulnerable to the same federal courts that have banned the Pledge of Allegiance and sanctioned partial-birth abortion."

    Sandy Rios, president of Concerned Women for America, said "if the court is allowed to get away with these decisions with no accountability, it is the beginning of the crumbling of our democracy."

    Proponents of same-sex marriages said they were hopeful that the Massachusetts ruling might lend legitimacy to such unions in other states. "We are really facing this onslaught of religious- and political-right attacks across the country, but we are hoping that fair-minded people will reject it and will reject this culture war," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

    Legal experts said there would inevitably be legal challenges filed by same-sex couples who marry in Massachusetts and move to other states.

    "There's going to be a fist fight in Ohio," said Arthur Miller, a Harvard law professor. "There'll be a situation, for example, in which a spouse of a couple married in Massachusetts but living in Ohio tries to inherit and make claims, and that will end up in the U.S. Supreme Court."

    Same-sex couples in Massachusetts and other states began marriage plans, but several said they were proceeding cautiously. "When I see those first couples coming from City Hall, I'll say, `it's real, but it's really real,' " said Bev Kunze, 48, a telecommunications manager in Boston who plans to marry her partner of 11 years, Kathleen McCabe, 52, a city planner.

    Fred Kuhr, 36, the editor of In Newsweekly, a newspaper for gay men and lesbians, plans to marry his partner, Kip Roberson, 39, director of the Sharon, Mass., public library. But he said, "There are still roadblocks in the way, and even though this is a great day in terms of this issue, I'm not jumping up and down and walking down the aisle just yet."

    The prospect of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts raises practical questions: What will life be like for couples who marry here and move back to a state that outlaws same-sex marriages? Or for couples in Massachusetts who would be entitled to state marriage benefits but not federal benefits, like the right to file taxes jointly or qualify for Social Security payments?

    Indeed, in a dissenting opinion on Wednesday, Justice Martha B. Sosman listed some discrepancies. For example, she noted, same-sex couples would be ineligible for federal health care or nursing home benefits, and couples living in other states would not have the right to get divorced there.

    The majority opinion, however, said, "We would do a grave disservice to every Massachusetts resident, and to our constitutional duty to interpret the law, to conclude that the strong protection of individual rights guaranteed by the Massachusetts Constitution should not be available to their fullest extent in the Commonwealth because those rights may not be acknowledged elsewhere."

    Elizabeth Bartholet, a family-law professor at Harvard, said that even though other states might officially disavow gay marriages, a Massachusetts marriage certificate might informally encourage recognition of same-sex unions in areas like employment, health care and education.

    "It doesn't mean everyone in that state subscribes to that," she said. "It may, for example, make a real difference in terms of all kinds of employment benefits that may be available to spouses. If you're living in Massachusetts, it's going to be hard for your Texas-based employer to deny you marital benefits."

    Representative O'Flaherty said he would try to determine if the Legislature might still be able to draw up a new marriage law that could provide the court with a "rational basis why marriage should be a institution between a man and a woman."

    But even the state attorney general, Thomas Reilly, whose office argued against same-sex marriage in the original case, said Wednesday's ruling made clear "same-sex couples have the constitutional right to marry under Massachusetts law."

    The court seemed to offer one alternative. In a footnote, the decision found that same-sex unions would not have to be called marriages if "the Legislature were to jettison the term `marriage' altogether."

    Some lawmakers suggested they would pass the amendment to give the public a say on it in a referendum. Gov. Mitt Romney agreed, saying "the people of Massachusetts should not be excluded from a decision as fundamental to our society as the definition of marriage."

    Should an amendment pass, Mr. O'Flaherty said, legislators might ask the court to issue a stay until the amendment process was complete — a request legal experts thought the court would be unlikely to grant. Just the same, he and others asked, what would happen to same-sex marriages if, two and a half years from now, the state wound up making such marriages illegal?

    Katie Zezima contributed reporting for this article.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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    February 7, 2004

    Love That Dare Not Squeak Its Name

    By DINITIA SMITH


    Squawk and Milou, male chinstrap penguins, are among several homosexual pairs at the Central Park Zoo in Manhattan. Homosexual behavior has been documented in some 450 animal species, one researcher says.

    Roy and Silo, two chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo in Manhattan, are completely devoted to each other. For nearly six years now, they have been inseparable. They exhibit what in penguin parlance is called "ecstatic behavior": that is, they entwine their necks, they vocalize to each other, they have sex. Silo and Roy are, to anthropomorphize a bit, gay penguins. When offered female companionship, they have adamantly refused it. And the females aren't interested in them, either.

    At one time, the two seemed so desperate to incubate an egg together that they put a rock in their nest and sat on it, keeping it warm in the folds of their abdomens, said their chief keeper, Rob Gramzay. Finally, he gave them a fertile egg that needed care to hatch. Things went perfectly. Roy and Silo sat on it for the typical 34 days until a chick, Tango, was born. For the next two and a half months they raised Tango, keeping her warm and feeding her food from their beaks until she could go out into the world on her own. Mr. Gramzay is full of praise for them.

    "They did a great job," he said. He was standing inside the glassed-in penguin exhibit, where Roy and Silo had just finished lunch. Penguins usually like a swim after they eat, and Silo was in the water. Roy had finished his dip and was up on the beach.

    Roy and Silo are hardly unusual. Milou and Squawk, two young males, are also beginning to exhibit courtship behavior, hanging out with each other, billing and bowing. Before them, the Central Park Zoo had Georgey and Mickey, two female Gentoo penguins who tried to incubate eggs together. And Wendell and Cass, a devoted male African penguin pair, live at the New York Aquarium in Coney Island. Indeed, scientists have found homosexual behavior throughout the animal world.

    This growing body of science has been increasingly drawn into charged debates about homosexuality in American society, on subjects from gay marriage to sodomy laws, despite reluctance from experts in the field to extrapolate from animals to humans. Gay groups argue that if homosexual behavior occurs in animals, it is natural, and therefore the rights of homosexuals should be protected. On the other hand, some conservative religious groups have condemned the same practices in the past, calling them "animalistic."

    But if homosexuality occurs among animals, does that necessarily mean that it is natural for humans, too? And that raises a familiar question: if homosexuality is not a choice, but a result of natural forces that cannot be controlled, can it be immoral?

    The open discussion of homosexual behavior in animals is relatively new. "There has been a certain cultural shyness about admitting it," said Frans de Waal, whose 1997 book, "Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape" (University of California Press), unleashed a torrent of discussion about animal sexuality. Bonobos, apes closely related to humans, are wildly energetic sexually. Studies show that whether observed in the wild or in captivity, nearly all are bisexual, and nearly half their sexual interactions are with the same sex. Female bonobos have been observed to engage in homosexual activity almost hourly.

    Before his own book, "American scientists who investigated bonobos never discussed sex at all," said Mr. de Waal, director of the Living Links Center of the Yerkes Primate Center at Emory University in Atlanta. "Or they sometimes would show two females having sex together, and would say, `The females are very affectionate.' "

    Then in 1999, Bruce Bagemihl published "Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity" (St. Martin's Press), one of the first books of its kind to provide an overview of scholarly studies of same-sex behavior in animals. Mr. Bagemihl said homosexual behavior had been documented in some 450 species. (Homosexuality, he says, refers to any of these behaviors between members of the same sex: long-term bonding, sexual contact, courtship displays or the rearing of young.) Last summer the book was cited by the American Psychiatric Association and other groups in a "friend of the court" brief submitted to the Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, a case challenging a Texas anti-sodomy law. The court struck down the law.

    "Sexual Exuberance" was also cited in 2000 by gay rights groups opposed to Ballot Measure 9, a proposed Oregon statute prohibiting teaching about homosexuality or bisexuality in public schools. The measure lost.

    In his book Mr. Bagemihl describes homosexual activity in a broad spectrum of animals. He asserts that while same-sex behavior is sometimes found in captivity, it is actually seen more frequently in studies of animals in the wild.

    Among birds, for instance, studies show that 10 to 15 percent of female western gulls in some populations in the wild are homosexual. Females perform courtship rituals, like tossing their heads at each other or offering small gifts of food to each other, and they establish nests together. Occasionally they mate with males and produce fertile eggs but then return to their original same-sex partners. Their bonds, too, may persist for years.

    Among mammals, male and female bottlenose dolphins frequently engage in homosexual activity, both in captivity and in the wild. Homosexuality is particularly common among young male dolphin calves. One male may protect another that is resting or healing from wounds inflicted by a predator. When one partner dies, the other may search for a new male mate. Researchers have noted that in some cases same-sex behavior is more common for dolphins in captivity.

    Male and female rhesus macaques, a type of monkey, also exhibit homosexuality in captivity and in the wild. Males are affectionate to each other, touching, holding and embracing. Females smack their lips at each other and play games like hide-and-seek, peek-a-boo and follow the leader. And both sexes mount members of their own sex.

    Paul L. Vasey, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge in Canada, who studies homosexual behavior in Japanese macaques, is editing a new book on homosexual behavior in animals, to be published by Cambridge University Press. This kind of behavior among animals has been observed by scientists as far back as the 1700's, but Mr. Vasey said one reason there had been few books on the topic was that "people don't want to do the research because they don't want to have suspicions raised about their sexuality."

    Some scientists say homosexual behavior in animals is not necessarily about sex. Marlene Zuk, a professor of biology at the University of California at Riverside and author of "Sexual Selections: What We Can and Can't Learn About Sex From Animals" (University of California Press, 2002), notes that scientists have speculated that homosexuality may have an evolutionary purpose, ensuring the survival of the species. By not producing their own offspring, homosexuals may help support or nurture their relatives' young. "That is a contribution to the gene pool," she said.

    For Janet Mann, a professor of biology and psychology at Georgetown University, who has studied same-sex behavior in dolphin calves, their homosexuality "is about bond formation," she said, "not about being sexual for life."

    She said that studies showed that adult male dolphins formed long-term alliances, sometimes in large groups. As adults, they cooperate to entice a single female and keep other males from her. Sometimes they share the female, or they may cooperate to help one male. "Male-male cooperation is extremely important," Ms. Mann said. The homosexual behavior of the young calves "could be practicing" for that later, crucial adult period, she added.

    But, scientists say, just because homosexuality is observed in animals doesn't mean that it is only genetically based. "Homosexuality is extraordinarily complex and variable," Mr. Bagemihl said. "We look at animals as pure biology and pure genetics, and they are not." He noted that "the occurrence of same-sex behavior in animals provides support for the nurture side as well." He cited as an example the ruff, a type of Arctic sandpiper. There are four different classes of male ruffs, each differing from the others genetically. The two that differ most from each other are most similar in their homosexual behaviors.

    Ms. Zuk said, "You have inclinations that are more or less supported by our genes and in some environmental circumstances get expressed." She used the analogy of right- or left-handedness, thought to be genetically based. "But you can teach naturally left-handed children to use their right hand," she pointed out.

    Still, scientists warn about drawing conclusions about humans. "For some people, what animals do is a yardstick of what is and isn't natural," Mr. Vasey said. "They make a leap from saying if it's natural, it's morally and ethically desirable."

    But he added: "Infanticide is widespread in the animal kingdom. To jump from that to say it is desirable makes no sense. We shouldn't be using animals to craft moral and social policies for the kinds of human societies we want to live in. Animals don't take care of the elderly. I don't particularly think that should be a platform for closing down nursing homes."

    Mr. Bagemihl is also wary of extrapolating. "In Nazi Germany, one very common interpretation of homosexuality was that it was animalistic behavior, subhuman," he said.

    What the animal studies do show, Ms. Zuk observed, is that "sexuality is a lot broader term than people want to think."

    "You have this idea that the animal kingdom is strict, old-fashioned Roman Catholic," she said, "that they have sex just to procreate."

    In bonobos, she noted, "you see expressions of sex outside the period when females are fertile. Suddenly you are beginning to see that sex is not necessarily about reproduction."

    "Sexual expression means more than making babies," Ms. Zuk said. "Why are we surprised? People are animals."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  15. #15

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    February 18, 2004

    Gay Marriage in the States

    Lately it has seemed as if gay marriage was taking over the national policy debate. Massachusetts has been embroiled in a heated constitutional battle because of it. The presidential campaign is circling hesitantly around it. And in the last few days in San Francisco, more than 2,000 gay couples from across the country have flocked to City Hall and stood in the rain to get the marriage licenses suddenly offered to them by the city.

    The Massachusetts and San Francisco events are a welcome indication that the nation is having a long-overdue discussion about the right of gay people to marry, and that the states are beginning to serve as laboratories for reform in this important area.

    Americans have come a long way in a short time when it comes to gay rights. As recently as 1986, the Supreme Court rejected a claim that the Constitution protects consensual gay sex as "at best, facetious." Last year, however, the court overruled itself and struck down state sodomy laws as violating the Constitution's liberty guarantee. In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy portrayed constitutional history as a forward march in which "persons in every generation can invoke" the Constitution "in their own search for greater freedom."

    Gays have made significant strides in areas like employment and housing, but have faced considerably more opposition on the right to marry. There are, clearly, some people who object to any recognition of same-sex unions. But for many more, the hesitation concerns the use of the word "marriage." The uncertainty many Americans feel is reflected in the fact that poll responses on this subject vary widely, depending on the precise way in which the questions are worded.

    This page fully supports the right of gay men and lesbians to marry, and we believe that in time they will have this right across the nation. But we also see a practical value in how the issue is currently unfolding. Louis Brandeis, the great Supreme Court justice, said he believed that the states should serve as social laboratories for the nation. Massachusetts and California — and Vermont, before them, with its civil unions law — are fulfilling that role right now. They have already started a national discussion of gay marriage, a very healthy thing in itself. If gay marriage takes hold in Massachusetts or California — in both states, the issue is still up in the air — it will allow the residents of slower-moving states to observe the experiment in action.

    Opponents of gay marriage have been loudly calling for a constitutional amendment prohibiting any state from recognizing gay marriages. Despite the parade of horribles they haul out, their greatest fear appears to be that giving gay men and women the right to join legally and permanently with the ones they love will work out just fine, and that the American people will see that the fears being foisted on them are unfounded.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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