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  1. #256
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    But if it's catching then shouldn't there be some sort of more in-depth screening / quarantine in place upon arrival in Tobago?

    You know -- for those who had dinner with Uncle Joe the night before they left for Tobago? Or those who hugged their boss before the vacation? Or those who ... the list goes on and on and on.

  2. #257

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    April 13, 2007

    2 Months After New Jersey’s Civil Union Law, Problems Finding True Equality

    By TINA KELLEY

    Nickie Brazier called U.P.S., where she is a driver, to add Heather Aurand to her health insurance the day after their Feb. 22 civil union in New Jersey, knowing it would save them $340 a month. But U.P.S. said no. “They said it was because we’re not married,” Ms. Brazier recalled.

    Dr. Kevin Slavin was able to sign his partner up for the health plan at the hospital where he specializes in pediatric infectious diseases but soon learned that both men’s benefits would be treated as taxable income — not the case for his married coworkers — and that his partner could not collect his pension if Dr. Slavin died.

    Merissa Muench of Mount Olive, N.J., said her employer of seven years, a medical sterilization office where she is a technician, told her the company did not cover civil union partners.

    “It just irks me that a guy they just hired, his wife — bing! — has health insurance,” said Ms. Muench, 30, who declined to name her employer for fear of being fired. “What else does the gay American community have to do to prove that we’re worth it just as much as you guys?”

    Nearly two months after New Jersey became the third state to approve civil unions for same-sex couples, many are finding that all partnerships are not created equal, raising questions about whether the new arrangement adequately fulfills the promise of the State Supreme Court ruling that led to it.

    In October, the court declared that the state’s Constitution “guarantees that every statutory right and benefit conferred to heterosexual couples through civil marriage must be made available to committed same-sex couples,” leaving it to the Legislature to decide how to do it. Lawmakers rejected the option of same-sex marriage, but pledged that “civil union couples shall have all of the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under law” that married couples have.

    Nevertheless, residents who work for companies headquartered in other states, and those whose insurers are based outside New Jersey, have found it difficult if not impossible to sign their partners up for health insurance. Unions and employers whose self-insured plans are federally regulated have also denied coverage in some cases. Staff members in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms have questioned partners’ role in decision-making. Confusion abounds over the interplay of state and federal laws governing taxes, inheritance and property.

    Then there are cases like that of the lesbian who was told that she was likely to be denied coverage for a mammogram after she added her partner to her insurance. The insurance company changed the employee’s designation to male since there was no spot on its forms for “civil union spouse.”

    Some 229 couples obtained civil unions in New Jersey in the first month they were available. Gay-rights advocates say they have collected two dozen discrimination complaints, laying the groundwork for a legal challenge to the civil union law that would essentially re-petition the Supreme Court for same-sex marriage. The highest courts in Connecticut, which established civil unions in 2005, and California, where domestic partnerships offer benefits and protections like those provided by civil unions, are already considering similar cases.

    “How can you call it equal protection when you have to go through hell maybe to get your civil union recognized?” asked Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, a gay-rights group. “Why should gay couples have to take those steps? That’s not equal protection under the law. That’s why we’re fighting for marriage equality.”

    As Thomas H. Prol, co-chairman of the New Jersey Bar Association’s committee on gay issues, put it, “The word’s starting to spread that civil unions aren’t working in the real world.”

    State officials attribute many of the problems to unfamiliarity with the civil union law’s provisions and its interaction with dozens of state statutes governing matters like adoption, workers’ compensation and hospitalization.

    They said it was far too early to judge the law a failure, and said they would work with couples and companies to resolve problems.
    “This is uncharted territory, and we’re talking about an area of undeveloped law,” said J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo, director of the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Told about some of the couples’ experiences, he suggested that employers whose health insurance plans were governed by federal laws, for example, should provide civil union couples with the option of signing up with a comparable plan for the same fees.

    Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo, a Democrat from Essex County who was a lead sponsor of the civil union law, said he was “frustrated because the intent of the bill is not being met.”

    “We’ve got a real problem, and the problem is the feds do govern some areas,” Mr. Caraballo said. “The truth is there’s nothing any of us can do about the federal law. To the extent we can make the law stronger on the state level, I assure you we’re trying it.”

    Nathaniel Persily, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania who has published a study of same-sex marriage and public opinion, said “these kinds of difficulties were inevitable” when New Jersey created a parallel institution, noting, “Whenever there’s a sort of spotty civil innovation, it takes civil society some time to catch up.”

    “The state has not sent the clearest signal,” Professor Persily added. “The fact that they are given different status under law brings up the possibility that private companies will also treat them differently.”

    In some cases, though, companies have adjusted quickly after receiving complaints from couples or inquiries from their lawyers, or from reporters.
    Timothy Zimmer, a computer programmer who works in Newark for a Massachusetts company he declined to name, said his insurance company, United Healthcare, had told him that his partner would not be covered even if they got a civil union.

    “First, the NJ civil union is not deemed to be a marriage under NJ law,” the insurer wrote in an e-mail message to him. “Therefore there is no ‘spouse’ as defined in the MA plan. The MA law recognizes marriages between members of the same sex only for marriages performed in MA between MA residents. Since the NJ members are not ‘married’ under either NJ or MA law, there is no ‘spouse’ eligible for coverage as a dependent.”

    Mr. Zimmer, 52, said in an interview last week, “Apparently the civil union law gave us all the rights of marriage, except the ones we really need.”
    After being contacted by The New York Times, a spokesman for United Healthcare said Monday night that the company had reviewed a bulletin on civil unions from the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, consulted the employer, and decided that civil union partners in New Jersey were the legal equivalent of spouses.

    “It’s kind of nice if they do say yes,” Mr. Zimmer said Tuesday. “I’m used to the no.” He was still awaiting word yesterday.

    Similarly, Cookie Van Pelt of Jackson, N.J., who works for Sam’s Club, said she was told that her partner, Jean Farr, could not be covered because “their medical benefits fall under federal law, and they won’t change for us.” But John Simley, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, which operates Sam’s Club, said the company allowed employees to choose between a self-insured health plan, which is federally regulated, and a health-maintenance organization that covers civil union partners.

    Such self-insured plans, which are financed by employers rather than purchased from a state-regulated insurer, have caused problems for couples. Since they are governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, a federal law, insurers and employers often presume that the plans are also subject to the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

    Sharon Mayhak said she was denied coverage by her partner’s employer, which has a self-insured plan, so she remains without insurance despite bad arthritis. (She refused to name the company.)

    “The thing is my partner really likes her job, we are in our 50s, and this is not a good time to look for work,” Ms. Mayhak said a few weeks after she and her partner of 37 years were joined in a civil union. “We were told this is supposed to be equal in every way, and this is not equal.”

    Ms. Brazier, the U.P.S. driver — who gave birth to twins five weeks ago and also has a 2-year-old son — remains in limbo amid mixed messages from her employer and her union. Norman Black, a spokesman for United Parcel Service, said that the company had offered benefits to domestic partners of its nonunion workers since 2004, but that hourly workers like Ms. Brazier were covered by the Teamsters under a self-insured plan.

    A spokesman for Ms. Brazier’s union local said its lawyers were looking into whether it could do anything to push U.P.S. to provide partner benefits for its members.

    “It’s been a strain,” said Ms. Aurand, Ms. Brazier’s partner. “We didn’t know all the loopholes — we were sure they’d let us go on.” But gay-rights advocates said federal law did not prohibit self-insured companies from providing benefits to same-sex couples. A 2006 report by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation found that more than half the Fortune 500 companies, most of which have self-insured plans, offered benefits to domestic partners.
    “It’s the employer’s own choice to decide who’s a beneficiary, and the federal government doesn’t prevent employers from doing the right thing,” said Michele Granda , a staff lawyer with the Boston-based Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. “Those employers are purposefully choosing to discriminate against their employees.”

    While health insurance has caused the bulk of the problems so far in New Jersey, civil union couples are also beginning to grapple with the complex interactions of state and federal laws regarding other matters. Civil union partners filing taxes jointly in New Jersey have to file federal tax returns as if they were single, then calculate what they would owe on a joint federal return to figure their state credits and deductions, said Stephen J. Hyland, a lawyer and writer of “New Jersey Domestic Partners: A Legal Guide.”
    “Civil union couples will most likely be treated as if they are single for purposes of qualifying for Medicaid, which can jeopardize the couple’s home if one partner needs nursing home care,” Mr. Hyland said.

    Bankruptcy is governed by federal law, although state law determines how married and civil union couples hold title to their property.

    Couples who drew up the equivalent of prenuptial agreements before registering as domestic partners may need to update the agreements before getting a civil union, which offers more legal protections, said Felice Londa, a lawyer in Elizabeth, N.J.

    Then there are more immediate, if mundane, matters, like Ms. Londa’s frustration while shopping for dresses with her partner of eight years for their May 6 ceremony.

    “We said we’re going to have a civil union, and one said, ‘Oh, is that some kind of business dinner?’ ” she recalled the saleswoman saying. “Nobody gets it.”

    Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

  3. #258
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    Quote Originally Posted by ManhattanKnight View Post
    “They said it was because we’re not married,”
    Ninjahedge - I'm not starting an argument, but this first line illustrates the importance of the word.

  4. #259

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    The New York Times
    April 23, 2007

    Spitzer Plans to Introduce Gay Marriage Bill

    By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE

    Gov. Eliot Spitzer will introduce a bill in the coming weeks to legalize same-sex marriage in New York, his spokeswoman said Friday, a move that would propel New York to the forefront of one of the most contentious issues in politics.

    Though he has long voiced support for same-sex marriage and promised during his campaign last year to introduce legislation to legalize it, Mr. Spitzer did not mention the issue in his State of the State speech in January or in remarks a week ago outlining his priorities for the remainder of the legislative session, which ends June 21.

    But the spokeswoman, Christine Anderson, said that Mr. Spitzer would not back away from his campaign pledge.

    “The governor made a commitment to advance a program bill, and he will fulfill that commitment during this legislative session,” Ms. Anderson said, using the term that refers to legislation introduced directly by the governor rather than through a state agency or by the Legislature.

    Several states allow some form of civil unions for same-sex couples, including Connecticut, where lawmakers are debating a measure that would legalize marriage for lesbians and gay men.

    Massachusetts is the only state where same-sex marriage is legal.

    Any legislation to make New York the second such state would face a steep climb in Albany, a fact that Mr. Spitzer has acknowledged. Explaining why he did not include the gay-marriage bill among his post-budget legislative priorities, Mr. Spitzer said last week that he “was listing bills that I think we can and should get passed by the Legislature in the next few weeks. And so I am focusing now on politics as the art of the possible.

    “I think most who are close to the issue would agree with me that it’s not likely to be passed in the next nine and a half weeks,” Mr. Spitzer added.

    Legislation to allow same-sex marriage has never made it to a floor vote in either the Assembly, which has a Democratic majority, or the Republican-controlled State Senate. Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker, has declined to take a stand on the issue. Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, has supported legislation to outlaw hate crimes and workplace discrimination against gays, but he remains opposed to same-sex marriage.

    Even among lawmakers who say they favor the legislation, there is some division over the best strategy to get it passed. Two legislators from Manhattan, State Senator Thomas K. Duane and Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, both Democrats, have tried for several years to shepherd a gay-marriage bill through the Legislature and are trying again this year. That bill has at least 14 sponsors in the Senate and 42 in the Assembly.

    If Mr. Spitzer does propose a bill, it is unclear how much muscle he will be willing — or able — to put behind it. The priorities he has outlined — such as overhauling the state’s campaign finance laws and introducing a constitutional amendment to require nonpartisan legislative redistricting — already pose a considerable challenge.

    That would leave Mr. Spitzer with little political bandwidth that would allow him to build support for another controversial bill.

    The governor has also had few opportunities to build bridges to constituencies that present the strongest grass-roots opposition to gay marriage, such as Roman Catholic Church officials and other religious leaders. Church leaders already oppose Mr. Spitzer’s support of embryonic stem cell research, and an initiative that might have softened the blow of gay marriage — a tax credit for parents who send children to religious or other private schools — did not make it into the budget this year.

    Gay-rights groups are scheduled to convene in Albany early next month for a day of lobbying, and several lawmakers and same-sex marriage advocates said they hoped that Mr. Spitzer would introduce his proposal before then.

    “I don’t think the governor has dropped the ball on this,” said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay-rights group. “We’ve been talking with the governor’s people about this. At every moment they have brainstormed with us in some very creative ways about how to accomplish this agenda.”

    Mr. Van Capelle said he shared Mr. Spitzer’s assessment that the measure was unlikely to pass both chambers of the Legislature this year, but he emphasized that the governor’s proposal would give it strategic and symbolic weight.

    Gary Parker, the founder of Greater Voices, a coalition of gay-oriented political clubs in New York City, said the fact that every statewide elected official now supports gay marriage had heartened advocates.

    “During the Pataki administration, there was a lot of frustration,” Mr. Parker said. “We felt extremely stagnant and stifled. Now there is movement. And the fact that there is discussion is progress.”

    Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/23/nyregion/23gay.html

  5. #260
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    April 24, 2007
    Editorial
    Mr. Spitzer and Gay Marriage

    The news that Gov. Eliot Spitzer will soon introduce a bill to legalize same-sex marriage — what he calls “a simple moral imperative” — is welcome and could give new national momentum to this important cause. Mr. Spitzer would be the first governor in the nation to introduce a gay marriage bill. But if he is going to make a real difference, rather than simply checking off a box to fulfill a campaign promise, he will have to fight for the law vigorously.

    Even in a progressive state like New York, this will be a steep political climb. So far, only Massachusetts has enacted a gay marriage law — after its highest court held that gay couples had a right under the State Constitution — and while there is a similar bill working its way through the Connecticut legislature, its prospects are uncertain. Civil unions or domestic partnerships involving same-sex couples are now recognized by a small but growing number of states, including Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont, California, Hawaii and Maine. It is an indication of how big a challenge Mr. Spitzer faces that New York is not, and hasn’t come close to being, on this list.

    Mr. Spitzer is right to be fighting for gay marriage. Civil unions and domestic partnerships are an important recognition of gay relationships by a state. But they still represent separate and unequal treatment. One federal study identified more than 1,100 rights or benefits that are accorded only to the legally married. That means that even in states recognizing civil unions and domestic partnerships, gay couples often have to use legal contortions to protect their families in ways that married couples take for granted. Gay couples may also be discriminated against when it comes to taxes and pension benefits.

    The next step in building momentum for gay marriage in New York will be to get the State Assembly, which has a Democratic majority, on board. Speaker Sheldon Silver has said he will not take a stand until he talks with his fellow Democrats. But most of those Democrats have already publicly expressed support for gay marriage, so Mr. Silver has no excuse to delay. He should make it clear that he will join Governor Spitzer and press for the legislation’s swift passage.

    The biggest stumbling block is likely to be, as it always is for gay rights measures in New York, the State Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. The majority leader, Joseph Bruno, has made it clear that he is against same-sex marriage, but he is also a pragmatist whose views on these issues have evolved and become more humane over the years.
    Religious groups, particularly the Catholic Church, are likely to be the bill’s most outspoken opponents. It should be clear that these religious institutions have the right to refuse to marry anyone within their own religious houses. But they should not be allowed to dictate who can and cannot be married by the state.

    Mr. Spitzer did not make gay marriage a priority in his first 100 days in office, and he did not mention it in his State of the State address or, more recently, when he laid out his agenda for the remainder of the legislative session. That may simply have been a pragmatic assessment that the bill would not pass right away.

    Now that he is ready to move, we are eager to hear him speak out more on this issue. There will be nothing easy about championing this simple moral imperative. But it is a fight well worth the governor’s full efforts.

    Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

  6. #261

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    April 28, 2007

    Keeping His Word, Spitzer Asks for Same-Sex-Marriage Law

    By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE

    ALBANY, April 27 — Gov. Eliot Spitzer proposed legislation on Friday that would make New York the second state in the country to legally sanction same-sex marriage, fulfilling a longtime pledge to supporters of gay rights.

    Mr. Spitzer has acknowledged that he does not expect the bill to pass the State Legislature and return to his desk anytime soon. Earlier this week, he said that he would submit the proposal anyway, “because it’s a statement of principle that I believe in, and I want to begin that dynamic.”

    Only Massachusetts currently allows same-sex marriages, a result of a 2004 court decision. Many states have taken steps to ban such unions through legislation or ballot initiatives, but Mr. Spitzer is the country’s only governor to propose legislation to formally legalize such marriages.

    Whether or not the bill passes in these final weeks of the legislative session, Mr. Spitzer’s proposal is likely to make same-sex marriage a live issue in Albany in a way that it never was before.

    Many members of the State Legislature have never taken a position on the issue, something that will be harder to avoid doing with the governor’s bill now a reality. So it was no surprise that the proposal immediately reignited what has been an emotional and bitter debate.

    Gay rights advocates were effusive in their praise. “Promise made, promise kept,” said State Senator Thomas K. Duane, Democrat of Manhattan, who has introduced similar bills several times, including one this year.

    Opponents lashed out, particularly from the ranks of religious conservatives. State Senator Rubén Díaz Sr., a Bronx Democrat and a Pentecostal minister, said that the governor’s proposal was “a slap in the face to the millions of New Yorkers who support the moral, legal and traditional definition of marriage as between man and woman.”

    A spokesman for New York State Catholic Conference, the Roman Catholic Church’s official public policy arm in the state, said that New York’s bishops would strongly oppose the proposal.

    “The governor said that on Day 1, everything changes. But we didn’t think that included society’s definition of marriage and traditional morality,” said the spokesman, Dennis Poust. “We think that in his first year to try and overturn the fundamental building block of society is the height of arrogance.”

    This was Mr. Spitzer’s latest foray this week into the kind of sharply ideological, red-meat issues he had largely avoided during his first few months in office. It was also one of several proposals he has made recently that have met with a palpably cold reception from one or both chambers of the Legislature.

    After the Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, the governor on Wednesday proposed new legislation to shore up the abortion rights guaranteed by state law. On Thursday, Mr. Spitzer asked state lawmakers to put legislative redistricting in the hands of an independent commission and to increase the pay of state judges, though the lawmakers themselves have not had a raise since 1999.

    Joseph L. Bruno, the Republican majority leader of the State Senate, said: “In just the last week, Governor Spitzer has sent us bills dealing with gay marriage, abortion, court reform and reapportionment and campaign finance reform. While these proposals may fulfill campaign promises, they do not speak to the pressing needs of the majority of the people of this state.”

    Mr. Bruno said lawmakers should focus on tax relief and reinstating the death penalty for killers of law enforcement officers, among other issues. Sheldon Silver, Democrat of Manhattan and the speaker of the Assembly, has not yet taken a position on same-sex marriage.

    Befitting the bill’s poor prospects for passage — and the fact that the governor’s plan to propose it was well telegraphed — Mr. Spitzer did not stage any event to make his proposal. His staff issued a press release and a statement in the middle of the day, well after several gay-rights groups, alerted earlier to his plans, had issued their own statements praising the governor.

    In his statement, Mr. Spitzer said that “this legislation would create equal legal protection and responsibilities for all individuals who seek to marry or have their marriage protected in the State of New York. Strong, stable families are the cornerstones of our society. The responsibilities inherent in the institution of marriage benefit those individuals and society as a whole.”

    Under the bill, no application for a marriage license could be denied on the grounds that the parties were of the same sex. All rights, benefits, privileges and protections offered to spouses — including property ownership, inheritance, health care, hospital visitation, taxation, insurance coverage, child custody and pension benefits — would have to be offered to same-sex spouses, too. But no clergy member or religious institution would be required to perform such marriages.

    Alan Van Capelle, the executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, a leading gay-rights group, said, “I think that most legislators are astute enough to know that this was coming. They have formed opinions. We’re going to make sure that they hear from their constituents.”

    Gay-rights groups had already scheduled a lobbying day in Albany next Tuesday, before this bill was announced.

    Existing legislation to legalize same-sex marriage, sponsored this year and in years past by Senator Duane and other lawmakers, has the official support of only 61 members of the Assembly and 18 of the Senate, he noted.

    “I think most legislators believe this will be a difficult issue for them to vote on,” Mr. Van Capelle said. “But in reality, there is enormous support in New York State for marriage equality, from people of faith, from organized labor, from the business community.”

    Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

  7. #262

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    The New York Times
    May 15, 2007

    Lawyers Argue Legal Status of Gay Unions

    By JENNIFER MEDINA

    HARTFORD, May 14 — Connecticut’s highest court became the first in the nation on Monday to hear arguments over whether the establishment of civil unions created a fundamentally inferior status for gays and lesbians.

    But in pondering a new appeal for same-sex marriage, the State Supreme Court’s seven justices also focused on another fundamental question: whether laws that make distinctions based on sexual orientation, like those governing marriage, merit scrutiny similar to that given laws that discriminate based on race or gender.

    Connecticut is one of four states — along with Vermont, New Jersey and, most recently, New Hampshire — that have established civil unions for same-sex couples. Only Massachusetts authorizes marriages for gays. Other states, like California, have similar benefits for domestic partnership.
    Two years after the General Assembly here established civil unions, the Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether they fulfill the state’s constitutional obligation to treat couples equally.

    Jane R. Rosenberg, the assistant attorney general who argued the case for the state, told the court that gay marriage was a policy question that should be left up to legislators and not determined by “court fiat.”

    “Is the legislature constitutionally required to use the word ‘marriage’ when it’s referring to the package of rights and benefits it has given to same-sex couples?” Ms. Rosenberg asked in court. “The answer is clearly no.”

    But Bennett Klein, the lead lawyer for the eight couples bringing the suit, argued in court that there were several parallels between racial discrimination lawsuits and the legal battle for gay marriage.

    Marriage is “something that goes to the heart of equal protection,” Mr. Klein said during his closing argument, adding that gay couples have “the right to be part of the fabric of society when they are just the same as other couples and other families.”

    Besides potentially breaking new ground on whether homosexuals deserve the same level of legal protection as blacks and women, the case is being closely watched because it presents more complicated arguments than have other cases regarding civil unions and marriage.

    In New Jersey, where the Legislature created civil unions in February to fulfill a Supreme Court mandate for equal treatment, many couples have complained that they are being denied rights and benefits granted married couples, and are considering a lawsuit similar to the one here.

    Four of the eight couples in the Connecticut case have had civil unions performed in the state, and the others have held out for marriage. The case is being handled by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the same group that successfully sued for marriage in Massachusetts.

    Though some state legislatures have created specific legal protections for gays in their laws against hate crimes or discrimination in housing or employment, there is no precedent in federal or the highest state courts making gays what is known in jurisprudence as a “suspect class,” like racial minorities, a category that is accorded strict legal scrutiny when laws are challenged in court. That issue was the focus of much of the three hours of argument on Monday.

    The judges repeatedly asked Mr. Klein and Ms. Rosenberg whether they believed gays and lesbians had a history of long-term discrimination and political powerlessness, two elements in establishing a suspect class.

    Ms. Rosenberg acknowledged that homosexuals have long been treated as inferior but said it would be difficult to say they are politically powerless in Connecticut, pointing to the civil union law passed by the General Assembly in 2004 without pressure from the courts as evidence.

    She added that it was possible that the legislature would approve same-sex marriage within the next several years. (The Joint Judiciary Committee passed a same-sex marriage bill last month, 27 to 15, but legislative leaders announced Friday that they did not have enough votes in the House to pass it, so it will not come to the floor for a vote this year.)

    Justice Richard N. Palmer, who was appointed by Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr., an independent, noted that African-Americans had made advances over the last several decades but were still considered politically powerless when many discrimination cases made their way through court. Then he turned to Ms. Rosenberg and asked: “Is that your argument: Give them more time and they’ll do better?”

    “Yes,” Ms. Rosenberg replied.

    Noting the stall in the legislature on the same issue, Justice Flemming L. Norcott Jr., also appointed by Governor Weicker, said, “If they were doing better, they would have passed that bill across the street,” prompting a wave of laughter through the packed courtroom, which is across the street from the State Capitol.

    If the court found that gays and lesbians were a suspect class, the state would be required to prove that it had rational basis for making a distinction between homosexual and heterosexual couples.

    In many ways, the arguments were complicated by the fact that civil unions officially bestow the same legal protections as marriage, and one judge referred to marriage itself as an “intangible” benefit. “We’re talking about a word here,” Ms. Rosenberg said. “All those benefits, at least under state law, have been granted.”

    But Mr. Klein retorted that “marriage is not just a bunch of legal rights.”
    “It is a status that the state confers on people,” he said. “A status that has profound personal meaning to individuals.”

    Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/15/nyregion/15civil.html

  8. #263

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    New Hampshire Governor Signs Civil Unions Bill into Law

    06.04.07


    New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch signed into law last week a bill allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions which would provide for legal recognition of those relationships in the state of New Hampshire. When the bill goes into effect, New Hampshire will become the 10th state in the nation, along with the District of Columbia, that provides at least some form of state-level relationship recognition for same-sex couples.

    Last month, the New Hampshire state Legislature passed the civil unions bill through the Senate by a vote of 14 to 10 and in the House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 243 to 129.

    “The state of New Hampshire can now proudly be counted among the one out of every five states in this country that are leading the way in recognizing the love and commitment of all couples,” Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a release. “Governor Lynch and the Legislature have taken an important stand on the side of fairness, and by doing so New Hampshire is now helping move our country even closer to the realization of equality.

    “This law is a significant step toward giving all New Hampshire families the rights, responsibilities and protections they need,” he added. “Thanks to the Legislature, Governor John Lynch and countless supporters of fairness across the state, all New Hampshire families will be significantly more protected by this new civil unions law.”

    The Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) also applauded the New Hampshire civil union law as a “step toward full equality.” “The state of New Hampshire has taken a big stride toward addressing the painful legal void in which same-sex couples and their children live,” said GLAD Executive Director Lee Swislow. “But the journey is not over until we have equality, until we have the same protections and choices as other New Hampshire citizens, until we have marriage.”

    “It is my hope that New Hampshire’s successful effort will serve as inspiration across the nation that it can be done. This positive result proves that direct involvement in elections makes a real difference. Were it not for the significant support from the Human Rights Campaign, we would not be celebrating today’s victory,” said Ray Buckley, New Hampshire’s Democratic Party chair.

    “This is not a state that believes in discrimination. And once people understood that same-gender couples were being denied rights like hospital visitations and the right to inherit the homes they’d shared with their loved ones—stories like that opened our eyes. And once your eyes are opened, you can’t close them again. This is the right thing to do,” said New Hampshire Senate President Sylvia Larsen, D-Concord.

    Larsen noted that New Hampshire was one of the first states to oppose slavery and, later, to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. New Hampshire also is among the minority of states in amending its constitution (in 1974) to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, sex or national origin.

    Ten states plus Washington, D.C., now have laws providing at least some form of state-level relationship recognition for same-sex couples. Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey have civil unions laws similar to New Hampshire’s. California and Oregon have domestic partnership laws which grant a broad spectrum of state-level rights, benefits and responsibilities to same-sex couples (Oregon’s domestic partnership law becomes effective in January 2008). Three other states—Hawaii, Maine and Washington state—and Washington, D.C., recognize same-sex relationships and offer a handful of rights to same-sex couples (Washington state’s law becomes effective July 22, 2008). Only Massachusetts gives same-sex couples the full right to marriage, and even in Massachusetts, the federal Defense of Marriage Act has blocked same-sex couples from receiving equal federal rights, benefits and responsibilities.

    © 2007 GayBusinessWorld.com; All Rights Reserved.

    http://www.gaywired.com/article.cfm?section=70&id=14948

  9. #264
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    Assembly OKs gay marriage

    Cara Matthews
    Albany bureau

    (June 20, 2007) — ALBANY — The state Assembly approved gay-marriage legislation Tuesday by a vote of 85-61, largely a symbolic action this year to demonstrate increasing support for the measure because it has no chance of passing the Senate.

    Assembly members cited personal experiences, religious beliefs, societal norms, polls, constitutional rights, the Bible and other factors to explain their votes on the bill, which would give same-sex couples the same legal status, benefits and protections heterosexual couples have. The legislation would not require members of the clergy to perform same-sex marriages.

    The bill's lead sponsor in the Democrat-led Assembly, Daniel O'Donnell, D-Manhattan, said the bill has nothing to do with religion, which a number of lawmakers said was their reason for opposing it. The brother of celebrity Rosie O'Donnell, he is gay and has had a partner for 26 years.
    "I do not want a seat in your synagogue, I do not want a pew in your church. I seek a license that many of you have had, some of you have had two or three times," O'Donnell said, prompting laughter at the end of a three-hour debate.

    Tuesday was the first time the Assembly had voted on gay marriage. There are dozens of Assembly co-sponsors of the bill, which was proposed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

    But it will go no further in 2007. Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, Rensselaer County, said Tuesday that the Senate would not take up the matter by the end of the session Thursday or this year.
    Massachusetts is the only state that allows same-sex marriage. Other states, such as Vermont and New Jersey, allow civil unions.

    In a recent report, the Empire State Pride Agenda Foundation, a gay-rights group, and the New York City Bar Association said there are 1,324 New York statutes and regulations that confer a right or duty on married individuals.

    Assemblyman Dov Hikind, D-Brooklyn, said he is open-minded, but his decision to vote against the bill is based on his Jewish faith.

    "There are certain things that do not change for me as an individual, unless God sends me a message," he said.

    Assemblywoman Sandra Galef, D-Ossining, Westchester County, said she was against the bill because she had pledged to vote based on the results of a constituent survey last fall. Constituents overwhelmingly were against gay marriage, she said.

    Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Greenburgh, Westchester County, said opponents of the bill are sincere and passionate in their arguments. "But in the end, we are a society that prides itself on offering to all its citizens the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And a group of our fellow citizens has come to us and said we wish to pursue happiness" in ways that do no harm to other citizens.

    Some of the speakers cited polling on the issue by Quinnipiac University, which found that 35 percent of New Yorkers think same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, 35 percent oppose marriage but favor civil unions and 22 percent don't want any legal recognition of same-sex relationships.
    Assemblyman Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, Ontario County, said his constituents are overwhelmingly against allowing same-sex marriage. Kolb cited that, plus his upbringing and religious beliefs, in voting no.
    In a memo to all Assembly members, the Catholic Conference of New York said, "Marriage is not some political term of art that can be re-imagined or redefined according to the whims of the popular culture."

    "Recognizing same-sex unions will only serve to devalue marriage even more than what has already occurred in recent years ... Same-sex 'marriage' furthers a societal disconnect between procreation and marriage while promoting the notion that a nontraditional family structure serves a child as well as a traditional one. We believe this will have disastrous implications for society," the group wrote.

    Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, said the bill is the most important human-rights issue facing the Legislature.

    Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan, said allowing gay marriage is not just about happiness. "This is about being a full human being and having the respect and ... the protection, not just for oneself, but for one's family," said Glick, who is gay.
    CLMATTHE@Gannett.com

  10. #265
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    Bar-exam flunker quits suit over gay-wed question

    By Donna Goodison | Saturday, September 8, 2007 | http://www.bostonherald.com |

    A Boston man has asked a federal court to dismiss his lawsuit in which he claimed that his refusal to answer a Massachusetts bar exam question related to gay marriage caused him to fail the test.

    Stephen Dunne, 30, maintained that answering the essay question would have violated his Irish Catholic beliefs and First Amendment rights, because it would imply his support of gay marriage and parenting.

    Filed in June against the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, his lawsuit sought to prohibit the question from being used to compute his exam score and to have the question removed from future exams.

    The New England School of Law grad took the bar exam in February, scoring a 268.866 when a score of 270 was needed to pass.

    In court documents, Dunne said he wanted to drop his suit because the July bar exam didn’t include what he called the “patently offensive and morally repugnant” gay marriage question. He characterized that as a “corrective action” by the board.

    But in court documents filed yesterday, the board’s attorney said the board has “not agreed to limit the content” of any future bar exams. The board’s decision not to include the same question on the July exam “merely reflects their standard practice of not repeating questions on successive bar examinations,” the court filing said. The exam question read: “Yesterday, Jane got drunk and hit (her spouse) Mary with a baseball bat, breaking Mary’s leg, when she learned that Mary was having an affair with Lisa. As a result, Mary decided to end her marriage with Jane in order to live in her house with (children) Philip (and) Charles and Lisa. What are the rights of Mary and Jane?”

    The board maintains that the question was a legitimate one regarding current Massachusetts law.

    Dunne’s suit also challenged the constitutionality of the SJC’s 2003 ruling under which Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage.

    Dunne’s Web site, www.christianlawsuit.com, where he outlined his case and solicited funds for his legal defense, remained active yesterday. He could not be reached for comment.

    Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/business...icleid=1030076

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    Mike Huckabee: Homosexual behavior 'is a choice'

    According to presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, homosexual behavior is a choice.

    "We may have certain tendencies, but [we choose] how we behave and how we carry out our behavior," Huckabee said in an interview Sunday with Tim Russert of MSNBC's "Meet the Press."

    Huckabee is known for his controversial remarks regarding homosexuality; as Russert reminded him, Huckabee once said he felt it was a "aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle."

    Although Huckabee asked Russert to understand that "when a Christian speaks of sin, a Christian says all of us are sinners," he asserted that "the perfection of God is seen in a marriage in which one man, one woman live together as a couple committed to each other as life partners."

    Huckabee said that he believes he has been asked more about the topic of faith than any other presidential candidate, and that he's "OK" with that.

    "I've never tried to rewrite science textbooks. I've never tried to come out with some way of imposing a doctrinaire Christian perspective in a way that is really against the Constitution," Huckabee told Russert.

    When Russert then asked why he would ban all abortions, Huckabee responded, "that's not just because I'm a Christian, that's because I'm an American. Our founding fathers said that we're all created equal."

    He believes that a ban on abortion would not be an example of imposing his faith on Americans, but that his pro-life stance is "a human belief. It goes to the heart of who we are as a civilization."

    "If you take the life and suction out the pieces of an unborn child for no reason than its inconvenience to the mother, I don't think you've lived up to your Hippocratic Oath of doing no harm," Huckabee said.

    Therefore, he said he would support "sanctioning" doctors who perform abortions.

    While Huckabee says he believes the government should not prefer one faith over another and that he would have no problem appointing atheists to his cabinet, he asserts in an ad that "Faith doesn't just influence [him], it defines [him]."

    "At this time of year, sometimes it's nice to pull aside from all of that and just remember that what really matters is the celebration and the birth of Christ," says Huckabee.

    The full transcript is available here.

  12. #267

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    Big ruling at Iowa Supreme Court




    April 4, 2009

    Iowa Court Says Gay Marriage Ban Is Unconstitutional

    By MONICA DAVEY and LIZ ROBBINS

    DES MOINES — Iowa became the first state in the Midwest to approve same-sex marriage on Friday, after the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously decided that a 1998 law limiting marriage to a man and a woman was unconstitutional.

    The decision was the culmination of a four-year legal battle that began in the lower courts. The Supreme Court said same-sex marriages could begin in Iowa in as soon as 21 days.

    The case here was being closely followed by advocates on both sides of the issue. While the same-sex marriage debate has played out on both coasts, the Midwest — where no states had permitted same-sex marriage — was seen as entirely different. In the past, at least six states in the Midwest were among those around the country that adopted amendments to their state constitutions banning same-sex marriage.

    “The Iowa statute limiting civil marriage to a union between a man and a woman violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution,” the justices said in a summary of their decision.

    And later in the ruling, they said: “Equal protection under the Iowa Constitution is essentially a direction that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike. Since territorial times, Iowa has given meaning to this constitutional provision, striking blows to slavery and segregation, and recognizing women’s rights. The court found the issue of same-sex marriage comes to it with the same importance as the landmark cases of the past.”

    In a hotel in Des Moines, several of the same-sex couples who were involved in the suit wept, teared up and embraced as they learned about the decision from their lawyers. “I’d like to introduce you to my fiancee,” said Kate Varnum, 34, reaching over to Trish Varnum. “Today I am proud to be a lifelong Iowan.”

    “We are blessed to live in Iowa,” she added.

    Opponents of same-sex marriage criticized the ruling.

    “The decision made by the Iowa Supreme Court today to allow gay marriage in Iowa is disappointing on many levels," State Senator Paul McKinley, the Republican leader, said in a statement on The Des Moines Register’s Web site. "I believe marriage should only be between one man and one woman and I am confident the majority of Iowans want traditional marriage to be legally recognized in this state."

    He added: "Though the court has made their decision, I believe every Iowan should have a voice on this matter and that is why the Iowa Legislature should immediately act to pass a Constitutional Amendment that protects traditional marriage, keeps it as a sacred bond only between one man and one woman and gives every Iowan a chance to have their say through a vote of the people."

    Advocates of same-sex marriage said they did not believe opponents had any immediate way to overturn the decision. A constitutional amendment would require the state legislature to approve a ban on same-sex marriage in two consecutive sessions after which voters would have a chance to weigh in.

    Iowa has no residency requirement for getting a marriage license, which some suggest may mean a flurry of people from other states.

    Two states — Connecticut and Massachusetts — currently allow same-sex marriages. Several other states on the East coast allow civil unions, lawmakers in Vermont are considering gay marriage, and California allowed it until November’s election, when residents rejected the idea in a voter initiative.

    A change in Iowa’s take on marriage, advocates for gay marriage said before Friday’s ruling, would signal a broader shift in public thinking, even in the nation’s more conservative middle. Opponents of same-sex marriage, meanwhile, had said any legal decision in support of same-sex marriage in Iowa would certainly trigger a prompt and sharp response among residents and, surely, state lawmakers.

    The legal case here began in 2005, when six same-sex couples filed suit against the county recorder here in Polk County because he would not accept their marriage license applications.

    Two years later, a local judge here, Robert B. Hanson, ruled in that case that a state law defining marriage as only between a man and woman was unconstitutional. The ruling, in 2007, set off a flurry of same-sex couples from all over the state, racing for the courthouse in Polk County.

    The rush lasted less than a day in August of 2007. Although Judge Hanson had ruled against the state law, he quickly decided to delay any additional granting of licenses, saying that the Iowa Supreme Court should have an opportunity to weigh in first. In the end, about 20 couples applied before the stay was issued. Just one couple, Timothy McQuillan, then 21, and Sean Fritz, 24, managed to obtain their license and also to marry.


    Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

  13. #268
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    You know, the one thing that annoys me is when people on one side of an argument do not have anything really solid to support their position:

    “The decision made by the Iowa Supreme Court today to allow gay marriage in Iowa is disappointing on many levels," State Senator Paul McKinley, the Republican leader, said in a statement on The Des Moines Register’s Web site. "I believe marriage should only be between one man and one woman and I am confident the majority of Iowans want traditional marriage to be legally recognized in this state."

    He added: "Though the court has made their decision, I believe every Iowan should have a voice on this matter and that is why the Iowa Legislature should immediately act to pass a Constitutional Amendment that protects traditional marriage, keeps it as a sacred bond only between one man and one woman and gives every Iowan a chance to have their say through a vote of the people."
    that is not a valid argument.

    He is pretty much saying two things:

    "Majority Rules"

    and an implied

    "God said so"

    That is not anything to do with practical issues (mainly because there aren't any). The only argument I have ever heard against gay marriage comes from the root that people feel uncomfortable with it.

    I am still trying to figure out the root of this, as it seems very tangled. It may be a basic feeling of discomfort over something that is just a base urge in all humans (to copulate) and our natural instinct to try and group with like minded individuals (pack instinct). This makes the idea of someone feeling different about something that is ingrained in your person as a base drive kind of ookey. Since the majority is oriented one way (I am not saying how or why), society makes its own guidelines as to what is "normal" and what isn't.

    Hell, in a society that for the longest time considered LEFT HANDED people to be freaks, it is no surprise that Homosexuality was handled with a similar, and more condemning mentality.

    But this base root gets confused when things like religion get entered into it. Especially considering the individuals that feel, since they are feeling something they were told was "evil", devote themselves entirely to the pursuit of "good" things, eventually become an instrument in self denial and inherent hypocrisy. These individuals rarely think logically on an issue that is in such emotional conflict. Religious doctrine is effected, which in turn further effects our societies perception of the whole affair.

    Instead of just freaks, they are now seen as evil freaks. (As if one was not enough!!!).

    But how do we get away from this? Fighting rarely gets the "other side" to see things differently, AAMOF it usually gets the "other side" to retrench and become even more recalcitrant.

    Again, the base question. How do we get back to the root of this and eliminate this discomfort at its source? Is there any way to get to it now that there are so many layers covering it? Can you get to the heart of the disease when there are so many secondary effects happening that ignorance of them would only hurt the patient even more?

    Believing that somehow people will all of a sudden be nice and accept something they do not understand is not something I see as a viable solution or outcome. So what would work to counterbalance the root mentalities that govern our segregation, classification and ostracizing of people who are considered to be "different"?

  14. #269

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    implied "God said so"
    I'm sooo sick of God being used, as an excuse for the bigotry practiced, by people who think like this.
    Although he's no longer our prez, I just ran across this again, and thought it relevant?


    a]Dear President Bush,
    Thank you for doing so much to educate people
    regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from you and
    understand why you would propose and support a constitutional amendment
    banning same sex marriage. As you said, "in the eyes of God
    marriage is based between a man and a woman." I try to share that
    knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the
    homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus
    18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination...

    End of debate.

    I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other
    elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

    1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and
    female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A
    friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not
    Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

    2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in
    Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair
    price for her?

    3. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates
    a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors.
    They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

    4. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus
    35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated
    to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

    5. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an
    abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than
    homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there
    'degrees' of abomination?

    6. Lev.21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I
    have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading
    glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some
    wiggle-room here?

    7. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair
    around their temples, even though Lev. 19:25 expressly forbids this.
    How should they die?

    8. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes
    me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

    9. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two
    different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing
    garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester
    blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really
    necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town
    together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to
    death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep
    with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

    I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy
    considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can
    help.

    Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

  15. #270
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    It's all selective Christianity.

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