Gay marriage an important step forward, says British Prime Minister — House of Commons agrees

MPs have approved same-sex marriage in England and Wales in a key Commons vote, despite the opposition of almost half the Conservative MPs.

The Commons voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, by 400 to 175, a majority of 225, at the end of a full day’s debate on the bill.

Prime Minister David Cameron has described the move as “an important step forward” that strengthens society…

Junior justice minister Helen Grant said: “As Tories we do differ at times. We have squabbles – we’re like any other family.”

But she described the legislation as “a major step forward for equality and justice”…

Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said: “I genuinely believe that we will look back on today as a landmark for equality in Britain.

“Tonight’s vote shows Parliament is very strongly in favour of equal marriage.

“No matter who you are and who you love, we are all equal. Marriage is about love and commitment, and it should no longer be denied to people just because they are gay…

MPs were given a free vote on the bill, meaning they were not ordered to vote a particular way by party whips…

Opposition leader Ed Miliband said: “This is a proud day and an important step forward in the fight for equality in Britain.

“The overwhelming majority of Labour MPs supported this change to make sure marriage reflects the value we place on long-term, loving relationships whoever you love.

Anyone care to venture how much success a Center-Right coalition would have in passing such a vote through the United States Congress?

Even more important, I guess, is that this is an expression of the whole House of Commons. Each party will have the opportunity to claim leadership and dedication to civil rights and they should. And that, too, takes me back to what Congress, nowadays, seems to lack.

Gomer Pyle marries his partner of 38 years

Jim Nabors, Stan Cadwallader

Actor Jim Nabors says marrying his longtime male partner doesn’t change anything about their relationship – he just wanted it to be formally acknowledged.

“I just wanted it legal,” the 82-year-old actor best known as Gomer Pyle in “The Andy Griffith Show” told The Associated Press…

Nabors married 64-year-old Stan Cadwallader in Seattle on Jan. 15. Nabors says they have been partners for 38 years.

Nabors said they flew from Honolulu just for the short ceremony and were married in a hotel room by a judge friend who drove up from Olympia, Wash.

Nabors said he’s not an activist but feels strongly that gay marriage should be a right for everyone.

I think every person on this earth has a choice of who they want to spend their life with,” he said.

News of Nabors’ marriage was first reported by Hawaii News Now. Nabors told Hawaii News Now he’s been open about being gay with co-workers and friends but hadn’t acknowledged it to the media before. He said he’s not ashamed of people knowing, he just didn’t tell people because it was “such a personal thing.”

The couple met in 1975 when Cadwallader was a Honolulu firefighter…

Nabors became an instant success when he joined “The Andy Griffith Show” in spring 1963. The character of Gomer Pyle – the unworldly, lovable gas pumper who would exclaim “Gollllll-ly!” – proved so popular that in 1964 CBS starred him in “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”

In the spinoff, which lasted five seasons, Gomer left his hometown of Mayberry to become a Marine recruit. His innocence confounded his sergeant, the irascible Frank Sutton.

Good for you, dude. You needn’t be an activist to have an effect on people who know you, who appreciate your honest opinion.

Something our politicians might consider learning something about.

First same-sex wedding held at West Point Cadet Chapel

Cadet Chapel, the landmark Gothic church that is a center for spiritual life at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, hosted its first same-sex wedding Saturday.

Penelope Gnesin and Brenda Sue Fulton, a West Point graduate, exchanged vows in the regal church in an afternoon ceremony, attended by about 250 guests and conducted by a senior Army chaplain.

The two have been together for 17 years. They had a civil commitment ceremony that didn’t carry any legal force in 1999 and had long hoped to formally tie the knot. The way was cleared last year, when New York legalized same-sex marriage and President Barack Obama lifted the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy prohibiting openly gay people from serving in the military.

The brides both live in New Jersey and would have preferred to have the wedding there, but the state doesn’t allow gay marriage…

The NJ legislature passed a law allowing same-sex marriage. Republican Governor Christie vetoed it.

“It has a tremendous history, and it is beautiful. That’s where I first heard and said the cadet prayer,” Fulton said, referring to the invocation that says, “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won.”

The ceremony was the second same-sex wedding at West Point. Last weekend, two of Fulton’s friends, a young lieutenant and her partner, were married in another campus landmark, the small Old Cadet Chapel in West Point’s cemetery.

Fulton has campaigned against the ban on gays in the military as a member of two groups representing gay and lesbian servicemen and servicewomen. She graduated from West Point in 1980, a member of the first class to include women.

She served with the Army Signal Corps in Germany and rose to the rank of captain, but left the service in 1986 partly because she wanted to be open about her sexual orientation. President Obama appointed her last year to the U.S. Military Academy’s Board of Visitors.

Nice to see the US Military continue to march into the 21st Century at a faster pace than some political chickenhawks. For those of us who lived through the end of Jim Crow in our military, the result isn’t a complete surprise. Unlike some politicians, the Pentagon accepts the law of the land – instead of trying to slink back into the past.

Bloomberg writes $250K check to back gay marriage in Maryland

Mike Bloomberg performing one of the first gay marriages in NY state

New York City’s billionaire three-term mayor has tapped into his personal fortune to further the cause of same-sex marriage, donating $250,000 to support the issue in Maryland where voters will get the chance to weigh in at the ballot box come November.

Maryland will always hold a special place in my heart. … So when Governor (Martin) O’Malley asked me to support Question 6, I didn’t hesitate,” said Michael Bloomberg, who attended college at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Maryland residents are scheduled to cast their ballot November 6 on what’s known as Question 6, voting either to uphold or strike down a bill legalizing same-sex marriage that was signed into law in March by O’Malley.

With the law, Maryland joined seven states and Washington, D.C., in allowing gay couples to wed, but it isn’t scheduled to take effect until January 1, giving both its opponents and advocates a chance to ratchet up campaign efforts to sway voters…

Currently, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York and the District of Columbia issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In February, Washington state Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a bill into law that legalizes same-sex marriage, but that state similarly faces a referendum challenge in November.

Today’s conservatives tend to mask their bigotry as they always have on questions of civil rights by dragging out the oldest phony excuse in the world – states’ rights. Woop-de-doo! Let all of the reactionary, bible-belt losers left over from the civil war vote their ignorance into law – and stop behaving like the so-called United States.

Civil rights is a constitutional issue and one that requires uniform national law. Cripes – it’s certainly more important than uniform protocols for railroad gauge or passing lanes.

Glad to see Bloomberg – who’s been equally supportive on his home turf for folks of the LGBT gender – help carry ethics to a broader circle.

A leading critic of Gay Marriage reverses his position – becomes a supporter of civil rights, opponent of homophobia

Gay rights groups have welcomed a surprise embrace of same-sex marriage by one of its previously most staunch opponents.

David Blankenhorn, who had been seen as a leading voice in the campaign to keep marriage solely between a man and a woman, has stunned his supporters by penning a column in the New York Times in which he now says he supports gay marriage rights.

“As a marriage advocate, the time has come for me to accept gay marriage and emphasize the good that it can do,” Blankenhorn wrote in the column.

The move is remarkable given Blankenhorn’s high profile in the anti-gay marriage movement…

Not surprisingly the shock move – and the high-profile way in which it was announced – was welcomed by groups campaigning on behalf of gay marriage…

In his column Blankenhorn said that he now believed that extending marriage rights to gay couples could strengthen the overall institution of marriage within broader society, rather than weaken it…

He also expressed disappointment that much anti-gay marriage sentiment was based on prejudice against homosexuality, rather than any thoughts on the role of marriage within American cultural life…

Blankenhorn’s self-judgement reinforces what has been my position all along. I haven’t attacked those few Americans who felt there was a question about the institution of marriage which founded their opposition to gay marriage. I thought they were wrong. But, they were acting on a question of judgement – not bigotry.

Now that he’s turned against what he sees more clearly as an illegitimate point of social law, he also recognizes the necessity of opposing those who are fighting for a political act based on their homophobia, their bigotry.

Kudos to a man with an open mind – willing to learn to advance his own understanding.

Opposition to gay marriage hits record low after President Obama’s announcement of support

Public opinion continues to shift in favor of same-sex marriage, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, which also finds initial signs that President Obama’s support for the idea may have changed a few minds.

Overall, 53 percent of Americans say gay marriage should be legal, hitting a high mark in support while showing a dramatic turnaround from just six years ago, when just 36 percent thought it should be legal. Thirty-nine percent, a new low, say gay marriage should be illegal.

The poll also finds that 59 percent of African Americans say they support same-sex marriage, up from an average of 41 percent in polls leading up to Obama’s announcement of his new position on the matter. Though statistically significant, it is a tentative result because of the relatively small sample of black voters in the poll.

The poll comes two weeks after Obama unexpectedly endorsed same-sex marriage after a year and a half of “evolving” on the subject. Gay rights groups predicted the president’s announcement would have a far-reaching impact on public opinion, in part because Obama described how he came to his own decision, referring to his gay friends and the influence of his young daughters, Sasha and Malia.

“By speaking in very personal terms about his own journey, the president has helped to build a larger and stronger majority in support of full equality for committed gay and lesbian couples,” said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group that supports Obama’s reelection.

Seventy-one percent of Americans have a friend, family member or acquaintance who is gay, according to the Post-ABC survey, compared with 63 percent in 2010 and 59 percent in 1998.

More than anything else, this poll result reflects what can be accomplished by our elected officials demonstrating a wee bit of leadership, offering a taste of education from the platform we gave them. Way too rare an event in our nation’s seat of political power.

America’s elected officials rely more and more on popularity contests and reality show gamesmanship to get elected. Perish the thought they offer a programmatic platform where we might tick off the boxes and say, “yes – you worked hard at getting that issue resolved”. Instead, monthly emails arrive with self-pats-on-the-back for supporting the lowest common denominator bills – and little or nothing about conflicts or how they were confronted.

I thank Obama for getting up on his hind legs – for a change. He does well on the road. He opens up to real people, working people, the salt of the Earth when he’s on the road. He might try it a bit in his dealings with Congress critters. Certainly in an instance like this one, confronting a question of civil rights, he struck a responsive chord among American voters.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs backs gay veteran against DOMA

Just hours after President Obama announced on Wednesday that he supported same-sex marriage, the Department of Veterans Affairs said it would not defend the constitutionality of two federal laws that define marriage as between a man and a woman.

The declaration was made in a Connecticut case in which a disabled Navy veteran is challenging the constitutionality of the two laws, one of which is the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. The former sailor, Carmen Cardona of Norwich, is asserting that the government improperly denied her benefits.

Ms. Cardona says that after she married her partner in 2010, the V.A. regional office rejected her application for a spousal increase in her monthly disability compensation, citing federal statute defining a spouse as “a person of the opposite sex.”

Last year, President Obama ordered the Department of Justice to stop defending the constitutionality of DOMA. But Ms. Cardona filed her complaint before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, where cases are generally argued by lawyers from the Department of Veterans Affairs, not from the Justice Department.

Until Wednesday, it had been unclear whether the V.A. would continue to defend the law.

In a statement released through her lawyers at the veterans legal services clinic at Yale Law School, Ms. Cardona said: “I am proud that Secretary Shinseki has joined me, the Connecticut Attorney General, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America and so many others in recognizing that all veteran families deserve fair treatment.”

The Republican-controlled House has hired a private lawyer to handle the DOMA cases the Obama administration has decided not to defend.

Just in case you wondered who is committed to screwing over veterans who happen to be gay.

Obama explains his evolution on gay marriage — finally

Click on photo for the video [probably a commercial, first] – hopefully

Obama became the first U.S. president to back the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry, a reversal from views expressed during the 2008 campaign, when he said he opposed same-sex marriage but favored civil unions as an alternative…

In making his announcement, Obama completes what he had described as an “evolution” in his views on this issue, hastened by growing fervor this week involving gay rights. The growing pressure was capped Tuesday by North Carolina voters’ approval of a constitutional amendment banning not only same-sex marriages, but civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, as well.

Obama’s shift not only speaks to a broad swath of the electorate, which has exhibited increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage in opinion polls, but also gay and lesbian voters who compose a core part of Obama’s base, and have been major fundraisers for his re-election…

Obama explained that he had hesitated in fully supporting same-sex marriage because he thought civil unions would be sufficient.

“I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” he told ABC.

The president had found himself under increasing pressure this week to state his position unequivocally after Vice President Joe Biden voiced support for same-sex marriage.

“I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties,” Biden said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And quite frankly, I don’t see much of a distinction beyond that.”

While the White House emphasized that Biden’s position wasn’t representative of the entire administration, Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s pronouncement Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in support of same-sex marriage added to pressure on the president…

I was going to link to the original interview with Robin Roberts of ABC-TV; but – at least at this moment – ABC seems to have pulled it from public access. It appears and reappears, of course – there are hundreds of copies, edited and unedited – posted on YouTube and elsewhere. I imagine the full deal will be reposted sooner or later.

The nutballs on the religious right are going bonkers as you would expect. Here’s how I feel:

Many times over the course of our history as a nation, we have taken the lead before the rest of the world on one or another issue. Public education, world governance and respect for human rights, civil rights for citizens regardless of gender or color or religion. Then, we spend at least as much time battling back against the fearmongers who crap their drawers over questions of freedom for everyone, equal opportunities.

Frankly, I didn’t think Obama would have the courage to get off the fence on this one. Too many politicians afraid to lead – choose hiding in the middle as the best course when facing an election. If there are controversial questions, many will run and hide in the past, many sit in the middle of the road relying on old-fashioned sophistry to protect their gig.

I’m pleased to see him move. I’m pleased to see him stand up for civil rights for the whole population of the United States of America.

Catholic sermons wail and whinge — Gay couples prepare to celebrate weddings and happiness

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds/ Admit impediments,” declared the bard of Stratford in his 116th sonnet. And at the Globe theatre in central London on Sunday – even as Catholics were being urged from thousands of pulpits across the country to oppose gay marriage – there was no shortage of same-sex couples ready to heed his encouragement.

At the Designer Civil Partnership show at Shakespeare’s erstwhile theatre, excited couples discussed the colour scheme of invitations, whether wedding “favours” were a necessary part of the big day – and the decision of the Catholic church to wage war against government plans for gay marriage.

“I think it’s disgusting. We are not second-class citizens and the idea that this archaic institution should dictate how we live our lives is appalling,” said Matt Turrell, 37, a photographer specialising in civil partnerships. “At the end of the day, the union of two people should be about love. Why should we be denied the right to express that publicly?”

On Sunday a letter from two senior Catholic archbishops was read in 2,500 parish churches during mass, arguing that a change to the law would reduce the significance of marriage…

At heart and root, the greater fear is the accelerating collapse of social and political power of the religious establishment.

With a string quartet playing in the entrance hall, intense discussions on whether ushers should wear matching cufflinks, and stalls displaying everything from chocolate macaroons to crystal-encrusted table centre pieces, this was a wedding fair much like any other.

But gay couples are still made to feel excluded because they cannot marry in the same way as heterosexual couples, according to Chris Ford, 30, and his fiance Andrew Ogilvie, 32. The couple, both nurses, were told they could have no religious element to their service and described it as the first barrier they had faced as gay men.

“I was gobsmacked,” said Ogilvie. “Automatically you feel second class, that your union is not valued in the same way. It’s not like we are all going to be marching into Catholic churches in bridal dresses, but you just want to have the option. Civil partnerships are good, but they are not perfect…”

Standing in the sunshine overlooking the Thames from a balcony at the Globe, Natasha Marshall, 31, and Debbie Cross, 38, tuck into the bubbles, chatting about the wedding rings they have just chosen for their civil partnership in September. The pair, who have been together for 13 years, would have liked the option of a civil wedding, but seem unconcerned about the fact that they will not yet be able to have a religious ceremony. “Church weddings are boring anyway,” said Cross. “We’re going to have a lot more fun than that.”

The headline suggests a question easy enough to answer with a smile. Which would you rather attend? A gay wedding fair or one more ceremony of 14th Century stink and sermon brimming with fear and hatred, telling us all which orders we are required to obey without question?

Civil rights, evenhanded for all is easy as pie. Just not for those who believe they are above the civil.