Oz says “YES” to marriage equality — the fight for human rights continues

❝ The results of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey are in. Despite the voluntary nature of the survey, 12,727,920 (79.5%) eligible Australians voted.

By a margin of 61.6% to 38.4%, Australians have said “yes” to the proposition:

Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?

❝ To permit same-sex marriage, parliament must amend the Marriage Act 1961…

The definition of marriage can be simply changed by removing the words “a man and a woman” and replacing them with “two people”.

Such a change will have flow-on effects throughout Australian society. For example, celebrants will be free to officiate at legal wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples. State and territory authorities will be empowered to register same-sex marriages.

❝ Most significantly, same-sex couples will have equality of choice in how they want to formalise relationships. Those who choose to marry will be entitled to the legal benefits of marriage.

This will engage much of the usual anti-democratic sophistry and histrionics beloved of bigots and True Believers. One can only hope that the Australian Parliament will recognize the forward-looking spirit of this poll as meaningful – and predictive of the spirit of voters come the next election.

Most folks hope the bill sorting things out in legalese will be kept simple and to the point. Human rights are for all humans. Spirits in the sky are entitled to have their opinions voiced by folks who believe in such. They have no standing in civil liberties, civil rights.

Anyone surprised? Civil partnerships are five times more popular than forecast

The popularity of civil partnerships has far outstripped official expectations, with figures showing five times as many couples have made the commitment than originally forecast. The latest figures, published on Tuesday, show the number of couples entering civil partnerships in Britain rose by 6% last year to 6,795.

More than 100,000 people have now entered a civil partnership in Britain since they first became legal in December 2005…Official estimates were that between 11,000 and 22,000 would make the commitment in the first five years.

The latest figures also confirm that in the first years more men than women formed civil partnerships, but since 2009 the numbers have become more equal. The average age for entering a civil partnership is just over 40 for men and 38 for women…

Andy Wasley, from Stonewall, said: “We’re delighted that civil partnerships have proved to be so popular, both with same-sex couples and in wider society. YouGov polling for Stonewall shows four in five people across Britain support civil partnerships, and seven in 10 support equal marriage. This modest step towards full equality needn’t take much parliamentary time. It’s time for the government to get on with it”…

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 allowed same-sex couples in the UK to register their relationships for the first time. People who enter civil partnerships get a package of rights and responsibilities, including on tax and benefits, and the ability to apply for parental responsibility for their partner’s children and for the full range of financial orders available to married couples on divorce.

A Home Office spokesperson welcomed the figures and said those already in a civil partnership would be able to convert their union into a marriage under proposals already published: “This government believes society is stronger when couples commit to each other, which is why it is so encouraging to see more same-sex couples entering civil partnerships.

If they keep civil partnerships as an alternative to traditional marriage – with the same rights and responsibilities as marriage; but, fewer bureaucratic requirements for dissolution – the Brits will no doubt experience the same dynamic expansion of civil partnership throughout the whole populace of heterosexual couples. That’s what has already happened in France.

Couples getting civil union licenses in the land state of the free

Patrick Bora,73, left, and his partner Jim Darby, 79, show off their civil union license
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

More than 100 same-sex couples lined up outside of a Chicago municipal building Wednesday morning to obtain licenses for civil unions, under a new Illinois law.

The atmosphere was festive, with license-seekers taking pictures of each other, and city workers waving and calling out “congratulations…”

Couples can have a civil union ceremony one day after receiving their licenses. A mass ceremony with 32 couples will be held at Millennium Park, Thursday morning, with Governor Pat Quinn attending.

The Illinois law gives same-sex couples the same rights, benefits and responsibilities of married couples under Illinois law, including rights of hospital visitation and shared parental rights, explained Christopher Clark, senior staff attorney for the gay rights law group Lambda Legal. The new rights do not include those provided married couples under federal law, such as receipt of a partner’s Social Security benefits.

“This is an important step on our march to equality,” said Clark. “Federal law has to change…”

Gabrielle Novacek, 35, and her partner Nicole Montanye, 39. are planning a joint ceremony Sunday with their friends…

Novacek said she doesn’t understand why anyone would object to civil unions. “If you feel threatened by us, that’s really unfortunate,” Novacek said. “You’re the one that has a problem.”

Sooner or later, the “land of the free” will reach the point where that so-called freedom includes real separation of state from church, freedom from the bigotry of ignorance and fear.

The United States is not in a position of providing any sort of moral leadership on this planet as long as our politicians spend time trying to interfere with love between consenting adults instead of providing access to equal civil rights.

D.C. begins licensing same-sex marriages – UPDATED

Angelisa Young’s ticket #1
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Just sitting down at a desk at the marriage bureau at D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday was too much for Angelisa Young. She cried so hard that she eventually had to bury her face in her fiancee’s chest.

About a half-hour later, Young and her partner, Sinjoyla Townsend, who met 13 years ago in a Constitutional Law class at the University of the District of Columbia, became the first same-sex couple to apply to be married in the District as the city officially joined five states in allowing gay marriage.

“I’m just so happy. We’re whole now. We will actually be a true family like everyone else,” Young, 47, said as Townsend, 41, used her thumb to wipe away her soon-to-be wife’s tears. After the couple from Southeast Washington rose from the desk, couples in line behind them broke into spontaneous applause and cheers.

For Young, Townsend and the cheering masses, being there, in the tiny and usually sleepy marriage bureau, on the very first day meant everything. There was the history of it all, but mostly it was about having the nation’s capital validate their relationships and their families.

For the couples in line Wednesday and those who follow, it was the culmination of a three-decade struggle for equality. Advocates had long known that the D.C. Council would approve same-sex marriage. But the timing had to be right. Congress and the White House could have killed the bill, which had to clear a congressional review period, so advocates waited for a president and legislature sympathetic to gay rights and home rule. In the meantime, the gay community picked up important rights in the District, including a domestic partnership law, before the council passed the same-sex marriage bill in December.

The real crime involved in the history of this process – is the smarmy, self-righteous bigotry of those who would deny people in love their civil rights.

UPDATE: Young and Townsend are married, today, as civil rights become reality in Washington, D.C..

Sweden’s Lutheran Church allows same-sex weddings

Anders Wejryd (L), Lutheran archbishop leads press conference
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

The Lutheran Church of Sweden – the country’s largest – is to conduct same-sex marriages from next month.

Around 70% of the church’s 250-strong synod, or church board, voted to back the move, making it one of few global churches to allow gay marriage.

Sweden’s government introduced a new law in May allowing gay couples the same marriage rights as heterosexuals.

Individual priests will not be “forced” to perform same sex ceremonies, though substitutes will have to be found if they refuse.

Sweden’s largest gay rights group, the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL), welcomed the move: “[We] congratulate the Church of Sweden for its decision. [The church’s] homosexual and bisexual members will finally be able to feel a little more welcome within society,” the group said in a statement.

Sweden was one of the first countries to give gay couples legal “partnership” rights, in the mid-1990s, and to allow gay couples to adopt children from 2002.

It become the fifth European country, after the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Norway, to recognise same-sex marriage.

My guess is that well over half the industrial, urbane, educated nations on Earth will recognize same-sex marriage ahead of the United States of America.

Marriage starts today in Vermont – for everyone

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Wedding bells are ringing for Bill Slimback and Bob Sullivan in Vermont today. The two men are among the first same-sex couples to legally marry under a new state law that took effect at 12am.

Vermont is now the fourth state in America where gay marriage is legally recognised. The other states include: Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa. Gay marriage will be legal in New Hampshire on 1 January 2010.

Same-sex marriage in the US can only be recognised at the state level due to the Defence of Marriage Act, which was signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996 and defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman…

Slimback, an out-of-work Teamster, said the longtime couple has been “waiting for a chance to actually solidify” their relationship. He said: “It feels wonderful. It’s a day I have been long waiting for, and a day I truly honestly thought would never come.”

Meanwhile Vermont-based Ben&Jerry’s has temporarily renamed their popular Chubby Hubby ice cream to Hubby Hubby to commemorate the new law.

Ben&Jerry’s CEO Walt Freese said: “The legalisation of marriage for gay and lesbian couples in Vermont is certainly a step in the right direction, and something worth celebrating with peace, love – and plenty of ice cream.”

Rock on, Vermont!

Sooner or later, the rest of the United States of Bigots will come along and join the land of freedom.

Australians rally for same-sex marriage

Australia’s centre-left ruling party on Saturday voted for national recognition of same-sex unions but stopped short of lifting a ban on gay marriage.

The national Labor conference voted to develop a system for the registration and recognition of same-sex relationships, after gay rights advocates failed to gather enough numbers for a resolution to legalise gay marriage.

But frontbencher Anthony Albanese told delegates while it was not his “ideal position”, the watered-down resolution was an important reflection of shifting public attitudes. “History is moving forward on these issues,” said Albanese, presenting the motion for vote…

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd won the 2007 election on a platform that supported the former conservative government’s legal definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Rudd, who considers himself a moderate Christian, said earlier this week that he “fully respected” the integrity of same-sex relationships but would not change Labor’s ban on gay marriage.

His government has moved a raft of legislation to remove same-sex discrimination from almost 100 national laws, in areas such as pensions, tax and employment.

Thousands of people held rallies and demonstrations across the nation as the vote was held, calling on Labor to legalise gay marriage…

A recent poll suggested up to 60 percent of Australians supported gay marriage and the statistics bureau in May announced it would count same-sex couples who declared themselves married in the national census.

Civil Rights means everyone has an equal opportunity under law.

Keep the crap archaic religious definitions out of how you run the state.

Feds to record same-sex marriages in 2010 census

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Married same-sex couples will be counted as such in 2010, Census Bureau officials said, reversing a decision of the Bush administration.

Steve Jost, a spokesman for the Census Bureau, said same-sex couples would be counted, “and they ought to report the way they see themselves,” adding, “In the normal process of reports coming out after the census of 2010, I think the country will have a good data set on which to discuss this phenomenon that is evolving in this country.”

Same-sex couples could not be married in the United States during the last decennial count. But last year, after two states had approved same-sex marriages, the bureau said those legal marriages would go uncounted because the federal Defense of Marriage Act prevented the government from recognizing them…

The White House announced Friday that its interpretation of the act did not prohibit gathering the information.

First, the Obama government and our heroic Democrat-majority Congress should dump the Defense of Marriage Act (sic) for what it is. Bigoted, reactionary legislation passed by opportunist politicians to cater to the most backwards elements in American society.

I realize that probably defines the bulk of Congressional action; but, the DOMA should be accurately characterized for what it is. Crap for cowardly hacks.

Second, the Obama administration had better commit to future progress – even if the rationale in place is “we don’t wish to distract from tough challenges ahead in the fight for proper health care, etc”. That also would be less of a problem if the Dems in Congress had backbone enough to match their campaign budgets.

If you need all your allies to pressurize Congress to actually accomplish more than posturing for TV talking heads you damned well better act like you deserve those allies.

Yes, the same holds true for the environment and alternative energy, inclusive rights for workers, actively working for peace everywhere we stick our noses – especially the Middle East. I’m not a single issue kind of dissident. Civil liberties and civil rights, peace and prosperity are what we’re always promised. I just would like to see the folks who say they’re leading the political side of these struggles – prove it on a daily basis.

Maine legislators vote to approve gay marriage – UPDATED

“As Maine goes, so goes the nation…”
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Gay-rights advocates moved remarkably close to their goal of making same-sex marriage legal throughout New England on Tuesday, when the Maine House of Representative voted to legalize such unions.

Supporters of same-sex marriage have won victory after victory this spring, with the legislatures of Vermont, New Hampshire and now Maine embracing it. The region is close to offering such marriages full support; Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to let gay couples marry in 2004, and Connecticut began allowing same-sex marriage last fall.

But in Maine and New Hampshire, the governors, both Democrats, will be pivotal in determining whether same-sex marriage proponents succeed in winning over an entire region of the country. Neither Gov. John Baldacci of Maine nor Gov. John Lynch of New Hampshire has made his intentions public. Both men opposed same-sex marriage in the past but have indicated they might be reconsidering…

With the movement enjoying momentum from the string of recent victories — including the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision last month that same-sex marriage should be legal there — Mr. Baldacci and Mr. Lynch are facing considerable pressure from advocates and from their own party, which increasingly supports same-sex marriage.


UPDATE: Maine’s governor John Baldacci signed the bill shortly after it landed on his desk.

Connecticut updates civil rights – passes gay marriage bill

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

A decade-long battle for marriage equality in Connecticut ended when the General Assembly voted to update the state’s marriage laws to conform with a landmark court ruling allowing gay and lesbian couples to tie the knot.

“It feels so good. It really does feel like the book is closing,” said Anne Stanback, president of Love Makes a Family, a gay-rights group that has led the fight for same-sex marriage in the state.

A spokesman for Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she will sign the bill, which passed 28-7 in the Senate and 100-44 in the House of Representatives late Wednesday, into law. While Rell, a Republican, signed the state’s 2005 civil unions law, she has said she believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

The bill comes six months after the State Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that same-sex couples have the right to wed in Connecticut, rather than accept the civil union law designed to give them the same rights as married couples.

It redefines marriage in Connecticut as the legal union of two people. State law previously defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Carol Gignac, a 62-year-old Roman Catholic from Bristol, clutched her rosary beads as she watched Wednesday’s debate from the Senate gallery. She said she was praying during much of the day for God’s mercy on Connecticut.

Connecticut is known as the Constitution State because the state’s essential legal document was the model for the U.S. Constitution. A fact that won’t mean much to those Americans who could care less about civil liberties or civil rights.

That includes creeps like Chris Dodd whose Democrat wheelhorse daddy – when he was in the Senate – had the provision allowing for armed revolution against dictatorship removed because it sounded too much like communist insurrection. No – apparently he never read Thomas Jefferson either.

This battle for civil rights will have to stretch out for decades, state-by-state, because our Congress-critters have neither the courage, smarts or leadership qualities to drag the rest of the nation up into the 21st Century. The White House crew isn’t likely to try it – because they’re all about winning this week’s wannabe winnable.