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Thursday, 17 March 2011

Will Scotland Lead the Way on UK Marriage Equality?

There is clear evidence that in the UK as a whole, there is political momentum building in favour of providing for full civil marriage for same sex couples. Opinion polls show that the idea is supported by the majority of British voters, and is gaining support by key people in all the major parties. Of these, the Scottish National Party, who control the devolved Scottish Parliament, were the first to commit publicly to the principle of marriage equality, and have in the past raised at least the possibility of going ahead on this alone, if the national government prevaricates too long. Now, they are coming under pressure from an important quarter to do just that.

This, from Pink News:

Scottish government advised to legalise gay marriage

The Scottish government has been advised to give gay couples the right to marry.

A report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) says that current law discriminates against gay people and is not supported by public polls.

In England and Wales, the UK government has announced plans to hold a consultation on the future of civil partnerships and marriage. As these are devolved issues, the consultation does not apply to Scotland.

However, polls of the Scottish public have shown rising support for allowing gay couples to marry. In 2006, a poll found that 53 per cent of people supported same-sex marriage. In 2009, this figure rose to 62 per cent.

This, the report says, means politicians should not fear a “backlash” from the public. The government is being urged to start looking at the issue after the May election

(Full report at Pink News)

Saturday, 5 March 2011

In the Navy:Official Disapproval,Sensitivity in Bereavement.

In the Catholic Church, many people will know that in spite of official disapproval from on high, and outright hostility by some individuals in the church, very often parishes on the ground can be truly welcoming and accepting, with acceptance and full inclusion from both parishioners and parish priests. That was certainly my experience at Holy Trinity Parish, Braamfontein, Johannesburg -and is the experience of many others at countless parishes around the world.
A story from Chicago Sun Times demonstrates that this disconnect between official disapproval and practical warmth on the ground also applies in other formally homophobic institutions, in this instance the US marines. In spite of the policy of DADT which was still in force last June, and notwithstanding the vicious persecution that some gay servicemen experienced under that policy, the widowed husband of one Marine, John Fliszar,  found exceptional co-operation from the Naval Academy officials when he approached them for help in executing the dead man's wish to have his ashes  interred in the Naval Academy.

I enjoyed imagining the confused expressions of these officials when they were first approached by the widowed husband, Mark Ketterson:
The memorial coordinator asked about his relationship to the deceased. Ketterson said that John Fliszar was his husband.
“They were always polite, but there was this moment of hesitation,” Ketterson recalled. “They said they’re going to need something in writing from a blood relative. They asked, ‘Are you listed on the death certificate?’ ‘Do you have a marriage license?’ ”

Friday, 18 February 2011

Hawaii Civil Unions Approved; Marriage Equality Update

Three significant news items yesterday illustrated the continuing momentum towards marriage and family equality.

In Hawaii, the state senate has now given final approval to civil unions for same sex couples. All that is now required is for the Gobvernor to add his signature, which he has promised he will do, adding to the number which now offer marriage equality or near equality at state level. More will follow.

In Baltimore, another state senator has stepped off the fence, and announced he will vote in favour of the marriage bill next week. This makes at least 24 votes (and possibly 25) in favour, which will be enough for approval. Passage in the lower house and the governor's signature should follow.

In Delaware, a new group (Equality Delaware) has been formed to push for civil unions, and has announced sponsors for a bill to be introduced to the legislature later this year. (A recent opinion poll showed that a plurality of Delaware voters support full marriage. This would suggest that the early prospects for the more cautious proposal of civil unions must be good).

For the record, here is the current rundown by state, for the US a.nd internationally.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Hawaii House Approves Civil Unions, & Other Marriage Equality Updates.

The Hawaii State House yesterday approved a civil unions bill by a comfortable margin. As the Senate has previously passed the measure, all that is now requited is some tinkering to reconcile the minor differences in the two versions, before it is presented to Governor Abercrombie, who has promised that he will sign it.  Hawaii will then join Illinois as the second US state to approve civil unions this year.

Meanwhile both Maryland and Rhode Island have been holding hearings on bills to provide state recognition for full marriage equality. With powerful voices against, including that of the institutional Catholic Church, it is too early to predict the final outcome. I am encouraged, however, by a few straws in the wind.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

New York Catholics Support Gay Marriage

Barbara Bush's public support for gay marriage has garnered a lot of press attention over the past week. Reporting on this the Washington Post has drawn my attention to another finding that should have drawn more attention. Alongside the number of Republican politicians and Evangelical Christians who are breaking ranks with their traditional opposition and starting to support equality, the majority of US (and European) Catholics have already parted company with their bishops on the matter. This has been demonstrated in several polls in recent years, at national level, and in state level polls, as in Rhode Island.
When I read and reported on the recent finding of the Quinnipiac poll that a majority of New Yorkers now support full legal recognition of same sex marriages, I neglected to follow through on my usual practice of checking the cross-tabs for a breakdown by religion. This was a mistake. (In mitigation, I plead that I was under intense pressure  for time last week). As the Washington Post has now observed, the national pattern is found in New York, too.  An absolute majority of New York Catholics support full marriage (not simply civil unions). As the paper's report notes in its concluding remark, "Republican and Catholic leaders may find themselves increasingly out of touch with the rhythm and blues that are moving their constituents and congregants on these issues".
For how much longer can bishops, in the US or elsewhere, get away with claiming to speak for "Catholics" on such matters (or, in the Philippines), it is patently obvious that they are not speaking of the real beliefs or real Catholics, but only for Vatican doctrine and the rule book Catholics who would prefer to get their ideas from a moral manual, without personal thought or reflection?

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Seeking Gay Parents, Dispels Myths

A Welsh children's charity, Barnardo's,  is actively seeking gay and lesbian prospective parents, in yet another demonstration that those in the know, the professional experts working in the field, recognize that parenting ability has nothing at all to do with gender or sexual orientation.   What matters far more, is the quality of love and the emotional stability of the home. Abundant scientific research has amassed reams of evidence, frequently disseminated by the professionals, and other agencies before this one have likewise made the same plea for more queer applicants - but the myths, freely promoted by ignorant Catholic spokesmen, still survive.
The resulting prejudice is one of the factors that discourages some potential prospective parents from applying. This is in direct conflict with the interests of the children, which the Church falsely claims to be promoting. The best interests of the children, the professionals know, lies in admitting the largest possible pool of applicants, irrespective of orientation, so that each child may be matched with the best possible parents. At present, there are an estimated 64,000 children in the care system in England: one quarter of whom will never find a family.  Excluding same-sex couples even from consideration as adoptive parents, as the Catholic bishops would like to do, cannot possibly improve the chances of that 25%, and could lead to some of the others being placed with parents who are possibly not necessarily the most suitable just the best suited heterosexuals.

Queer Families at Gay Pride, Rome
Fortunately, British law recognizes the facts, and does not allow agencies to practice discrimination. Now, we need to ensure that public opinion catches up with the facts, to eliminate the continued self-exclusion by some gay couples, who might otherwise to offer their help to children in real need. The tragedy here is that some Catholic agencies, rather than filling their obligation to do the best for the children, have simply stopped finding homes for children at all.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Pope Benedict's Strong Argument for Gay Marriage, Queer Families.

Last Sunday, I picked up a little book at the Soho Masses bookstall called "Christians and Sexuality in the Time of AIDS", a useful little book, which I bought at a ridiculously low bargain price. Some of the insights have little to do directly with the main theme, and it is one of these that is relevant here, an observation made by James Alison in his introduction, writing about Pope Benedict XVI and the nature of his theology.  James has frequently observed that when we respond too quickly or too superficially to the pope's reported remarks, we often underestimate his thinking, which is substantially more nuanced than we usually recognize. In his position, he argues, Benedict cannot do other than repeat the well-worn, established magisterial positions on topical issues.

The really interesting questions surrounding what a pope is doing are never the politically immediate headline grabbers, but always the small, apparently insignificant tinkerings around the edges which are either going to make change possible over time, or try to block it.
When I read these words, they brought into focus for me the speech that Benedict  gave to a group of Italian politicians and public officials last Friday, which has been widely interpreted as an attack on gay marriage. This is not the way I interpreted the speech: instead, I wrote (in the post below) that the reference to "marriage between a man and a woman", and to the forces undermining it, were curiously minor. The main thrust of the speech was more usefully seen as in praise of strong families - which could equally well apply to the families of same sex parents as to any other.   After reading James Alison, I thought how perfectly his warning applies to the present case: well, of course he made the obligatory noises about marriage between a man and a woman (how could he not?) - but the headline writers have missed the main points. With just a little "apparently insignificant tinkerings around the edges", this attack on gay marriage can instead be read as a statement in praise of all families - including those which are queer. 

I submit my original post below, just as I wrote it Sunday -- with profound apologies to my colleague Bart, who very generously responded to my request for preliminary comment with some very useful and helpful suggestions, which I have duly ignored. This is not in any way a reflection on his contribution - but just on my acute lack of time this week.  (I am writing this close to midnight, as it is). I will revise and refine this text later, to incorporate the additional links, Bart's contribution - and possibly later thought as well (both my own and that of readers' comments).

Civil Unions for Colorado?

Two Colorado legislators are preparing to introduce civil union legislation to the State Senate and State House. With an increasing number of GOP politicians nationwide willing to break with the party on social issues, and specifically on LGBT equality, this could just be one where enough Republican support can be found to tip the balance in our favour (New York could be another).

Hemmed in by state anti-gay marriage law, Steadman to introduce civil unions bill

Denver Democratic state Senator Pat Steadman is sponsoring a bill that would make same-sex civil unions legal in Colorado. The move is being cheered as long overdue by gay rights supporters, who have been stymied in efforts to win equality by a constitutional amendment that outlaws gay marriage in the state. In weighing whether or not to introduce the legislation this summer, Steadman told the Colorado Independent that “promoting a lesser status for gay people is not ideal” but that, in the short term, “people could really benefit from civil unions.”
Steadman’s bill, which will be sponsored by Denver Rep. Mark Ferrandino in the House, will confer on couples entering into a civil union all of the legal rights granted through marriage– rights that include, for example, inheriting property, sharing health insurance policies, making crucial end-of-life medical and financial decisions.
These aren’t just protections couples share with one another, they’re also family responsibilities, Brad Clark, head of gay rights group OneColorado, told the Colorado Independent. “There are literally hundreds or even thousands of instances of rights shared by couples littered throughout the state code.”
In a release, OneColorado reported that the Strong Families Coalition supporting Steadman’s bill is made up of 66 organizations representing more than half a million Coloradans.
OneColorado has been surveying residents of the state for roughly a year on gay rights and larger equality issues, and Clark said that the campaign around Steadman’s bill will be focused on demonstrating grassroots support. He said views in Colorado on the ground seem to have changed a great deal since anti-gay marriage Amendment 43 passed in 2006. He said support for civil unions comes not just from liberal Denver and Boulder but from communities all across the state.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Civil Unions Now Imminent in Hawaii

The Hawaii state Senate yesterday approved civil unions legislation for the state. Approval by the state House, which last year passed similar legislation before it was vetoed by GOP Governor Lingle, is surely just a a formality. The new governor, Democrat Neil Abercrombie, has already promised to sign the legislation when (no longer if) it reaches his desk. Near-marriage, marriage in all but name, is on the way in Hawaii.

In my mind, only three questions remain:
  • When will the new legislation take effect? How long will it be before Hawaii's same-sex couples will be able to tie the knot, and have their unions recognized by the state?
  • Which will be the next state to follow suit?
  • How long must we wait for "near-marriage" to  become full marriage equality, including the name?
From NECN:

Hawaii Senate approves same-sex civil unions

HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii Senate on Friday overwhelmingly approved civil unions for same-sex couples, a major step toward the proposal becoming law. 
The state Senate voted 19-6 for the bill, which now goes to the state House of Representatives, where a nearly identical measure passed last year before it was vetoed by then-Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican.

Friday, 28 January 2011

New Yorkers Want Marriage Equality (Poll Shows Strongest Support Yet)

Even though New York Democrats lost control of the State Senate last November, the prospects for a bill providing for full marriage equality this year look brighter than ever - senators will know that in both parties, some of the most outspoken opponents lost their re-election bids (almost unheard of in state politics) and will not want to go the same way. Undoubtedly, some of those who voted against the last gay marriage bill will change their votes the next time around - we just don't know how many. For the waverers, this CBS6 Albany report of a new poll from  (highly reputable) Quinnipiac Research could help to sway them. Note that support for equality is strong in all geographic regions (suburban, NYC, and Upstate), and that 41% of Republican voters are also supportive. Note also that the gap between support and opposition has doubled in just 18 months, going from 10% in June 2009 to 21% this month.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Civil Unions Advance, Hawaii

Hot on the heels of the gay marriage bills which have been introduced this month in Rhode Island and Maryland, a measure providing for near-marriage has passed a key stage in Hawaii.  This is not yet full marriage, but as the opponents recognize, it is pretty close to marriage in all but name, and is surely just a staging post on the road to full equality. It's a long road, but civil unions in Hawaii will be an important landmark along the way.

Civil unions in Hawaii pass crucial first vote

A bill creating same-sex civil unions in Hawaii cleared a major hurdle Tuesday when it was narrowly approved by a key state Senate committee.
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the legislation with a 3-2 vote following 2½ hours of passionate testimony from opponents wearing white shirts with buttons declaring "civil unions equals same-sex marriage" and supporters bearing rainbow lei.
"This is a matter of civil rights. We would no longer feel that we're second-class citizens," testified Gary Okabayashi of Honolulu, who has been in a relationship with his partner for 32 years. "We would have a sense of pride and integrity because the state has finally recognized us as equal."
Democrats, who control the Hawaii Legislature, said they plan to pass the bill quickly and send it to new Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat who supports civil unions.
The bill is nearly identical to a measure that passed the Legislature last year before it was vetoed by Republican Gov. Linda Lingle. 
It would grant both same-sex and opposite-sex couples the ability to enter into a civil union with the same state rights, benefits and responsibilities as marriage.
Advocates of civil unions said November's elections showed that voters supported candidates who backed equal rights for gay and lesbian couples. Only one incumbent state legislator who backed civil unions lost re-election.
Opponents said legal recognition of gay partnerships would put the state on a path toward same-sex marriage.
Read more at NECN

Marriage Equality Gaining Ground in Maryland.

The movement to marriage equality continues to show progress in Maryland. As lawmakers in the Maryland House and Senate formally kicked off their push for gay marriage, a new poll has shown that for the first time, an absolute majority of Marylanders now support full marriage equality.

According to Annapolis-based pollster Gonzales Research, 51 percent of Maryland residents support gay marriage. Endorsements break down along party lines, with 65 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents favoring same-sex marriage, while only 24 percent of Republicans back the concept. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

The steady growth in Maryland for acceptance of equality matches the trend nationally and internationally. Speaking of the US,

Tim Magrath, a lecturer in political science at Frostburg State University and a former congressional staffer, agrees that the national attitude toward same-sex marriage is changing.

"The polling data's been incredible, the numbers have completely turned around," said Magrath. "In the '90s when (President) Clinton first started talking about gays in the military, the approval rating was in the 30s, but now a vast majority of people support the idea of gays in the military."

"Public perception on marriage has been transformed in the last decade as well, and there's been a major transformation in public opinion," said Magrath.
The bill which is now being introduced will face strong opposition and a likely filibuster. Still, it has an excellent chance of being passed, after the mid-term elections saw an increased number of key supporters elected to the state legislature. Governor O'Malley has promised to sign the bill if it reaches his desk - but it will probably then face an attempt to force the issue into a voter referendum.

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Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Gay Marriage - Moscow?

Lobbying and legal challenges in pursuit of gay marriage are cropping up regularly in all parts of the world - some of them unexpected and unlikely. These include the coming of full family equality in Argentina last year, and the progression to equality by legislative means currently underway in Nepal and Albania. Lobbying activity is being reported from the rest of South America and Serbia. On the legal front, a Russian lesbian couple has turned to the courts for ensure legal recognition for their marriage: < style="font: normal normal normal 140%/normal Georgia, serif; line-height: 26px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-top: 0px; text-align: justify;">  <

Gay Marriage Suit Filed

The European Court of Human Rights has accepted a lawsuit by a Russian lesbian couple who challenged authorities’ refusal to register their marriage, Interfax reported Tuesday.
Irina Fet and Irina Shipitko have married in Canada, with the Russian Embassy approving their marriage certificate. But a Moscow registry office refused to register the marriage, and courts upheld this decision in 2009, prompting the couple to file a suit in the Strasbourg court, gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev said.
Fet and Shipitko will probably have to wait several years before their lawsuit is reviewed, Alexeyev said.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Expert View on Gay Adoption: Beneficiaries are the Children.

Opponents of LGBT adoption regularly argue (correctly) that this is not a matter of gay/lesbian rights, but of the best interests of the children. Where they go wrong, is in making the false assumption that the best interests of the children involve excluding from consideration otherwise excellent potential parents who happen to have a homosexual orientation. At San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, Bryan Moore has a great interview with the adoption professional Adam Pertman, who sets corrects some common misrepresentations.

My favourite statement is his simple and direct response to the claims that LGBT people are somehow unfit for parenthood:
Those claims are made by people who are either uninformed or homophobic.
The important stuff though is not the one-line dismissal, but the substantive argument. Gay adoption is important, because it is in the best interests of the children.

The principle benefits are for children.

The fact is, there are lots of lesbian and gay people who want to give homes to children, so the real victims when that isn’t allowed to happen are the kids who wind up in temporary or group care or some other less advantageous situation. Yes, we should be working for equal rights for all, but the bottom line is, we’re here for the kids.

He takes care to note that "of course" LGBT equality is important, but later throws in important consideration, referring in passing to "qualified" potential parents. We as LGBT activists must always remember that no adult, gay, straight or trans, has any "right" to adopt, but only a right to be considered. All prospective parents are screened for a range of important considerations, and only those that meet the requirements may be approved. LGBT equality does not require an automatic right to adopt - simply that sexual orientation should not be seen as a reason to exclude candidate parents from further consideration.

Perhaps the most encouraging feature of his remarks is the observation that the numbers of openly gay or lesbian parents who are adopting is increasing steadily and rapidly. As the numbers increase, so the rest of the population becomes more familiar with family diversity - and in this case, familiarity breeds not contempt, but acceptance. Children are growing up with friends who have two moms or two dads. Parents from more traditional families are adapting to families of their offspring's playmates,  just as earlier generations of parents adapted to friends with single parents - or to friends of different ethnic backgrounds.

Gay adoption is here to stay - and will contribute to increasing public acceptance of LGBT equality more generally - as well as improving the chances that children will be placed with the best possible among all qualified potential parents.

(Adam Pertman is executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a national nonprofit that is the pre-eminent research, policy and education organization in its field. He is also the author of Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution Is Transforming America.. Pertman sat down with dot429 to discuss LGBT adoption, explaining the progress and the trials and tribulations. Read the full interview at SDGLN)
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Thursday, 13 January 2011

Marriage Equality Safe in New Hampshire.

After the Republicans took control of the NH state assembly last November, there were some fears that they would attempt to repeal the marriage equality legislation which was enacted in 2009. However, the state GOP leadership has announced that this is not on their agenda "for this year". Same sex marriage is safe - for now. 

What about next year? Will the issue then appear on the agenda? Well, no. The GOP won't like to admit it, but in every jurisdiction where legal provision has been made for same sex marriage, the population has found that surprise- the sky has not fallen in, their own marriages have not been threatened, and life goes on as before - except for some businesses people, who find that they benefit from increased wedding and tourism customers. Living with the facts of gay marriage, and not the imaginary threats, quickly reduces the opposition.  

Even next year, the GOP are unlikely to take up the repeal of gay marriage. If they attempt it, they will find that not all their legislators will co-operate. An increasing number of Republicans are seeing that there is a conservative case for gay marriage,and against interfering in the bedrooms of citizens. I think we can safely say that marriage equality is safe in New Hampshire - period.

From the Washington Post
Gay marriage repeal not on NH GOP agenda this year
CONCORD, N.H. -- Republicans who control the New Hampshire House have decided that repealing the state's gay marriage law won't be on their agenda this year.
House Republican Leader D.J. Bettencourt confirmed to The Associated Press on Wednesday that jobs and the economy will be the top priorities on an agenda to be announced Thursday. Bettencourt says there's widespread agreement that social issues will have to take a back seat.
Gay marriage was enacted in 2009 when Democrats controlled the Legislature. Democratic Gov. John Lynch signed the law and has since said he would veto any repeal attempt.
Conservatives were hoping for enough votes for both a repeal and veto override after voters in November gave Republicans control of the Legislature. Lynch defeated a Republican challenger who opposed gay marriage, despite ads run by national groups criticizing his decision to sign the bill.

"Religious Freedom" does not include the right to discriminate - Canadian Court

In Canada, gay marriage has been part of the law since 2004 - but some marriage officers still attempt to avoid conducting them, on the basis that it is against their religious freedom. In Saskatchewan, the state parliament has attempted to build this into state law, with explicit provision for officials to recuse themselves on religious grounds. The state supreme court has ruled this out of order.

In its decision, released Monday, the court said both of the proposed laws -- allowing an exemption for all marriage commissioners or just for those who were commissioners at the time gay marriage was legalized in 2004 -- would be unconstitutional. If enacted, such a law would violate the equality rights of gay and lesbian individuals and would not be a reasonable and justifiable breach of those rights, the court said.
Read more   - Vancouver Sun 

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Marriage Equality Advances in Maryland.

It seems increasingly likely, as I predicted last year, that Maryland will join Rhode Island as the next US states to  approve legislation to recognise same-sex marriage.

From CNN:

Maryland is poised to become the sixth state to recognize same-sex marriage as proponents say they believe they have enough support to pass such a measure in the upcoming legislative session.
The expansion of gay rights appears to have gained significant traction as Maryland's General Assembly begins its 90-day session Wednesday. Not only are Democrats optimistic about their chances of approving same-sex marriage, but a leading Republican, sensing momentum on the issue, has instead countered with a proposal to grant civil unions to gay couples.
Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley has publicly stated that he would sign a marriage bill into law. Maryland then would join Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C., in sanctioning same-sex marriages.
Maryland has been inching toward granting greater rights and protections for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Last year Democratic state Attorney General Doug Gansler offered a legal opinion recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. "We've been marching in this direction for a while now," said Democratic state Delegate Heather Mizeur.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Nepal introduces transgender census category

KATHMANDU — Nepal's national census will include a new category for transgender people when counting begins in May, the government said Sunday, in a move welcomed by equality activists.
"Earlier, we had only two categories, men and women. But in the upcoming census, we are including a 'third gender' category," said Bikash Bista, director of the Central Bureau of Statistics in Kathmandu.
Two years ago, the Supreme Court in Nepal ordered the government to enact laws to guarantee the rights of transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual people.
Bista said the court's ruling prompted the new category, though Nepal remains a deeply conservative country.
"We will send supervisors to each household and get the figures of the household, its members and their gender. This is when we count the number of transgenders," he said.
Sunil Babu Panta, Nepal's first openly gay parliamentarian, who runs the Blue Diamond Society pressure group, said that the transgender community was delighted by the decision.
"This shows that the government has started to recognise them. I hope this will help to ensure their rights," he said.
"But challenges remain for the community as they have often been forced to leave their villages and taken refuge in cities due to discrimination."
Nepal plans to complete the census, which takes place every ten years, in two months. About 28 million people live in the mountainous country.
India will also have a transgender category in its 2011 census, the domestic Press Trust of India news agency reported on Sunday, though no government spokesman was able to confirm the plan.

from AFP

Sunday, 9 January 2011

"Gay marriage isn't revolutionary. It's just next." - WaPost

By Stephanie Coontz
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Opponents of same-sex marriage worry that allowing two men or two women to wed would radically transform a time-honored institution. But they're way too late on that front. Marriage has already been radically transformed - in a way that makes gay marriage not only inevitable, as Vice President Biden described it in an interview late last year, but also quite logical.

We are near the end of a two-stage revolution in the social understanding and legal definition of marriage. This revolution has overturned the most traditional functions of the institution: to reinforce differences in wealth and power and to establish distinct and unequal roles for men and women under the law.

For millennia, marriage was about property and power rather than love. Parents arranged their children's unions to expand the family labor force, gain well-connected in-laws and seal business deals. Sometimes, to consolidate inheritances, parents prevented their younger children from marrying at all. For many people, marriage was an unavoidable duty. For others, it was a privilege, not a right. Often, servants, slaves and paupers were forbidden to wed.

But a little more than two centuries ago, people began to believe that they had a right to choose their partners on the basis of love rather than having their marriages arranged to suit the interests of parents or the state.

Love, not money, became the main reason for getting married, and more liberal divorce laws logically followed. After all, people reasoned, if love is gone, why persist in the marriage? Divorce rates rose steadily from the 1850s through the 1950s, long before the surge that initially accompanied the broad entry of women into the workforce.

Read more at the Washington Post, Jan 9th 2011

Friday, 7 January 2011

Bills to legalize gay marriage introduced in R.I. House, Senate - ProvidenceJournal

With the introduction on Thursday of same-sex marriage bills in the House and Senate, the battle now begins.
In the House, Rep. Arthur Handy, D-Cranston, introduced his annual bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Rhode Island. The 29 lawmakers cosigning the bill include House Speaker Gordon D. Fox.
As she introduced similar legislation in the Senate, Sen. Rhoda Perry, D-Providence, said she hoped it would get a hearing and vote early in the legislative session.
A mirror of Handy’s bill, it legalizes “civil marriage” between people of the same gender to marry, while specifying that no religious institution would be required to marry same-sex couples if it goes against its teachings.

“We want to get it going early on,” she said. “We want to have debate and a hearing, and we do not want to wait until the end of the year.”
The legislation has strong support in the House, where Fox, who is openly gay, has also expressed his desire for an early vote.
Read more at Providence Journal