Friday, July 31, 2009

Wisconsin Domestic partner registry starts Monday; Referendum 71 update for Wasington

On Monday, County Clerks across the State of Wisconsin will begin issuing "Applications for Declaration of Domestic Partnerships." Couples will also have to file with the state Register of Deeds.

In order to qualify for the registry people must be 18 years of age of older and of the same sex. They must be living together for at least 30 Days. Couples applying must also provide a certified copy of their birth certificate, a photo identification and their social security number. They must also pay an application fee, which varies by county.

While the registry is set to go into effect, some say it is unconsti
tutional (naturally....I doubt anyone is surprised by this).

Wisconsin Family Action has asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to invalidate the registry, saying it violates the state constitution's ban on gay marriage and civil unions passed in 2006. The court has not said whether it will take the case.

Registering means same-sex couples will receive 43 benefits under state law -- including the right to hospital visits, end of life decisions, and not having to testify against his or her partner in civil court.

This however, provides some benefits and is a start for LGBTI people in Wisconsin! Continue to help us fight here in Kentucky and sign Kentucky Equality Federation and Marriage Equality Kentucky's Marriage Declaration:

Washington's Referendum 71

Social conservatives who organized the Referendum 71 challenge to domestic-partnership rights for same-sex couples turned in fewer signatures than initially thought.

The Office of the Secretary of State for the State of Washington said the actual number is 137,689, about 800 fewer than the 138,500 estimated at Saturday’s turn-in of signatures by the Protect Marriage Washington campaign, which is led by Christian faith groups.

The signature total is 14 percent more than the 120,577 valid signatures needed for the issue to qualify for the Nov. 3 ballot.

Signature checking begins today and could take several days.

Friday, July 24, 2009

City of San Francisco wants to redefine U.S. lawsuit on Prop 8; California Attorney General's Office remains silent

The city of San Francisco (many of our young readers do not understand that cities, counties, parishes, townships, and boroughs are political subdivisions of a state, and subordinate to the state; a state however is sovereign, but shares joint sovereignty with the federal government as outlined in the U.S. Constitution), asked a judge Thursday for permission to intervene in the federal lawsuit challenging California's ban on same-sex marriage, a request that may intensify the battle for control of the high-stakes litigation.

The leader of an organization that filed the suit against Proposition 8 has already accused established gay-rights groups of trying to undermine the case and promised to oppose their attempt to intervene. San Francisco raised the stakes Thursday by filing a similar motion with Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who has scheduled a hearing for Aug. 19.

The city would add "a unique local government perspective" to the case, along with its extensive legal experience in defending gay and lesbian rights, if allowed to intervene, City Attorney Dennis Herrera's office said in court papers.

The California Supreme Court upheld Prop. 8 in May as a state constitutional amendment overturning the court's year-old ruling that recognized same-sex marriage in California.

Several days before the latest ruling, Olson and Boies filed their federal suit, arguing that Prop. 8 violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection of the law.

Citing states' rights, opponents expect the lawsuit in U.S. District Court to fail since the California Supreme Court is the highest authority on internal affairs of the state.

Gay-rights advocates and the city of San Francisco, plaintiffs in the state court case against Prop. 8, had steered clear of federal issues that might have given the U.S. Supreme Court jurisdiction to rule unfavorably on same-sex marriage. Now that the dispute is in federal court, however, the state plaintiffs want to join the argument but redefine the case.

Rather than simply claiming a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, the city and the advocacy groups argue that Prop. 8, by taking rights away from gays and lesbians, is a discriminatory measure that violates federal equal rights standards, which the states ratified as an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The California Attorney General's Office (who fought to make gay marriage legal, then sued the state for violating the California Equality Clause when Prop 8 passed), has yet to comment on the city's request.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The time for Kentucky is now; ignore the "Oh Lord, Not Now!" movement!

When reading a blog post about why former Clinton White House advisor David Mixner doesn't want to wait until 2012 to challenge Prop 8 at the ballot, I realized that this applies to Kentucky's Constitution Section 223A, passed by Constitutional Amendment in 2004.

I completely agree with the observations made by Mixner, who has also been a civil rights activist and best-selling author for 50 years. It is easy to associate the Kentucky Equality Federation and Marriage Equality Kentucky online petition to overturn Kentucky's Constitutional Amendment to his remarks:

There is a new chapter within the LGBT civil rights movement that can only be described as the "Oh Lord, Not Now!" movement.

Flag These well meaning, hard-working and intelligent folks want a very neat time-lined, totally safe and predictable movement. One where, as a community, we do not publicly move until we are assured of victory. They don't want us to venture from a proscribed game plan that mostly originates out of a Washington-based political strategy to gain our freedom. They live in fear that we will move too quickly, make someone uncomfortable and put our political friends in a tough spot. Afraid to risk defeat, they believe we have to make everyone like us and be on our side. Most amazingly they seek the approval of others instead of insisting that others have to liberate themselves from their own long held myths in order to receive this marvelous gift that our community brings.

The cabal of powerful decision makers wants everything to be safe, clean and perfect before moving. Don't upset anyone, don't jump ahead of ourselves and most of all don't deviate from a well-laid plan that hopefully will eventually lead to victory. Every one of our allies has to be comfortable, the polls have to show us way ahead, and proof of victory has to be assured before trying anything new. The unpredictable grassroots could be destructive and create instability.

Sounds pretty good doesn't it? Except that it doesn't fit any model of success that I have seen in my near 50 years of organizing. In fact, my journey has proven to me that the unpredictable often is just the stimulus that movements need; victory often comes from an unplanned event that organizers could not have pulled off if they had worked years to do it. Most candidates would never be elected to office if they waited for their turn, had hard proof of victory and listened to the political pros. Our own current president is a perfect example of this fact.

Most historic movements are filled with grassroots moments that propel that movement to new heights. It could be a Rosa Parks who was just tired and didn't want to surrender her seat or the automobile workers who occupied their factories in the 1930's to the dismay of traditional labor leaders or a simple unplanned walk to the sea to get salt that appalled more traditional Indian liberation leaders.

Along the way, we are allowing even our allies to abuse language in order to slow down our fight for full equality and freedom. We have allowed them to avoid the word marriage out of fear we are being unreasonable by insisting on full rights through the civic institution. Our allies accommodatingly play with words like civil unions, domestic partnerships, significant others, same-sex alliance, etc in order to avoid that one word, that one institution that will get us closer to freedom than any other word....marriage. It is marriage that we want and marriage we should seek. Anything less plays into the system of Apartheid they are attempting to build. We are even afraid to use the word 'freedom' as if we are not deserving enough to own that word.

Sign the Kentucky Marriage Declaration today!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Marriage Equality Kentucky begins collecting pro-gay marriage signatures

Marriage Equality Kentucky is launching a campaign to collect signatures for marriage equality in Kentucky.

From the website:

The Marriage Equality Kentucky Marriage Declaration is a proclamation that marriage is a basic constitutional right that should be extended to all people. Currently, the Commonwealth of Kentucky will not recognize any type of same-sex union. Marriage, domestic partnerships, and civil unions are all illegal in Kentucky (even if performed in other countries or states).

In 2004*, voters in the Commonwealth approved Constitutional Amendment 233A. Visit the history page for additional information.
According to published reports, between 78.2% - 84% of Kentucky's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender population didn't even know a Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage was being voted on.

* Kentucky Equality Federation was started in 2005, and Marriage Equality Kentucky was launched in 2008.

Kentucky's Constitution does not allow citizens to propose Constitutional Amendments by direct action (as in California, Maine, and many others). In Kentucky, the House and Senate must approve the amendment and the citizens then approve or reject the amendment in the next general election.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Civil Rights Group Divided Over Gay Marriage - You either believe in liberty and equality for everyone, or no one..... end of story.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the 50-year-old civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others, is seeking to remove the president of its Los Angeles chapter, Rev. Eric P. Lee, in response to his support of same-sex marriage in California.

The effort by the Atlanta-based organization is meeting stiff resistance in Los Angeles from both the board of the local chapter, whose chairman is secretary of the state’s Democratic Party, and the City Council president.

Well, kudos to Rev. Eric P. Lee for realizing that you 'cannot have it both ways.' You either believe in liberty and equality for everyone, or no one..... end of story.

Let us not forget that only 45 years ago black and white people could not marry in most states. In 1967 (42 years ago), the United States Supreme Court struck down all "
Racial Integrity Acts," in Loving v. Commonwealth of Virginia, thereby overturning Pace v. State of Alabama (1883*) and ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.

* In 1883 the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that the State of Alabama's "Racial Integrity Act" statute was constitutional and legal; black and white people cannot marry. This ruling would stand until 1964 until McLaughlin v. State of Florida and in 1967 in Loving v. Commonwealth of Virginia.

Worse still, black and white people
even living together (without being married) often resulted in them being arrested for living "in a state of adultery or fornication" and being sentenced to prison terms that sometimes reached 10 years or more.

To sum things up, I quote Coretta Scott King, widow of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After her husband's assassination, she took on the leadership of the struggle for racial equality herself and became active in the Women's Movement, and an advocate for gay rights.

"Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood." - Coretta Scott King

The New York Times Reports More on this story:

While the Mormon Church raised a great deal of the money in support of the proposition, the role of African-American churches, and their voting parishioners, was not insignificant. The Edison/Mitofsky exit poll in California found that 70 percent of black voters backed the ban, which passed with 52 percent of the vote.

Mr. Lee said that his opposition to Proposition 8 had “created tension in my life I had never experienced with black clergy.”

“But it was clear to me,” he added, “that any time you deny one group of people the same right that other groups have, that is a clear violation of civil rights and I have to speak up on that.”

In April, Mr. Lee attended a board meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Kansas City, Mo., and found himself once again in the minority position among his colleagues on the issue of same-sex marriage, but he was told, he said, by the group’s interim president, Byron Clay, that the organization publicly had a neutral position on the issue.

So a month later, Mr. Lee said, he was surprised to receive a call from the National Board of Directors summoning him immediately to Atlanta to explain why he had taken a position on same-sex marriage without the authority of the national board.

“The black church played a significant role in Proposition 8 passing,” Mr. Lee said. “The failure of the campaign was to presume that African-Americans would see this as a civil rights issue.”

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Discrimination in Kentucky

Thursday, July 09, 2009

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) and the U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) oppose Michael Jackson resolution; Peter King (R-NY) says he was a pervert

One of Kentucky's Representative to the United States House of Representatives, John Yarmuth (D) walked out of the U.S. House chamber when the Congressional Black Caucus called for a moment of silence for Michael Jackson, saying he was "nauseated" by the reaction to Jackson's death.

New York's Peter T. King (R) a military veteran and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1993 went as far as to call Michael Jackson a "pervert."

Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D) announced during Michael Jackson's memorial service on Tuesday that she would introduce the resolution in the house. In her speech she pointed out that Jackson was acquitted on criminal charges of having sexually molested a child in 2005.

As you can see, the proposed resolution caused unease in the United States House, concerned about Michael's mixed legacy; despite his musical and dance brilliance, the singer remained mired in lawsuits of various hues during the last 15 years of his life.

Finally, the final word has perhaps been given by U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi who opposes such a resolution (U.S. House Resolution 600).

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has opposed proposed House Resolution 600 honoring Michael Jackson as a global humanitarian, saying a discussion on it would allow contrary views, not desirable at this time, to be expressed.

Pelosi said she doesn't "think it's necessary for us to have a resolution."

"What I have said to my colleagues over the years, and certainly as leader and as speaker, is that there's an opportunity on the floor of the House to express their sympathy or their praise any time that they wish," she said.

"A resolution, I think, would open up to contrary views to -- that are not necessary at this time to be expressed in association with a resolution whose purpose is quite different," she said.

Maine could become another California

Unlike the citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the citizens of Maine, New York, California, and several other states have the ability to veto legislation, or propose Constitutional Amendments by collecting signatures and forcing a statewide vote. In Kentucky, such Constitutional Amendments may only be passed by the Kentucky House and Senate and then placed to the people for a vote.

This protects us in many ways, and perhaps hurts us in others? However, California lost their same-sex marriage battle because of the way the California Constitution is written, and now the citizens of the State of Maine may suffer the same fate.

Over and over again, the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that domestic relations are a matter of state sovereignty. Per the U.S. Constitution, not even Congress can compel the states to violate its states' citizens state constitutional rights.

Will Maine be the next California because of their System of Government?
Well, organizers of a people's veto campaign to repeal Maine's new same-sex marriage law said today that they've gathered enough signatures to get the measure on the November ballot.

Supporters of same sex marriage say they're not surprised that opponents have apparently collected enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot in November. But Jesse Connolly of Maine Freedom to Marry says the group will continue to focus on educating voters.

But both sides agree that they expect the issue to be on the ballot in November and they expect a tough campaign. If enough signatures are validated, the law will be put on hold until voters decide its fate.


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Commonwealth of Massachusetts sues U.S. Government over DOMA; federal law violates states' rights

Only a few months after the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders complained about DOMA, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (the first to legalize gay marriage) sued the United States government today over a federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act interferes with the right of Massachusetts to define and regulate marriage as it sees fit, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said. The 1996 law denies federal recognition of gay marriage and gives states the right to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Boston, argues the act "constitutes an overreaching and discriminatory federal law."

Specifically, the lawsuit challenges the section of the law that creates a federal definition of marriage as limited to a union between one man and one woman.

Before the law was passed, Coakley said, the federal government recognized that defining marital status was the "exclusive prerogative of the states." Now, because of the U.S. law's definition of marriage, same-sex couples are denied access to benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including federal income tax credits, employment benefits, retirement benefits, health insurance coverage and Social Security payments.

"In enacting DOMA, Congress overstepped its authority, undermined states' efforts to recognize marriages between same-sex couples, and codified an animus towards gay and lesbian people." - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley

The Defense of Marriage Act was enacted when it appeared Hawaii would soon legalize same-sex marriages and opponents worried that other states would be forced to recognize them. It defines marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife" and defines "spouse" as "a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

Monday, July 06, 2009

University of the Cumberlands to receive $1.2 million in federal funds?

Apparently the University of the Cumberlands is receiving $1.2 million in federal funds. (more)

One funding request to the University of the Cumberlands is pending review by the Kentucky Supreme Court. Former Governor Fletcher (R) requested that Kentucky courts decide the legality of nearly $11 million dollars in state funding. Each ruling against the University receiving the funds has been appealed, leaving the Kentucky Supreme Court with the final word on the issue.

Kentucky Equality Federation worked with Kentucky Fairness Alliance in issuing action alerts which resulted in over 500 people opposing the funding to the Office of the Governor (all within a 24 hour time period). Christina Gilgor, former executive director of Kentucky Fairness Alliance filed a lawsuit against the Commonwealth to stop the funding the following day.

Last week the University of the Cumberlands rejected assistance from the Broadway Baptist Church because of their stance on homosexuality. (story)