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Archive for April 2009

Legalization of gay marriage – a tipping point in American culture ?

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Legalization of gay marriage — through court action in Iowa and a state house vote in Vermont — will be the “tipping point” for civil unions in Illinois, Chicago’s first openly-gay alderman predicted .

Iowa, as gay marriage backers like to point out, is not a liberal, coastal state like Massachusetts and Connecticut – the two states that already offer legal gay marriage – or California, where the narrow passage of a ballot initiative banning gay marriage last year galvanized the gay rights movement.

It is, instead, a Midwestern state in what is commonly called “the heartland” – an area of America thought to be more reticent to warm to liberal ideas, particularly when it comes to social issues. That’s why Richard Socarides, a former adviser on gay rights to President Clinton, argued that the decision “represents the mainstreaming of gay marriage” – it’s not just for the “tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving left” anymore.

“As Iowa goes, so goes the nation,” he added.

“I’m applauding what’s happening. I would never have believed that it would happen in my lifetime. But the American public is now understanding that gays and lesbians need the same protections as married couples,” said Ald. Tom Tunney (44th).

“We’re seeing a tipping point in terms of societal acceptance of civil marriages. …The whole religious component is separate and private. But the institution of marriage is a civil agreement.”

However, most Americans do not support gay marriage: According to the latest CBS News poll on the topic, just one in three back full marriage rights for same-sex couples. Another 27 percent support civil unions, while 35 percent want no legal recognition at all.

Those numbers, however, have been moving, and not in the direction gay marriage opponents might like. In 2004, just 22 percent supported gay marriage – which means that there has been a nine-point increase in five years. And even the most optimistic gay marriage advocate would have been hard pressed, 15 years ago, to predict that 33 percent of Americans would be backing gay marriage by 2009.

In fact, the demographics suggest that support for gay marriage will only increase: Opposition comes largely from those 65 and older, just 18 percent of whom support gay marriage. Younger people – those 18 to 45 – are far more supportive, with 41 percent backing allowing same sex couples to marry.

Earlier this week, Vermont became the first state in the nation to legalize gay marriage through a vote by the state legislature. The groundbreaking action came just four days after a decision by the Iowa Supreme Court authorized gay marriages there.

A bill authorizing civil unions is now pending in the Illinois House.

“It’s gonna be a great battle, like it was in Vermont and it will be in New York. But, it’s gonna happen sooner than later” in Illinois, Ald. Tom Tunney said.

At the city level, Tunney said he plans to introduce an ordinance at the April 22 City Council meeting extending the three-day bereavement leave available upon the death of a registered domestic partner to the death of a member of the partner’s family.

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April 13, 2009 at 6:42 am

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Iowa Court : same-sex marriage ban violates the constitutional rights of gay couples

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Same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in Iowa by month’s end, after a ruling on Friday by the Iowa Supreme Court that found unconstitutional a state law limiting marriage to a man and a woman.

The Iowa Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling Friday finding that the state’s same-sex marriage ban violates the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian couples, making Iowa the third state where marriage will be legal.

Iowa joins only Massachusetts and Connecticut in permitting same-sex marriage. For six months last year, California’s high court allowed gay marriage before voters banned it in November.

The county attorney who defended the law said he would not seek a rehearing. The only recourse for opponents appeared to be a constitutional amendment, which could take years to ratify.

“We are firmly convinced that the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective,” the court said in an opinion written by Justice Mark Cady. “The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification.”

Iowa lawmakers have “excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification.”

To issue any other decision, the justices said, “would be an abdication of our constitutional duty.”

The Iowa attorney general’s office said gay and lesbian couples can seek marriage licenses starting April 24, once the ruling is considered final.

“Iowa is about justice, and that’s what happened here today,” said Laura Fefchak, who was hosting a verdict party in the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale with partner of 13 years, Nancy Robinson.

Robinson added: “To tell the truth, I didn’t think I’d see this day.”

Richard Socarides, an attorney and former senior adviser on gay rights to President Clinton, said the ruling carries extra significance coming from Iowa.

“It’s a big win because, coming from Iowa, it represents the mainstreaming of gay marriage. And it shows that despite attempts stop gay marriage through right wing ballot initiatives, like in California, the courts will continue to support the case for equal rights for gays,” he said.

Jason Morgan, 38, said he and his partner, Chuck Swaggerty, adopted two sons, confronted the death of Swaggerty’s mother and endured a four-year legal battle as plaintiffs.

“If being together though all of that isn’t love and commitment or isn’t family or marriage, then I don’t know what is,” Morgan said. “We are very happy with the decision today and very proud to live in Iowa.”

Court rules dictate that the decision will take about 21 days to be considered final, and a request for a rehearing could be filed within that period. But Polk County Attorney John Sarcone said the county attorney’s office will not ask for a rehearing or appeal the matter to the federal courts.

“This was never anything personal,” Sarcone said. “We have a responsibility to defend the recorder. We defended the statute, and we had a fair and full hearing in the district court and the supreme court. Everything was done with dignity.”

Opponents have long argued that allowing gay marriage would erode the institution. Some Iowa lawmakers, mostly Republicans, attempted last year to launch a constitutional amendment to specifically prohibit same-sex marriage.

Such a change would require approval in consecutive legislative sessions and a public vote, which means a ban could not be put in place until at least 2012 — unless lawmakers take up the issue in the next few weeks.

“If you’ll remember when we proposed the Iowa marriage amendment, the Democrats’ excuse for not taking it up was that it was in the hands of the Iowa Supreme Court,” Senate Republican leader Paul McKinley of Chariton said Friday. “It was implied that should they find against traditional marriage, that the Legislature would handle that. I would certainly hope they’ll keep their promise.”

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April 4, 2009 at 8:03 am

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Controversial lesbian kiss in “Home And Away”

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The long-running Australian soap opera Home and Away has become embroiled in a row over its decision to screen footage of a lesbian kiss.

Since the lesbian story-line began two weeks ago, 100,000 viewers have turned off and complaints have been flooding in. The decision was taken to play down the scene after complaints from conservative lobby groups in media reports were followed by complaints from viewers. Producers were forced to cut some of the more intimate close-up images of policewoman Charlie Buckton and deckhand Joey Collins sharing a passionate kiss after dancing together on a boat. Some mothers contacted the network to say they didn’t want their children exposed to same-sex relationships in a family show. Home and Away is screened at 7pm and is rated PG.

Gay and lesbian groups staged protests against the show after rumours emerged that scenes featuring the lesbian kiss had been cut because some viewers had complained.

However, the same-sex kiss between cop Charlie Buckton and deckhand Joey Collins in Australian soap Home and Away aired on Tuesday, despite rumors that the kiss would be cut.

Bevan Lee, Seven’s head of creative drama and development, told gay and lesbian website samesame.com.au two kisses were filmed. Home and Away bosses had decided to air the first, more gentle kiss, without the “more lusty” follow up because it fitted better with the storyline, he said.

“The kiss The Australian mentioned in their article is not the kiss that [screens] tonight – it is from an upcoming episode, where Charlie faces her feelings for Joey and they kiss. The kiss, as played, was two part. A very gentle, loving, sensual, tender kiss from which the two women pull back and then there’s another, more lusty follow up. There was a lot of discussion, artistic and not censorish, about where to finish the scene. We finally settled on the conclusion of the warmer, intimate kiss and not the more lusty follow through because we felt it was more in keeping with Charlie getting there by degrees rather than one kiss making her comfortable straight away with the full on pash.”

“I think the version that airs is much truer to the tone of the build up to the moment over the last few weeks. The decision taken was artistic and had nothing to do with running from the conservative right. This work was done before the article about the lesbian story and conservative reaction to it even broke in the Herald Sun and on Today Tonight.”

“The thing that saddens me, as a gay writer, is that a beautiful six week story has been reduced to a facile argument about six missing seconds of screen time and that the bulk of the commentators, both conservative and liberal, are making pronouncements on story material they know nothing of. We long for the day when we can run a story like this and they can just play in the context of the show.”

Actor Esther Anderson had said she had no problem with the scene.

“You learn pretty much everything at school,” she said. “I don’t think it’s like I’m lifting the lid on something they don’t already know about.

“To me there’s no difference – love’s love. The fact that your partner’s the same sex is no different. You just want to be loved.”

Media commentator David Knox from the TV Tonight website said the PG classification allowed for adult themes with limitations and did not discriminate between gay and straight content.

“It’s sad that in 2009 a kiss is considered more threatening to advertisers and family values than stalkers, serial killers and kidnappers, all of which sustain Summer Bay story-lines on a regular basis,” Knox said.

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April 2, 2009 at 5:20 pm

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