Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Gay Marriage Updates

The link above is to Lambda Legal, a non-profit legal assistance organization for gay and lesbian civil rights issues. Their website is a good place for information on many legal issues affecting the gay community, and has lots of useful materials for legal researchers, including briefs, complaints and decisions in the many suits filed by Lambda on the various issues: gay marriage, discrimination in employment, in school settings and military recruitment bias. There are lots and lots of good resources at this site.

They do not include all information, however. New Hampshire's House voted 207 - 125 against a proposed amendment to the state's constitution that would define marriage as the union of one woman and one man. See the story from the AP here.

State law does not permit gays and lesbians to marry in New Hampshire, nor does the state recognize marriages and civil unions performed out of state.

But supporters of the amendment insisted it was needed to prevent the courts from forcing a decision, as happened in Vermont and Massachusetts. Gay-marriage supporters had said no such lawsuits were planned in New Hampshire


The Lambda site also does not seem to refer to the news about Connecticut lawsuit by eight gay couples here.

Jeffrey Busch and Stephen Davis of Wilton say the civil union that gives them the same legal rights as married couples in Connecticut also makes them feel inferior to heterosexuals.

Busch and Davis were among eight couples Tuesday challenging the state's ban on gay marriage in Superior Court.

A bill that last year legalized civil unions but defined marriage as only between a man and a woman "is nothing less than the government's announcement that these are second-class citizens," Ben Klein, a senior attorney for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, told Judge Patty Jenkins Pittman.

GLAD, which used a similar argument to win gay marriage in Massachusetts, filed suit on behalf of the couples in 2004.

Similar lawsuits are pending in several other states. In January, a Baltimore judge ruled that a law against gay marriage violates the Maryland Constitution's guarantee of equal rights.

The Connecticut couples are not challenging the civil union law, but say the state's refusal to issue the same marriage licenses to gay and heterosexual couples is unconstitutional.

Assistant Attorney General Jane Rosenberg defended that refusal, arguing that there is no fundamental right to marry under Connecticut law and that marriage has traditionally been defined as between a man and a woman.

"What the plaintiffs are apparently seeking is for Connecticut to change the definition of marriage itself," she said.

She said it was reasonable for the state to create civil unions to give gay couples the legal rights of marriage while also dealing with administrative issues, such as federal Medicaid and Medicare programs, which do not recognize gay marriage.

Jenkins Pittman said she is struggling with whether giving gay couples the same legal rights as heterosexual couples but calling them something different is so harmful that it requires a court remedy.

Klein argued that the word marriage carries such weight in society that denying it to same-sex couples is harmful. He also argued that it is important for gay couples to be able to say they are married when they travel to other states and want to, for instance, visit their partners in the hospital.

"Marriage is privileged legal, cultural and social status," he said.

Jenkins Pittman also asked Rosenberg whether Connecticut's law preventing same-sex couples from marrying is any different from a Virginia law that prevented interracial couples from marrying until it was declared unconstitutional.

Rosenberg said the difference is that race is not an essential part of marriage but that the gender of the participants is.

Jenkins Pittman said she expects whoever loses to appeal. A spokeswoman for GLAD said the case will likely end up before the state Supreme Court in about a year.

GLAD, the organization assisting in the Connecticut case (and that assisted in the Goodridge case as well), has a helpful website, too, with briefs and other materials mounted here.


There is a Kansas church group that attends the funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq, demonstrating to show that the soldiers were struck down by God as punishment because this country tolerates homosexuality... Here is the latest:

-A Kansas-based church that has disrupted the funerals of U.S. soldiers in other states will be barred from the grounds of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School [in Maine] during the funeral Saturday of a soldier from Norway,[Maine] who was killed in Iraq.

The Westboro Baptist Church, of Topeka, Kan., said it plans to send delegates to Sgt. Corey Dan's funeral to express its belief that American soldiers are being struck down by God as retribution for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

The superintendent of SAD 17 said that if the protesters want to demonstrate, they will have to do so off school property.

"We do not have an open forum that allows open demonstration and there's no provision for that," Mark Eastman said. "If (the protesters) want to demonstrate, they have to demonstrate off school property."

Local police departments were prepared to keep order Saturday in the event the protesters show up, Paris Police Chief David Verrier said.

"We'll have a strong show of force," said Verrier, noting that Oxford and Norway officers would also be present. The Oxford County Sheriff's Department agreed to provide deputies, if necessary.

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a national motorcycle riders' group formed in response to the church's demonstrations at soldier funerals, received an invitation to the service from Dan's family and planned to attend.

"We're expecting at least 30 motorcycles," said Asha Lamy of Naples, a ride captain in Maine. She said members of other other motorcycle clubs, including the Maine and New Hampshire chapters of Vietnam Veterans, expected to show up.

Dan, a 22-year-old Oxford Hills graduate, was killed March 13 when his Humvee was attacked by a roadside bomb and small arms fire while he was serving with the 101st Airborne Division.

Dan had planned to become a police officer after he got out of the service. A scholarship fund has been established in his memory to benefit an Oxford Hills senior seeking to pursue a career in law enforcement.

March 25 update to this story says the funeral went of quietly. Apparently the protesters failed to show up. Corey Dan was laid to rest without any incident.

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