poetics, time, body disruption and marginally queer solutions

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Countries open up to same-sex unions

Netherlands and Belgium embrace gay marriages and others are following the trend.

Only Canada, Belgium and the Netherlands allow same-sex couples to marry.

Although Canadians Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell were married in 2001, their union was not ruled legal until 2003, which is why the first same-sex marriage in the world occurred in the Netherlands April 1, 2001. Four gay couples were wed at midnight, converting their registered partnerships into marriage. Through 2003, 5,738 same-sex couples have married in the Netherlands, according to an article written by Kees Waaldijk, a Dutch legal scholar who helped the government formulate policy on gay marriage.

Belgium legalized gay marriage Jan. 30, 2003. South Africa, Cambodia and Sweden have announced plans to open up civil marriage laws to include all couples. And Spain is likely to be the next country to do so, according to Robert Wintemute, a scholar in the area of sexual orientation discrimination and a professor at the King's College School of Law in London.


The same-sex marriage argument that Justice Scalia fears
By Emily Bazelon  

WITH MASSACHUSETTS in the bag, gay marriage advocates are looking for their next victory. So far, the other states in the union haven't been easy sells -- to the contrary, their legislatures have been throwing up barricades in the form of proposed constitutional amendments preserving traditional nuptials. But if another state supreme court sneaks in a ruling in favor of gay marriage (suits are pending in New Jersey, New York, and Washington), is the Supreme Judicial Court's ruling likely to serve as an effective model?

The opinion in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health drew moral force from an historical analogy between gay marriage and interracial unions, but its legal analysis was simple. The four justices in the majority flatly said that Massachusetts had no rational basis for reserving marriage for opposite-sex couples.

There's another, stronger line of reasoning they could have used, however, one that's become a topic of intense conversation in law school circles in the past year and a half. It was developed by Pamela S. Karlan and William B. Rubenstein, law professors from Stanford and UCLA respectively, and it has a nickname: "rational basis-plus." Karlan and Rubenstein wanted to ease the way for the Supreme Court's moderates to expand equal protection law, both for gay rights and more generally. And even Justice Antonin Scalia, no friend of the concept, has signaled that their approach may be the smoothest path to winning gay marriage throughout the country.. . .

The basic question in cases like Goodridge is whether the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law means that gay couples have the same right to civil marriage that straight couples do. In federal court and in many state courts, equal protection cases are accorded one of two kinds of review. When people challenge a law that treats them differently because of their race, religion, or national origin, courts apply a "strict scrutiny" standard, meaning they give the law a close and skeptical look. Laws that treat people differently on the basis of gender get "intermediate scrutiny," which often amounts to the same thing.


Activists pound the pavement for same-sex marriage
By Heather O'Neill

NORWALK --  With same-sex marriage on the cusp of legality in Massachusetts, local activists went door-to-door yesterday to help ensure the same rights are extended to Connecticut residents in the near future.

At the Triangle Community Center in Norwalk, members of Love Makes a Family (LMF) conducted Equality Knocks, a door-to-door informal poll of residents to gauge their support of same-sex marriage.

Twenty-two volunteers combed neighborhoods in pairs after a morning training session in which each participant explained his or her interest in the issue. Gay and lesbian couples attended to fight for their right to marry while a heterosexual couple, outraged at the lack of equality on the issue of marriage, joined the ranks. One heterosexual woman said she was volunteering so she could fight for the rights of the next generation.

"If I ever have children, I want them to grow up in a world of freedom," she said.


Fired aide slams pol as gay-basher

ALBANY - A state senator who represents Brooklyn and Queens has been hit by a civil rights complaint from a former top staffer who says she called him "a fat, gay bastard" and ridiculed him in front of co-workers.

Wayne Mahlke, 42, alleges in the complaint to the state Division of Human Rights that he was bounced from his job as chief of staff to state Sen. Ada Smith in December after he told the Democrat he was fedup with her verbal abuse.

Smith denied the allegations and said she sacked Mahlke from the $50,000-a-year post because he was disorganized, unproductive and annoyed other staffers.

"I wouldn't care if he was green, as long as he could do the job," said Smith, who also denied Mahlke's claim that she denounced him as "white trash."


Cherokees working to ban gay vows
By Sheila Stogsdill and Judy Gibbs Robinson

TAHLEQUAH -- A lesbian couple obtained a marriage application from the Cherokee Nation last week, prompting a tribal judge to issue a moratorium on other such applications.

After learning of the application, tribal officials scurried to amend the decades- old tribal marriage law to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

"Several councilors have approached me, and I am in the process of writing the legislation now," said Todd Hembree, attorney for the Tribal Council.

Principal Chief Chad Smith said he, too, has asked tribal lawyers to look into the tribe's marriage policy.


Eccentric experiment proves surprisingly fascinating
17 hardy souls wrestle with tension, conflict and crises as they assume the lives of colonists from 1628

"Colonial House" is one of those true stories that couldn't be scripted, because it's too crowded with strange conflicts, strong characters, plot twists and surprises.

The title makes it sound like a craft or do-it-yourself program like "This Old House," possibly interesting to viewers keen on handyman projects. In fact, it is a true drama about an eccentric experiment in which 17 hardy souls, selected somehow from 10,000 applicants, attempt to live for four months on 1,000 acres of Maine coast exactly as 1628 English colonists did.

Crafts and household skills are certainly a huge part of the experience, given the lack of electricity or any implement not handy in 1628. Getting fed is a daily challenge. On top of that, like real colonists, they are tasked with farming and making a profit for investors.

But the physical demands are mere background. This colony is set up like the real thing, with a governor, a clergyman or lay minister, a council of freemen, women and indentured servants. For this adventure, all were chosen in advance, but participants learned their roles only upon landing.


'Gay panic' defense in Araujo case
Vicki Haddock, Insight Staff Writer

How would a straight man be expected to react to the startling discovery that the woman he had been having sex with was actually a biological male?

He might be nonplussed. He might feel shock and anger at the deception. Or might he experience an enraging surge of what's sometimes called "gay panic" -- perhaps in a wave potent enough to drive him to batter the individual senseless with fists and a skillet, strangle her, and then bury her body in a shallow grave in the El Dorado National Forest?

So goes a line of defense being advanced on behalf of two East Bay men charged with just such a crime against 17-year old Gwen Araujo, who was born Eddie but had identified as a female since puberty. Later this week, a jury may be asked to render its verdict in the closely watched trial, which is the latest in which defendants hope jurors will subconsciously recoil from the idea of gay sex and sympathize with the defendants' violent reaction.

Although the tactic was once reliable to persuade juries to be more lenient toward defendants who killed gay or transgender victims, a review of recent cases suggests it's now a tougher sell. One reason may be that experts say such killings of gays tend to be particularly gruesome compared with hate crimes against other groups, undercutting jurors' sympathies.


Couglan ignorant about Lesbian & Gay relationships - NLGF

Statement from the National Lesbian & Gay Federation.
The recent comments by Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Mary Coughlan, at the Conference on “Families, Change and Social Policy in Europe”, clearly demonstrate an unwillingness to accept the social reality of the existence of stable non-marital relationships.
Moreover, the Minister’s remarks -- issued in her role holding the Presidency of the EU -- reveal an ignorance of the manifest recognition in many EU states that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people do form stable relationships and that these need to be addressed by the law.

That a Minister of this government would make these remarks, at a time when Ireland holds the Presidency of the European Union, shows a lack of commitment to all members of society in Ireland and, more broadly, in the EU. More importantly, it also demonstrates a lack of commitment to ensuring the rights of those members of society , and a lack of commitment to the government’s own commitments within the EU, in particular in relation to the Lisbon Agenda‘s social inclusion and employment strategies.

Minister Coughlan is ignoring the reality that gay couples with children have existed and continue exist in Ireland. If Ireland and its government is unwilling to accept this reality, harm is done to the inherent rights of the parents and the children of such de facto families.


Controversial pastor begins new legacy
Views on salvation, homosexuality led to split from RCA
Grand Haven Tribune

After pastoring for 37 years, the Rev. Richard Rhem of Christ Community Church says there is nothing that he will miss about leading a congregation of about 2,000.

"I don't think I'm going to miss anything," said the 69-year-old. "This is still my community of people."

Rhem has been the subject of controversy among the Reformed Church in America due to his views on accepting homosexuals and that Jesus Christ is not the only means of salvation. His views led he and his church to leave the RCA in a messy split.


Efforts to block unions moves to national stage
By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer

For better or for worse, depending on which side of the ideological aisle one chooses, a divided America crosses a historic threshold tomorrow as state-approved marriages of same-sex couples take place for the first time.

Promised a waiver of the normal three-day waiting period, the seven gay and lesbian couples who successfully sued for marriage rights in Massachusetts will wed before relatives, friends and supporters in Boston and three other towns. The United States will become just the fourth country in the world where same-sex couples can tie the knot.

The couples' jubilation will be shared by gay-rights advocates across the country, including many in states such as New York, California, Washington and New Jersey where comparable lawsuits are moving forward.

"This isn't just one historic moment in Massachusetts," said Kevin Cathcart, executive director of the gay-rights group Lambda Legal. "It's the start of what will be a long period of progress and breakthroughs, with gay couples in other states also winning the right to marry."


Issues against gay marriage on 6 state ballots
Associated Press

At least six states, possibly several more, will have items on their ballots this fall proposing to amend their state constitutions to strengthen existing bans on gay marriage and specify that gay marriages from other states would not be recognized. A breakdown:

Amendment definitely on ballot: Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Utah.

Lawmakers still deliberating: Alabama and Louisiana

Petition drives under way: Arkansas, Michigan, Montana, Oregon and Ohio.


Foes of gay marriage: Fight `has just begun'
By Jonathan Finer
The Washington Post

BOSTON -- Declaring their efforts to ban same-sex marriage far from over, a few hundred opponents of such unions gathered Friday in historic Faneuil Hall, less than three days before Massachusetts becomes the first state to grant marriage licenses to gay couples.

Thwarted in their efforts to block the implementation of a 4-3 ruling by the state's Supreme Judicial Court in November that deemed a ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, the activists said they would focus their push on amending state and federal constitutions to define marriage as only the union of one man and one woman.

"We want people to know that the fight has just begun," said Kristian Mineau, the recently appointed head of the Massachusetts Family Institute, which helped organize the rally.

The event included hymns, patriotic songs, and speeches from political and religious activists, including a Roman Catholic deacon and an Orthodox Jewish rabbi.


WORKPLACE MEMO: State companies adding domestic partner benefits

An average of three employers per day in 2003 added domestic partner health insurance benefits for their gay and lesbian workers, according to a nationwide analysis by the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

Last year, seven Minnesota-based employers implemented domestic partner benefits. Numbers compiled locally by the gay and lesbian advocacy group Outfront Minnesota show that close to 170 companies and organizations now offer the benefits.

Nine Fortune 500 companies here offer domestic partner benefits, including Best Buy, UnitedHealth Group, Medtronic, St. Paul Travelers, Northwest Airlines, U.S. Bancorp, Xcel Energy, Target Corp. and General Mills.


Others may benefit from Mass. action

Advocates and legal experts say the realization tomorrow of state-sanctioned gay marriage in Massachusetts - a mere promise until now - could help resolve legal disputes in California, Oregon, and New Jersey, three states where same-sex marriage licenses were issued over the winter.

"The single most important step toward ending discrimination is letting people see the reality rather than the hypothetical," said Evan Wolfson, a lawyer who is executive director of New York's Freedom to Marry.

"It creates a climate of receptivity," he said.

And the courts won't be impervious to it, said Gary Buseck, legal director of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, another national gay advocacy group.


In Boston, it's live and let live
Many unfazed by same-sex marriages
Carolyn Lochhead, Chronicle Washington Bureau

Boston -- West Broadway Street in South Boston, lined with Irish pubs and Catholic churches, should not by appearances be the most hospitable place for gays and lesbians, particularly given that on Monday, men will be able to marry men and women marry women.

But the prevailing sentiment seems to be live and let live -- and this may explain why, if Massachusetts is the same-sex marriage Dunkirk that religious conservatives say it is, not only has the battle been lost, but also perhaps the war.

Despite the most ferocious political debate to shake the Massachusetts statehouse in decades -- including an all-out campaign by the Catholic archdiocese that included a video shown at Sunday masses across the state -- same-sex marriages are going forward on Monday. They will be the first such legally approved unions in U.S. history affirmed by a state's top court.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in November that barring gays and lesbians from civil marriage violated the state's constitution and ordered the ban to cease by May 17.


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