Senate takes up fight on banning gay marriages
Critics say debate hides other issues
By Jill Zuckman and Anastasia Ustinova
WASHINGTON -- The culture wars will return to Capitol Hill when the Senate votes this week on whether to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage, resurrecting a debate that exploded earlier this year but has been more muted since.
The emotional topic of same-sex marriage versus traditional marriage has sparked a grass-roots lobbying campaign pitting gay-rights activists against social conservatives. It has led some gay Democrats to threaten to "out" gay Republican staffers. And it has spilled into the presidential and congressional elections, snaring politicians who would rather avoid the question.
The issue poses problems for both presidential candidates, highlighting Sen. John Kerry's somewhat contorted position on gay marriage and threatening to cast President Bush as intolerant and insensitive to gay Americans. The debate follows clashes on abortion and school prayer and comes just as Kerry and Bush are emphasizing that their values are in tune with the nation's citizens.
Bush, in his weekly radio address Saturday, said legalizing gay marriage would redefine the most fundamental institution of civilization and that a constitutional amendment is needed to protect it.
LIFE-CHANGING DECISION: Growing Up With a Secret
Gay teens find relief from guilt, shame by openly acknowledging their sexual identity
By JOAN WHITELY
It seems to 19-year-old Vincent Medina of Las Vegas that his whole childhood was full of secrets.
He didn't want people to know he was on welfare. He didn't want people to know he scouted the trash bins in the neighborhood for reusable discards.
He was fat, and didn't want people to know that he had, at age 15, started jogging after dark to lose weight.
Above all, he didn't want anyone to know he is gay.
Chile court: Lesbian judge can't be a mom
Ruling may affect gay rights in Latin America
BY KEVIN G. HALL
Knight Ridder Foreign Service
SANTIAGO, Chile — Judge Karen Atala had the love of her three daughters and commanded the respect of Chilean lawyers arguing cases in her courtroom. Now, all across the deeply conservative Andean nation, she's known simply as "the lesbian judge."
Atala became an unwitting public figure and international gay-rights symbol when Chile's Supreme Court, in a controversial 3-2 decision May 31, overruled two lower courts and awarded custody of her children to her ex-husband, Jaime Lopez.
The small-town judge wasn't an alcoholic, promiscuous or a negligent mother — reasons Chilean courts usually place children in the custody of their fathers.
Atala's "grave" mothering mistake was admitting she's a lesbian who took a partner.
Activists seek state backing of gay rights
By ELBERT AULL
Copyright © 2004 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.
AUGUSTA -- As Congress this week considers a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, activists are readying themselves for a pair of related, imminent battles in Maine.
Lawmakers here over the past three months have stated publicly that they will address the issue of gay marriage during the next legislative session, and activists who gathered in Augusta on Saturday said they are bent on convincing what they called the "middle 30 percent" of Mainers -- those who aren't strongly for or against a proposal to eliminate the state's standing ban on gay marriage -- to pressure their legislators to support gay marriage.
At the heart of this campaign, probably, will be personal pleas from gay and lesbian couples to the middle 30 percent, as the activists who attended Saturday's meeting said they think that group of citizens will have the most influence over legislators next session.
"It's more important for my sister, who is straight, to call" legislators about gay-marriage issues, said Pam McCann, program coordinator for the Portland-based organization Speakout.
In N.J., domestic partner benefits begin
By KRISTA LARSON
MAPLEWOOD, N.J. -- Hundreds of same-sex couples celebrated as New Jersey began issuing them domestic partnerships Saturday, but their desire for something bigger was as clear as the slogan on the buttons many of them wore: "The Next Step: Marriage Equality."
New Jersey, the fifth state to recognize same-sex relationships in some form, gives couples who register several legal rights, including the ability to make medical decisions for each other and to share in certain benefits.
Several hundred people attended a morning ceremony in Maplewood marking the first day of the law, many arriving hours early to fill out domestic partnership applications while sitting on the municipal building's steps or on lawn chairs. Couples even more anxious to sign up were able to register at the South Orange clerk's office beginning at 12:01 a.m.
The law was considered by many to be an incremental step toward marriage, but many also were happy to finally have their enduring relationships acknowledged by the state.