VOLUME 3, ISSUE 330 | July 22 – 28, 2004
DOMA Challenge in Florida
Two Florida lesbians who married in Massachusetts have filed suit against their state and the federal government for not recognizing their marriage. Rev. Nancy Wilson, a Metropolitan Community Church minister in Bradenton, and her wife, Paula Schoenwether, got married on July 2 after 27 years together.
They name Attorney General John Ashcroft in their federal suit challenging the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages. It is the first court case against DOMA by a same-sex couple legally married.
They have also filed a state lawsuit against the Hillsborough County Clerk who denied them a Florida license, though it is unclear why they would need one if the Massachusetts license is valid. Their attorney is Ellis Rubin who, the Associated Press reports, has filed five other suits against the Florida and federal bans on same-sex marriage. Rubin previously, however, had litigated against gay rights in a number of lawsuits.
State Marriage Update
North Carolina, like 39 other states, bans recognition of same-sex marriages. The state’s voters, however, because of an impasse in the Legislature, won’t be voting on a state constitutional amendment banning such marriages.
The Human Rights Campaign reports that 14 other states have scuttled such amendments this year, but the issue is on the ballot in 11others: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah. The Show-Me State will vote first, in August, followed by Louisiana in September. The rest will be on the November ballot.
Anti-gay groups in Ohio and North Dakota are also gathering signatures to put constitutional amendments on their November ballots. Legislatures in Tennessee, Massachusetts and Wisconsin have also passed amendments prohibiting same-sex marraiges, but these must be affirmed by a subsequent legislative session before going before the voters.
Electoral Effect of Anti-Gay Referenda
Some political pundits expect that state anti-gay amendment proposals will draw right-wing voters to the polls and boost the re-election chances of Pres. George W. Bush, an ardent opponent of same-sex marriage. These initiatives, however, could also draw out voters, ostensibly Democrats, who oppose the anti-gay measures who might not otherwise vote. Most polls, however, say that voters put the gay marriage issue low on their list of concerns in the election.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry opposes the Federal Marriage Amendment, but supports amending the Massachusetts Constitution to ban same-sex marriage and extend all the benefits of marriage to gay couples via civil unions. The Kerry campaign has refused comment on the rash of other state amendments that ban same-sex marriage and civil unions. Kerry has a long record of supporting most LGBT rights issues, including being one of only 14 senators to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.
A July 16 CBS News/NY Times Poll found that 28 percent of Americans support the right of same-sex couples to marry, another 31 percent support civil unions, and 38 percent want no legal recognition for gay or lesbian relationships at all—figures that are virtually unchanged since May. The same poll found Kerry leading Bush by a 49-44 percent margin.
Kerry: End HIV Ban
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry says that he will use the power of the White House to try to end the federal ban on allowing visitors and immigrants who have HIV to enter the U.S.
In a July 10 statement coinciding with the start of the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, his campaign issued a release quoting him as saying, “I will work with Congress to lift the immigration ban on HIV-positive people that has prohibited the United States from hosting this life-saving meeting.”
The prohibition was instituted by the U.S. Public Health Service in 1987 under Pres. Ronald Reagan and codified in a 1993 act of Congress signed by Pres. Bill Clinton.
Not since 1991, has the U.S. hosted the annual conference.
Maine Partner Registry Opens
Maine’s domestic partner registry law becomes effective July 30 and will be marked by a ceremony organized by Equality Maine involving dozens of couples. Couples who register will secure the same inheritance rights as spouses, as well as the status of next-of-kin in making funeral and burial arrangements, plus the right to serve as a guardian and conservator for a sick or injured partner, the Portland Maine Press Herald reported.
To register, couples pay a $35 fee and must be “unmarried, monogamous, mentally competent adults who have lived in Maine for at least 12 months,” the newspaper reported.
Homosexual Panic Defense Fails
Andrew Warshaw, 32, of Flint, Michigan, faces life in prison for the brutal 2002 stabbing murder of Stephen Kaplan, a gay, HIV-positive man, 365Gay.com reported. Prosecutors said that Warshaw killed Kaplan for $600 to buy drugs and viewed the victim as “easy prey.”
Warshaw’s lawyers floated the defense that someone else killed Kaplan in a homosexual panic after he came on to them, an argument the jury, which returned a guilty verdict in two-and-a-half hours, rejected.
Scottish Man Kills Older Gay
When a straight man kills a gay man, defense attorneys have often used a “homosexual panic defense,” claiming that straight clients became violent when a gay man made a sexual overture to them. In Edinburgh, Scotland, the prosecution is charging that Ian Sutherland, 33, “snapped” when Angus Wilson, 51, “tried once too often to come on to him.”
The prosecution says that Sutherland strung Wilson along, accepting payment of his rent and giving Wilson the impression he would one day be “sexually available,” the Scotsman reported.
Sutherland is accused of strangling Wilson, dismembering him and disposing of the five body pieces in bags in his garden. His woman friend, Tracy Scott, 31, testified that Sutherland told her after the murder, “I’ll get 20 for it. I’ve strangled him.”
Yukon Extends Marriage Rights
The Supreme Court of Yukon, Canada has ruled that laws limiting marriage to heterosexuals are “wrong and discriminatory,” making the province the fourth to open marriage to same-sex couples. A court decision in Ontario paved the way in the spring of 2003, followed by rulings in British Columbia and Quebec.
Laurie Arron of the Canadian LGBT group Égale told the Toronto Globe and Mail, “This ruling sends a message that governments across the country must now accept the Charter right of same-sex couples to marry in a civil ceremony. It is simply unacceptable to maintain the fiction that capacity to marry, which is federal law, is different from one province to the next.”
Germany Looks at Adoption Rights
Germany’s government, which granted gay couples a form of civil unions in 2001, is now considering legislation that would allow co-adoptions by gay partners. Many European countries that recognized same-sex partner rights have been slow to allow adoption rights for gay people.
According to Deutsche Welle, as of next January, gay couples in “registered life-partnerships, will have new pension rights, can get officially engaged, and can be required to pay alimony.”
N.Y. Conservatives Dump Bruno
Lutherans: No to Gay Unions
At their triennial convention this week, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod voted 1,163 to 22 to affirm marriage as “the lifelong union of one man and one woman” and urged its members “to give public witness from Scripture against the moral acceptance and legal recognition of homosexual ‘marriage.’”
Baca, Gay Candidate, Challenges Powell
Jamaican Singer Assault Suspect
There has been much protest, particularly in England, against Jamaican reggae dancehall artist Buju Banton due to the violently anti-gay lyrics he writes and sings. Now, Gay.comUK reports, he is wanted for allegedly being part of a gang beating of four gay men in Jamaica that took place June 24. Peter Tatchell of Outrage! said, “This substantiates our claim that there are clear links between murder music and actual violent attacks against lesbians and gays.”
Andy Humm is a co-host of “Gay USA” seen Thursdays at 11 p.m. on Time-Warner 34 and RCN 107, simulcast at mnn.org channel 34, and on Directv nationwide._
Andy Humm can be contacted at [email protected]
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