Gay marriage rights denied by Maine voters - Proposition 1 passes

>> Nov 4, 2009

Gay-marriage foes claim victory in Maine
 
By GLENN ADAMS and DAVID CRARY (AP)


PORTLAND, Maine — Gay-marriage opponents are claiming victory in a closely watched referendum in Maine on a new state law that would have allowed same-sex couples to wed.

The law in question was passed by the Legislature in May but never took effect because of a petition drive by conservatives.

With more than 84 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday, the side seeking to repeal the law had 53 percent of the vote. Their campaign organizer, Frank Schubert, claimed victory and declared that Maine voters had helped preserve the institution of marriage.

Gay-marriage supporters refused to concede, holding out hope that that the tide might turn as the final returns came in. They had been hoping Maine would become the first state to approve same-sex marriage at the ballot box.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information.

AP's earlier story is below.

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Gay marriage appeared in danger in Maine in a closely watched referendum Tuesday that the nation's gay rights movement had hoped would yield a breakthrough victory at the ballot box.

Voters were asked to decide whether to repeal or affirm a state law that would allow gay couples to wed. The law was passed by the Legislature in May but never took effect because of a petition drive by conservatives.

With 481 of 608 precincts reporting, the pro-repeal side had 52 percent to 48 percent for gay-marriage's supporters.

A vote to uphold the law would mark the first time that the electorate in any state endorsed gay marriage. That could energize activists nationwide and blunt conservative claims that same-sex marriage is being foisted on states by judges or lawmakers over the will of the public.

However, repeal — in New England, the region of the country most supportive of gay couples — would be another heartbreaking defeat for the marriage-equality movement, following the vote against gay marriage in California a year ago.

It would also mark the first time voters had torpedoed a gay-marriage law enacted by a legislature. When Californians rejected same-sex marriage, it was in response to a court ruling, not legislation.

Maine's secretary of state, Matthew Dunlap, said turnout seemed higher than expected for an off-year election and voter interest appeared intense. Even before Tuesday, more than 100,000 people — out of about 1 million registered voters — had voted by absentee ballot or early voting.

Frank Schubert, organizer for the campaign to repeal gay marriage, said a victory by his side would be a "backbreaking loss" for gay-rights activists, given the heavy mobilization and fundraising efforts put into their campaign.

Jesse Connolly, manager for the pro-gay marriage campaign, said the results bore out his prediction of a "razor thin" election.

"At the end of the day we're going to see a positive result," he said late Tuesday. "We might not see that tonight. It might be tomorrow."

Five other states have legalized gay marriage — Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut — but all did so through legislation or court rulings, not by popular vote. In contrast, constitutional amendments banning gay marriage have been approved in all 30 states where they have been on the ballot.

"If we don't win, then Maine will have its place in infamy because no state has ever voted for homosexual marriage," said Chuck Schott of Portland, who stood near a polling place in Maine's biggest city with a pro-repeal campaign sign.

Another Portland resident, Sarah Holman said she was "very torn" but decided — despite her conservative upbringing — to vote in favor of letting gays marry.
"They love and they have the right to love. And we can't tell somebody how to love," said Holman, 26.

Hundreds of gay-marriage supporters gathered in a Portland hotel ballroom in the evening to await the results. On display was a three-tiered wedding cake topped with two grooms on one side, two brides on the other, and the words "We All Do."

In addition to reaching out to young people who flocked to the polls for President Barack Obama a year ago, gay-marriage defenders tried to appeal to Maine voters' independent streak — a Yankee spirit of fairness and live-and-let-live.

The other side based many of its campaign ads on claims — disputed by state officials — that the new law would mean "homosexual marriage" would be taught in public schools.

Both sides in Maine drew volunteers and contributions from out of state, but the money edge went to the campaign in defense of gay marriage, Protect Maine Equality. It raised $4 million, compared with $2.5 million for Stand for Marriage Maine.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, voters in Washington state decided whether to uphold or overturn a recently expanded domestic partnership law that entitles same-sex couples to the same state-granted rights as heterosexual married couples. And in Kalamazoo, Mich., voters approved a measure that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Among other ballot items across the country:

  • In Ohio, voters approved a measure that will allow casinos in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo. Four similar measures had been defeated in recent years, but this time the state's reeling economy gave extra weight to arguments that the new casinos would create thousands of jobs.

  • Maine voters defeated a measure that would have limited state and local government spending by holding it to the rate of inflation plus population growth. A similar measure was on the ballot in Washington state.

  • Another measure in Maine, which easily won approval, will allow dispensaries to supply marijuana to patients for medicinal purposes. It is a follow-up to a 1999 measure that legalized medical marijuana but did not set up a distribution system.

  • The Colorado ski town of Breckenridge voted overwhelmingly to allow adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana.

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Obama signs Matthew Shepard hate crimes legislation into law

>> Oct 28, 2009

obama-official-photo Washington – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, praised President Barack Obama today for signing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. The new law gives the Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. The legislation was added as a provision to the FY 2010 National Defense Authorization Act earlier this Summer. For a comprehensive retrospective and historical overview of hate crimes advocacy visit: www.hrc.org/loveconquershate.

“This law honors our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters whose lives were cut short because of hate,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Today’s signing of the first major piece of civil rights legislation to protect LGBT Americans represents a historic milestone in the inevitable march towards equality. Although this is a major step in fighting the scourge of hate violence, it is not the end of the road. As a community, we will continue to dedicate ourselves to changing not only laws but also hearts and minds. We know that hate crimes not only harm individuals, but they terrorize entire communities. After more than a decade of advocacy, local police and sheriffs’ departments now have the full resources of the Justice Department available to them.”

“We applaud President Obama for signing this bill into law and thank the leadership and our allies in the House and Senate. We also will always remember the tireless efforts of Senator Edward Kennedy on this issue. Senator Kennedy once said that this legislation sends ‘a message about freedom and equality that will resonate around the world.’ This marks the first time that we as a nation have explicitly protected the LGBT community in the law. And this law sends a loud message that perpetrators of hate violence against anyone will be brought to justice,” said Solmonese.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act honors the memory of Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming college student brutally murdered in an act of hate violence in 1998, and James Byrd, an African-American man who was dragged to death in Jasper, Texas, in 1998.

“We are incredibly grateful to Congress and the president for taking this step forward on behalf of hate crime victims and their families, especially given the continuing attacks on people simply for living their lives openly and honestly,” said Judy Shepard, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. “But each of us can and must do much more to ensure true equality for all Americans.”

“We appreciate everyone who worked so hard on this bill. My son was taken at such an early age and we hope this law will help prevent other families from going through what we experienced,” said Stella Byrd, mother of James Byrd. “Even though we’re different colors and different sexual orientations or gender identities, God made us all and he loves us all.”

The new law also provides the Justice Department with the ability to aid state and local jurisdictions either by lending assistance or, where local authorities are unwilling or unable, by taking the lead in investigations and prosecutions of violent crime resulting in death or serious bodily injury that were motivated by bias. It also makes grants available to state and local communities to combat violent crimes committed by juveniles, train law enforcement officers, or to assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias motivated crimes.

This legislation was first introduced in the 105th Congress. There have been 14 total votes in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to bring this historic legislation to the president’s desk.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Courtesy: Human Rights Campaign

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Matthew Shepard Candlelight Vigil TV Coverage (Nov 1998 - Houston)

>> Oct 24, 2009

It was November 11, 1998 and the news of Matthew Shepard's haneous death just rocked the world. Candlelight vigils were being held in cities all across the globe and Houston was on the list.

I was 22 years old when my phone rang that fateful day. Steve Baker, producer of TV Montrose, called and asked me to cover the candlelight vigil in a park near downtown Houston. Without any previous news reporting experience and no prior knowledge of Matthew's crime, I hopped in my car and headed down to the park.

It was raining that evening, but it didn't deter hundreds of supporters from gathering to pay respects to a fallen gay brother.

City Councilwoman Anise Parker spoke about hatred, acceptance and the need for increased protection for LGBT citizens. Little did we know, 11 years later Congress would pass the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act on Thursday, October 22, 2009.

This video is an inside look at the candlelight vigil held for Matthew. Although a young, unsuspecting college student had to endure such horrible beatings, torture and ultimate death, millions of LGBT persons have Matthew Shepard to thank for making federal hate crimes protection for LGBT citizens a reality in 2009.




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Lesbian student in Miss. fights for tuxedo photo

>> Oct 16, 2009

 JACKSON, Miss. — Everyone at Wesson Attendance Center knows 17-year-old Ceara Sturgis is gay because she’s never tried to hide it.

But when Sturgis — an honor student, trumpet player and goalie on the school’s soccer team — wanted her senior photograph in a tuxedo used in the 2009-10 yearbook, school officials balked. Traditionally, female students dress in drapes and males wear tuxedos.

Now, the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi has gotten involved, issuing a demand letter to Principal Ronald Greer to publish the picture of Sturgis in the tuxedo. The ACLU says it’s giving the school until Oct. 23 to respond before pursuing court action, said Kristy L. Bennett, the ACLU’s legal director.

A secretary for Greer referred questions to Copiah County Schools Superintendent Rickey Clopton, who declined to comment on Thursday.

Sturgis said she should get to decide how she looks in the senior photo.

“I feel like I’m not important, that the school is dismissing who I am as a gay student and that they don’t even care about me. All I want is to be able to be me, and to be included in the yearbook,” Sturgis said in a statement.

Veronica Rodriguez, 47, said school officials are trying to force her daughter — who doesn’t even own a dress — to appear more feminine.

“The tux is who she is. She wears boys’ clothes. She’s athletic. She’s gay. She’s not feminine,” said Rodriguez during an interview Thursday at the ACLU office.

Rodriguez said Sturgis took her pictures over the summer instead of with the other students last year, but she used the same studio.

In August, Rodriguez said she received a letter from the school stating that only boys could wear tuxedos. Rodriguez said she met with assistant Superintendent Ronald Holloway who told her he didn’t see regulations about the issue in the student handbook.

But when she talked with Greer, she said he told her it was his “conviction” that Sturgis wouldn’t appear in the yearbook in a tuxedo.

Bennett said the teenager’s constitutional rights are being violated. Bennett said similar cases, including same-sex prom couples and girls wearing tuxedos to proms, have been successfully challenged in court in other states. ACLU officials said they were unaware of any other constitutional disputes involving gay teens at Mississippi schools.

“You can’t discriminate against somebody because they’re not masculine enough or because they’re not feminine enough. She’s making an expression of her sexual orientation through this picture and that invokes First Amendment protection,” Bennett said.

There’s no state policy that deals with the yearbook photo issue, said state Department of Education spokesman Pete Smith.

The deadline for the photo to be accepted for the yearbook was Sept. 30. But advertisements for the publication are still being taken so Sturgis has time for her photo to be included, Bennett said.

Sturgis lives with her grandparents in Wesson, a town of about 1,700 founded during the Civil War in southwest Mississippi. The town’s Web site said residents “pride ourselves on our quiet way of life.”

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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NYC man remains in coma after brutal gay bashing

>> Oct 13, 2009

New York City politicos and activists on Monday denounced the attack against Queens resident Jack Price outside a College Point convenience store early on Oct. 9.

A Queens man remains in serious but stable condition after two men brutally beat him early Friday morning outside a local convenience store because he is gay.

Daniel Aleman, 26, and Daniel Rodriguez, 21, allegedly beat Jack Price, 49, around 3 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 9, after he went to a College Point corner store to buy a pack of cigarettes. The two men reportedly taunted Price, who remains in a medical induced coma at Booth Memorial Hospital, before they chased him and eventually beat him.

"To do this as a human being, no matter what their sexuality is, is a disgrace," Price’s sister-in-law Joanne Guarneri told WABC. "Both his lungs are collapsed. All his ribs are broken, his spleen had surgery, and he had to get a metal plate put in his jaw."

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, state Sen. Tom Duane [D-Chelsea,] City Councilmember John Liu [D-Flushing] and openly gay City Council candidates Danny Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer were among those who denounced the attack at a press conference outside the hospital yesterday afternoon.

"To do this as a human being, no matter what their sexuality is, is a disgrace."
"When someone is attacked for being who they are, and for being proud of who they are, there is no other explanation for that attack than hatred and bigotry," Quinn said. "In response, we will do all in our power as individuals, as a community and as a city to ensure that whoever commits such a vile act of hate is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

The attack against Price is the latest in a series of anti-LGBT hate and bias crimes that have rocked Queens in recent months.

Trinidad Tapia and Gilberto Ortiz allegedly beat Leslie Morak with a belt buckle as she walked home from a Jackson Heights nightclub in June. And Nathaniel Mims and Rasheed Thomas face hate crimes charges after they allegedly attacked Carmella Etienne with rocks and empty beer bottles on July 8 as she walked home from a store near her St. Albans apartment.

The New York City Anti-Violence Project concluded in a report issued in July the severity of anti-LGBT violence in the five boroughs has increased. Those who spoke at the press conference outside the hospital added they feel the attack, which came less than three days before more than 1,400 New Yorkers took part in the National Equality March in Washington, shows anti-LGBT hate crimes and bias attacks remains a serious problem.

"This tragic and senseless incident is yet another reminder of how far we have to go towards making our city one that is free of hatred and violence at all times and for all people," Van Bramer concluded.

Courtesy:

Michael K. Lavers
National News Editor
Edge Publications

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Broken Yoke Ministry heals gays by helping them find God

>> Sep 22, 2009

I could hardly believe it when I saw it today.  After logging in to LinkedIn, I was greeted by a request to join one of the aviation groups I administer for work.  Bob Van Domelan's request to join this professional aerospace networking group is currently pending while I pontificate how I will deal with him.

Because my industry can be highly competitive, it is necessary to do some background research on each request to join these groups.  The last thing we want is for one of our competitors to join our group and market their events; this would be harvesting our database of customers - naughty, naughty practice.  So, naturally, I perform an Internet search on each person that requests to join the group.

I was astonished to find that Reverend Domelan's LinkedIn profile lists his work as "Broken Yoke Ministries."  I thought...hmmm...ministry?  Why would a ministry and a reverend be interested in joining an aviation group?  I gave him the benefit of the doubt and set out to do some research.  He very well could have been a pilot, and operations director for an airline - something.  Nope.  That wasn't the case.  Reverend Domelan is just that - a Reverend for a Wisconsin-based ministry.  Quoted from their Web site:

This ministry seeks to support those who struggle with same-gender attraction and believe that such behavior is incompatible with God's design for their lives.
After perusing the online pages of Broken Yoke Ministries, I found testimonials from homos who claim to have now found God and discovered the err of their ways.  I'll bet you a whopping buck if you were to meet any of these homos-gone-breeder types, they would all spray you with their lisps and shake your hand with their limp wrists.

I don't know about you, but I'm just a little tired of all these ministries and groups that claim to "cure" homosexuality.  In the end, it's all pure brainwashing.  Hiding your hatred behind the smoke and mirrors of religion is a nasty and despicable practice.  People of faith who act this way should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.

Check out Broken Yoke Ministries and see for yourself just how much people in the back woods really hate things they can't understand.  You will discover that the ministry has an upcoming conference in Wisconsin.  I think a protest is in order.

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Ben & Jerry's Renames Ice Cream to Hubby Hubby in Support of Gay Marriage in Vermont

>> Sep 18, 2009


BURLINGTON, Vt.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Ben & Jerry’s, known for its euphoric ice cream flavors and dedication to social justice, celebrates the beginning of the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples in Vermont with the symbolic renaming of its well-known ice cream flavor “Chubby Hubby” to “Hubby Hubby.” In partnership with Freedom to Marry, Ben & Jerry’s aims to raise awareness of the importance of marriage equality and, to show its support, will serve “Hubby Hubby” sundaes in Vermont Scoop Shops throughout the month of September.

Ben & Jerry’s has a long history of commitment to social justice, including gay rights. Its partnership with Freedom to Marry, a national leader in the movement for marriage equality, aims to raise awareness of the importance of marriage equality and to encourage other states to follow the blazing trails of Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, and Maine. Freedom to Marry promotes the national conversation about why marriage equality matters and brings together partner organizations into a larger whole – a shared civil rights campaign.

“At the core of Ben & Jerry’s values, we believe that social justice can and should be something that every human being is entitled to,” said Walt Freese, Chief Executive Officer of Ben & Jerry’s. “From the very beginning of our 30 year history, we have supported equal rights for all people. The legalization of marriage for gay and lesbian couples in Vermont is certainly a step in the right direction and something worth celebrating with peace, love and plenty of ice cream.”

To kick off the celebration, Ben & Jerry’s and Freedom to Marry will be publicly supporting the first marriages of gay and lesbian couples in Vermont and raising awareness for marriage equality and how to take action by driving consumers to www.freedomtomarry.org. By logging onto the site, people can show their support, sign a Marriage Resolution Petition, have conversations about why marriage matters and learn more about how they can support the cause.

“It’s not polite to talk with your mouth full, but the most important thing that all us ice cream lovers can do to support the freedom to marry is speak with the people we know about why marriage matters and the need to end marriage discrimination in every state”,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry. “Thanks to Ben & Jerry’s, starting those needed conversations has never been sweeter – and thanks to Freedom to Marry, we all now have a great excuse to eat more ice cream.”

For more information on why marriage equality matters and to take action in your state, please log on to www.freedtomarry.org. To find your local Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop or learn more about Ben & Jerry’s social mission, log onto www.Facebook.com/benjerry.

www.benjerry.com

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