Friday, 30 April 2010

Hawaii Surprise: Civil Unions Approved.

Who saw this coming? The path to gay marriage began in Hawaii way back in 1993, with a state Supreme Court decision. Five years later, a popular vote placed a ban on same sex unions. Since then, the supporters of marriage equality have launched repeated attempts to get civil unions approved, but have struggled even to bring it to a vote. A determined push last year fizzled out, and this year looked to be headed the same way - until this week, when a last minute decision on the final day of the session brought success.

Cross fingers now, that the Republican governor does not veto it.

From the Honolulu Advertiser:

Historic civil-unions bill gets House OK

State House lawmakers yesterday approved a bill that would give same-sex and heterosexual couples the ability to enter into civil unions and enjoy the same rights as married couples under state law. The 31-20 vote followed an improbable decision by state House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro, the bill's sponsor, to revive civil unions on the last day of the 60-day session. The House, focusing primarily on the state's budget deficit and concerned about the influence of civil unions on election year politics, had indefinitely postponed action on the bill after it passed the state Senate in January.
Earlier this week, Oshiro said he would not bring back the bill but indicated that others might. He said he decided on Wednesday evening, when it became clear that another lawmaker would try to force a vote, that he should be the one to make the motion.

The bill now goes to Gov. Linda Lingle,  a Republican, who has not said whether she would sign, veto or allow the bill to become law without her signature.

Gay Marriage in Church: Iceland Considers.

As marriage equality has spread steadily around the globe, in most countries this has been restricted to civil marriage only: church weddings are excluded. The exception is the Nordic region, where the Swedish government and the Swedish Lutheran Church have both approved same sex weddings in church. In Denmark, where there process is under way to upgrade the present civil unions to full marriage, the Danish Lutheran church is currently considering following in the path already seet by their Swedish Lutheran counterparts. Now it seems that the Icelandic Lutheran church is likewise considering the same decision.

In the Swedish precedent, it was the provision in the law for church wedding that forced the church into serious consideration of the issue: there are strong institutional links between the Swedish state and the Lutheran church (which used to be funded directly by government). Similar circumstances, and similar provisions in the laws proposed by Denmark and Iceland, are the reason the churches in those countries are also having to consider a response. The Swedish solution was to approve gay marriage in church - but to leave an opt-out clause in place that would protect individual pastors, who may decline, in conscience, to officiate.

From Ice News:.

Icelandic church delays decision on gay marriage.

The National Church of Iceland yesterday took no formal position on a current parliamentary bill which would amend marriage laws to include gay couples. The national synod instead voted to refer the matter to the church’s doctrine and rites committee.
The new unified marriage bill being proposed by Iceland’s Minister of Justice and Human Rights could become law as early as 27th June this year and would allow religious groups, including the national church, to legally marry same sex couples. Religious groups are already able to bless registered partnerships which are almost identical to marriage, legally speaking.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Marriage Equality For Finland - but Not Yet.

With marriage equality achieved in Sweden (including church weddings) and in Norway, and on its way in Iceland and Denmark, the puzzle has been - why not also in Finland?

A report in Ice News sheds some light on the issue: it seems that there is overwhelming support among Finnish parliamentarians, including those of the major parties and their leadership. The parties are expected to vote in favour of some gay marriage proposals at their upcoming party congresses. However, it appears there is a parliamentary election coming up, and I suspect this is why nobody is taking the initiative on this just yet.

Expect full marriage and adoption rights for Finland next year rather than this one. That will complete a clean sweep of all five Nordic countries.

From  Ice News:

Regardless of the outcome of next year’s Finnish parliamentary elections, the governing majority is expected to implement a motion in support of gender-neutral marriage and adoption.
A new survey by Helsingin Sanomat revealed that there is little political opposition to the notion of allowing same-sex couples to adopt.
The newspaper study found that the larger political parties held few objections to gay couples adopting, with only the True Finns and Christian League opposing a change in the law. All candidates for the leadership of the governing Centre Party, except for Paavo Vayrynen, were in favour of the idea, and the Social Democrats and the conservative National Coalition were also positive about the concept.
(Read the full report)

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Louisana State Rep Proposes a Path to Gay Adoption.

In Louisiana, as in many other states, adoption by same sex couples is not possible, but is not prohibited by state constitutional ban.  Rather, the regulations simply prohibit adoption by any couples not legally married - which thereby excludes gay and lesbian couples as prospective parents, but also excludes unmarried heterosexual couples. (Single people oddly may adopt  -so a gay man qualifies, as long as he applies as a single person). Now, a state rep, Juan La Fonta, has proposed relaxing this restriction.  This will open up a path to gay adoption, but also open up opportunities for other prospective parents. Mr    hopes that by refusing to couch this move purely in terms of "gay" adoption, he will avoid the emotional excesses that have surrounded other moves around marriage and adoption equality. I have no idea what are his chances of success - we can but wait and see.  


Gay couples, others could adopt under Rep. Juan LaFonta's proposed changes

Rep. Juan LaFonta, D-New Orleans, is proposing to expand Louisiana adoption laws with language to recognize as parents both persons in a gay couple. 
But LaFonta is not going directly after the provision of Louisiana law that restricts adoption to married couples or single individuals but not unmarried couples. Instead, House Bill 738 would expand the list of eligible persons to petition for "intrafamily" adoptions, those that involve a second adult becoming a legal parent to a child who already has a legal parent in the same family or household.
He plans to bring the bill to the House Civil Law & Procedure Committee next week.
Current law already allows a step-parent, step-grandparent, great-grandparent, grandparent, aunt, great aunt, uncle, great uncle, sibling, or first, second or third cousin to adopt a child under certain circumstances. LaFonta would add "second parent" to that list, provided "the petitioner is the sole legal parent and agrees to the adoption of the child by a second parent."
As with the rest of Louisiana adoption law, the bill does not mention sexual orientation. Gay residents in Louisiana already adopt, but a gay couple -- or an unmarried heterosexual couple -- must choose just one of the pair to become the legal parent, with the second adult having no legal relationship with the child.
 (Read the full report)

Texas AG Opposing Gay Divorce

The unfortunate counterpart to gay marriage, unfortunately, will sometimes be gay divorce.  With conflicting legal frameworks for the recognition (or otherwise) of same sex marriages around the US and the world, there are bound to be conflicts arising around applications for divorce filed in jurisdictions where same sex marriage is not recognised.  In Texas, alarm bells started ringing for the opponents of marriage equality when judges in Austin and in Dallas separately approved two applications for divorce.  The obvious fear (to our opponents) is that if divorce is recognised, marriage may follow - at least in terms of the law. The problem for them is that in granting the divorce last October, the judge in the case ruled that the state's  ban on gay marriage was in violation of the US constitutional provision for equal protection under the law. If the divorce judgement is allowed to stand, it paves the way for a substantial legal challenge tot he marriage ban. This is why, inevitably, the Texas AG is appealing the judges' decisions. (It is not entirely co-incidental that the man is also up for re-election this fall.) Headlines around the story though, have been misleading, suggesting that (gay) divorce is at present not possible in Texas.  However, unless there are peculiarities in Texas law that I fail to appreciate, that is not correct.  The precedent of two separate judges' rulings is that divorce is indeed possible. It is to change the current position that the AG is appealing, not to protect it.  

From Associated Press:    

Divorce dilemma: Texas says gays can't get divorce

 DALLAS — After the joy of a wedding and the adoption of a baby came arguments that couldn't be resolved, leading Angelique Naylor to file for divorce. That left her fighting both the woman she married in Massachusetts and the state of Texas, which says a union granted in a state where same-sex marriage is legal can't be dissolved with a divorce in a state where it's not.
A judge in Austin granted the divorce, but Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is appealing the decision. He also is appealing a divorce granted to a gay couple in Dallas, saying protecting the "traditional definition of marriage" means doing the same for divorce.
A state appeals court is scheduled to hear arguments in the Dallas case on Wednesday.
The Dallas men, who declined to be interviewed for this story and are known only as J.B. and H.B. in court filings, had an amicable separation, with no disputes on separation of property and no children involved, said attorney Peter Schulte, who represents J.B. The couple, who married in 2006 in Massachusetts and separated two years later, simply want an official divorce, Schulte said.
 (Read the full report)

Monday, 19 April 2010

Gay Couples, Straight Couples: What's the Difference?

In "Psychology Today", there's a useful comparison between the relationship dynamics of gay/ lesbian and heterosexual couples.  The key difference? On the positive side, the gays are more honest with each other: for example, by talking more frankly about their sexual interests, and their expectations about monogamy. On the negative side, gay couples - especially with men -  just don't stay together as long.  (The researchers don't mention it, but it could be of course, that the greater durability of heterosexual unions may have something to do with that little matter of marriage certificates, and even children.  It is still too early for long-term studies of legally married same - sex couples, but there is some early research which does suggest that formal marriage does indeed contribute to married couples staying together longer than cohabiting relationships - just like the straights.)

Here are some extracts from the article:

Queer IQ: The Gay Couple's Advantage

Most lesbians don't fear rapacious women and gay men need not always soft-peddle their sexual predilections. On balance, gays and lesbians understand their partners' bodies and biases with a certainty that many a clueless "breeder" yearns for. "Homosexuality could be viewed in some respects as the triumph of the individual's mating intelligence over the gonads' evolutionary interests," argues Geoffrey Miller.
The result is that gay relationships are less mired in deception and perhaps even less prone to friction, according to multiple studies.
"If two guys in a relationship are on the same wavelength, it's going to be very hard for them to deceive one another about their motives, their lusts, their philandering. Whereas between the sexes, each sex presents a socially acceptable form of masculinity or femininity that is reassuring to the other person but not particularly accurate," says Miller.
Gay and lesbian couples are not only more honest with one another, they are also more likely to exhibit affection and humor in negotiating relationship stressors, according to John Gottman, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Washington. Gottman compared conflict discussions in gay and straight couples and found that "gays and lesbians talked explicitly about sex and monogamy. Those topics don't come up in 31 years of studying heterosexual couples, who are uptight in discussing sex. In their conversations, you really don't know what they're talking about."

Queer Families' Challenge for Catholic Church.

Catholic Church Must Learn to Deal With Children of Gay Parents.

Last month, there was a brief flurry of outrage when a Boulder Catholic school, under pressure from the parish priest and the local bishop, told a couple of lesbian parents that their children were no longer welcome, and should look for another school elsewhere.  Like so many news stories, this one has died down, and for all the full, has been all but forgotten,except for those directly affected.  Meanwhile, an Arkansas judge this week ruled that a state ban on adoption which voters approved in November 2008 was invalid; a series of court rulings in Florida have approved three specific applications for adoption by gay parents, in spite of the state's constitutional ban; and in Argentina, the Lower House of parliament will soon be considering legislation to approve both gay marriage and gay adoption. What the stories from Boulder completely overlooked, is how very many children are already in Catholic schools.  That number is sure to rise, as increasing public acceptance around the world encourages more Catholic couples to declare their relationships openly, and as some of those in turn seek to adopt, or to retain custody of their own children. A good proportion of these, like any other Catholic couple, will seek to have their offspring  educated in Catholic schools.

Gay Parents, Gay Pride Paris 2007

This is not new.  One of the parents who were interviewed by National Catholic Reporter for their series on responses to the exclusion, says that she was herself raised by lesbian mothers, but was educated in a Catholic school without any problems being raised.  That was a generation ago. There are assuredly many more such children in Catholic schools today.
One lesbian mom's experience of acceptance by a Catholic school
In a long and thoughtful piece at dot Commonweal, one lesbian and deeply committed Catholic mother tells of her very different experience in enrolling her children.  There are many important features in this piece that I would like to dig into further, but for now I want to focus specifically on the question of her success in having her children accepted by a Catholic school.  In particular, I was struck by two parts of the response by the local priest when they went to see him, not about schooling, but just about attendance in church as a family: he asked them if they would be sending their sons to the Catholic school; and that he believed they already had other children with gay parents.
From Dot Commonweal:

We didn’t want that reality just sprung on him, a thoughtful and decent man who, we expected, might get an earful from a few parishioners in the ensuing days and weeks. We asked if our coming to church like that was OK with him. Our priest said he appreciated the heads-up. “Just come, just come,” he insisted, expressing considerable relief that we had nothing else to discuss (“When I saw your names in my appointment book, I was afraid you might be asking me to bless your union”). He then inquired as to the boys’ names and ages and, hearing that the eldest would be almost six, asked, “Will you send him here, then, for school?” My partner and I shot a glance at each other. We said we hadn’t figured that was a possibility. We’d been struggling with the school question a bit. Sending the kids to the village public school in the very rural district where we lived was out of the question. We wanted a more demanding education for them. Sending them to our parish school in the small city in which we worked was, we had thought, equally out of the question. The priest raised both eyebrows. “No, not out of the question. Not at all. Send them here. In fact, I don’t even think you’d be the first same-sex couple to do so.” We’d had no idea. He thought a bit, came up with the family’s name, and said he thought all three of the girls were still enrolled and doing fine.
Was this remarkable, or unusual? Probably not. With the increasing visibility of gay and lesbian couples, and with  improving legal and administrative procedures  for approving gay adoption and custody applications, there are today many thousands of children being raised by same sex parents, as couples or as single parents.  Those children will go to school just as any others, and it is entirely likely that a high proportion of schools will include on their rolls children from such families. There is no reason to suppose that Catholic schools are fundamentally different and entirely free of gay or lesbian parents (although the incidence may well be lower).

The Challenge:

Catholic teaching is clear that the Church has a fundamental responsibility to all children who have been baptized and so accepted into its fold, so it is entirely correct that these schools should be accepting these children, whatever Fr Bill in Boulder might believe. I suspect that this is issue of responding appropriately to queer existing queer families is going to be in increasingly important challenge to the Church,  as the number of openly gay and lesbian parents continue to grow, in the US and elsewhere around the world. The actions in Boulder got the news, but they were exceptional and in conflict with clear teaching on the responsibility of the Church to the child.  As an increasing number of children from queer families are accepted and educated in Catholic schools, so their friends and classmates will grow up knowing at first-hand the reality that diverse family patterns exist. Just as earlier generations of children knew and understood that some children had only one mom and no pop (or the other way around), so a new generation is learning that some kids have two moms. At the same time, kids are coming out themselves at ever earlier ages, and it is widely recognised that today's children do not have the same hangups about "homosexuality" that their parents did. Already, the majority of  US Catholics do not agree that homoerotic relationships are immoral. Young people educated in Catholic schools with friends who openly identify as queer, or whose parents do so, will be even less inclined to simply accept Church teaching.
Earlier posts:

Boulder School Exclusion: Other Parents' Reactions

Boulder Parents: "They told Us in School To Love Everyone"

Lesbian Parents, Boulder Catholic School (3)

Lesbian Mums, Catholic Schools: The Voice of Experience


Garner, Abigail: Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is

Newman, Leslea: Heather Has Two Mommies: 10th Anniversary Edition (Alyson Wonderland)

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Adoption ban overturned

Arkansas gay couples are now free to adopt - ban overturned.

In November 2008, in the same election that saw California and Florida voters reject marriage equality, Arkansas voters approved a proposal to ban adoption by gay and lesbian couples.  That ban has now been overturned by a state court.

From the Advocate:

A circuit court judge in Arkansas’s Pulaski County has overturned the statewide ban on unmarried couples living together—including same-sex couples — adopting or fostering children.
Act 1, which was approved by voters in 2008, was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of several families.
“As of now, gay and unmarried couples are able to apply to adopt or foster children [in Arkansas],” says Christine Sun, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs and member of the ACLU’s LGBT project. “We’re encouraging the plaintiffs to begin that process.”

Buenos Aires Gay Marriage: Judicial Ping Pong Continues

Argentina's First Gay Marriage Anulled by Judge.

After Alex Freyre and Jose Maria De Bello secured judicial permission for the first ever same sex marriage licence last year, it was quickly overruled by another local judge. Undettered, the couple went to the south of the country, and secured permission to marry from the government of Tierra del Fuego. The men finally married last December.

Now, a judge from Tierra del Fuego has ruled that the marriage was invalid, and has anulled it.  The couple and their lawyer are determined to continue the fight for clear legal recognition of their union, and will fight the case, if necessary, into international courts.  This will not end soon.  In the meantime, there are also moves afoot to secure equality by legislative means.    

UPDATE: Another judge has likewise anulled the country's first lesbian wedding, that of Norma Castillo and Ramona Arevalo, who have been a couple for three decades, but were married just last week - Argentina's third couple to do so. It is significant that the application for annulment was brought before the court by an explicitly Catholic attorney, just as Argentina's Catholic Church is vigorously opposing an equality bill that would grant marriage and adoption rights to same sex couples.
From AFP:

BUENOS AIRES — A judge in Argentina has annulled the first gay marriage in Latin America, state media said Thursday, but the two men in the groundbreaking union said they would appeal the decision.
Judge Marcos Mellien, in the southern city of Ushuaia where the wedding took place last December, ruled the marriage "non-existent," the Telam news agency said quoting a judicial source.
The judge cited an article in Argentina's civil code which forbids marriage between two people of the sa

me sex, according to the agency.
One of the spouses in the contested union, Alex Freyre, described the decision as "a failure of a judge who has no value, because we will appeal.
"We are married and are confident that the Supreme Court will prove us right," he told AFP.

-(Read the full report)

From Latin American Herald Tribune:

BUENOS AIRES – A judge on Friday voided the marriage last week of two women in this capital, the first union of its kind in Argentina, judicial officials said.
Argentine Norma Castillo and Uruguay’s Ramona Arevalo, who are both 67 and have been a couple for the past three decades, married on April 9 after getting the go-ahead from Judge Elena Liberatori.
But Judge Martha Gomez Alsina on Friday decided to annul the marriage, granting a petition by a Catholic attorney to declare the union “non-existent.”
The wedding of Castillo and Arevalo, which was the third same-sex marriage in Argentina and the first involving two women, came amid debate of a bill in the lower house that would allow gays to marry and adopt children.
The bill is staunchly opposed by the Catholic Church.

Equality in Argentina

Argentina Lower House to Debate Equality Bill

While the courts of Argentina continue to bat back and forth the legality of same sex marriage, the question of adoption and marriage equality is about to be taken seriously in the Argentinian parliament. A rather confusing report from Buenoe Aires Herald has a headline that refers to a gay "adoption" bill, while the text refers to a "marriage" bill. I suspect the truth is that this is best thought of as an equality bill, which will guarantee both marriage and adoption rights, and by providing for legal protection of our families, will directly protect the children.  

(UPDATE: It is now clear from brief references in other reports that the bill which has been proposed covers both marriage and adoption. The proposed bill has been cleared by the relevant judicial committee for introduction to the parliamentary lower house.)

From Buenos Aires Herald:

Lawmaker Vilma Ibarra said the Lower House is ready to "debate equality" and prove "there's no sense in stripping certain citizens of their rights because of their sexual orientation." She also stressed that "there's gay couples who are currently already adopting."
"The Gay Marriage bill doesn't intend to debate homosexuality, but equality, since Argentina is a constitutional state in which everyone is equal under the law," she explained.
Ibarra said that "we live in a plural society. Everyone gets to choose how to live and who to share their lives with, their religion and the state must inject plurality into the Argentine society and makes all equal."
The lawmaker explained that the current Adoption Bill allows for heterosexual couples and single parents to adopt, hence there's already many gay men and women who have adopted children.
"Homosexual people adopt children all the time, we're not changing anything, only regulating something that already exists. When gay parents decide to adopt, only one person signs up as foster parent, but both of them raise their child," she stressed.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Natural Families: Africa's Female Kings and Husbands.

Nzinga - misleadingly represented here as "queen"

The standard platitudes about two-called "traditional  families" are full of completely groundless assumptions.  One, that this idea is in any way "traditional", I have previously shown to be false ("Traditional" Families, Traditional "Family Values"). Another is that love, marriage, sex and child-bearing  "naturally" all belong together.  As part of a more extended investigation into the enormous variety of "natural" families to be found across the world, I have been reading about some of the extraordinary ways in which in some societies, these can be entirely independent. Today, I look at some notable crossing of female gender stereotypes from Africa

A fascinating story of a female king comes from the country of Angola, which takes its name from the hereditary king, "ngola", of the Ndongo people.  During the colonial wars of conquest, the Portuguese met the fiercest resistance from a king called Nzinga - who turned out to be biologically female.  Although the monarchy was reserved for men, she had forced her way into office, and so was necessarily regarded as male.  As a man, and as king, it then became important that s/he acquire a harem of wives. As Nzinga was biologically female, her wives then needed to be biologically male, who dressed as women and took female gender roles.

Nzinga was one example from history, but her story is not in any way unique in Africa. In South Africa, one of those recurring stories that crop up from time to time on the inside pages of the newspapers, often on the travel & tourism sections, concerns the remote, near mythical person, the Rain Queen of the Lovedu people. (I have seen a website on African Mythology that describes her as an actual mythical deity. she is not - she is very real, just very reclusive, shunning all publicity).  The Rain Queen is the hereditary ruler of her people by matrilineal succession. From her title, it is clear that one of her duties is to apply her hereditary supernatural skills in rain making. But it is another feature of her tradition that catches the papers' attention: by tradition, she always marries only women, whom she takes in polygamous marriages. While the Queen gets on with the domestic duties usually associated with a husband, these wives will take on typical female gender roles, including procreation and childrearing. Obviously the Queen cannot pysically father children, so the wives are sent outside of the family unit for sex, and conception. The children thus conceived are raised in the royal family, and have nothing whatsoever to do with their biological fathers.

Female Husbands

Ethnographic studies have documented similar practices in over thirty populations across the continent. I find these fascinating, for the clear way in which they highlight the difference between biological sex and gender, and for the distinctions between sex, marriage, procreation and child rearing.

The records show that in these societies, women who have sufficient wealth to come up with the required bride price may take wives. When they do, they form households in which they take on the traditional roles and duties of husbands, while the other women behave exactly as any other wives, taking on the domestic chores and the child-rearing.

Children? Clearly, all-female marriages are not able to conceive children. Instead, some or all of the wives will have sexual relationships with men outside the marriage, sometimes with men chosen for them by their husbands, specifically for the pusposes of procreation. The biological father's role though, stops right there. The children are raised in the all female household, by their mothers - and their female stepfather. physical procreation is entirely distinct from the chikl-rearing that follows. Sexual relationships too, may be distinct from both the marriage, and from procreation. In some cases, the marriages will include lesbian sexual relationships, but in others some or all of the women have erotic relationships outside of the family which are not necessarily geared to procreation.

Africa is a large, diverse continent, so it should not be a surpsie that there are many other forms of same sex relationship observed as well. Here, I have only touched on one little-known aspect of some female relationships. Later, I will also look at other unusual forms of relationships that totally contradict the idea that homoerotic relationships are foreign to Africa and introduced by outsiders, either European colonials, or the Arabs.

See also:

Gay Ugandans, Ugandan Martyrs

African Myths about Homosexuality - Guardian


Naphy, William: Born to be Gay: A History of Homosexuality (Revealing History)

Greenberg, David F:   The Construction of Homosexuality

Ifi Amadiume Male Daughters, Female Husbands: Gender and Sex in an African Society

Murray, Donald O: Boy-Wives and Female Husbands: Studies of African Homosexualities
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Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Italy and Gay Marriage.

Asmarriage equality advances steadily across Europe, Italy is the one exception in what used to be called "Western" Europe. That could change this week, where a crucial court decision is awaited.

Italy Braces For Gay Marriage Decision

Italy's highest court is expected to rule on a gay marriage case this week, Italian media is reporting.
The country's Constitutional Court heard an appeal on March 23 from two gay couples who were denied the right to marry.
Italian lawmakers have debated civil unions and marriage for gay and lesbian couples since 1986, but no proposal has ever reached the floor of Parliament for a vote.
The Vatican opposes recognition of gay unions.
The court will meet in closed session to discuss a large number of appeals – including the gay marriage case – on Tuesday and Wednesday. In March, the court postponed making a decision until after Easter.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Portugal Clears Last Hurdle to Marriage Equality

The Portuguese parliament approved legislation to recognise same sex marriage some time ago, but there has been little news since then. The reason was simple - the country's President was against the principle, claiming that it was against his Catholic conscience, but was reluctant to take a principled stand against it himself. Instead, he forwarded the bill (more accurately, four of its five articles: he had no objection to the clause which prohibits gay adoption) to the constitutional court for review, obviously hoping that they would find cause to obstruct it. Instead, the court has now approved the legislation. In principle, the President could still veto the law, but I would think this unlikely. The measure has enough support in parliament to override a veto; if he was reluctant to exercise his veto earlier, he is less likely to do so now that there is confirmation that the measure is constitutional; and uniquely for an overwhelmingly Catholic country, even the local bishops have not been overly vigorous in opposition. I would think that we can take it that Portugal will soon be the sixth European country, and the second strongly Catholic one (after Spain), to approve same sex marriage.

Only one thing can really stand in their way - whether Denmark or Iceland get there first: both of these Nordic, Lutheran countries are also on the way to full marriage equality (as are Slovenia and Cyprus).
Portugal's Constitutional Court has OK'd a gay marriage bill approved by lawmakers, Portugal's IOL Diario reported.
President Anibal Cavaco Silva said he forwarded four out of five of the bill's articles to the Constitutional Court because “he had doubts about its constitutionality.” The excluded article bans adoption by married gay and lesbian couples. Cavaco Silva, a Roman Catholic and a member of the PSD party, groups which oppose the legalization of gay marriage, has remained mum on why he set aside the adoption measure.
In an opinion released Thursday and written by Justice Victor Gomes, the court's majority agreed the bill is constitutional. Two judges disagreed.
Portugal's Socialist-controlled Parliament, led by Prime Minister Jose Socrates, approved the gay marriage bill on February 11.
The president still has the option of vetoing the legislation, but Socrates has said he is prepared to overturn the veto.
The Vatican has vociferously opposed laws that grant gay couples the right to marry. Pope Benedict has called for the ouster of Socialists in Spain who approved a gay marriage law in 2005, but the church's opposition in the Catholic stronghold of Portugal has been muted. However, Benedict is widely expected to criticize the bill when he visits Portugal next month.
If approved, Portugal would join five European countries – Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and, most recently, Sweden – in legalizing gay marriage.

Related posts, gay marriage in Europe:

Gay Marriage - Coming to Iceland?

Gay Marriage, in Church: Denmark Next?

Marriage Equality: In Europe, a Human Right?

Marriage Equality: Is Cyprus Next?

Gay Marriage Europe Wide: 10 Year Forecast

Marriage Equality On All Continents!

Marriage Equality Gains More Ground

20 Years ago: Berlin Wall Falls; Death Knell for Apartheid; Birth of Marriage Equality

Gay Marriage - in Church

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Gay Marriage for Iceland?

Last year, Iceland made its own small piece of LGBT history when it appointed Johanna Sigurdardóttir as the world's first openly gay or lesbian Prime 'Minister. Later this year, in a move no longer regarded as remarkable, it is likely to become the next country to recognise same sex marriage. Legal recognition of same sex unions began in the Nordic countries, way back in 1989, when Denmark made provision in law for a domestic partners register. Since then, Sweden and Norway have approved full marriage, and Denmark is planning to follow suit. This will leave Finland as the only Scandinavian country without full marriage equality, but I don't imagine the Finns will want to lag too far behind their neighbours. When they do follow suit, that will create an entire geographic region of countries with full marriage for all and at least two, Sweden and Denmark, providing for church marriage as well as civil marriage. Watch this space.

Lesbian PM, Johanna Sigurdardóttir

Iceland Likely to Permit Gay Marriage by June

Iceland, the tiny island country of 320,000 people in the North Atlantic, will likely be the next nation to legalize same-sex marriage. Openly lesbian prime minister Johanna Sigurdardóttir presented a revision to current marriage law to the Icelandic parliament on March 23. The revision is widely expected to become law, and if (or when) it does, the first same-sex marriages could happen as early as June 27, 2010, the date of Gay Pride in the capital city of Reykjavík.
Since 1996, Iceland has had a legal domestic partnership registry for heterosexual and homosexual couples. Gay and lesbian equality was further strengthened in 2006 with laws guaranteeing the same social rights as heterosexuals to lesbian and gay men in the spheres of social security, taxation, labor, and other social services. Currently, registered same-sex couples also have the same access to adoption as heterosexuals who are married or in registered domestic partnerships.
Despite its size, Iceland is a dynamic nation, and this includes its landscape. The recent eruption of a volcano in the remote area of Fimmvörðuháls has created a new mountain. Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs Katrín Jakobsdóttir has convened a committee to assist in naming the new landmark, but they are also seeking suggestions from the public. We at CarnalNation think that the name of the new mountain should in some way commemorate the Icelandic commitment to equality for gays and lesbians. Suggestions can be sent to the Ministry here.

Related posts, gay marriage in Europe:

Gay Marriage, in Church: Denmark Next?

Marriage Equality: In Europe, a Human Right?

Marriage Equality: Is Cyprus Next?

Global Marriage Equality: Slovenia Advances

Gay Marriage Europe Wide: 10 Year Forecast

Marriage Equality On All Continents!

Marriage Equality Gains More Ground

20 Years ago: Berlin Wall Falls; Death Knell for Apartheid; Birth of Marriage Equality

Gay Marriage – in Church

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

"Traditional Marriage Is Men": US Bishop.

Just a snippet from Box Turtle Bulletin, reporting on the NJ senate committee hearing.  I want to find out who is this sane but anonymous "Episcopal bishop" , who has correctly and clearly defined precisely what "traditional" marriage was all about - but it will have to wait until the morning - it's close to midnight here.

"Episcopal Bishop endorses the bill: Marriage traditionally was not between a man and a woman. Rather it was a contract between two men, a father and a groom."

The bishop is absolutely correct. In biblical times, for many centuries after and in some societies still, women were simply regarded as the property (or at best, as the wards) of men - first the families, then their husbands.  we still these in the most conventional church weddings in Western society, where the bride is "given away" by her father (or other man) to the groom.  This idea of bride as "property" explains the importance of consummation in completing the marriage contract:  the loss of a bride's virginity had an immediate loss in her market value, making it impossible to return her for money back.    (The UK legislation for civil unions, which in most respects come pretty close to marriage in all practical respects, do not require consummation).  Adultery and lusting after another's wife in the commandments are coupled with sins of theft and coveting his goods - adultery was seen as a crime against another man's property rights over his wife.  Lastly, it is one factor (the other was the connection with temple prostitution) at  the heart of the biblical and early Christian precepts against same sex intercourse.  Throughout the Mediterranean world, sex between men was regarded as normal and natural - as long as the receptive partner was not an adult man of high status. To take the "passive" role was to behave like a woman, and it was that voluntary loss of status that aroused hostility of other "real men". In a world which values women, the argument should be irrelevant.

Some other church people also spoke in support.  It's important that we publicize this. The more people recognize that religious opinion is divided, the more difficult it becomes to apply the religious argument to legislative decisions:

A whole host of ministers are speaking in support of marriage equality. As one asked, “why can’t I conduct the marriages that my church supports?”

Lutheran minister:  This is an issue of religious liberty.

Unitarians, Methodists, Episcopalians, Friends (Quakers), and Jews also speaking in support.

Meanwhile, the Catholic bishops, who have fiercely opposed same -sex marriage here  as fiercely as elsewhere, now claim that they support civil unions, which they previously opposed.

Even leading clerics have voiced their support. "Marriage is a union of one man and one woman and has its roots in natural law," testified Patrick Branigan, representing the Catholic Bishops of New Jersey. Branigan said the Bishops, who once opposed the state's civil union law, now support its enforcement fully. "Instead of trying to redefine marriage, the state of New Jersey should education the public and enforce existing laws," he said.

This pretty well mirrors the response of the Portuguese bishops early this year.  Is it yet another reason to push for votes on full marriage, everywhere?  Win or lose, the pressure seems to lead to some movement by Catholic bishops towards grudging acceptance of some form of legal partnership recognition.

LGBT community: The Real Defenders of Traditional Marriage.

I have all along been puzzled by the US MSM acceptance of Maggie Gallagher's con trick, that her organisation is NOM, the "National OrganiZation for Marriage". IT quite clearly isn't - their aim is to restrict marriage. In what way is that supporting marriage? They should rename as "NAM ", National organization Against Marriage. Our side are the ones who are showing real support for marriage, support that demands the opportunity be extended to all. We are the ones who should be saying "Vote yes - yes for marriage".
Finally, others are beginning to say the obvious - that "traditional" as commonly understood is a load of hokum. Earlier this week I pointed out an Episcopalian bishop had reminded NJ senators that "traditional" marriage was an agreement between two men (the groom and the bride's father). NOw, this piece from Huff post extends the idea. (Interestingly, this is the second article I have seen that uses the Tiger Woods story to show how bankrupt is the ideal of (straight) traditional marriage. the previous piece used the reported financial negotiations over the couple' current problems to argue that conventional marriage is just a commercial contract, to which any couple should have access.) Expanding on the idea that monogamous marriage is an anomaly, Jay Michaelson concludes by suggesting that it is the "gay marriage crowd" who most clearly demonstrate enthusiasm for traditional marriage:

Ironically, and of course totally unrecognized by defenders of "traditional marriage," it's the gay-marriage crowd that is the staunchest proponent of traditional norms. They're the ones saying that monogamous marriage is so great, let's extend it to everyone. The real opponents of marriage are the folks who question whether it's such a good idea in the first place. 

Whatever we think about such normative questions, the facts of the matter are beyond dispute: monogamous marriage as an ideal that's actually meant to be upheld is a very recent, and not very successful, innovation. Personally, I recognize that as an deal, it plays an important role in creating stable families, stable communities, and stable societies. I am not forgiving the sin of infidelity. But I do wonder if it's more a peccadillo than some kind of ethical felony.
Read the full article at Monogamous Marriage is an Anomaly, (Huffpost)

Iowa Gay Marriage: Here To Stay.

The first anniversary of marriage equality is a good time to take stock. When the state Supreme court ruled in favour of marriage for all last year, many people in this rural, mid-West and moderately conservative state were outraged.  Opinion polls showed that most voters did not support same sex marriage, and opponents vowed to fight for repeal. When the Governor and the Democratic controlled state legislature did not take immediate action towards changing the state constitution, the opposition vowed to turn marriage into an election issue. Superficially, the signs look good for them, with the Republican candidate for governor leading in the polls. But, for all the brouhaha, marriage is here to stay.  On this at least, you can safely ignore the sound and the fury – it signifyeth nothing. 

The death warrant for repeal was signed last week, when the legislative session ended without taking any action to initiate a process for a ballot on a constitutional amendment. This effectively eliminates any prospect of a successful ballot to repeal same sex marriage.    The problem for the conservative activists is the time scale: the earliest that the issue can appear on a  ballot is now four (and a half ) years away, in November 2014, as any proposal must first be approved by two successive two-year state legislature sessions. With strong Dem opposition to repeal, this will require a Republican takeover of the state legislature as well as the governor’s mansion, and a subsequent retention in 2012.  Is this likely? Even if it is, this will not necessarily be enough.  Many Republicans are learning that social conservatism is no longer the hot button route to electoral success that it used to be, and are more concerned to campaign on economic and financial concerns. They will know that opposition to gay marriage and support for changing the constitution do not always go hand in hand. Even in September last year, a poll showed that Iowans were evenly split on the issue of changing their constitution, even as they continued to oppose the principle of marriage.  So, even if there is a Republican takeover of the legislature, a vote for a ballot will not be guaranteed next session – and is still less likely for the next one, following 2012.

Still, let us imagine the worst:  let us assume that somehow, legislators get it right, and a constitutional amendment makes it to the ballot for 2014.  Will it pass? My view is simply – no way.  By then, Iowans will have lived with marriage for nearly six years. They will have learnt that all practical purposes, it has made little difference to their lives – except that some small businesses will found that they have been making some money from it, and some individuals will have found themselves unexpectedly attending weddings of family or colleagues that they did not even realise were gay.

When the Massachusetts court introduced marriage way back in 2004, even some liberals were angered. The battles for public opinion and in the legislature were heated and intense – and close. With the powerful backing of the Catholic church, opponents almost succeeded in forcing a popular ballot,  If they had done so, marriage there may well have been overturned. However, they did not quite get to force that ballot. Today, marriage in Massachusetts is a non-issue, and even the new Republican Senator will not support overturning it.

In another six years, Iowa will feel the same way.  Marriage equality in the mid-West, as in the North-east, is here to stay.   

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Gay Marriage: India

As marriage equality continues to advance across the globe, some countries (usually the rich, Western ones) make the headlines, others do not. Some situations are clear-cut, some are not.

When the Indian Supreme Court handed down a ruling last year which outlaws discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, it was not at all clear whether this would necessarily ensure a right to marry. Now, in the Indian state of Manipur, the answer for one couple is clear: it does.Two men –– Sandeep Soibam and Nikhil Sharma Hidangmayum got married publicly this week.

Gay marriage solemnised in State

Source: The Shangai Express
 In a bold and path-breaking step, two gays have married and their marriage solemnised publicly today. 
This is the first recorded case of gay marriage in Manipur.
From the legal perspectives, there is nothing wrong in the unique marriage.
The Supreme Court issued a ruling last year which guaranteed that two individuals of the same sex may marry or live together.
Two men –– Sandeep Soibam and Nikhil Sharma Hidangmayum got married publicly in the hall of Leimayol Arts Centre, Chingamakha at 4.30 pm today.
Sandeep (26) was the bridegroom and Nikhil (28) the bride.
The marriage ceremony, though public, was devoid of any customary or religious rituals.
Nevertheless, the bridegroom was clad in the western attire of black suits and tie while the bride wore a white gown.
Amidst congratulatory wishes and salutations from their well-wishers and friends, the bridegroom and bride of the same sex exchanged rings in a fashion somewhat akin to a western marriage.Speaking to media persons after the marriage ceremony, Sandeep and Nikhil said that they have been having affairs for the last six years.
Nikhil Sharma runs a beauty parlour at Akampat.
Sandeep works at the same beauty parlour as an assistant.
Even as their marriage was not sanctioned by their parents, they, somehow, sent invitation to more than a hundred of their friends and well-wishers during the last two/three days.
Conceding that they would certainly feel emotional need of a child as a couple, the gay couple disclosed their intention to adopt a child.
"With our marriage not sanctioned nor recognised by our families, it would create a big problem when I take Nikhil to my parents as my bride", Sandeep said.
"As a temporary measure, we would put up in Nikhil's parlour for sometime", he added.
One woman who came to attend the marriage ceremony said that she was really taken aback to see that it was really a marriage ceremony.
She said that she came there as she was told that it was Sandeep's birthday function.
"The marriage of Sandeep and Nikhil may be according to their wishes but this is a direct challange to the customs and culture of the society", the woman said.
The trend set by Sandeep and Nikhil may bring serious diturbances to social order and family life of the soceity in future, she cautioned.
Transvestites may choose 'others': Tranvestites who do not like to be registered either as male or female in the electoral roll may choose the 'others' category.
The Election Commission has issued an order in this regard.
The Election Commission has directed the Chief Electoral Officers that any one who do not like to disclose their sex should be registered under category 'O'.

Same-Sex, Opposite-Sex, or "Apposite" Sex? : Churches Grappling With Inclusion, Equality

While the Catholic Church has been consumed with issues around clerical abuse, other churches have been getting on with moving into the real world.   There have been steps toward full inclusion in a number of Protestant denominations, in the US and elsewhere, and pressure for further progress continues to grow. Several reports this past week have illustrated this.

"Making it legal: the Bishop of New Hampshire, the Rt Revd Gene Robinson (right) during the civil union with his partner, Mark Andrew, in June 2008 AP"

In the US, the Episcopal church has led the way among the major denominations, with two openly gay or lesbian bishops now confirmed. It has now released a report, Same-Sex Relation­ships in the Life of the Church, by a team of eight leading theologians which was commissioned by the House of Bishops, to consider a range of views on same -sex relationships in the Church. To me, the important feature here is not the conclusions, which diverge sharply, bu the simple fact that the report exists and demonstrates that differences of opinion and interpretation, of Scripture and theology, are possible and valid. The panel was deliberately drawn to reflect a range of views, including those of gay and lesbian people in committed relationships.

I found this passage from the Church Times fascinating, arguing that the issue is not just of "same -sex" or "opposite-sex" relationships, but on of "apposite-sex " (i.e appropriate) relationships - and that for all of us,, such apposite relationships are a way "to sanctification". This makes the question of "gay marriage" in church not just a matter of social justice, bu a matter of opening up a sacramental path to spiritual growth for all:

“Marriage cultivates concern for one another; it offers lifelong hos­pitality; it enacts love; and it exposes our faults in order to heal them. It is the marital virtues that the Church needs, not only with respect to the Bridegroom [Christ] but just now, with respect to one another.” The liberal group defined orienta­tion in terms not of gender, but of morality: “A sexually oriented person is someone who develops and is morally improved through a relationship with someone of the apposite sex, typically but not necessarily the opposite sex. Those called to same-sex relationships are those that need them for their own sanctification . . . because neither opposite-sex relationships nor celi­bacy could get deeply enough into their hearts to promote lifelong com­mitment and growth.” It said that same-sex couples should not be denied the moral worth of each putting their body “on the line” for the other “until death us do part”; that was an accountability “far beyond what counselled celibacy can provide”. Nor should they be denied the “delight” they had in each other; for that was necessary for action: Eros did not turn into charity through self-control, but through self aban­donment, and the self-dispossession that led to self-donation. “It is the daily version of finding one’s life by losing it.”

Meanwhile, a rash of other news reports have focussed not on the formal church response to the demands of theology and scripture, but on highly personal responses by individual clergy, struggling to negotiate a path in conscience between sometimes conflicting demands of Church and state in dealing with requests for marriage within their own congregations. I will report on these separately, in a later post.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Civil Unions for Pennsylvania?

While Maggie Gallagher's NAM (National organisation Against Marriage) continues to insist that the momentum towards marriage equality has been reversed, the evidence contradicts her.  The much vaunted New Hampshire town hall meetings to begin a process to undo last year's legislation turned out to be a damp squib. In Maryland, moves to impeach the AG for his opinion on recognising out of state nuptials were rejected. In Iowa, on the anniversary of the recognition of marriage for all, attempts to ignite a popular repeal are going nowhere.  In California, opinion polls now show a clear majority in favour of marriage, and the repeal of prop 8 is now just a matter of timing the ballot. Elsewhere across the globe, advances for marriage are seen in more and more countries, including somewhat unexpectedly, Slovenia, Albania, Cyprus and Nepal. It is not the movement towards marriage equality that has stalled, but the attempts to impose constitutional bans.

Meanwhile, in the Pennsylvania  state legislature, the recent failure of attempts to ban marriage have now been followed by an attempt to introduce civil unions.  State rep Mark Cohen says he has 24 co-sponsors signed up, with another 10 "considering".  Even so, he believes that his chances of success are low - this year. I like this approach, which is more honest than sitting on bills until passage can be assured. Bringing a bill to the vote is a way to force opponents to crawl out of the woodwork and declare their opposition publicly - and may even flush out some surprising supporters. More importantly, the process begins public discussion.  If the bill does not pass this year, it will be re-introduced repeatedly until it does - and will then pave the way for full marriage.

As in California and Maine,New York and New Jersey, the disappointments of the past eighteen months will be overcome.
"To those who persevere, failure is only temporary".
Full marriage recognition is on its way. The only real question is - "When?"

From Philadelphia Gay News:

Civil-union bill to hit PA House

A Pennsylvania lawmaker is gathering legislative support for a bill that would make civil unions for same-sex couples a reality in the Keystone State.

The measure, the first of its kind in the Pennsylvania legislature, is being spearheaded by Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Cohen (D-202nd Dist.).

Cohen said he’s so far secured cosponsorships from 24 lawmakers and another 10 are considering signing on. He expects to officially introduce the bill by April 14.

Cohen said that while he supports full-marriage equality for same-sex couples, he believes the more logical approach would be to first have the state adopt a civil-union law.

“Civil unions are more attainable in a reasonable period of time than gay marriage is,” Cohen said. “Civil unions don’t give gays the status of marriage, they’re not as good as marriage, but I think right now it’s a much more attainable goal.”

Civil unions preceded the adoption of same-sex marriage in Vermont, Connecticut and New Hampshire, although New Jersey, which approved civil unions several years ago, earlier this year saw a failed attempt at marriage equality.

Pennsylvania Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17th Dist.) last year introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the state, which currently has two cosponsors.

Leach said this week that while he supports Cohen’s efforts, civil unions set up only a “second-class marriage.”

“I am a believer in incremental progress and understand that this is a process to get the best we can in the short-term, and I wish Mark the best of luck. But we have to make sure that this isn’t a final resolution to the issue,” Leach said, noting that he has not heard of a similar measure in the Senate.

Cohen said he doesn’t believe marriage equality is a “realistic possibility in the near future,” adding that even the chances of his own bill passing this session are low. He predicted it could be a multi-year effort, but said he’s willing to re-introduce the measure in the next several sessions if it doesn’t pass this year.

Cohen said many lawmakers have so far been hesitant to put their name on the bill, but that he believes their reluctance will decrease over time.

“As I’ve been going around seeking sponsors, there are very large numbers of people who assured me they’d vote for it but they just don’t want to sponsor it,” he said. “This bill has statewide support and if we can get more demonstrations of support from these legislators, more will feel comfortable making their identities known as sponsors.”

PGN confirmed that Reps. Babette Josephs (D-182nd Dist.), Mike O’Brien (D-175th Dist.), Kathy Manderino (D-194th Dist.), Jewell Williams (D-197th Dist.), Rosita Youngblood (D-198th Dist.), Tony Payton (D-179th Dist.) and Ron Buxton (D-103rd Dist.) have agreed to sign on as cosponsors.

“I think it’s important that everybody’s entitled to the same rights,” Youngblood said about her reason for signing on to the bill. “It’s as simple as that.”

Johnna Pro, spokesperson for Rep. Dwight Evans (D-203rd Dist.), said the representative is “on board” with the legislation but, as he’s chair of the appropriations committee, he typically doesn’t cosponsor any non-budget measures.

Rep. James Roebuck (D-188th Dist.) said Tuesday that he supports civil unions but has not yet read the legislation and come to a decision on cosponsorship. A spokesperson for Rep. Robert Donatucci (D-185th Dist.) said the lawmaker would review the bill and “go from there.”

Calls to all other state representatives from Philadelphia were not returned by press time.

Payton said civil unions should function as a sufficient compromise until full marriage equality can be achieved.

“People should be able to live their lives,” Payton said. “They should be allowed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, just like everybody else. And civil unions would set up the structure to do that. There’s a lot of different people with different views in Pennsylvania, but I think this should be something that’s acceptable to ultimately the majority of the body.”

O’Brien noted that his colleagues have been “hesitant” to bring bills such as Rep. Josh Shapiro’s (D-153rd Dist.) measure to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the state’s hate-crimes law or Rep. Dan Frankel’s (D-23rd Dist.) nondiscrimination bill to the floor for a vote.

He postured that, while Cohen’s measure may face less of an uphill battle than Leach’s, both bills help to further the discussion about LGBT rights among lawmakers.

“In all honesty, I think what we need to do is to use any vehicle possible to keep the question before the legislature,” O’Brien said. “I think tactically it’s the best thing to continue to put the issue before the General Assembly. It’s bringing it to the forefront and just keeping the ball rolling. But do I believe civil unions would have a better chance of passage than marriage? Yeah, I do.” 

Jen Colletta can be reached at