Friday, June 4, 2010

Another Golden Girl has left....

So this a good time to remember what that show did for marriage equality in this scene with the late Rue McClanahan.  Only Betty White survives of the four.

Gay couple temporarily reunited

Here's an uplifting story about a bi-national gay couple reunited, at least temporarily.  Senator John Kerry worked to bring some justice here.  But at the risk of being a wet blanket at the party, I also think we should remember that if Kerry had had his way, the couple would never have been married in the first place.  He campaigned against the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's marriage decision when he ran for president.

The story is taken from The Boston Globe and was written by Maria Sacchetti:

Tim Coco and Genesio Oliveira (lefy0 married in 2005, among the throngs who wed after same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. But for nearly three years, they lived apart — Coco in Haverhill and Oliveira in his native Brazil — because federal law does not recognize their union.

On Wednesday, Oliveira returned to Massachusetts for an emotional reunion after federal immigration officials took the rare step of granting him permission to stay for one year on humanitarian grounds, clearing the way for him to try again for legal residency. His return followed personal appeals by Senator John F. Kerry, US Attorney General Eric Holder, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on their behalf.

“We’re overjoyed. Words can’t express it,’’ Coco, 49, an ad agency owner, said yesterday from their home in Haverhill, where he had decorated his yard with yellow ribbons to mark their long separation. “Every new moment now is a fresh new moment in our life.’’

Kerry called the couple heroes for persevering in their marriage.

“Here were two people who loved each other and were as committed to each other as you could ever imagine, and a quirk in the law was being allowed to keep them apart. I just wanted to do everything I could to reunite them,’’ he said in a statement.

Kerry also praised Napolitano and Holder, saying, “They really listened, and they righted this wrong.’’ Unlike heterosexuals, gays and lesbians cannot sponsor their immigrant spouses for legal US residency.

Oliveira was allowed to return because US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is under the Department of Homeland Security, granted him humanitarian parole. Parole is a rarely used mechanism that permits otherwise inadmissible people to enter the United States for “urgent humanitarian reasons’’ or “significant public benefit,’’ said agency spokesman Chris Bentley. About 250 to 350 people are granted such parole every year, he said.

He declined to comment on Oliveira’s case because of privacy laws. Holder’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Humanitarian parole is temporary, but Coco said the couple might seek to reopen Oliveira’s case or try another venue so that he can remain permanently.

According to the 2000 US Census, some 35,000 same-sex couples include one US citizen and a partner who is not.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, criticized the move, saying it seemed unfair to grant a special exception for Oliveira when so many others, such as earthquake survivors in Haiti, are clamoring to get into the country.

“It’s a side-door attempt at changing the Defense of Marriage Act,’’ he said, citing a 1996 federal law declaring that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman. “That’s the problem with our immigration laws; it’s just this vast collection of exceptions for people who get the attention of a particular bureaucrat or judge or politician.’’

But Kerry and others contended that Oliveira was a victim of injustice. He had applied for asylum in 2002, saying a doctor had raped him in Brazil when he was 16 and he suffered discrimination in his native country because he is gay. An immigration judge found his story credible but rejected his asylum claim, noting that Oliveira had returned to Brazil twice without incident, including for his father’s funeral.

Oliveira was ordered to return to Brazil in 2007. By then, he had been married two years and living in Haverhill with Coco and their dog, Q-tip.

For nearly three years, the couple talked nightly over the Internet and lobbied lawmakers and others for Oliveira’s return. Coco estimates they spent about $250,000 in legal fees and other expenses on the case.

Oliveira missed the death of Coco’s mother in 2008 and lived in near seclusion just blocks from the doctor who had assaulted him as a teen in his hometown in eastern Brazil.

Though Brazil recognizes same-sex marriage for immigration purposes, violence against gays persists. More than 100 homosexuals and transvestites were killed last year in Brazil, according to the US Department of State’s human rights report.

Wednesday night, the couple celebrated with family and friends. They finished each other’s sentences. Oliveira whipped up a batch of chicken Alfredo, with strawberries for dessert.

“It seems like I never left,’’ Oliveira said. “This has made Tim and I stronger than ever. Our commitment for each other, I always say to him, is unbreakable.’’

No LGBT recognition in the UN

Reuters is reporting that a United Nations committee that decides which nongovernmental organizations can be accredited to the world body moved on Thursday to keep out the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

I've condensed the story by reporter Eric Walsh:

Diplomats from Western nations that support gay rights complained that Egypt and other developing states that have been criticized by rights groups for discriminating against gays and lesbians prevented the committee from voting on whether to accredit the group, thereby leaving it in limbo.

"IGLHRC (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission) is disappointed by the vote of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations to block action on our application," Cary Alan Johnson, head of the New York-based group, said in a statement to Reuters.

Johnson said it was a "clear case of discrimination against an organization because it defends the human rights of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi- and transsexual) people around the world."

A Western diplomat told Reuters that "unfortunately we didn't have the votes" on the committee to overcome opposition from countries like Egypt, Qatar, Sudan and others. The diplomat added that IGLHRC (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission) clearly fulfills all the criteria for U.N. accreditation.

Funny song about recent scandals

Here's Nancy Anderson singing about recent sex scandals.  Lyrics by Stephen McCauley.  This is a fund rasier for the group "banned in Boston."  Enjoy.  (With thanks to Mameve.)

Good news from Iowa

As anti-gay marriage forces keep working to overturn the state Supreme Court decision to allow same-sex couples to marry, it's nice to see that a majority of Iowans now favor marriage equality.  This seems to be a pattern: once gay marriage is allowed in a state and people see that their world hasn't turned upside down, there is a shift toward acceptance.

Here's an abridged version of the  story from KCCI-TV:

In the past 14 months, the Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages and the Iowa Board of Pharmacy recommended that the state legalize medical marijuana. Now, a new NewsChannel 8 poll shows that a majority of Iowans support both ideas.

The survey found that 53 percent of those polled said they favor marriage rights for same-sex couples and that 41 percent are opposed.

Opponents of same-sex marriage put candidates on notice this week, delivering a petition to the statehouse that they said makes clear that the issue will be on the minds of voters.

"When folks go to the polls next week and then in November, they will in fact support candidates who understand their Constitution and who will defend marriage," said Bryan English of the Iowa Family Police Center.

He said he feels that the NewsChannel 8 poll results don't accurately reflect the feelings of most Iowans.

Justin Uebelhor of the group One Iowa said he thinks a majority of Iowans have bigger concerns.

"Iowans want their elected officials to focus on issues like jobs and education and really, those pocketbook issues, rather than focusing on divisive issues that are going to pit neighbor against neighbor," Uebelhor said.

Another example of religious intolerance

As you know, there are organizations in Iowa who are doing everything in their power to overrule the Iowa Supreme Court's decision to allow same-sex marriages in the state.  One of those groups is the Iowa Family Policy Center, a Christian organization led by Chuck Hurley.  (Don't you love how these groups always claim the word "family" as their own?)  Jason Hancock of the Iowa Independent has written a story that highlights yet again where the real intolerance lies in this debate.  According to Hancock:
Chuck Hurley (left), president of the politically influential Christian organization Iowa Family Policy Center, says any religious leader who supports legalized same-sex marriage is “confused at best and blatantly evil at worst.”

The statement comes in response to demands that Hurley retract an earlier statement calling members of the pro-marriage equity Iowa Interfaith Alliance “pseudo pastors.”

Iowa Interfaith Alliance delivered a letter to legislators during the 2010 General Assembly signed by more than 150 religious leaders in Iowa who support marriage rights for same-sex couples, which Hurley refers to as “state-sanctioned sodomy.”

“Yesterday, I said that I believe a pseudo pastor, meaning anyone who would knowingly lead their flock astray on issues of morality and spirituality, and so clearly violate the revealed Word of God, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and a false shepherd,” Hurley said, later adding: “In my opinion, those who signed their name to the Interfaith Alliance petition in support of state sanctioned sodomy are not only wolves in sheep’s clothing, but they are blind leaders of the blind.”

He called on members of the Interfaith Alliance to “repent, turn to Christ, and join us in showing genuine concern for both the physical and the spiritual wellbeing of those caught up in the destructive sin of homosexuality.”

Connie Ryan Terrell, executive director of the Iowa Interfaith Alliance, responded immediately.

“Mr. Hurley is blatantly disrespectful of the many clergy from across Iowa who are supportive of marriage equality simply because he believes differently,” she said. “Mr. Hurley, who is not a pastor, has every right to his belief, as do the clergy who signed our letter in February and other clergy from across the state who support marriage equality.”

Terrell said Hurley has no business proclaiming who should and should not call themselves pastor.

“It is inappropriate and uncivil for Mr. Hurley to do so,” she said. “He should retract and apologize for his statement that clearly has no place in this public discussion.”

Can't wait to read about the ensuing scandal that seems to go hand-in-hand with folks who are so irrationally and intolerantly "Christian."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Maryland Voters Now Favor Same Sex Marriage

Here's some good news from Out Loud News in Maryland.  I've condensed the story:

A Washington Post poll released on May 11 shows that same-sex marriage is gaining among Maryland voters.  The poll, conducted May 3-6, finds that 46 percent overall favor legal same-sex marriage, 44 percent oppose it, and 10 percent have no opinion. Among registered voters, 48 percent are in favor and 43 percent are opposed, according to the Post.  By contrast, in late 2007, an identical Post poll question found 44 percent in favor overall and 51 percent opposed.

The margin widens when it comes to recognition of out-of-state marriages involving gay and lesbian couples.  By a margin of 55 percent to 38 percent, Marylanders approve such recognition. In response to these numbers, Equality Maryland executive director, Morgan Meneses-Sheets said, "The new polling data released by the Washington Post is a huge, public step forward for marriage equality in Maryland." She continued, "As the article indicates, a clear majority consensus is building across the state, not just in support of out-of-state same-sex marriage recognition, but for full marriage equality for lgbt couples."

The Post poll indicates "a notable dip in opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage among African-Americans since the last Post poll. Blacks in Maryland are now nearly equally divided over the issue."

Gay Marriage Legal in Portugal Next Monday

On Top Magazine is reporting that same-sex marriage will be legal in Portugal next Monday. 

Writes the staff of the magazine:

Beginning June 7, marriage in Portugal will be defined as a “contract between two people wishing to form families through the full communion of life.”

Prime Minister Jose Socrates, a Social Democrat, promised to legalize gay marriage if his party was returned to power. Lawmakers approved the bill in February.

President Anibal Cavaco Silva reluctantly signed the gay marriage bill into law on May 17, saying he was only doing so because Social Democrats were certain to overturn a veto.

“There are moments in the life of a country when ethical responsibility has to be placed above one's personal convictions,” he said in a televised address to the nation.

The president initially attempted to derail the legislation, forwarding four out of five of the bill's articles to the nation's Constitutional Court. He said he did so because he doubted the bill's constitutionality. But the court's majority agreed that the four articles were constitutional.

An article that bans married gay and lesbian couples from adopting children was not forwarded by the president to the court and the prohibition remains in the final law.

During a visit to Portugal as the president considered the issue, Pope Benedict called on Roman Catholics to oppose gay marriage. He called the institution “insidious and dangerous.”

Portugal joins five European countries – Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Norway and most recently Sweden – in legalizing gay marriage.

Good news!

Day 4 of Dan Choi's Hunger Strike

via Joe.My.God

New York, New York

Since the producers of Sex and the City 2 made the huge mistake of taking the ladies out of New York for the film, I thought a cinematic tribute of New York was in order. Please, if there's a Sex and the City 3, don't get rid of New York.

Gay Malawian Couple Pardoned

Voice of America is reporting the very good news that the gay couple in Malawi, previously sentences to 14 years of hard labor each, has been released.  Here's an abridged version of the report:

Malawian President Bingu Wa Mutharika’s weekend pardon of a homosexual couple recently convicted for holding a public betrothal ceremony has drawn praise from U.S. President Barack Obama, and from Britain and a Malawian gay rights group.  U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who was visiting Malawi at the time of the reprieve, called Sunday’s release of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga from prison a courageous decision.

Journalist Watipaso Mzungu of the Malawi Daily Times newspaper said Malawians’ reactions have been mixed.  And, he said President Mutharika’s decision continues to raise a lingering question in a country that imposes stiff bans on homosexual behavior.

Two weeks ago, a Malawian judge convicted Monjeza (photo: left, back) and Chimbalanga (right, front) of unnatural acts and sentenced them to 14 years in prison.  The sentence has drawn criticism from governments and human rights groups.  It has also sparked debate about activities by other African governments that are attempting to toughen penalties against homosexuality, which is illegal in 38 of Africa’s 53 states.

Mzungu, a Blantyre-based journalist, noted that traditional religious group opposition to the legalization of homosexual unions remains very strong in Malawi, a predominantly (80%) Christian country.  He said there are signs that President Mutharika, while signaling that he is not overturning state law, is clearly acceding to demands of the international community.

Despite the international attention, he said Mr. Mutharika’s own political fate is not being threatened and that his critics will try to reach a common understanding for the benefit of the country’s development needs until the next election cycle in 2014.

Journalist Mzungu said the country’s Minister of Gender and Child Welfare has told state media in Malawi that, “if the two guys go home and begin staying together, they are going to be rearrested.”

Mzungu said it is his clear understanding that President Mutharika is not trying to overturn the law, but is simply trying to find a way out of Malawi’s current clash with international human rights advocates, while signaling that violators of the current laws still face punishment.

“The president did emphasize that he did it (the pardon) on humanitarian grounds.  Therefore, it is an expectation that the two guys will not get married again unless they want to face another jail term,” he noted.

With charges dropped against them, Monjeza and Chimbalanga still have the option of leaving Malawi.