Showing posts with label Gay Marriage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Marriage. Show all posts

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Gay Marriage: The Court's Four Choices

We are counting down the days to the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. I am not going to use this post to argue the cause for GLBT equality; rather, I am laying out the possible outcomes based on the multiple legal issues in the case at hand. Since news reporters will be tripping all over themselves to be the first to report, it is likely they will report the majority decision without going too deep into the nuances – and the nuances are important.

Although the case is called Obergefell v Hodges (an Ohio case), there are actually four cases involved: Obergefell v Hodges (Ohio), Tanco v Haslam (Tennessee), Bourke v. Beshear (Kentucky) and DeBoer v Snyder (Michigan). These four cases are from the four states that comprise the 6th Circuit, the only federal circuit court that has ruled against finding a right to same-sex marriage.

Contrary to popular understanding, Obergefell, Tanco, and Bourke do not directly address the question of whether states must permit same-sex marriage; all three are cases where a valid same-sex marriage was performed in another state, and the plaintiffs are suing to have their marriages recognized in their new home states. Only DeBoer raises the issue of same-sex marriage within their home state Michigan, and even that case is a little tortured because the original suit was brought against a Michigan law forbidding adoption by same-sex couples, not the actual marriage statute; the complaint was later amended to address the issue of same-sex marriage in Michigan.

With that as background, the Justices have a wide variety of choices open to them. I present them from the narrowest to the broadest possible rulings:

1) Full Faith & Credit
: SCOTUS could address the very narrow issue as to whether or not a state that prohibits same-sex marriage must recognize valid same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. The precedents are somewhat divided here: interracial marriages must be recognized across state boundaries, but other marriages – such as that between cousins (which are permitted in some states, but not others) or between young people (state marriage laws vary, some permitting 16 year olds to marry, while one requires an age of 19) have been decidedly inconsistent. In a narrow ruling, the suits would be decided under the Full Faith & Credit Clause of the Constitution. Even if the couples win, it would not require the states in the 6th Circuit to legalize same-sex marriage: it would only require them to recognize valid marriages performed elsewhere. This is the least likely scenario (but it is possible) and would happen only if Justice Kennedy felt it necessary to ‘slow down” the march toward GLBT equality. A win, but a disappointment, and the battle continues.

2) Gender Bias. Raised as a possibility by Justice Roberts, this approach would apply the existing law that outlaws discrimination based on gender without a compelling state interest. In oral arguments, Roberts asked, “If Sue can marry Tom but John can not marry Tom, isn’t this a simple case of gender bias?" This has several advantages: it would effectively legalize same-sex marriage throughout the US, while creating no new law or precedent; it is also a way for the conservatives to further the issue of same-sex marriage without specifying specific “gay” rights. This approach would probably have a decisive majority of 6-3, or even 7-2, with Roberts (and possibly Alito) joining in the majority. Since this is basic existing law, gender discrimination, no new law, no new rights or ‘protected’ status for gays would be granted. This could be 6-3 or even 7-2, which would add a sense of legitimacy to the court’s ruling, and would be the 'compromise' approach in an effort to gain the widest acceptance of the decision. To me, this is a very possible outcome.

3) Equal Protection Clause.
This would immediately result in legal same-sex marriage across the country, and, by applying it to gays and lesbians, would create a new application of this clause. This approach has the advantage of a clear statement concerning GLBT marriage rights, but would be more controversial than choice #2 above; it would likely be a 5-4 (possibly 6-3) decision. This is the outcome most LGBT groups are looking for.

4) Heightened Scrutiny/Protected Class. This would be the most far-reaching approach, and would affect not only marriage, but every law in every state that discriminates against gays and lesbians (such as employment and job termination, adoption, etc). Under current US law, it IS legal to discriminate between groups if the government has a rational basis. So, for instance, a state may pass a law requiring 7 years of school for doctor licensing, 5 for dentists, and 8 for anesthesiologists if they so choose. This is the standard the 6th Circuit applied to the state laws in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky. However, if a group of people is found to have been the subject of ‘animus’ (hatred) resulting in discriminatory laws, then the government must go beyond a mere rational basis; they must prove a “compelling state interest” in order to discriminate. This is a very high standard, and laws almost never meet it. If the Court decides that gays and lesbians are to be considered a protected class, there are several ramifications: first, nothing might happen initially: the Court could send all four cases back to the 6th Circuit for a re-hearing under the new standard. Justice delayed. However, in the long-term, this would affect single every law in the nation that discriminates against gays and lesbians. It is the most sweeping choice; gays would win the most rights for the long term, and the decision (like Roe v Wade) would also generate the most controversy. It is highly doubtful that this could be anything better than a 5-4 vote…and in fact, somewhat unlikely, Justice Kennedy would need to go further out on a limb than he ever has to make this happen. the dissenting opinion would likely be vicious, and conservative political groups would have the most ammunition against the court.

Of course, the Supreme Court often surprises…and often the majority vote is fractured into majority and concurring and dissenting opinions, so elements of all of the above may actually be part of a very complicated decision.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Episcopal Church Approves Same-Sex Blessings, Removes Transgender Bias



The Episcopal Church in the USA has just become the largest Christian denomination in America to approve Blessing Rites for same-sex marriage. In addition, the Church removed discriminatory barriers towards transgender individuals seeking to enter clerical service, specifically banning bias based on both “gender identity” and “gender expression.”

The Church, which has its roots in the Church of England, is meeting at its Triennial Convention in Indianapolis. It is comprised of two ‘chambers,’ a House of Bishops and a House of Deputies; the House of Deputies is itself comprised of clergy (priests) and elected laypersons from every diocese in America.  The measures had to pass muster with all three groups, and they did by large margins.

On Monday, July 9, the House of Bishops approved liturgical resources for blessing same gender relationships (known as Resolution A049)  by a lopsided vote of  111-41 with three abstentions. The new liturgy is considered provisional and its content will be reviewed over the next three years.

“That will mean different things in different locales,” Bishop Thomas Ely of the Diocese of Vermont said when discussing the resolution. “There is a place in this process for every Episcopalian regardless of their level of support for the material. Read it. Reflect upon it. Use it, but please don’t ignore it.”
Bishop Leo Frade of the Diocese of Southeast Florida evoked laughter and applause from both bishops and members of the crowded gallery when responding to an assertion that passage of the same-sex rites would drive Hispanics and Latinos from the church.

“The reality is that we, like everybody else, have gay children. We have gay parents. We have gay uncles. We are like everybody else. We process things the same way…you cannot generalize that Hispanics are going to run away from the Episcopal Church because we have a door that’s open. We are going to run from immigration that’s trying to deport us, but not from the Episcopal Church.”

With the approval of a same-sex blessing rite on Monday, the issue then was sent to the House of Deputies.  The vote, which took place in the last hour, broke down as follows:

Laity:  
Yes - 86
No - 19
Divided – 5 (meaning that the lay delegates in 5 dioceses split evenly, and so cast a single ‘divided’ vote)

Clergy:
Yes - 85
No - 22
Divided – 4 (same as above)


With that vote, the 2-million member strong Church approved same-sex Blessings.

Some in the media have questioned why the Church approved ‘Blessings,’ rather than calling it a “marriage rite,’ and have suggested a sort of second-class rite.  However, this misunderstands the current Episcopal approach to Marriage.

In much of the Episcopal Church, the clergy and bishops have urged a return to the original understanding of a division between the civil role and the spiritual/theological role of the Church in blessing unions.  Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first openly gay Bishop in the Church (whose election caused global repercussions within the Anglican Communion) urged churches in his diocese to consider conducting the civil “marriage ceremony’ in the rear of church buildings (representing governmental approval), and then arranging for the official Church spiritual Blessing at the altar in the front of the Church.  As the Church has no authority to change civil law, the liturgy approved is for Church use at the altar, regardless as to whether or not the civil law in that Diocese recognizes same-gender marriages. 


Deputies also adopted Resolution A050, authorizing a task force to study marriage. It calls for creation of a 12-member task force to study marriage, including needs for pastoral responses by clergy for same-sex couples in states where civil marriage is legal, as well as issues “raised by changing societal and cultural norms and legal structures.”

In addition, the House of Deputies agreed with the bishops to offer support for the transgender community by adding gender expression and identity to two canons that prevent discrimination. One makes clear that the ordination discernment process is open to them, and another guarantees their equal place in the life, worship and governance of the church.

Debate on Resolution D019, which addressed the canon titled “Extending the Rights of the Laity,” drew speakers who told of the need to make explicit the church’s welcome – using its slogan “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” – to those who are transgender.

The Rev. Carla Robinson, deputy from Olympia, Washington, spoke as a transgender person of the importance of specifically including people like her. “By including gender identity and gender expression in this canon, you will rightly name us,” she said. “By naming us in this canon we as a church are continuing to incarnate the Christ-like welcome that is central to our way of faith, and to make it clear to the whole world that the gospel of God’s love in Jesus Christ is for everyone.”
Deputy Natalie Vanatta of Kansas said that as a lesbian her rights as a member of the church are protected under this canon, but they currently are not for transgender people. She said, “The trans community has stood and fought for the rest of the LGBTQ community time and time again, and I would not be living out my baptismal covenant if I did not do the same for them now.”

A vote by orders on this resolution was called, and 89 lay deputations and 92 clergy deputations (out of 109) voted yes.

The Episcopal Church – my Church -  has an official rite for the Blessing of Same Sex Unions.

Laus Deo!

.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Gay Marriage for NY" skewered by gay supporters for anti-straight article.

Around midnight, "Gay Marriage for New York"(GM4NY) chose to post to Facebook a letter by Dan Amira that first appeared in New York Magazine. The letter asked straight couples not to sign up for marriage licenses in New York on July 24, the first day on which gay couples can get married. Expecting a rush of marriages, NY officials have instituted a lottery system to award licenses on that day.

In promoting the letter, GM4NY chose to repeat and highlight a particularly offensive passage from the letter:

Hear this, straight people: Maybe it's convenient for you to get married over the weekend, or maybe you just like the novelty factor of tying the knot on a historic day. But the opportunity means a hell of a lot more for gay couples. Every spot in the lottery occupied by one of you means a gay couple misses out on an experience with much deeper personal significance."

Within an hour, 113 comments had been lodged on the Facebook site, with only two individuals supporting GM4NY's posting of the letter. All others took the organization to task. A representative sample of comments:

Chelle Panzica: I dont think its fair to ask heteros not to get married on the 24, weddings typically are planned way ahead of time and to even ask that is kind of rude. and im gay! and from ny

Denise Gibaldi: equality means EVERYONE should be able get married!

Shannon McNeece: You are just as ignorant as you claim "straight people" are. "Listen up straight people"? Really?


Todd Joseph: agreed, it is a day to celebrate EQUALity- for everyone, we must act within the constraints of what we demanded. lets the state rejoice together

Andrew Arslan: Kinda wrong...if they want to get married that same day let 'em. Without their support we wouldn't even have that day.

Penni Blizzard- McGrath: Seriously? "Listen?" We've been listening and we applaud equal rights - don't ask for "special" rights now. THAT attitude is why so many are clueless.

James Carter Giardina Jr.: I'm gonna have to agree, I do not feel comfortable asking (demanding) the right to marry, and than turning around and asking other couples not too. That date could have a very specific and special meaning to a heterosexual couple just as it will to gay ones. The day will mean no less, if it is shared with heterosexual couples. If anything it will mean so much more.

Alyssa Andrew: Rude, rude, RUDE.

Danny-Timothy Patrick Tyrell: Someone, please contact NYMag and let them know this is a big mistake to print. Gay Marriage for NY. I can't believe you even reposted this. Bad Form, very Bad Form.

Brittany Cable: I'm going to agree with everyone else -- straight people have just as much of a right to get married on that day as we do. To ask them not to because the day is somehow "more special" to us is rather rude and insensitive of us.

Matthew Mackey: I do not agree with this article one bit. Asking for straight ppl to wait to get married is exactly OPPOSITE of what we were fighting for. PPL who are fighting against our rights and equality are going to use this article against us. Their marriages are just as important as ours are.

As the hits came coming, GM4NY attempted to distance themselves from the letter with the excuse that they only were posting it "for discussion purposes." However, they never asked for discussion, comment, opinion, or input: instead, they simply quoted and posted the pointed paragraph above.

Let's be frank: GM4NY is not a 'discussion group' - it is an advocacy organization with over 140,000 followers that has used social media to pursue specific political agendas. Someone thought a bit too highly of themselves and chose to pursue an offensive agenda that is not supported by the GLBT community, and then found themselves backtracking and excuse-making.

In blunt terms: this is a freaking stupid-ass campaign. Who the hell at GM4NY thought that this idiocy was a good idea? Straight couples and legislators were our allies throughout the Marriage Equality process, and 'reserving' a date just for same-sex marriages is insulting and asinine. We ALL deserve to tie the knot if we want to - thats what Marriage Equality was all about! We argued we wanted Equality; our opponents argued that we wanted "special rights." Any effort to reserve a date as 'special' for gay marriages alone validates our opponents arguments that we wanted 'special rights.'

What we want is Equality, not special treatment. Someone at Gay Marriage for NY needs a swift kick in the ass for this...and for digging in its heels and refusing to accept the criticism of the vast majority of its followers - many of whom worked tirelessly for Marriage Equality - who were insulted, upset, and horrified by their position.

#LGBT #GM4NY

Friday, June 17, 2011

NY Senate Republicans Stalling of Equality exposes Cowardice

According to Michael Gormley of the Associated Press, "Senate Republicans in New York say protecting religious groups that won't perform gay weddings or offer services to gay couples is a major factor in their refusal so far to bring same-sex marriage to a vote."

Marriage Equality in New York - which would probably pass if a vote was taken in the Senate - is being held up because the Republican-controlled Senate is (so far) not permitting the bill to be scheduled for a vote. The Senate adjourns on Monday.

Their reason? That religious institutions are not being protected in the bill.

A reason, that, in plain language, is a pure crap.

Religious institutions have ALWAYS been protected under the US Constitution to create their own rules for membership and marriage. Since our birth as a country, heterosexuals have had the right to marry; However, NO Roman Catholic Church has been forced to marry non-catholics. Synagogues have not been forced to marry non-Jews. Every religious institution has ALWAYS had the right to define who was eligible for marriage within that religious institution.

What the proposed law in New York State refers to is the legal right to be married in a CIVIL ceremony, as recognized by the STATE - it has NO effect on the right of religious institutions to conduct their own policy as they have seen fit, just as they have always done. This delay tactic by the GOP, presumably to protect religious institutions, has nothing to do with churches and everything to do with playing politics with peoples lives. And, quite frankly, not having the balls to stand up to the the RC Archbishop, Hassidic Jewish leaders, and the Conservative Party, which has threatened to withhold its endorsement from any Republican supporting the Marriage Equality Bill.

To be sure, the Conservative Party can deliver the margin of victory in a race, as it commands about 5% of the vote in many districts. However, the Conservative Party is notoriously weak and disorganized - if not entirely unorganized. When Conservative Party leaders are challenged by insurgents, it has been standard operating procedure for those leaders to call upon Republican operatives to step in and do their campaign leg-work for them...and yet, the NY GOP - once the most progressive in the nation - continues to allow itself to be emasculated as the Conservative Party becomes the very small tail that wags a once very large dog.

To be fair, in recent years, there have been two series of court decisions that, on their face, have seemed to require religious institutions to provide services to gay couples, and this may be part of the fear that some Senators have. It makes sense, then, to look at these two decisions.

The first is the Ocean Grove, New Jersey case, where the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association was stripped of its non-profit status because it would not allow gay couples to rent their oceanfront boardwalk pavilion for weddings. Conservatives immediately pointed to this as evidence that 'gay marriage' would force religious institutions to provide services against their beliefs. But a closer look at the Ocean Grove situation shows their fears to be empty.

The pavilion is not owned by the United Methodist Church (as is often claimed), but by an independent organization called the "Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association." (There are "Camp Meeting Associations" associated with revival meetings within Methodism all up and down the eastern seaboard). The OGCMA owns all the land in a 1 square mile section of Neptune Township, but leases most of it out to homeowners and businesses. The pavilion in question received its tax exemption NOT BY BEING A RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION, BUT THROUGH THE NEW JERSEY "GREEN ACRES" PROGRAM, whose purpose is to provide tax breaks for properties which help preserve open space for enjoyment and use by the public, without discrimination. The OGCMA never reserved the pavilion for Christian weddings or religious services of ANY kind, and received its tax exemption for preserving open green space. Thus, this case did NOT involve an infringement on religious rights, but on the terms of a state program exchanging tax relief for public access.

The second series of cases Conservatives point to involve adoption services offered through religious-oriented agencies such as Catholic Charities. In Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts, courts or legislatures have made it clear that these agencies can not discriminate against applicants, if they receive state tax money. In a number of jurisdictions, Catholic Charities has chosen to longer place children in foster care or adoption rather than comply with these rulings.

However, they had another choice: they could have stopped taking taxpayer funding. In each case, the agencies were prohibited from discriminating precisely because state governments were contracting with them to perform state functions - the placement of children into foster care or adoptive families. Catholic Charities can not claim to be both a private religious institution on one hand - and then stay afloat by using tax dollars paid for by Americans of all religious stripes on the other - and expect to be able to serve only those with their own religious viewpoint. (It should also be pointed out that these agencies were not only prohibited from discriminating against gays, but also against single moms and cohabiting heterosexuals).

Even though both of these cases turned on very specific, non-religious issues - tax exemption for open space, or state contractual duties using taxpayer money - Conservatives continue to claim that gay marriage will destroy religious groups' ability to practice their own faith. This, of course, is complete nonsense.

And the New York Republican Senate's efforts to avoid and stall Marriage Equality based on these arguments is shallow and cowardly.

Dean Skelos, Kemp Hannon, Chuck Fuschillo, John Flanagan, Mark Grisanti - your constituents deserve better than kowtowing to the Conservatives and throwing up religious smokescreens to avoid doing the right thing...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Open Letter to NYS Senators Hannon, Skelos & Fuschillo:



Dear Senators Hannon, Skelos, and Fuscillo:

As a former Baldwin resident and Past President of the Nassau County Young Republicans, who worked tirelessly on your campaigns for a decade, I am asking that you stand for what is right and support Marriage Equality in New York State.

Kemp, in the late 1970s, you ran for NYS Assembly for the first time. I met you daily, running ahead of you to make sure that we knocked on every door in South Hempstead for your first campaign. I spoke to voters, delivered literature, and worked phone banks on your behalf. While I certainly can’t claim credit for the victory that launched your life-long electoral career, I can recount the endless effort I put into your campaigns. You accepted that help gratefully. You didn’t ask whether I was gay or straight, and it didn’t seem to matter.

Dean and Charlie, your very electoral survival is due, in part, to the tireless efforts of gay men on your behalf. When Ronald Reagan ran for President in 1980 and again in 1984, there were serious concerns that he could not carry a state such as New York….and that his coattails (or lack thereof) might damage ‘local’ Republicans. None of you complained when Terry Dolan, a gay man, founded and operated NCPAC (the National Conservative Political Action Committee) out of a Greenwich Village rowhouse, to insure a lopsided Reagan victory in New York. Rolling into the 1990s, you all were nervous when Bill Clinton was polling double-digits ahead of George HW Bush, and, later, Bob Dole on Long Island….but that didn’t stop you from calling on the expertise of Art Finkelstein – another gay man – who had practically set up shop out of Nassau Co GOP Headquarters, beginning with his engineering of Al D’Amato to the statehouse. As Clinton steamrolled over the GOP in NY, Finkelstein coordinated media messages that resulted in victories from Pataki down to yourselves. And in spite of the Democratic wins in NY and nationally, you all managed to hang on to your seats for three decades.

All with the help – acknowledged or not – of gay men you on whom you were more than happy to rely.

I organized rallies, manned phone banks, coordinated enthusiastic youth for your events, ran local headquarter operations, and responded to every request.

And so now, as an “out,” gay man in his 50’s, I ask this of you: Do the right thing, and take this opportunity to end the apartheid treatment of your gay and lesbian constituents.

I now live in New Hampshire, arguably a far more conservative state than New York. We have had full Marriage Equality for a year and a half now. The sky has not fallen. Churches have not been forced to do anything contrary to their beliefs. Marriages across society have not suffered. Children have not been harmed.

Rather, people have avoided bankruptcy and unaddressed illness because they’ve been covered by their spouses health insurance. Children have been able to refer to their parents, rather than “mom and her friend.” Hospitals and banks have been able to afford spousal recognition on marital property. Couples have been afforded security and equality. And society has continued, stronger than ever.

Gay men and women are all around you. They have voted for you, strategized for you, and campaigned for you. They have the same dreams for their children, the same hopes and dreams for their future as any other of your constituents.

Do the right thing, and be a part of history in New York.

Sincerely,

T. Thomas Fitzsimmons
(f/k/a Thomas Simmons)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Bishop Gene Robinson to retire


Sad news that brought me to tears this evening.

It is not hyperbole to say that the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson will go down in history alongside Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Cesar Chavez, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And I have been blessed to have lived and worshipped during this time, in the state of New Hampshire, in the Episcopal Church while he has been our shepherd.

Bishop Robinson has stood in the face of criticism and hate and death threats in order to proclaim a greater truth, and to offer a gospel message of hope and love and humanity for all at a time when many have confused the Gospel of Jesus with an ignorant, fundamentalist "churchianity." He has sacrificed his personal privacy and safety in a never-compromising outreach to Gay and Lesbian men and women...and at a time when the Ugandan Church is calling for the execution of gays and conservatives in the Anglican Communion threaten to tear the church apart over the acceptance of gay and lesbian parishioners - - Bishop Robinson has stood and spoken with a blinding truth and honesty that is painful.

Indeed, he has been"...a stone to make men stumble..." (1 Peter 2:8)

My husband-to-be and I were with him in the gallery of the New Hampshire Statehouse when Marriage Equality was finally approved. And he personally gave his blessing to clear the way for our wedding, and promised us personally that he would provide clergy to perform our ceremony.

Coming less than a week after a political tidal wave of change in our nation and in our state legislature, rendering all of our marriages "at risk," this is doubly distressing. But we take heart, knowing that

"...the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice." - Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Time for the rest of us to step up our vigilence.

I have included his the Bishop's entire statement, released today the Episcopal Diocesean Convention.

***************

Bishop of New Hampshire Calls for Election of Successor

Convention of the Diocese of New Hampshire

November 6, 2010


I am using this time for closing remarks to announce to you an important decision I have made regarding our common life. On January 5, 2013, I will retire as your Bishop. To that end, I am hereby calling for the election of a Bishop Coadjutor for the Diocese of New Hampshire, who will succeed me in 2013. While this is an excruciatingly long period of time – two years and two months – from now, this period of time is essential for a smooth and unhurried process of transition, for the diocese and for me.

Let me share with you the reasons for announcing my retirement at this time:

I wanted to make this announcement to you in person. While I might have delayed this announcement a few more months, I could not imagine doing so by letter. I have been in the Diocese of New Hampshire 35 years, the last 24 of which have been in a diocesan position. Our time together has always focused on “relationship,” and I could not imagine changing this relationship without telling you so personally.

By January, 2013, I will be approaching my 66th birthday. (This is where you say, “But bishop, you look so young!”) I will have been a bishop over nine years, a reasonable and typical tenure for a bishop my age in the Episcopal Church, in what I consider to be one of the great and healthy dioceses of The Episcopal Church. Since the very beginning, I have attempted to discern God’s will for me and for you, and this decision comes after much prayer and discernment about what God wants for us at this time. I received the diocese under my pastoral care in good shape, thanks to Bishops Phil Smith and Doug Theuner, and believe that I will be passing it along to my successor ALSO in good shape. I have tried to be a faithful steward of the trust and responsibility you placed in me. Only you can be the judge of that.


The fact is, the last seven years have taken their toll on me, my family, and YOU. Death threats, and the now-worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as Bishop, have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark, who has faithfully stood with me every minute of the last seven years, and in some ways, YOU. While I believe that these attitudes, mostly outside the Diocese, have not distracted me from my service to you, I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that they have certainly added a burden and certain anxiety to my episcopate. While my resignation may not stop such pressures completely, it does seem to be the right time for me to initiate the nearly-two-year process for your election of a new bishop. A three-month overlap will allow for a smooth and appropriate transition.

There are still things left for me to do. First and foremost, there is continuing to be a good bishop for you during the next two years. I don’t intend to be a “lame duck,” as you deserve a bishop during this interim that is “on all burners” for the remaining two years. I intend to continue to be fully engaged as your Bishop in the remaining time we lead the diocese together. You can do YOUR part by not sweeping me aside, either literally or emotionally, over the next two years, while I lead as your Bishop Diocesan.

Let me assure you that I am in good health – having lost 25 pounds put on over the last seven years in part by eating all your good food!! Especially that coconut cream pie in Colebrook! I continue in my fifth year of sobriety, which has been a total blessing to me. I continue to treasure my work and ministry with you, and it is a total joy and privilege to serve you and to serve God in this holy collaboration with you. After two more final, vigorous years with you, there are other things that I hope to do, in a new chapter in my life and ministry.

In the meantime, there is mission and ministry to be done. I have been on retreat with the senior staff, and we have set priorities for the next two years. My first priority during these two years will be to continue to support, nurture and pastor our clergy, lay leaders and congregations. Our School for Vestries, under the able leadership of our new Canon for Lay Leadership, Judith Esmay, is the fulfillment of one of my dreams for us. We will continue our focus on stewardship, vitality and leadership development in congregations. We will continue to be responsible stewards of our finances. We will continue to work with congregations in finding the best clergy available for ministry here in New Hampshire. Our fantastic diocesan staff will continue to see, as their primary mission, serving you, the people of the diocese. The Diocesan Council will shepherd us through a new and exciting accountability process for Fair Share giving. Our Mission Resources Committee, under the leadership of Benge Ambrogi, will be freed to focus on new and creative ministry projects in small and large congregations alike. It is such an exciting time in the life of our diocese, and I intend to jump into it with both feet!

For my own ministry as your bishop, both within and beyond the diocese, I will continue my work of evangelizing the unchurched and the “de-churched.” I get to talk to probably more unchurched people than any other bishop in The Episcopal Church. On college campuses, speaking to various public forums, and also in my work with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, I get the opportunity to make the case for God and for God’s Church – either to those who have never known God’s unimaginable love, or to those who have been ill-treated, in the name of a judgmental God, and who have left the Church. Recent news brings us the tragic stories of teenagers who have taken their own lives because religion tells them they are an abomination before God and who believe that their lives are doomed to despair and unhappiness. I get to tell them a different story. By all accounts, I have had the privilege of bringing many people into the Church for the first time, or convincing them that the Church is becoming a safe place to which they can return with a reasonable expectation of welcome. This is EVANGELISM, for me, pure and simple. This is my attempt at fulfilling “the Great Commission” to go forth into the world, baptizing in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – a calling not just for a bishop, but for each one of us.

I must admit to some anxiety about this change, but I’ve got plenty of time to deal with that. Since I was ordained at the ripe old age of 26, the Church has been my whole life. I love getting up at 4:30 in the morning to pray and to begin work answering your emails and questions and to respond to the needs of our clergy and congregations. Sundays continue with my weekly, official visitations in congregations which have enlivened, nourished and excited me for much of the last decade. I look forward to continuing in being intimately connected with you and your ministries. But as we are told in Ecclesiastes: “to everything there is a season.” And now it seems to be the season to continue that ministry among you over the next two years, as you carefully choose your next bishop. He or she has no idea what a joy and what a privilege it will be to serve you, the people of the Diocese of New Hampshire

I have talked with the Standing Committee about my decision and they will meet on December 9th with Bishop Matthews of the House of Bishops Pastoral Development Office. The Standing Committee will begin the process of choosing both an Episcopal Search Committee and an Episcopal Transition Committee, which will begin their work in the new year. About a year later, in early 2012, nominees will be announced, with an election in the late spring of 2012. Allowing for the necessary consent process at General Convention, we will consecrate our new Bishop on (tentatively, subject to consent) Saturday, September 15, 2012. As with my own election, there will be a few months of overlap for the new bishop to get acclimated and for a smooth transition to occur. On Saturday, January 5, 2013, I will pass over my authority, and the Bishop’s Staff which symbolizes it, to our new bishop, with joy and thanksgiving for what has gone before and for what is to come under new leadership.

I make this announcement with nothing but praise and thanksgiving to God for having the privilege of serving you. While I know that I have not been God’s perfect servant during this time, I will leave in early 2013 knowing that I have given this ministry my best efforts. YOU are, and will continue to be, the reason I have not only survived, but thrived, during this tumultuous time in the wider Church. New Hampshire is always the place I remain, simply, “the Bishop.” This is the one place on earth where I am not “the gay Bishop.” I believe that you elected me because you believed me to be the right person to lead you at this time. The world has sometimes questioned that, but I hope you never did. You always treat me as a human being, a beloved child of God, and an eager servant of Our Lord. That is what I have tried to be, all along the way – and with every ounce of my being, I will continue. And God willing, I will leave this office in 2013 with even more love, more affection and more gratitude for you than when I assumed this role.

I know that this will have come as a shock to many of you, especially given how much I love being your Bishop and love the work we have undertaken together. I even hope that my energy and enthusiasm for being your Bishop has caused you to forget that I am approaching retirement age. But there it is!

There will be plenty of time in the future for remembrances, thanksgivings and reflection on our time together. For now, though, there is important work to be done. We need to let our fine Standing Committee and the future Search Committee do their jobs, and in the meantime, get on with being the Church and preaching the Gospel in this part of God’s vineyard. New Hampshire has made a name for itself in the last few years, and although unwittingly, we have been on the national and international stage. It has given us the opportunity to proclaim God’s love for ALL of God’s children in profound ways. I do not expect that to be diminished in any way as we move through the next two years of transition and as you move into a new partnership with your new bishop! All I can say is that it is the most profound, blessed and exciting honor to continue as your bishop. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for loving me and working alongside me in bringing the Church in New Hampshire and the world ever closer to the Reign of God.

It’s been a great, collaborative ride, and it will continue to be. All in the name of God, who loves us beyond our wildest imagining, and who will continue to lead us into the future as surely and as faithfully as in the past. Thanks be to God.

And now, I will ask our outgoing Standing Committee President to lead us in prayer, sending us into the world, to care for the People of God, preach the Good News, and continue as faithful witnesses to the Gospel.


The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, IX Bishop of New Hampshire

Thursday, July 15, 2010

NOM in NH: The Bizarre World of a Theocracy...




The New Jersey-based “National Organization for Marriage,” or NOM, rolled its bus into Manchester NH in order to rally the troops against Marriage Equality and get signatures in support of DOMA. It must have been embarrassing for them that including the out of state contingency they brought on their bus, only about 50 people showed up in the City Hall Plaza. By contrast, those of us who showed up to quietly support NH’s Marriage Equality numbered 40 – with no bus, no campaign, and no organized effort.

I can only describe the hour-long ‘rally’ as bizarre. Even Circus-like.

One of the touted speakers was Dr. Jennifer Morse, who was introduced as a college professor who would address the group on the scientific basis for prohibiting same-sex marriage. She insisted that religious reasons were not necessary, because there were “bold” scientific reasons. My curiosity was piqued!

I was disappointed to say the least. Her ‘scientific’ opinion was that “Heterosexuality is Normal for our Species.”

Huh? That’s it?! Yup.

After a little research I discovered that our Scientific Doctor has a degree in Economics (not science, not sociology, not psychology, not family studies…). She runs the “Ruth Institute,” a NOM-Project, working with church and college youth groups, and the faith-based Acton Institute.

She then informed us of all the horrible things happening in Canada as a result of same-sex Marriage. Three times she referred to the strange land of “KWEE-beck.” Being a Californian, she apparently was unfamiliar with either the English or French pronunciation for the name of our neighboring Province, so she instead made it sound oddly remeniscent of the word “QUEER”.

She concluded by warning us about what lay ahead for the US. Soon, she said, we might have Language Police listening in on (and I kid you not…) the jocular statements made between guys in locker rooms after sporting events to make sure they complied with politically correct speech codes.

Such was the Scientific Approach. Then we were treated to a sermon by Thomas Peetz, the Pastor at the Pentecostal Word of Life Church in Concord. Detecting another out-of-state accent, I checked his church bio to see that he claims to come from “the nation’s heartland,” and studied under Kenneth E Hagin. Yes, the Health & Wealth Televangelist who claims that “It is always God's will that every believer be 'financially blessed' through faith…," and who, apparently, died three times and even went to hell on one of those trips. Pastor Peetz said, “I’d like to read from the Good Book…if I’m allowed to call it that,” in what became a constant, scripted litany for the rally: that religious people were being silenced. He then instructed us all that there is no ‘separation of church and state in the Constitution...that’s just in a letter Jefferson wrote.” He concluded his sermon by imploring the group that “What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.”

I wonder if he realized the irony in that his purpose there today was to “put asunder” my lawful, Church-approved marriage.

NOM’s Director, Brian S. Brown, probably took top prize for bizarre logic today. Towards the end, he waxed eloquently about how Christian leaders throughout history stepped out and championed unpopular causes in the name of civil rights, from William Wilberforce’s fight against slavery to Dr. Martin Luther King’s marches for racial justice. He emphasized how these men were ridiculed even by other churches and by the public, but they fought and expanded decency and civil rights.

He then took a spasmodic leap in irrationality and claimed that these good works could not happen now, because Christians had been ‘silenced.’

Perhaps, being from out of state, he was blind to the logical, appropriate leap he SHOULD have made: that of Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who walked in the very tradition of those other leaders he mentioned in the fight for GLBT civil rights. It was not lost on those of us who live in New Hampshire.

One theme became very clear throughout the hour: no fewer than 16 times did speakers mention “the children,” or the effect of same-sex marriage on “children,” or depriving “children” of a mom and dad, or the primary purpose of marriage being to raise “children. And throughout the rally, Biblical and moral references were rampant…and the desire for a Theologically Appropriate response to Marriage Equality was the blatant, unabashed and constant undercurrent of this group.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Robertson to challenge Lynch


Timothy Robertson, a Democratic State Representative from Keene, announced tonight that he intends to challenge incumbant John Lynch in the Democratic Primary for Governor of New Hampshire.

Speaking to an overflow crowd of the Cheshire County Democrats meeting at the E F Lane Hotel in Keene, Robertson cited Lynch's "reluctant" support of marriage equality, opposition to medical marijuana, and support for both 'the war on drugs' and "The Pledge," the New Hampshire tradition of pledging to oppose broad-based taxes.

"I was afraid that when Lynch debated the Republican candidate, he would sound just like the Republican," said Robertson.

In addition to his legislative functions, Robertson has most recently been known for the permission he has granted homeless consruction workers to erect temporary shelter on land he and his sister own in Keene, which has since grown into a small community known locally as "Intensity."

Lynch's opposition to rational drug law reform, and the unnecessary drama he created in his effort to avoid dealing with a Marriage Equality bill on his desk last year have been frequent subjects of this blog.

Rober

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fiscal Conservatives: Ending DOMA is a responsible step


Robert and Carl* are a gay couple who have been together for several years. They live in a state that permits same-sex marriage, and recently tied the knot in a Church ceremony. Like many other married couples, they have established a stable home and are active members of their community. Carl is healthy but lives with a manageable medical condition. Like approximately 1.1 million other Americans, Carl is HIV positive.

Today, HIV positive people are living long, normal, healthy lives…as long as they receive proper medical care. Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART), a combination of three medications, is now the standard treatment to battle HIV. While quite effective one of the major downsides of treatment is cost. Carl’s three medications run about $2,200 per month…a figure that is quite typical. This, of course, does not include approximately six blood tests and physicians appointments per year, bringing his treatment costs to about $3,000 per month.

The US Congress recognized the steep cost of treatment when they reauthorized the Ryan White Care Act in 2009 by a vote of 408-9. This Act authorizes the expenditure of over $2 billion annually to assist with HIV outreach and treatment. It is the ‘payer of last resort,’ and income guidelines are applied towards recipients, but still it is estimated that some 30% of HIV positive individuals receive some assistance through this program.

More comprehensive coverage, of course, is available through private insurance. More than 25% of Americans work for an employer that offers domestic partner benefits; 51% percent of Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner health benefits; and 37% of all Americans live in states where some legal protection of same-sex partner arrangements exist (marriage, civil unions, or domestic partner benefits.)

Back to Robert and Carl.

Robert has a full-time, secure job, and both he and his employer contribute towards Roberts’ health insurance. When Robert married Carl, they looked forward to Carl’s being added to Roberts policy as a spouse, thus providing not only coverage for Carl’s HIV medicine, but for the entire range of normal health care for which the typical American might visit the doctor or the hospital. Robert, who had been married before, had already had his children (and formerly, an ex-wife), on his family policy.

Enter the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”).

Under DOMA, the federal government agencies are prohibited from recognizing the validity of same-sex unions of any kind, even when they are authorized under state law. This is a significant change to federal-state relationships, since Family Law issues have always been decided at the state level. As a result, in Rhode Island, Alabama, and Alaska first cousins may legally marry, while in Louisiana, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania such marriages are illegal. The Federal government dos not take a stand on this issue: they accept first-cousin marriages from Alaska as legal, but would reject the validity of first-cousin marriages illegally performed in Pennsylvania. In other words, the federal government normally accepts the states’ definition of marriage as authoritative in the matter of marriage.

Under DOMA, however, the federal government will not consider a same-sex marriage, validly performed under state law, as a valid marriage under federal law. And that has serious federal income tax implications.

When Robert added Carl, his lawful spouse, to his family health insurance, his HR office informed him that since Carl was not a spouse under federal law, Robert would have to pay taxes on “imputed income” to Carl. “Imputed Income is the addition of the value of cash/non-cash compensation to an employees’ taxable wages,” and both federal income taxes and FICA (Social Security) taxes are assessed against the value of this imputed income.

Robert was shocked when he saw his next paycheck. In order to cover the imputed value of providing health insurance to his spouse – an action that is never applied to an opposite-sex spouse – his employer had withheld an additional $450/month from his paycheck.

As a middle-class income-earner, the loss of an additional $5,400 annually was too much to absorb. Robert removed Carl from his health insurance policy, and Carl applied for – and received – HIV coverage under the Ryan White Act.

The sad reality is that without DOMA, Carl could have been added to a private insurance policy just as any other spouse could be, without the punishing effect of federal taxes associated with imputed income.

Because of DOMA, American taxpayers will now pay a minimum of $36,000 annually for Carl. And this is just a single instance of a pattern that is replicated across the nation.

There are over 1.1 million HIV positive Americans. 30% receive assistance through the Two Billion dollar plus Ryan White Care Act. Close to half might currently or eventually be eligible for private insurance coverage through spouses, civil unions, domestic partnership arrangements, or company policies.

Fiscal Conservatives, take note: one of the single most significant actions you could take to reduce spending and taxpayer burden, while improving health care provisions for hundreds of thousands of Americans, is to repeal the provision of DOMA that prohibits federal recognition of valid state marriages.

The only real question is whether you believe that punishing homosexual couples is a more important public policy goal.

*Robert and Carl are not their real names, but they are real people and the dollar figures and story are entirely accurate.
--------------------------

SOURCES:

CDC 'HIV Prevalence Estimates -- United States, 2006' MMWR 57(39), 3 October 2008
http://health.msn.com/health-topics/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100057404
http://aids.about.com/od/hivmedicationfactsheets/a/drugcost.htm
AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) - Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation Fact Sheet
U.S. Census Bureau. “County Business Patterns: 2000.”
Human Rights Campaign, “State of the Workplace: 2006.”
http://www.haasjr.org/index.php
http://definitions.uslegal.com/i/imputed-income/

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New Hampshire House Preserves Marriage Equality, 201-135

More good news from my home state...about an hour ago, the New Hampshire House rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have prohibited gay marriage in New Hampshire. CACR 28 would have defined marriage by restricting it to a man and a woman.

As a Constitutional Amendment, it required a 60% margin in the legislature...and it did not even gain 50%. It was rejected 201-135, a big change from last fall when Marriage Equality squeaked through the state legislature by less than a dozen votes. While this may show significant movement in the right direction, the cheering is a little dampened by the fact that 60 legislators did not show up to vote. If they were all "anti" Marriage Equality, then there has really been very little movement at all. We will need to see who was absent before we draw too many conclusions. [UPDATE: 40 republicans supported Marriage Equality this time around, suggesting an actual shift...]

Had this passed, it would have gone on to a vote by the public, which was the main argument that CACR28's supporters kept making: that 'the people' ought to be able to vote on marriage. It apparently never occured to these legislators that 'the people' dont get to vote on "rights:" we never subject questions of free speech, or Miranda Rights, or gun ownership, to majoritarian votes, because majoritarianism is the antithesis of liberty and rights.

A concurrent effort to ask Town Meetings to adopt a "let the people vote resolution" effort is failing miserably. Even in reliably Republican Towns, such as Rindge, town meeting voters are removing and rejecting Town Meeting Warrant items seeking a public vote on Marriage Equality. Winchester (my home town), Rye, and Deerfield have all rejected it in recent days.

A second vote to repeal the bill that established Marriage Equality last fall failed by an even bigger margin: 210-109.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Getting the Message, Fellow Republicans?



(Cindy McCain, left, and Meghan McCain, right)
Margaret Hoover, Fox News Commentator and grandaughter of GOP President Herbert Hoover: Some Republicans support gay rights, but prefer progress through legislative action or majority rule at the ballot box, rather than judicial action. But what if a democratic election imposes mandates that violate a citizen’s constitutional freedom? In the event that majority rule insufficiently protects individual liberty, our system of checks and balances puts forth that it is the role of the courts, to guarantee and protect the rights to individual Americans.

That’s why the Supreme Court, in 1967 Loving v. Virginia, legalized interracial marriage –six years after our current president was born to an interracial couple. At that time 73% of the population opposed “miscegenation.” How long would it have taken to change popular opinion, for the minority to democratically win their constitutional rights? As Martin Luther King, Jr. famously asserted, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

For those of you who would label me a "RINO" (Republican In Name Only) for taking this stand, I direct you to Vice President Cheney, whose conservative credentials are impeccable, and who answered a question on the topic before the National Press Club audience on June 1, 2009 by saying simply, “…freedom means freedom for everyone.”

Please visit Facebook page Republicans for Marriage Equality and American Equal Rights Foundation to follow the details of the trial.


Steve Schmidt, McCain's Chief Campaign Strategist: "I'm personally supportive of [marriage] equality for gay couples and I believe that it will happen over time. I think that more and more Americans are insistent that, at a minimum, gay couples should be treated with respect and when they see a political party trying to stigmatize a group of people who are hardworking, who play by the rules, who raise decent families, they're troubled by it.

I think the Republican Party should not be seen by a broad majority of the electorate as focused with singularity on issues like gay marriage. The attitudes of voters about gay marriage and about domestic partnership benefits for gay couples are changing very rapidly and for voters under the age of 30, they are completely disconnected from what has been Republican orthodoxy on these issues.

Any campaign that would go out and try to demonize people on the basis of their sexual orientation is abhorrent and I suspect that that campaign would be rejected."


Republican San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders: "I could not bring myself to tell an entire group of people that they were unequal . . . I couldn't look them in the face and tell them their relationships were any less meaningful than the relationship I shared with my wife."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

May 24-May 28: Marriage Equality March in Maine

Like Martin Luther King's marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama - the mission of the Maine LGBT Civil Rights March is to bring thousands of LGBT rights supporters together to march from Portland to Augusta, Maine with one simple message: Civil Rights Now.

Planning: We planning an event like Maine has never seen before. A 5-day march from Portland to Augusta. A 5-day march from Bangor to Augusta. Meeting in the Middle for Equality. Join us.

Info and Signup on Facebook...search for MAINE LGBT Civil Rights March

Friday, November 06, 2009

Quote of the Day (Week? Year? CENTURY ?!)


"You can't put a civil rights issue on the ballot and let the people decide. You have to have elected officials who have courage to make the right decision. If you left it up to the people, we'd have slavery, depending on how you worded it." - Former Minnesota governor and pro wrestler Jesse Ventura, responding to Maine's vote on CNN last night. (Source-JMG)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Federal Tax Code...time for GLBT Civil Disobedience



For as long as there has been a federal income tax (only since 1917), the federal government has asked taxpayers to indicate their marital status. Taxpayers need not prove their status, they need only swear that all the information contained on the form is true.

And so, come April 15, I, along with other gay and lesbian couples in New Hampshire and other states permitting same-sex marriage, will have a choice: we can check off "married" on page 1 of our 1040, and sign the bottom of page 2 in good conscience that our return is truthful, or we can call ourselves 'single,' and sign that statement, knowing that calling ourselves 'single' would be a patent lie under state law.

The choice, of course, has both legal and financial consequences: two people filing as married pay far less in federal income tax than those same two people filing as single, especially if there is a large income disparity between them.

And so, for the first time in decades, I will actually engage in an act of civil disobedience under federal law, because I am choosing to answer honestly under state law. (One has to wonder, of course, just how the Feds will choose to pursue this: nowhere on the federal income tax form do they request 'gender'.) And if and when they do uncover it, and charge me with increased taxes and penalties and late fees, I will challenge it in federal court as long and as far as I am able.

And if even a small part of the 600,000+ gay couples in this country do the same, it will be a federal court logjam the likes of which we have never seen.

The problem, of course, stems from "DOMA," the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act," a 1996 law that contains two provisions. The first guarantees each state the right not to recognize a same-gender union performed in another state (mere political pandering, as the courts had already long-ruled that states had that right.) The second provision states that the federal government would define marriage as only between a man and a woman.

The problem with that approach, of course, is that it is not the federal government's jurisdiction to define marriage. There is no federal Constitutional provision permitting a federal law in this arena.

In fact, marriage laws are very specifically creatures of state jurisdiction. Nebraska law requires that couples be 19 if they don't have parental consent, while 17 year olds can marry with parental consent; in Hawaii those as young as 15 can marry with parental consent. Alabama and Kansas permit common-law marriage; most states no longer do. In Idaho, females must be tested for Rubella, and In New York, tests for sickle cell anemia may be required before marriage. In Rhode Island, first cousins can marry; In Illinois they can as long as they can not bear children; in Oregon they can if one was adopted; while in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania there is no first-cousin marriage permitted at all.

The rules for who can and who can not get married are state-specific, and the federal government has always accepted the definitions of the states, even though they differed from state to state. By imposing DOMA, the federal government has involved itself in a sphere that is clearly not within it's own jurisdiction, but, under the 10th Amendment, "reserved to the states or to the people."

So, on April 15, I will be checking "married," and I will be signing a sworn oath that I have told the truth.

Let the feds argue in court that I was wrong for so doing. And while I will do it alone if necessary, I invite other couples in our situation to join us.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Upholding Prop 8 in California: a proper decision

The California Court upheld Prop 8 today. While I don't have to like the result, I have to say that from a Legal perspective, it was proper.

This same Court once ruled that gays and lesbians could not be discriminated against in the criteria for issuing marriage licenses. They held that the California State Constitution prohibited unequal protection.

When the citizens dont like laws resulting from Constitutional interpretation, their recourse is to amend the Constitution. That is what California citizens did when they passed Proposition 8.

Opponents of Prop 8 took that vote to court. One must be clear here that the issue was NOT should gays have the right to marry: the issue was, narrowly defined, whether or not the process used in amending the California Constitution was appropriate. The Court that initally granted Marriage Equality was forced - by a 6-1 vote - to also rule that the Citizens of California were within their legal right to overturn that decision, and that they did so according to California Law.

Of course, this battle is not over..

.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Hampshire House defeats Marriage Equality 188-186

It ain't over...but here's what's happened:

The Senate approved HB 73, which were a series of Amendments proposed by Governor Lynch. The House voted AGAINST concurring by a vote of 188-186. (This, after having approved the original marriage equality bill that was sent to the Governor two weeks ago)

They THEN approved a motion 207-168 to go to a Conference Committee withthe senate to try and work out common ground.

The strongest arguement *against* concurring with HB 73 was offerred by Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Republican and strong supporter of Marriage Equality. As much as I want to see Marriage Equality, Steve was 100% on target.

Under the Federal & State Constitutions, and included in most of the Goevrnor's amendments, it is/was clear that religious institutions were free to marry whomever they found qualified under their own rules. And under these laws, religious groups can legally 'discriminate' against other religions when it comes to membership and services in their own operations - as it should be. However, under state law, if a religious body holds themselves out as a Business to the public, then they must serve the entire public, and not pick and choose, say, to serve whites but not blacks, or to serve Baptists and Methodists but not Pentecostals. That law prohibits organizations from discriminating based on sexual orientation when they hold out business services to the public.

Governor Lynch threw down a gauntlet: in effect, he said he'd approve a Marriage Equality bill, but he wanted an 'exception' so that businesses with a religious foundation could legally discriminate against same-sex couples engaging in marriage and 'related' services, such as receptions. In other words, if the business was held out to the PUBLIC, they could still discriminate against couples based on orientation.

This was a CLEAR STEP BACKWARDS.

Let's hope that the House and Senate can recraft the bill in a way that grants Marriage Equality WITHOUT going backwards on discrimination, and let's hope that hte Governbor actually signs the bill and stops playing both sides against the middle with his usual infuriating cowardice.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Gov. Lynch is a Coward





I'm rarely that dramatic in my headlines, but the label fits.

Two weeks ago, the N.H. legislature adopted a Marriage Equality Bill. The Speakers of the House and Senate delayed delivering the bill to the Governor, because once delivered, state law only gives him 5 days to make a decision, and he wanted more time. During that time, the state was baraged with hateful ads from out-of-state groups proclaiming the virtual end of western civilization if he signed. Two days ago, the Governor met with opposition leaders. And yesterday, he announced his decision.

He stated that he would veto the bill in its current form, but sign it if certain amendments were added. Most of these amendments are meaningless: they insure the right of religious institutions to refrain from conducting same-sex ceremonies. This is meaningless because churches already have this right under both the US and State Constitutions; For years Roman Catholic Churches refused to marry non-Catholics, and there was -and is - no legal repurcussion for this. The Constitutions guarentee them their right to conduct their ecclesiastical rites their own way. From this perspective, Lynch's amendments are simply political posturing.

However, one of his 'required' amendments is a clear step backwards.

"a religious organization, association, or society, or any individual who is managed, directed, or supervised by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association or society, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges to an individual if such request for such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges is related to the solemnization of a marriage, the celebration of a marriage, or the promotion of marriage through religious counseling, programs, courses, retreats, or housing designated for married individuals..."

On its face, this sounds like a statement in support of religious liberty. In reality, it is a step backwards for equality.

The proposed amendments enable organizations that own businesses (such as lakeside retreats, function facilities, etc.) AND WHO HOLD THESE FACILITIES OUT TO THE PUBLIC, to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

All agree that religious institutions must be permitted to do as they wish in the conduct of their own religious life. HOWEVER, once they begin engaging in business with the public, a different set of laws apply. Under current law, businesses may NOT discriminate in the provision of services or housing based on sexual orientation. Under Lynch's proposed amendments, this discrimination would now be legal.

Lynch, once again, can claim to be all things to all people:

He will tell gays and liberals that he supports Marriage Equality.

He will tell theocrats that he supported rolling back the anti-dsicrimination laws to give them an exception.

If it passes, the Conservatives have won a right to discriminate in the conduct of Public Business.

If it fails, Lynch can blame the Legislature for "not doing a good enough job."

Governor, you are pandering the right and avoiding leadership. Whereas you could have had my unending support, you now have my unending scorn, regardless of the outcome of your political games.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NH State Senate votes to Allow Gay Marriage

By NORMA LOVE | Associated Press Writer
1:41 PM CDT, April 29, 2009
CONCORD, N.H. - The state Senate has voted to make New Hampshire the fifth state to allow gay marriage.

The 13-11 vote came after a 45 minute debate over an emotional issue that drew 500 people to the Statehouse for a hearing earlier this month.

The vote establishes a two-tier system with a civil marriage and a religious marriage license. The House now must consider the proposal, which is similar to one it rejected earlier this year.

Gov. John Lynch has said marriage is a word that should be reserved for the union of a man and a woman, but he has not said specifically that he would veto the bill.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Open Letter to the New Hampshire GOP re: Gay Marriage.

My name is Thom Simmons, and I urgently want to address the imminent vote on gay marriage.

I am 49 years old and a lifelong Republican. I was raised in an ardently Republican household, and have served on multiple Republican committees in a number of states, including the Advance Team for the Reagan Presidential campaign in 1980. In addition, I have always been an active church member.

And yet, in spite of all that, I am one of those who have almost given up on our party as I see us pandering relentlessly to an extreme and shrinking(though vocal) Theocratic base. The hopelessness I feel about our party’s direction is one of the reasons we see New Hampshire lurching from “Red” to “Blue....” and why, in Steve Schmidt's words, "the Republican Party is virtually extinct in the Northeast."

I am also a gay man, and chair of the New Hampshire Bears, the largest gay men’s organization in New Hampshire. One little-known fact about our 200+ members is that of those I have personally met, the majority were once married, heterosexually, some for many years. (Myself, I was married to my wife for almost 23 years, and we have a number of adopted children)

How could a man “turn gay?’’ How could a man live all those years and decide he was “gay” after all that time?

Well, he doesn’t.

Instead, he is barraged from the time he is a child with the message that to be gay is to be abnormal, evil, sinful, wrong, weird, disgusting, and shameful. And so, many, many of us try beyond reason to be what we are not, to fit into a box that someone else built and shoe-horned us into. And after years of exhausting fights with ourselves, we finally accept who we are.

We heard the taunts in grade school, we heard the snide remarks in the locker room, we hear our ‘friends’ tell jokes at the expense of gays, and we see TV parody us as limp-wristed feather-boa-wearing caricatures.

And now, more than ever before, we see our own government telling us, “you’re equal, but not ‘the same.’ You can have water and drink from a fountain, but you can’t drink from our fountain, because you are just Different.” The same arguments that justified segregation when I was a child are now being used to suggest that “civil unions” are somehow “good enough.”
They are not.

They send a strong message that while we will be ‘tolerated’ because it is the politically correct thing to do, we will not be accepted as fellow Americans with equal rights to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.

Please end the enforced inferiority. Gay men deal with many issues as they struggle with their sexuality, and to be set aside as “not good enough” or “not the same” by government is unacceptable. Mr. Sununu's comments about this bill being "garbage," and making snide references to San Francisco, is precisely the nasty politics that Democrats, Republicans, and Independents have all rejected here in the Granite State.

As a traditional Republican, I know that it is not the job of government to impose a culture, or a theology, or a ‘blueprint for life’ on its citizens. It is the job of government to preserve liberty and establish a level playing field.

New Hampshire has always been in vanguard of freedom and liberty. Please, I beg you, take a stand that puts what is right above what may be expedient.

Thank you
Thom Simmons
11 Richmond Rd
Fitzwilliam, NH 03447