Gay and Lesbian Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory My Zimbio Blog Directory and Search engine
Lesbian Dating and Relationship Search

Monday, March 30, 2009

Same-sex marriage fight focuses on New England

This article appeared on page A - 7 of the San Francisco Chronicle on March 28, 2009 and was written by John Curran of the Associated Press.

Vermont was the first state to outlaw slavery. Neighboring New Hampshire declared its independence from England before any other colony. Maine led the way with Prohibition.

These days, Yankee activism has another cause - gay rights.

Two states in New England already allow same-sex marriage, and lawmakers in three more are considering it, although passage is far from certain.

To some, the push is emblematic of a live-and-let-live ethic and burnished by gradual acceptance of gay relationships after Vermont's groundbreaking civil unions law took effect in 2000. Others see it as an effort by a vocal minority that has turned to the Northeast because its message can't get support elsewhere.

Only Massachusetts and Connecticut permit same-sex marriage. California, which briefly allowed it before a voter initiative in November repealed it, allows domestic partnerships, as do a handful of other states.

New Jersey and New Hampshire also offer civil unions, which provide many of the same rights that come with marriage. New York recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, and legislators there and in New Jersey are weighing whether to offer marriage. The Iowa Supreme Court has heard arguments on a marriage equality suit.

But for now, the focus on legal recognition of gay relationships has returned to northern New England.

"There is not an easy way to get the issue on the ballot and before the voters so that it can be decided directly by the people," said Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage and is underwriting a radio campaign against it.

"Therefore, it is more a creature of special interest politics and legislative deal-making. These are small states which can be influenced by fairly large amounts of outside money coming in. And it's very hard for regular people to feel that they can have a voice on this issue in these states."

The voices - on both sides - are growing louder:

-- New Hampshire, which enacted a civil unions law last year, moved a step closer to legalizing same-sex marriage Thursday when the state House of Representatives voted in favor. The state Senate still must vote, though, and the governor - who signed a civil unions bills last year - opposes it.

-- The Vermont Senate has approved a similar measure, but the House has yet to vote. Gov. Jim Douglas vowed Wednesday to veto the bill if it reaches him, spurring a protest that drew about 300 people to the Statehouse on Friday. Protesters say they'll push to get enough votes in the Legislature for a veto override.

-- In Maine, a bill to legalize same-sex marriage has nearly 60 co-sponsors in the Legislature. Gov. John Baldacci, who opposes same-sex marriage, says he hasn't taken a position on the measure.

Beth Robinson, who leads the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force, says the close proximity of the New England states has allowed people to see for themselves that civil unions work and that same-sex marriage should be allowed to. Massachusetts got same-sex marriage in 2004.

"It's a lot harder for someone who lives near Massachusetts to say that the sky's going to fall if we share the same sky. Someone halfway across the country might not see that," Robinson said.

Opponents contend that the measures don't have popular support, saying that gay rights measures are nearly always defeated at the polls. Amendments to ban same-sex marriage were approved in November in Arizona and Florida. Now, 30 states have same-sex marriage bans in their constitutions.

No comments:


Blog Directory, Free online web directory, Search Engine Submission - AddMe