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USA, Oregon: “Right to Discriminate” Initiative Dropped

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Oregon Gay MarriageJust a day after the state Supreme Court ruled against them on the ballot title for the proposed “Right to Discriminate” initiative, backers are dropping it.

Oregon Live reports:

After losing a ballot title fight at the Oregon Supreme Court, backers of an initiative that would allow businesses to refuse to serve gay weddings said Friday they will drop their measure. Instead the group, Friends of Religious Liberty, announced that it would pursue legal action to allow individuals and businesses to cite the same exemptions that religious clergy now have regarding wedding ceremonies. “The legal teams are in place and we are confident that Oregon’s religious discrimination laws will be ruled unconstitutional,” said a statement issued by the group.

It’s fantastic news – and if they do go to the ballot for marriage equality, it will simplify things greatly to not have to fight this thing at the same time.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Oregon.

USA, Oregon: State Supreme Court Upholds AG’s Ballot Title for Anti Gay Initiative

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Oregon Gay MarriageAn anti gay group pushing one of those “right to discriminate” bills lost their battle over the initiative title today.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

Without comment, the court upheld a ballot title drafted by the Attorney General’s office that sponsors of the initiative had complained used “politically charged” wording that would bias voters against the measure, reports The Oregonian. Ballot titles are regarded as one of the most important parts of an initiative campaign because they appear on the ballot right above where voters mark either their “yes” or “no” vote. The certified ballot title contains the language: “Religious belief” exceptions to anti-discrimination laws for refusing services, other, for same-sex ceremonies, “arrangements.”

It’s a victory, but a bigger one would be to keep it off the ballot altogether.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Oregon.

USA, Michigan: Marriage Equality Ballot Initiative Planned as State Submits New Brief

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

MichiganThe campaign to put marriage equality on the ballot in 2016 will kick off today.

The Detroit News reports:

Community activists, religious leaders and other supporters of same-sex marriage in Michigan are expected to kick off a campaign Thursday for a 2016 ballot initiative to legalize gay marriage in the state. The initiative will be called Michigan for Marriage, organizers said. In Metro Detroit, organizers will kick off their effort at noon at the Oakland County Board of Commissioners’ Auditorium, located at 1200 N. Telegraph in Pontiac. Petition drives will also be launched in Lansing and Grand Rapids.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a new brief with the 6th Circuit supporting the ban, but one thing was notably absent.

Joe.My.God reports:

Yesterday Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a brief with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in defense of that state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Notably missing from Shuette’s brief is any mention of debunked social researcher Mark Regnerus, who was brutally slapped down by the judge who ultimately overturned the ban.

In another interesting twist, he also points to the US Supreme Court’s upholding of the state’s affirmative action ban last month:

Mlive reports:

“The district court’s decision, to use (U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony) Kennedy’s recent words, demeans democracy,” the state asserted, referring to the plurality opinion in the case that Schuette argued in defense of the affirmative action ban. “It denies each of those voters the dignity of a meaningful vote, labels each with the stigma of irrationality, and treats Michigan’s electorate as incapable of deciding this profound and sensitive issue.”

Kennedy wrote in his opinion on Schuette vs. Coalition to defend Affirmative Action: “It is demeaning to the democratic process to presume that the voters are not capable of deciding an issue of this sensitivity on decent and rational grounds… Freedom embraces the right, indeed the duty, to engage in a rational, civic discourse in order to determine how best to form a consensus to shape the destiny of the Nation and its people. These First Amendment dynamics would be disserved if this Court were to say that the question here at issue is beyond the capacity of the voters to debate and then to determine.”

I haven’t seen this particular argument before, at least not with this basis… it will be interesting to see if it is taken seriously by the 6th Circuit.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Michigan.

USA, Oregon: First Ad Released to Fight Anti Gay Ballot Measure

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

Kathleen SaadatOregon United for Marriage released their first ad to fight a pending “religious freedom” ballot initiative.

The Advocate reports:

Similar in tone and scope to Arizona’s vetoed “license to discriminate” bill and other “religious freedom” protection laws recently enacted in Mississippi and Tennessee, Oregon’s Initiative Petition 52 specifically mentions same-sex marriages and civil unions, whereas laws in other states only alluded to the target audience that would be discriminated against. The bill would essentially create a broad, categorical exemption to the state’s existing nondiscrimination law, which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, and a number of other characteristics…

[OUFM] came out swinging today with its first TV ad, slated to air across the state in opposition to the “license to discriminate” initiative. Featuring renowned civil rights activist Kathleen Saadat, the 30-second spot compares Oregon’s Initiative Petition 52 to Jim Crow laws that enforced racial segregation and similarly racist policies that allowed employers to hire only white people, placing infamous signs reading “Whites Only.”

Hopefully they won’t be able to gather enough signatures to get it on te ballot in the first place.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Oregon.

USA, California: Opponents of Transgender Kids Law Not Giving Up

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Transgender FlagOpponents of the new law to protect transgender kids in California are still trying to find a way to quality for the ballot.

SDGLN reports:

Opponents of a new law that allows transgender students a choice of which restroom and locker room to use are scouring thousands of signatures that were tossed out in San Diego County and elsewhere, hoping to uncover enough evidence to prove that their referendum should be placed on the November ballot. But it will not be easy. They must painstakingly double-check each signature for any hint that county elections officials erred. Statewide, nearly 132,000 were disqualified while about 487,500 were found to be valid.

These people never give up. We could learn from them.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in California.

US, Ohio: Marriage Equality Group Has More Than Enough Signatures to Make the Ballot

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

OhioA group pressing for a 2014 or 2016 vote on marriage equality has gathered almost twice as many signatures as they need for the ballot, but are pushing for more.

The Columbus Dispatch reports:

The group pushing to overturn Ohio’s 12-year-old constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman says it has 650,000 signatures on a petition to put a gay-marriage measure on the statewide ballot. FreedomOhio’s goal: a million signatures by this summer’s filing deadline for the November election. Only 385,247 valid signatures are needed. “We see strongest support amongst women, single moms, minority and youth voters, which is also termed the ‘rising American electorate,'” said the group’s leader, Ian James. “At FreedomOhio, we call these folks ‘the base.'”

But even if the group gets the million names, the decision on whether to go to the ballot in 2014 or 2016 remains up in the air. It will depend, James said, on “having the resources to identify and mobilize majority support.”

The last poll we’ve seen, from last April, favored marriage equality 48-44%.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Ohio.

Venezuela: Gay Rights Advocates Launch Initiative for Marriage Equality

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Venezuela - Google Maps

from Google Maps

An effort to secure marriage equality is now underway in Venezuela.

On Top Magazine reports:

More than forty groups on Friday delivered to Venezuelan lawmakers a proposal to legalize gay marriage in the Latin American country. A petition with more than 20,000 signatures accompanied the project. “Not only are we here to present a project, for the first time people who do not belong to any political party are united under a single idea,” Hanays Montaner, president of the Human Sunrise Foundation, told EFE.

If it became law, Venezuela would join Argentina and Uruguay with full marriage equality. Parts of Brazil have it as well, Ecuador recognizes civil unions for gay couples. Colombia may recognize marriage equality, but the battle there continues.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources.

USA, Florida: Big Marriage Defeat Looms in 2014 (Part 7)

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Rainbow FloridaOur friend Ned Flaherty has written a 7-part investigative series on what’s going on with marriage equality in Florida, and has graciously allowed us to repost it here. Below is part 7. You can find all 7 parts of the series at the New Civil Rights Movement.

Part 7 of 7: Prognosis

Republican political operatives are about to give anti-LGBT hate groups just what they crave: a lopsided defeat for gay rights in the deepest South. NCRM’s 7-part investigative series reveals how progress toward marriage equality in other states is threatened by current events in Florida.

To meet the goals published on its Web site, EMFL faces a 1 February 2014 deadline. By then, it must deliver to the Florida Elections Division at least 683,149 signatures, collected from at least 14 of the state’s 27 congressional districts, already verified by county elections supervisors, for which EMFL must pay $68,315.

EMFL Chairman/Treasurer Vanessa Brito wouldn’t say how many of the six million dollars she has in hand, or when the rest will get collected, or how the funds are being spent. Her campaign finance reports show all zeroes.

EMFL Media Coordinator Heather Gray wouldn’t disclose how many of the one million signatures she has in hand, how many are already verified by state officials, or when the rest will get collected, or when they’ll get verified.

EMFL’s proposed amendment does not guarantee any same-gender couple the right to marry.

Every few days, Equal Marriage Florida asks donors to mail in more money.

Ned FlahertyNed Flaherty is an LGBT activist currently focused on civil marriage equality, and previously on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal. He writes from Boston, Massachusetts, where America’s first same-gender civil marriages began in 2004. He suffered a childhood exposure to Roman Catholic pomp and circumstance, but the spell never took, and he recovered.

Here’s the list of the 7-part series:

Part 1 – LGBT Groups Oppose Equal Marriage Campaign
Part 2 – Leaders Retreat
Part 3 – Counts for Workers, Signatures, and Dollars
Part 4 – Party Plans
Part 5 – Haters Wait With Bated Breath
Part 6 – Promising the Impossible
Part 7 – Prognosis

USA, Florida: Big Marriage Defeat Looms in 2014 (Part 6)

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Rainbow FloridaOur friend Ned Flaherty has written a 7-part investigative series on what’s going on with marriage equality in Florida, and has graciously allowed us to repost it here. Below is part 6. You can find all 7 parts of the series at the New Civil Rights Movement.

Part 6 of 7: Promising the Impossible

Republican political operatives are about to give anti-LGBT hate groups just what they crave: a lopsided defeat for gay rights in the deepest South. NCRM’s 7-part investigative series reveals how progress toward marriage equality in other states is threatened by current events in Florida.

On 26 June 2013, an Equal Marriage Florida (EMFL) press release claimed that the constitutional amendment would “guarantee the freedom to marry.” Several weeks later, an EMFL Facebook video claimed that the amendment initiative is a “guaranteed freedom to marry.” The image above, taken from EMFL’s Facebook page, states the same.

Neither claim is true.

The proposed amendment guarantees nothing. It would repeal only the constitutional ban on same-gender civil marriage; the statutory ban would continue, because, in Florida, only lawmakers can repeal laws.

No Florida lawmaker dares to propose full marriage rights. Even Democratic lawmakers refuse to suggest anything beyond domestic partnership. After 18 straight years of GOP control, 63% of Florida’s lawmakers are Republicans who vow they’ll never repeal the current marriage ban, and whose party vows to ban equal marriage nationwide. So, even if EMFL collects one million signatures, and even if it spends six million dollars, and even if marriage appears on the ballot, and even if 60% of the voters pass it, the only result would be that lawmakers gain permission to do something which none of them want to do, and which the party to which 63% of them belong has vowed never to do.

Full marriage equality has been adopted in 18 states (CA, CT, DC, DE, HI, IA, IL, MA, MD, ME, MN, NH, NJ, NM, NY, RI, VT, WA), and cases are pending in the federal appeals courts for 3 additional states (NV, OK, UT). But no prior campaign was ever as secretive as Equal Marriage Florida is. Among many unanswered questions, the oldest four still echo the loudest.

* Is Dr. Vanessa Brito aware that passage won’t guarantee any marriages?
* Did she create EMFL to pour profit into her now-defunct consulting firm?
* Was she duped into running a campaign that others know will fail?
* Did fellow Republicans engage her to run a stealth campaign?

Tomorrow in this investigative series: Part 7 of 7: Prognosis

Ned FlahertyNed Flaherty is an LGBT activist currently focused on civil marriage equality, and previously on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal. He writes from Boston, Massachusetts, where America’s first same-gender civil marriages began in 2004. He suffered a childhood exposure to Roman Catholic pomp and circumstance, but the spell never took, and he recovered.

Here’s the list of the 7-part series:

Part 1 – LGBT Groups Oppose Equal Marriage Campaign
Part 2 – Leaders Retreat
Part 3 – Counts for Workers, Signatures, and Dollars
Part 4 – Party Plans
Part 5 – Haters Wait With Bated Breath
Part 6 – Promising the Impossible
Part 7 – Prognosis

USA, Florida: Big Marriage Defeat Looms in 2014 (Part 5)

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Rainbow FloridaOur friend Ned Flaherty has written a 7-part investigative series on what’s going on with marriage equality in Florida, and has graciously allowed us to repost it here. Below is part 5. You can find all 7 parts of the series at the New Civil Rights Movement.

Part 5 of 7: Haters Wait With Bated Breath

Republican political operatives are about to give anti-LGBT hate groups just what they crave: a lopsided defeat for gay rights in the deepest South. NCRM’s 7-part investigative series reveals how progress toward marriage equality in other states is threatened by current events in Florida.

By the 1 February deadline shown on its Web site, EMFL either will succeed at putting the marriage question on Florida’s ballot, or else will fail to put it on the ballot. All indications are that EMFL will fail. If the November claim of only 200,000 signatures is accurate, then the remaining 800,000 signatures can’t be collected by the deadline, because there are only three remaining part-time, unpaid district co-chairs who still show working e-mail addresses (no co-chairs show any phone numbers), and each of those three people would have to collect 266,667 more signatures.

That unachievable goal has anti-LGBT hate groups salivating. As soon as the 1 February deadline is missed, they can start bragging that they just defeated another marriage equality campaign, without lifting a finger.

For LGBT activists, though, staying off the Florida ballot is far safer than getting on it. If marriage equality appears on either a 2014 or a 2016 ballot, anti-LGBT hate groups nationwide will unleash their usual dragons, fueled and funded by Mormon churchgoers, Catholic bishops, evangelical Dominionists, and NOM’s tiny handful of wealthy, secret donors. Those groups flooded over $40 million into California’s Proposition 8 battle only 6 years ago, and they’re just itching to repeat themselves. Florida would make a great showcase for an encore performance.

Meanwhile, EMFL filed Florida campaign finance reports showing that it has collected none of the $6 million that it promised to raise. To make matters worse, $6 million is probably inadequate. Brito sells campaign services, marked up to give herself a profit, so her estimated budget is probably too small to: (a) change cultural attitudes, (b) saturate Florida’s ten media markets, and (c) fight wealthy Mormon and Catholic bishops (whose funds for oppressing LGBT people appear relatively unlimited).

In 2008, although the LGBT community raised $4.3 million to fight Florida’s constitutional marriage ban, anti-equality forces raised only $1.6 million, and yet they won by a 24% landslide. In Oregon, where the population is about one-fifth of Florida’s, campaign leaders have budgeted $10-12 million, and in Georgia, with half the population of Florida, Georgia
Equality leaders also expect to spend $10 million. All these data point to two realities for EMFL: changing cultural attitudes is the critical goal, and EMFL’s $6 million budget is too small to achieve that goal.

Six years ago, Floridians voted, 62% to 38%, against equality. To reverse that to at least 60% to 40% favoring equality (the minimum needed to pass), any campaign would have to focus resources on changing votes. Among Florida’s 16 million potential voters, the most labor-intensive are the 7 million who are all over age 50, mostly Republican, and who stridently want to keep the current marriage ban. Collecting signatures is pointless unless EMFL also persuades nearly 2 million citizens to switch their vote from anti-equality to pro-equality.

Asked how those voters will get converted, OAI spokesman and EMFL Sponsor Joe Hunter says he doesn’t think it’s necessary to change cultural attitudes, and EMFL doesn’t plan to work on that. “It is close enough. We don’t have to change a whole bunch of minds. There are enough people in Florida who are sympathetic to marriage equality to pass it; the challenge is making sure they go vote,” he said. When asked how OAI and EMFL can be so sure of victory, Hunter replied, “We have done our own polling, and the conclusion is it is not a slam dunk, but we’re certainly in a position to get there.”

Neither OAI nor EMFL is willing to release any of their private poll results, and when asked which public polls convinced OAI to sponsor EMFL, Hunter could not immediately identify any.

Three days later, he did point to three surveys from a newspaper, a university, and a surveyor, but none of those polls suggested that at least 60% of the voters would agree to alter the state constitution. In October 2012, when the Washington Post asked 1,107 adult registered Florida voters whether same-gender couples should be able to marry, 54% said yes, 33% said no, and 13% had no opinion. In December 2012, when Quinnipiac University asked 1,261 registered Florida voters the same question, only 43% said yes, and every age group 30 and older fell far short of the critical 60% minimum. In August 2013, when St. Pete Polls asked 3,034 registered Florida voters (demographically balanced by district, party, race, and age) the same question, only 46% said yes, 47% said no, 7% were unsure, and no age group had the required 60% minimum.

Vanessa Brito says she earned a Ph.D. in Political Science from Florida International University, a curriculum which should have taught her about the need to persuade critical demographic groups. Apparently it didn’t. Rather than concentrate on the anti-equality voters, she is focusing instead on Libertarians, moderate Republicans, and the least important group of all: younger voters, “the people in their 30s, the voters in their 30s” as she told the Miami Herald last June. The signatures of 30-somethings might put equal marriage on the ballot and win that battle, but ignoring their 7 million Republican parents and grandparents will also defeat equality at the polls, and thus lose the whole war.

In this populous, media-centric state, that’s a defeat which conservatives will crow about for years — and which will help raise more anti-LGBT cash — to the detriment of marriage rights everywhere else.

If EMFL gets the marriage equality question onto any ballot, Floridians — not to mention the rest of the nation — will then suffer through another bitter, vicious campaign in which billboards and broadcasts call LGBT people defective, deviant, depraved, and demonically possessed. While that campaign rages in this southernmost state, teenagers who are LGBT or who have same-gender parents are likely to be brutalized, and children from all age groups will be victims of the prejudice for which America’s deep-south theocrats are so famous.

Either way, EMFL now is poised to hand the anti-LGBT forces exactly what they want: a wide victory, in an election year, in a big state. That victory will come either via EMFL’s failure to collect enough petition signatures, or else via a Proposition-8-style media battle — in which opponents relentlessly advertise that LGBT individuals, couples, and their children don’t even deserve basic human rights — followed by a defeat at the polls.

Tomorrow in this investigative series: Part 6 of 7: Promising the Impossible

Ned FlahertyNed Flaherty is an LGBT activist currently focused on civil marriage equality, and previously on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal. He writes from Boston, Massachusetts, where America’s first same-gender civil marriages began in 2004. He suffered a childhood exposure to Roman Catholic pomp and circumstance, but the spell never took, and he recovered.

Here’s the list of the 7-part series:

Part 1 – LGBT Groups Oppose Equal Marriage Campaign
Part 2 – Leaders Retreat
Part 3 – Counts for Workers, Signatures, and Dollars
Part 4 – Party Plans
Part 5 – Haters Wait With Bated Breath
Part 6 – Promising the Impossible
Part 7 – Prognosis