Republican Lawmakers Support Colorado Civil Unions (and NY Marriage?)

While the Maryland bill for full marriage equality and its support from prominent Catholics is garnering the headlines, I am increasingly interested in the parallel progress towards civil unions in Colorado. On the face of it, the bill should struggle. Democrats control the state Senate, but the GOP has control of the lower house, and the state is a well known base for the religious right, who have mounted strong opposition. The bill is going nowhere without Republican support and religious support – but this support is now emerging.

The first step in the bill’s journey through the legislative process was secured in a Senate committee, with the help of a Republican, Sen. Ellen Roberts, who did so on eminently conservative grounds:

A Republican lawmaker in Colorado bucked her party’s stance on Monday and cast the key vote to advance a bill that would bestow the rights of marriage on unmarried same sex partners.

Speaking to The Colorado Independent, state Sen. Ellen Roberts (R) said it must have been her “libertarian streak” that convinced her to do it.

I don’t think we should be in the business of legislating religion and morality,” she reportedly added.

The Raw Story

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Joseph O’Leary, on Catholic Theology and “Redefining” Marriage

Fr Joseph O’Leary has a useful short post at his blog, on the eruption of opposition by the English bishops to the (very modest) proposed amendments to the UK civil partnership provisions. He makes the point I have done before, that the Church has itself participated in the constant redefinition of marriage over the centuries, but adds an important observation that I had not realised: that historically, these redefinitions have come from the people, and only later have been ratified by the state and the church. Nothing new, then, in the current process of redefinition. In many countries, the state is already following the popular lead in recognizing same sex relationships. Most churches (not all, not by a long way) are further behind – but they too will catch up:

Apparently the recent papal visit has galvanized opposition among English Catholic bishops to anything resembling gay marriage. Now they denounce Quakers and liberal Jews for daring to host civil partnership registrations, saying that no one has the right to redefine marriage. In fact, of course, marriage has been redefined many times throughout history. It is only since the 15th century or so that the Church itself has defined marriage as a sacrament. Such redefinitions come from the people in the first case, and are only later ratified by church and state. Today the Church has to face the growing reality of gay unions that resemble marriage, and when it buries its head in the stand, refuses to come up with an intelligent response, refuses dialogue and consultation, it is only making itself ridiculous.

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Hawaii Civil Unions Approved; Marriage Equality Update

Three significant news items yesterday illustrated the continuing momentum towards marriage and family equality.

In Hawaii, the state senate has now given final approval to civil unions for same sex couples. All that is now required is for the Gobvernor to add his signature, which he has promised he will do, adding to the number which now offer marriage equality or near equality at state level. More will follow.

In Baltimore, another state senator has stepped off the fence, and announced he will vote in favour of the marriage bill next week. This makes at least 24 votes (and possibly 25) in favour, which will be enough for approval. Passage in the lower house and the governor’s signature should follow.

In Delaware, a new group (Equality Delaware) has been formed to push for civil unions, and has announced sponsors for a bill to be introduced to the legislature later this year. (A recent opinion poll showed that a plurality of Delaware voters support full marriage. This would suggest that the early prospects for the more cautious proposal of civil unions must be good).

For the record, here is the current rundown by state, for the US a.nd internationally.
. Read the rest of this entry »

Marriage. What’s in a word?

Here’s the video I inserted at the end of my last post, for those of you who may have entered the discussion at this stage. Though the clip talks about civil unions, the intent clearly is to provoke a debate about marriage. Extending marriage legislation (including use of the term “marriage”) to same-sex couples is probably a government’s litmus test, the sign of its commitment to recognise the equal status of its LGBT citizens. I have already expressed myself as favouring the use of the word marriage rather than the terms civil unions or partnerships. Today, I thought it necessary to give a few reasons (there will probably others I have failed to mention), reasons that reflect both what I have gleaned from other sources as well as my own take on the matter. Naturally, I would like my words to be seen as an encouragement to same-sex couples  who already are in a civil union or partnership to continue to insist on getting civil authorities (as well as religious institutions as the case may be) to fully incorporate these civil unions/partnerships into the wider institution of marriage. So the caveat is: if couples so wish. I would be the last to wish to force a hetero-normative institution (that is how marriage is viewed in some quarters) on gay and lesbian couples, as not every couple may see itself as being prepared to take on the baggage that comes with the institution of marriage.

"Victory!" - This couple has been wa...

Image via Wikipedia

 

Marriage. “What’s in a word?” You may ask. Why should one choose to use the word “marriage” to cover same-sex unions too? For a start, if the state, through its laws, wants to give all the rights that a heterosexual couple has through marriage to gay and lesbian couples, then it (the state) will need to explain why it insists on using two different terms to cover the same ground. We’re talking of same-sex couples having the same rights and duties, as well as privileges as straight couples, in other words, deserving of equal status and recognition. If, on the other hand, the state does not wish to accord the same status to the unions of same-sex couples, as it does to heterosexual couples, then it should be challenged to give its reasons for making this distinction, or in other words, why it is discriminating between its citizens.

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Civil Unions Now Imminent in Hawaii

The Hawaii state Senate yesterday approved civil unions legislation for the state. Approval by the state House, which last year passed similar legislation before it was vetoed by GOP Governor Lingle, is surely just a a formality. The new governor, Democrat Neil Abercrombie, has already promised to sign the legislation when (no longer if) it reaches his desk. Near-marriage, marriage in all but name, is on the way in Hawaii.

I particularly likes this statement from Senator  Solomon of Honokaa. In his formulation, this expression of Aloha sounds to me remarkably like a statement of the true spirit of Christianity:

“Let’s get beyond this. Let’s realize what the spirit of aloha is all about, which means including people no matter their color, no matter their gender, no matter their lifestyle,” said Sen. Malama Solomon, D-Hilo-Honokaa.

In my mind, only three questions remain:

  • When will the new legislation take effect? How long will it be before Hawaii’s same-sex couples will be able to tie the knot, and have their unions recognized by the state?
  • Which will be the next state to follow suit?
  • How long must we wait for “near-marriage” to  become full marriage equality, including the name?

From NECN:

Hawaii Senate approves same-sex civil unions

HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii Senate on Friday overwhelmingly approved civil unions for same-sex couples, a major step toward the proposal becoming law.

The state Senate voted 19-6 for the bill, which now goes to the state House of Representatives, where a nearly identical measure passed last year before it was vetoed by then-Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican.

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Civil Unions Advance, Hawaii

Hot on the heels of the gay marriage bills which have been introduced this month in Rhode Island and Maryland, a measure providing for near-marriage has passed a key stage in Hawaii.  This is not yet full marriage, but as the opponents recognize, it is pretty close to marriage in all but name, and is surely just a staging post on the road to full equality. It’s a long road, but civil unions in Hawaii will be an important landmark along the way.

 

Civil unions in Hawaii pass crucial first vote

A bill creating same-sex civil unions in Hawaii cleared a major hurdle Tuesday when it was narrowly approved by a key state Senate committee.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the legislation with a 3-2 vote following 2½ hours of passionate testimony from opponents wearing white shirts with buttons declaring “civil unions equals same-sex marriage” and supporters bearing rainbow lei.

“This is a matter of civil rights. We would no longer feel that we’re second-class citizens,” testified Gary Okabayashi of Honolulu, who has been in a relationship with his partner for 32 years. “We would have a sense of pride and integrity because the state has finally recognized us as equal.”

Democrats, who control the Hawaii Legislature, said they plan to pass the bill quickly and send it to new Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat who supports civil unions.

The bill is nearly identical to a measure that passed the Legislature last year before it was vetoed by Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.

It would grant both same-sex and opposite-sex couples the ability to enter into a civil union with the same state rights, benefits and responsibilities as marriage.

Advocates of civil unions said November’s elections showed that voters supported candidates who backed equal rights for gay and lesbian couples. Only one incumbent state legislator who backed civil unions lost re-election.

Opponents said legal recognition of gay partnerships would put the state on a path toward same-sex marriage.

Read more at NECN

Illinois Civil Unions – Welcomed by Some Religious Leaders

As expected, the Illinois legislation approving civil unions for same sex couples easily passed in the State Senate. The bill now goes to the governor, who has promised to sign. This should take effect from June 1.

What impressed me in the reaction, is that in marked contrast to the familiar claims that this would somehow hurt traditional marriage and harm religion, some religious leaders specifically welcomed it.

Some religious leaders welcomed the legislation. In Chicago, Rabbi Larry Edwards said he’s looking forward to planning celebrations for couples in his Jewish congregation who may decide to form civil unions under Illinois law.

“To those who say it’s a slippery slope and eventually will lead to marriage, I say, ‘I hope so,'” said Edwards of Or Chadash synagogue. “I would like to be on a slippery slope that slides in the direction of justice.”

The Rev. Vernice Thorn, associate pastor of Broadway United Methodist Church in Chicago said she considers the vote a hopeful sign. “Same-sex legalized marriage is going to happen. It’s just a matter of when.”

-Washington Post

Precisely – not if, but when.

The usual Catholic spokesmen were less enthusiastic.

The prize for the most outlandish commentary must surely go to the Illinois Family Institute, who complained that the supporters of the bill had failed to examine the issues clearly, and had engaged in emotional, sentimental arguments instead.

The Illinois Family Institute said legislators failed to examine the legislation clearly.

“Proponents engaged in embarrassing and maudlin displays of sentimentality intended to emotionally manipulate rather than intellectually persuade their colleagues,” said executive director David E. Smith.

Really? I did not follow the Illinois arguments (on either side), but the opponents of marriage or family equality are the ones who have consistently failed in court to back up their claims with any evidence whatever – as in the California Prop 8 trial, and in adoption cases in both Florida and Arkansas. It’s unlikely that the Illinois opponents found any more persuasive rational arguments against civil unions: there aren’t any. Their case is based on the completely false idea that extending civil the civil benefits of marriage will somehow harm religion and its value for full marriage – and  selective morality.

Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, accused some opponents of hypocrisy.

“I hear adulterers and womanizers and folks cheating on their wives and down-low brothers saying they’re going to vote against this bill. It turns my stomach,” Hendon said. “We know what you do at night, and you know too.”

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