Marriage Equality Gaining Ground in Maryland.

The movement to marriage equality continues to show progress in Maryland. As lawmakers in the Maryland House and Senate formally kicked off their push for gay marriage, a new poll has shown that for the first time, an absolute majority of Marylanders now support full marriage equality.

According to Annapolis-based pollster Gonzales Research, 51 percent of Maryland residents support gay marriage. Endorsements break down along party lines, with 65 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents favoring same-sex marriage, while only 24 percent of Republicans back the concept. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

-Hometown Annapolis.com

 

The steady growth in Maryland for acceptance of equality matches the trend nationally and internationally. Speaking of the US,

Tim Magrath, a lecturer in political science at Frostburg State University and a former congressional staffer, agrees that the national attitude toward same-sex marriage is changing.

“The polling data’s been incredible, the numbers have completely turned around,” said Magrath. “In the ’90s when (President) Clinton first started talking about gays in the military, the approval rating was in the 30s, but now a vast majority of people support the idea of gays in the military.”

“Public perception on marriage has been transformed in the last decade as well, and there’s been a major transformation in public opinion,” said Magrath.

The bill which is now being introduced will face strong opposition and a likely filibuster. Still, it has an excellent chance of being passed, after the mid-term elections saw an increased number of key supporters elected to the state legislature. Governor O’Malley has promised to sign the bill if it reaches his desk – but it will probably then face an attempt to force the issue into a voter referendum.

UPDATE: The bill has now been formally submitted to the Maryland House with58 co-sponsors. (Last week it was introduced in the Senate with 18 co-sponsors):

House Majority Leader Kumar Barve today submitted the House plan to legalize same-sex marriage — a proposal backed by 58 delegates who have signed on as co-sponsors.

Barve described the number of supporters as “pretty darn good” for a controversial issue. The House would need 71 “yes” votes to pass the legislation.

It’s another sign that gay marriage has gained traction this year. Maryland would join six other states and the District of Columbia if either full marriage benefits or a compromise civil unions plan is passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has said he would do so.

Notably, 12 members of the House Judiciary Committee, the panel that will weigh whether to send the measure on for debate in the entire chamber, are co-sponsors, according to a list of signatures provided to The Sun this morning. That’s exactly the number needed to approve the bill in committee.

-Baltimore Sun


Civil Unions – Wyoming?

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The NOM and the like can huff and puff as much as they like, but it is clear that the cause of marriage equality is advancing steadily in some unlikely places – in Wyoming, for instance. This report is notable for illustrating how even as some legislators push back with formal bans on full marriage rights for same – sex couples, even some Republicans are willing to concede that the time may now be ripe for civil unions – marriage equality without the name.

From trib.com:

Lawmakers consider civil unions

CHEYENNE–Even as the Wyoming Legislature moves toward a stricter ban on gay marriage this year, there’s also a possibility Wyoming could become the third state to recognize civil unions.

Many legislators who voted earlier this week in favor of House Bill 74, which prohibits recognition of same-sex marriages from out of state, have said they see civil unions as an acceptable compromise.

And while Gov. Matt Mead said he believes marriage should only be between a man and a woman, he wouldn’t rule out supporting civil union legislation should it reach his desk.

“I’m getting a stronger sense that civil unions will pass,” said state Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, a supporter of gay marriage. Read the rest of this entry »

US Military Catches Up With Rest of World, Enters 21st Century.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of this is the final margin – 65 to 31 – and the eight Republican senators who voted for repeal.

The evidence has been growing for months, and this is the most conspicuous result so far: some Republican politicians are realising that homophobia is no longer a sure vote-winner, and may be willing to come down on the side of justice/or common sense.

Bill Browning at Bilerico:

Legislation was passed in Congress not in spite of including pro-gay portions; it was passed specifically in support of our civil rights. This item will be the tipping point that vastly accelerates our community.

This has huge implications for the prospects for advances on gay marriage/civil unions next year, notably in New York and Colorado.

Obama to sign law ending military gay ban

The Associated Press – ?8 minutes ago?

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a historic vote for gay rights, the Senate agreed on Saturday to do away with the military’s 17-year ban on openly gay troops and sent 

Six Republicans push ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ over the top

Politico (blog) – Shira Toeplitz – ?24 minutes ago?

Scott Brown and Lisa Murkowski are among the Republicans who voted to end debate. | AP Photos Close By SHIRA TOEPLITZ | 12/18/10 2:24 PM EST Updated: 

Senate votes to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

Washington Post – Ed O’Keefe – ?35 minutes ago?

After the House voted to repeal the policy in mid-December 2010, the Senate took on the issue in an unusual Saturday session. By Ed O’Keefe The Senate voted 

U.S. Senate acts to end military ban on gays

Reuters – ?36 minutes ago?

WASHINGTON Dec 18 (Reuters) – A majority of the US Senate on Saturday voted to repeal the ban against gays serving openly in the US military. 

Senate Votes To End Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Huffington Post – ?47 minutes ago?

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted 65-31 on Saturday to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, defeating a 17-year policy of banning gay and lesbian service members from 

Senate repeals ban on gays openly serving in military

CNN International – Ted Barrett – ?48 minutes ago?

By the CNN Wire Staff Washington (CNN) — The military’s prohibition of openly gay people serving within its ranks is one step closer to ending, 

Senate votes to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

Los Angeles Times – Lisa MascaroMichael Muskal – ?52 minutes ago?

The 65-31 vote means gays and lesbians will be able to serve openly in the military without punishment after President Obama signs the bill. Sen. Related articles

Illinois Joins the “Arc of History”: House Approves Civil Unions.

The Catholic Church and NOM in Illinois have failed in their attempt to derail the state’s move towards marriage equality. Yesterday, the House narrowly approved legislation that should see civil unions introduced for same sex couples from early next year. The measure must still pass in the Senate, but early expectations were that passage in the Senate would be easier than in the House. Governor   has already stated that he will sign any civil unions bill that is passed by the legislature. Expect final approval soon.

Sponsoring legislator described yesterday as historic, saying that Illinois had joined the arc of history. He is right.This is hugely symbolic, as the strong opposition from the institutional Catholic Church shows:

Bob Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, said the civil unions bill equates to same-sex marriage.

He is wrong of course. This bill is not full marriage, and in any case affects only state level matters, for as long as DOMA remains valid. But is an indicator of things to come. During the past year, the major advances in marriage and family equality have come outside the US, in Europe, South America and Asia. This important breakthrough in Illinois, coming at the end of the month that saw disappointing mid-term election results, is a welcome reminder that even in a difficult political climate, equality continues to advance inexorably, at federal level, at state level, at local level, and even in the Churches, in the US and in the rest of the world. The arc of history is indeed n the side of equality and inclusion.

Now for Australia – watch this space.

From Chicago Tribune:

‘Historic’ civil unions measure passes Illinois House

SPRINGFIELD — Civil unions would be allowed in Illinois beginning next year for same-sex couples under legislation the House passed today.

The 61-52 vote followed spirited debate on whether the action would be tantamount to legalizing gay marriage.

Sponsoring Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, called on his colleagues to join the arc of history that has gradually eliminated discrimination on social issues ranging from allowing women the right to vote to knocking down numerous social and legal barriers standing in the way of giving rights to people of color.“We have a chance today to make Illinois a more fair state, a more just state, and a state which treats all of its citizens equally under the law,” Harris said. “We have a chance here, as leaders have had in previous generations, to correct injustice and to move us down the path toward liberty.”The measure now goes to the Senate, where a similar bill passed in committee today.

Rick Garcia, political director of the gay rights organization Equality Illinois, hailed the bill’s passage as historic.

“I think it was telling that as the bill was being discussed the governor came out onto the floor and got a standing ovation,” Garcia said. “We’ve taken a huge step toward fairness. We are thrilled.”

Oz Marriage Equality Draws Ever Nearer.

The prospects for the introduction of same sex marriage for Australians have been transformed in just a few weeks. Although Prime Minister Julia Gillard remains intransigent in her opposition, I wonder how much longer she will be able to hold out.

Last Thursday, Parliament held what was widely (but inaccurately) described as a “gay marriage” vote – and marriage won. This was not, mind, a vote to introduce, marriage equality, but just an advisory vote that MP’s should consult their constituents on the matter. When they do, they will find that by a strong majority, Australians favour introducing legal recognition of same sex marriages. (This should be no big deal. Australian law already provides for the de facto equal treatment of all couples, and thus for informal recognition. All that is required is a mechanism to confirm that such a relationship exists).

The latest opinion poll, just like earlier ones, shows once again just how strong is this support:

Most Australians support gay marriage, the latest Nielsen poll shows.

On same-sex marriage, 23 per cent of those polled said they strongly support legalising it, while 33 per cent said they support it.

This compares with 16 per cent who said they were opposed, 21 per cent who said they were strongly opposed, 5 per cent who said they neither supported or opposed it and one per cent who did not know.

-Sydney Morning Herald

Ms Gillard has steadfastly insisted that only a party conference can change the existing party policy against marriage equality. Already the party rebels who are promoting a change in policy have engineered an early conference, which may ensure just that. All politicians like to win votes, and many in her party believe this was one of the issues that led to the party losing votes to the Greens in the last federal election.

Even if the conference does not vote to change policy, or if the opposition coalition can further delay what is rapidly becoming the inevitable, formal recognition for same sex couples will still come for many Australians, by the back door: several states have declared their intentions to introduce either full marriage equality, or near-marriage civil unions, at state level.

Equality and inclusion advancing, worldwide.

In the US, the recent mid-term elections have brought some setbacks and disappointments, with extensive gains for Republicans and victories for some high profile social conservatives, and corresponding losses by some notable congressional allies. At the same time, the flipping of some state assemblies has dimmed the prospects for marriage equality in those states, and may have increased the prospects of new constitutional bans in others. Set against this, several observers have noted that there were also some counter-balancing gains. Prospects for full marriage have distinctly improved in Rhode Island and possibly Maryland, and for civil unions in Hawaii and possibly in Illinois. The election of a record number of openly LGBT people to state and local offices will also have an important beneficial effect on the legal environment at local level.

Elsewhere in the world, queer progress often goes relatively unnoticed in the blogosphere. This is unfortunate, as there is a great deal of progress in many countries, on many fronts: in parliaments, in the courts, in the arts and culture, and in society. To counter the American gloom, here is a run-down of some current news stories that have caught my eye:

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Read the rest of this entry »

The Road Ahead: How Long, How Long!

After I placed a report this week on the UN accreditation for an LGBT Human Rights Group, I noted in a comment that it is important as we celebrate each landmark (as with gay marriage success), we should also look back and recognise how far we have come.

Sadly, I was reminded this week that we also need to look ahead and consider just how far we still have to go. At one end of the scale, there are still five countries that impose the death penalty for homosexual acts. On the other, not even the most progressive countries have year reached  full equality: there are still only a handful of countries with full protection against all discrimination on grounds of both orientation and gender identity. None of those has a full slate of legal protections.

My interest today was triggered by a report from Canada, concerning the possibly imminent execution of an Iranian man, urging the Canadian government to “intervene”. The difficulty in these countries, which are generally pretty hostile to the West in the first place, is knowing how to intervene without aggravating the situation.  The death penalty also still applies in four other states (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Mauritania and Sudan), as well as in some parts of Nigeria and Somalia.

In search of fuller information I went to ILGA (International Lesbian Gay Association), and downloaded their report  on “State Sponsored Homophobia“. This is dated May 2010, so its pretty up to date – but beware. The listing for marriage gives only three countries, omitting Portugal, Iceland Argentina. This a sharp (and encouraging) sign of just how quickly things can sometimes change. Read the rest of this entry »