Saturday, August 22, 2009

Referendum 71 Signature Error Rate Drops, Increasing Its Chances of Making It on the Ballot

Washington State election officials report that signature checkers for anti-LGBT Referendum 71 have checked more than 97,000 of 137,689 petition signatures turned in by the sponsors of the referendum, Protect Marriage Washington, who hope to overturn the state's new domestic partnership law that extends to same-sex couples all the rights and benefits of marriage but the name.

Nearly 86,000 signatures have been accepted and almost 11,400 rejected, with the error rate dropping from Thursday's high of 11.97% to 11.68%. The overall rejection rate must not go over 12.4% if Referendum 71 is to go on the ballot.

The latest update showed these totals: 97,287 checked, with 85,920 accepted and 11,367 rejected. The sponsors need 120,577 valid Washington voter signatures.

The rejections so far are broken down as follows: 9,347 people whose registrations not found, 947 whose petition signature did not match the one on file, 1,021 duplicates and 52 cases where checkers have asked that the voter’s home county for an electronic signature that can be compared with the signature on the petition.

Evangelical Lutheran Church to Bless Same-Sex Unions; Lifts Ban on Non-Celibate Gay Clergy

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ECLA) made two major moves Friday to liberalize their policies on gays and lesbians, joining the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ in both allowing clergy in their church to bless same-sex unions as well as lifting the ban on openly gay clergy who may be in "lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships." Before, gay clergy had to be celibate.

The Los Angeles Times reports:
One scholar characterized the move by the two groups as a "watershed moment in American Christianity" that could further divide churches already laboring to stem the flight of traditionalists.

"Those who have been actively campaigning for a change of this sort in the other mainline denominations will see this as a sign that they should intensify their efforts," Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, said in an e-mail. "For those of us who have opposed this on biblical grounds, it is bound to reinforce the sense that we are no longer welcome in the mainline."
Delegates of the Church voted 619 to 402 to approve a resolution allowing churches that want to recognize same-sex unions to do so in the manner they see fit.

Following this vote, the resolution that will allow gay and lesbian clergy in committed relationships to serve openly passed with a 559-451 vote.

These votes did not occur without controversy. Bad weather caused a tornado to hit the Central Lutheran Church across the street from the convention, a sign from God that the Lutheran church was headed in the wrong direction with homosexuality claimed one pastor.

"We cannot support this departure from God's word," the Rev. Mark Chavez said in a statement, the director of CORE, a conservative Lutheran group. The group has called for congregations to direct funds away from the national church and give to more "faithful" ministries within the church.

The Catholic Church tried to butt into Lutheran business through Archbishop Wilton Gregory, a former President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Through a video message the bishop claimed that if the Lutherans allowed openly gay and lesbian clergy, it could spell the end of relationships between the denomination and the Catholic Church.

Some fear the church can suffer from the same schism facing the Episcopal Church following its decision to lift the ban on gay clergy.

Mark S. Hanson, the national church's presiding bishop, acknowledged the strain but called for congregants to remember that both sides come from heartfelt convictions.

"It's going to take time to sort out how we live together in light of these decisions," Hanson said in a webcast news conference. "It would be tragic if we talked away from one another. This is a time for thoughtful, engaged, prayerful, imaginative response."

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press
, the ECLA has a "heavily Midwestern membership and the fact that it is generally seen as falling squarely in the middle of the theological milieu of mainline Protestantism imbues Friday's vote with added significance."

So far the Lutheran church, with nearly five millions members, is the largest denomination to recognize same-sex relationships and gay and lesbian clergy, and many theologians see the church's decision as opening the way for the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterians to follow suit.

Friday, August 21, 2009

MUST SEE VIDEO: "Fearless: Courage Campaign Equality Teams"

Organized by volunteers, 46 Courage Campaign County Equality Teams in 23 counties across California are creating infrastructure to enable your community to engage in important long-term work -- recruiting an army of marriage equality activists, identifying undecided voters, organizing in your communities, and taking part in coordinated statewide events.

Iowa Civil Rights Commission Reaffirms Marriage Equality

Iowa's bipartisan Civil Rights Commission voted unanimously Thursday to formally support the state's Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. In addition, they voted to oppose any constitutional amendment that would ban marriage equality that would officially undo the decision.

The commission is a bipartisan group of seven Iowans appointed by the governor to be neutral investigators in cases of reported discrimination.

Republican Commissioner Rick Morain told the Desmoines Register that he felt a constitutional ban would undermine the very same document.

"I don't think we're saying that there can't be a constitutional amendment raised. I mean, that's under the constitution," said Morain. "My personal feeling is that if that kind of amendment were adopted, it would clash with Article 1 of the constitution, which is the Iowa Bill of Rights."

"To me, it would not be consistent with Iowa's long-standing tradition of equality and the right to happiness to pass that amendment," Morain added.

With many Iowa GOP gubernatorial candidates against marriage equality, many calling for an amendment, and a special election coming up to replace a representative appointed to an office by President Obama, the issue of marriage equality will definitely by a subject of the campaigns.

Lez Get Real reports:
When President Obama appointed former Democratic Iowa State Rep. John Whitaker as the Iowa director of the Farm Service Agency, he open the door to a candidate who is going to make same-sex marriage in Iowa a major issue in his campaign.

The Republican candidate in the special election for Iowa House district 90, Jefferson County Supervisor Stephen Burgmeier, became known this past spring after he called for resolution to forbid Jefferson County Officials from issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples soon after the Iowa Supreme Court’s issued its opinion upholding a lower court’s decision that granted marriage equality in that state."
Thankfully this bipartisan commission's decision has been announced before these races gather steam. Marriage equality opponents running for office will be hard pressed to come up with a response to a commission whose sole purpose is to protect citizens' civil rights. Would you want to oppose them if you were running for office?

Maine Gay Couple Celebrate 40 Years Together, Want to Be Married

WLBZ2 reports:
To celebrate their forty years together as a couple, Ron Schwizer and Doug Kimmel gathered with friends and neighbors for a party.

But, Schwizer and Kimmel say the event is about more than their anniversary.

"I guess the main thing is the idea that same-sex couples have lived in Maine as committed couples," Kimmel explained. "They contribute to the community and should be treated as equally as any couple. We should be allowed to celebrate that commitment with the word marriage."

In June [UTF note: it was May], the governor and the state legislature passed the state's first marriage equality act. The law granted gay couples the right to marry in Maine.

"Getting the support, knowing we have the legal supports and rights even though they don't apply to federal laws would make a difference," Schwizer said. "I would have every intention of following through with a legal ceremony."


The pair decided to use their fortieth anniversary as a means of bringing attention to the gay marriage debate. About 150 people attended the reception Wednesday night at the Pierre Monteaux School in Hancock.

While Kimmel and Schwizer want to expand the rights of gay couples to marry, opponents of the law have submitted signatures to the state to force a "people's veto" referendum in November.
This is the part that makes my blood boil, but also points out the fundamental difference between the two sides of this issue.
When contacted by NEWS CENTER regarding Kimmel and Schwizer's event, Mark Mutty, the executive chair of Stand For Marriage Maine applauded the couple for their longevity.

But he was quick to add that their marriage does not exist in Maine.

"Obviously it's not true," Mutty stated. "The law does not provide for it in the State of Maine. Come the people's vote in November, that will be made crystal clear."

Mutty pointed out that in the past the Catholic Diocese of Maine has lent its support to gay rights issues in Maine. He adds that this is an issue of protecting the true definition of marriage.

"Congratulations to them for being together for that long and being happy," Mutty exclaimed. "We celebrate that for them. We just don't see the correlation here. The point is two people can get along and have a relationship similar to marriage, but it lacks the basic characteristics of a true marriage."
So what are the basic characteristic of "true marriage" for you? Is it what Ron Schwizer and Doug Kimmel have? Or only a straight couple able to constantly copulate and procreate? I think it's much more.

ACTION: The opposition is saying their campaign will cost 2 million or more to keep couples like Ron and Doug from marrying. Early money for a campaign is essential - click here to donate to the NO on 1 campaign!

Let's help the many other Maine couples keep their right to marry. Go to NO on 1/Protect Maine Equality and see how else you can get involved!

CNN: Tobias Wolff and NOM's Maggie Gallagher Debate Marriage Equality

On Thursday Tobias Wolff, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, faced of with the National Organization for Marriage's Maggie Gallagher on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight.

In the debate, Maggie cannot come up with an answer to the question about how same-sex marriage assaults the "institution" of marriage. She also blames "four judges in Massachusetts" for "gay marriage" not "homosexuals." Huh? I see, so then I can blame the government for the high divorce rate in this country because it enacted divorce laws, not the cheating spouses that cause many divorces. Rock on.


DOBBS: Another promise made by the president during his campaign, to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. The Clinton-era law recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman, allows states to ignore same- sex marriages from other states and withholds federal marriage rights for same-sex couples. Here now to debate the issue on our face-off tonight is Maggie Gallagher. She is the president of the National Organization for Marriage.

Good to have you with us, Maggie.


DOBBS: And Tobias Wolff, law professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Good to have you with us.


DOBBS: Let's turn to first what the administration said in its brief in defending the act this week. It reads, "The administration believes the Defense of Marriage Act is discriminatory and should be repealed," that according to the Justice Department.

Maggie, you say you were shocked by this brief. Why so?

GALLAGHER: Well, there's two issues of trust. One is, yes, it's true the Obama -- the candidate had a position paper that he's against the Defense of Marriage Act. But he also went in a big publicized interview, and he promised the American people in an interview with Rick Warren that although he's for equal rights for gay people, he doesn't include marriage among them. And now his administration is filing a brief saying the one federal law that defends marriage as one man and one woman is discriminatory.

But there's a second level of trust here. I mean, both gay marriage advocates and gay marriage opponents are concerned because this is a brief in which the administration says it's against DOMA and then pretends that it's trying to defend it.


DOBBS: Right. OK.

GALLAGHER: But there's more shocking things in there than what you said on the stage.

DOBBS: All right. Well, we're going to get to those. We're going to get to those.

GALLAGHER: Sure, OK. Thanks.

DOBBS: Tobias, your reaction? Do you agree with what Maggie said?

WOLFF: Well, I don't. And let's be clear about what this statute is about. There are six states right now and a bunch of folks in California as well -- six states that allow gay and lesbian couples to get married. This is about whether those couples are going to be discriminated against by the federal government. This has nothing to do with the federal government telling states what they have to do in their marriage policies.

DOBBS: Well, here's the Justice Department saying it's discriminatory.

WOLFF: Absolutely.

DOBBS: And at the same time defending it.

WOLFF: Well, I'll tell you the Justice Department is...

DOBBS: Work us through -- work through that one.

WOLFF: They are in a rotten situation here. And here is why. They want this statute repealed, as does the president and his administration. There is a longstanding tradition that the Justice Department...

DOBBS: Then why not do it?

WOLFF: Well, there's a difference between repealing a statute, which the president is working with Congress to do right now...


WOLFF: And by the way, it's part of the Democratic party platform to get rid of this statute. It's time for Congress to step up to the plate and start working on it. There's a difference between that and what the Justice Department's obligation is when there's a constitutional challenge brought to a statute.

DOBBS: Right.

WOLFF: Now, let me just say...

DOBBS: Let me just interrupt, if I may.

WOLFF: Yes, sir.

DOBBS: This is where the economists describe President Obama. Barack Obama tends to become incoherent when discussing gay rights. During the campaign he said he supported equal rights for gays, but also that marriage should be between a man and a woman. How do you -- you know, I mean, what you say is fine. But wouldn't marriage be a fundamental right? And why would there be any equivocation?

WOLFF: Well, let me tell you, Lou. I agree with you about that. And I spent a lot of time working for the campaign and having respectful (ph)...

DOBBS: Well, I'm not taking a position. I'm just asking...

WOLFF: Well, I hear you. But what the Defense of Marriage Act is about is not telling states who's allowed to get married and who's not. What it's about is whether the federal government is going to discriminate against couples who are legally married in their states.

DOBBS: Well, it says here...

WOLFF: It's about...

DOBBS: ... the Justice Department says it's discriminatory.

WOLFF: Absolutely.

DOBBS: But they're going to defend it.

That's a bizarre position, Maggie, for them to be in and for the government to be in. Isn't it?

GALLAGHER: Well, even worse is they're pretending to defend it. But in response to pressure from political groups, they've changed their argument. The federal government is now saying the Obama administration is telling the courts in your behalf and mine that the government has no interest at all in bringing together biological parents to raise their children together.

It is repudiating the idea that marriage has anything to do with mothers and fathers raising children together, which is the one great argument that all the liberal courts who have upheld marriage: New York, Maryland, Washington. They've always done it on that reason.

DOBBS: May I ask a...

GALLAGHER: So it's very deceptive, I think, what he's doing.

DOBBS: Yes, well, it's deceptive. It's confounding in terms of reason. Of all of the things that I have seen over the course of my career, you know, listening as an assault on heterosexual marriage, I have never seen -- and you correct me. I mean, where does gay marriage stand? Where is it in the queue for threat against heterosexual marriage?

GALLAGHER: Well, I think...

DOBBS: And what is the causal relationship?

GALLAGHER: Well, I think that when the government changes the definition of marriage, it changes for everyone. And when the government says the idea that marriage...

DOBBS: No, I'm not (inaudible) about -- no, no, no. Excuse me, please.


DOBBS: I'm not asking -- I'm not asking anybody to change the definition of anything. I'm just asking you how is a heterosexual couple in marriage in any way assaulted by a homosexual couple in marriage.

GALLAGHER: Well, because the government has changed what marriage is. For a lot of us, Lou, a marriage is a husband and wife. And the government is proposing to change that.

DOBBS: Right.

GALLAGHER: The Obama administration is saying that idea is discriminatory. Our children are going to be taught that by public schools, that our ideas of marriage are discriminatory.


GALLAGHER: It's hard enough to raise, you know, people...

DOBBS: All right.

WOLFF: Let's bring this down.

GALLAGHER: It's hard enough to get men and women together to do this thing without our government saying and the Obama administration saying the idea itself is discriminatory.

DOBBS: Well, my God. I'm sorry.

WOLFF: Let's bring this down to some real specifics. This is about couples who have been together for 30 years being denied their full Social Security benefits. This is about couples being denied access to health care. This is about couples who are being denied equal treatment in the tax laws after they've spent their entire lives...

DOBBS: But you would have that if you had civil union.

WOLFF: ... paying federal taxes.

DOBBS: You would have that if you had civil unions.

WOLFF: What you have...

DOBBS: See, those arguments are not particularly persuasive.

WOLFF: Not true. Let me make sure you understand.

DOBBS: Please do.

WOLFF: This is about the federal government taking couples who are legally married and saying we are not going to give you equal access to the Social Security benefits that every married couple in this country is entitled to.

GALLAGHER: Listen, if...

WOLFF: That's what this is about.

GALLAGHER: ... the only trouble.

WOLFF: That's what this is about.

GALLAGHER: If you have a trouble with Social Security, you could amend that act. You don't need to go into court...

DOBBS: All right.

WOLFF: Well, Ms. Gallagher, are you out there?

GALLAGHER: ... and say that marriage itself is discriminatory.

WOLFF: Are you out there trying to fight for equal treatment for gay and lesbian couples in Social Security?

GALLAGHER: What I'm trying to fight for -- it's funny that you talk about the tradition...

WOLFF: Are you the one who's going to take away Social Security benefits from gay and lesbian couples?

GALLAGHER: ... of the Justice Department.

WOLFF: Are you the one who's going to take health care benefits away from people who need them?

GALLAGHER: I am the one who is standing for the right of American taxpayers not to have a union, same-sex union treated as marriage without their consent.


WOLFF: And there are six states that have said that they want gay and lesbian couples to be treated equally in our marriage laws.

GALLAGHER: And the federal government overwhelmingly...

WOLFF: And the federal government should step out of the way.

GALLAGHER: The federal government overwhelmingly, bipartisanly said the federal definition of marriage is one man and one woman. And I support that. And I think the Obama administration should live up to its campaign promise to support marriage and change its mind.

WOLFF: They should absolutely live up to their promise to repeal this statute, yes.

DOBBS: Well, apparently there are two promises here implicit that would satisfy one of you or the other, but not both. Let me again go to this thing because the Defense of Marriage is sort of a peculiar construction. When the primary, as everything I've been able to study -- the primary reason for divorce is financial. One in two marriages in this country, heterosexual marriages, ends in divorce.

We are watching two-thirds in some cases of children born out of wedlock. We have a disaster in this country. And, I mean, it could be argued, it seems to me, at least -- and forgive me for saying it this way -- that you're blaming homosexuals for an institution that's under assault from just about everyone but gays.

GALLAGHER: I'm not blaming homosexuals for anything. It's four judges in Massachusetts, not homosexuals, who brought us gay marriage.


GALLAGHER: And it's a bunch of Democratic legislatures in blue states who are not, as far as I know, gay. Some of them may be -- who brought us gay marriage in those states. This is a political movement to change the law. It's going to have a lot of consequences.

I do not understand how we can possibly rebuild a marriage culture with the president of the United States and the government saying the idea that marriage means a husband and wife, because you need a mother and father, is discriminatory. That's the problem. These aren't separate battles. They're related.

DOBBS: You get the last word, very quickly.

WOLFF: Look, at the end of the day, this is about treating people fairly and equally and with dignity. And getting rid of the Defense of Marriage Act is going to allow us to get the federal government out of the way of states who have made that decision.

DOBBS: Thank you both.

Maggie, appreciate you being here.

Tobias, thank you.

WOLFF: Thank you.

Marriage Equality Statewide Ads Begin Airing in Maine, Heating Up Campaign; One Day Left for Matching Donation Drive!

UPDATE: From Jesse Connolly, NO on 1 campaign manager:
On Wednesday, I challenged you to raise $10,000 by Friday. If we met that goal, a generous Maine donor agreed to match dollar for dollar up to $10,000.

Well, guess what? In less than 48 hours, you raised $16,098 through 354 supporters.

I just shared the news with our donor, who is so impressed with your initiative that he has doubled his challenge: he will now match every dollar up to $20,000 raised by midnight tonight.

That gives us less than 12 hours to raise $3,902.
Click here to donate!


This year Maine is ground zero in the national struggle for marriage equality. And as a national community, we need this win, for a loss will be felt across the country and could potentially set back the marriage movement years.

In May the state legislature passed a marriage equality bill that was quickly signed by Gov. Baldacci. But it didn't take long for marriage equality opponents to draft a referendum for a November "people's veto" vote. Meanwhile, the petition has halted the new law's enforcement.

California's passage of Prop 8 was devastating, not only to Californians, but to LGBT and allies nationwide. Those responsible for Yes on 8 are now in Maine, spearheading the attempt there to strip away marriage rights of LGBT Mainers. They've done it before, and they intend to do it again.

The struggle is heating up today as a new ad, co-produced by Equality Maine Foundation, GLAD and MCLU, airs statewide. (The campaign logo doesn't appear in the ad since these organizations aren't connected to the campaign itself.)

Many ways exist in which you can help the NO on 1/Protect Maine Equality campaign, and I will continue to report on different actions.

The most pressing action right now is donating. Early money for a campaign is essential for success - it helps a campaign to stay ahead of the opposition through media ads, volunteers and messaging. And the mail-in ballots go out soon and Mainers will be voting in five weeks on whether or not gays and lesbians can marry!

A win in Maine will be historical - the first ever passage of marriage equality by the voters themselves!

Thanks to the efforts of a generous anonymous donor, every dollar you contribute up to $10,000, will be matched until Friday, August 21.

If you donate $250, then it becomes $500.

If you donate $100, then it becomes $200.


Maine's Portland Press Herald Runs Opposing Editorials on Marriage Equality Simultaneously

Maine's widely read newspaper, Portland Press Herald, simultaneously ran two opposing editorials on marriage equality. This November, Mainers will vote whether or not to keep the state's new marriage equality law.

Against marriage equality excerpt:
Social science confirms that wisdom: Children need both fathers and mothers, and the fact that some couples are either intentionally or unintentionally childless means precisely nothing for the vast majority of couples that include offspring.

The opposite holds for same-sex couples; some have children, but they are the exception, not the rule. Thus, the arguments for same-sex marriage primarily focus on the present: It will make us happy, it will fulfill our aspirations, it will legitimize our relationship.

But a marriage between a man and a woman is a family-building voyage into the future, launching generations to come.
How, proponents ask, can same-sex marriage affect others? Consider that if the veto effort fails, we will no longer require that marriages be composed of husbands and wives and mothers and fathers, but "Spouse 1 and Spouse 2," or "Parent 1 and Parent 2."
I must say, that last part is laughable. Having to check "Spouse 1 or 2" on a form is surely going to ruin straight marriages across the nation. They're going to argue who's number one, resulting in one feeling superior and the other inferior; and identities will be confused, and as a result, they won't relate, won't have sex, won't procreate and the human species will become EXTINCT! OMG!

For marriage equality excerpt:
The argument will be made that the "institution of marriage" itself will be damaged – that somehow permitting same-sex couples to marry will diminish other marriages.

But there is no institution of marriage, just millions of marriages, all independent. A same-sex union between one couple won't undermine another couple's traditional marriage any more than would someone else's divorce. People marry each other, not institutions.

Expect to hear that if the referendum fails, Maine people would be forced to recognize relationships of which they don't approve. But that happens already.

Doctors, nurses, school secretaries – even IRS agents – don't get to decide which couples deserve to be considered married. Either they have a license or they don't, and if they do, they get to make medical decisions, pick a child up from school or file a joint tax return without facing any questions about their sexual practices. Basic fairness dictates that same-sex couples should be able to formalize their relationships without having to pass a moral test that is only imposed on them.


Sure, this is new. But the values behind it – fairness, privacy, tolerance of people who are different than you – are not new and have long traditions in Maine.
I highly recommend you read the full editorials and participate in the discussion under the comments.

Image from Lez Get Real.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Four Out of Four Legal Experts Question the Timing of the Federal Prop 8 Case

Posted on the New York Times blog, Room for Debate, a question was posed to four legal experts in regards to the Ted Olson and David Boies federal case against Prop 8, "Is this the right time to go to a conservative Supreme Court with such a controversial issue — one that even President Obama has shied away from?"

All four in fact question the logic behind the timing of the case, some more pessimistic than others. Here's some excerpts.

Eugene Volokh, U.C.L.A. Law School: "Some justices — probably at least four and maybe five — probably think the opposite-sex-only marriage rules are clearly constitutional, because nothing in the constitutional text or our nation’s traditions prohibits such rules. And even some of the justices who might be open to a different view are unlikely to want to invalidate the laws of more than 40 states."

Kenji Yoshino, N.Y.U. School of Law: "If this case is decided on the merits, I hope the court will follow Loving [vs. Virginia]. But the court cannot be insensible to the widely expressed sentiment that the timing here may not be right. If the court believes that a broader social consensus needs to develop, it should remember how it bought time with Naim [vs. Naim]."

Amy Wax, University of Pennsylvania Law School: "The Supreme Court generally refrains from deciding federal constitutional questions until federal courts of appeals and/or the highest courts of the states have thoroughly reviewed the constitutional issue and have come to differing conclusions. Departure from this rule is exceptional. The legality of California’s Proposition 8 does not justify an exception, as the California’s highest court upheld the state’s ban and no other court has ruled on the issue.
"The lack of a judicial track record on this complex issue is good enough reason to refrain from considering the validity of California’s Prop. 8."

Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry: "The best way to maximize the chances for a just ruling by the court is not just by hiring good lawyers, writing smart briefs, or, even, being right. What’s needed is creating the climate that enables justices to do the right thing.

"That means winning the freedom to marry in more states and winning over more hearts and minds. If the Supreme Court sees that the lived experience of gay couples marrying means families helped and no one hurt, that the rationales offered up to defend discrimination are false, and that the momentum in America is toward inclusion, then the timing may indeed prove right for the justices to do right. The opportunity to use the time between now and the day it’s turned over to the justices is very much in our control. Since that day may come soon, let’s start talking now to the people we need to persuade, and make the timing right."

Yesterday was full of exciting news, with Judge Walker, who is presiding over the Prop 8 case, ruled that for the first time ever, a public trial will be held on a marriage case, establishing a broad record for the appellate courts to use to make their decisions. (This in itself, I would think, would make part of Amy's argument above moot since she claims a record needs to be created first before going to the Supreme Court.) I felt hope for the first time, I must confess, in quite some time.

After reading these opinions, my enthusiasm on this case dimmed. Conservative judges, public opinion, state's rights, bad timing, and many other factors began to weigh down my otherwise buoyant hope for this case.

But then I stopped to consider a little more what Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry said. Whether or not we agree that this is the right time for the case, it's happening. So now it's up to us to make it the right time.


By winning marriage equality state by state (we have a chance to win in Maine this November!) and changing as many hearts and minds as possible, so that if and when the case reaches the highest court in the nation, it won't be a matter of right timing, it'll just be a matter of what's right. And that's equality.

So let's get to work.

Referendum 71 Signature Errors 1% From Max Survivor Rate; Right Wing Sweating Bullets

UPDATE: The right wingers certainly are squirming and furious that the error rate is increasing.

The Secretary of State's blog reports:
Sponsors of Referendum 71, the effort to overturn Washington’s new “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law, are accusing the state Elections Division of rushing the signature-verification process and being biased against their effort. Election officials at the Secretary of State’s office are pushing back, strongly defending their crew of signature-checkers as conducting the process with great care and diligence, not rushing through – and certainly not showing bias one way or the other about the legislation in question.

Gary Randall of the Faith and Freedom Network, part of the campaign group called Protect Marriage Washington, made its allegations in an e-mailed “state wide call to action and prayer,” saying the “homosexual lobby” had pressured the Secretary to accelerate the signature check. That had the effect of boosting the group’s error rate due to “carelessness and/or sympathy for the other side,” he wrote. The group flooded the Secretary’s offices with hundreds of phone calls, emails and blog comments.
Give me a break. When the Secretary of State earlier reported that the error rate dropped due to recalculations (and some say had to recount signatures), they didn't care that the counting process could've been compromised as long as it was in their favor. And now that it isn't, somehow it's now a conspiracy!


Washington state election officials say they've verified almost 70,000 of 137,689 Referendum 71 signatures, a petition which hopes to overthrow the "everything much marriage" domestic partnership law that passed recently at the ballot, giving same-sex couples all the state rights of marriage without the name.

"As of the Wednesday evening report, Elections Division crews have now checked 79,195 names submitted by the sponsors," said secretary of state spokesman David Ammons. "The error rate rose again in the latest count, to 11.67 percent cumulatively. If they're to qualify for the ballot, backers need to keep their error rate under 12.4 percent by the time all 137,689 of their signatures are checked. The bottom line, so far, is that 69,949 signatures have been accepted. It takes 120,577 valid Washington signatures to place a referendum on the ballot."

That's less than 1% away from the maximum error rate that the referendum can survive under. The right wing sponsors must be sweating bullets if they hope to strip the rights away of same-sex couples in Washington State, something they've obviously become addicted to doing.

They may need rehab if they don't succeed.

The break point comes when either 17,113 signatures are invalidated or 120,577 signatures are validated.

Referendum 71 voters will be asked to approve or reject the domestic partnership law in November. Vote "APPROVED" to preserve the new domestic partnership law. Sign up with Washington Families Standing Together to help get the word out.

VIDEO: Letterman Talks to Miss USA Pageant Owner Donald Trump, Says Anyone Should Get Married

Miss USA Pageant co-owner Donald Trump appeared on Letterman Tuesday and insisted the formed Miss California Carrie Prejean faced the controversy over her answer to marriage equality because of "her great beauty."

Letterman said "Anybody who wants to get married ought to be able to get married."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

White House Has Yet to Work Towards Repealing DOMA

The Department of Justice's (DOJ) Monday filing on the Smelt case challenging the so-called Defense of Marriage Act had a strikingly different tone from the prior brief, this time clearly stating that DOMA is discriminatory and should be repealed. I felt this was a welcome respite from the language in the prior brief, despite the DOJ moving forward on defending the law.

President Obama also issued an accompanying statement echoing the same sentiments, though this some see this as contrary to his well-known stance that he does not support marriage equality. But again, encouraging, because through the DOJ's brief, Obama officially stated for the first time in court he opposed DOMA.

However, today, the Washington Post reports that the White House has made no moves to repeal the law. "The Obama administration, managing a busy and complicated legislative agenda, has not begun working with Congress to repeal the act, congressional and White House sources said. Dissatisfaction in the gay and lesbian community peaked in June, when some donors canceled plans to attend a Democratic National Committee fundraiser."

Time today has a piece asking, "Why Does Obama Keep Flip-Flopping on Gay Marriage?"
. . . Obama has also said he opposes . . . a 1996 bill (signed by President Clinton) that anti-gay forces called the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. Obama has said several times that he would like that law overturned.

And yet — sorry, the contradictions keep coming — once Obama was elected, and once a gay couple in California had sued to overturn DOMA, his Administration not only defended the law, but defended it in a legal argument so reactionary that it would embarrass Dick Cheney . . .

That argument — that two consenting adult men marrying isn't unlike a man marrying his niece . . .

And so this week we get a new legal brief from the Obama Administration in the California case, this one denuded of the execrable incest defense. This time . . . Obama flip-flops again — now back to his campaign position. (It must be dizzying to work in the White House these days.) Now the Administration says it opposes DOMA and wants it overturned — but that tradition dictates that it defend the law. And that is why, the White House said in a statement, "the Department of Justice has filed a response to a legal challenge to [DOMA], as it traditionally does when acts of Congress are challenged."

Legalistically speaking, the tradition argument is true, but it's yet another Obama dodge. The Administration could easily decline to defend the anti-gay law on discrimination grounds, just as the Administration of George H.W. Bush declined to defend federal laws setting a preference for awarding broadcast licenses to minority-owned businesses in 1990 . . .

Nothing except politics.
Though for many of us this piece reports old news, it is a reminder that the fickle Obama administration has yet to form a real strategy, or a simple plan for that matter, on how to act on DOMA. It is also a reminder that the work is in our hands.

But it's not all bad news. Obama has repeatedly charged Congress with the task of tackling DOMA, and they have responded. It's up to us to keep pressure on our representatives to get it done.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York is forging a repeal bill that will be introduced to the House this fall. Senators Chris Dodd, Russ Feingold, and Chuck Schumer, have also been reported to be working on a Senate version of a repeal. Though both bills may only be partial repeals, allowing states to still decide for themselves whether or not to perform same-sex marriages, they will be written to allow the federal government to recognize legal same-sex marriages.

ACTION: Contact each of the representatives above by clicking on each of their names and let them know that you support a DOMA repeal!

Fort Worth Police Chief Officially Apologizes for Rainbow Lounge Raid and Has Revised Policy

On Tuesday, Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead, in front of the Fort Worth City Council, cited “flawed policies within the police department" for the problems stemming from the June 28 raid of the LGBT nightclub Rainbow Lounge. Seven people were arrested and patron Chad Gibson suffered a head injury which led to a week's stay in the hospital. The story became national news and was met with local protests.

“On today’s progress report, I am apologizing for the actions and the reflection that this gave our community,” said Halstead. “This resulted from flawed policy within the police department.”

He said a revised policy should be in place by Sept. 1 with rules for a three tiered-system: bar checks, inspections and investigations.

“Once the policy is complete, we’re never going to come here again,” he said after giving his preliminary report on the investigation into the raid. “We are recovering from this, and I’m very proud of that.”

The Fort Worth Police Department has endeavored to mend relations with the LGBT community by hiring a liaison and having meetings.

Halstead informed the city council that he has learned that his police department led the bar raid, not the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), which is contrary to what was earlier reported.

A separate TABC investigation cited three agents violating policies. Two have been relegated to desk duty and the supervisor has resigned. They face disciplinary action.

Halstead's investigation faces a December 28 deadline, though it is expected to be completed in September or October.

BREAKING NEWS: Federal Prop 8 Case Goes to Public Trial January 11, 2010; City of San Francisco Joins Plaintiffs

Judge Vaughn Walker, presiding over the federal lawsuit challenging Proposition 8, has sided with the Plaintiffs' request and has ruled that the first public trial on a same-sex marriage case will proceed on January 11, 2010.

Mercury News reports, "Walker ordered the parties to start taking depositions and sharing information in the discovery process immediately, with expert witnesses to be designated by Oct. 2 and discovery to conclude Nov. 30. A pretrial conference will be held Dec. 16, rebuttal expert witnesses must be designated by Dec. 31 and trial is set for Jan. 11; meanwhile, he'll hold an Oct. 14 hearing on Proposition 8 proponents' motion to dispose of certain issues by summary judgment before the rest of the case is tried."

For federal timelines, this is breakneck speed, giving very little time for both parties to prepare for a full blown trial, including witnesses and expert accounts. However, a trial will a establish a solid record for appeals courts, where everyone expects this case to be headed.

Unlike for the LGBT legal organizations, Judge Walker ruled that the City of San Francisco can join the case as City Intervenor Plaintiffs, but only to assess Proposition 8's impact on local government.

Law Dork reports that according to Lambda Legal’s Jason Howe, the judge “said they showed a government interest that wasn’t represented by any of the current parties.” However, no lead counsel was established.

Ted Olson and David Boies will be joined by San Francisco City Attorney David Herrera in this high-stakes case which will indubitably affect not only California, but all other states that currently have same-sex marriage bans.

Court Denies LGBT Legal Organizations to Join as Plaintiffs in Federal Prop 8 Case

Today Judge Vaughn R. Walker of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco denied the request of Our Family Coalition; Lavender Seniors of the East Bay; and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) to join Perry v. Schwarzenegger, a federal lawsuit challenging California's Proposition 8.

"Nothing in the record before the court shows the current parties are incapable of delivering a full record that represents all of the parties interests," the judge said.

A statement by Lambda Legal, the ACLU and the National Center for Lesbian Rights:
On behalf of our clients, we are disappointed that the court did not permit organizations that represent California's diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community to participate in the case as the Court weighs the harms inflicted by Proposition 8. The significance of this case for our entire community is enormous. To exclude the people whose very freedom is at stake is troubling.

Our commitment to restoring marriage for all Californians is unwavering, and we will continue to do everything within our power to secure full equality and justice for LGBT people.

Law Dork says the groups will "be limited to filing amicus briefs, memoranda submitted to the court representing the views of non-parties who have an interest in the outcome of the case. At the trial court level, they will not have the ability to participate in depositions or request discovery. On appeal, they will have the option of requesting time at the oral argument, though, at this point, it is unclear how willing the plaintiffs will be to consent to any potential argument-sharing arrangement. In short, this has moved the LGBT legal organizations to the periphery of a very prominent and potentially landmark case."

Unite the Fight will continue to report on today's hearing. Other issues to be settled: whether or not the case should go to a public bench trial, a first for a same-sex marriage case. Plaintiffs support a trial, while defenders of Prop 8 do not.

North Carolina Court Upholds Second Parent Adoption, Setting Precedent for Same-Sex Parents

North Carolina's only out state Senator, Julia Boseman, had the adoption of her daughter upheld yesterday by the state's Court of appeals. Her daughter's biological mother, and Boseman's ex, Melissa Jarrell, tried to have her parental rights voided.

After four years together, Boseman and Jarrell decided to have a child, and Jarrell gave birth in 2002 to their daughter through insemination. The couple filed for second-parent adoption which was granted three years later. Common use of adoption statues usually terminates the biological mother's rights, but the court ruled it had the power to waive this, granting both mothers full parental rights.

The following year, the couple broke up. After Jarrell began limiting her access to her daughter, Boseman filed for joint custody. Jarrell objected saying Boseman's adoption should be void because, though North Carolina doesn't say gays and lesbians couldn't adopt, it doesn't say they can.

A three-judge panel of the court disagreed in their decision.

"While [state law] does not specifically address same-sex adoptions, these statutes do make clear that a wide range of adoptions are contemplated and permitted, so long as they protect the minor’s 'needs, interests, and rights,'" Judge Wanda Bryant wrote in the opinion.

The News & Observer reports, "State law governing adoption does not specifically mention adoption by same-sex couples. Jim Lea, a domestic law specialist in Wilmington and one of Boseman's attorneys said that such adoptions have already been occurring. But the court opinion affirms the right of gay and lesbian couples to adopt."

"'Now I think it's very clear that if a couple chooses to go out and adopt the child and execute the necessary waivers, that homosexual couples can adopt children,' Lea said. 'To say that a couple should not be able to adopt a child because they're gay, on that reason alone is just plain wrong.'"

This is the second bit of good news this week coming from North Carolina. Just this past Monday, the city council of Durham passed a non-binding resolution in support of marriage equality.

NAACP Chairman Julian Bond Adds to Growing List of National Equality March Endorsements

NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, who garnered much praise for his speech at a Los Angeles Human Rights Campaign dinner earlier this year, recently decided to endorse October's National Equality March. Here's the press release from march organizers:
Broad-based support for the National Equality March (NEM) has been growing exponentially across the country over the past few weeks, according to its organizer Equality Across America (EAA). Thousands of Americans are hearing the drumbeat for LGBT equality and plan to follow it to the nation’s capital this October.

Thousands of individuals representing dozens of organizations from across the country have gone to the organization’s website to sign up as EAA Congressional District Actions Teams (CDATs) in order to work at the local level to make their support of key LGBT issues known to their elected officials.

Most notably, recent endorsements for the NEM have come from allies representing organizations not usually thought of as part of the immediate LGBT community. US Representative, Danny K. Davis, of Chicago, Illinois; Michael Letwin, Co-Convener, New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW); and NAACP Board Chairman, Julian Bond, have all recently voiced their support for the NEM.

"GLBT rights are civil rights; there are no 'special rights' in America. Everyone has rights - or should have - and I am happy to join in this battle for justice and fairness," explains Bond.

Other notable endorsements include Susan Stryker, Associate Professor of Gender Studies at Indiana University and author of “Transgender History”; and the Tony Award-winning production of Broadway’s Hair, which will be going dark for the weekend of the NEM in order to attend the event.

EAA supports individuals from every industry to do what is within their power to support full equality for LGBT Americans and their families, and many have been making bold choices to voice such support. featured blogger, Lane Hudson, even went so far as to interrupt President Clinton during a keynote address to a Netroots Nation conference last week by asking, “Mr. President, will you call for a repeal of DOMA and Don't Ask, Don't Tell? Right now?"
On top of these endorsements, many others are also voicing their support for the march.

Blogger Bil Browning, who was originally against the march, wrote this week on both his blog, Bilerico Project, and the Huffington Post, "The young new activists and online media gurus are not diametrically opposed to established lobbying efforts and infrastructure. We have to find a way to bring all of our best activists, strategists and lobbyists together in a way that allows them to work in conjunction while checking our egos at the door."

He left nothing to the imagination when he wrote, "I've decided to whole-heartedly endorse Equality Across America and the National Equality March."

Lieutenant Dan Choi, who was discharged under Don't Ask Don't Tell under Obama and has since become one of the many faces diligently working to overturn the policy, penned a piece on Pam's House Blend in support of the march.
The Equality March is absolutely essential to me for two reasons.

First, because, for so many of us, this is our first time raising our voices. We need to stand together, in our nation’s capital, and claim our place as part of this magnificent national movement, at exactly this moment. More experienced activists and leaders need to mobilize, motivate, and train the less experienced – we all have to feel in their bones how critical this work is. And we need to come together as a community, so that when we go back to our cities, suburbs, and small towns, we remain part of the larger effort that spans the country.

Training is critical, and Equality Across America is committed to using this valuable time to provide information, workshops, and networking so that those who attend will go home ready to make things happen in their communities and states.

Second, the Senate hearings on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” convene in October. For LGBT veterans, NOW is the time to be visible for those who are invisible, to be heard while others must stay silent. This is a “mandatory formation” for all vets who gave up their service because they could no longer live a lie, or who were hounded out because of who they loved, and for those who support them.


2009 can be a milestone, a tipping point. This is the year when we step up to our full citizenship as Americans: marrying and raising families, serving in our military. Join us in Washington on October 11 to tell the whole nation.

Find out more about the march at and the organization behind it, Equality Across America at

Federal Prop 8 Case Holds First Big Hearing Today; Ted Olson Featured in New York Times

Northern California District Court Judge Vaughn Walker will reside over the first big hearing today concerning the federal case challenging Proposition 8. A prior hearing was procedural. Not only will Judge Walker determine whether or not to agree with the Plaintiffs to hold the first bench trial on a same-sex marriage case and to deny the Defendant's request to hold only a "paper" trial, he will also rule on whether or not the city of San Francisco and several other LGBT organizations, such as PFLAG and the Our Family Coalition, can intervene and be added as Plaintiffs.

The original Case Management Statements (CMS) didn't answer all of Judge Walker's questions on how the parties wanted to proceed with the case, with the many disagreements boiling down to whether or not to go to trial. He ordered a supplemental CMS from each for details on their arguments and what witnesses they plan to call. (Embedded at bottom of the post - they're a good read.)

A media advisory was sent out by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the organization responsible for the Prop 8 challenge and who hired power team Ted Olson and David Boies, which described some of the offensive arguments made by the defendants.
In documents filed with the court in advance of the hearing, defenders of Proposition 8 cited slain San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk as evidence that LGBT political power is “substantial” enough to undermine plaintiffs’ constitutional challenges to Prop. 8. They also question the quality of LGBT families and say Proposition 8 is appropriate because discrimination against the LGBT community is “increasingly rare.”

At the hearing, attorneys Olson and Boies – on behalf of plaintiffs Kris Perry & Sandy Stier, and Paul Katami & Jeff Zarrillo -- will argue for a proceeding that demonstrates that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional “under any standard of review,” and that any facts that cannot be resolved in plaintiffs’ favor as a matter of law be decided through a full and public trial. Defenders of Proposition 8 say “a trial is not necessary,” even as to hotly disputed facts.

"Granting the right to marry would not damage, inhibit, or impair any rights of individuals who wish to marry persons of the opposite sex or otherwise impair any legitimate state interest. Prop. 8 is therefore unconstitutional under any standard of review," Olson and Boies wrote in court filings.

Despite their call for a 'paper' trial, defendants are asking that the judge not hear oral arguments until July 2010 at the earliest, while Olson and Boies, citing the ongoing violation of constitutional rights caused by Proposition 8, are requesting a trial starting in December 2009.

The Defenders of Prop. 8 “urge the Court not to follow the steps through which trial courts traditionally build factual records and decide cases— discovery, followed by motions for summary judgment, followed by trial,” according to papers filed with the court by Olson and Boies. A paper trial of disputed facts is “neither just nor efficient. It would deprive Plaintiffs of the opportunity to build a complete factual record, to present their case through live witness testimony, and to cross-examine in open court those who seek to defend and justify the denial of their constitutional rights. It would similarly deprive the Court of the opportunity to question fact and expert witnesses and to assess their credibility in Court.”

This is the second hearing in the case since it was filed in late May. In an order issued just prior to the July 2 hearing, Judge Vaughn R. Walker of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, said: "Given that serious questions are raised in these proceedings ... the court is inclined to proceed directly and expeditiously to the merits of plaintiffs' claims. ... The just, speedy and inexpensive determination of these issues would appear to call for proceeding promptly to trial.”

Perry, Stier, Katami and Zarrillo comprise two same-sex couples who wish to be married but, because of Proposition 8, have been denied marriage licenses.

“This unequal treatment of gays and lesbians denies them the basic liberties and equal protection under the law that are guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” their suit states.

According to the suit, Proposition 8:

• Violates the Due Process Clause by impinging on fundamental liberties

• Violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

• Singles out gays and lesbians for a disfavored legal status, thereby creating a category of “second-class citizens.”

• Discriminates on the basis of gender.

• Discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.
In a timely and fascinating piece released today, the New York Times profiles conservative lawyer Ted Olson, who helped George W. Bush win the presidency in the Supreme Court case Bush vs. Gore, facing off his current co-counsel David Boies, and then went on to serve under Bush's administration as Solicitor General.

Olson, who was won 44 out of 55 U.S. Supreme Court cases, immediately raised eyebrows and distrust amongst the LGBT population when it was revealed that he would be representing them in the Prop 8 case.

"In the gay community, though, conspiracy theories initially abounded that Mr. Olson had taken the case to sabotage it," writes the New York Times. "While many have since come around, fears remain that a loss in the closely divided Supreme Court could deal a setback to the movement."

"Opponents have flooded Mr. Olson with accusatory and sometimes hate-filled e-mail. “A disgraceful betrayal of the legal principles you purported to stand for,” read one message. “Homo” read another."

“For conservatives who don’t like what I’m doing, it’s, ‘If he just had someone in his family we’d forgive him,’” Olson tells the Times. “For liberals it’s such a freakish thing that it’s, ‘He must have someone in his family, otherwise a conservative couldn’t possibly have these views.’ It’s frustrating that people won’t take it on face value.”

Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry, who argued before the Supreme Court in the Boy Scouts of America vs. Dale, has written a piece today titled, "Freedom to Marry in the Supreme Court: How to Make the Timing Right."

Fed Prop 8 Case Plaintiff's Supp CMS

Fed Case Prop 8 Yes on 8 Supp CMS

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

California Legislature Advances Three Resolutions on Federal Policy Affecting the LGBT Population

Good news comes from the California state capitol today, where the Assembly Judiciary Committee passed three resolutions concerning federal laws affecting LGBT people by a margin of 6-3: a resolution urging the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA (AJR 19), a resolution in support of the Uniting American Families Act (AJR 15), and a resolution calling for the FDA to repeal the U.S. Blood Donor Nondiscrimination Resolution (AJR 13),

"It is important for California, the state with the largest LGBT population, to urge the federal government to repeal discriminatory federal policies that ultimately hurt all people in the United States," said Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors, whose organization co-sponsored the resolutions. "We have more potential now than ever before to make a positive impact at the federal level, and we call on Congress and the President to seize this historic opportunity."

DOMA has had a rough week, with both the Department of Justice and President Obama stating the law discriminates and calling for its repeal.

Now, California has taken a step forward in calling for the end of the law as well. The resolution calling for its end was introduced by Assemblymember Julia Brownley (D - Santa Monica).

"If a state recognizes the love and commitment of one couple, the federal government must do the same," said Assemblymember Brownley upon introducing the bill. "I urge Congress and the President to take a stand on the side of liberty and treat all Americans equally."

A federal law that would positively affect LGBT couples directly if passed is the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). Under current federal law, U.S. citizens and permanent residents are permitted to petition for an opposite-sex spouse to immigrate to the U.S. The UAFA would extend this basic right to committed same-sex couples, allowing U.S. citizens and legal residents to file a visa petition on behalf of a foreign national same-sex partner.

A resolution urging Congress to pass the law and for President Obama to sign it was introduced by introduced by Assemblymember Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles).

“Thousands of American families and committed same-sex couples are denied basic rights and legal protections, including the ability to petition for a partner to immigrate to the U.S.,” said Assemblymember De León. “They live in legal limbo and are torn apart by outdated immigration policies. In ensuring a true state of equality, Congress must take immediate steps to reunite and protect all families once and for all.”

AJR 13, introduced by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), calls on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to repeal its rule prohibiting healthy gay and bisexual men from donating blood. If approved by both houses of the Legislature, the resolution would put the State of California on record as supporting updated rules for blood donation, which would increase the number of viable blood donations and in turn save additional lives.

"Blood has no sexual orientation, and the FDA should have no discrimination," said Ammiano upon introducing the bill. "I hope President Obama hears our call to change this shameful and discriminatory practice immediately so we can save more lives."

All three resolutions will move to the Senate and Assembly floors for an official vote in the coming weeks.

Durham, North Carolina City Council Passes Resolution Supporting Marriage Equality

A big step towards LGBT equality in the conservative South was taken Monday in Durham, North Carolina when the city's council unanimously voted to pass a non-binding resolution in support of marriage equality.

Though same-sex marriage is banned in the state, the city's council spoke out against such discrimination by passing the resolution.

"I think what it says is that Durham is a community that is very diverse. We are accepting of a lot of different opinions and beliefs,” Mayor Bill Bell told local news affiliate WRAL news.

Joshua Weaver asked the council to consider the resolution in April.

"I want the American dream. I want to be able to get married and have that big house with a couple of kids playing in the yard, and that is why it is so important to me. For someone to tell me that I can't do that (because I'm gay), I just don't think that's right,” Weaver said.

See WRAL's video news report.

Blogger Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend calls Durham her hometown and was able to witness the event.

"I am very proud of my hometown tonight after attending the Durham (NC) City Council meeting where a resolution supporting civil marriage equality for same-sex couples was passed unanimously," wrote Pam on her site. "Mayor Bill Bell and council members affirmed marriage equality. While NC does not allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, it is heartening to have the support of the Bull City (our state legislature has also turned away, for the sixth time, a state marriage amendment)."

Resident Victoria Peterson, whom Pam described as a "well-known local homophobe and failed political candidate", interrupted the proceedings when she realized that the council was going to skip debate and go directly to a vote.

"Excuse me, I'd like to speak," Victoria interrupted. Mayor Bill Bell calmly responded "I'm running the meeting."

Victoria told WRAL news, "There are many of us who are Christians and we are totally against the same-sex marriages, constitutionally as well as biblically."

Thanks to Pam, we have video of the passing of the resolution which was met with a standing ovation.

See full resolution language here.

Opponents of marriage equality have tried six times to pass an amendment to the state's constitution but even as recently as this year, a state "Defense of Marriage Act" failed to get past a House committee.

North Carolina residents are split on their support for a constitutional amendment.

In March, Elon University released a poll that found 50.4 percent of respondents opposed a voter-approved amendment protecting marriage while more than 43 percent supported it.

Though opposed to changing their constitution, only 21 percent favored full marriage rights for same-sex couples, 28 percent for civil unions or partnerships, and 44 percent of respondents said they oppose any legal recognition for same-sex couples.

Image by Pam Spaulding.

Referendum 71 Signature Checkers Are Half Way Through Count

Washington state election officials have examined more than 65,000 of 137,689 Referendum 71 signatures, putting them at the half way mark.

The measure, which seeks to overturn Washington's new "everything but marriage" same-sex domestic partnership law, will appear on the state's first mail-in ballot (ballots will be mailed as early as October) if the proponents achieve 120,577 valid signatures.

David Ammons, secretary of state spokesman, said the latest tally shows 58,306 signatures accepted "and 7,225 rejected (6,165 because the person wasn't found on the state voter database, 24 where a digital signature is needed from the voter's home county in order to compare with the signature on the petition, 566 where the signer's signature did not match the one on file, and 470 duplicates.)"

"They need 120,577 valid Washington voter signatures to qualify," Ammons said. "Overall, the error rate is currently 11.03 percent, considerably lower than the 20-year average of about 18.5 percent, and still below the maximum error rate the sponsors can absorb, about 12.4 percent. "

The signature count is expected to be done by the end of the month.

Remember, in order to keep the same-sex inclusive domestic partnership law, you must vote to APPROVE Referendum 71.

VIDEO: MSNBC Interviews the Advocate's White House Correspondent Kerry Eleveld on the State of Marriage Equality

Kerry Eleveld, the White House correspondent for the Advocate, had a great interview on MSNBC, discussing Monday's DOJ brief that states the department believes DOMA to be discriminatory and calls for a repeal, Obama's statement supporting this belief, Maine's upcoming marriage equality showdown at the ballot, and the debate in California on when to bring marriage equality back to the Golden State: 2010 or 2012.