Posted by rogerhollander in California, Human Rights.
Tags: california history, California Prop 8, california supreme court, civil right, civil union, gay marriage, gay rights, harvey milk, human rights, iowa caucuses, iowa gay marriage, iowa history, jodi mardesich, lambda, lesbian rights, lgbt rights, loving v. virginia, one iowa, propostion 8, roger hollander, same-sex marriage, Varnum v. Brien, vermont gay marriage
AP Photo/Steve Pope
Shannon Morgan of Minnesota, left, Riane Menardi of Wyoming, and Brittnany Swanson, also of Minnesota, rally in support of the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, on April 3 in Des Moines, Iowa.
By Jodi Mardesich
www.salon.com, April 15, 2009
How same-sex unions triumphed in Iowa, and what other states can learn from the victory.
April 15, 2009 | Iowa is known for its sweeping cornfields and pigs, fed by those vast amounts of corn. The landlocked state in the heartland isn’t exactly recognized as cutting edge or socially progressive, though its presidential caucuses do tend to predict the outcome of presidential races, as they did most recently with the selection of Barack Obama.
But with its Supreme Court decision in Varnum v. Brien, making it the third state to legalize same-sex marriage, Iowa is shedding its image as cornfed conservative. After the decision was announced April 3, about 1,000 people rallied in Western Gateway Park in Des Moines to celebrate, and Iowans showed their personality by toting signs, like “Corn Fed and Ready to Wed,” and even nodding to the coast: “This One’s for You, California.”
California, which at one time seemed destined to be the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, meanwhile awaits a decision from its Supreme Court on the validity of Proposition 8. The controversial ballot initiative, passed by a narrow margin in November, outlawed same-sex marriage, which had just been legalized via a California Supreme Court decision the previous May.
In fact, in the space of five days this month, the number of states where gays and lesbians can legally wed doubled, when Vermont and Iowa joined trendsetters Massachusetts and Connecticut. Vermont’s approval of same-sex marriage on April 7 was not surprising. After all, Vermont pioneered civil unions in the U.S. in 2000.
Vermonters have had nine years to observe that allowing gays and lesbians to enter into legally binding partnerships did not herald the end of the world. Fire and brimstone didn’t rain down on the land, plagues didn’t smite their iconic maple trees and most important of all, children in these nontraditional families were just as well-adjusted as their peers with straight parents.
The paths to legalizing same-sex marriage are quite different in Iowa, Vermont and California. Iowa, like Massachusetts in 2004 and Connecticut in 2008, relied on Supreme Court decisions to change the law. Vermont’s law, on the other hand, was voted in by the state Senate and House of Representatives, promptly vetoed by Gov. Jim Douglas, and then overridden by the Vermont Legislature. At first glance, the Iowa Supreme Court’s vote may appear surprising, especially to the-world-revolves-around-me Californians, but Iowa has an impressive history of pioneering civil rights legislation.
Iowa abolished slavery in 1839, 26 years before the passage of the 13th amendment in 1865. Iowa disallowed separate but equal racial segregation in schools in 1868, 85 years before the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of education outlawed it nationally. And in 1873, Iowa again protected racial minorities, extending anti-discrimination to public accommodations, 91 years before the U.S. Supreme Court. Iowa was also the first state to allow women to practice law. “I think Iowa’s tradition played a big role in the victory,” said Camilla Taylor, lead counsel for Lambda Legal, which represented the couples seeking to marry in Iowa.
It’s a good thing that laws aren’t always left to the people. In Iowa, if the amendment had been put to a popular vote, as it was in California, it probably would not have passed. According to a University of Iowa Hawkeye telephone poll just before the Iowa Supreme Court vote, 26.2 percent of respondents said they supported gay marriage, and 27.9 percent opposed marriage but supported civil unions, while 36.7 percent opposed both. However, the younger voters were more accepting. Talk about a generational divide — among voters under 30, 60 percent supported gay marriage, and 75 percent supported formal recognition of gay relationships.
California’s position on marriage equality has lobbed back and forth. It has been defined through popular vote (2000′s Proposition 22, which defined marriage as a contract between a man and a woman), a maverick decision (San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom’s short-lived permission in 2004 for gays and lesbians to marry) and a Supreme Court decision annulling those marriages. And that was just the beginning; in 2008, a Supreme Court decision reversed Proposition 22 and allowed same-sex marriages again. Then came another popular vote — Proposition 8, which reversed the Supreme Court ruling and left about 18,000 couples who wed between May and November of last year to wonder if their marriages are valid.
Despite California’s reputation as freethinking and liberal — it was the first state to recognize domestic partnerships in 1999 — it has its own conservative heartland, the Central Valley, and Republican enclaves like Orange County that tarnish that reputation. Public opinion is divided — some polls show the majority opposing same-sex marriage, while others show the opposite. But polls in Iowa, California and Vermont show that among the younger voters, the majority favor marriage equality. All three states have this in common: They have a history of being on the forefront of civil liberties legislation.
California was the first state to dismantle anti-miscegenation laws in 1948 with Perez v. Sharp, 19 years before the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed it in Loving v. Virginia — a very unpopular ruling at the time. The first Gallup poll on the subject, ten years after California’s landmark decision, revealed an astonishing 94 percent of Americans still opposed interracial marriage. Even ten years later, after the federal decision, 72 percent opposed it, according to Marriage Equality USA. Vermont never enacted anti-miscegenation laws, and was the first to abolish slavery.
The decision in Loving v. Virginia relied on the concept of equal protection found in the U.S. Constitution and that of all 50 states. It calls marriage one of the “basic civil rights of man,” and states that “to deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law.”
Supporters of same-sex marriage believe it is a civil rights issue, and hope that the courts will enforce existing laws. “It’s not that we need a new constitution,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry. “We just need a renewed commitment. Properly enforced, the existing equal protection would require equality.” So what worked in Iowa and Vermont? Activists and legislators made the issue personal, taking a cue from Harvey Milk, who advocated that people tell their stories.
One Iowa, an organization formed in 2006, just after Lambda Legal filed Varnum v. Brien, began holding forums across the state, in big cities and small towns, bringing together same-sex couples, legal scholars and people of faith to talk about the importance of marriage equality. Justin Uebelhor, communications director for One Iowa, said the group recognized the need to build support for marriage equality.
“We needed those folks to contact their elected officials,” he said, which they did, both before and after the vote. Lambda attorneys used a new strategy when they filed the case in Iowa: They included children of the couples as plaintiffs. They also called psychologists. “We took a lot of care in making as complete a record as possible of the social science of gay and lesbian parenting,” Taylor said. In light of the New York court’s 2006 decision against same-sex marriage that relied in part on “intuition” that children would be better off with a mother and a father (how many families lack one of those?), Lambda included statements from child development and other experts to make the case that children of gay and lesbian parents are just as well-adjusted as children of heterosexual parents.
This strategy to make things personal appears to be helping. The National Organization for Marriage launched a $1.5 million advertising campaign that included broadcasting the fear-mongering “The Gathering Storm,” which claims that same-sex marriage will infringe the rights of straight people. The video, denounced by gay rights activists, is intended to encourage Iowans to pass a law to dismantle the ruling.
When the embarrassing audition tapes showed up on YouTube, revealing that the people talking about their fear of the darkness were actors, NOM requested the video’s removal. To undo the Supreme Court’s ruling, Iowans would have to amend their constitution. So far, Iowans have not persuaded legislators to introduce a bill to negate same-sex marriage in the state. In order to change the state constitution, the Legislature must vote on the issue in two separate years. It appears unlikely that the current Legislature, which is about to end its 2008-2009 session, will vote on it, meaning that it could be changed by 2012 at the earliest.
Vermont activists, including an organization called Vermont Freedom to Marry, took a similar approach. “We had frank discussions with people: I am gay and I am your neighbor and I am your farmer and I want the same rights that you have,” said Jason Lorber, an openly gay state representative from Burlington. “In California, I don’t think those discussions took place.” California has a population of 38 million. Vermont, at 600,000, is smaller than San Francisco.
Now, attention is turning back to California, where the state Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling by early June on whether Proposition 8 is valid. The California constitution can be changed in two ways: through amendments and revisions. The amendment process is designed for ordinary changes, and can be done through the Legislature or through a signature collection that leads to a vote of the people. “California has an unusually low threshold for changing the constitution,” Wolfson said.
The California Supreme Court is currently deciding whether Proposition 8 was simply an amendment or a revision that should have gone through a more rigorous process. “It’s hard to imagine anyone considering the idea of equal protection a mere amendment,” Wolfson says. “Writing out the rights of a minority is a revision.” And if it was a revision, it’s invalid, Lambda’s Taylor said. “We firmly believe it is a revision — it redraws equal protection to permit the exclusion of some people from the guarantee of equality based on a simple majority vote.” Yet in a hearing March 6, it appeared that some Supreme Court justices were hesitant to go against the will of the people. Their decision is expected by early June.
Adding to the momentum, this Thursday, New York’s Gov. David Paterson plans to introduce legislation to legalize same-sex marriages in the state. “We’ve got New Hampshire coming up for vote, New York and New Jersey. We’ve got momentum on our side, and we’ve got time on our side,” Lorber said. “When you talk to youth, they just don’t even get what the controversy is all about.”
Iowa’s choices in recent presidential caucuses have made it a bellwether of sorts in presidential races — hence the saying, “As Iowa goes, so goes the nation.” The Iowa decision is important precisely because it’s in the heartland, Taylor said. “It highlights for the nation that marriage equality across the country is inevitable. It’s simply a matter of time and we still have some years to struggle, but we’ve turned the corner as a nation.”
Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Religion.
Tags: California Prop 8, candace chellew-hodge, gay and lesbian rights, gay marriage, gay rights, glbt, homophobia, human rights, Latter Day Saints, Mormon Church, proposition 8, religion hunger, religion poverty, religious right, roger hollander
February 3, 2009
But what about feeding the hungry or housing the homeless? Not on the agenda.
Within the whole of the Bible there are six or seven verses that are used to condemn gay and lesbian people – depending on the person making the argument. At the same time, there are more than 300 verses that admonish us to take care of the poor and do social justice in this world for poor and hungry.
Guess which one the religious right will pour vast amounts of its monetary resources into fighting?
The final tallies show that opponents of Proposition 8 raised $43.3 million in 2008 and had a little more than $730,000 left on hand at year’s end. The measure’s sponsors raised $39.9 million and had $983,000 left over.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has been criticized for strongly encouraging its members to support Proposition 8, for the first time assigned a dollar value of nearly $190,000 to its role in getting the initiative passed.
More than half, or $97,000, went to the time staff of the Utah-based Mormon Church devoted to the Yes on 8 campaign, according to the church’s report. Another $21,000 was for the use of church buildings and equipment during the campaign. Most of the rest went to airline tickets, hotels and meals for church officials.
Focus on the Family, the evangelical Christian media empire based in Colorado, reported giving $657,000 in cash and services to promote Proposition 8.
All this money was thrown around by the religious right (forcing the other side to waste money fighting them) that could have been used to improve the lives of the 7.6 million people living in poverty in the United States or the more than 35.5 million Americans who are hungry or at risk of going hungry.
These zealots spend their worldly treasure not on feeding the hungry or housing the homeless. Those issues are not sexy enough and don’t raise enough money from their constituents. Instead they’ll empty the storehouse to ensure that two men or two women who love one another and want to commit their lives to one another cannot call it a marriage or partake of such rights as being able to make medical decisions for their loved ones. They base their efforts and their expenditures on Bible verses like Leviticus 18:22: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable,” but forget later verses like Leviticus 25:35: “If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.”
Then again, the religious right doesn’t treat the alien or temporary resident with the respect the Scriptures demand, either. So, perhaps this colossal waste of money is simply par for their course. Their spiritual bankruptcy is complete, then – gays can’t get married in California – and the least of these are still poor and hungry.
Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights.
Tags: anti-gay bigotry, California Prop 8, California propostion 8, election 2008, gay marriage, human rights, jesse mckinley, kirk johnson, Latter Day Saints, Mormon Church, Mormons, religion, religious bigotry, roger hollander
Published: November 14, 2008
SACRAMENTO — Less than two weeks before Election Day, the chief strategist behind a ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriage
called an emergency meeting here.
Jim Wilson/The New York Times
Frank Schubert was the chief strategist for Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman in California.
The campaign issued an urgent appeal, and in a matter of days, it raised more than $5 million, including a $1 million donation from Alan C. Ashton, the grandson of a former president of the Mormon Church. The money allowed the drive to intensify a sharp-elbowed advertising campaign, and support for the measure was catapulted ahead; it ultimately won with 52 percent of the vote.
As proponents of same-sex marriage across the country planned protests on Saturday against the ban, interviews with the main forces behind the ballot measure showed how close its backers believe it came to defeat — and the extraordinary role Mormons played in helping to pass it with money, institutional support and dedicated volunteers.
“We’ve spoken out on other issues, we’ve spoken out on abortion, we’ve spoken out on those other kinds of things,” said Michael R. Otterson, the managing director of public affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormons are formally called, in Salt Lake City. “But we don’t get involved to the degree we did on this.”
The California measure, Proposition 8, was to many Mormons a kind of firewall to be held at all costs.
“California is a huge state, often seen as a bellwether — this was seen as a very, very important test,” Mr. Otterson said.
First approached by the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco a few weeks after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in May, the Mormons were the last major religious group to join the campaign, and the final spice in an unusual stew that included Catholics, evangelical Christians, conservative black and Latino pastors, and myriad smaller ethnic groups with strong religious ties.
Shortly after receiving the invitation from the San Francisco Archdiocese, the Mormon leadership in Salt Lake City issued a four-paragraph decree to be read to congregations, saying “the formation of families is central to the Creator’s plan,” and urging members to become involved with the cause.
“And they sure did,” Mr. Schubert said.
Jeff Flint, another strategist with Protect Marriage, estimated that Mormons made up 80 percent to 90 percent of the early volunteers who walked door-to-door in election precincts.
The canvass work could be exacting and highly detailed. Many Mormon wards in California, not unlike Roman Catholic parishes, were assigned two ZIP codes to cover. Volunteers in one ward, according to training documents written by a Protect Marriage volunteer, obtained by people opposed to Proposition 8 and shown to The New York Times, had tasks ranging from “walkers,” assigned to knock on doors; to “sellers,” who would work with undecided voters later on; and to “closers,” who would get people to the polls on Election Day.
Suggested talking points were equally precise. If initial contact indicated a prospective voter believed God created marriage, the church volunteers were instructed to emphasize that Proposition 8 would restore the definition of marriage God intended.
But if a voter indicated human beings created marriage, Script B would roll instead, emphasizing that Proposition 8 was about marriage, not about attacking gay people, and about restoring into law an earlier ban struck down by the State Supreme Court in May.
“It is not our goal in this campaign to attack the homosexual lifestyle or to convince gays and lesbians that their behavior is wrong — the less we refer to homosexuality, the better,” one of the ward training documents said. “We are pro-marriage, not anti-gay.”
Leaders were also acutely conscious of not crossing the line from being a church-based volunteer effort to an actual political organization.
“No work will take place at the church, including no meeting there to hand out precinct walking assignments so as to not even give the appearance of politicking at the church,” one of the documents said.
By mid-October, most independent polls showed support for the proposition was growing, but it was still trailing. Opponents had brought on new media consultants in the face of the slipping poll numbers, but they were still effectively raising money, including $3.9 million at a star-studded fund-raiser held at the Beverly Hills home of Ron Burkle, the supermarket billionaire and longtime Democratic fund-raiser.
It was then that Mr. Schubert called his meeting in Sacramento. “I said, ‘As good as our stuff is, it can’t withstand that kind of funding,’ ” he recalled.
The response was a desperate e-mail message sent to 92,000 people who had registered at the group’s Web site declaring a “code blue” — an urgent plea for money to save traditional marriage from “cardiac arrest.” Mr. Schubert also sent an e-mail message to the three top religious members of his executive committee, representing Catholics, evangelicals and Mormons.
“I ask for your prayers that this e-mail will open the hearts and minds of the faithful to make a further sacrifice of their funds at this urgent moment so that God’s precious gift of marriage is preserved,” he wrote.
On Oct. 28, Mr. Ashton, the grandson of the former Mormon president David O. McKay, donated $1 million. Mr. Ashton, who made his fortune as co-founder of the WordPerfect Corporation, said he was following his personal beliefs and the direction of the church.
“I think it was just our realizing that we heard a number of stories about members of the church who had worked long hours and lobbied long and hard,” he said in a telephone interview from Orem, Utah.
In the end, Protect Marriage estimates, as much as half of the nearly $40 million raised on behalf of the measure was contributed by Mormons.
Even with the Mormons’ contributions and the strong support of other religious groups, Proposition 8 strategists said they had taken pains to distance themselves from what Mr. Flint called “more extreme elements” opposed to rights for gay men and lesbians.
To that end, the group that put the issue on the ballot rebuffed efforts by some groups to include a ban on domestic partnership rights, which are granted in California. Mr. Schubert cautioned his side not to stage protests and risk alienating voters when same-sex marriages began being performed in June.
“We could not have this as a battle between people of faith and the gays,” Mr. Schubert said. “That was a losing formula.”
But the “Yes” side also initially faced apathy from middle-of-the-road California voters who were largely unconcerned about same-sex marriage. The overall sense of the voters in the beginning of the campaign, Mr. Schubert said, was “Who cares? I’m not gay.”
To counter that, advertisements for the “Yes” campaign also used hypothetical consequences of same-sex marriage, painting the specter of churches’ losing tax exempt status or people “sued for personal beliefs” or objections to same-sex marriage, claims that were made with little explanation.
Another of the advertisements used video of an elementary school field trip to a teacher’s same-sex wedding in San Francisco to reinforce the idea that same-sex marriage would be taught to young children.
“We bet the campaign on education,” Mr. Schubert said.
The “Yes” campaign was denounced by opponents as dishonest and divisive, but the passage of Proposition 8 has led to second-guessing about the “No” campaign, too, as well as talk about a possible ballot measure to repeal the ban. Several legal challenges have been filed, and the question of the legality of the same-sex marriages performed from June to Election Day could also be settled in court.
For his part, Mr. Schubert said he is neither anti-gay — his sister is a lesbian — nor happy that some same-sex couples’ marriages are now in question. But, he said, he has no regrets about his campaign.
“They had a lot going for them,” Mr. Schubert said of his opponents. “And they couldn’t get it done.”
Mr. Otterson said it was too early to tell what the long-term implications might be for the church, but in any case, he added, none of that factored into the decision by church leaders to order a march into battle. “They felt there was only one way we could stand on such a fundamental moral issue, and they took that stand,” he said. “It was a matter of standing up for what the church believes is right.”
That said, the extent of the protests has taken many Mormons by surprise. On Friday, the church’s leadership took the unusual step of issuing a statement calling for “respect” and “civility” in the aftermath of the vote.
“Attacks on churches and intimidation of people of faith have no place in civil discourse over controversial issues,” the statement said. “People of faith have a democratic right to express their views in the public square without fear of reprisal.”
Mr. Ashton described the protests by same-sex marriage advocates as off-putting. “I think that shows colors,” Mr. Ashton said. “By their fruit, ye shall know them.”