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Archive for May, 2012

Retired Gen. Colin Powell

Retired Gen. Colin Powell, once a foe of gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, has embraced same-sex marriage and says he support’s President Obama’s pro-marriage equality stand.

As with Obama, and many others, the former Secretary of State and four-star general told CNN that his opinion evolved as a result of personal contact with same-sex partners and parents.

“But, as I’ve thought about gay marriage, I know a lot of friends who are individually gay but in partnership with loved ones,” Powell said.  “And they are as stable a family as my family is.  And they raise children. And so I don’t see any reason not to say they should be able to get married.”

Read the article from Seattle Post Intelligencer.

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Writing in Forbes, Josh Barro posits that over the last eight years, the way gay marriage is discussed among elites has changed, causing GOP politicians to talk about the issue less often:

Among upscale people in New York and Washington, opposition to gay marriage is now impolite. And expressing opposition in such a setting is exhausting.

I’m not talking about “the Georgetown cocktail party circuit.” I’m talking about Republicans politicians’ own wives and children, their young staffers, and even in a lot of cases, their donors. How many Republican members of Congress have children like Meghan McCain, who are reproaching them at home when they go out and talk about how terrible gay marriage is?

I bet it’s a lot.

This seems anecdotally true to me. Among the conservative and Catholic families I was surrounded by growing up in Orange County, California, there’s a solid majority where parents and their now adult kids have very different opinions about the rise of gay marriage in America. And it’s one of the political disagreements that tends to come up at the kitchen dinner table. That isn’t to say my impressions prove anything. But given the polling data we’ve seen showing a generational difference in support for gay marriage, it would be fascinating to see a study about whether having children makes older people more or less likely to change their minds about same sex marriage, or more or less likely to shift the degree of their opposition to it.

There are a lot of abstract arguments for and against on this issue. In my offline life, I’ve found older adults, and especially family members who love me (and are aware of my impending nuptials), are far more likely to be swayed by the pointed question, “If I was gay, wouldn’t you still want me to be able to get married and share my life with someone I love, and who loves me?”

Dick Cheney wants that for his daughter. And if Meghan McCain was a lesbian I’ll bet John McCain’s position would be different. Some people — mostly orthodox religious believers — just aren’t going to change their mind about gay marriage. They want to return to a biblical vision of marriage. But most opponents of same sex marriage aren’t attached to marriage as it’s defined in the bible. Neither their faith nor any deeply held principle demands that they oppose the practice. For those people, having children who take the opposite position, or have a close friend who is gay, or fairly or unfairly think that opposition to same sex marriage is bigoted, can matter a lot.

Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs.

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from The Washington Post.

DENVER — The support for civil unions became clear when dozens of audience members stood up in largest hearing room of the Colorado state Capitol, many wearing red shirts that read, “One Love.”

Later Thursday night, the civil unions bill to provide legal protections to gay couples similar to marriage passed in the Republican-led committee that rejected the same legislation last year. A Republican who previously voted against the bill said she switched her vote.

The measure faces two more committee votes, but sponsors are optimistic they have enough support to get the legislation within a week to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is firmly behind the plan. The measure has already passed the Senate.

The newfound support means Colorado could become the latest of more than a dozen states to provide such protection.

Gay couples and their straight allies who waited into the night for the vote were initially hushed after the 6-5 vote. But moments later burst into tears and hugged one another, milling around the committee room long after the vote was taken.

“My hope just shot through the roof. I feel like I’m sitting in the middle of an amazing place in history,” said Cristina Aguilar, a gay-rights activist from Denver.

Rep. Mark Ferrandino, the Democrats’ leader in the House and a gay lawmaker who sponsored the bill, said before the vote that he and other people just want equal rights. He noted the law books behind the Republican chairman overseeing the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing.

“All we’re asking is for equal access to those books that are behind you, Mr. Chairman,” Ferrandino said.

Rep. Bob Gardner, the House Judiciary chairman, asked supporters at one point to stand up because the first phase of testimony was ending and they wouldn’t be able to speak. Their numbers of audience members who stood were far larger than the opponents.

Rep. B.J. Nikkel, a Larimer County Republican who isn’t running for re-election, was the deciding vote. She voted no on the bill last year, but said after her vote Thursday that she was swayed by the crowd of gay couples who wore red and spent hours sharing painful personal stories of the pains of lacking legal protections.

“I was looking over the crowd and thinking, ‘These are all folks that deserve to be treated equally,’” Nikkel said.

…Supporters said there are still important rights same-sex couples lack. The civil unions legislation gives gay couples more authority in medical and end-of-life decisions and enhances parental rights, among other things.

“I ask you to vote tonight in favor of all of your constituents,” said Jason Cobb, a Denver attorney who is raising a son with another man. “We’re more than a political issue. We’re your family, we’re your neighbors, your sons, your daughters, your grandchildren. I ask you to vote for family tonight.”

Read the full article from The Washington Post.

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The debate over civil unions in Colorado has for far too long been represented as a wedge issue. Democrats for. Republicans against.

But that wedge is growing less and less sharp each day, as Republicans like us stand up and say what’s true: Support for this issue is wholly in line with traditional conservative values.

As Republicans, we hold three values as core to both our political and personal beliefs: We value small government. We value personal freedom. We value strong families.

And it is on these values that our support for civil unions is built.

Government has become far too involved in our individual lives. The party of Reagan is about government that allows our citizens to live their lives, government that permits and protects the privacy of its people, government that does not expand or reach into our homes or family decisions.

It’s simple: our government should not be in the business of intruding into the lives of gay and lesbian Coloradans.

Indeed, our government should only be in the business of ensuring that the fundamental freedoms upon which our country was founded remain secure.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is the promise of America. That is the responsibility of government — to ensure that one’s personal freedom is never limited.

Why, then, would we refuse to provide a group of Coloradans with the rights and responsibilities given to the rest of us? What government interest is being served by denying our gay and lesbian neighbors the freedoms that the rest of us enjoy? What justification can we give for allowing some of our citizens the opportunity to pursue happiness while denying it from others?

There is no reason, no government interest, no justification for denying personal freedoms from our fellow citizens. It is, in fact, a misuse of government to limit the liberties of gay and lesbian citizens who simply want to be able to take care of the families they are entitled to build.

Families that are stable. Families that strengthen our neighborhoods and communities. Families that promote bedrock conservative values like commitment and responsibility.

While there is no single, unifying agreement within the Republican Party with regard to civil unions, we do agree on one thing: we are the party of small government, personal freedom, and family values.

And so we call for passage of the Colorado Civil Union Act. Because civil unions are about families. Because the government’s job is to ensure that all Colorado families are free to pursue happiness without restriction, intrusion, or limitation.

Maria Garcia Berry is chief executive officer of CRL Associates, a Denver public affairs and government relations firm. John Swartout is a former staff member for U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, Gov. Bill Owens, and campaign manager for U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck. Editor’s note: This is an online only guest commentary and has not been edited.

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from The Advocate.

Kathy Potts had a complicated introduction to gay people, even by the standards of her Mississippi upbringing and Bible school education. She remembers that her maternal grandparents, whose last name happened to be “Gay,” received hate mail and phone calls in the 1970s after the Stonewall riots brought national visibility to the burgeoning rights movement. When her uncle’s wife left him and came out as a lesbian, family members joked that his ex had only married him for the surname. Her first in-depth discussions about homosexuality occurred in the early 1980s with a neighbor who identified as “ex-gay.” And there was a time in the not-so-distant past when she would not watch Ellen DeGeneres on TV because she did not want to be “influenced to be like her.”

All that changed three years ago when her son met and married a young woman whose mother was in a long-term lesbian relationship. Potts met her future in-laws shortly before the wedding and left the meeting embarrassed about the stereotypes she had carried to the encounter.

“I was just freaking out: ‘This just can’t happen,’” she recalls thinking before their first conversation. “And then it dawned on me, this wasn’t worth losing my son over. And then once I started hanging around with them, I’m like, ‘This is insane.’”

A Charismatic Christian who now attends church sporadically, Potts attributes much of her former bias to her faith experience. Her conversations with other Christians focused almost exclusively on sexual activity and dehumanized gay people.

“I just thought it was all about sex,” she said. “That’s what everything was based on: sex, sex, sex, sex. You were expecting that they were constantly going to be hanging on each other and making out. I’d never thought of anyone as people. It was just all based on sex.”

The viewpoint did not extend to her son or three other children she raised with her husband, Tom. His employment brought the family from Mississippi to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“I raised my children to be independent, thank God, so they didn’t necessarily go with everything I said,” said Potts.

Unconvinced of her mother’s sudden transformation, her daughter challenged gay friends to befriend her mother on Facebook. As Potts acquired more and more gay friends online and in person, the former Republican chair for Linn County started to understand their struggles in terms of her core political beliefs.

“It’s just plain freedom,” she said. “I don’t want anyone telling me what to do.”

Potts wrote about her evolution last month in an op-ed for the Iowa Gazette. The piece, “Stand Together,” offered a stinging assessment of the Iowa caucuses that took place in January.

“I heard a lot of rhetoric about gay and lesbian Americans that didn’t fit with what I know to be true and what many Republicans believe,” she wrote. “As an evangelical Christian Republican, I know many people who hold conservative values like equality and freedom, but those voices were lost this year. However, I believe in my heart that things are changing. If it weren’t for the loud voices of a few in our party, I do believe more Republicans would stand up in support of marriage equality.”

In an interview with The Advocate, Potts said that many Republicans in Iowa support marriage equality but fear they could be “ostracized” if they speak up. She said that one husband of a party insider told her that he was glad she wrote the op-ed because it reflected his own feelings.

“The party here is being led by strong right-wing people right now,” she said. “A lot of them would like for it just to be church. They’ve very antigay, and with the abortion issue, too, they’re extremely loud spoken about it.”

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously for marriage equality in 2009, and since then, the state Senate has resisted Republican-led attempts to pass a constitutional ban. Some same-sex marriage opponents, including former gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats, have built platforms around the issue, but Potts said the court decision has also sparked discussions that reveal large numbers of people are not opposed.

Individuals embracing marriage equality include former state senator Jeff Angelo, who once sponsored a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Last year, he founded Iowa Republicans for Freedom, which “supports individual liberty for same-sex couples seeking civil marriage recognition from our government.” Potts was asked to be an advisory board member, but there was one problem. She was serving as a committee chairwoman for the Rick Perry for President campaign at the time. The campaign asked her to postpone the announcement of her board membership until after the caucuses, and she agreed.

“I don’t really feel like I can make a difference if they put me on the outside,” she said. “I was trying to see which way would be the best for me to make a difference. If I’d been put on the outside, I would never have had that opportunity.”

Read the article from The Advocate Magazine.

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