Archive for July, 2012

New York City reaped $259 million of economic benefits from same-sex marriages in the first year of the law allowing the practice, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn said.

At least 8,200 gay-marriage licenses were issued, accounting for more than 10 percent of the 75,000 wedding licenses issued in New York City in the past year, Bloomberg and Quinn said in a statement today, citing a survey conducted by NYC & Co., the city’s marketing and tourism office, and the city clerk’s office.

New York became the sixth and most recent state to legalize gay marriage a year ago after Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, signed the measure into law. More than 200,000 guests have since traveled from outside of the city to attend same-sex wedding receptions, and more than 235,000 hotel room nights were booked at an average daily room rate of $275, according to the mayor’s statement.

“Marriage equality has made our city more open, inclusive and free — and it has also helped to create jobs and support our economy,” Bloomberg, 70, said at a news conference in Lower Manhattan.

Bloomberg has focused on tourism to diversify the city’s economy beyond Wall Street, with employment in leisure and hospitality growing more than 100,000 in 10 years to 362,400 in June, according to the state Department of Labor.

Read the full article from Bloomberg.

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from Maine Public Broadcasting Network.

Supporters of the same-sex marriage proposal on the November ballot announced the launch of a new group called “Republicans United For Marriage,” which they say illustrates that the issue is no longer a political one. Opponents, however, maintain that same-sex marriage is against Republican principles, and describe the new group as “insignificant.”

The message from Monday’s press conference was a simple one:

“It’s OK to change your mind,” said Republican representative Stacey Fitts of Pittsifeld. She did just that after originally opposing the gay marriage law in 2009, a measure that was enacted by the legislature, and later repealed following a statewide referendum.

“I know many gay couples,” said Fitts. “I’ve talked with my family, my friends, I’ve thought about it a lot, and as a husband and a father, I’ve come to believe that 2 people who love each other should have the freedom to get married.”

Fitts is one of three GOP lawmakers who have signed onto a new group called Republicans United for Marriage. The group has about 20 members in all right now, including attorney Clare Payne, an active Republican from Holden.

“I used to believe that marriage was only between a man and a woman, however based on my review of the legal issues and my own life experiences, I now believe that everyone deserves equal protection under the law when it comes to the right to marry,” Payne said.

Organizers of the coalition behind the effort to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine say the new Republican partnership shows that it is no longer a partisan issue.

“It’s not a contradiction to be a Republican who supports the freedom to marry for all loving committed couples,” said Matt McTighe. He is the campaign manager at Mainers United for Marriage, an umbrella organizations which he said now represents 77 different groups all supporting November’s ballot initiative.

“We see it in all the conversations we’re having with Mainers across the state,” McTighe said. “We’ve had 113,000 conversations already with Democrats, with Independents, with Republicans, all across the board, and all of them understand that this is an issue about family not politics.”

Read the full article from Maine Public Broadcasting Network.

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from philly.com.

Duane Perry is a member of the mayor’s advisory board on LGBT affairs and founder of The Food Trust

When Mitt Romney opposes same-sex marriage, he assumes he is energizing a large group of voters who want to preserve marriage by limiting it. The former governor is misguided politically and morally.

Today, in six states and our nation’s capital, same-sex couples get married. The legislatures and governors of two more states approved same-sex marriage this year.

I am a man married to a man. We were wed in Memorial Church at Harvard, in Romney’s home state.

Polls show increasing support for same-sex marriage. According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of respondents “strongly favor or favor” legal marriage for same-sex couples. That support is across ages and genders. A majority of both men and women support same-sex marriage, and there is majority support among most age groups, except among older Americans.

Same-sex marriages existed as early as Roman times. Yale historian John Boswell found that they were sanctified by the early Christian church, though they were banned during the Middle Ages.

However, we’re not in the Dark Ages anymore. The expansion of civil rights for same-sex families is sweeping the globe.

Eleven countries allow same-sex couples to marry, and many other nations, including Israel, Aruba, Mexico, and Uruguay, recognize these marriages even if they don’t allow them to be performed.

People are realizing that expanding civil marriage to same-sex families, often including our family members, coworkers, and friends, does not diminish anyone else’s marriage. The sky has not fallen.

When we got married in Massachusetts in 2008, we had the support of our entire extended family: Republicans, Democrats, and independents; Christians, Jews, and agnostics; young and old.

My then-98-year-old great-aunt, a Republican, took my partner aside before our marriage. She told him that she had thought about it for a long time, weighed her deeply held religious views, and welcomed him to our family. She later put his name as my spouse in the family Bible. My relatives from South Carolina, religious and Republican, enthusiastically entered my partner’s name, as my spouse, in our family tree.

While we’ve been legally married for only a few years, my partner and I have been a family for more than 25 years. We’ve bought homes, adopted a dog, worked, volunteered, vacationed, and voted. Our marriage isn’t very different from that of my sister and her husband.

Does my marriage contribute to the unraveling of American wedlock? Hardly. We have friends and family long married, and others who are divorced. We’ve never heard anyone say they split because same-sex couples can marry.

Read the article from philly.com.

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A group called Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry is coming out today with a kickoff event in Washington, D.C., and a campaign to build backing for marriage equality among young right-of-center voters.

“Freedom to marry and family are core conservative values:  We have a historic opportunity to reaffirm these important values by supporting the fundamental freedom to marry for all Americans,” said conservative pundit Margaret Hoover, a director of the group.

The political right has been split on the issue.

Statewide measures opposing same-sex marriage were used as a get-out-the-vote vehicle by the 2004 Bush reelection campaign.  The religious right has made into a litmus test support for a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

In New York, Washington and Maryland, however, marriage equality legislation has passed thanks to votes from Republican state legislators, even such conservatives as State Rep. Maureen Walsh of Walla Walla.

In March, the overwhelmingly Republican New Hampshire House of Representatives voted down repeal of the state’s freedom to marry law.  In a May ABC/Wall Street Journal poll, 46 percent of Republicans aged 18-44 favored marriage equality.

“The center of political gravity has shifted for good,” said Marc Solomon of Freedom to Marry, parent group to to Young Conservatives for Freedom to Marry.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, speaking at the group’s launch event, said in a statement:  “The right for individuals to lead their lives without government intrusion is a bedrock conservative principle and it is much more than just about sexual orientation.

“It is about the fundamental rights we all share as Americans, it is about equality for all with no exceptions.”

Washington, Maryland and Maine will be voting on same-sex marriage this November.

In Minnesota, voters will decide the fate of a state constitutional amendment — pushed by Republican legislators and Catholic bishops — that would define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Read the article from the Seattle Post Intelligencer

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By Associated Press, Published: July 5

DES MOINES, Iowa — Ever since gay couples began flocking to Iowa to marry three years ago, conservative Republicans have been looking forward to amassing enough political power to put an end to it. But now that the opportunity is finally approaching, their goal may be slipping out of reach.

Conservative lawmakers are watching public opinion move away from them on the gay marriage issue, and now fear that voters might not approve a ban even if the GOP can put one on the ballot by winning control of the Legislature in the November elections.

The shifting views come as a bitter disappointment for the state’s prominent Christian conservative community which has long bridled at Iowa’s status as a gay rights haven in the heartland — the only place outside the Northeast where gays can marry.

“People are getting comfortable with it and that’s a shame to tell you the truth,” said Susan Geddes, an Iowa Republican and social conservative organizer who worked for Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign in the state.

Even Republicans seem to be more accepting, said Julie Summa marketing director for The Family Leader, a social conservative advocacy group. She and other evangelical leaders attribute the change to libertarian Republicans, like supporters Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who oppose restrictions on personal freedoms.

The issue is less prominent now in conservative campaigns, they said.

Iowa became the third of six states to legalize gay marriage after the state Supreme Court struck down the state ban in 2009. Since then about 4,500 gay couples have wed here.

Republicans can move to end gay marriage if they win two more seats in the state Senate this year, a goal that could be within reach. That would give them full control of the statehouse and the power to begin preparing a public referendum on the issue.

But the legislative process would take at least two years, and public interest in the cause is already declining. A Des Moines Register poll in February showed 56 percent of Iowans opposed an amendment banning gay marriage, up slightly from a year earlier. The results tracked with the trend in national opinion on the issue.

Geddes, who is managing a handful of GOP statehouse campaigns, said internal polls in conservative Iowa districts show that fewer than 10 percent of Republican voters now consider overturning gay marriage a high priority.

GOP Senate leaders no longer list the issue high on their agenda, although they have promised to propose a ban if they control the legislature. A handful of Republican leaders, such as former county Linn County chairwoman Kathy Potts of Cedar Rapids, recently have announced support for gay marriage.

“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 gay marriage, said Potts, a social conservative who backed Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential bid.

The atmosphere is much changed from 2010, when conservative advocacy groups mounted a major media campaign against gay marriage and won removal of three justices who had voted to strike down the state ban.

Chuck Laudner, who ran the campaign to dump the judges, said the anti-gay marriage cause has “lost a little of its zip.” The political landscape now is dominated by the economy and other issues, he said.

Elsewhere in the nation, gay marriage questions will appear on the November ballot in four states — Maine voters will consider legalizing it, while those in Maryland, Minnesota and Washington will vote on banning it. North Carolina voters approved a ban earlier this year. President Barack Obama announced his support for gay marriage in May.

The National Organization for Marriage, which spent more than $500,000 in Iowa in the 2010 elections, is planning to spend at least as much this year to help Republicans win in the state.

The outcome of closely contested races for several Democratic-held seats is expected to determine whether the GOP wins control of the Senate. Republicans won control of the House and the governorship in 2010.

Summa said she hopes Christian conservatives will rally for the cause. “I think people still care about the issue,” she said.

Iowa gay rights advocates say they are encouraged by the fact that a ballot measure would come no earlier than 2015, considering it must pass both houses of the Legislature in consecutive two-year general assemblies.

Meanwhile, public acceptance should continue to grow, said Des Moines lawyer Sharon Malhiero, a leading Iowa gay rights activist. “It’s not a big deal, three years past. The world hasn’t collapsed,” she said, adding, “But we’re not taking anything for granted.”

Read the article in The Washington Post

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The campaign to repeal marriage equality in Iowa appears to be suffering from changing public opinion and declining interest even among some conservative Republicans.

Campaigners that hope to reverse Iowa’s status as a Midwestern outpost for marriage equality appear to be losing their opportunity to win a public vote because of increasing acceptance for same-sex marriage and lack of interest even among conservative Republican voters and lawmakers.

The Associated Press reports on the changes since 2009, when Iowa became the first state in its region to allow same-sex couples to marry after a unanimous state supreme court decision. Conservative activists including the National Organization for Marriage struck back the following year by recalling three of the judges who voted for the decision, but public attitudes have grown more supportive of marriage equality in the years afterward and about 4,500 same-sex couples have married in the state.

“Even Republicans seem to be more accepting, said Julie Summa marketing director for The Family Leader, a social conservative advocacy group,” according to the AP. “She and other evangelical leaders attribute the change to libertarian Republicans, like supporters Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who oppose restrictions on personal freedoms.”

Party leaders including Kathy Potts, a former Republican county chairwoman, have also endorsed marriage equality. Potts sits on the advisory board for Iowa Republicans for Freedom, and she published a stinging op-ed in a local newspaper last March charging that the fight against marriage equality could be traced to “the loud voices of a few in our party.”

Fewer than 10% of voters in conservative Republican districts now list overturning marriage equality as a priority, according to internal campaign polls cited by the AP. Should Republicans, who already control the governor’s office and the House, win control of the Senate, a marriage equality referendum could appear before voters no earlier than 2015 because of the legislative process. Meanwhile, polls already indicate that majorities of Iowans oppose overturning the marriage equality law.

Republicans need to capture two seats in order to win control of the senate. NOM plans to spend at least $500,000 to help with that effort, reports the AP.

Click here to read the article from The Advocate

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When the Legislature legalized gay marriage, state Rep. Maureen Walsh’s passionate speech in favor of the law went viral. Now, as the Republican from Walla Walla gears up to defend her seat against a member of her own party, she is seeing an uptick in campaign cash from pro-gay marriage donors from around the country.

When the time came to vote on a historic bill legalizing gay marriage in Washington, state Rep. Maureen Walsh stood up and delivered an emotional speech explaining her decision to buck her party and vote in favor of same-sex marriage.

The 51-year-old Republican from Walla Walla told her fellow representatives about the death of her husband and how badly she missed the loving bond they shared: “How could I deny the right to have that incredible bond with another individual in life? To me it seems almost cruel.”

Her outspoken stance brought an outpouring of support from around the world — and something else: an infusion of campaign contributions from wealthy gay donors from across the country for her re-election.

Read the full article from The Seattle Times



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