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The American Civil Liberties Union has hired a consulting firm started by the Iowa Republican Party’s former chairman to help with efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois.

Former Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn started a government affairs firm earlier this year with Pat Brady. Brady left his post as GOP chairman in Illinois to start the firm.

The company, Next Generation Public Affairs, Inc., has been retained by the ACLU’s Illinois chapter to provide strategic advice on marriage equality, part of which includes a lobbying effort in Illinois headed up by Brady. Strawn is not a registered lobbyist in any state.

So far, two Illinois Republicans say they’re in favor.

(more…)

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The lead group seeking to uphold Maryland’s same-sex marriage law on Monday announced it had received a $250,000 contribution from Paul Singer, a prominent New York-based hedge fund manager — and a major donor to Republican candidates.

The contribution is among the largest that has been made to Marylanders for Marriage Equality, which last week reported having raised $3.3 million for Question 6, the same-sex marriage measure that will appear on next month’s ballot.

In its announcement, the group played up the partisan affiliation of Singer, who has been a major donor to the campaign of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and reportedly gave $1 million to help underwrite the cost of the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Singer, who has a gay son, has also given millions in recent years to further the cause of same-sex marriage.

“His investment in the equality and dignity of Marylanders reflects the growing bipartisan support to get Question 6 over the finish line in these critical final weeks,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-rights group heavily involved in the Maryland effort.

Singer’s donation comes as both sides of the same-sex marriage debate are trying to marshal resources for television ads in the three weeks that remain before the election.

Marylanders for Marriage Equality was set to debut a new ad Monday in the Washington media market featuring Julian Bond, chairman emeritus of the NAACP, who argues that “Maryland’s gay and lesbian families … should share in the right to marry.”

The Maryland Marriage Alliance, the lead group opposing Question 6, last week reported having raised $838,621 for its campaign. In its television ads, the group has argued that children are better off with both a mother and a father.

Read the article from The Washington Post.

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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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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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from NPR.

Ben Church and other opponents of a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage voice their opposition at a rally in Raleigh, N.C., on March 15.

North Carolina is the only Southern state without a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. But that could change next month.

On May 8, voters will decide whether to change the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, as well as civil unions and domestic partnerships. Leading Republican lawmakers think it’s one of the most important issues facing voters.

But some conservatives worry that the measure goes too far.

John Hood runs a well-known conservative think tank in Raleigh. His views aren’t usually adopted by liberal groups, but the other day, an anti-amendment volunteer handed Hood a fluorescent-colored flyer to read.

“It says that some North Carolina conservatives like John Hood of the John Locke Foundation say the amendment is too extreme. They say its wording harms the rights of too many people. Well, it’s an accurate quote,” he says, adding with a laugh: “I’m not used to being accurately quoted!”

Hood, a registered independent, thinks lawmakers wasted their time bringing the amendment before voters. A state law already bans same-sex marriage. He says he understands some conservatives want to provide an additional safeguard for traditional marriage with an amendment.

“But then there’s a group of people that I would be in the camp of who do care about marriage as an issue, but simply don’t think the possibility that other people will get married is a threat,” he says. “It seems to me that the real threat to marriage [is] straight people getting divorced or never getting married in the first place.”

Hood isn’t the only conservative to speak out against the measure. Many prominent Republicans across the state have, too. A survey from Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-based firm, shows 54 percent of North Carolinians support the amendment, though the margin has narrowed.

Republican legislative leaders say the numbers show voters do not support same-sex marriage.

“That is not a good environment to raise children,” says Paul Stam, the measure’s biggest champion. “It doesn’t mean that every child raised in that environment will have trouble.”

Stam, the majority leader in the North Carolina House of Representatives, believes children born outside traditional marriages face great social and economic hurdles. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, children with gay and lesbian parents do not differ developmentally or emotionally from children with heterosexual parents.

Stam knows his stance may alienate some voters. “It probably will push away 1 or 2 percent,” he says. “On the other hand, it probably will gather more than that from Democrats and independents. So to the extent that there’s a reordering, it doesn’t hurt our party.”

Read the full article from NPR.

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from The Washington Post.

 Maryland Gov. Martin O' Malley addresses a joint session in his State of the State address.

In Maryland, a Democratic governor’s efforts to persuade a heavily Democratic legislature to pass a same-sex marriage bill could come down to the votes of a few Republicans.In search of fresh support for legislation that fell short last year, Gov. Martin O’Malley and his allies have reached out in recent weeks to about a quarter of the GOP members of the House of Delegates, the chamber expected to once again decide the fate of the measure.

The overtures — most of them long shots — underscore how closely divided the General ­Assembly remains over same-sex marriage, which was the subject of an emotional, 101 / 2-hour hearing Friday that drew politicians, families and clergy to Annapolis.

O’Malley’s coordinated outreach also comes from a recognition that in the last two states to approve same-sex marriage legislation — New York last summer and Washington last week — the votes of a small number of Republicans were pivotal.

“It could well prove true here as well,” O’Malley said in an interview. “We are still pushing, talking and having conversations with people in both parties who may have open minds.”

A month into this year’s 90-day legislative session, no Republican in the House has publicly committed to backing the bill, despite the overtures from O’Malley, his aides and lawmakers working to pass the bill.

Last year, Sen. Allan H. Kittleman (Howard) was the only one of 12 Republicans in the Senate to vote for a same-sex marriage bill that narrowly passed his chamber. None of the 43 House Republicans voiced support for the bill, which was pulled from the floor before it could come to a vote.

Supporters have sought to appeal to the libertarian leanings of some of their GOP colleagues and have pointed to polling data that show growing acceptance of same-sex marriage among younger voters.

A Washington Post poll last month found that 35 percent of Republicans in Maryland support legalizing same-sex marriage, compared with 57 percent of Democrats.

The level of GOP support statewide has not been reflected in the legislature, in part because of the way the state’s districts are drawn, lawmakers and analysts say. Most Republican members represent solidly conservative areas.

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from The Seattle Times.

R.K. Krishnakumar, left, of Tata Global Beverages, and John Culver, of Starbucks, announce their long-awaited agreement. (PUNIT PARANJPE / AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Legalizing same-sex marriage would generate as much as $88 million in additional wedding and tourism spending in Washington, according to a study by UCLA Law School’s Williams Institute.

The institute, which studies issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, based its estimate on census data, economic-impact figures and the experiences of other states that have legalized same-sex marriage, most notably Massachusetts.

The same-sex marriage bill passed Wednesday by the state Senate is expected to win House approval within days and be signed quickly by Gov. Chris Gregoire, though opponents hope to challenge it in a statewide referendum in the fall.

According to the 2010 Census, there are just over 19,000 same-sex couples in Washington. Assuming half of them choose to marry within three years of legalization — the rate in Massachusetts after same-sex marriage became law there in 2004 — that would mean about 9,500 marriages that otherwise wouldn’t take place.

(Washington now has about 40,000 marriages a year, according to federal data.)

Weddings are big business, as anyone who’s paid for one lately knows all too well: The average spent on a wedding in Washington was $25,414 in 2010, according to industry-research website theweddingreport.com.

Even if, as the institute estimates, same-sex couples spend only a quarter as much on their Big Day as heterosexual couples, that’s still more than $6,350 per wedding.

Do the math and it works out to $60.4 million in direct spending over three years.

Read the full article from The Seattle Times.

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from The Union Leader.

“Live Free or Die” isn’t just the official motto for a great state. As the 62nd Republican National Committee Chairman, I think it’s a mantra our party should live by. I hope that New Hampshire legislators will remember this slogan and reject proposals to strip citizens of their right to marry.

The party of Lincoln and Reagan should stand first and foremost for freedom. It’s part of our heritage and ought to be part of our DNA. Freedom for Americans of all races is why our party was founded. And our greatest moments — from the unbelievable economic recovery unleashed by lower taxes and less regulation to the fall of the Berlin Wall — resulted when we promoted freedom.

Stripping away the right of adults in New Hampshire to marry the person they love is antithetical to freedom. If we really believe (and we should) that every citizen is endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness, shouldn’t this include the right to marriage? If we believe in limited government, how can we justify expanding the authority of the state to take away this most personal, fundamental right? Aren’t politicians already too involved in too much of our lives? Why would we want to expand government to such a personal space?

Allowing New Hampshire citizens to marry the person they love isn’t just consistent with maximizing freedom. It also promotes responsibility, commitment and stability; it promotes family values. Again, our history provides a good road map: One of our party’s finest hours was the passage of welfare reform because it strengthened families and promoted marriage. Why would we want to take away this right from anyone?

New Hampshire’s civil marriage law protects religious freedom. No religious institution has to perform or recognize same-sex marriages. This is important because different religious traditions have different views on this question.

But despite these differences, so many of our faiths and traditions are rooted in the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would want done to you. Isn’t allowing adults to marry the person they love consistent with the Golden Rule? If you were born gay (as I was), how would you feel if your state government took away this basic civil right that is available to all of your neighbors? How would you feel if you were a young person and were told by your state that the loving and stabilizing relationship you see in your mom and dad would never be available to you?

During my time in politics, I always believed that good policy is good politics. Looking at the views of New Hampshire voters, it’s pretty clear that stripping the right to marry is bad policy and bad politics. Sixty-two percent of New Hampshire voters oppose taking away the right to marry.

I will be in New Hampshire this week — to urge legislative members of my party to reject House Bill 437. It’s time to stand up for individual freedom and liberty, to live by the Golden Rule and to oppose any effort to diminish or strip away individual rights, and to return to the real business of building business, keeping taxes down and growing our economy. “Live Free or Die” should be more than just a slogan.

Ken Mehlman, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, is a businessman in New York.

Read the article from The Union Leader.

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from MSNBC.

Washington state may soon join Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia as a state with legal gay marriage. Like Maine, the state has had a domestic partnership law in place for several years. However, Washington’s Senate Bill 6239 would extend full marriage equality to same-sex couples, and according to the Associated Press, there are enough votes in the state senate for the measure to pass.

The bill has the support of several major companies — but Microsoft, whose headquarters are in Redmond, is the most high-profile business to back it. And Brad Smith, Microsoft’s executive vice president of legal and corporate affairs, says the law is essential to the company’s competitive edge.

“As other states recognize marriage equality, Washington’s employers are at a disadvantage if we cannot offer a similar, inclusive environment to our talented employees, our top recruits, and their families,” he wrote.

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of NBC Universal and Microsoft.)

Not everyone sees Senate Bill 6239 as a boon to state businesses. The National Organization for Marriage is mounting a fierce fight against it, as they have fought against similar legislation in other states. “NOM will not stand by and let activist politicians redefine marriage, the bedrock of civilization, without voters having a say,” said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage. “Just as we mounted a People’s Veto in Maine and were responsible for qualifying Proposition 8 to the ballot in California, we will make sure that voters in Washington have the ability to decide the definition of marriage for themselves.”

Microsoft is not the first corporation to support gay marriage. Many of its supporters hail from corporate America, as was the case in New York, the last state to legalize gay marriage, in June 2011.

Read the article from MSNBC.

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