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January 30, 2009


Colombia's Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday that same-sex couples must be granted the same rights as heterosexuals in common-law marriages.

Columbia's "common-law" marriage has been a legal means of recognizing two people who have lived together as married for two years or more to be considered married whether or not they have gone through a ceremony or registered with the state. And they have the same rights and protections as married couples.

That recognition has always been meant for only a man and woman coupling. Last April, the Colombian LGBT rights group Colombia Diversa, human rights group Dejusticia, and the Group for Public Interest Rights from the University of the Andes filed a lawsuit challenging that discriminatory classification.

The suit was a reaction to the 2007 defeat of the Colombian legislature's attemp to enact civil unions. According to Box Turtle Bulletin, the expected success of that measure was thwarted by intense pressure from the Catholic Church that involved threatening to deny the sacraments to any senator who voted for it. That threat scared off enough formerly supportive senators to defeat it.

Fortunately, for the sake of justice, equality and democracy, the Columbian court's judges had a little more backbone than the senators. Which proves that when the threat of political reprisal is removed or ignored, most lawmakers and justices will do the right thing.

The Church has proven, over and over again, to be the biggest threat to justice and democracy in America and, indeed, the world. The time for religion to get out of politics is long overdue.

January 29, 2009


Soulforce founder Mel White and his son Mike are scheduled to compete on the highly popular CBS game show Amazing Race. The show's season premier is set for Sunday, February 15th, at 8:00pm ET/PT.

Soulforce is a GLBT spiritual organization dedicated to "freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance."

One of the group's most successful campaigns is an annual activist outreach bus tour called The Soulforce Q Equality Ride. On this ride, about 20-25 young adults travel across the county visiting religion-based schools and institutions in an effort to educate and enlighten student's understanding of the GLBT community.

Last year's trip, launched in October, focused on the South, journeying to fifteen schools of various denominations, including some faith-based, historically black colleges and universities. Stops included both undergraduate schools and graduate level seminaries. According to its participants, it was a very rewarding and successful trip and they're eager to do it again this year.

I haven't watched the last couple of seasons of the Amazing Race but you can bet that this season, on February 15th, I'm going to be watching! Mark your calendars or set your Tvos. It should be a lot of fun.

Click here to read CBS's bio on Mel and Mike.

January 28, 2009


Remember when the Mormon church leaders said that they didn't object to "rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches?"

At the time they expressed that seemingly benevolent sentiment, they were in the midst of a heated, nationwide backlash against their inordinate involvement in and substantial financial support of the now infamous Proposition 8 in California and Proposition 102 in Arizona. They were desperately trying to defuse the highly negative publicity they were receiving around the world.

Well, the GLBT rights organization Equality Arizona, working with openly gay Utah State Senator Scott McCoy, took them at their word (which, for a mormon, is supposed to be sacrosanct). They introduced legislation that addressed one specific area of injustice.

The bill's intention was to amend state law so that financial dependents could sue if a breadwinner suffers a wrongful death. Since spouses, parents and children already have that right, the bill would not only protect same-sex couples but also other nontraditional households, such as one where a grandmother (currently not covered by existing laws) relies solely on a grandson or granddaughter for financial support.

According to a report by Proud Parenting:

A standing-room-only crowd listened to nearly two hours of testimony before the committee, led by Republican Sen. Chris Buttars, voted 4-2 against sending the measure to the Senate floor. Only McCoy [pictured], who is openly gay, and fellow Salt Lake City Democrat Ross Romero voted for the bill. Buttars, who was lobbied by a group of gay and bisexual activists at his West Jordan home earlier this month, didn't comment on McCoy's proposal during the meeting.

Opponents likened the bill to a 'slippery slope' and a 'dirty shirt' in a laundry basket of marital rights that could lead courts to justify legalizing same-sex marriage, similar to rulings in Massachusetts, California and Connecticut.

By that logic, virtually any legislation that would benefit a GLBT couple in any way would be voted down.

By the way - all four senators who voted against the bill were - yep, you guessed it - mormons.

When I was younger, I used to admire and respect the mormon church. I have since come to realize that they're just as hypocritical, underhanded and sleazy an organization as the catholic church has made itself into. It seems that these religious institutions, as well as most of the rightwing, for-profit, evangelical organizations, have become the bane of mankind - NOT its savior.

January 27, 2009


Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand has been appointed by NY Governor David Paterson to fill Hillary Clinton's vacated senate seat.

Before being picked, Gillibrand was a congresswoman from a very rural, conservative area in upstate New York and is known as a "Blue Dog Democrat" because of her conservative stands and votes on most issues. Her own web site boasts, “She has been an ardent opponent of legislation that will curb the Second Amendment for responsible gun owners and currently has a 100% voting record with the National Rifle Association (NRA).”

However, her position on issues important to the GLBT community seem to be evolving. A January 15th posting at PolitickerNY.com said;

Gillibrand received an 80 out of a 100 rating from the LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign. That was the lowest score out of New York’s Democratic representatives. According to the Human Rights Campaign, she opposed legislation that would grant equal tax treatment for employer-provided health coverage for domestic partners, opposed legislation to grant same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and permanent residents the same immigration benefits of married couples and opposed legislation to permit state Medicaid programs to cover low-income, HIV-positive Americans before they develop AIDS.

The article went on to say,

That said, Gillibrand is not an ideologue. The positions she took were arguably necessary as a means of getting elected in a conservative-voting district. And there is a notion among political observers that if she represented the entire state, those positions would soften to better reflect New York’s more liberal complexion.

Since being appointed senator her positions on GLBT issues seems to be evolving rapidly. On January 23rd, the blog Towleroad.com posted the following:
The Empire State Pride Agenda, released a statement from its Executive Director Alan Van Capelle:

"After talking to Kirsten Gillibrand, I am very happy to say that New York is poised to have its first U.S. Senator who supports marriage equality for same-sex couples. She also supports the full repeal of the federal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) law, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) and passage of legislation outlawing discrimination against transgender people. While we had a productive discussion about a whole range of LGBT concerns, I was particularly happy to hear where she stands on these issues."

Considering Governor Paterson's own strong stands supporting gay marriage and other GLBT issues, I am very hopeful that Director Capelle's statement is closer to where Gillibrand stands today. Only time will tell.

January 26, 2009


Queers United reported yesterday that Hawaii could be just one committee vote away from passing civil union legislation on to a majority supportive legislature.

The bill is now in the House Judiciary Committee which has, on several past attempts, not allowed it to proceed to the full legislature for a vote. In fact, in the 2007 attempt, the committee simply refused to vote on it at all which effectively killed it.

This time however, of the six committee members, 3 are in favor of it, 2 are against and Senator Robert Bunda, who didn't support it before, is now considered a swing vote and could go either way.

Senator Bunda, D-22nd (North Shore, Wahiawa), said that he needs to get a better understanding of the legislation and would be willing to consider it. So, of course, it would be very helpful if he heard from as many of us as possible.

Queers United is asking the GLBT community to contact Senator Bunda and "politely urge him to support civil unions, remind him that his election is historic as being the first Filipino to attain the presidency of any state legislature and that he should stand up for diversity and equality."

Here's how to do it...

Email: senbunda@Capitol.hawaii.gov

Phone: 808-586-6090

Fax: 808-586-6091

Snail Mail:
Senator Robert Bunda
22nd Senatorial District
Hawaii State Capitol, Room 202
415 South Beretania Street
Honolulu, HI 96813