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Feb 20, 2009
Anger has been voiced after a West Virginian group aiming to define marriage as being solely between a man and woman posted a video on their YouTube channel that likens LGBT people to snipers, taking aim at heterosexual families.

The group called The Family Policy Council released the ad last week in order to push for legislation similar to the Californian Proposition 8. The video warns that the homosexual agenda has pushed for same-sex marriage around America and is now closing in on West Virginia, then urges sympathizers to take action by contacting their State officials.

The video runs to a lengthy six minutes and uses phrases like “God’s design” in reference to heterosexual couples, and “unaccountable judges” in reference to the brief period when same-sex marriage was legal in California after a high court ruling and other courts where the possibility of amending the Virginia constitution resides.

The ad also draws on issues raised earlier in this blog over freedom of speech and the religious person’s right to opinion. The West Virginian ad also has provoked reaction by implying that teachers would be forced to teach children about homosexuality, calling the fact that some schools now teach homosexuality as being the same as heterosexuality “indoctrination”. It is, however, the image of the sniper taking aim at a family that has caused the majority of criticism.

The group aims to appeal for a state-wide vote on a marriage bill with the hopes of defining marriage in purely heterosexual terms, in a similar way as those in thirty other states that have moved to &ldquorotect” traditional marriage.

However, there is suspicion amongst both moderate political groups and LGBT organizations as to the true origins of the ad campaign video, with people like Seth DiStefano of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) saying “There are a lot of fingerprints on this campaign that are not from West Virginia.”

Jeremy Dys, the President of The Family Policy Group, has admitted that there were other similarly oriented groups adding to the campaign, including the rather infamous Focus on the Family. According to their website, ACLU were able to trace the campaign further to a group in Georgia called CampaignSecrets.org who’s mission statement is "focused exclusively on electing Republicans to local office."

This ad was published around about the same time as a double page advertisement was run in Utah papers the Salt Lake Tribune and Desert News, that attempted to expose the “homosexual agenda” and highlight the dangers of same-sex marriage in the wake of legislation that would have allowed for civil partnerships for LGBT couples, as well as adoption rights for single and co-habiting citizens. The legislation was defeated, but the ad campaign itself has drawn bipartisan condemnation.

To watch the full video from The Family Policy Council, please click here whereby the video will open in a new window for your convenience.


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Posted: Feb 20, 2009 6:00am
Feb 19, 2009
You may remember that we touched on Utah Governor Jon Huntsman’s favorable stance on gay civil rights last week and the heated debate his stance has caused, and now more controversy has surfaced in Utah as a conservative group called America Forever launched an ad campaign at the weekend that likens gays and lesbians to “druggies and hookers”.

The America Forever Ad In Detail

The ad was taken out in two newspapers, the Salt Lake Tribune and the Desert News. It contains a headline calling for people to “Stand Up and Stop The Homosexual Movement” and then goes on to state that the Governor Hunstman wants to turn gay people into an “untouchable” class with his civil partnership and protections bill, collectively called the Common Ground Initiative, and also accurately pointing out that “homosexuality is not a race” with that caption placed under a picture of a black man and white man kissing. Well, at least they’re getting along.

The ad alleges that under the Common Ground Initiative, LGBT people would have more rights than the rest of Utah’s citizens. Governor Huntsman had already refuted this in a previous statement where he suggested that the bill was about extending protections to LGBT people that were basic civil rights.

The ad also launches an attack at the “homosexual agenda” and how those of the LGBT community have attempted to “silence” those who don’t agree with their lifestyle. It contains claims that America Forever have also found a “Homosexual Declaration of War” which is, as Box Turtle Bulletin points out, a piece of satire written by Jonathon Swift. Somehow, they forgot to include the source of the declaration.

To view the full add, please click here.

Many have called the advertisement offensive and some gay rights opponents such as Republican Carl Wimmer have even come out against, who, whilst agreeing with America Forever on the subject of maintaining a traditional stance on marriage, says, “Everything they're doing crosses the line… they make those of us who are on the side of traditional marriage -- they make a lot of us -- look bad.”

Why Did The Paper Publish The Ads?
Closely linked with the First Amendment rights and religious freedom of speech post earlier this week, the Salt Lake Tribune’s editor Nancy Conway, who didn’t see the ad until it was published, was adamant in drawing a line between the paper’s own opinions and that of the general community who are allowed, under the First Amendment, to put out ads and opinion pieces. She said, “We would be hypocrites, really, if we didn't allow expression.” It is estimated that America Forever may have paid anything up to $15,000 for the two page ad.

The Context of the Ads
The Utah Legislature heard three bills this week, HB288, which would have allowed cohabiting couples, including LGBT people, to be able to adopt; HB267, which would have given LGBT Utah citizens protection from being discriminated against at work, as well as HB160 which would allow two cohabiting adults both inheritance rights and rights of attorney by default in situations such as medical decision making.

HB288 and HB267 failed to pass on Tuesday of this week, with Republican Representative Stephen Sandstrom saying of HB288 “Adoption is not a right, it's a privilege. Those who choose alternative lifestyles suffer the consequences because they can't naturally produce between them.”

HB160, who’s fate was decided Wednesday, also failed to pass Legislature, however, Mike Thompson, executive director of Equality Utah, was hopeful that when they return next year with a slightly amended Common Ground Initiative, adding “The majority of Utahns support these basic protections.”

In contrast to this, and following the defeat of the bills, the Utah Senator Chris Buttars called the gay rights cause &ldquorobably the greatest threat to America” when interviewed for a segment of Salt Lake City’s KTVX. He later went on to say that gay people have no morals, and commented on a particular type of homosexual activity that the station didn’t feel it could broadcast due to taste and decency.
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Posted: Feb 19, 2009 4:00am
Feb 13, 2009
Governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr., of Utah State, made a bold announcement this week when he decided to commit to a civil partnership bill, in spite of a recent survey that found 70% of Utah citizens are against the measure. Subsequently, vehement protests were held outside the State Capitol, with pro-family lobbyists crying injustice, and saying that it was “time for the homosexual agenda to stop”. Some campaigners wore shirts baring the slogan “gays are anti-species,” whilst others were quick to distance themselves from any anti-gay remarks, saying that the demonstration was in fact about being &ldquoro-family.”

Reactions to Governor Jon Huntsman's Actions in Utah

Conservative groups are especially angered as Utah actually bans gay marriages under Amendment 3 of its law, passed in 2004, which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Gov. Huntsman also endorsed Amendment 3 at the time of its passing. Conservatives are worried any move allowing domestic partnerships would violate Amendment 3 and pave the way for same-sex marriage, however Gov. Jon Huntsman finds no such conflict, saying that the measure would simply be “enhancing equal rights for more of our citizens."

What Does the Bill Contain?
It should be clarified that the bill is not aimed at legitimizing same-sex partnerships exclusively, but rather extends rights to all kinds of co-habiting couples to offer them protections against such legal sticking points as inheritance of an estate should a partner die and other such gray areas.

The bill was split into three sections, but the first part that directly went in opposition of Amendment 3 has been dropped since its conception. The remaining two parts, HB160 and HB267, strengthen cohabiting relationships as a whole, whilst HB276 focuses on protecting LGBT people from being victimized and discriminated against in the work place and in day to day life.

The strength of reaction against Gov. Jon Huntsman’s support for the bill is unsurprising. The Church of Latter Day Saints counts around 60% of Utah citizens amongst its followers, and gave heavily to the Californian Proposition 8 which rendered gay marriages illegal.

A Calculated Move by the Utah Govenor?

But could there be a greater motive behind Jon Huntsman ignoring the people of Utah and endorsing the measure? Up to this point, Jon Huntsman has proven to be one of Utah’s most popular Governors, and although he has bucked trends in the past, he has largely fallen into line with Republican rhetoric throughout his career. It has been confirmed however, that even with an eighty percent approval rating prior and a re-election to his name, Jon Huntsman does not plan to serve as Utah Governor again with Representative Jon Dougall, R-Highland telling the Desert News, “He's moving to a national agenda."

In this Gov. Jon Huntsman has made it known that he would put himself forward as the Republican Candidate for the Presidential nomination in 2012. Could this bill, which falls short of gay marriage but is seen as a positive step by gay groups, be his way of setting the tone for that nomination?

As some have cited, Huntsman’s support for Amendment 3 was, in the first place, somewhat lack-luster, so could this be Gov. Huntsman’s way of marking himself off as a moderate Republican, whilst still trying to keep many of his Utah faithful at his side. After all, he hasn’t actually done anything to weaken Amendment 3 in endorsing the now amended bill, but has, instead, extended basic civil rights and protections to couples that fall outside of traditional marriage. The bill is vague, and it is probably so for that exact reason. And whilst a vocal band of people have reacted against the bill, it is claimed by Gov. Huntsman’s staff that they have received far more praise than complaint, even with the demonstrations outside their offices accounted for.

Whether this was a carefully calculated political move or not, gay rights groups in Utah have praised the decision, with Mike Thompson from Equality Utah, saying, "Let's not be distracted by the controversy. This is not about marriage. The fact that someone can lose their job or be evicted from their home has nothing to do with marriage." (Standard.net; 12th Feb 2008)
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Posted: Feb 13, 2009 8:23am
Feb 9, 2009
New York saw disappointment last week when LGBT groups had their hopes of a 2009 same-sex marriage bill dashed as a leading voice in the fight for gay marriage, Senator Malcolm A. Smith who, while attending a Human Rights Campaign event on Saturday, told a crowd of gay marriage supporters: “Hold up ... although we do not have the number of votes at this time needed to pass the marriage equality gender bill this legislative session, we are committed to pursuing its passage.”

Mr. Smith then went on to clarify to reporters that, “The fact of the matter is we don't have the votes right now. So I'm working hard to get the votes.”

Senator Smith’s constant support for the gay marriage bill, as seen throughout his ascending career, has won him both praise and considerable opposition, and this statement further emphasizes that whilst the Democratic party is one that is liberal at heart, not all Democratic Senators embrace changes to the social construct of marriage.

In fact, a prominent three of the 32 New York Democrat leaders threatened to resign over Malcolm A. Smith’s becoming head of the chamber, as they opposed his “agenda” on gay marriage rights. Senator Pedro Espada Jr., Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx, and Senator Carl Krugen of Brooklyn, all threatened to leave, but Smith proved victorious, although with many LGBT campaign groups worrying that Malcolm A. Smith’s effectiveness on the gay rights and gay marriage issue may have been compromised.

Senator Smith’s own admission of the likelihood of a gay marriage bill passing in 2009 seem to confirm this, however, at the same fund-raising event, the New York Times reports that Senator Thomas K. Dune (D) was more up-beat, saying “We’re still counting votes ...  I’d say the situation is very fluid.”

However, elsewhere in the U.S.A., the gay marriage fight looked more positive when, on Friday of last week, Wyoming nailed the coffin lid tightly closed on a bill designed to ban gay marriage, after votes of 35-25 in opposition of the “Defense of Marriage” resolution were counted.

The bill, which sought to define marriage purely in heterocentric terms and therefore amend the Wyoming Constitution to exclude the possibility of gay marriage, was supported by Republican Owen Peterson, and follows 30 other states who have similarly amended their constitutions in that way.

A group called the WyWatch Family Institute, who are closely linked with Focus on the Family, an organization that is extremely vocal in their opposition of gay marriage, backed the bill, citing that, in trying to push for the bill they were “... trying to protect the children, because when you have a same-sex marriage, you're denying that child either a mother or a father.”

They later called the failure of the bill a “grave injustice.” The defeat has been hailed by gay groups across the United States, who are hoping for similar opposition to an Indiana bill that would likewise amend the constitution against gay marriage.

Last week in Vermont, a sound step toward gay marriage was taken when a gay marriage bill was introduced by two Burlington lawmakers, Representative Mark Larson and  David Zuckerman, with fifty nine co-sponsors, and whilst none are Republican, early indications are that they will likely support the bill, with Republican House Leader Patti Komline giving assurances that, as far as she was concerned, this move was in accordance with Vermont’s track record of progressive legislature, and was “a civil rights issue” that she was behind.

This track record includes Vermont being the first state to offer gay and lesbian partners the right of civil unions following a Supreme Court decision in favor of the move. Similarly, the Senate will have a bill introduced also pushing for gay marriage, with many gay rights groups in Vermont being “hopeful” of a positive outcome, and the groups are now extending their focus to the rest of the region, two states of which, Massachusetts and Connecticut, already offer gay marriage.

And finally, in other gay marriage news, the Californian Supreme Court has announced that it will hear testimony on Proposition 8 and the legitimacy of its passing on March 5. Proposition 8 was passed last year after 54 percent of Nov. 4 voters brought the bill into force, and is a legal measure that denies same sex marriage in California by amending the constitution as the Wyoming bill would have done, in spite of the fact that the Supreme Court had previously decided to recognize gay marriage as lawful earlier that year.

Proposition 8 has proven to be a hot topic throughout America and has drawn widespread debate from those both pro and against gay marriage. President Obama recently said that although he does not support gay marriage, as he believes marriage is between a man and a woman only, he fully endorses the repeal of Proposition 8, as it facilitated the repealing of the Californian gay community’s rights, something which he classified as “un-American.”
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Posted: Feb 9, 2009 12:16pm
Feb 5, 2009
Plans for legislature to extend the rights afforded by marriage to same-sex couples have been unveiled in Washington this past week which would strike a decisive victory for LGBT people who have long campaigned for equality. However, this action would fall short of legalizing actual same-sex marriage in Washington, but critics have said it does everything but.

Whilst some legal rights are already established under domestic partnerships for same sex couples, this new bill would affirm equal protections comparable to marriage in the state of Washington, a move that is being sponsored by Representative Jamie Pederson, an out gay member of the Democratic party (and one of six openly gay law makers supporting the bill), with the full backing of the state governor.

The 110-page Washington bill will amend all instances where only those within marriage are protected, extending those rights to domestic partnership or same-sex couples by including them in such areas as pensions and all  employee benefits in a bid to &ldquorotect all Washington’s families” as Senator Ed Murray, a supporter of the legislature, said.

This same-sex partnership measure builds on previous legislature Senator Murray pursued that allowed visitation rights in hospitals as well as a partner being able to give consent for organ transplants and authorize autopsies, as well as giving inheritance rights should there be no will left by their deceased.

However, there has been widespread criticism of the Washington bill by those cautious of gay marriage and same-sex partnership who claim that it is "with this year's legislation, they (gay groups) are taking the final step to stitch together gay marriage in a state that does not legally permit it," as Senator Dan Swecker of the Republican party said in a prepared statement on the matter.

However, Senator Murray denies this accusation, saying of the same-sex rights bill that, "The purpose of this legislation is to provide a way for us to talk about how our families are harmed concretely by their exclusion from civil marriage," but then did add, "we hope that sooner, rather than later, we'll be here talking about a marriage bill."

The Family Policy Institute of Washington, who firmly oppose the bill, have drawn parallels between same-sex marriage and any step toward it including domestic partnerships, likening it to polygamous marriage, as well as saying that homosexuality is comparable to incest and under-age marriage, commenting in a press-release that:

"Canada became the fourth nation to legalize same-sex marriage in 2005 when they enforced the Civil Marriage Act. Last month, the Tri-City Herald reported that two leaders of rival polygamous groups in Vancouver, B.C., made their first court appearance to file lawsuits demanding equal recognition and protection under the law," and then went on to say, "Same-sex marriage activists routinely say that they want to 'end discrimination' as it pertains to marriage equality. However, state law currently discriminates against polygamy, incest and under-age marriages. Do same-sex proponents also want to end the discrimination against groups that promote these kinds of relationships?" (Russell Johnson, World Net Daily, Feb 4th 2009).

Needless to say, gay groups have reacted angrily to Johnson’s statement, but have encouraged all concerned not to let those words, words of considerable faulty logic, take focus from the proposed Washington bill and the significant step it would make for gay and lesbian same-sex couples.

The bill has its next public hearing on the 5th of February and will specify that, to be registered as domestic partners certain criteria must be met that include co-habitation, be of consenting age (18) and be a part of no other domestic partnership or marriage.

In context, five states will this year debate measures to grant gay and lesbian marriage, including Vermont, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Maine, whilst Hawaii and New Mexico will follow in Washington's footsteps and debate legislature allowing same-sex couples the same privileges as given through marriage.

Coinciding with this, it has been announced that the validity of the Californian Proposition 8, which banned same sex marriage, will be examined on March 5th.
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Posted: Feb 5, 2009 12:00am
Jan 8, 2009

In November, most of America rejoiced when Barack Obama was voted as the next president of the United States of America, but on the same night, the gay community was saddened when, in California, Proposition 8 was passed with a majority of 52 percent of the vote, a piece of legislation that banned same-sex marriage.

Statistics that published in subsequent days pointed to the unprecedented black-voter turn out as the main reason why Proposition 8 won through, and there were later reports of tensions between the black and gay communities during marches aimed at repealing the Proposition 8 ban.

In exit poll results released after the event, up to 70 percent of black voters were reported to have been in favor of the yes on same-sex marriage ban. However, reconsiderations of the data now point out that this figure was probably closer to around 58 percent. The study relied on Census information as well as election return statistics, and had some startling findings.

Proposition 8 ‘Yes’ Voters: More Factors than Just Race

A study as released by San Francisco’s Evelyn and Walter Hass Jr. Fund, and conducted by New York college researchers, found that there were a great many more factors to the vote than simply one factor such as race. These included party allegiance, political stand-point (left or right of centre), devoutness to a religion as well as age. These all outranked race as a deciding factor.

When these groups were accounted for, statistics demonstrated that, "support for Proposition 8 among African Americans and Latinos was not significantly different than other groups,” and the researchers were then able to draw some trends from this study that might be encouraging for gay rights groups.

But, as a bench mark, race, according to statistics, made up only a 6 percent factor of the overall result.

What are the Implications of the Study into Proposition 8 Voting?

The study found that age was a predominant factor when it came to which side of the debate a person fell, and that the younger the voters were, the more likely they were to vote in support of same-sex marriage, with the majority of those under 65 voting to maintain gay marriage.

Religious affiliation comprised one of the other greatest factors, with a 12 percent share in reasons why people voted Yes on Proposition 8.

Kenneth Sherrill, co-author of the report, illustrated the overwhelming message of these findings, saying, “It's not right to single out one group or another and say, 'Aha, you're responsible.' Opposition to our [gay community’s] rights isn't personal, it's ideological.”

In response to these findings, gay and lesbian groups are looking to the gay community as a whole to take up some of the blame, claiming that the campaign to save gay marriage wasn’t organized enough and warned that the gay community had, inadvertently, become too introverted.

“I think it's the difference between knowing of someone being gay and a relationship with someone being gay,” said Joane Garcia-Colson, a licensed attorney.

The research seems to point out that the only way people can decide they are in favor of something is to see the effects for themselves, but due to fear of homophobia, the gay community has segregated itself just enough that people–for example, those over 65–were forced to draw conclusions from other sources, rather than relying on what they saw and experienced for themselves.

However, the overall findings of this study seems encouraging, with a spokesperson from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute saying that, "These figures point the way to winning marriage equality for same-sex couples sooner rather than later," citing the increasing support among young voters.

To read the full study or download it to read at your leisure, you may visit the report on Proposition 8 statistics here.

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Posted: Jan 8, 2009 12:00am

 

 
 
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Steve Busfield
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