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For the first time in American history, a state legislative body has advanced a bill recognizing same-sex marriages. The Judiciary Committee of the California State Assembly voted 8-3 in favor of the Marriage License Non-Discrimination Act introduced by out Assemblyman Mark Leno. It now goes to the Appropriations Committee where it is expected to die this term because it is an election year, the L.A. Times reported.

Equality California, the LGBT lobby group, issued a statement saying, “While it is an important victory, we have several hurdles to overcome before the bill becomes law.”

Just last year, the California legislature passed and Democratic Gov. Gray Davis signed the most sweeping domestic partners legislation in the country. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is opposed to same-sex marriage, but has not weighed in on this bill. California voters banned same-sex marriage by a 60-40 vote in 2000.

More than 4,000 same-sex couples were married in San Francisco in February and March when Mayor Gavin Newsom authorized the licensing. The California Supreme Court stopped that procedure on March 11. Some of the couples are now suing to have their marriages recognized. Gay and lesbian couples elsewhere in the state are in court seeking the right to obtain licenses.

Republican Gov. Mitt Romney has engaged the services of Joseph Nolan, a right wing former Supreme Judicial Court justice, who called same-sex marriages “an abomination,” to try to stop them from going forward on May 17 as ordered by that court. Romney wants the state legislature to pass emergency legislation blocking gay nuptials. Romney had wanted Democratic Attorney General Thomas Reilly, himself a foe of gay marriage, to seek a stay of the court’s order, pending a potential statewide vote in 2006 to amend the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage and mandate civil union rights. Reilly has refused to use his office for this purpose.

Senate President Robert Travaglini, an opponent of same-sex marriage, told the New York Times that Romney is “encroaching upon the powers of the attorney general merely because of a difference of opinion to accommodate a political agenda.”

The conservative Catholic Action League of Massachusetts and the Center for the Preservation of Constitutional Rights are appealing directly to the court to stay its ruling. They are highly unlikely to achieve standing in the case.

State Rep. Emile Goguen (D-Fitchburg) has introduced a bill to remove the four justices on the high court who ruled that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry under the Massachusetts constitution.

None of these maneuvers are seen as having any chance of stopping gay couples from marrying on May 17.

Some state justices of the peace are coming forward to say that they will resign their offices rather than perform same-sex weddings.

Reilly has ruled that same-sex couples from out-of-state may only wed in the Bay State if they come from one of the 12 remaining states, including New York, that do not explicitly ban it. He is invoking a 1913 law designed to prevent interracial marriages by out-of-state residents. But the Worcester justice of the peace, David Rushford, says he will not question gay couples any more closely than he questions heterosexual couples.

Conservatives Weigh in on NY Marriage Suit

Right wing activists, including Michael Long of New York’s Conservative Party, are now trying to intervene in Lambda Legal Defense’s suit seeking the right of same-sex couples to marry, despite rejection by courts in New Jersey, California, and Florida of such intervention. Also applying this week were the American Family Association for Law and Policy out of Tupelo, Miss., the Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor, Mich. (funded by Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan), and the Liberty Council of Longwood, Fla.

“These anti-gay groups cannot show that they will be harmed in any way if same-sex couples are allowed to marry,” said Susan Sommer, Lambda’s lead attorney on the New York case. “The real harm here is to loving same-sex couples who are being denied marriage.”

Spitzer Rebuffs Bloomberg in Marriage Fight

The New York Post reported that Mayor Mike Bloomberg sought the help of State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in combating a lawsuit against the city for its refusal to grant gay couples marriage licenses. A source quoted by the paper said that Spitzer, a supporter of same-sex marriage, would not intervene. Mayoral spokesperson Ed Skyler told the paper that Spitzer provided the mayor with “guidance.”

Spitzer did issue an opinion in March that gay couples could not obtain marriage licenses under current New York law, but that the state must recognize legal same-sex marriages from elsewhere.

Dueling Polls on Same-Sex Marriage in N.Y.

New Yorkers support the right of gay couples to marry by a 47-46 percent margin, a Global Strategies poll commissioned by the Empire State Pride Agenda found. And 71 percent believe in extending the legal rights of marriage to same-sex couples through civil unions, including 85 percent who favor hospital visitation rights. Opposition to a federal constitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples was at 54 percent versus 39 percent in favor.

“We clearly have made a lot of progress,” said Alan Van Capelle, Pride Agenda executive director, “and are far ahead of the nation as a whole on this question.”

The Quinnipiac University poll conducted a few weeks later found that New York voters oppose same-sex marriage by a 55-37 percent margin, but also oppose amending the U.S. Constitution to ban it 59-34 percent.

“New York State voters, driven by New York City’s 58-34 percent support for same-sex civil unions, are more liberal than the rest of the nation on this hot-button topic,” said Mickey Carroll, director of the college’s Polling Institute. “But even New York City voters [by 49-42 percent] oppose gay marriage. There is a clear majority that feels we don’t have to tamper with the Constitution to address this issue.”

No Wedding for Male Inmates in Alabama

Darius Chambers and Jonathan Jones, two inmates in an Alabama prison, were denied the right to marry by a circuit judge in Montgomery who ruled that they can re-file the suit when they get out. Both are eligible for parole in 2005. Johnson, however, wrote to a local paper and the state attorney general that he is not gay and asked to have his name removed from the suit, the Associated Press reported.

Civil Marriage Trail to Philadelphia

Gay and lesbian couples can’t legally marry in Philly, but supporters of that right will be demonstrating there on Sunday, May 2 at 2 p.m. at 13th and Locust Streets, releasing 1,138 balloons symbolizing the number of federal rights and responsibilities of marriage that are denied to gay folks in an event dubbed “Project 1138” of Equality Forum’s SundayOUT.

A New York contingent led by the Civil Marriage Trail will join the action, leaving from 88 E. Broadway in Chinatown at 9 a.m. sharp. The roundtrip fare is $32. To register, visit civilmarriagetrail.org.

The Civil Marriage Trail also is making plans to send a New York presence to Boston on May 17 when marriage is opened to same-sex couples.

Kevin Spacey: “I Fell for a Con”

When my friend Chris Cooper saw that headline on the CNN website, he wrote, “I swear until I read the story, I was thinking he was dating a felon behind bars.” The truth may be stranger than that.

On Saturday, Spacey told London police that he was “brutally mugged” in a park at 4:30 a.m. near the Old Vic Theatre where he is artistic director. Spacey told the cops he had been walking his dog. After realizing that he had been robbed and not assaulted, Spacey later called the police to withdraw the allegation.

The actor told the BBC that he had fallen for the ploy of a young man who asked if he could use Spacey’s cell phone to call his mother. Spacey said he dialed the number for the kid, who then ran away with the phone. “I was so upset I ran after him,” Spacey said, and suffered a minor head injury in a fall.

Asked why he was walking his dog at 4:30 a.m., Spacey insisted, “My doggy had to go.”

As The Sun (UK) delicately put it, Spacey has been “dogged by rumors about his sexuality.” He has been photographed with boyfriends, but doggedly insists that he is heterosexual. As for his story in this episode, perhaps his explanation is true. But he obviously felt compelled to lie about it because what many people would infer about his encounter with the young man.

Time for Spacey to sit down with George Michael and have a chat.

Or maybe Robbie Williams. The British teen idol who has been working to break into the U.S. market is “definitely gay” according to former manager Kevin Kinsella, commenting on the U.K. TV documentary, “The Truth About Take That.” Kinsella said that Williams approached him about his sexuality: “He said, ‘I don’t know if I’m straight or gay,’ and I said, ‘Well it sounds like you’re leaning towards gay, but do you enjoy it?’ He said, ‘Well, yeah.’”

“I don’t think he’s bisexual. I think he’s totally gay,” Kinsella said.

The Sun reported that Williams has been “keen to court controversy about his sexuality,” joking about being gay in the past.

Reverse Discrimination

Big Ruby’s in Key West is under attack for discriminating against heterosexuals. Three straight couples vacationing with a gay couple showed up at the hotel and were told by the manager, “We don’t want you here,” WFTV reported. They were allowed to stay one night then forced to leave and not compensated for their inconvenience.

Key West law forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, including heterosexuality.

Scott Fraser of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Key West told the station that the discrimination is “unacceptab­le,” but Florida law does allow a clothing-optional establishment to be gender exclusive and to bar children.

Hockey Intrigue

St. Louis Blues forward Mike Danton, 23, has been arrested by the FBI for hiring a 19-year-old hit man, Justin “Levi” Jones, to kill his roommate. Katie Wolfmeyer, 19, who is in love with Danton, hired Jones, who wound up reporting the incident to the police. Wolfmeyer is also charged in the plot.

Federal agents who listened in on a call between Danton and his roommate, who was cooperating with authorities, heard the hockey player say that he felt backed into a corner because the man was going to leave him. “The acquaintance called Danton and asked Danton why he wanted to have him killed,” the criminal complaint states. “Danton broke down and sobbed. Danton explained that he felt backed into a corner and also felt that the acquaintance was going to leave him. Danton did not want to allow the acquaintance to leave him, therefore decided to have him murdered.”

The Belleville News Democrat reported that Danton’s acquaintance had threatened to go to St. Louis Blues executives and expose Danton’s “alcohol use and promiscuity.” Speculation on the acquaintance’s identity ranges from a former coach of Danton’s to his male lover.

“The fact that Mike Danton felt it was better to have someone murdered rather than be known as gay is a stunning statement about the depth of the homophobia that exists in professional hockey and other sports,” said Jeff Kagan, commissioner of the International Gay and Lesbian Ice Hockey Association, who was quoted in “Gay News Now.” “We are disappointed by the failure of the National Hockey League to address the underlying bigotry that has created the climate of fear in which Mike Danton lived and which drove him to such a desperate act.”

Lesbian Leader to Speak at Pro-Choice March on April 25

Carmen Vazquez, deputy executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, will speak at the rally at the March for Women’s Lives this Sunday in Washington, D.C., in support of “the right of individual autonomy in all matters related to reproductive freedom and consensual sexuality,” a release from the group said.

The prime organizers of the march are NOW, Planned Parenthood, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, ACLU, Feminist Majority, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Black Women’s Health Imperative, and over a thousand sponsors, including the Pride Agenda and numerous LGBT groups.

For information on buses leaving N.Y. Sunday morning, call Chris Cormier at the Pride Agenda at 212-627-0305.

Andy Humm can be contacted at AndyHumm@aol.com

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Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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