President George W. Bush is set to make a presentation from the White House Rose Garden on June 5 to once again call on Congress to pass an amendment to the United States Constitution to ban same-sex marriage and bar judges from granting any marriage-like benefits to gay couples. Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, is calling on opponents of the measure to call the White House comment line at 202-456-1111 “and let him know that discrimination has no place in the U.S. Constitution.”
The Senate under Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican and a likely 2008 presidential candidate, is set to take up the amendment again on June 6. It needs a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress to pass—which is not expected—and then ratification by three quarters of the states. Supporters of the measure may increase their vote in the upper chamber from 48 in 2004 to 52 this year, but still well short of the 67 needed. There has been some talk of winning over more moderate legislators by stripping the amendment of its second sentence related to the courts and benefits short of marriage, instead having it simply say, “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.”
New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, both opponents of same-sex marriage who say they support “civil unions” for gay and lesbian couples, will once again oppose the amendment. LGBT leaders have been active in trying to get them to use more gay-positive language in the debate on the floor when the amendment comes up.
Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg managed to get the New York Daily News to report his “support” for same-sex marriage, ignoring the fact that it was his decision to appeal and overturn the only court ruling in the state ordering marriage licenses for gay couples. The News reported that he came out “strongly in favor of gay marriage” in a weekend radio address, even though he first stated his support the day he vowed to appeal Justice Doris Ling-Cohan’s ruling in the winter of 2005, and made his pledge to testify before a legislative hearing in Albany on behalf of a gay marriage law last December in an interview with Gay City News.
Perversely, Bloomberg told Gay City News at that time that he “hopes” he loses his case against same-sex marriage in Court of Appeals this week. In his comments over the weekend, he said, “If they rule that same-sex marriages are legal, then we’ll perform them.” He would, of course, have no choice in the matter.
If Bloomberg and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer are successful in court in keeping gay people from winning the right to marry, both have promised to push legislation to open marriage to same-sex couples, something even the overwhelming Democratic Assembly has not yet taken up. Bloomberg said he would work in collaboration with out lesbian City Council Speaker Christine Quinn on the bill, though the Council also has refused to take up a resolution supporting the right of gay couples to marry. Upon becoming Speaker, Quinn acknowledged that the votes are not yet there for approval.
Bob Loren, who met his male lover Hang Duan while teaching in China, returned to Hawaii with him and paid “a woman and her daughter $6,000 for the daughter to marry his partner,” according to federal charges reported by 365gay.com. The usual penalty for being discovered in such a scheme is deportation for the foreign partner. In this case, the U.S. is for the first time prosecuting and seeking jail time and a fine for Loren, Duan, and the women involved.
Robert Voorhies and Michael Sabatino of Yonkers, who married in Canada last year, returned from a recent visit to Canada and were denied processing as a family by a United States customs official. After explaining to the official that they were married, “he told us we would need two customs forms and that one of us would have to step away from the counter,” Voorhies wrote in an e-mail. “He attempted to force us through fear and intimidation into separating by stating we would not gain re-entry into the U.S. unless we did so.”
The couple, active in Marriage Equality/NY, asked to see a supervisor. “We told him that while we understood that the United States did not recognize our marriage, we would not separate to be processed,” Voorhies wrote. The supervisor ordered the joint processing. “What he could not tell the officer to do was hide his anger, his hatred, and his homophobic reaction to us. He was unable to intimidate us into accepting a second-class citizen status.” The couple did have to file separate forms, however.
Freedom to Marry, the pro-same-sex marriage group headed by Evan Wolfson, has hired Roey Thorpe as its new program director. For the last five years, she led Basic Rights Oregon which was defeated in 2004 on a state constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. She has also served as a city councilwoman and acting mayor in upstate Ithaca and as a field organizer for the Empire State Pride Agenda.
Rodney McKenzie, the current program director at Freedom to Marry, is headed back to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to do field organizing in communities of color on the marriage issue.
A ruling that struck down Georgia’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage because it dealt with more than one subject, including banning other benefits for gay couples, will be heard on appeal by the Georgia Supreme Court on June 27. Republican Governor Sonny Perdue has called a special session of the Legislature for August 7 to rewrite the amendment if necessary in order to qualify for the November ballot.
The amendment that was overturned won 76 percent of the vote in 2004.
For the third year in a row, the Minnesota Legislature has adjourned without approving for voter consideration a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and any other legal recognition for gay couples.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, a New York Democrat who faces reelection this year, is up in arms about the new Ryan White CARE Act that funds AIDS care and treatment programs because, she said, it “could result in a significant loss of funding for New York and many other states that have traditionally borne the brunt of this epidemic.” She has called upon Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, to postpone the vote on reauthorization until these concerns can be resolved.
Clinton’s release read, “In the proposal marked up by the Senate, New York State would be penalized for adhering to federal requirements to establish a comprehensive system of care based on an actual and accurate count of HIV and AIDS cases, while states that have not yet instituted such systems would be allowed to use estimates of HIV/AIDS cases which may result in significant overestimates of their actual HIV/AIDS cases.”
New York has more than 100,000 people living with HIV. Clinton said that the reallocation of funds could cut case management services to 4,000 and mental health services to 3,000.
Senator Charles Schumer, New York’s senior senator, also a Democrat, plans to address the same concerns at a press conference at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan on Thursday.
The Jerusalem District Court has ordered the city to pay 350,000 shekels (roughly $80,000) to the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, the LGBT community center there, that is hosting World Pride August 6-12.
Judge Yehudi Tzur wrote, “Even if certain officials in the municipality have trouble accepting the homo-lesbian community and feel that it is an undesirable phenomenon, the city cannot stray from the basic values of the legal system and ignore this community. It must treat this community in an egalitarian manner, out of recognition of the senior status of the value of equality, and with respect for the values of tolerance and pluralism.” Last year, the group won a settlement from anti-gay Mayor Uri Lupoliansk over his resistance to accommodating an LGBT pride march.
Hagai El-Ad, director of Jerusalem Open House, in New York this week to build international interest and support for the August event that has drawn fire from conservative Jewish, Muslims, and Christians in that city, is the guest on this reporter’s “Gay USA” TV show this week, Thursday, June 1 at 11 p.m. on Time-Warner 34.
Monsignor John G. Woolsey, the former director of the Archdiocese of New York’s Office of Family Life and its leading spokesman against gay rights and AIDS education, is now “Father Flim Flam” according to the Daily News. He admitted in court last week stealing at least $50,000—prosecutors say as much as $837,000—from parishioners at St. John the Martyr in Manhattan for his personal use. He will be sentenced on September 22 and faces five years in prison and forced restitution of up to a million dollars.
Woolsey’s lawyer said “psychological problems”—not the devil nor the gay menace, for that matter—made him do it, an argument he will elaborate at sentencing. Among the luxuries Woolsey indulged in were cosmetic dentistry, Rolex watches, and golf trips to Europe.
Arthur Strickler, the veteran gay activist and Community Board #2 manager who died at 60 on March 12, will be remembered at a service at The Village Temple at 33 East 12th Street in Manhattan on Wednesday, June 7 at 6 p.m.
Joseph John Productions and St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church are hosting “an evening of testimonial and inspiration song” to benefit the LGBT Homeless Youth Task Force on Wednesday, June 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the church at 46 W. 16th St. in Manhattan. Any donation will be accepted, but $25 is suggested.
Performing will be Carmen Keels (from the recent Broadway show “In My Life”), Colm Reilly (the 2006 MAC Award-winning cabaret performer), Gavin Gesham (“Naked Boys Singing”), Aaron Lee Battle (Bistro Award-winning performer) and Peter Mac (“Judy and Me,” “Golden Girls Live”).