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Texas Approves Gay Marriage Ban, Maine Staves Off Anti-Gay Threat


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Texas Approves Gay Marriage Ban, Maine Staves Off Anti-Gay Threat

by Paul Johnson 365Gay.com Washington Bureau Chief

Posted: November 9, 2005 12:01 am ET

(Washington) Texas overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage Tuesday while Maine rejected a bid to repeal the state's LGBT civil rights protections.

New Yorkers reelected Mayor Michael Bloomberg despite the lack of an endorsement from the state's largest LGBT rights group, and in California gay activists campaigned up until the last moment against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's government reform measures as payback for vetoing a gay marriage bill.

Three out of four Texas voters supported the amendment. It not only bars same-sex couples from marrying but also prevents the state from recognizing civil unions. Opponents of the measure say it may also negate common-law marriages for opposite-sex couples.

An organization representing opposite-sex unmarried couples joined with LGBT rights groups to fight the amendment, running a telephone ad campaign that infuriated amendment supporters. (story)

Last weekend the Ku Klux Klan staged a small but well publicized anti-gay rally on a public square at Austin City Hall. LGBT rights groups mounted a counter protest, in the form of a vigil, about a block away. (story)

Texas already had a law banning same-sex marriage, but supporters of the amendment say that by that putting it in the state constitution judges would be prevented from overturning the law.

There are an estimated 43,000 same-sex couples in Texas.

Passage of the amendment made Texas the 18th state to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage.

The Human Rights Campaign in statement Tuesday night blamed cynical politics for the passage of the amendment.

"These amendments are part of a long-standing effort by the extreme right to eliminate any legal recognition for gay people and our families," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.

"This fight for fairness isn't over and we won't give up," Solmonese said.

"All that today's results show is that it is profoundly wrong and profoundly un-American to put the rights of a small minority of Americans up for a popular vote," said the National and Lesbian Task Force executive director Matt Foreman.

"This is not democracy; this is tyranny of the majority. No one would tolerate this being done to any other minority, but it's still open season on gay people."

Supporters of the amendment quickly called on Congress to pass the federal marriage amendment.

"Texans know that marriage is between a man and a woman, and children deserve both a mom and a dad. They don't need a PhD or a degree in anything else to teach them that," said Kelly Shackelford, a leader Texans For Marriage, which favored the gay marriage ban.

A vote on the federal measure is expected tomorrow in the Senate Judiciary sub-committee. (story)

Among the most vocal supporters of the Texas amendment was Gov. Rick Perry. In June Perry signed the legislation sending the amendment to voters. Although his signature was not needed Perry said that the symbolism was important. (story)

Following the signing the governor was asked at a press conference how he would tell Texas gay and lesbian war veterans that they cannot come home from the war in Iraq and get married.

"Texans made a decision about marriage and if there's a state that has more lenient views than Texas, then maybe that's a better place for them to live," Perry replied.

The remark prompted a demonstration at the capitol on July 1 by gay former servicemembers. (story)

Meanwhile, in Maine, a ballot measure to overturn the state's LGBT civil rights protections was rejected by voters.

"Today's win proves that dogged, grassroots organizing can overcome the lies and smears of anti-gay zealots and the profound unfairness of having minority rights put up for a popular vote," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

"After the marriage amendment losses we've experienced over the last 12 months, this is a much-needed victory for our national movement — it proves we can win statewide contests. Every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender American is deeply indebted to the staff and volunteers of Maine Won't Discriminate, and to the people of Maine for embracing fairness and rejecting bigotry."

The law protects members of the LGBT community from discrimination in housing, employment and credit. It was signed by Governor John Baldacci in March (story).

The Christian Civic League of Maine immediately began a repeal effort, gathering enough signatures to force the issue onto next month's ballot.

The league has forced referenda on similar bills three times in the past decade and gays have seen the protections erased at the polls each time until Tuesday.

In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg coasted to an easy victory over Democrat Gifford Miller despite being denied the endorsement of the state's largest LGBT civil rights organization.

Empire State Pride Agenda threw its support behind Miller, the City Council Speaker.

Pride Agenda cited Bloomberg's appeal of a New York City court ruling that ordered the city to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples as the prime reason it supported his opponent.

Meanwhile in California where no anti-gay measure is on the ballot this year gay activists battled Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger's so-called government reform referenda as a payback for his vetoing gay marriage legislation earlier this year.

The state's largest LGBT civil rights group, Equality California, campaigned with nurses, teachers and other groups to fight the series of ballot measures to give the governor greater authority to make budget cuts; make teachers work five years instead of two to pass probation; strip lawmakers of their power to carry out redistricting, and require public employee unions to get members‘ permission before dues could be used for political purposes.

The support EQCA gave unions and other groups fighting the ballot measures is likely to result in an alliance of the same groups if two proposed anti-gay marriage propositions make it to the ballot in 2006.

©365Gay.com 2005


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