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The New York Times
A Ruling for Equality in New Jersey
Published: October 26, 2006
The New Jersey Supreme Court brought the United States a little closer to the ideal of equality yesterday when it ruled that the state’s Constitution requires that committed same-sex couples be accorded the same rights as married heterosexual couples. It stopped short, however, of ruling that same-sex couples have a right to “marry,” leaving the question of what to call same-sex unions up to the State Legislature.
That omission will disappoint some gay-rights advocates, but there is no reason for lawmakers not to apply the term marriage to these committed relationships, and they should do so swiftly. Meanwhile, the court decision is an important step forward.
New Jersey already has a civil-unions law, but it gives same-sex couples fewer rights than married couples. Same-sex couples are penalized financially, in areas like employer-provided health benefits and inheritance taxes. They are also disadvantaged socially and in practical, day-to-day ways. One of the plaintiffs in the case had trouble getting her partner into a hospital emergency room with her when she was sick.
The court required the Legislature to level the playing field in every respect but one. It said lawmakers can call relationships between partners of the same sex marriage, or something else. This page supports gay marriage, but we also know it will not be recognized instantly. New Jersey’s delay is unfortunate, but at least it makes it hard for anti-gay forces in the state to mobilize against the decision. The court ruling secures important rights, and paves the way for the full equality that will no doubt come.
The Japan Times: Saturday, Oct. 28, 2006
ON THE 'RIGHT' TRACK
Abe's hold on women stumps feminists
Reactionary views, appointments obscured by his 'gentle' exterior?
By JUN HONGO
Second of three parts
Depite an approach to gender equality issues that his critics consider hopelessly old-fashioned, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has managed to win strong support among female voters, a fact that leaves feminist thinkers like University of Tokyo professor Chizuko Ueno scratching their heads.
"It's incomprehensible why Prime Minister Abe is so popular among females," Ueno said.
"It's eerie," the women's studies professor said, considering the conservatism apparent in both Abe's Cabinet appointments and his stance on gender equality issues, as well as his vocal support of "traditional family values."
Upon taking office last month, Abe gave the gender equality portfolio to arch conservative Sanae Takaichi, who opposes a draft bill to allow women to retain their surnames when they marry.
Another high-level female appointee, Eriko Yamatani, is a vocal opponent of "gender-neutral" education who has said that approach, which seeks to instill in both sexes a sense that they can play equal roles in society, ignores differences between males and females. She was chosen as special adviser in charge of educational reform.
Abe, who previously headed a Liberal Democratic Party project team that has called for a re-examination of the gender-neutral approach in education, is known as a strong supporter of traditional family values.
He has, for example, opposed sex education that shows students condoms and uses anatomically correct dolls to teach the subject, denouncing it as "gender-free fascism," without defining his terms.
This opposition wins points with those who believe Japan's traditional family values are under threat.
Despite his holding views that seem at odds with the increasingly prominent role women are playing in business and politics, and with their own modern self-image, many women seem charmed by Abe. He has been the subject of glowing coverage in popular women's magazines.
Poll statistics appear to bear out Abe's favorable press. Public approval of the Cabinet stood at 65 percent support, according to a September survey of 1,035 people by Kyodo News.
But Ueno of the University of Tokyo believes there is less to Abe's popularity than meets the eye, arguing that many feminists oppose his policies, but are not being heard by the media.
One problematic aspect the media did cover pertaining to Abe was his reported pressure, along with LDP bigwig Shoichi Nakagawa, to get NHK in 2001 to censor a documentary on a mock tribunal in Japan that found the late Emperor Hirohito guilty of institutionalizing the sexual slavery of thousands of women across wartime Japanese-occupied territories for the sake of Imperial army soldiers.
"Because I was told that the mock trial was going to be reported in a way that the organizers wanted it to be, I looked into the matter," Abe said in a statement reported on Jan. 13, 2005, when he was LDP deputy secretary general. "As a result, I found out that the contents were clearly biased, and told (NHK) that it should broadcast from a fair and neutral viewpoint, as it is expected to."
Four days later, he denied pushing for the censorship and refused to testify about the incident before the Diet.
Ueno criticizes Abe's ideas on gender roles as being out of step, adding that social changes, rather than feminists and gender-neutral education, are responsible for the changes to family life in Japan that Abe decries.
Ueno is stumped by why women are backing a politician possessed of such backward views. She disputes the idea that Abe's popularity is an indication women are becoming more traditional, citing surveys that show a steady rise in the number of women opposed to playing traditional roles based on their sex over the last 30 years.
She speculates that Abe's appeal to women is superficial: He looks gentle. The group Japan Men's Fashion Unity named him the "best-dressed personality" in 2002, and he and his wife, Akie, were in the top 10 list of ideal couples, according to a 2003 Internet poll of 58,782 people by groups that promote Good Partnership Day every Nov. 22.
"It may be the influence of TV politics," Ueno said.
Political pedigree may also be a factor. Abe is the grandson of the late Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi and the son of the late Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe. He has charmed the public and been at the center of media attention from the moment he stepped into the political arena.
On his trip to China and South Korea earlier this month, he was seen frequently holding his wife's hand, a rare sight among middle-aged Japanese, and this may have contributed to Abe's popularity with middle-aged women.
One news editor at the major weekly Josei Jishin said Abe began winning over women as chief Cabinet secretary under his predecessor as prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, with his approach toward China and South Korea as well as his being the point man on the North Korea abduction issue. But his good looks have also played a big role. Josei Jishin recently published three favorable articles about Abe.
"Media polls reveal that he has received a high percentage of support from women, but I feel that his young age and looks helped a lot," said the editor, who asked not to be named.
Although Abe's popularity has not reached the heights Koizumi enjoyed at his peak, Abe benefited from a high degree of exposure even before the LDP presidential race began. The other candidates, Taro Aso and Sadakazu Tanigaki, had much less.
"The main age group of our readers are married women in their 30s and 40s. They judge politicians not by their policy plans, but what they can actually do. They are realistic.
"That being said, I cannot tell if the Cabinet will continue to receive favorable opinions by our readers in the future," the editor said.
Kazuko Furuta of the New Japan Women's Association, a feminist organization with 200,000 members formed in 1962, reckoned Abe's pitch to revive traditional family values is an attempt to encourage women to quit their jobs and stay home to focus on raising children.
"I don't know why so many women are supporting Prime Minister Abe's conservative policies. I really don't know," the 59-year-old director of NJWA's gender equality and female advancement division said.
Furuta believes there are some conservative women's groups who back the Cabinet's position, but most women have been fooled by Abe's use of such simplistic phrases as "beautiful Japan" and such promises as providing employment opportunities for people without jobs.
"For me, everything about Abe is scary -- especially his plans to revise the Fundamental Law of Education. I am hoping that Abe's popularity with women will cool down rapidly once his polices come into force and his intentions are revealed," Furuta said.
ON THE 'RIGHT' TRACK Abe to play hardball with soft education system
The Japan Times: Friday, Oct. 27, 2006
ON THE 'RIGHT' TRACK
Abe to play hardball with soft education system
By AKEMI NAKAMURA
This is the first of a three-part series examining expected changes in three areas -- education, gender-equality and media -- under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office a month ago.
When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office last month, he promised to make education reform a priority in his plan to create a "beautiful country," overhauling a 1947 law to this end and possibly steering Japan onto a nationalist course.
The new prime minister has vowed to reorganize the public school system to boost students' academic performance and to foster a newly defined sense of "patriotism," something critics also fear may make speaking out by those opposed to this bent a social taboo.
Both his supporters and detractors agree on one point: Abe's planned changes are going to have a huge impact on the nation.
"Even though we may not see the signs immediately, Abe's reform could change the very nature of Japanese society," said Takashi Narushima, a professor on education law at Niigata University.
While many warn that this combination of a more rigorous academic study and pumped-up nationalism is a dangerous mix, there are others who argue that the current education system is responsible for everything from flagging academic and physical skills to eroding morals and even violent crime, not to mention classroom chaos.
It's not just seniors complaining that young people can't write kanji or use the abacus. In the most recent global survey, in 2003, of the academic achievement of 15-year-olds by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, Japanese students dropped out of the top spot for mathematics, held in 2000, to sixth place and fell to 14th from eighth in reading.
Tamae Shintani, head of the Elementary School Parents and Teachers Association Congress in Tokyo, has watched the education system closely for more than a decade and feels politicians haven't paid enough attention to it.
She is excited to see Abe leading the country.
"Japan's education system hasn't been overhauled since the war," said Shintani, a mother of three whose oldest child is in college. "But now we have Abe."
In a Kyodo News national survey conducted in March 2005, 75.1 percent of 1,015 respondents blamed reduced hours in the classroom and easier textbook content -- part of a more relaxed public education system introduced in 2002 -- for the poor academic performance and said this approach should be reassessed.
Part of Abe's plan to fix that problem will be to reinstate rigid academic standards.
The first step is a bill to revise the 1947 Fundamental Law of Education. Discussions on the bill, submitted by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and coalition partner New Komeito in April, will begin in the Diet next week.
The bill would change the law to require that schools "cultivate a respect for tradition and culture, and love for the nation and homeland that have fostered them."
If the Diet passes the revision bill, other education-related laws and academic guidelines would be revised in line with its principles.
Another result, critics say, would be an increasing nationalistic slant to school history texts, already a key bone of contention because some appear to whitewash Japan's past atrocities.
However, the Abe government position is part of a larger conservative swing in recent years.
Publishers of junior high school history textbooks have softened their descriptions of Japan's wartime aggression in Asia under pressure from various groups on the right.
Not one of the eight history textbooks approved by the education ministry in 2005 mentions the women from occupied nations forced into sexual slavery for the Imperial Japanese Army, known euphemistically as the "comfort women." All seven textbooks authorized in 1996 covered the issue.
To help with the reforms, the prime minister has started a new advisory panel, the Education Rebuilding Council, with 17 members taken from government, business and academia. At their first meeting on Oct. 18, Abe urged the panel to think of new ways to improve not only academic performance, but also moral character, and suggested such things as reading and mandatory "volunteer" work.
Abe has also proposed a system of government vouchers to enable children to attend private schools regardless of their parents' income, which may force public schools to become more competitive to win students from their private rivals.
He also wants to monitor public schools with periodic evaluations by outside bodies.
The government under Abe's predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, announced in April it will reinstitute nationwide achievement tests for the sixth and ninth grades, starting next April. It has been 40 years since these evaluations have been done.
Niigata University's Narushima said, however, that many of Abe's ideas to improve educational standards will do more harm than good.
Abe's educational reforms will result in students at a very early age being split into those who will be the elite and those who will not, with a widening disparity in the quality of education between the two, he said.
"For the losers in this competition, dissatisfaction will fester," the education professor said. "Society will fall apart. To fix it, the government will push the Hinomaru flag and 'Kimigayo' national anthem to integrate (the losers) into the 'beautiful country,' and compel them to toe the national line."
On the other side of the argument is Hidetsugu Yagi, a professor of law at Takasaki City University of Economics in Gunma Prefecture and a former president of the conservative Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, which has been at the center of the textbook controversy for its junior high school texts that downplay Japan's wartime aggression.
He reckons tough action is exactly what is needed.
"Kids today have too many holidays," Yagi said. "Summer vacation should be shortened to have students attain minimum academic capabilities."
He said firms also want kids' holidays cut so they will have more time to learn skills needed for the modern economy.
The conservative camp is just as concerned that schools strengthen their students' Japanese identity, something Yagi and others believe will address what they see as society's moral decay.
Abe and many in his Cabinet -- notably special adviser on education Eriko Yamatani and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hakubun Shimomura -- have all at some point accused public school teachers of having a leftwing agenda, which focuses too much on Japan's misdeeds, such as the country's wartime aggression, and too little on the more positive aspects of the country's history.
On the teachers' side, many are nervous about pushing patriotism in schools, as it conjures up fears of a return to early 20th century imperialism.
However, a Jiji Press survey conducted in May shows that 54.7 percent of some 1,300 respondents said they supported the ruling bloc's bill to revise the Fundamental Law of Education to state that schools should foster in its students a love of their nation.
Since 2003, teachers and students in all Tokyo public schools have been required under a metro government directive to stand and sing the national anthem before the Hinomaru at ceremonies. Teachers who have refused have been punished by pay cuts or suspensions.
Kimiko Nezu, a teacher at Tsurukawa No. 2 Junior High School in western Tokyo who was disciplined for refusing to sing "Kimigayo" at school ceremonies, said she believes directives from above to observe patriotic rituals are suppressing healthy debate in the schools.
"About a decade ago, we teachers used to take up social issues with students in the classroom. But now I see many teachers shy away from political topics," Nezu said. "I don't think teachers can teach children that people should stand up against things that are wrong."
Yagi of the revisionist history text camp hopes to keep the reform momentum going. On Oct. 22, he and scores of other academics launched the Nippon Kyoiku Saisei Kiko (Japan Educational Revival Organization), a think tank dedicated to supporting Abe's reform plans. They plan to hold public meetings nationwide to hear people's suggestions for reform and pass the ideas on to Abe.
"We will drastically change Japan's educational system by proposing alternatives to the dubious educational methodologies of the past and, in so doing, lead the way for our children who will bear responsibility for Japan's future," Yagi said in a statement posted on the organization's Web site.
Regardless of if Abe succeeds as prime minister, Nezu said the conservative educational agenda has built up too much momentum to end anytime soon. "I don't think that this trend will abate after Abe," she said. "It will probably continue for decades."
The New York Times
G.O.P. Moves Fast to Reignite Issue of Gay Marriage
Written by SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
Friday, 27 October 2006
The divisive debate over gay marriage, which played a prominent role in 2004 campaigns but this year largely faded from view, erupted anew on Thursday as President Bush and Republicans across the country tried to use a court ruling in New Jersey to rally dispirited conservatives to the polls.
Wednesday’s ruling, in which the New Jersey Supreme Court decided that gay couples are entitled to the same legal rights and financial benefits as heterosexual couples, had immediate ripple effects, especially in Senate races in some of the eight states where voters are considering constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage.
President Bush put a spotlight on the issue while campaigning in Iowa, which does not have a proposal on the ballot. With the Republican House candidate, Jeff Lamberti, by his side, Mr. Bush — who has not been talking about gay marriage in recent weeks — took pains to insert a reference into his stump speech warning that Democrats would raise taxes and make America less safe.
“Yesterday in New Jersey, we had another activist court issue a ruling that raises doubts about the institution of marriage,” Mr. Bush said at a luncheon at the Iowa State Fairgrounds that raised $400,000 for Mr. Lamberti.
The president drew applause when he reiterated his long-held stance that marriage was “a union between a man and a woman,” adding, “I believe it’s a sacred institution that is critical to the health of our society and the well-being of families, and it must be defended.”
The ruling in New Jersey left it to the Legislature to decide whether to legalize gay marriage. Even so, the threat that gay marriage could become legal energized conservatives at a time when Republican strategists say that turning out the base could make the difference between winning and losing on Nov. 7. With many independent analysts predicting Republicans will lose the House and possibly the Senate, President Bush’s political team is counting on the party’s sophisticated voter turnout machinery to hold Democratic advances enough that Republicans can at least maintain control.
“It’s a game of margins,” said Charles Black, a Republican strategist who consults frequently with Karl Rove, the chief White House political strategist. “You’ve got about 20 House races and probably half a dozen Senate races that are either dead even or very, very close. So if it motivates voters in one or two to go vote, it could make a difference.”
Democrats predicted Thursday that the debate would not dramatically alter the national conversation in an election that has been dominated by the war in Iraq and corruption and scandal in Washington. But across the country, Republicans quickly embraced the New Jersey ruling as a reason for voters to send them to Capitol Hill.
In Virginia, the court decision could not have come at a better time for Senator George Allen, a Republican whose campaign for re-election had been thrown off course by allegations that he had used racially insensitive remarks. The Virginia ballot includes a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Mr. Allen supports it; his Democratic opponent, Jim Webb, argues that the ban is unnecessary.
On Thursday, Mr. Allen could be found in Roanoke at a rally held by backers of a ballot initiative to ban gay marriage. Victoria Cobb, an organizer of the events, said the New Jersey ruling was giving the cause “a new momentum.”
“It’s an issue that’s going to play a big role in the next 12 days,” Mr. Allen’s campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, said in an interview.
In Tennessee, another state with a proposal to ban gay marriage, Representative Harold E. Ford Jr., a Democrat running for the Senate, was sparring with Republicans over an advertisement in which the Republican National Committee asserts that Mr. Ford supports gay marriage — an assertion Mr. Ford says is wrong. On Thursday, he responded with his own advertisement, calling the Republican ad “despicable, rotten lies.”
Mr. Ford says he will vote for the Tennessee gay marriage ban. With early voting under way, the Republican candidate, Bob Corker, is telling voters that he has already cast his ballot in favor of the gay marriage ban.
And in Pennsylvania, where Senator Rick Santorum, the Senate’s leading Republican backer of a gay marriage ban, is fighting for his political survival, conservative advocacy groups were working furiously to revive the gay marriage debate. Pennsylvania does not have a ballot initiative.
“It’s an important wedge issue to talk about between candidates where there are two distinct viewpoints on the issue,” said Joseph Cella, president of Fidelis, a national Catholic advocacy group that has embraced Mr. Santorum for his views on abortion and gay marriage. Mr. Cella said his organization, which was also working to pass a gay marriage ban in Colorado, was contemplating an advertising campaign.
As of January 2006, 45 states had enacted some form of law — from a simple statute to a constitutional amendment — banning same-sex marriage. In addition to Virginia, Tennessee and Colorado, the states that have proposed constitutional amendments on the November ballot include Arizona, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
For conservatives, the debate brings back memories of 2004, when they rallied in opposition to a Massachusetts court ruling that same sex couples had a right to marry. The issue proved central in places like South Dakota, where Senator John Thune, a Republican, railed against activist judges in his successful campaign to oust Tom Daschle, then the Senate Democratic leader.
This year, by contrast, conservatives have felt frustrated that the debate over gay marriage and the judiciary is no longer front and center.
“I think they’ve been a little sedate,” Mr. Cella said. But in the wake of the New Jersey ruling, he said, conservatives “are really getting motivated, and this is a shot in the arm to propel that.”
Democrats, though, insist they are not concerned.
“It’s not going to be close to the issue it was in 2004,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York. “In 2004 they scared people that the court ruling in Massachusetts would just change America and families dramatically. By 2006, it’s clear that hasn’t happened, and so the scare tactic, what motivated people to go to the polls, just isn’t there.”
One place the New Jersey court ruling is not likely to have much of a political impact is, paradoxically, New Jersey, a largely Democratic state that does not have a proposed gay marriage ban on the ballot.
The Republican Senate candidate, State Senator Thomas H. Kean Jr., has been distancing himself from his party throughout the campaign, in which he has focused largely on economic issues, domestic security and alleged ethical improprieties on the part of his Democratic opponent, Senator Robert Menendez. A Kean spokeswoman said Thursday that theme is unlikely to change.
“We’re going to stick with the issues that we’ve been winning on this entire campaign,” the spokeswoman, Jill Hazelbaker, said. Gay marriage, she said, “is not an issue that he’s not talking about, or that he’s trying to avoid. But in terms of our marquee issues that we’re winning on, I don’t think it rises to an issue that’s going to define the campaign.”
Clinton Says She's 'Evolved' On Gay Marriage
Special to 365Gay.com by Paul Schindler, Gay City News
October 26, 2006 - 9:00 pm ET
(New York City) In an appearance early Wednesday evening in front of roughly three-dozen LGBT leaders, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton indicated that she would not oppose efforts by Eliot Spitzer, the odds-on favorite to become the new governor, to enact a same-sex marriage law in New York.
She also suggested that language she used when she first ran for the Senate in 2000 explaining her opposition to marriage equality based on the institution's moral, religious, and traditional foundations had not reflected the "many long conversations" she's had since with "friends" and others, and that her advocacy on LGBT issues "has certainly evolved."
On Wednesday, Clinton presented her position on marriage equality as more one of pragmatism.
"I believe in full equality of benefits, nothing left out," she said. "From my perspective there is a greater likelihood of us getting to that point in civil unions or domestic partnerships and that is my very considered assessment."
Clinton addressed a gathering organized by the Greater Voices Coalition made up of LGBT Democratic organizations citywide. Leaders of those clubs, along with out elected officials, including Democratic district leaders and state committee members, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, state Senator Tom Duane, and Assemblymembers Deborah Glick and Daniel O'Donnell, were in attendance. The meeting, which was held at the Upper East Side home of a Clinton supporter, ran for more than an hour.
Representatives of the gay press were invited to the meeting, which was on the record.
The session included both warm, enthusiastic praise for New York's junior Democratic senator and sharp questioning about her posture on marriage equality.
Quinn opened the meeting recalling a number of issues-LGBT-related and not-which she had worked with Clinton on in the 10 months since she's been the Council leader. She focused in particular on their efforts to strategize about the Senate Democrats' response to this summer's efforts by Republicans to revive a federal constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage beaten back in 2004.
"Every single time since I've been elected speaker, I ever time I've picked up the phone to ask Senator Clinton to help the LGBT community, she has said yes," Quinn said. "She's assigned staff, she's taken her own time and political capital to put in on the deal."
Ethan Geto, a long-time gay activist who described himself as an advisor to the senator on LGBT issues, introduced Clinton, addressing what he called "the elephant in the room."
"We're engaged in a dialogue with someone who has the stature, who has the credibility, the viability to be the party's standard bearer in 2008," he said. "I think when you look at Senator Clinton's record, she may not agree with us on every last policy issue, but when you look at the totality of the record, there is no one in this country who may be the president of the United States with whom we have a warmer, a stronger, a closer productive working relationship."
But once the meeting moved from introductions to questions, Clinton faced a considerably more varied reception-and, hands down, the most challenging issue she faced was marriage equality.
Doug Robinson, the co-president of the Out People of Color Political Action Club who with his partner of more than 20 years has raised two sons, spoke about the pressures his family faces in sending both to college without the benefits of marriage's economic advantages. In what began as a strong challenge to Clinton, Robinson said, "We need your support on marriage, we need you to look at that."
Yet, just as Robinson was about to yield the floor for Clinton's response, he offered her a bit of wiggle room.
"Even if you say civil marriage isn't as important as equal benefits, in my mind I don't care what you call it," he concluded. "But I need the same things that everyone does so I can sustain my family."
It was at this point that the senator stated her support for "full equality of benefits, nothing left out," before saying that civil unions offered the more certain route to that goal.
"If you go the next step and say, 'But I want what is called marriage,' you're going to have a problem."
Following up, Allen Roskoff, the president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, worked to hold Clinton's feet to the fire. Recalling a conversation he had with her during her first Senate campaign, Roskoff said, "It was right after you said that you were against same-sex marriage on moral, religious, and traditional grounds and I found that incredibly hurtful." He also criticized the senator for volunteering her support for the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, even if not asked, and for not speaking during the Senate marriage amendment debate in June regardless of the work she did behind the scenes.
Clinton offered Roskoff some consolation regarding her earlier characterizations of marriage's history as an exclusively heterosexual institution, an argument that she made in an interview with this reporter as well during the 2000 campaign.
"Obviously my friends and people who spoke to me-we've had many long conversations and I think-and which I believe-that the way that I have spoken and I have advocated has certainly evolved and I am happy to be educated and to learn as much as I can," she said.
Clinton went on to defend both DOMA and her decision not to speak during the marriage amendment debate this past June, and in fact linked the two. She said that without being able to point to the U.S. law which bars federal recognition of gay marriage and allows states to similarly refuse to acknowledge such unions from other states, many more members of Congress would have voted to amend the Constitution, especially when that effort had its first vote two years ago.
She explained that her choice not to speak on the Senate floor about the amendment this year was strategic.
"Very few Democrats spoke, because maybe you thought one way, which is that you want people out there speaking for us. We thought as-force the Republicans out there, make them look like they're trying to enshrine discrimination in the Constitution. We don't even want to dignify it."
Later in the discussion, Larry Moss, who as a Democratic state committeeman led the charge for the state party's endorsement of marriage equality, raised the issue with specific reference to politics in Albany. Noting that Spitzer, if elected governor, plans to introduce a "program bill" legalizing gay marriage as a sign of his commitment to the issue, Moss asked, "How do we keep your words from being cover for conservative Democrats who want to compromise with Eliot and say, 'Just do civil unions?'"
Clinton's response was probably the evening's most newsworthy moment.
"My position is consistent," she said. "I support states making the decision. I think that Chuck Schumer would say the same thing. And if anyone ever tried to use our words in any way, we'll review that. Because I think that it should be in the political process and people make a decision and if our governor and our Legislature support marriage in New York, I'm not going to be against that... So I feel very comfortable with being able to refute anybody who tries to pit us or pit me against Eliot."
Asked several moments later by Gary Parker, the Greater Voices leader who chaired the meeting, to clarify that point, Clinton reiterated, "I am not going to speak out against, I'm not going to oppose anything that the governor and the Legislature do."
No other issue raised during the gathering garnered the heat that marriage did. Clinton spoke passionately against what she said was the injustice, waste, and stupidity of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that has led to 10,000 discharges in the past 13 years, including some involving personnel with specialized skills such as language translation. The senator won praise from several at the meeting for her work in blocking Senate approval of a Ryan White AIDS Care Act reauthorization that would mean the loss of millions in federal dollars to New York each year.
Asked by Melissa Sklarz, a transgendered activist who is a former president of the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, if she would support the inclusion of gender identity and expression protections in the long-stalled federal employment nondiscrimination act, or ENDA, Clinton noted that the federal hate crimes measure also lacks such language, but said only, "We are very aware of that and we are raising that."
Asked about a measure authored by West Side Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler that would allow immigrant partners of Americans to gain citizenship just as foreign-born married spouses can, Clinton said movement on that awaits a comprehensive solution to the immigration issue that moves beyond the current Republican emphasis on penalties and border fences. With a Democratic Congress, Clinton said, much more is possible "and I think that will be included in it."
Only at the very end of the meeting did Clinton get around to foreign policy, the Iraq War, and what she called the Bush administration's "abuse of power."
"I think they put Nixon to shame," she said, in what was an indisputable crowd-pleaser.
Chicago Tribune Editorial
Marriage by any other name
October 27, 2006
Three years ago, Massachusetts' highest court usurped the power of the state legislature and declared that gay couples have a right to marriage. Gays in Massachusetts won, but the decision sparked a backlash around the country. In 2004, voters in 11 states approved constitutional amendments to prohibit same-sex marriage. Next month, voters in eight states will consider such amendments.
So New Jersey's Supreme Court may have had one eye on the polls and the other on politics when it narrowly ruled Wednesday that the state legislature had to provide equal treatment for gay couples, but didn't necessarily have to call it marriage.
Semantic hairsplitting? The New Jersey ruling is not nearly as sweeping as the one in Massachusetts. If New Jersey is going to recognize gay marriage, the majority said, "such change must come from the crucible of the Democratic process."
The Massachusetts ruling posed a conundrum for other states--if a gay couple married in Massachusetts moves to Nevada, must Nevada recognize the marriage? The New Jersey ruling poses no such issue for other states.
And the ruling may not require a great leap for the New Jersey legislature, which already has enacted a domestic partnership law that provides to homosexual couples many, but not all, of the rights of married couples.
There is something quirky about the New Jersey ruling. The court gave the legislature 180 days to expand the marriage statute to include same-sex couples or enact a parallel statute conferring the same rights and privileges.
That's not much time. And if the legislature misses the deadline? Well, the court didn't say what would happen then.
A third option--a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage--isn't likely to happen in New Jersey, a state whose public policy toward gays has been changing faster than it has been in most of the rest of the country.
This page has supported the idea of civil unions, which confer the rights and protections of marriage without inviting the difficult and emotional debate over whether marriage, which was a religious and social institution long before it was a legal contract, can or should be redefined. Such decisions are best left in the hands of state legislatures--not decided at the federal level and not by judges, who are supposed to interpret laws, not make them.
State statute in New Jersey didn't necessarily help the judges there. State law there broadly and explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. But state law also limits marriage to heterosexual couples.
So the court had to find its way through seemingly conflicting statutes. The court found that the equal protection clause of the state constitution provides broader rights than those now provided by law, but didn't upend the law's definition of marriage.
As legal hairsplitting goes, the decision in New Jersey was pretty deft.
"Plaintiffs' quest does not end here," the majority said. "They must now appeal to their fellow citizens, whose voices are heard through their popularly elected representatives." As it should be.
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