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Posted on Tue, Dec. 05, 2006
Lockyer joins call for ruling on ban
ATTORNEY GENERAL WANTS FINAL DECISION ON GAY MARRIAGE
By Howard Mintz
San Jose Mercury News
Attorney General Bill Lockyer Monday asked the California Supreme Court to review the legal challenge to the state's ban on gay marriage, despite having successfully defended the law in a lower court.
In announcing his decision, Lockyer stressed the importance of having the top court in California decide the contentious issue because it is of ``extreme importance and interest.''
``The legality of same-sex marriage remains an issue of direct, personal importance to same-sex couples and their families,'' Lockyer's brief states. ``Like all Californians, these couples rightly expect the final resolution of this controversy to come from the state's highest court.''
A state appeals court, in a 2-1 ruling, in October upheld a California law that restricts marriage to a union between a man and a woman, the latest chapter in a legal battle that began in February 2004. San Francisco city officials, same-sex couples and civil rights groups have challenged the ban, arguing that it is unconstitutional and discriminates based on sexual orientation.
Lockyer, who personally does not oppose gay marriage, has been defending the state law in the courts, along with organizations aligned against same-sex marriage. Lockyer has argued in court that California's domestic partner provisions offer the same legal protections as the marriage laws.
San Francisco officials and civil rights lawyers last month asked the Supreme Court to hear the case. Lockyer, who will be replaced as attorney general in January by Jerry Brown, has now joined in that legal move.
Legal experts expect the Supreme Court to review the appeals court ruling, particularly because the justices invited the current legal challenge at an earlier stage in the gay marriage proceedings.
Gay Marriage Bill Introduced In Calif. As AG Asks High Court To Take Appeal
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: December 4, 2006 9:00 pm ET
(Sacramento, California) The new California legislature was sworn in on Monday with Democrats continuing to hold majorities in both houses - 48-32 in the Assembly, and 25-15 in the Senate.
The first order of business was the reintroduction legislation by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) to allow same-sex couples to marry in California. While that was was occurring in Sacramento lawyers for Attorney General Bill Lockyer were in San Francisco filing a brief asking the Supreme Court to take up the issue of gay marriage.
Leno's bill, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act is is identical to a bill passed last year in both the Assembly and Senate but vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
It would amend the Family Code to define marriage as a civil contract between two persons instead of a civil contract between a man and a woman, and again reaffirms that no religious institution would be required to solemnize marriages contrary to its fundamental beliefs.
Leno's bill will be heard in policy and fiscal committees in the Assembly and Senate beginning early 2007.
The governor's office did not say Monday if it would again veto the bill should it pass both houses. When Schwarzenegger voted the bill last year he said the issue of same-sex marriage should be left up the courts or a plebiscite. (story)
Attorneys for same-sex couples filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court last month asking the justices to overturn a lower court ruling that upheld the California ban on gay marriage. (story)
The lawsuit wraps together three separate cases that arose after San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2004 began allowing marriage licenses to be issued to same-sex couples.
In March 2005 Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer ruled that the law denying same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. (story)
Kramer stayed his ruling while the state appealed. In October the California Court of Appeal in a split decision overturned his ruling.
The Supreme Court has until February 14, Valentine's day to decide whether to hear the case.
Although it is unusual for the Attorney General to request Supreme Court review of a case he won at the Court of Appeal, Lockyer, a Democrat, has consistently stated that a ruling from the high court is necessary because it is an issue of extreme importance and interest, and a conclusive resolution on the constitutionality of state law should be provided by the court.
"(T)he legality of same-sex marriage remains an issue of direct, personal importance to same-sex couples and their families," Lockyer's brief said.
"As this Court previously noted, the decision by San Francisco officials to authorize, perform and register thousands of same-sex marriages 'created an unusual, perhaps unprecedented, set of circumstances.' Those couples married in San Francisco have since seen their marriages invalidated and waited as the superior court and the court of appeal reached opposite conclusions about whether the State is constitutionally compelled to authorize same-sex marriages. Like all Californians, these couples rightly expect the final resolution of this controversy to come from the State's highest court."
This is not the first time Lockyer has sought California Supreme Court review on this issue.
Nearly three years ago, in response to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision to recognize same-sex marriages in that city, Lockyer asked the court not only to rule on whether Newsom had the legal authority to act as he did, but also to rule upon the constitutionality of the state's opposite-sex marriage laws.
The Supreme Court held that Newsom lacked the power to recognize same-sex marriages, but declined to rule on the constitutionality of state law, instead referring the question to the trial court level for review.
性意識調査：高校生向け初の調査、県教委「悪影響」と協力拒否 (毎日・栃木版 2006/12/05)
Last Updated: Monday, 4 December 2006, 13:11 GMT
Gay 'weddings' top 15,500 in UK
More than 15,500 gay and lesbian couples united in civil partnerships in the first nine months after new laws were brought in the UK.
There were 15,672 partnerships between December 2005 and September 2006, the Office for National Statistics said.
There were 14,084 partnerships in England, 537 in Wales, 942 in Scotland and 109 in Northern Ireland.
Almost 2,000 partnerships took place last December when the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force.
The act gives same-sex couples rights in areas such as employment and pensions, but the partnerships are not officially regarded as marriages.
On average, 1,621 partnerships took place each month between January and March and this fell to 1,498 between July and September, said the ONS.
England staged 84% of all ceremonies while Northern Ireland held just 1%. London hosted 25% of partnerships in the nine months after December 2005.
More men have so far chosen civil partnerships, making up 62% of partnerships in England, 57% in Scotland, 56% in Northern Ireland and 51% in Wales.
However, the ONS said the ratio between men and women appeared to be changing.
"The gap between the proportion of male and female partnerships in England and Scotland appears to be reducing over time," the ONS said.
In London, there were around three times as many male partnerships as female partnerships.
Meanwhile, Peter Tatchell, of campaign group OutRage, has called on Chancellor Gordon Brown to protect the benefit rights of gays and lesbians in his pre-Budget report on Wednesday.
He claims rule changes introduced when the Partnership Act became law has resulted in the removal of social security benefits from thousands of same-sex partners who have not taken out a civil partnership, including those who plan not to.
Mr Tatchell wants benefit claimants in cohabiting same-sex relationships to be given transitional financial protection.
South Africa dispatch
Out in Africa
Two game rangers in South Africa have become the first gay couple in the continent to get married, writes Andrew Meldrum
Monday December 4, 2006
The grooms wore khakis and leather boots. Two game rangers, Vernon Gibbs and Tony Halls, became the first same-sex couple to legally wed in South Africa on December 1, a day after President Thabo Mbeki's government authorised gay marriages.
South Africa is the first country in Africa and the fifth country in the world to legalise same-sex marriages.
Gibbs and Halls tied the knot at 11 am on Friday, another same-sex couple married at 1 pm, and several other "pink weddings" took place over the following days in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The Rev Paul Mokgethi, of the Hope and Unity Metropolitan Community Church in Johannesburg, presided over a gay wedding on December 2. He said he was pleased at all the news coverage of the same-sex marriages as this would help to educate people, making them more tolerant of homosexuality.
"We had a wonderful wedding. It was very emotional for us," Gibbs told Guardian Unlimited. "South Africa has the most progressive constitution in the world, which protects all people against discrimination. No gay could wish for a better constitution."
Gibbs, 38, and Halls, 51, run a guest lodge and animal rehabilitation centre in Riversdal, near the tourist centre of George, on the southwestern coast of South Africa. Halls is British, and the couple first pledged loyalty to each other nine years ago in London, though that union was not legally recognised as a marriage.
"As soon as it became legal in South Africa, we wanted to get married, and we got a booking at the home affairs office in George," said Gibbs. "We are so pleased we did it on December 1, World Aids Day. We dedicate our marriage to all HIV/Aids sufferers and gay people who have experienced discrimination."
"We did not have a very romantic wedding night because we have two baby bat-eared foxes that kept us up all night wanting to be fed and cuddled. And then someone brought in a black eagle with a broken wing and we had to take care of that. Black eagles are highly endangered and very beautiful. It's been very hectic."
Many businesses hope to cash in on the same-sex marriage celebrations. The Sheraton hotel in Pretoria, in the shadow of the government's administrative offices, the Union Buildings, has already advertised to host special gay wedding functions. A prominent jeweller in Cape Town offered a free pair of custom wedding bands, worth 20,000 rand (£1,400) to the first couple. And quick to pick up on the legalisation, one of South Africa's most popular television soap operas, Isidingo, will feature a gay marriage this week.
"When people see something on a daily basis on TV and in the media, we know how powerful it is: they get used to it and see it as something normal," said Thuli Madi, director of the gay advocacy group Behind the Mask.
Despite the new law new, which gives same-sex couples the right to marry legally, many South Africans still oppose gay marriage and homosexuality. Conservative churches have vocally stated their opposition to the marriages, and many traditional groups denounce homosexuality as "un-African". And gay men and lesbians often face violence in Soweto and other townships across South Africa.
Many members of parliament of the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), have voiced their disapproval, but the bill was passed because Mr Mbeki and other party leaders pressed all members to vote in favour of the legislation.
The ANC said the party must support the country's constitution, which was the first in the world to specifically prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Many gays and lesbians had supported the struggle against apartheid.
In contrast, many African countries make homosexuality a crime carrying severe punishments. Even in South Africa, Gibbs and Halls have had a difficult time. Their guest lodge, Arendehoogte, which means Eagle Heights in Afrikaans, was publicly vilified by the local Dutch Reformed church, which objected to the couple welcoming gay tourists. The lodge was vandalised five times.
Gibbs and Halls pressed a lawsuit in the constitutional court. Last year they won a public apology from the church, and the harassment ended.
"Since then we have not had any trouble," said Gibbs. "After our marriage, Tony and I walked into the supermarket and I held my head up high and proud. People greeted us. They did not congratulate us on our marriage, but they acknowledged us just the same."
Gibbs said the advantages of being married included greater legal protection and better medical aid and pension benefits. But for him, marriage is about much more. "Marriage means a lifetime commitment. It means to cherish, obey, love, honour. It means through sickness and health," said Gibbs. "All those relevant words I never thought would be for me. And now they are."
The Los Angeles Times
Global warming to gay rights
The worldwide trend of recognizing same-sex marriage will likely continue.
By Paula L. Ettelbrick, PAULA L. ETTELBRICK is the executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
December 4, 2006
WHILE STATE after state in the U.S. closes its doors to the prospect of same-sex marriage, lesbian and gay relationships have been gaining acceptance in the rest of the world.
Last month, South Africa joined the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada and Spain in opening civil marriage to same-sex couples, allowing them equal economic benefits, legal rights and social status as families. The law, passed by an astounding 230-41 margin in Parliament, was in response to an equally notable unanimous decision last year by the South African Constitutional Court. It ruled that the post-apartheid constitution ensures the dignity and equality of all people — and that includes lesbian and gay couples wishing to affirm their love and commitment through civil marriage.
Days afterward, when faced with five Israeli lesbian and gay couples who had married in Canada, Israel's Supreme Court ruled that the government is required to officially register them as they would any other foreign marriage.
In the U.S., only Massachusetts has enacted full marriage for same-sex couples. Vermont, Connecticut and California have elected to use the less inflammatory terms civil union" or "domestic partnership," and New Jersey is still hashing out its terminology. The majority of the states have laws or constitutional amendments restricting "marriage" to one woman and one man.
Denmark in 1989 became the first nation to legally recognize same-sex relationships, and Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland swiftly followed that lead. Much of Europe, including France, Germany, Portugal and Hungary, now recognizes same-sex partnerships for a range of purposes, including inheritance, property and social-benefits rights. Countries in formerly communist blocs — the Czech Republic and Slovenia — recognize partnerships, and Croatia has extended some economic benefits to same-sex couples.
In September, the Senate in Uruguay voted 25 to 2 to pass a broad partnership law, positioning that country to be the first Latin American nation to extend legal rights when it is passed by the full legislature. New Zealand's and Australia's domestic partnership laws allow some of the most important benefits, such as immigration, inheritance and property rights. The government in Taiwan suggested a bill allowing same-sex marriage, though nothing has yet come of it. In Brazil, Argentina, Italy and Switzerland, some economic and legal rights have been extended by city and regional authorities. Just last month, Mexico City broke ground as the first government entity in that country to recognize same-sex civil unions.
These developments clearly mean that the number of same-sex couples whose relationships are legally valid is on the rise. By the end of the decade, it is possible that hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples will have entered legal marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships.
When Britain's domestic partnership registration law went into effect last December, government ministers predicted that between 11,000 and 22,000 couples would benefit from the law by 2010. More than 6,500 same-sex couples registered just in the first year.
About 12,000 Canadian, 7,000 Dutch, 2,500 Belgian and 1,300 Spanish same-sex couples are already married.
These unions are already having ripple effects around the globe. In Ireland, a lesbian couple is asking the government to recognize their Canadian marriage. A court in the Caribbean country of Aruba ruled that the Dutch marriage of a lesbian couple must be registered in Aruba, which is part of the kingdom of the Netherlands.
How this trend will play out in countries that have not yet recognized same-sex relationships is still up in the air. Will the United States, for instance, accommodate a major corporation's desire to have one of its top executives from Canada move here with her legal spouse? Or a domestic-partnered diplomat from New Zealand? Or an American lucky enough to find the man of his dreams while working in South Africa? Will Sir Elton John's highly publicized civil union with longtime partner David Furnish be recognized by a hospital emergency room in Las Vegas or St. Louis or Salt Lake City should one of them fall ill on a concert tour?
TO BE SURE, the backlash prompted by increased gay and lesbian visibility, whether through marriage or other demands for equality, has been fierce. South Africa's decision has drawn angry responses from religious and community leaders. Angry crowds in Moscow last May jeered a few dozen lesbian and gay marchers and demanded that Russia be cleansed of the evils of homosexuality. Likewise, an international gay pride event in Jerusalem had to be held in a stadium — instead of as a parade — because of threats and lobbying from ultra-Orthodox Jews and some Muslim and Christian groups.
Gay communities haven't even raised the issue of marriage in Latvia, Uganda and Honduras — where police violence and state discrimination are still standard practice. Yet the governments of those countries have gone out of their way to promote anti-gay hostility by outlawing same-sex marriage.
In Nigeria, a bill awaiting legislative action would impose criminal penalties for engaging in or performing a marriage ceremony for two men or two women.
In the United States, President Bush has consistently pushed the radical measure of amending the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, as has Australia's prime minister, John Howard.
Despite the backlash, one fact is self-evident. The trend toward recognizing the dignity and love of two people of the same sex will not disappear. As barriers to same-sex couples fall, courts, legislatures, religious denominations and businesses everywhere will need to respond.
As Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero proclaimed when his newly elected reform government approved same-sex marriage in 2005: "We are not the first, but I am sure we will not be the last. After us will come many other countries, driven, ladies and gentlemen, by two unstoppable forces: freedom and equality."