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Gays take marriage case to Connecticut's top court
By Av HarrisWed Nov 22, 4:47 PM ET
Eight gay and lesbian couples seeking the right to marry in Connecticut appealed to the state's highest court on Wednesday, arguing that a ban on gay marriage violates their constitutional rights.
"These couples are all seeking to end discrimination in marriage," said Ben Klein, a senior attorney at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, which filed the brief challenging a lower court's decision in March.
The eight couples had sued the state in August 2004 after they were denied marriage licenses.
But Superior Court Judge Patty Jenkins Pittman dismissed the case in March, saying the couples already received equal rights when Connecticut last year became the second state after Vermont to legalize same-sex civil unions.
The brief filed on Wednesday claims that Connecticut's refusal to allow same-sex couples to marry violates their constitutional rights to equal protection to all citizens.
"These couples have the same capacity for relationships, many of them are raising children. They need the protections of marriage that other couples need," Klein told Reuters.
It's unclear if the state Supreme Court will hear the case. The state's attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, is expected to file a legal brief with the court on the state's behalf within the next month.
The eight Connecticut couples have been together between nine and 31 years. Combined, they are raising a total 14 children, according to the legal brief.
Same-sex marriage has been dividing Americans at least since 2003, when Massachusetts' highest court ruled it was unconstitutional to ban gay marriage, leading to the country's first same-sex marriages in May 2004.
Seven U.S. states voted in this month's mid-term elections to limit marriage to a man and a woman in ballot initiatives, effectively banning gay marriage.
Last month, New Jersey's Supreme Court guaranteed gay couples the same rights as married heterosexuals but left it to lawmakers to decide what to call the unions.
US: Same-sex divorce raises new questions for states
Ruling a victory for Israel's gays
Unions from abroad must be registered
November 22, 2006
JERUSALEM -- The Israeli Supreme Court touched off fresh controversy over gay rights Tuesday when it ordered the government to register same-sex marriages of couples who wed abroad.
The ruling by a seven-judge panel, though limited in scope, reignited a debate over the rights of homosexuals in Israel after ultra-Orthodox religious leaders led protests against a gay pride parade planned in Jerusalem earlier this month.
The 6-1 decision was hailed by rights advocates as a political advance for homosexuals, who have won previous court decisions granting them broader rights in areas such as survivor benefits and inheritance. It also was cheered by those who support legalizing civil marriages in Israel, where only religious ceremonies are allowed.
"I am glad we won and got what we wanted, ... which was the basic right to be registered as married by the Israeli Ministry of Interior, just as any couple marrying abroad does and takes it for granted," Joseph Bar Lev, 39, who was one of the petitioners, told Israel Radio. "The real aspiration is that civil marriage will be possible in Israel too."
The ruling did not legalize same-sex weddings in Israel, where religious authorities by law hold a monopoly on authorizing marriages and divorces.
Activists said being registered as married could help gay spouses gain the right to make decisions about medical care for their partners.
Also Tuesday, the Israeli military launched a three-pronged offensive in the northern Gaza Strip, killing a top Hamas commander in its latest operation against Palestinian rocket squads.
Militants launched five homemade projectiles, including three that landed in southern Israel. One critically wounded a man in Sderot, striking the ground a half-mile from a convoy carrying the United Nations' top human-rights official, who was touring the town.
Ground troops backed by helicopters, tanks and snipers surrounded the Gaza City home of Ayman Hassanin, 26, a local leader in the military wing of the ruling Hamas group, witnesses said.
A fierce gun battle erupted, and Hassanin was killed, Hamas said. A 70-year-old woman also was killed in the battle, Palestinian medical officials said.
Also, a team of UN investigators has concluded that Israel engaged in "a significant pattern of excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate force" against Lebanese civilians that amounted to "a flagrant violation" of international law during its war against Hezbollah last summer.
"Cumulatively, the deliberate and lethal attacks" by the Israeli defense forces against civilians and infrastructure "amounted to collective punishment," the investigators, who were appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, wrote in a draft report published Tuesday.
Web posted at: 17:01 JST
Same-sex divorce raises new questions for states
POSTED: 4:10 p.m. EST, November 22, 2006
PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (AP) -- A lesbian couple married in Massachusetts has filed for divorce in Rhode Island, setting up a legal conundrum for judges in a state where the laws are silent on the legality of same-sex marriage.
Margaret Chambers and Cassandra Ormiston of Providence were married after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalized gay marriage starting in 2004.
They filed for divorce in Rhode Island on October 23, citing irreconcilable differences, Chambers' attorney, Louis Pulner, said Wednesday. Ormiston declined to comment.
Rhode Island Family Court Chief Judge Jeremiah Jeremiah Jr. has yet to decide whether his court has jurisdiction and said he believes it is the first filing for a same-sex divorce in the state. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for December 5.
Massachusetts became the only state to allow same-sex couples to marry after the state Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to ban it.
Until recently, though, it was up in the air whether out-of-state couples could marry in Massachusetts. In September, a Massachusetts judge decided that nothing in Rhode Island law specifically banned gay marriage and said Rhode Island couples could legally marry there.
"Now the ultimate question is whether the state will recognize or determine whether it has jurisdiction to handle an out-of-state divorce when we don't have any case law that accepts or rejects same-sex marriage," Pulner said.
Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch said it is up to the courts and legislature to decide whether the state recognizes same-sex unions.
Massachusetts remains the only state to allow gay marriage. New Jersey's high court ruled in October that that state, too, must offer gay couples the same rights as married couples, but it left it to lawmakers to decide by April whether to call the unions "marriages."
Two other states have civil unions that extend marriage-like rights to same-sex couples -- Vermont in accordance with a court order and Connecticut through a vote of its legislature.
In Connecticut, attorneys for eight gay couples filed an appeal Wednesday with the Supreme Court in a case arguing that the 2005 decision there to legalize same-sex civil unions rather than marriage violates the couples' basic constitutional rights. The lawsuit, dismissed by a lower court in March, says civil unions are inferior in status to marriage.
千葉県市川市の快挙に応援を ──フェミ条例への抜本的改正案提出 !
著者: 鈴木 透
価格: ￥ 882
毎日新聞 2006年11月19日 東京朝刊
―― ヴィルヘルム2世からナチスへ ――
■定価 2,625円（本体 2,500円 + 税5%）
Web posted at: 18:09 JST
Israel orders gay marriage recognition
By STEVE WEIZMAN, Associated Press Writer
Tue Nov 21, 10:37 AM ET
In a landmark ruling, Israel's Supreme Court ordered the government Tuesday to recognize same-sex marriages performed abroad.
The lone dissenter on the seven-judge panel was an observant Jew, highlighting the controversy the decision immediately touched off among ultra-Orthodox Jews and other conservative groups in Israel.
Efforts by Israel's gay community to win approval for same-sex marriage, a key issue in the U.S. and Europe, face a major obstacle because Israel's religious authorities have a monopoly over marriage and divorce.
Yossi Ben-Ari and Laurent Schuman were married in Canada after that country legalized same-sex marriage in 2003. Determined after a 21-year partnership to enjoy all the privileges of a married couple in Israel, they were among five couples who petitioned the Supreme Court to have their marriage registered here, too.
"We're delighted, but the struggle is not over," Ben-Ari said.
Moshe Negbi, a legal expert, said the court's decision is mostly symbolic because gay couples in Israel already had many of the rights of heterosexual partnerships. The significant changes are that they will now get the same tax breaks as a married couple and be able to adopt children, Negbi said.
Israeli law stipulates a couple must be married to adopt a child.
"The marriages of same-sex couples who marry in places like Canada where the law recognizes such marriages, will also be recognized in Israel, and they will be registered as married here," Negbi said.
Civil marriages cannot be performed in Israel because of the rabbinate's monopoly on family law. But couples married in civil ceremonies abroad have all the rights of a married couple, and their marriages are registered here. The court uses the term "register" instead of "recognition" to avoid religious criticism of the ruling, Negbi said.
"The court says that now, not only heterosexuals, but homosexuals, too, can have civil marriages," Negbi added.
The word game did not pacify the ultra-Orthodox community, which was infuriated by the ruling.
"We don't have a Jewish state here. We have Sodom and Gomorrah here," said Moshe Gafni, an ultra-Orthodox lawmaker.
"I assume that every sane person in the state of Israel, possibly the entire Jewish world, is shocked, because the significance is ... the destruction of the family unit in the state of Israel," Gafni told Israel's Army Radio.
Gafni said he would consider presenting a bill to parliament that would bypass Tuesday's ruling and make recognition of all same-sex marriages illegal.
Animosity toward gays and lesbians is one of the few issues that unites Jews, Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land. They have jointly come out against gay parades in the city, and are all likely to oppose the Supreme Court ruling.
Earlier this month, a planned gay parade in Jerusalem set off days of violence in the city's ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. Protesters burned trash bins and hurled stones at police, demanding the parade be canceled or moved to secular Tel Aviv.
In the end, Jerusalem's gay community moved the event to a stadium on a university campus in Jerusalem, quelling the threats of violence and allowing 4,000 people to celebrate peacefully.
Last year, an ultra-Orthodox man stabbed and wounded three participants at Jerusalem's gay parade.
Still, many cities in Israel have thriving gay scenes. And the Israeli military, an influential and respected institution, is banned from discriminating against gays. Homosexuals are drafted into the army for mandatory service and are given the opportunity to progress up the ranks.
Court says Israel must register same-sex marriages
The ruling, which affects those wed abroad, reignites a debate over gay rights.
By Ken Ellingwood
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 22, 2006
JERUSALEM — The Israeli Supreme Court touched off a fresh controversy over gay rights Tuesday when it ordered the government to register same-sex marriages performed abroad.
The ruling by a seven-judge panel, though limited in scope, reignited a debate over the rights of homosexuals in Israel after ultra-Orthodox religious leaders led protests that resulted in the cancellation of a gay pride parade this month in Jerusalem.
The 6-1 decision was praised by rights advocates as a political advance for gays and lesbians, who have won previous court decisions granting them broader rights in survivor benefits and inheritance. It also was cheered by those who support legalizing civil marriages in Israel, where only religious ceremonies are allowed.
"I am glad we won and got what we wanted to achieve in this petition, which was the basic right to be registered as married by the Israeli Ministry of Interior, just as any couple marrying abroad does and takes it for granted," Joseph Bar Lev, a 39-year-old dance instructor who was one of the petitioners, told Israel Radio.
"At the same time, this is still the beginning of the road, because the real aspiration is that civil marriage will be possible in Israel too."
The ruling did not legalize same-sex weddings in Israel, where religious authorities by law hold a monopoly on authorizing marriages and divorces.
"We hope that one day any couple who wants to marry in Israel, whether homosexual or heterosexual, will be able to do it," said Yoav Loeff, spokesman for the Assn. for Civil Rights in Israel, which represented two of the five gay couples in the case.
The male couples had wed in Canada, but when they returned to Israel, the Interior Ministry refused to change their marital status from single to married.
The ministry said same-sex marriages were not legally valid in Israel and could not be listed in the government's registry. In its ruling Tuesday, the court ordered the government to register same-sex marriages that are legal abroad.
Activists said that being registered as married could help gay spouses assert the right to decide about medical care for their partners and make it easier for a spouse to gain Israeli citizenship.
Religious conservatives criticized the decision as an erosion of Israel's status as a Jewish state and said it undermined moral teachings.
Some conservatives urged the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, to examine the possible effect on Israeli society.
"This ruling is nothing short of idolatry," Zevulun Orlev, a Knesset member from the National Religious Party, said on Israel's Channel 10 television. "Only 10 days ago we read the weekly Torah portion about Sodom and Gomorrah. How exactly does this ruling reconcile with Israel being a Jewish state? What culture considers people of the same sex to be a family? Not the Jewish one."
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish religious leaders, joined by some Muslim and Christian clerics, protested the gay pride parade as an affront to Jerusalem's sacred standing. For days, protesters rioted, set fires in the streets and vowed to block the gathering.
In the end, parade organizers agreed to hold their rally in a stadium after police expressed concern about their ability to protect marchers. The event proceeded peacefully with a large police presence.
Secular Israelis have long complained about the broad authority wielded by the country's leading Orthodox rabbis. Many couples travel overseas to marry in civil ceremonies, a practice that has spawned a matrimonial cottage industry in the nearby island nation of Cyprus.
The issue of civil marriage is important among emigres from the former Soviet Union, many of whom are not Jewish or can't prove their heritage to the satisfaction of rabbinical authorities in Israel. Several candidates in national elections last spring promised Russian voters that they would try to make it easier for them to marry in Israel, though no reforms have been passed.
The lawyers in the same-sex marriage case cited as a precedent a Supreme Court decision from the 1960s that ordered the government to register civil marriages performed abroad, Loeff said.
Religious liberals said the ruling could help them cut into the clout held by rabbinical leaders in matters of marriage and divorce, as well as in conversions to Judaism.
Members of conservative and reform strains of Judaism have sought for years to have non-Orthodox conversions recognized by Israel's top rabbis.
Although the groups have made inroads in getting official recognition for non-Orthodox conversions done abroad, they are awaiting a court ruling on similar recognition for conversions carried out in Israel.
"The Supreme Court of Israel is the grand hope all liberal Jews have" to check the power of the Orthodox leaders, said Anat Hoffman, a former member of the Jerusalem City Council who directs the Israel Religious Action Center, which advocates religious pluralism in Israel.
Hoffman campaigned in support of the gay pride parade, and said she was appalled by the tone of the protests by religious leaders from all three major faiths.
She said the court's ruling simply recognized the legality of same-sex marriages granted by countries that allowed them.
"If the Canadians recognize these people as a family," Hoffman said, "we can't turn around and say that Israel, as a member of the family of nations, does not."
Being transgender no longer about surgery in NY
By Daniel Trotta
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Jay Kallio knew at age 4. For Justine Nicholas, the revelation came in kindergarten. Nature had dealt them a confusing anatomy. The genders they were assigned at birth were all wrong.
Now New York City is helping transgender people assume their true identities, proposing changes in the law so they can change the sex on their birth certificates without sex reassignment surgery.
As adults, Jay and Justine have made the transition and live as the other sex, but Jay cannot have the operation for medical reasons. Justine wants to have hers in two years.
The change will allow transgender people to acquire identity documents such as passports that match the way they live. Perhaps just as importantly, official recognition can help a small, stigmatized minority achieve personal and public acceptance.
The proposal goes before the board of health in December.
"I recall being 4 years old and having a profound conviction that some terrible mistake had happened at my birth. I always felt I was a boy," said Jay, 51, who was born female with the name Joy but has been living full-time as a man -- Jay -- since January.
"I wanted to grow up to be a man. It was probably my first prayer: God, if I'm good enough, will you make me into a boy," said Jay, a freelance medical writer and auxiliary officer with the New York Police Department.
Transgender people have discovered they may need only hormone treatments or nothing at all to live in their acquired gender. Many dislike the psychological term gender identity disorder because it suggests something is wrong. Others simply cannot afford a sex-change operation.
"In kindergarten, when we were divided into boys and girls, I got on the girls' line. I said, 'This is where I belong,"' said Justine, 48, who has been living as a woman for four years.
"Those of us who are transgender feel like we're being dishonest when we are living as the gender we were assigned at birth," the college English teacher said.
THE POLITICS OF IDENTITY
Jay and Justine, who are acquaintances, would not be directly affected by the law because they were born outside New York City. But they say their stories show why the law is needed.
Justine once interviewed for a job as a woman and was asked to show identification. She pretended not to have any and promised to bring it back later. She never did. Later she decided to interview as a man, found a job at a city university, and transitioned to a woman between semesters.
Experts have no idea what percentage of the population is transgender, though it is generally regarded as below 1 percent.
"We get this question all the time as if it's OK for the government to discriminate because there are so few of them," said Paisley Currah, a transgender man who served on the city's panel of experts that helped draft the proposal.
"How small a group is shouldn't be a rationale for allowing them to be treated badly," Currah said.
Eight states plus 93 local jurisdictions have transgender anti-discrimination laws, and it is commonly remarked that the state of transgender rights is where gay and lesbian rights were 30 years ago.
The law on the books in New York City since 1971 requires "convertive" surgery before a transgender person born in the city can have his or her birth certificate changed, and even then the newly issued document omits a gender designation.
That was a breakthrough for transgender rights in 1971 but now is widely seen as out of date.
WHAT IS TRANSGENDER?
Transgender is an expansive term that can include anyone from cross-dressers to those have who have had gender reassignment surgery to anyone in between, such as "gender queers," the preferred term for young, androgynous people.
Not surprisingly, the proposed change in the New York law has been controversial. Transgender advocates say it imposes too many restrictions, such as requiring the person to change his or her name in order to receive a new birth certificate. Opponents are concerned about the possibilities for fraud.
"It could be a better policy in an ideal world but it's the best in the country," said Currah, who kept his given name Paisley after making the transition from woman to man.
Others say the law merely brings New York City up to date while transgender people in most of the country remain victims of discrimination, often subject to violence.
Said Justine: "I may not live to see such a society where we are completely equal."
Advocates expect Democrats to avoid culture wars
Posted 11/21/2006 9:55 PM ET
By Andrea Stone, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Advocates for abortion rights, gun control and gay rights say they are thrilled by the Democratic takeover of Congress. Even so, they admit their issues aren't likely to be addressed early — or at all — during the legislative session that begins in January.
"I'm aware of political reality when you're coming up to a presidential election," says Caroline Fredrickson, Washington legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union. "I'm afraid (Democrats will) be a little too cautious."
Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who headed the Democratic campaign committee and is part of the leadership team setting the agenda for the upcoming term, says his party was "very clear" on its priorities: The Iraq war, ethics reform, health care, jobs and other economic concerns will come first.
That's not likely to deter liberal bloggers and groups such as MoveOn.org, says University of California-Berkeley political scientist Bruce Cain. Those groups will "keep the heat on," Cain says. He predicts they'll have little success. "The Democratic leadership will completely stifle" debate on issues that could hurt chances to retain the majority or take the White House in 2008, he says.
Vanderbilt University political scientist Bruce Oppenheimer agrees. "I do not expect either the Democratic House or Senate leadership to bring up things that are going to force members to take tough votes."
Many Democrats still recall 1993, when Bill Clinton, the first Democratic president in 12 years, tried to make good on a campaign vow to allow gays to serve openly in the military. Republicans seized upon the issue, forcing Clinton's compromise, the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The next year, Republicans gained control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.
Among the liberal causes likely on hold:
•Abortion rights. Although she picked up 22 allies in the House and three in the Senate, Nancy Keenan of NARAL Pro-Choice America says federal efforts to reduce unintended pregnancies by promoting sex education and making contraceptives more available must wait. "We have some bigger issues to be dealt with early on," she says.
•Gun control: Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, says he has seen a list of the top 100 Democratic priorities; reinstating the now-expired ban on military-style assault weapons is "in the 90s." At least, he says, conservatives can't weaken gun control laws.
•Gay rights. David Smith of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy group, expects Democrats to push legislation to bar workplace discrimination against gays and amend the federal hate crimes law to include sexual orientation. Still, he says, those changes won't come until "much later" in the session.
"If champagne corks are popping from our perspective, it's because we're not going to be attacked," Smith says. Otherwise, "It's a much more measured can of Budweiser that's being popped."
New magazine says 'yes' to bringing gay industry out of the closet (Mainichi Daily News 2006/11/22)
In Japan, homosexuality is either the, well, butt of jokes, or shoved under the mat as though it doesn't exist. But a group of same-sex editors have been trying to change all that with a new magazine that's radical by Japanese standards, according to AERA (11/27).
The editors of "yes" -- a magazine for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders, or collectively LGBTs -- are trying to bring homosexuality out of the closet and into the mainstream.
"We're using LGBTs' voices as a base to move a sleeping market out into the open," yes's manager Nobuko Mochizuki, a lesbian, tells AERA.
The magazine features plenty of information about LGBTs' lifestyles overseas and shuns anything even remotely pornographic. Among the topics it has recently picked up are pieces about a gay cable channel in the U.S. and same-sex marriages in Britain.
Zero Tomi, the magazine's gay managing editor, says he realized the potential in Japan's gay market over a decade ago. It was after a trip to San Francisco, where a convention for gay travelers was being held at a posh hotel with some of the biggest names in the travel business fighting hard to attract the gay and lesbian dollar. The interest the corporate world showed in homosexuals gave Tomi the yen to develop such an atmosphere in his homeland.
"I vowed that one day we'd see similar scenes in Japan," he tells AERA.
The LGBT market in the U.S. is enormous, with AERA saying that estimates put it as large as 600 billion dollars. What's more, the LGBT market is made up largely of well-educated people who have plenty of disposable income and who are known for their brand loyalty.
But Japan's LGBT market has, until recently, been almost non-existent.
"Nobody even thought of spicing it up," Tomi says.
Tomi sparked the development of "yes" with the support of Tower Records. In the autumn of 2004, he visited the company wearing a miniskirt made out of the company's yellow plastic bags. He reminded Tower's president, Hiroyuki Yoshitani, how the record company had long been regarded as gay friendly after it set aside a corner of its flagship Shinjuku store for gay-related products back in the mid-'90s, and asked for help in creating a magazine for the homosexual community in Japan. Yoshitani agreed, but the magazine has struggled, with 80 percent of its targeted advertisers in the automobile, apparel and cosmetics industries deciding not to advertise with them.
But the homosexuals are undeterred, saying that "yes" has a valuable role to play.
"'yes' is a way for the sexually discriminated to show regular society what the sexually discriminated really are all about and let them know that it's an interesting lifestyle," Yuji Kitamaru, a U.S. resident gay journalist who has worked on the magazine since its inception, tells AERA. "We want to transform heterosexual society. And we hope this magazine will be one way of doing that." (By Ryann Connell)
November 22, 2006