Friday, February 26, 2010

Gay Man Ordained in Presbyterian Church (USA)

The LaCrosse Tribune (Madison, WI) is reporting that a regional governing body of the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country has voted to ordain a gay Madison man with a long-term partner, bucking national church policy that bars gays and lesbians in open relationships from the ministry and perhaps setting a precedent.

The decision Saturday in Madison by the John Knox Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is expected to have a nationwide effect and be challenged by opponents.

Members of the presbytery — which encompasses parts of Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, including churches in La Crosse and Winona, Minn. — voted 81 to 25 to ordain Scott Anderson, 54. Anderson said he’s been in a committed relationship with a man for 19 years.

“Some will proclaim this decision the best thing in the world and others will say the church is dying,” the Rev. Alex Thornburg of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Madison said, adding he voted for ordination. “It will have its drama around it.”

National church policy requires married candidates for ordination to take a vow of fidelity and single candidates — gay or straight — to take a vow of chastity.

However, the church does allow candidates for ordination to file an objection to a rule based on conscience. The presbytery then must decide the seriousness of the candidate’s departures from official teaching, said the Rev. Ken Meunier, executive director of the John Knox Presbytery.

In Anderson’s case, a majority of the presbytery decided his relationship status did not undermine essentials of church doctrine and his departures from official teaching “were not serious enough to overshadow his many other gifts,” Meunier said.

Presbyterian Church (USA) is the country’s largest Presbyterian denomination, followed by the Presbyterian Church in America, a more theologically conservative and evangelical denomination.

The John Knox Presbytery represents 61 churches with about 10,000 members.

Anderson is a former pastor of Bethany Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, Calif. He voluntary resigned in 1990 and gave up his ordination after two church members outed him as gay, he said.

He’s been executive director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches in Sun Prairie, an association of 13 denominations that promotes unity among Christian churches, for seven years. He expects to continue that role after ordination but hopes eventually to return to parish ministry.

A May 15 ordination date has been set but could be delayed. At least one church in the presbytery — Caledonia Presbyterian Church near Portage, Wis. — likely will appeal Saturday’s vote, said Whitman Brisky, a Chicago attorney representing the 60-member church.

The appeal would be based on the church rule prohibiting installation of a minister “who is engaged in an extramarital, sexual relationship,” Brisky said.

Anderson said he thinks he’s the first gay person in a long-term relationship approved for ordination in the denomination. A gay theology professor not in a relationship was ordained in Minnesota, Anderson said. That candidate declined to take the vow of celibacy, leaving open the possibility of a relationship and church sanctions.

In a statement to the presbytery, Anderson wrote the ministerial prohibition against gays and lesbians in committed relationships “represents a grievous misapplication of biblical teachings” that “is unfaithful to God’s loving intentions for humankind and seriously undermines the church’s gospel witness to gay and lesbian partners. I cannot in Christian conscience support it.”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Focus on the Family Ads? Not in the NCAA

Wednesday's Los Angeles Times is reporting that weeks after scoring a publicity coup with a 30-second Super Bowl ad featuring Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, conservative Christian group Focus on the Family is at the center of another marketing tug-of-war — this time involving the major governing body of college sports.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) removed a Focus on the Family banner ad from one of its Web sites this week, NCAA spokesman Bob Williams said Wednesday.

The NCAA made the decision after some of its members — including faculty and athletic directors — expressed concern that the evangelical group's stance against gay and lesbian relationships conflicted with the NCAA's policy of inclusion regardless of sexual orientation, Williams said.

The ad in question was not about sexuality. It featured a father holding his son and the words, "All I want for my son is for him to grow up knowing how to do the right thing." Like the Tebow ad, it included the address of Focus on the Family's Web site and the slogan, "Celebrate Family. Celebrate Life."

Focus on the Family spokesman Gary Schneeberger said that if such material were "all of a sudden labeled hate speech, we have deeper problems in our country than we even know."

Williams said the decision to pull the ad was based not on the message but on the messenger.

Advertisers "should be generally supportive of NCAA values and attributes and/or not be in conflict with the NCAA's mission and fundamental principles," according to NCAA standards. The NCAA may exclude ads or advertisers "that do not appear to be in the best interests of higher education and student athletes."

To continue reading this article, click here.

Judge Allows a Second Same-Sex Marriage in Argentina

The Associated Press is reporting today that a judge on Tuesday authorized two men to marry in Buenos Aires in what would be the country's second same-sex marriage.

In December, two Argentine men, Alex Freyre and Jose Maria Bello, became the first gay men to legally marry in heavily Roman Catholic Latin America, after the governor of southernmost Tierra del Fuego province allowed them to wed in the provincial capital, Ushuaia.

Judge Elena Liberatori gave her approval to the second couple, two men whose names were not immediately released, to set a date to wed at the Civil Registry.

She said they were exercising their rights even if current laws "are not in line with the times."

Until now, no Latin American country has recognized gay marriages, although Mexico City's legislature has approved them.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hero of the Day: Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler

MD Attorney General Doug Gansler

Maryland, like most states in America, defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman. However, the question on the table for Maryland now is, “Will we recognize same-sex marriages performed out of state?” Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler’s opinion is a resounding “yes!”

In a 45 page opinion, Gansler stated his support for the recognition of out of state same sex marriages, and gave a detailed legal argument as to why he believes that it’s likely that the Maryland court will rule to honor out of state same sex marriages.

The Maryland AG has spoken and said what the law is – that the state of Maryland will respect, honor, and recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states. Now, the state agencies need to act accordingly with the opinion.

Gansler has been a straight ally for many years, and we salute his courage to come out and take a stand on this issue, which can be very controversial for someone in an elected office.

Read more about Gansler’s opinion here.

Read AG Gansler’s entire 45 page opinion here.

Book Review: "The Rest of the Way"

The Rest of the Way, by longtime PFLAGer Enid Duchin Jackowitz, refers to the Talmudic story many Christians think of as the Prodigal Son. In the Talmudic version, when the king asks his son to come home, the son replies that he cannot travel that far. The king responds “Then come as far as you can, and I will meet you the rest of the way.”

This book is about Ms. Jackowitz’s journey the rest of the way when her older son comes out to her as gay.

There are a number of books about coming out by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people where they tell their stories. There are also a number of books by therapists and other professionals dissecting the struggles most gender variant people go through. The Rest of the Way is more about how coming to terms with the author’s son’s gay identity leads the author toward much greater awareness of herself.

Like many of us, Ms Jackowitz’s life was constrained by her need to meet other people’s standards. This need is deeply ingrained in all of us. We learn from our earliest awareness that some actions and attitudes are accepted (or demanded) in our social environment while others are taboo. Accepting her son’s reality meant giving up many of those acceptable attitudes and accepting many of those she was taught were taboos.

The Rest of the Way takes us along on her journey. It is one those of us who love our children must also travel. Our journeys require a great deal of thoughtful insight into our own needs and recognition that we cannot accept changes in someone else without changing ourselves.

-Reviewed by Dave Parker, PFLAG board member and founder of PFLAG's TNET (Transgender Network)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bigotry in the Boy Scouts

The Boy Scouts of America is a large organization that touches many lives. For many people across America, being a Boy Scout is part of everyday life. Unfortunately, in addition to teaching about camping and the outdoors, the Boy Scouts of America also communicates an anti-LGBT message as part of their official policy.

Howard Ross, Chief Learning Officer of Cook Ross Inc., is a Straight for Equality Gala co-chair, and he has written a great blog post on the Boy Scouts of America’s anti-LGBT policy. Read it here.

Maine Human Rights Commission to Tackle Transgender Issues in Schools

A local Portland, ME television station is reporting that the Maine Human Rights Commission is once again looking at the issue of transgender students' rights in schools.

The issue first came to light in Orono in June of last year, when a biologically male student who identifies as a female was denied access to the girls' bathroom. The Commission ruled that the student was discriminated against under the Maine Human Rights Act. Now the Commission has drafted guidance to help educators deal with the issue in the future.

Maine Principals' Association Executive Director Dick Durost has spent the past week catching as much high school tournament action as he can. Athletics are one of the major concerns he has, when it comes to the proposed guidance from the Maine Human Rights Commission. The draft states that transgender students should have access to bathrooms appropriate for their gender identity, not their biological gender. In addition, transgender students should be provided with locker room accomodations that meet their needs, and allowed to play on the sports teams of their gender identity.

"One would be a biological female presenting as a male and situations where we would have safety concerns in male bathrooms and locker rooms," Durost said about his concerns. "The second issue would be biological males presenting as females wishing to compete on girls athletic teams, and the impact on the level of competition. "The typical high school biological male is bigger, stronger, faster, and we believe there could be an adverse affect on girls on the teams."

Maine Human Rights Commission Executive Director Patricia Ryan says the Maine Human Rights Commission issues this type of guidance to help people understand how it might rule on a case.

"The Commission thought it would be beneficial to issue a guidance bulletin as opposed to regulations, so that people could be aware as to how the commission was thinking about this area" Ryan said

Monday, February 22, 2010

Challenge to D.C. Marriage Bill Rejected

The Advocate is reporting that a Washington, D.C., superior court judge Friday rejected a motion to delay the effective date of the city's marriage equality law.

Opponents sought a preliminary injunction to stop the law, which was approved by D.C. council and Mayor Adrian Fenty in December, from going to effect, but Judge Brian Holeman denied the motion, ruling that the court lacked the power "to usurp the legislative process," according to the Human Rights Campaign's Back Story blog.

The law is expected to take effect March 3, the end of a 30-day congressional review period that has been interrupted by bad weather.

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics has rejected several attempts by opponents to put the law to a popular vote. The board said any proposal to rescind the marriage law would violate the city's Human Rights Act.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Gay Kenyans Warned to Flee for Safety

Earlier this week we blogged about a same-sex wedding in Kenya that was broken up by the police. It appears that five of the men involved in planning the wedding were arrested, but have now been released.

According to The Advocate, police said there was not enough evidence to prosecute them, but police spokesman Martha Mutegi said the men were advised to leave the area for their own safety.

The men were arrested last week, when local officials reported hearing about a wedding due to take place in Mtwapa. Two of the men were found with wedding rings.

In Kenya homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in jail.

Human Rights Watch is putting the spotlight on Kenya's antigay actions this week, as it calls on the government to stop allowing violence against gays. Several religious leaders have also come together to form a group called Operation Gays Out, which aims to "flush out gays"

“The government is sitting silent while mobs try to kill human rights defenders and assault people they suspect are gay,” Dipika Nath, Human Rights Watch's researcher on LGBT rights said in a report. “Inaction is complicity, and silence can be lethal."

A massive rally against gays is planned for Saturday, Sheik Ali Hussein declared on the radio. The attacks and the government’s failure to act have spread fear in the country's LGBT population, Human Rights Watch officials said. Several people have gone into hiding; others are preparing to flee their homes at a moment’s notice.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mexico to Challenge Marriage/Adoption Ruling

Photo by Daniel Aguilar, Reuters

Last week we blogged about reports from a New York Times article that Mexico City had passed a law that would allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. It didn't take long after this law passed in December for fierce opposition to erupt.

Now the Agence France-Presse is reporting that five of Mexico's 32 states have announced plans to challenge this law.

Powerful religious groups and conservatives, including from President Felipe Calderon's National Action Party (PAN), have loudly opposed gay marriages.

All five states — Guanajuato, Jalisco, Morelos, Sonora and Tlaxcala — have PAN governors.

PAN said in a statement late Tuesday that the states were taking action because the Mexico City law "could oblige the states to recognize and fully acknowledge the validity of marriage between people of the same sex."

Mexico's attorney general on January 28 appealed the gay marriage measure before the country's top court.

The first legal same-sex marriages are scheduled for March in Mexico City.

Good News for Same-Sex Marriage in New Hampshire

The New Hampshire Union Leader is reporting that New Hampshire House members yesterday soundly defeated two efforts by conservatives to roll back gay marriage laws in the state.

The House voted by a wide margin, 201-135, against a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. It later defeated a proposed repeal of the state's new marriage, 210-109.

New Hampshire's gay marriage laws passed last year and took effect Jan. 1, two years after civil unions became legal. The laws allow same-sex couples in civil unions to convert their relationship to marriage this year, or wait until the conversion becomes automatic on Jan. 1, 2011.

The amendment, CACR 28, fell short of a simple majority, and far below the three-fifths majority -- 238 votes -- it needed to advance to the Senate. It could not have taken effect without a two-third majority among voters this fall.

Sponsors tried to delay the vote on the amendment until March 17. That would have given local voters at town meetings next month time to weigh in on warrant articles that ask for a general election vote on the amendment.

"All we're trying to do here is put this on the ballot," said Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, arguing voters should have their say. His effort to delay a vote fell short on a 191-148 vote. The House killed the gay marriage repeal after only a half-hour of debate, voting by a 2-1 margin to adopt a Judiciary Committee recommendation.

Opponents of HB 1590 said it would be wrong to back-track and to deny gays and lesbians the equal rights they fought for the state to recognize.

Rep. Robert Thompson, D-Manchester, argued against the amendment.

"We already have loving, committed same-sex marriage couples in New Hampshire. There has been no detrimental impact to anyone," he said.

Thompson, who married his gay partner on Jan. 2, asked the House, "How has my marriage impacted upon your marriage, or how has it diminished the value of your marriage?"

He said the repeal bill, "is about taking rights away, plain and simple."

Those who pushed the repeal bill said gay marriage flies in the face of common and natural law.

Rep. John Cebrowski, R-Bedford said no gay partnership can be considered a true marriage. Calling the notion "a cruel joke," he compared it to a child playing at princess or Star Wars.

He argued, "The vast majority of adults out there know marriage is between man and women. To engage in this flight of imagination ... with adults is downright cruel. It's cruel and I don't like it."

Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, prime sponsor of HB 1590, said society should not bend to demands by gay couples.

"Homosexuals can change their sexual preference at any time," he argued.

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Jordon Ulery, R-Hudson, argued: "This is absolutely not an issue of equal rights. This is a question of being open to procreation. This is an issue of natural law."

Rep. Lucy Weber, D-Walpole, and Rep. Gary Richardson, D-Hopkinton, said that the bill would deny religious freedom to members of churches that sanction gay marriages.

Kevin Smith of the conservative Cornerstone Policy Research group said the day's votes say to him, "This legislature is just completely out of touch with the will of the people." He said voters in November will reject those who vote with "the radical, far-left lobby."

Mo Baxley, of N.H. Freedom to Marry Coalition responded: "New Hampshire does not support discrimination or different laws for different types of people The vast majority of people wish their families to be healthy and secure and wish this for their neighbors as well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Equality CA Honors Sam and Julie Thoron With Marriage Equality Award

In my tenure at PFLAG, I’ve had the privilege to serve the organization under the leadership of two board presidents. The first of these was Sam Thoron…and anyone who knows Sam also knows that never far away from Sam is his wife, Julia. Together, they have provided years of leadership to PFLAG on both a local and national level, and it is rare to meet a PFLAGer who has come in contact with them who cannot speak of how the Thorons touched their lives.

Equality California recently honored the Thorons with the Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin Marriage Equality Award, recognizing their tremendous contributions to the fight for marriage equality and especially the battle to defeat Proposition 8. For those who have not had the chance to meet the Thorons in person and experience the passion that they have for securing the right to marry for everyone need not look much further than the commercial that they did during the Prop 8 fight in 2007. As PFLAG’s president, Sam always encouraged people to tell their family stories to change hearts and minds, and just listening to some of the voices that he and Julia have influenced proves that they are right.
~PFLAG Executive Director Jody Huckaby

In Julia's remarks, she reminded the audience that PFLAG is for everyone and she pleaded with everyone to join. Sam gave the following acceptance speech:

"We are deeply grateful for this honor, for this recognition of our part in the struggle to secure full marriage equality, full equality for all. Thank you.

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, pioneers and giants in our movement. We stand on their shoulders and on the shoulders of all the heroes who have gone before us. Without their courage, leadership and commitment we would not be here today.

Even now, we are not alone. We share this honor with all who are working so diligently toward our common goal. We stand shoulder with you.

Our work is far from over. There has been lot of research in recent months and we are seeing a pattern. It goes something like this: The person in the focus group says: “I work with several gays and lesbians, and they are great people, but not one of them has ever talked to me about the importance of marriage equality. If the freedom to marry is not important to them why should it matter to me?”

The message is clear. We are not asking for the support that we need. We all have powerful stories that will move hearts and change minds, but we are not telling them.

We have many potential allies who are simply waiting for us to ask for their support. There are many on the fence who will join us if we reach out to them. We can even change the hearts of many decent, fair minded folks who have so far opposed us.

You are not having enough of those sometimes awkward conversations. They are long overdue. If it feels risky, think about our commercial.

You have honored us for taking that risk on your behalf. Now it is your turn. What is more important to you – Respect – Dignity – Full Equality, - or your comfort zone?

Go forth and multiply – the message. Let’s change the world."

Police Called to Break Up Same-Sex Wedding in Kenya

The New York Times is reporting that Kenyan police officers broke up a gay wedding on Friday and arrested several wedding guests, saying they had to intervene before an irate mob could stone the wedding party to death.

Like many other countries in Africa, which are intensely — and officially — homophobic, Kenya outlaws homosexual behavior. Violations in Kenya are punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

“It’s culture, just culture,” said a Kenyan police spokesman, Eric Kiraithe, when asked to explain the intense feelings about homosexuality. “It’s what you are taught when you are young and what you hear in church. Homosexuality is unnatural. It’s wrong.”

Mr. Kiraithe said that the planned wedding between two men had been kept a secret, but that a group of local people found out just before it was to start in Kikambala, a beach town along Kenya’s white-sand coast. A mob quickly formed, and some outraged bystanders even shouted that the people at the wedding should be burned.

“You know, down at the coast, where there are so many tourists, people tolerate a lot,” Mr. Kiraithe said, mentioning the rampant sexual tourism in which both expatriate men and women often hire lovers several decades their junior. “But this is too much. These people were nearly stoned.”

Mr. Kiraithe said that five wedding guests were arrested for unlawful behavior and that they might be subject to tests to determine if they had “illegal carnal knowledge of each other.” He could not explain why the couple who were planning to marry were not arrested, saying the reports from the scene were still arriving.

In neighboring Uganda, the homosexuality issue has become front-page news after a lawmaker with the governing party proposed executing gay people. Most people in Uganda support criminalizing homosexuality, and an anti-gay bill is being debated by the cabinet. But in recent interviews, many people said they thought imposing the death penalty was going too far.

The anti-gay bill has catalyzed a firestorm of criticism, with many of Uganda’s foreign aid donors voicing concern and some even threatening to cut off much needed help. In recent weeks, the Ugandan government has indicated that it may water down the bill or scrap it all together. Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s powerful president, who has been in office for 24 years, recently expressed apprehensions about the bill because it was becoming a “foreign policy issue.”

“The prime minister of Canada came to see me, and what was he talking about? Gays,” Mr. Museveni said. “Prime Minister Gordon Brown came to see me, and what was he talking about? Gays. Mrs. Clinton rang me. What was she talking about? Gays.”

Andrew Wasswa, a gay activist in Uganda, said he attended a meeting on Wednesday between several gay rights activists and high-ranking government officials, but it still was not clear what the government was going to do.

“They kept asking us, ‘Why all this criticism, why all this pressure?’ ” he said. “They seemed more concerned about the foreign pressure than anything.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pro-Gay Activists Meet in Uganda

According to The Advocate, activists assembled by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kampala met secretly in Uganda on Sunday to launch their campaign against the antigay bill pending in parliament.

According to the Uganda newspaper The Monitor, “The Unitarian Universalist Church of Kampala, one of the few religious organizations in Uganda that is supporting the gay community, held a conference on Sunday to 'highlight the need for an end to discriminatory treatment of the gay population in Uganda.”

The web site of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations offers more information about the goals of the conference, which was expected to draw more than 200 people.

According to the UUA, the conference aimed: “to achieve permanent, fundamental, real equality for bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender people by affecting fundamental changes in the attitudes of society; to defeat discriminatory legislation and exclusionary policies and practices; and to build a strong social movement of BGLT people with a fully representative and activist base.”

Participants were scheduled to include the Rev. Marlin Lavanhar (pictured), minister of the partner church, All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the Rev. Patricia Ackerman, BGLT advocacy Ddirector for the UU-United Nations Office. Religious leaders from Uganda and as far away as France also were expected.

Also on Sunday, according to The Monitor, police in Uganda tried to halt a demonstration planned for Wednesday in support of the antigay bill. Officials said the government still has some issues to “sort out.”

Friday, February 12, 2010

Marriage and Adoption Legal in Mexico City?

Photo by Jennifer Szymaszek for The New York Times

From The New York Times:

Angela Alfarache and Ivonne Cervantes met at a party 16 years ago and have been a couple ever since, filling their lives with books and writing and friends. After their daughter, Constanza, was born six years ago, they became a family.

Mexican law never saw it that way. Only Constanza’s biological mother — the pair will not say which one gave birth to her because, as they explain, they are both her mothers — is her legal parent. The law does not recognize the other mother.

In a few weeks, that will change. A new Mexico City law goes into effect March 4 that will allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children, propelling the city to the forefront of the global gay rights movement.

“We want society to change its chip that says there is only one kind of family,” said Ms. Alfarache.

But fierce opposition erupted almost as soon as the law was passed on Dec. 22. In his final homily of the year in Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera said, “Today the family is under attack in its essence by the equivalence of homosexual unions with marriage between a man and a woman.” Roman Catholic groups asked the conservative federal government to intervene.

President Felipe Calderón said the Constitution defined marriage as between a man and a woman, although legal experts disagree. His attorney general filed a challenge before the Supreme Court, arguing that the law violates a constitutional clause protecting the family.

Under its left-wing mayor and city assembly, Mexico City has stretched the nation’s limits in acknowledging just how much the conceptions and realities of family have changed here. The city legalized abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, untangled its cumbersome divorce laws and recognized civil unions.

“Politically, the federal government is declaring that the Constitution only protects heterosexual families,” said David Razú, the city legislator who proposed the new law. “It’s a government that discriminates against its own citizens.”

The federal government says that Mexico City’s 2007 civil unions law gives same-sex couples the rights they have been seeking. But in practice — when it comes to including a partner in public health insurance plans, applying for state bank loans or recognizing a parent — the law has not worked, said Judith Vázquez, a gay rights activist.

In positioning himself as a defiant social liberal, Mexico City’s mayor, Marcelo Ebrard, is taking a political gamble. He wants to run for president in 2012, and his views may find little resonance outside the capital, where the Roman Catholic Church holds much greater sway.

“We are looking at the recognition of rights and liberties, and in this there is a big difference between conservatives and those of us with a liberal or different or advanced ideas of rights,” Mr. Ebrard told reporters in response to the federal government’s court challenge in January.

The city will not wait for the Supreme Court ruling, which could take as long as a year, Mr. Ebrard added. Once they marry, same-sex spouses will be able to adopt openly as a couple in Mexico City.

The city’s decisions — along with the election of two national presidents from the conservative PAN since 2000 — have emboldened the Catholic Church to speak out and even lobby politically in the past few years. Mexico has a long history of anticlericalism, going back to laws in the mid-19th century. Even after Mexico restored full rights to religious groups in 1992, the Catholic Church was at first careful not to be seen as involving itself directly in politics.

To read the entire article, click here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Illinois Governor Hopeful Wants to Ban Same-Sex Marriage

The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting today that Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), a GOP frontrunner for governor of Illinois, has proposed changing the IL Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

When asked what this says about him as a candidate for governor, Brady replied, "I'm trying to give the government back to the people."

The ban would also disallow civil unions. The state senator from Bloomington proposed the measure as part of a package of ideas about taxes, legislative term limits and the redistricting process.

For more information on this story, click here or here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

VA House of Delegates Kills Anti-Discrimination Bill

Just yesterday we blogged about the Virginia Senate passing an anti-discrimination bill that would have protected state workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation. It was short-lived. The Advocate is reporting today that the Virginia House of Delegates has killed the bill.

According to The Virginian-Pilot, opponents in the Republican-controlled senate did not see the need for the bill.

“But the definition of sexual orientation, which includes real or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender identity or expression, ‘goes way too far,’ said Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Page County, before it was voted down,” according to TheVirginian-Pilot. “Opponents also said those speaking in favor of the bills hadn't shown that there was any discrimination currently taking place.”

New governor Robert McDonnell, a Republican, has not renewed executive orders from two previous Democratic governors that protected state workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation. He has said that the legislature is the appropriate place to decide the issue.

On Tuesday the house of delegates subcommittee also rejected a measure that would have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation against all Virginians, not just state employees, according to TheVirginian-Pilot.

PFLAG Board Member Shares Steps on How to Move Past "I'm Gay."

"Rabbi David Horowitz, PFLAG National’s Board Vice President, has written a wonderful article for Fusion magazine that I want to share with everyone. David’s passion for fairness and justice was evident from the very beginning of his ministry and only strengthened as his family worked through the coming out process of their daughter. Today David takes his message of justice and love across the globe, speaking with religious leaders of all denominations. At its core, the power of his message comes from the love he has for his lesbian daughter—it’s the power of PFLAG, changing hearts and minds and moving equality forward." --PFLAG Executive Director Jody Huckaby

Retired Temple Israel Rabbi David Horowitz remembers his coming out story. He was at a meeting for the organization Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. It was the first safe place he was able to say, “My name is David, and I have a gay daughter.” Coming out is a life-altering experience for every gay person; some people forget it’s just as life-altering for the families. When his daughter, Wendy, came out in 1990, Horowitz reacted as many parents do — with shock, sadness and confusion. But after finding support from his family, friends, his congregation and PFLAG, Horowitz accepted his daughter’s sexuality. Horowitz is the vice president of the national chapter of PFLAG and a member of Akron’s PFLAG chapter. He offers some tips to family members dealing with a loved one who has recently come out.

Educate yourself.

There are hundreds of resources about LGBT issues and culture, whether you go through PFLAG or other organizations like the LGBT Community Center in Cleveland or the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Talk to people who’ve been through this before. The best resource you have, though, is your gay family member. If your relative trusts you enough to tell you he or she is gay, you should be able to listen to what he or she has to say. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Find support.

It’s always easier to go through difficult times if you have your family and friends beside you. Once you’re able to admit to yourself you have a gay family member, start by telling someone else, whether it’s a relative or a friend. You don’t have to come out to your entire work place or class, but having one more person on your side helps tremendously. The more you talk about it, the easier it gets. Don’t forget, your gay family member is your biggest supporter.

When comfortable, begin the process of coming out to others.

Before he told his congregation, Horowitz didn’t know if anyone at his temple was gay. Afterward, though, he learned there were 250 gay people or people with gay relatives in his congregation. “Once you get to that point of being able to share it, it is amazing how many people are going to turn to you and say, ‘Well, you know, I’ve got a gay sibling.’” Don’t assume people will react badly, especially older people. When Wendy’s grandmother learned her granddaughter was gay, she looked at Horowitz and said, “It’s still Wendy.” Give people some credit. They may surprise you.

Never stop loving them.

It’s the simplest step to write, but the most difficult to do. Your relative will inevitably change when he or she comes out, but your love should not. “I would hope the one thing they would never lose is love,” Horowitz says. “Some (family members) may never be comfortable with the reality, but hopefully they will be able to love their niece, nephew, child, whatever.”

When appropriate, embrace your family member’s partner.

You’ve just now gotten used to the fact that your family member is gay, and now he or she wants to bring his or her partner home for the holidays. Things just got trickier. The most important thing is not to freak out. This was to be expected, after all. Horowitz says it’s important for gay people to make an effort to understand what their families are going through and not to make any rash decisions. “I think the gay person who says, ‘I’m not going to go there if I’m not welcome with my partner right away’ may be making a mistake,” Horowitz says. Take it slow. Introduce your partner to your parents first at a casual dinner. Then move to include more of your family. After that, it’s easy to invite them to weddings and holiday dinners. “Only then will you have fully completed the love relationship: ‘I love you and those you love,’” Horowitz says.

Don’t blame yourself.

It’s one of the most important steps: “You’ve got to learn that there is nothing you did that caused LGBT people to become LGBT people,” he says.

Remember: It takes time. It took them time to come out to themselves. It took them time to come out to others. It will take family members time to accept it. As long as you have love and trust, it will be OK.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

VA Senate Passes Anti-Discrimination Bill

VA Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Alexandria) / Photo by Steve Helber, AP

Today's Washington Post says that the Virginia Senate passed a bill Monday that would make it illegal to discriminate in the state workforce, including on the basis of sexual orientation, marking the first time such legislation has passed either chamber of the Virginia General Assembly.

The bill, which passed on a 23-to-17 largely party line vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate, will almost certainly die in the Republican-led House of Delegates.

But advocates hailed its passage as an important step in an incremental process toward passage. Opponents said the measure would provide unnecessary legal protections that could provoke lawsuits in a workforce that does not discriminate.

Virginia's last two Democratic governors signed executive orders that protected workers from discrimination, including on the grounds of their sexual orientation. Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), who took office last month, has pledged not to allow discrimination for any reason in state government. But he maintained that his predecessors had overstepped their executive authority by including sexual orientation protections in the orders and has not renewed them. He said the issue would be properly decided by the General Assembly.

Senators who backed the measure said they believed its passage would bring Virginia's employment practices in line with the private sector and public opinion. They likened the vote to those taken during the civil rights era and predicted that lawmakers who voted against it would come to regret their action in coming years.

Federal law prohibits discrimination on grounds that include race, religion and sex but not sexual orientation. Thirty other states have extended protections to gay employees.

Gubernatorial Candidates in Rhode Island Support Same-Sex Marriage

According to Rhode Island's Mercury News, three candidates in Rhode Island's upcoming governor's race support same-sex marriage.

Attorney General Patrick Lynch and General Treasurer Frank Caprio, the Democrats, and former Senator Lincoln Chafee, running as an Independent, have been invited to make their promise public at a Statehouse rally scheduled for March 3, said Kathy Kushnir, executive director of Marriage Equality Rhode Island.

Kushnir said Republican candidate John Robitaille has not returned her calls, although Robitaille said he was never contacted by Kushnir's group. He opposes gay marriage but would consider supporting a domestic parntership system for gay couples.

Although the three candidates previously have said they support gay marriage, the pledges come as gay rights activists hope to capitalize on the departure of Republican Gov. Don Carcieri, a staunch social conservative who opposes such unions. State law requires him to leave office after finishing his second term early next year.

"I think that it's really important that the people of Rhode Island understand that this can be a reality here sooner rather than later," Kushnir said. "One of the major obstacles we face right now is a veto from the governor's office, and that would be gone."

Rhode Island is the only New England state besides Maine that does not recognize same-sex marriage. The movement to legalize it has hit a plateau. Legislation that would permit same-sex marriage has died in the Democratic-dominated General Assembly every year without getting a vote since it was first introduced in 1997.

It seems unlikely the state Supreme Court will legalize same-sex marriage as the courts did in Massachusetts and Connecticut. In 2007, Rhode Island's top court refused to let a lesbian couple married in Massachusetts get divorced in their home state of Rhode Island because the court said lawmakers have never defined marriage as anything except a union between a man and a woman.

Carcieri has not been the only political obstacle to gay marriage. Many socially conservative Democrats also oppose it, including Senate President M. Teresa Paiva-Weed and House Speaker William Murphy, who intends to step down next year.

House Majority Leader Gordon Fox, a gay man who backs same-sex marriage, is seeking to replace Murphy.

Monday, February 8, 2010

VA Delegate Tries Again for Repeal of Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Delegate David Englin, D-Alexandria

According to the Gainesville (VA) Times, Delegate David Englin, D-Alexandria, wants Virginia to repeal its constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.

He says the amendment, which voters approved four years ago, is unfair to gay and lesbian couples. So he’s trying for the third time to repeal it.

“If we are to take our founding values seriously, where we say that every human being deserves equal treatment under the law, then we cannot enshrine in the Constitution a policy that boils down to nothing but bigotry,” Englin said.

In the 2006 general election, 57 percent of voters supported amending the Virginia Constitution to say:

•Marriage is a union between a man and a woman.
•Virginia will not recognize “a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage.”
•Nor will the state recognize “another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.”

To repeal that amendment, Englin is sponsoring House Joint Resolution 55. It is similar to proposals he carried in 2007 and 2009. They did not get much attention, but Englin says he won’t give up.

HJ 55, which is being co-sponsored by Delegate L. Kaye Kory, D-Falls Church, has been referred to the House Privileges and Elections Committee. The panel has not voted on the measure.

Equality Virginia, an advocacy organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Virginians, hopes the resolution will pass. However, the group knows that it may be a long-term struggle to persuade Virginia to recognize relationships other than a marriage between a man and a woman.
“To deny not only all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples that, but all straight couple who, for whatever, don’t have the right to marry as well, is a massive injustice that we won’t tolerate in Virginia,” said Jon Blair, chief executive officer of Equality Virginia.

Opposing the resolution is the Family Foundation of Virginia, whose mission is to protect “traditional values” and to “establish a Commonwealth of families who are guided by faith and protected by a principled government.”

Chris Frend, vice president of the Family Foundation, predicted that Englin’s resolution will be defeated as it was in previous years.

“We’re only three years removed from nearly 60 percent of Virginians voting to support the amendment, and we’re two months removed from an election where three of the elected (statewide officials) were advocates for the amendment,” Frend said. “I think the overwhelming majority of Virginians have no interest in revisiting this issue.”

He was referring to the election last November of Bob McDonnell as governor and Ken Cuccinelli as attorney general and the re-election of Bill Bolling as lieutenant governor.

Five states allow same-sex marriages – New Hampshire, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont. Washington, D.C., also has approved a law supporting same-sex marriage.

To repeal the 2006 constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, Englin’s resolution first must be passed by a majority of the House and Senate. Then, after a legislative election, it must be approved again by the General Assembly. Finally, the proposal would go to voters in a statewide election.

Englin, who served a dozen years in the Air Force and now is vice president of a media relations firm, was first elected to the General Assembly in 2005. He represents House District 45, which includes parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties and part of the city of Alexandria.

To read this article in full, click here.

New Costa Rican President Opposes Same-Sex Marriage

The Advocate is reporting that Laura Chinchilla, elected the first woman president of Costa Rica on Sunday, opposes same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

Chinchilla won the election in a landslide after promising to focus on free market policies in Central America’s most stable nation, according to the Associated Press. A member of the ruling National Liberation Party, she is a protégé of the current president, Oscar Arias, a Nobel Prize laureate.

“Chinchilla, the mother of a teenage son, is a social conservative who opposes abortion and gay marriage,” reports the AP. “She appealed both to Costa Ricans seeking a fresh face and those reluctant to risk the unknown.”

The historic election of Chinchilla follows Nicaragua, Panama, Chile, and Argentina, the other Latin American countries that have elected a woman as president.

Friday, February 5, 2010

MD House Committee Kills Proposed Marriage Ban

Rep. Emmett C. Burns, Jr.

The Baltimore Sun is reporting that embers of a Maryland House committee on Wednesday shot down a bill that would prohibit Maryland from recognizing same-sex marriages validated by other states or countries.

The House of Delegates Judiciary Committee voted against the proposal from Baltimore County Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr. (pictured)

The same committee has rejected similar measures introduced in other years. Its vote prevents the bill from going to the House floor for debate.

Burns introduced the bill in January, as the state attorney general, Doug Gansler, was reportedly preparing to issue an opinion on out-of-state marriage recognition.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Family Research Council's VP Calls for Outlaw of "Gay Behavior"

Today's guest post comes to us from David Fishback, the advocacy chair of the Metro DC PFLAG chapter in response to the Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg's appearance on Hardball with Chris Matthews.

"At the very end of a discussion of the Don't Ask/Don't Tell hearing Mr. Sprigg was asked by Mr. Mathews if "gay behavior" should be outlawed. Mr. Sprigg responded that "I think there would be a place for criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior." Then Mr. Mathews, presumably to make certain that Mr. Sprigg understood what he had just said, asked, "So we should outlaw gay behavior?" Mr. Sprigg replied, "Yes."

Mr. Sprigg has now shown himself to be an enemy of committed gay couples' rights to exist free from imprisonment. In so doing, he grossly insulted every gay couple and every gay person in America -- and every family member and friend of a gay person. In other words, he said publicly, and unambiguously, that my son and his partner should be subjected to criminal sanctions for loving each other.

This is not a "gotcha" situation. Mr. Mathews gave Mr. Sprigg the opportunity to back-off from his statement, in case he had somehow "misspoken."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Could the "Ex-Gay" Movement be Moving to Uganda?

The disastrous effects of “ex-gay” or “conversion” therapy are well known in the LGBT community. Research has shown that the therapy does not work in converting a gay person into a straight person and, moreover, is psychologically harmful to those who are put through it. If you have been to our national convention in 2007 or our 2009 annual meeting, you got to hear the heartbreaking, first-hand account from our staff who infiltrated a Love Won Out convention.

Until recently conversion therapy was uniquely American. Now we are getting word that therapists in Britain have been inspired by these American “conversions” and are introducing this harmful practice to the United Kingdom. The Advocate is reporting that “Professor Michael King of University College London is one of six UK psychiatrists and psychotherapists who have sought to reduce or change a patient’s sexual orientation. And with the help of the American conversion therapy movement, practitioners in the UK, along with a clutch of international “conversion” organizations, are becoming unified and coordinated. They plan to gain credibility, university backing, and government funding. In some cases, the NHS (National Health Service) is even paying for the treatment.”

British journalist Patrick Strudwick, who is gay, went undercover for several months with conversion therapists. According to Strudwick, “I asked [one of the therapists] how she views homosexuality – as a mental illness, an addiction, or an anti-religious phenomenon? ‘It’s all of that,’ she replies. And then we pray. ‘Oh Father, we give you permission to work in Matthew’s (Patrick’s undercover name) life to bring complete light and healing into every part of his being.’ After asking God to heal me, she opens her eyes. ‘I know the boundaries to keep within.’”

[To read the entirety of Patrick’s journey in “conversion” therapy, click here.]

This leaves us wondering: if this practice is being admired by those in London, will conversion therapy spread elsewhere? One place where we are keeping an eye out is Uganda, a country that has recently proposed a violent and inhumane bill in regards to the treatment of its LGBT citizens. According to the bill:

• Gays and lesbians convicted of having gay sex would be sentenced, at a minimum, to life in prison
• People who tested positive for HIV may be executed
• Gays and lesbians who have sex with a minor or who engage in gay sex more than once may receive the death penalty
• Organizations that work in HIV/AIDS prevention would not be banned for “promoting homosexuality”
• Anyone who knows of homosexual activity taking place but doesn’t report it would risk up to three years in prison

Homosexuality in Uganda is already illegal. This bill is overkill. But it could also become the next breeding ground for the “ex-gay” movement. Is it illogical to think that “conversion” therapists won’t seize upon this opportunity of a entire nation in fear to impart their agenda and “expertise” at ridding the body of same-sex attraction? We certainly hope not.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Repeal of DADT is About Integrity

As Congress begins hearings to discuss the plan to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, we once again asked PFLAG National Board member Dan Tepfer to offer his perspective on the issue. (You can read some of Dan’s other contributions on the issue on this blog, including his last post here.)

As a retired U. S. Air Force Colonel and PFLAG National board member, I was asked to write an article for the PFLAG blog about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) following President Obama’s call in the State of the Union address for its repeal. DADT is an important issue for me so I jumped at a chance, but when I was asked if I could write from a straight perspective, I had to think for a while. I can’t do that. What is the straight perspective? For me there is no straight or gay perspective. There is only the perspective of integrity.

Integrity is paramount in the military. It should be paramount in all walks of life, but in the military, it can mean life or death on the job. One of the major components of integrity is honesty. I thought back to a presentation by retired U.S. Army Major General Dennis Laitch to our PFLAG Dayton chapter on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2008. General Laitch does not have a family member who is gay, nor does he have, to my knowledge, a close friend who is gay. General Laitch, who served two tours in Iraq, does have a strong sense of integrity, and he believes DADT is wrong because it undermines integrity for both straight and gay service members. According to General Laitch, what message does it send to all service members that the military leadership, all the way to the highest level, encourages, even expects, a segment of the armed forces to be dishonest?

The cost of DADT obviously falls heaviest on gay service members who have to lie by omission every day they serve. But there is a cost to all service members, gay and straight, when their units lose valuable members to DADT, when the services are forced to lower their educational and physical standards to fill the ranks when well-qualified gay individuals are either kicked out or choose not to serve, and when critical career fields such as foreign language interpreters (including Arabic interpreters) are under-staffed because they have lost highly trained individuals to DADT.

Shortly after President Obama completed his State of the Union address I received an email from a Facebook friend Isabell James (a pseudonym). Isabell, or Izzy as she is known on her blog at izzyjames.blogspot.com/, is the partner of a lesbian service member. She shared with me the open letter she had written to President Obama, telling him that his “words and commitment to this cause have brought our family renewed hope and faith.” She not only wants her partner to be able to serve openly, but she eventually wants their family to be able to live their lives like any other military family.

Our country is currently fighting two wars, and the nature of terrorism as a threat sadly may mean we won’t be free from conflict for a long time if ever. We need the strongest, ablest, most honorable people the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard can attract and keep. DADT is a deterrent to that goal. It should be repealed. Please insist that President Obama follow through on his pledge, and also insist that your members of Congress help him do it.

New PFLAG FYI is Available Online Now!

The newest issue of the PFLAG FYI is here to help you create strong leadership within your chapter. Strong leadership supports chapter members so that they can concentrate on providing great services to the community. This FYI will help you to:

• Support your chapter by understanding and defining the roles and responsibilities of your leadership
• Maintain proper records so that your chapter leadership can transition easily when new leaders emerge
• Learn a few best practices for creating strong, effective leadership within your chapter

For some great ways to create strong leadership in your chapter, read the new PFLAG FYI by clicking here.

First American Prayer Hour to be Held This Week

There has been growing media attention around the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 that has been proposed in Uganda. The legislation, if approved, would make an already dangerous climate for LGBT people – and their allies – in the African nation turn deadly. Under the bill, life imprisonment would be the minimum punishment for being LGBT, with the most extreme penalty being death. There are also requirements for straight individuals to inform authorities of any LGBT people that they know, lest they too receive punishments for withholding information.

One of the U.S. organizations that has been implicated in creating the momentum in Uganda to support such legislation is The Family, a highly political faith-based group. The organization, however, is most widely known for being the force behind the creation of the National Prayer Breakfast.

The response to the situation in Uganda in the LGBT community has been strong, and it is about to get even stronger this week as The American Prayer Hour – an event dedicated to providing a faith space independent of the one hosted by The Family, and committed to being a multi-city affirmation of inclusive values and a celebration of diversity.

The American Prayer Hour will be anchored by events in several cities across the U.S. Find out if you’re near one of the cities and learn more about how you can participate by visiting the website for the event today.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Bill Introduced in PA that Would Define Marriage as One Man, One Woman

According to the Philadelphia Gay News, an anti-gay bill has been introduced by a Pennsylvania senator.

About eight months after he pledged to introduce a bill that would institute a ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution, Pennsylvania Sen. John Eichelberger (R-30th Dist.) has made good on his promise.

SB 707, which Eichelberger introduced Jan. 26, would add to the Pennsylvania Constitution the language: “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid and recognized as marriage.”

Eichelberger announced his intention to spearhead such an initiative last May, and Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17th Dist.) shortly thereafter introduced a measure that seeks to legalize same-sex marriage in the Keystone State.

To amend the constitution, both chambers of the state legislature would have to pass the so-called Marriage Protection Amendment in two consecutive sessions before the question is posed to voters.

“Pennsylvania voters have the opportunity to decide how they want marriage to be defined and not allow an activist judge to make that decision for them,” Eichelberger said in a statement Tuesday. “Thirty-one other states have already gone through a similar process and in each state, the definition of marriage was upheld.”

The bill has 15 other cosponsors: Republican Sens. Gene Yaw (23rd Dist.), Joseph Scarnati (25th Dist.), Mike Folmer (48th Dist.), Robert Robbins (50th Dist.), Richard Alloway (33rd Dist.), Jake Corman (34th Dist.), John Gordner (27th Dist.), Donald White (41st Dist.), Edwin Erickson (26th Dist.), Jeffrey Piccola (15th Dist.), Bob Mensch (24th Dist.), Lloyd Smucker (13th Dist.) and Michael Brubaker (36th Dist.) and Democrats Richard Kasunic (32nd Dist.) and Raphael Musto (14th Dist.).

Eichelberger said he expects the bill to be sent to the Judiciary Committee, where Leach’s measure presently sits.

Straight for Equality Helps Healthcare Providers Create Welcoming Environments for All Patients

For too many of our LGBT family members and friends, accessing healthcare can be a nerve-wracking experience. Is the healthcare provider accepting of LGBT people and their issues? What if they aren’t? What if they are accepting, but don’t know how to address the unique needs of LGBT people? These are the questions that many LGBT patients ask themselves every time they access healthcare.

As always, PFLAG is here with a solution.

PFLAG National’s Straight for Equality project has just launched Straight for Equality in Healthcare, a new initiative to help inform healthcare providers in all fields about the needs of the LGBT population. It offers providers an honest discussion of why they should care, how to get past barriers, and simple first steps that help create an open and affirming environment for all patients. Best of all, it is all outlined in one simple guide.

In addition to the publication, we just launched the Straight for Equality in Healthcare website that expands the discussion started in the publication and connects providers with additional resources to help them continue to educate themselves on these issues.

We are also creating a workbook specifically for chapters that will show you how to spread Straight for Equality in Healthcare in your community. With your help, we can make sure that all people feel comfortable and welcome when accessing healthcare. Look for the announcement of the workbook release later this month.

Check out our Straight for Equality in Healthcare website and download the Straight for Equality in Healthcare guide by clicking here. You can also read the press release about the new project here.

Civil Union Bill in Hawaii Effectively Dead

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that Hawaii lawmakers declined to vote Friday on a bill that would have allowed same-sex civil unions, effectively killing the measure.

The state House of Representatives decided to indefinitely postpone a decision on whether to grant gay and lesbian couples the same rights and benefits the state provides to married couples.
The state Senate had approved a civil unions bill last week, but House leadership wavered on pushing the controversial issue. Last year, 33 of 51 House members voted in favor of civil unions.

Civil union supporters in the crowded House gallery on Friday shouted, "Shame on you!" while opponents cheered.

"It's an election year, and they're more concerned about keeping their seats than doing what's right," said Stephen Nagle of Kaaawa, wearing a rainbow lei in support of civil unions.

Civil union opponent Rebecca Botello of Kaneohe, wearing a red "iVote" sticker, backed the lawmakers' move, saying, "I don't believe it's the right of the House or Senate to redefine what marriage is."

No roll call was taken on the decision to postpone the vote, which shielded representatives from having their position on the record. Instead, lawmakers shouted "aye" or "no," and Vice Speaker of the House Michael Magaoay then ruled that the motion to delay a vote had passed.

The voice vote defers further action on the bill unless two-thirds of lawmakers vote to reconsider it; otherwise, Hawaii's debate on the issue is over for this year.

Republican Gov. Linda Lingle had refused to say whether she would have vetoed a civil unions bill if lawmakers had approved it.