Sunday, January 27, 2013

Catholic Church Tells Priests Time To Act Against Same Sex Marriage “Now,” Chris Hughes Questions Governor Christie’s Stance Against Same Sex Marriage, Attorneys For And Against Same Sex Marriage Court Obama Administration, Wyoming Slowly Moving Towards Supporting Gay Rights, National Gay And Lesbian Task Force Endorse Renaming San Francisco Airport After Harvey Milk, Ryan Lochte Underwear Picture

In the United Kingdom, the Roman Catholic Church has launched a final push against the Government’s plans for gay marriage with just 10 days before MPs vote on the issue. The Archbishop of Southwark, the Most Rev Peter Smith, spoke of a desire to “mobilize” opposition in the Church. He urged them to capitalize on the decision by all three main party leaders to allow free votes on the matter and increase pressure on their local MPs to halt such a “fundamental change in the law”. A million postcards, designed for Catholics to complete and send to their MP asking them to vote against the Government’s plan, were distributed at masses over the weekend. The issue of same sex marriage is due to come up for a vote in the Commons as early as February 5. It would open the way for the first same sex weddings to take place as early as the beginning of 2014. The Telegraph reports that in a letter on behalf of bishops, Archbishop Smith, the second most senior active Catholic cleric in England and Wales, told priests: “The time to act is now.” Welcoming the planned free vote, he wrote: “It is therefore particularly important at this time for all MPs to be made aware of the strength of feeling on this issue among their own constituents, and the Bishops have received requests from a number of laity about mobilizing further action. The first key vote is likely to take place in early February so the time to act is now. We need to encourage as many people as possible to get involved. Please do all you can.” Supporters of the change have also begun a last-minute lobbying campaign. Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay rights group Stonewall, urged supporters to “speak now or forever hold your peace” adding, “Supporters of this modest measure mustn’t let a vocal minority block equality. People must write to, tweet, e-mail or call their MPs to ask them for their support before the Bill’s Second Reading debate on February 5.” The Government’s “Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill” was published on Friday outlining details of how a host of existing marriage laws are to be amended to include same sex couples. The only surprise in the bill was a clause making it impossible for gay or lesbian people who marry to divorce on grounds of adultery. Lawyers and MPs said the distinction created inequality between heterosexual and homosexual couples in the divorce courts and could ultimately lead to the abolition of the centuries-old concept of adultery. It came after Government legal experts failed to agree what constitutes “sex” between people of the same gender. Gay couples will also be barred from having their marriage annulled on grounds of non-consummation for the same reason. Previously the Coalition had signalled that the matter would be left to the courts to decide, potentially leaving the issue uncertain for years. But officials drafting the bill sidestepped the issue saying simply that adultery would only apply to people of different sexes. Opponents say the decision shows how gay marriage could open the way for a wider reassessment of marriage laws, something they claimed could be a potential “Pandora’s Box”.

How does the openly gay Chris Hughes, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The New Republic and Facebook Co-founder, feel about Mark Zuckerberg hosting a fundraiser for Republican Governor Chris Christie? Hughes joined ABC News in a web exclusive to discuss viewer questions from Facebook about Christie, his career successes, The New Republic, and his contributions to Facebook before the This Week roundtable on Sunday. This week, Hughes launched a redesign of The New Republic, kicking off with a dynamic interview with President Obama. Before ABC News’ Abby Phillip asked Hughes about the sit-down with Obama, she broached the topic of the Christie/ Zuckerberg alliance. “I, for one, have a lot of questions about Chris Christie, particularly because less than a year ago he vetoed a marriage equality bill in the New Jersey state legislature. Which for me personally (I got married to my husband last June) [it] was just really personally frustrating. I mean, there are tens of thousands of couples in New Jersey that can’t share their love and be recognized under the law because of that decision. I’m not a single issue voter, and I think most people aren’t either, but for me personally, it would raise serious concerns about supporting someone like him.”

On separate occasions in recent days, lawyers on opposite sides of a Supreme Court fight over same-sex marriage took an elevator to the fifth floor of the Department of Justice, entered a large conference room and made a pitch to Solicitor General Donald Verrilli and other top Obama administration lawyers. Each side wants the administration's support in a late-March showdown on the fundamental rights of gay men and lesbians. On January 18, Theodore Olson and David Boies, the well-known duo representing gay couples challenging California's ban on same sex marriage, asked the administration to back their claim of a constitutional right to such unions nationwide. On Thursday, attorney Charles Cooper, who has long represented defenders of the ban known as Proposition 8, asked the government to stay out of the case. Reuters is reporting that these advocates and others in the dispute over same-sex marriage joined a common but little-known ritual of Supreme Court litigation. Parties seeking outside "friend of the court" briefs they hope will sway the court's nine justices often try to get the weight of the federal government behind them. Justice Department officials regularly hear out both sides, with such meetings concerning a couple dozen cases each court term. Lawyers who attended the private sessions on gay marriage said the government attorneys, while nodding at some points made by both sides, did not tip their hand. In these sessions, which have some attributes of an informal courtroom argument, officials do not make up their minds on the spot. It might be weeks before a party knows whether the valued government brief, with its distinctive gray cover, will be filed on its behalf. Any outside group that sides with defenders of Proposition 8 must submit its amicus curiae, or "friend of the court," brief by Tuesday under Supreme Court deadlines. Gay rights groups and others backing the challengers have until February 28. While President Barack Obama has vigorously endorsed gay marriage, as recently as in his second inaugural speech last Monday, he also has suggested that the federal government should not take the lead. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the day after the inauguration ceremony that while Obama's "personal view" favors same-sex marriage, he "believes that it's an issue that should be addressed by the states." The administration has never taken a position on Proposition 8, which California voters adopted on November 4, 2008, the day Obama was first elected president. Under laws passed since 2004, nine states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to wed. Presidents generally do not become involved in a solicitor general filing to the Supreme Court. But in this politically charged dilemma, lawyers on both sides say it is all but certain that Obama, a Harvard Law School graduate who was once a constitutional law professor, will play a big role in directing the administration's stance. Verrilli ran the meetings around a large rectangular table in a plain conference room near his ornate office. Lawyers who took part would not speak publicly because the meetings are confidential but they said the January 18 session for the Olson-Boies team and Thursday's session for the Cooper group lasted an hour each. About 20 government lawyers, mainly from the Justice Department, attended. The advocates' assertions were at times passionate and animated. For their part, government attorneys were methodical in their questioning, focusing on legal analyses. Both sides' arguments largely reflected their briefs in earlier proceedings. Olson and Boies, former opponents from the landmark Supreme Court case that decided the 2000 presidential election for George W. Bush, urged the government to enter the case and assert that gay and lesbian couples have the same right to marry as a man and a woman. According to lawyers in the room, Olson stressed that the administration's voice should be heard at this historic moment. Olson, who as solicitor general under Bush from 2001-04 once ran such meetings, was especially fervent. He compared the contention that states need more time to resolve the gay-marriage dilemma to arguments half a century ago that states needed more time before blacks and whites could share the same public accommodations such as drinking fountains. A former Reagan administration lawyer, Cooper argued in his session that marriage is the business of the states, so no federal constitutional interest can be asserted. Cooper referred to Obama's own comments suggesting that states should decide the matter and echoed much of what he had written in his recently submitted brief to the Supreme Court. In that, Cooper included Obama's remarks from a May 2012 interview with ABC News referring to the "healthy process and ... healthy debate" occurring in the states. The court will hear two cases over two days. In the Proposition 8 case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, to be heard on March 26, the justices could decide the constitutionality of same-sex marriage or rule on narrower grounds. In a related case to be heard the following day, United States v. Windsor, the justices are reviewing a 1996 U.S. law that denies federal benefits, such as Social Security survivor payments when one partner dies, to gay couples in states that permit their marriage. While the Obama administration has never taken a stand on Proposition 8, it has in recent years opposed the provision in the 1996 law, known as the Defense of Marriage Act, forbidding married gay couples from obtaining benefits that heterosexual couples receive. Yale Law Professor Drew Days, who was a U.S. solicitor general in the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1996, said that as Obama lawyers weigh a federal interest in the Proposition 8 dispute, they are likely considering how it would intersect with the administration's nuanced stance in the DOMA case. Days is not involved in either case and said he has no direct information about the administration's position. The administration in early 2011 said it would no longer defend DOMA's disparity in marriage benefits. It also has suggested there be a heightened constitutional standard for assessing laws that treat gay people less favorably. Only when the Department of Justice files its brief in the case of United States v. Windsor in late February will it indicate how the administration thinks such constitutional scrutiny should apply to various laws based on sexual orientation, from limits on marriage benefits to an outright ban on same sex unions. Closely watching to see what Obama does on Proposition 8 are groups such as the National Organization for Marriage, whose president, Brian Brown, derided Obama's emphasis on gay marriage in the inaugural speech. On the other side, the Human Rights Campaign yearns for an Obama assertion of a constitutional right to same sex marriage now, and not after more state action. Fred Sainz, Human Rights Campaign's vice president for communications, said the Proposition 8 case was "the game for us."

For years, Democratic lawmakers in Wyoming have floated bills aimed at preventing discrimination against gays and lesbians but have found little support. Now, they seem to have gained some — among Republican lawmakers. It remains to be seen whether gay rights supporters in the overwhelmingly Republican Wyoming Legislature can pass measures that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, create civil unions or even same sex marriage. So far, nine of the legislature's 78 Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors of the various bills. Eight of the Legislature's 12 Democrats are on board with at least one of the bills. Committee hearings on two of the bills were scheduled for Monday. The Associated Press reports that for gay rights advocates, getting the support they already have received feels like a big moment. The state has a long tradition of libertarian-tinted conservatism, yet it's also where gay college student Matthew Shepard was killed more than a decade ago. "When I really started seeing who the sponsors were, I started having a big smile on my face," said Rev. Dee Lundberg, a minister at the United Church of Christ in Casper, who married her partner in her church two years ago. The gay rights bills will face opposition. WyWatch Family Action, a group that has opposed past gay rights measures, plans to muster its members to oppose the bills. Wally Rayl, a volunteer lobbyist with the group, said opposition is "naturally based,” adding, "In our Declaration of Independence, we refer to nature and nature's law, and God's creation. Nature's law is that a family is put together to reproduce. Well, two of the same sex cannot reproduce." Lundberg said she's in disbelief about the amount of time society has spent on the same sex marriage issue, which she said she believes should be a private decision. "We live in a state that has this high value on not having the government tell them how to run their lives," she said. Rep. Sue Wallis (R-Recluse) has signed on as a co-sponsor on all three bills. Wallis said she believes the issue underscores some divisions within the Republican Party. She said some people in the party are conservative and don't want the government to interfere in their businesses, communities or families. Rep. Cathy Connolly (D-Laramie) is sponsoring the bill for same-sex marriage. A lesbian, Connolly also has a fallback measure to recognize same sex civil unions, a bill she believes has a better chance of passing. "I absolutely think that there's been a change of attitude, that the time is right, that people truly believe that this is the Equality State," she said. In addition to carrying tax and pension benefits, Lundberg noted that legalizing same sex marriage would allow couples to make medical decisions and have the right to visit each other in the hospital. Outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation also would give people peace of mind and eliminate the "fear factor," she said. She said there would also be emotional benefits for same sex couples who are afraid to talk about their lives. "You know, a lot of these people have kids," Lundberg said. "They want to not have to fear losing their jobs, or livelihoods or housing. It's not just for them, it's for their families. There are children involved in this and we have to remember that." Wyoming gained attention in 1998 when Shepard, a slender, 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming, was robbed, fatally beaten and tied to a fence by two men he met in a bar in Laramie. Police said the killers attacked him because he was gay. Just two years ago, some Wyoming lawmakers, including the then-House speaker, filed, during a busy legislative session, legal papers asking the state Supreme Court not to consider a divorce case involving two Wyoming women who were married in Canada. The lawmakers said they were concerned court action would serve as a back-handed recognition of same sex marriage. The court ignored them, letting the couple divorce. More recently, the mood in the nation has shifted on gay rights. States have been increasingly accepting of civil unions or gay marriage. Last week, Rhode Island moved a step closer to joining nine states and the District of Columbia to allow gay and lesbians to wed. President Barack Obama voiced his support for gay marriage in 2012 and this month in his inaugural address equated the Stonewall gay-rights riots of 1969 with the struggles on behalf of blacks and women throughout the nation's history. Jeran Artery, chairman of Wyoming Equality, a group that lobbies on behalf of gays and lesbians, said there's a change in the country. Whatever the Legislature does on the gay marriage "dream bill," Artery said he's pleased at increasing GOP support. "The message it sends is we're moving away from viewing this as a Democrat or Republican type thing," he said. "We're moving toward viewing it as right versus wrong, and that's a big step."

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force held its 25th National Conference on LGBT equality Sunday in Atlanta. During the conference, the Task Force voiced support for the San Francisco International Airport to be renamed in honor of its legendary gay leader Harvey Milk. The San Francisco Board of Supervisor is considering a measure that would ask voters to rename the city's current airport to the Harvey Milk San Francisco International Airport. In 1977, Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming one of the first openly gay elected officials. He was tragically assassinated the following year.

Ryan Lochte posted a photograph of the Olympic gold medal winner in his boxerbriefs.

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