In New Zealand, Family First national director Bob McCoskrie says the push for same sex marriage in the nation is a stepping-stone to legalizing polygamy. The Herald reports McCoskrie said a new poll by Key Research that showed 53.9-percent of respondents supported gay marriage was an indicator that fewer people were in favour of marriage reform compared to a year ago. He said the number had dropped from 63-percent in a May poll, as people "got past the slogan of "marriage equality' and debated the real impact of redefining marriage,” adding, “There is absolutely no need to redefine marriage to provide legal recognition and protection for same-sex relationships.” If the argument was "about real equality'' then it would mean a push to legalize multiple marriages or marriages between teenagers, McCoskrie said, adding, “If you're talking about real equality that means it should be available to anybody. That includes three or four who want to get married, that includes teenagers who want to get married ... married people who want to marry somebody else at the same time. It's on the agenda and everybody knows it. It's on the long-term agenda." The poll found the majority of younger people gave gay marriage their support, and the majority of those aged 75-plus opposed it. Females were more supportive of same sex marriage (more than 60-percent of women supported legalization) compared to 47-percent of men. Labour MP Louisa Wall, whose Marriage Equality Bill passed its first reading last year by 80 votes to 40, said there was clear widespread support for same sex marriage. She said the strongest evidence was in the large percentage of young people who were constantly found by polls to support gay marriage. Wall said it showed greater equality and a lack of discrimination by younger generations who had grown up seeing homosexuals as normal. "My primary driver has always been about equality and non-discrimination. I don't believe we are redefining marriage,'' Ms Wall said. McCoskrie argues same sex marriage should be put to a referendum. "In 2004, the Government introduced civil unions and changed over 150 pieces of legislation to achieve [legal recognition for same sex couples],'' he said, adding “There is no so-called discrimination. The real question is 'why are further special rights now being demanded?''' Wall's Marriage Equality Bill has been sent to a select committee, which will report to Parliament on February 28. A second reading is scheduled for March 20 and a third and final reading could happen by May.
In France, President Francois Hollande has weighed this weekend into the war of words between his government and the Catholic Church over holding discussions in schools on the planned legalisation of same sex marriage. He defended Education Minister Vincent Peillon on Saturday for urging Catholic schools, which teach about one-fifth of all pupils in France, to stay neutral in the debate. Peillon's supporters and critics dominated the headlines and airwaves on Sunday, a week before a Church-backed protest in Paris that organizers say could draw as many as half a million people opposed to any change in traditional marriage. Reuters reports that the shrill polemics could not drown out another big news story, the growing unpopularity of Hollande and his government. One poll said 75-percent of voters doubt he can keep a New Year's promise to turn around rising unemployment this year. Laurent Wauquiez, a former conservative higher education minister, slammed Peillon for implying that Catholic opposition to the reform was responsible for suicides of gay teenagers. "This is a big political manipulation," he said. Conservatives also cried foul because government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem was filmed in a state school last October praising the marriage reform as progress towards more freedom. Opinion polls show up to 60-percent of the French back same sex marriage (which the government plans to legalize by June) and just under 50-percent support adoption rights for gays. A new poll said 69-percent wanted a referendum on the issue, which all main religions here - Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, Jewish and Orthodox Christian - have opposed. Peillon triggered the row by saying the director of Catholic education system, heavily subsidised by the state, was wrong to urge his schools to discuss same sex marriage with pupils. "This education system, which is under contract to the state, should respect the principle of neutrality and the freedom of conscience of all," he stated in a letter to regional education officials who oversee both state and private schools. These officials should scrutinize the Catholic debates and report any anti-gay views aired in them, Peillon said, urging extreme caution on this issue because young homosexuals were five times more prone to suicide than heterosexual youths. Hollande backed him in the name of "laicite", the legal separation of church and state that is a secular rallying cry for French opposed to any religion in the public sphere. "Laicite is a principle of the Republic," he said. Religious leaders have encouraged people to join next Sunday's protest but most will not march themselves. Opponents of the new law caught its supporters off guard in November when they brought about 100,000 out in Paris for what was meant as a warm-up to the protest in a week's time. The protest will converge on the Eiffel Tower and include people from all over France, organizers said. Although few in traditionally Catholic France attend Mass on Sunday, the Church can still rally crowds larger than most political protests when its core interests are threatened. Passing the law would make France the 12th country around the world to legalize same sex marriage. It is already allowed in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden. In the United States, Washington, D.C. and nine states have legalized it, three of them in last November's elections.
President Obama plans to nominate former senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican and Vietnam veteran, to be secretary of defense, according to a person close to the process and a senior administration official. According to the Washington Post, the White House informed the Hagel camp over the weekend that Obama intends to announce the nomination Monday. Hagel’s successful nomination would add a well-known Republican to the president’s second-term Cabinet at a time when he is looking to better bridge the partisan divide, particularly after a bitter election campaign. But the expected nomination has drawn sharp criticism in recent weeks, particularly from Republicans, who have questioned Hagel’s commitment to Israel’s security. The choice sets up a confirmation fight of the sort that Obama appeared unwilling to have over Susan E. Rice, his preferred pick for secretary of state. Rice pulled out of consideration for that job last month after facing sharp Republican criticism about her characterization of the September attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. In an appearance Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-South Carolina) called Hagel’s selection an “in-your-face nomination.” But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said Hagel’s record would be given a fair shake in the Senate if he is nominated. McConnell stopped short of saying whether he would support his former colleague. “He’s certainly been outspoken in foreign policy and defense over the years,” McConnell said on ABC’s This Week. He added: “The question we’ll be answering, if he’s the nominee, is: Do his views make sense for that particular job? I think he ought to be given a fair hearing, like any other nominee. And he will be.” The Hagel nomination will begin what White House officials have said will probably be a busy week of announcements about who will fill Obama’s second-term Cabinet and senior staff positions. The president returned Sunday from a curtailed holiday in Hawaii and will begin making final personnel decisions that were delayed by the year-end negotiations with Congress over taxes and spending cuts. Despite the opposition to a Hagel nomination that has arisen on Capitol Hill, a senior administration official said Sunday that the White House expects him to receive the support of Democrats, as well as many Republicans who served with him. “Having a name floated and having one officially put forward are two different things,” the official said. Hagel, who was twice awarded the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in Vietnam, served in the U.S. Senate for two terms, ending in 2009. He was an outspoken and often-independent voice as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, breaking with many in his party to sharply criticize the management of the Iraq war after he initially supported the U.S.-led invasion. “A lot of Republican opposition is rooted in the fact that he left his party on Iraq,” the senior administration official said. “And we think it will be very hard for Republicans to stand up and be able to say that they oppose someone who was against a war that most Americans think was a horrible idea.” Hagel also has been a strong advocate for veterans, an issue that Obama has spoken about frequently as tens of thousands of U.S. troops return from battlefields after more than a decade of war. The administration official said Hagel, as a result, is “uniquely qualified” to help wind down the Afghanistan war by the close of 2014 and make budget decisions to support the returning troops. Some of the recent criticism directed at Hagel has focused on his mixed record about the imposition of sanctions on Iran. During his time in the Senate, Hagel opposed several bills to impose unilateral sanctions on Iran. But he also supported measures to put in place sanctions as part of multinational efforts, and he endorsed labeling Iran a state sponsor of terrorism. Hagel’s record has raised concern among some of Israel’s supporters in the United States, who fear that he may not be sufficiently committed to that country’s security. But his defenders point to his record as a senior senator on the Foreign Relations Committee, where he voted for nearly $40 billion in military aid to Israel over his tenure. Obama, who worked with Hagel on nuclear non-proliferation issues and other foreign-policy matters in the Senate, has vowed to prevent Iran from using its uranium-enrichment program to develop a nuclear weapon. Obama has worked to tighten both U.S. and international sanctions to pressure Iran into giving up the effort, moves that Hagel has supported in recent interviews. The Iranian government has said that it is pursuing nuclear power, not weapons. Since leaving office, Hagel has served as co-chairman of Obama’s intelligence advisory board. Hagel has advised the president to open talks with Hamas, the armed Palestinian movement that does not recognize Israel’s right to exist. He also has complained about the influence that Israel’s supporters exert on members of Congress, telling writer Aaron David Miller in an interview for his 2008 book that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.” Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on Fox News Sunday that, “If Hagel is nominated, it is very difficult to imagine a circumstance in which I could support his nomination.” But Hagel has many supporters, including former ambassadors, senators and secretaries of state who value his experience and independence. A network of supporters has rallied in recent weeks to defend Hagel’s record as the criticism has grown, and they said privately that they expect him to receive strong public backing from many Republicans and Democrats alike once the nomination is official. Writing last week in the Wall Street Journal, Ryan C. Crocker, a former ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, called Hagel “a statesman,” adding that “America has few of them.” Hagel, 66, would be taking over the Pentagon at a time of budget cuts and a changing mission after two long wars. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is retiring to his home in California. Hagel would become Obama’s third defense secretary; Robert M. Gates, a member of the George W. Bush administration, was retained in the post until 2011. If confirmed, Hagel would be the second Republican in Obama’s Cabinet after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
It is stalled in Springfield, but supporters of Illinois' same sex marriage bill say they believe it will pass this week, reports WLS-TV. Sunday, the archdiocese of Chicago used that platform to remind parishioners were the church stands. The General Assembly is being urged by the president to legalize gay marriage in Illinois. The executive committee voted 8-5 to send the bill to the Senate floor and some lawmakers have unveiled plans to take up the measure in these closing days of the current General Assembly. Supporters believe they have the votes to get their wish. Gay rights organizations held a rally outside the Thompson Center on Saturday as lawmakers were meeting inside to discuss pension reform. They encouraged people to push for the gay marriage bill to pass. "It's not fair, we deserve fairness and we deserve equality in this state," said Anthony Martinez, Civil Rights Agenda. But the archdiocese of Chicago is hoping lawmakers and residents think things through. A letter was given out to parishioners at Holy Name Cathedral Sunday morning said the church is not against gay relationships, but against gay marriage. "I'm so pleased to see the Catholic Church open up more and reach out and in terms of same sex marriage," said parishioner Janet Bedin. In the letter it says they are not anti-gay, which I'm so glad to see as well, and that they accept everyone." The cardinal reminded parishioners to focus on core church beliefs. "There is a lot of love, authentic love, that doesn't express itself in marriage. We all know people who are truly loving people and they are of different sexual persuasions, but here what is at issue is changing the nature of marriage. This is a natural right," said Francis Cardinal George. Both sides may have to wait. With the deadline for pension reform looming, the same sex marriage issue may not come up until after the new assembly is sworn in.
Activists, public officials and residents gathered Saturday outside an east Baltimore liquor store (where a man was severely beaten on Christmas Day) to protest violent attacks on gay people Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts told the crowd of about 40 people that his department plans to set up an advisory group to meet monthly to work with gay, lesbian and transgender people. "I want to come together as a community and make sure we connect and do the right things for every part of our community," said Batts, who became commissioner late last year. "If there's more that we can do, if there's more that I can do, I am here to serve you." Kenni Shaw, 30, who also attended the rally, says he was attacked outside D & M Liquors, on the corner of North Milton Avenue and East Hoffman Street, because he is gay. Activists want the incident treated as a hate crime, but police, who are still investigating, said that at the moment the evidence does not support the classification, which can bring heftier sentences. In a show of support for Shaw, the group gathered at noon on North Gay Street (a happy coincidence, said the Rev. Kinji Scott, one or the rally's organizers) and walked with him the few blocks to the liquor store. "A lot of people don't speak up," Shaw said. "I made it through this situation and I wanted to use my voice." On Saturday the whites of Shaw's eyes were still reddened from the beating, which, according to a picture he posted to the photo-sharing site Instagram, left his face badly swollen. The attack on Shaw has attracted the attention of gay-rights activists, community leaders and public officials, who mounted steps outside the store and stood under its yellow awning to deliver speeches decrying violence. In an interview, Batts said the decision on whether to handle the case as a hate crime will rest with the state's attorney's office. "We do the part of gathering evidence," he said. Scott, a gay Baptist preacher, said in an interview that he is generally happy with how police have handled the case so far. He plans to meet with officers privately to push for the hate crime classification. But, he added, the rally served a broader purpose: showing gay blacks that they can stand up and talk about crime. "In our community in the past we've had people beat, raped and murdered, but we've not had much action in terms of violence against black gay men," Scott said. "You have Kenni Shaw who is willing to stand up when most people are quiet and afraid." Shaw, a cosmetologist and hair stylist, told the Baltimore Sun shortly after the attack that a group of five men rained down blows on his head as he left the liquor store. In the past, he said, he has been subjected to verbal abuse in his neighborhood. Representatives from the National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights organization that campaigns against homophobia, said the group had brought Shaw's case to the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice as an example of the "crisis of violence" affecting black gay people. Other activists and officials also joined the rally, including local NAACP head Tessa Hill-Aston, City Councilmen Carl Stokes and Nick Mosby, and Kevin D. Cleary, a mayoral aide who works with the gay community. Carrie Evans, the executive director of Equality Maryland, which campaigned for the state's new same-sex marriage law, compared that legislative victory with the more basic problems many gay people still face in their day-to-day lives. "What happened to Mr. Shaw just shows how much we have to do on the ground," she said.
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