Tuesday, proponents of Proposition 8 (the California ballot initiative that defines marriage as between a man and a woman) filed their opening briefs with the Supreme Court, urging the justices to reverse a lower court decision that struck down the state’s ban on same sex marriage. Arguments in the case will be heard at the end of March, and briefs from the opponents are due in about a month. “By adopting Proposition 8,” Charles Cooper, a lawyer for ProtectMarriage.com, writes, “the People of California demonstrated their belief that this matter is best resolved by the People themselves, not by their courts. The Equal Protection Clause does not prohibit the People of California — or any State — from making this choice. To the contrary, it leaves them free to do what they are doing — debating this controversial issue and seeking to resolve it in a way that will best serve their families, their children, and, ultimately their society as a whole.” According to ABC News, ProtectMarriage.com, the original sponsor of Prop 8, is defending the law because California’s elected officials refused to do so. The group argues that preserving traditional marriage furthers society’s “existential interests in responsible procreation and childrearing,” Cooper writing, “An animating purpose of marriage is to increase the likelihood that children will be born and raised in stable and enduring family units by their own mothers and fathers. Because relationships between persons of the same sex do not have the capacity to produce children, they do not implicate this interest in responsible procreation and childrearing in the same way.” Cooper criticizes a federal appeals court that struck down Prop 8 on narrow grounds tailored closely to California and its history with gay marriage. For a few months in 2008, gay couples in California were able to obtain marriage licenses after a ruling from the California Supreme Court. Some 18,000 same sex couples obtained marriage licenses in the state before Prop 8 was passed in November 2008. In February of 2012, a panel of judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Prop 8 “stripped same-sex couples” of the right to use the designation of marriage to describe their relationships and that Prop 8 “serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California and to officially reclassify their relationship and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.” In his brief, Cooper points out that there was only a brief period of time in California’s history when same-sex marriage was allowed. He writes, “It is difficult to think of a law with deeper roots in California’s and our Nation’s history, practices, and traditions than one defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. That definition has prevailed for all but 142 days of California’s 162 year history, and it continues to prevail in federal law and in the overwhelming majority of the States, most often through constitutional provisions much like Proposition 8. ” Cooper makes a veiled reference to the fact that President Obama has only recently come out in support of gay marriage. He writes, “The Ninth Circuit’s charge thus impugns the motives of over seven million California voters and countless other Americans who believe that traditional marriage continues to serve society’s vital interests, including the citizens and lawmakers of 40 other states, the Members of Congress and President who supported enactment of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the large majority of state and federal appellate judges who have addressed the issue, an until very recently President Obama. ” Cooper points out that Prop 8 left “undisturbed” other laws, including domestic partnership laws available to gays and lesbians in the state.
In Kentucky, following a peaceful sit-in, the Courier-Journal reports that an ordained Baptist minister and his partner were arrested on trespassing charges Tuesday after refusing to leave the Jefferson County Clerk’s office when they were denied a marriage license. The Rev. Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard and Dominque James were placed in a patrol car for the short drive to the Jefferson County Jail when they declined to leave after the office closed at 5:00 pm. Led away without being handcuffed, Blanchard said they declined an offer from police to be cited rather than arrested. “If we don’t act, we are accomplices in our own discrimination,” he said earlier. “We have to resist.” Louisville Metro Police Lt. Robert Shadle told reporters that Blanchard, 34, and James, 29, said that felt a “spiritual obligation” to stay and be arrested. Gay marriage is prohibited in Kentucky by statute and a 2004 constitutional amendment that says “only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be a marriage in Kentucky.” State law says that any clerk who knowingly issues a license in violation of the statute is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by as much as a year in jail and removal from office. After marching for an hour in front of the courthouse with four supporters in the bitter cold, Blanchard and James walked hand in hand inside and asked to a license to be married. The manager of the license office, Sandy Byerly, said she could not give one to them because of the state law against same sex marriage. Blanchard said he knew that would be the response but that when he heard, it was still “humiliating and degrading.” He said he was anxious about facing arrest but “trusting in God and deeply called to do this.” Blanchard, who works for a communications company, said, “We need to stand up for ourselves and countless others.” The “principals of conduct” posted in the clerk’s office says that “discrimination of any nature” is prohibited. But elected clerk Bobbi Holsclaw said her office no choice but to follow the law. She did not appear during the protest, but in a brief interview she said the two men “were in the wrong place,” adding, "They should be at the legislature.” Dressed in dark suits and ties and wearing matching wool caps embroidered with the words “God is Love,” the couple, who were married in a Unitarian Church 61/2 years ago, sat quietly after they were refused the license. When they refused to leave at closing time, Tommy Woods, a private security guard said, “Call the sheriff.” Instead, police arrived about 45 minutes later. Blanchard, who was ordained last year at Highland Baptist Church, where he started an outreach program for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people, said the protest was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi. Blanchard said the protest was symbolically scheduled for the day after the observation of King’s birthday and in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court in March hearing two cases in which it could establish a constitutional right to gay marriage. “We hope that the voices of protest will echo through this land and equality will come about,” he said. Highland Baptist Church was not involved with the protest, said the Rev. Joe Phelps, its pastor. Martin Cothran, a policy analyst for the Family Foundation of Kentucky, which supported the constitutional amendment, said in an e-mail Tuesday that he still thinks it enjoys “substantial support,” adding, “We don't see that changing any time soon, if ever. At some point — and we could already have reached that point — the shift in opinion toward redefining marriage will bottom out.” Blanchard said he was married to James in June 2006, in a ceremony at the First Unitarian Church in Louisville. But he said they want their marriage recognized by the state of Kentucky, “It is important that the place we have our home and where we worship allows us the same civil rights that others have,” he said. “We love where we are from.” In an announcement prior to the protest, he said, “We are not there to offend, antagonize or provoke others but to be present in love knowing it will resonate in the hearts of those who see and hear us.”
In New Zealand, terms such as mother, father, husband, and wife could disappear from the law if same sex marriage is legalized, MPs have been told. Family First director Bob McCoskrie told the select committee considering Louisa Wall's same sex marriage bill that Spanish law had recently replaced the terms mother and father with Progenitor A and Progenitor B. "The US State of Washington is to remove the terms husband and wife from divorce courts," he said. "In France the words mother and father will be stripped from official documents. McCoskrie tabled 24,000 extra signatures to petition against the bill on top of 48,000 already presented at parliament. "I see marriage as similar to the Treaty of Waitangi. It is historical. It is the foundation of our culture," he said. "It certainly shouldn't be altered." New Zealand Aids Foundation told the committee that countries with less discrimination against gay people have lower rates of HIV. "The internalisation of homophobia leads to a devaluation of self and a reduction in the ability of gay, lesbian and transgender people to make positive decisions," said doctor Jason Myers of the Foundation.
In Scotland, a drop-in service offering sexual health testing for gay and bisexual men has been launched in Glasgow. The clinic, run by Sandyford service and Gay Men's Health, will run on Thursday evenings in Merchant City. Using blood drawn from fingers, results from HIV and syphilis testing will be available within 20 minutes. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) hopes the service will raise awareness of HIV among gay men and reduce future rates of infection. NHS GGC sexual health improvement officer Nicky Coia said, "HIV is the sexually transmitted infection that people really worry about, so the fact they can get results really quickly is important. We wanted to open up choice to men who might find it more difficult of go through the process of booking an appointment and having to wait for test results. The biggest barrier for gay and bisexual men in regards to testing for HIV is the fear of a positive result. So anything we can do to reduce that level of fear is really important." According to Health Protection Scotland, there are an estimated 4,315 people who are HIV positive living in Scotland. Unprotected sex among gay men currently accounts for the largest number of new HIV diagnosis in Scotland. "With this new service, and also the Terrence Higgins Trust community testing which recently launched, both models make sure that people have a clear pathway to NHS services that are already in place," added Coia. "So anyone who is diagnosed will be immediately referred into appropriate NHS services for follow-up treatment and care." The clinic will run from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm every Thursday at the Gay Men's Health Glasgow office in Bell Street, Merchant City.
In Springfield, Illinois, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois has issued a statement regarding a Catholic priest on leave from his church after police found him handcuffed inside the church rectory in Springfield. Bishop Paprocki said he was first informed of the incident on December 6th. "On December 8th, I met with Father Donovan and Monsignor Carl Kemme, my Vicar General, in my office at the Catholic Pastoral Center. Father Donovan said that he was mortified by what happened and acknowledged that the information that had been reported to me was basically accurate. He insisted that he had been alone the whole time of this incident and denied that there was any sexual component to this," Bishop Paprocki wrote in the statement. Bishop Paprocki granted Father Donovan a requested leave of absence and acknowledged in his statement that, with Father Donovan's consent to disclose patient information, "he is being treated by a clinical therapist and is receiving appropriate medical care." The Bishop also noted "multiple significant unresolved stressors derived from parish ministry, and severely-compromised patterns of self-care with respect to diet, exercise, sleep, work hours, and unreasonable personal expectations of himself as a pastor." Father Thomas Donovan was a former preacher at St. Peter's in Quincy. Records obtained by television station WICS show police responded to a 9-1-1 call from the rectory at St. Aloysius Church -- back in November. A link to that report is at the source. Father Donovan originally told officers he put himself in handcuffs, and couldn't get them off. Police removed the cuffs and then conducted a "miscellaneous investigation." Investigators say no crime took place. A complete copy of the statement is available at the source.
In Nashville, Tennessee, a former Rocketown employee attracted internet buzz today by taking to Twitter, claiming to have been fired for showing support for same sex marriage. On Monday afternoon, Wes Breedwell wrote: “Got fired from Rocketown today. Social media is what did it. So here is a picture to show my support for equality and free speech including social media.” An accompanying Instagram picture shows him wearing a T-shirt for the band Hostage Calm which, on the back, reads: “I support same-sex marriage.” Georgia Jeffreys, a friend of Breedwell’s, answered his cell phone Monday and said he would be releasing a statement because he’s had a lot of media attention. As of 11:30 am Tuesday, there was no statement or any communication with Breedwell despite multiple voicemails left for him and messages to his Facebook and Twitter account. According to the Tennessean, Jacquelyn Marushka, publicist for Christian music artist and Rocketown founder Michael W. Smith, issued this statement from Rocketown late Monday night: "Rocketown does not comment on personnel issues, but, generally speaking, an employee would not be fired for expressing opinions on marriage. At Rocketown we are welcoming and accepting of all youth. We reach out to all kids, are inclusive and very much care about acceptance of youth from different ethnicities, sexual orientations, financial backgrounds and religions. Our mission is to provide a safe and drug-free environment where kids are welcomed, accepted and loved." What remains unclear is the reason for Breedwell's apparent firing. A comment about the Tweet rose to third most popular on social media site Reddit. “After 7 years of employment the official reason for his termination was, ‘He liked an inappropriate picture on Facebook.’ I guess this is what happens when you try to work at a Christian music venue,” the comment by poster spaghettispaghetti reads. But Hostage Calm’s website said the firing was over wearing the punk band’s shirt. A post reads: “Today, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a longtime supporter of Hostage Calm and marriage equality was fired from his job at the Nashville music venue, Rocketown, for wearing his ‘I Support Same-Sex Marriage’ shirt to work. A friend from Nashville contacted me about the situation and told me of Wes Breedwell, this seven-year employee of Rocketown who now finds himself the victim of discrimination. We called this brave man to hear his story, demonstrate our support, and figure out how we can help.” Rocketown, located at 601 4th Avenue South in Nashville, hosts both religious and secular events. Breedwell's LinkedIn profile says he's the music venue manager for Rocketown and has worked there since 2006. He is not on the Rocketown website, which lists names, titles and pictures of all staff members.
Barack Obama was not the only prominent figure to advance the gay rights cause this week with his historic reference to Stonewall in his inauguration speech. At another celebrity-studded, hot-ticket event across the Atlantic, the fashion world had its own watershed moment. The Guardian reports that less than 24 hours after the president's call for equality, Karl Lagerfeld subverted the traditions of Paris haute couture by closing the Chanel catwalk show with not one blushing bride, but two, hands clasped and dressed in identical, ravishing wedding gowns. Lagerfeld said he wanted to signal his support for the controversial French gay marriage law, which has led protesters to take to the streets of Paris. "I don't even understand the debate," said Lagerfeld. "Since 1904 the church and state have been separate." However, never one to miss an opportunity for maximum controversy, Lagerfeld added that he was "less keen" on gay couples being allowed to adopt children.
ABC's Tuesday comedy Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23 has been pulled from the schedule, effective immediately, and Happy Endings will start airing back-to-back original episodes starting January 29. A network representative confirms to The Hollywood Reporter that the change takes place next week, following Tuesday night's special two-hour premiere of The Taste and weeks of shuffling for both Apt. 23 and Happy Endings. After the two comedies were given an early end date in March to accommodate ABC's midseason schedule, the network announced plans to air three "bonus" episodes of each in the vacated 10:00 pm Sunday slot, before ditching the third round for an encore of Shark Tank after low ratings. This latest development also comes two weeks after ABC Network Groups president Paul Lee told reporters at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour that a decision on the future of both Apt. 23 and Happy Endings had yet to be made. "We love those two shows. They're incredibly distinctive, and they’re water-cooler shows," he said, noting that he planned to continue supporting the series throughout the season. Lee stopped short of commenting on whether either show would live beyond its current order (22 episodes for Happy Endings and 18 for Apt. 23). For Apt. 23, starring Krysten Ritter, the move marks the latest in its wonky scheduling. The series launched last year as a midseason show, with multiple episodes shelved to run out of sequence this season, including a story line involving co-star James Van Der Beek as a Dancing With the Stars contestant that only recently aired. And Happy Endings, itself a midseason show in 2011, saw its full order come to a quick close last season to accommodate new entries. An unaired season two episode finally made it to air two Sundays ago. Happy Endings, airing at 9:00 pm Tuesdays, has performed significantly stronger than Apt. 23 since the lineup launched earlier this season. It's currently averaging a 1.4 rating among adults 18-49 and 4 million viewers in Live+Same Day returns. Apt. 23 has a season average of a 1.2 adults rating and 3 million viewers. No decision has been made on when or where the eight unaired episodes of Apt. 23 will land. Van Der Beek took to Twitter on Tuesday to express his gratitude to ABC for taking a chance on the series. "Sad to say ABC has pulled #Apt23 and will not be airing the 8 remaining episodes any time soon. Translation: we’ve basically been cancelled," he wrote. "And please, no bashing ABC. While I’m sure no one there would say they think they nailed it when it came to programming #Apt23 this year...You've got to give ABC props for ever picking us up in the first place. They took a shot at something original & edgy. I respect them for it."
Charlotte Rae, best known for playing Edna Garrett on Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life, is shopping a memoir called The Facts of My Life. The New York Post reports that the book describes how she discovered her husband of 25 years, composer John Strauss, was gay. Rae and Strauss, who won a Grammy for the soundtrack to Amadeus, had just moved into a new house in LA when he confessed he was gay and had been unfaithful. “First came the shock of what he had done behind my back, then the sting of being deceived for years,” she writes. “All I could feel was the betrayal and, worse than that, my shame.” The pair, married in 1950, had two kids and divorced in 1975 after Strauss came out to her. Strauss died in 2011. “John’s secret confirmed my feelings of inferiority,” Rae writes. “That I was less than a woman . . . That I didn’t deserve to be loved and valued.”