In Rhode Island, with the 2013 legislation session in just its third day, lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced bills Thursday that would legalize same sex marriage. The identical bills were sponsored by Representative Arthur Handy (D-Cranston; House bill 5015) and Senator Donna Nesselbush (D-Pawtucket). Handy said 42 of 75 House members had signed on as cosponsors, while Nesselbush said 11 of 38 Senate members had signed on as of 4:50 pm. The bills would define marriage as the "legally recognized union" of two people. Same sex marriage is recognized in nine states, including all the other New England states, as well as the District of Columbia. Thirty-seven states define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Illinois Senate Democrats delayed a floor vote Thursday on legislation to make the state the 10th in the nation to legalize same sex marriage, but the sponsor expressed confidence there would be enough votes to pass it soon. After two days of snags in moving the issue, Senator Heather Steans finally won committee approval by an 8-5 vote Thursday evening, sending the measure next to the floor. But when supporters would get a crack at the divisive issue there remained unclear. Democrats called off a full Senate vote earlier Thursday after Steans said two supportive Democrats and a Republican were not present for the General Assembly’s lame-duck session. But the Chicago Democrat said the delay would only push a vote into next week or, at the latest, soon after the new Legislature is sworn in January 9. “This is definitely a question of when, not if,” Steans said. “This is the right thing to be doing.” Senate Democrats hold a 35-24 majority, but even in President Barack Obama’s home state, party members outside Chicago don’t always toe the line. Not all are on board with extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, and key supporters did not attend Thursday’s session. Hoping to ride momentum from the November elections and public encouragement from Obama, the postponement was another jolt in a bumpy ride for the issue this week, which began with high expectations but also fierce opposition. The openly gay Jesse Tyler Ferguson, one of the stars of Modern Family, campaigned for the measure in Illinois while religious leaders — including a phalanx of 1,700 clergy, from Catholic to Muslim — united in writing lawmakers to oppose it. And in a twist not uncommon in Illinois politics, the state’s Republican Party chairman said he was lobbying for what he termed a “conservative” position in favor of proposal, calling it a matter of equality for “the party of Lincoln.” Republican chairman Pat Brady said Thursday, “I don’t think the government should be in the business of telling people who can and can’t get married ... This is the most conservative position.” It was a political risk for Democrats, who came to Springfield with voters most concerned about the $96 billion debt in the state’s public pension systems, a problem Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, a same sex marriage supporter, said should nonetheless be the lame-duck session’s top priority. Supporters said they pressed the matter in the waning days of the 97th General Assembly to take advantage of soaring support in the state and nationally. But lame ducks theoretically have more freedom to vote without fear of voter backlash. Even though Democrats will claim a 40-19 advantage in the new session, newcomers will bring more diverse views in a state where southern Illinoisans live closer to Birmingham, Alabama, than to Chicago. The plan comes just 18 months after Illinois recognized civil unions. It is riding a wave from November ballot questions in several states bolstering gay marriage and support from Obama, whose political career began in the Illinois Senate. But the hiccups began before the champagne bottles were uncorked. Steans’ attempt to amend marriage language onto an existing bill Wednesday night stalled when Republicans demanded a roll call on a procedural measure and defeated the bill’s progress. Advocates finally had something to cheer when a new vehicle for the legislation won approval in the influential Senate Executive Committee Thursday, controlled by the Senate President, John Cullerton of Chicago. The meeting was delayed for hours as Democrats scrambled to shore up support. One Democrat was out of the country and another had a family issue to attend, while a GOP supporter was absent because of her mother’s death. “People are changing their minds every day,” Steans said. “This is never going to be an easy one, but it’s only going to get easier.”
Despite poll numbers showing the majority of Americans now support same sex marriage, House Speaker John Boehner sent a strong message today authorizing the continued use of taxpayer funds to defend a federal law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. In February 2011, the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend the law, the Defense of Marriage Act in various court challenges across the country. Boehner subsequently announced that the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group would take over the defense of the law. BLAG is comprised of five members of the House leadership. The Republican majority tapped superstar lawyer Paul Clement to lead the effort. Thursday, House Republicans included DOMA language in the Opening Day Rules package authorizing the continued use of taxpayer funds. The proposed language reads: “The Bipartisan Legal advisory Group continues to speak for, and articulate the institutional position of, the House in all litigation matters in which it appears, including in Windsor v. United States.” Windsor v. United States refers to a challenge to DOMA that will be heard by the Supreme Court sometime this spring. A spokesperson for Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi responded this morning: “Today, House Republicans will send a clear message to LGBT families: their fiscal responsibility mantra does not extend to their efforts to stand firmly on the wrong side of the future.” In the statement spokesperson Drew Hammill said, “As House Democrats have time and time again made clear, the BLAG does not speak for all Members of the House of Representatives and we will continue to oppose this wasteful use of taxpayer funds to defend DOMA.” DOMA passed in 1996 with strong majorities in both the House and the Senate. Michael Steel, a spokesperson for Boehner, said in a statement today: “We continue to believe the constitutionality of the law should be judged by the court, not the president unilaterally–and will provide the resources needed to protect our system of checks and balances.” When the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case last month it specified that it wanted to hear arguments on whether BLAG has the legal right–or “standing” –to participate.
In Mississippi, the Forrest County Circuit Clerk's Office denied marriage licenses for five couples Wednesday afternoon. The couples walked into the circuit clerk's office one couple at a time. "We're here to apply for a marriage license," said Petal Resident, Sara Bell. All the couples applied for a marriage license, and were immediately denied. Forrest County Circuit Clerk Lou Ellen Adams explained the rejection. "As I told the others, you know, this takes an act of the legislature to change this. My oath of office, as circuit clerk, I have to take an oath that I have to up hold the laws of the state of Mississippi, and this law says that I cannot issue this license," said Adams. Five lesbian couples from South Mississippi entered the courthouse knowing their request for a license would be denied. Reverend Jasmine Beach-Ferrara says this peaceful action is a part of the "We Do" Campaign, which calls for full equality under federal law for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. "Call for change under federal law, which we believe to be the most appropriate path way for LGBT people in the south to become equal citizens under the law, and for their fundamental right to marry to be recognized which it currently is not," said Ferrara. Sara and Lynn Bell are legally married in the state of Connecticut, but they feel it is important to stand for the right to marry in their home state of Mississippi. "We struggle with healthcare benefits, and we struggle with housing issues, and mortgages and insurance. There is so many things that a marriage grants to couples that we don't have the rights to," said Sara Bell. Rolanda Boyd and Dawn Edwards have been together for nine years. Despite the denial, Boyd says they are proud of their actions. "I'm in love with her and I'm proud of it. I am proud of who we are, our family. We just wanted to make a stand to let everyone know that we are here too. We are Americans just like everybody else," said Boyd. The couples say the marriage license does not make them a family; however, they are fighting for it so they and others will be able to say "I do" in the state of Mississippi. "It's what we have together and that we love each other that makes us a family, but this piece of paper would protect our family," said Sara Bell.
In the United Kingdom, West Ham United winger Matt Jarvis has become only the third soccer player to feature on the cover of Attitude, the British-based bestselling gay magazine in an effort to break one of the game's biggest remaining taboos. The footballer, who is married, follows David Beckham, who appeared on the cover of Attitude in 2002, and Freddie Ljungberg in 2006. The magazine has been published since 1994. In an interview, the winger said it was time that a gay footballer felt comfortable enough to come out. "It's everyday life. It's not something that's going to be a shock," he said. "I'm sure there are many footballers who are gay, but when they decide to actually come out and say it, it is a different story. It's one that I'm sure they've thought about many times. But it's a hard thing for them to do." In 1990 Justin Fashanu – the first black £1m footballer, who played for Norwich, Nottingham Forest and Hearts – suffered extended abuse after coming out. He killed himself eight years later. The only footballer to come out since is Anton Hysen, a player in the Swedish lower leagues. Asked about Clare Balding's recent comments that being out could help a sportsperson's performance, Jarvis said, "I'd agree with that. Because you've always got something you're worried about at the back of your mind. If you can let that go and then just concentrate on your one goal, which is whichever sport you're doing to the best of your ability, I think that would help; Definitely." Jarvis told Attitude that he thought times had changed and an openly gay footballer would receive the support he needed. "There'd be support everywhere within the football community, whether it be players, fans or within the PFA [Professional Footballers' Association]. There would definitely be groups of people who would be supportive and help them through it," he said. Homophobia in football remains a stubborn problem, said Alice Ashworth, policy officer at Stonewall. "Our polling has found that one in four football fans think it is an anti-gay sport, while seven in 10 fans had heard homophobic abuse on the terraces. There is still a culture in the game that means being gay is not tolerated in the same way as it is in other professions and society at large," she said. The charity works closely with the FA and the PFA following YouGov research in 2009 in which half of respondents felt key football organisations were not doing enough. Matthew Todd, the editor of Attitude, said it was time football started tackling homophobia in the same way it addressed racism. "It's ridiculous that there are no openly gay players in professional football," he said. "There's rightly been a focus on ridding the beautiful game of racism, but there doesn't seem to be much effort to tackle homophobia. We know there are gay players – and fans that support the game religiously – so I hope this starts a discussion and is a small step in the right direction."
Super sexy Alexander Ludwig (Hunger Games) struts shirtless along the beaches of Hawaii, the Canadian spending Christmas in his native Whistler, British Columbia joined by girlfriend Nicole Marie Pedra, who, um, honestly, doesn’t seem that interested in Alexander.