Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Citing Vague Definition Of Law Santa Fe New Mexico Mayor David Cross Encourages County Clerks To Begin Issuing Marriage Licenses To Same Sex Couples, President Obama Issues Group Organizing For Action Joins Campaign To Push For Same Sex Marriage In Illinois, Non-Profit Group Planting Peace Paints Rainbow Flag On Home Across From Anti-Gay Westboro Baptist Church, Venue After Venue Cancelling Michelle Shocked Shows Following Her Violently Hateful Anti-Gay Comments, Patrick Schwarzenegger Sexiness

In New Mexico, Santa Fe city officials are hoping to shake up the debate on same sex marriage in the state. They say based on current law, same sex marriage appears to be legal here and they are encouraging county clerks across the state to start issuing marriage licenses. State lawmakers have taken up the issue time and time again, but Tuesday, Santa Fe's mayor and city attorney said it doesn't really matter. Opponents to same sex marriage say this is only going to lead to a battle in court. “Same sex marriage is legal in New Mexico,” says Geno Zamora, Santa Fe city attorney. He says New Mexico defines marriage as a civil contract between "parties," rather than saying between a man and a woman. “The statutes define it as gender-neutral between two parties,” Zamora says. Santa Fe Mayor David Coss and City Councilor Patti Bushee, who stood next to her partner during the announcement, are sponsoring a resolution in support of same sex marriage. “We are going to encourage county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples,” Mayor Coss says. “It doesn't surprise me Santa Fe is doing that, but it's still against state law,” says Sen. Bill Sharer, (R-Farmington). Sharer has in the past tried to pass laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman. He says if county clerks do in fact issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, the debate will have to be settled in court. “Marriage is not about two people. Marriage is about creating and raising the next generation. That's what marriage is about. Marriage is about bringing new life into the world,” Sen. Sharer says. Republicans and Democrats have tried to pass legislation to either legalize or prohibit same sex marriage but all attempts thus far have failed. Mayor Coss says he is done waiting. “There are a lot of things where if you wait for the New Mexico Legislature, you might be waiting for a long time,” Coss says. Attorney General Gary King has issued an opinion saying same-sex marriages valid in other states will also be recognized in New Mexico. But he has not had to weigh in yet on whether or not same sex marriage is legal in New Mexico under current state law. Mayor Coss and Councilor Bushee plan to introduce their resolution at a council meeting next week.

In Illinois, Organizing for Action, the offshoot of President Barack Obama’s successful re-election campaign, is joining the push for same sex marriage in Obama’s home state, the group announced Tuesday. Though the organization had been created to assist Obama’s second-term agenda on a variety of issues before Congress, the group’s decision to get involved in state matters brings its vast technological and networking skills to the statehouse level. “We've heard from OFA supporters here in Illinois that this issue matters to you, and that's why we're teaming up with Illinois Unites for Marriage —a joint project of ACLU Illinois, Equality Illinois, and Lambda Legal — to add our voices to this fight,” Lindsay Siler, the group’s national director of issue campaigns, told supporters in an e-mail. The Obama organization is pushing such national issues as immigration reform, addressing gun violence and dealing with the federal sequester, but organizers who led Obama’s re-election campaign also have said it would be grass-roots driven and take up local issues. "I think this will remind people that the president of the United States changed his mind on marriage,” said state Rep. Greg Harris, the Chicago Democrat sponsoring the same sex marriage legislation in Illinois. “I'm so glad that he's changed his mind. It's what a lot of people are doing." The Obama group’s involvement marks the latest ratcheting up of interests on both sides of the gay marriage issue. The group was recruited by a national gay rights organization, National Freedom to Marry, said officials with Equality Illinois. Legislation to authorize same sex marriage has passed the state Senate, but has been mired in the House. Speaker Michael Madigan, the Southwest Side lawmaker who also is state Democratic chairman, has said the measure is about a dozen votes shy of the 60 needed for passage. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has said he would sign the bill, if passed. Despite a significant Democratic majority in the Illinois House, passage of the measure had always been viewed more difficult there than in the Senate. Several Downstate Democrats have socially conservative views. But efforts also are underway to turn some city Democrats off the bill. A coalition of African-American clergy from Cook County has begun airing radio commercials on black-oriented stations urging opposition to the measure. The radio ads come on top of automated telephone calls placed to African-American households by former state Sen. James Meeks, pastor of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago. The African American Clergy Coalition, as the group calls itself, is also working with Catholic Conference of Illinois and representatives of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod against the gay marriage bill. Harris would not say whether the efforts by the African American clergy group have cost him votes. “I think people are going to listen. They are going to listen to all sides. They are hearing from ministers and parishioners on both sides of the issue in their districts,” he said. “I think they are going to come to the same conclusion the majority of Americans have in that this is the fair thing for government to do — to treat all people equally.” Supporters tried to get the measure passed during the January lame-duck session, but failed to get the bill out of the Senate.

In Kansas, Aaron Jackson wasn’t even aware of Westboro Baptist Church until he saw the May 2012 photograph of 9-year-old Topekan Josef Miles staging a counter-protest at one of the church’s pickets. The photo of Josef, whose sign read “God hates no one,” went viral, spreading rapidly across the Internet. The photo inspired Jackson, he said, and he checked Google Earth to see where Westboro Baptist was located. The application displayed an image of the church’s compound — and a “for sale” sign in the yard of a house across the street. Although that house turned out not to be for sale, Jackson said, the house at 1200 S.W. Orleans was, and a plan started to take shape. Planting Peace, Jackson’s non-profit organization, on Tuesday painted the house across the street from the church in the colors of the gay pride flag. The “Equality House” is meant to symbolize equality, peace and positive change, Jackson said. Jackson, 31, of Destin, Florida, is co-founder of Planting Peace. He said the group purchased the house about six months ago. As it isn’t zoned for office use, he said, it will be used as housing for Planting Peace volunteers who want to work on the group’s equality campaign and anti-bullying programs. As for how the neighbors will feel, Jackson said he doesn’t know what approach Westboro Baptist will take. “This isn’t us trying to start a war with them or anything of that nature,” he said. “This is just, they believe one thing and we believe another. We’re opposing their view.” Steve Drain, spokesman for Westboro Baptist, issued a statement via e-mail proclaiming that the church thanks God for the “Sodomite Rainbow House.” The house shines a spotlight on the church’s belief that sodomy is destroying America and damning souls to hell, he stated. “This is not a novel idea — there are hundreds of similarly painted houses around the world — the only reason why this one is a story is because of where it is!” Drain wrote. City spokeswoman Suzie Gilbert said painting the house didn’t violate city code. Painters with McKessor’s Painting began work on the house at 8:00 am. Work was scheduled to last throughout the day, as the siding needed multiple coats. Contractor Mike McKessor, of Kansas City, Missouri, said he had agreed to contract to paint the house with four of his employees after five other contractors who initially expressed interest turned the job down. His reason was simple. “I don’t like them messing with veterans,” he said, referring to Westboro Baptist’s pickets of troops’ funerals. McKessor said he is a veteran. He said local painters may have been uncomfortable with the thought of harassment from the group if they accepted the job. But he said he doesn’t blame them. “I live an hour away, so I can get away with it,” he said. Beyond that, McKessor seemed to like the idea of the Equality House. “You know, everybody’s the same, so hey, let’s get rid of the hatred,” he said. The group’s goal isn’t for the Equality House to be a sideshow, Jackson said, but rather to be aesthetic and professional. He and other volunteers said several neighbors and passers-by had stopped by to share their support for the project. “I’m happy to see the community is getting behind it,” he said.

An update on a previous post: Michelle Shocked, the punk folk-singer, liberal activist and born-again Christian, has drawn fire for an anti-gay tirade in San Francisco over the weekend, during which she said God hates homosexuals. One nightclub in Evanston, Illinois, on Monday canceled a scheduled appearance in May after her remarks, at Yoshi’s jazz club in San Francisco on Sunday night. The Evanston club, Space, said on its Facebook page that “it’s clear that this is no longer a show we’re willing to put our name on.” At least four other shows have also been canceled, including a March 29 show at the Hopmonk Tavern in Novato, California, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday. Michelle Shocked cited Old Testament verses condemning homosexuality and told the audience she hoped the courts would uphold Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage, according to Yahoo Music. “I live in fear that the world will be destroyed if gays are allowed to marry,” she said. Then she also told the audience to go on Twitter and report that she had said God hates homosexuals, though it is unclear whether that remark was sardonic. Much of the audience walked out after her remarks. The club’s manager tried to end the show, but she continued playing until staff members pulled the plug and turned off the stage lights. Gay rights have been a touchy subject for Michelle Shocked over the years. In 1990, she told an interviewer at The Dallas Voice that she had once had a relationship with a woman but did not want to be defined as a lesbian. In recent years, she underwent a religious conversion and started attending a Pentecostal church, and her statements about homosexuality became more tortured. She told the Dallas Voice in 2008 that she resented attempts by journalists to pin down her sexual orientation. “There are some inconvenient truths that I’m now a born-again, sanctified, saved-in-the-blood Christian. So much of what’s said and done in the name of that Christianity is appalling,” the singer told the weekly paper. “According to my Bible, which I didn’t write, homosexuality is immoral. But homosexuality is no more less a sin than fornication. And I’m a fornicator with a capital F.” Then in 2011, she became incensed when a member of the audience asked her position on gay rights at the Christian-oriented Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina, Religion Dispatches magazine reported. “Who drafted me as a gay icon?” she said. “You are looking at the world’s greatest homophobe. Ask God what he thinks.”

Patrick Schwarzenegger (or Shriver) and a male friend, is shirtless and sexy in Mexico.

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