Sunday, March 24, 2013

Large (Pointless) Anglo-French Rally Against Same Sex Marriage Held In London, 12-Year-Old Matthew Lannen Testifies Before Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee On Same Sex Marriage To Chose Love, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy Writes Letter To Editor Urging Passage On Illinois Marriage Equality, Maine Magazine Awards Same Sex Couple Wedding Valued At $100,000, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill Suddenly Supports Same Sex Marriage, Karl Rove Can Imagine 2016 GOP Presidential Candidate Supporting Same Sex Marriage, Patrick Schwarzenegger Sexes Up South Beach

In London, England, the irony of the setting for an Anglo-French rally against same sex marriage, at the foot of Nelson's Column, was not entirely lost on the crowd. The Independent reports that amid grey skies and occasional flurries of snow, British and French flags flew side-by-side above the smartly-dressed crowd gathered in Trafalgar Square. Among them were children, men and women; predominantly white and middle-class. On the other side of a thin police line, the rainbow-coloured flags of emotional counter-protestors fluttered in the chilling breeze. The official demonstration organised by French coalition group La Manif Pour Tous (March For All), which was established last year in response to potential legislative changes, were voicing their opposition to the UK Government’s ‘Same Sex marriage’ Bill, which has just completed its committee stage in the House of Commons. Children with banners bearing the organisers' official mantra 'Uphold Marriage' lined the steps to Nelson's Column. Taking to the stage, speaker Alan Craig, former leader of the Christian Peoples Alliance, acknowledged the countries' combative past before declaring Britain and France were now “united” by a “willingness to stand up against sudden attacks on the vital institution of marriage.” Organizers claimed as many as 2,000 supporters braved the weather to deliver their controversial message. 'We condemn any expression of homophobia or intolerance (but) family is the basis of society,' another voice explained over the public address system. Within minutes of the first speaker taking to the microphone, there were chants from an impassioned counter-rally, weaker in numbers but louder in voice, chanting 'Shame on you!' and “No bigots here!” A greying man with spectacles and a cane sized up to one counter-campaigner and was led away by his wife by the arm: “Let's go away, this is not for us, this is very bad.” Other members of the crowd were pulled apart by police. Speaking above the din, 52-year-old Gilles, who has lived in London for 25 years and declined to give his last name, said: “We believe marriage is more than a contract, it is an institution and it needs to be protected. “We are mindful of homosexuals who want to have children... we do not believe it is in the interests of the child to be parented by homosexuals.” An opponent of same sex marriage, Heather Lewis, 63, from Harlow in Essex said she “supports the traditional view of marriage as instituted by God. I am not anti- Gay but I feel under current legislation proposals the Church would have to change and why should it change just because the Government says it should?” While Manif Pour Tous - a mixture of religious and non-religious groups - claimed to represent the mainstream view of the French people and its British cousins, counter-activist Jacky Pantonnier said he was “ashamed,” adding, “France stands for libertie, egalitie, fraternitie. This is not a reflection of my country but of a small group of people living in the middle ages.” Today's protest was timed to coincide with a demonstration in Paris which saw thousands rally against plans by the Government in France to redefine marriage and allow children to be adopted by same sex couples. Tear-gas was used by police to control crowds that swamped two avenues radiating from the Arc de Triomphe. The French Senate is due to debate the divisive legislation next month, following approval the National Assembly in February this year by a margin of 329 to 229. In Britain, since 2005, same sex couples have been allowed to enter into civil partnerships, a separate union which provides the legal consequences of marriage but not legal recognition as such. The ‘Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill’ for England and Wales had its first reading on 24 January 2013. The bill was debated in the House of Commons on 5 February 2013. The legislation was later approved on second reading in a 400–175 vote.

In Rhode Island, days before the U.S. Supreme Court will confront two distinct same sex marriage cases, a video of a Providence boy's State House testimony that his moms should be able to legally marry has been receiving tens of thousands of views on several websites, including YouTube. Wheeler School sixth grader Matthew Lannon, 12, may have been the youngest of the hundreds to testify during an unprecedented 12-hour marathon hearing before the state's Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday in favor of a bill sponsored by his aunt, state Sen. Donna Nesselbush, that would legalize gay marriage in the Ocean State. In his statement, Lannon urged committee members to support his aunt's bill: "My parents, [Maryellen Butke and Josephine O'Connell] and all the other gay and lesbian people here just want to be happy. Just like you, all they want is to be treated fairly. But unlike most of you, they have to come here again, year after year, and explain over and over why their love is equal to yours. This year, you have the opportunity to change that. I say, choose love." The video by Providence Journal photographer Kris Craig was picked up by the Huffington Post and Salon, and was featured on AOL's homepage and elsewhere across the web. As of Saturday afternoon, the video had received tens of thousands of views. Scores of the thousands of comments across the web commend Lannon, and speak to the quality of parenting in families like his: "Matthew's expression when he is done and people begin to applaud is priceless. A great speech from a great kid. I hope those who needed to hear it listened with open minds and hearts. Stop dragging your feet, Rhode Island." Another wrote, "Those who say they are against marriage equality to protect the children -- THIS is who they say they are speaking for. They are not. He is speaking for himself. He is speaking for his loving family. Everyone should listen." Another comment read, "I had a comrade in the military who saved my life twice. He came out of the closet once he left the military (way back when they would dishonorably discharge you). He and his lover of 16 years had to raise his younger brothers when his parents became incapacitated. They turned out the sweetest, nicest kids you have ever known. Hard-working patriots and Christians. The people who insist that having gay parents damages the children are blinded by their own hatred and bigotry. " And another posted, "I think most of the people freaking out about this are doing so because they are seeing what we've been saying all along... their so called "studies" that suggest children of gay parents suffer are ridiculous and unfounded.” As Rhode Island debates whether to join the rest of New England in legally recognizing same-sex unions, the Supreme Court has scheduled 60 minutes of oral argument in Hollingsworth v. Perry on Tuesday morning. The case involves a challenge to California's Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriages. A federal appeals court has ruled it to be unconstitutional. Supporters asked for the Supreme Court to review the ruling. On Wednesday, the court has scheduled an unusually long 110 minutes of argument in United States v. Windsor. The case challenges the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that prohibits myriad federal benefits from going to gay married couples.

Jeff Tweedy, of Wilco, wrote a letter to the editor of the Belleville News-Democrat expressing his support for same sex marriage in Illinois. Tweedy, who resides in Belleville, argues that denying gay and lesbian couples the right to marry effectively regulates them to second-class citizens, writing, “I've witnessed firsthand that gay and lesbian couples want to marry for the same reasons all of us do -- to share a lifetime of commitment. I feel very strongly that everyone should be able to marry the person he or she loves and enjoy the dignity and respect that comes with that commitment. By excluding same-sex couples from marriage, our state saddles them, their children and itself with second-class status. That is wrong, and it hurts Illinois families and businesses. Nine other states have already extended the freedom to marry to gay and lesbian couples. I work and have friends in all those states, and I can say assuredly that it's time for Illinois to join them. Waiting and sending the signal that we're not open to and supportive of that community is a big mistake. The time is now. I hope you'll join me in calling on the Illinois General Assembly to give same sex couples the freedom to marry by supporting SB 10.”

A Maine magazine has awarded a wedding valued up to $100,000 to a same-sex couple for its annual wedding contest. Real Maine Weddings says Jenna Eagleton and Caroline Curry of Portland were chosen from among three finalist couples. The announcement was made Sunday at the Maine Wedding Association Bridal Show in Freeport. Same sex couples have been allowed to marry in Maine since late December after voters approved a gay marriage referendum in November. Eagleton and Currie plan to get married in October in Kennebunkport. Their prize includes the reception, a wedding dress, tuxedos, rings, flowers, and limousine service. The magazine says couples enter the giveaway by submitting a video to the magazine’s website saying why they deserve a free dream wedding.

In a surprise turnabout, Senator Claire McCaskill endorsed gay marriage on Sunday — following in the footsteps of other prominent politicians who have recently switched their views on this hot-button social issue, according to the News-Lesder. “I have come to the conclusion that our government should not limit the right to marry based on who you love,” McCaskill (D-Missouri) wrote in a Tumblr post on Sunday. “While churches should never be required to conduct marriages outside of their religious beliefs, neither should the government tell people who they have a right to marry.” Until now, McCaskill had walked a careful line on the issue. She had expressed opposition to gay marriage, but support for civil unions, which grant gay couples some — but not all — of the legal rights that married couples enjoy. She also opposed Missouri’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, arguing that it was unnecessary because existing state law already prohibited gay marriage. As recently as last year — when President Barack Obama came out in favor of gay marriage (McCaskill, then in the middle of a heated re-election campaign) said her views had not changed and the issue should be up to the states. “The state of Missouri’s position on this issue has been clearly established since 2004, and nothing about today’s announcement changes that,” McCaskill’s spokesman, John LaBombard, said of Obama’s reversal on gay marriage. In her Tumblr post on Sunday, McCaskill said “my views on this subject have changed over time,” adding that “as many of my gay and lesbian friends, colleagues and staff embrace long-term, committed relationships, I find myself unable to look them in the eye without honestly confronting this uncomfortable inequality. Supporting marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples is simply the right thing to do for our country, a country founded on the principals of liberty and equality.”

Fox News contributor and former Bush deputy chief of staff Karl Rove said this morning on ABC’s This Week that he can imagine a future Republican presidential candidate supporting same sex marriage. When asked, “Can you imagine the next presidential campaign, a Republican candidate saying flat out I am for gay marriage?” Rove responded “I could.” Rove’s comment came a week after Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, whom Mitt Romney considered as a running mate in the 2012 election, announced that he had shifted his position and supported gay marriage. The vast majority of Republicans in Congress do not support same sex marriage. Portman is the only sitting Republican senator to support same sex marriage. Originally, it was reported that Rove said he could imagine the next GOP presidential nominee supporting gay marriage. Rove instead had said he could imagine a Republican presidential candidate in the next election supporting gay marriage. Rove responded in a statement, “I was asked if I could see A Republican presidential candidate supporting gay marriage in 2016 and I said I could (e.g., Jon Huntsman endorsed civil unions in 2012). I was not asked if I could see THE Republican presidential candidate or the GOP presidential nominee as the ABC website has said this afternoon.”

Patrick Schwarzenegger, on spring break, spotted shirtless in South Beach, accompanied by a cadre of male companions (engaging some horseplay), walking in the sand.

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