Silver Rights

News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.

Friday, March 12, 2004  

News: Setbacks to gay marriage mount

The party is over, or at least on hold, in California. The state's highest court has ruled the mayor of San Francisco was premature in allowing homosexuals to acquire licenses and marry. Gavin Newsom (pictured) responded by having his administration file suit against the state.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts, the first state to allow gay marriage, is moving to reverse itself politically.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP)--The California Supreme Court ordered an immediate halt to same-sex weddings in San Francisco on Thursday as Massachusetts lawmakers gave preliminary approval to a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages in the only state where they have been ruled legal.

Teary-eyed couples were quickly turned away at San Francisco's City Hall, where 4,161 gay couples have tied the knot in the last month.

``We were filling out the application and they told us to stop,'' said Art Adams, who was the first to be denied as he and partner Devin Baker sought a license. ``It's heartbreaking. I don't understand why two people in love should be prevented from expressing it.''

On the other side of the country, Massachusetts legislators returned to the Capitol to consider a constitutional amendment that would strip gay couples of their court-granted right to marriage but allow civil unions.

The amendment won approval during two preliminary votes, but its final passage is far from certain. Gay marriage supporters were conducting procedural maneuvers that could ultimately lead to the proposal's defeat.

Gay unions became possible in San Francisco because Mayor Gavin Newsom decided, on his own, that the equal protection clause of the state's constitution required it. The city began to issue marriage licenses to homosexuals Feb. 12. California's celebrity Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has opposed the issuance of marriage licenses to gays all along.

No same-sex marriages have occurred in Massachusetts. The projected date for such unions to begin is May 17. However, it is possible legal maneuvers will prevent them from happening.

In Massachusetts, both sides acknowledged that they face a long battle.

Several of the most ardent supporters of gay marriage actually gave preliminary approval to the ban. By doing that, the lawmakers eliminated the possibility of other, less appealing versions coming forward at this time. They hope to withdraw support on the crucial final vote needed before the end of the session.

The gay marriage ban needs to be approved by two consecutive Legislatures before reaching the ballot. The earliest that could happen is November 2006.

However, an election victory for the foes of gay marriage would not be the last word, either. The issue would then be revisited by the judiciary and the statute or amendment could be ruled infirm. And, though I believe it unlikely to happen within this decade, the United States Supreme Court will take on the issue eventually.

Back in San Francisco, gay rights activists are putting the best face possible on the state high court halting gay marriages. They emphasize that the stay is temporary. It is still possible the proponents will win on the merits in the case the city filed when the unions were halted.

My blog entries about this topic have been rather dry because it is the legal aspects of the situations I have focused on. However, there is a personal side to any political event. One of the couples married in San Francisco consisted of the son of California's most avid opponent of gay marriage and his partner.

(San Francisco, California) The son of one of the most vocal opponents of same-sex marriage tied the knot Tuesday in San Francisco with his longtime partner.

David J. Knight married Joseph A. Lazzaro, Jr. in a simple ceremony at San Francisco city hall. The only witness was a friend. No family members attended. Knight and Lazzaro, who live in Baltimore, have been together for 10 years.

Knight, 42, is the son of state Sen. William J. "Pete" Knight - the man who spearheaded the drive to pass Proposition 22, which is commonly regarded as banning same-sex marriage in the state. The elder Knight is also involved with two conservative groups fighting San Francisco's decision to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, and is part of a lawsuit challenging the state over its domestic partner legislation.

We should know within a year whether the father or the son's position will prevail in regard to gay marriage.

posted by J. | 3:05 PM

Tuesday, March 09, 2004  

Law: Judge refuses to stop gay marriages

As you know from a previous entry, Portland, Oregon, has become one of three ground zeroes on the issue of gay marriage. As I predicted, opponents of gay marriage failed to win their argument for a temporary restraining order barring issuance of more marriage licenses to homosexuals yesterday.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Gay marriage withstood its first court test in Oregon on Monday when a judge ruled the most populous county in the state can continue to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

. . .Presiding Judge Dale Koch denied a request for a temporary restraining order filed by opponents of gay marriage who argued that [Commissioner Serena] Cruz and three other commissioners circumvented the state open meetings law by changing policy without public comment.

Koch told attorneys for the Defense of Marriage Coalition that they had not demonstrated their case against the four commissioners would succeed in court.

"In terms of clear and convincing evidence, I'm faced with affidavits from four county commissioners who say they have not violated state public meeting law," Koch said.

The judge also said he saw no evidence the coalition or the state would suffer "irreparable harm" if Multnomah County keeps issuing the marriage licenses.

A ruling on pretrial relief, a form of which is the TRO, is not a decision about the merits of a case. It simply means time is not of the essence. No one is going to be harmed by proceeding in a deliberate manner. The next hearing in the case will also consider the plaintiffs' requests for injunctive relief.

Another development in Portland is more troubling for those who support legalizing gay unions. Since last Wednesday, polls show the rate of opposition to gay marriage climbing from 7 to 10 percent. Before gay marriage became a fait accompli, 47 percent of Oregonians reportedly favored it. That number has declined as a sizeable proportion of those people defected to the opposition or became undecided. The Seattle Times reported the results from one poll.

Poll finds opposition to same-sex marriage

PORTLAND — Most Oregonians oppose same-sex marriages, according to a statewide poll taken after Multnomah County's surprise decision to allow such weddings.

The survey of 400 voters, conducted for The Oregonian, found that 54 percent do not think same-sex marriages should be legal. Thirty-five percent of those surveyed said the weddings should be legal and 11 percent were unsure.

The poll found big differences of opinion based on age and gender.

Among voters younger than 35, 53 percent said gay couples should be able to legally marry; 25 percent of voters age 55 and older said that should be the case.

I have said, to the chagrin of some liberals in the blogosphere, that their dedication to priniciples of equality is very thin, barely a veneer. That stance was taken in regard to their hypocrisy about racism. I can't help but wonder if I am seeing the same kind of hypocrisy in regard to gay rights.

posted by J. | 12:30 AM

Sunday, March 07, 2004  

Neo-Confederates lament Georgia flag vote

Well, they got what they asked for and now they are upset with the outcome. Neo-Confederates wanted a vote on what flag should represent Georgia. They have been bemoaning the replacement of a flag adopted during the South's Massive Resistance campaign against desegration by a less offensive one in 2001. After ejecting Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes from office, they demanded that a referendum be held on what emblem would fly over the state. Voters decided Wednesday.

ATLANTA (AP)--Southern heritage groups called for an economic boycott of Atlanta on Wednesday, a day after Georgia voters overwhelmingly approved a state flag without the divisive Confederate rebel ``X.''

About 50 people rallied outside the Capitol, saying tepid turnout for the flag referendum meant people thought it was phony. The ballot didn't allow voters to choose the 1956 version dominated by the Confederate cross of stars.

``The rigged referendum yesterday was an insult to the good dignity of every Georgian,'' said Steve Harris, vice chairman of the Southern Party of Georgia.

``Large segments of the Georgia General Assembly have more regard for the Yankee dollars. . .than they do for the wishes of their constituents,'' said Ray McBerry of the Georgia League of the South. ``We encourage Southerners to cease doing business within the city-state of Atlanta.''

Voters overwhelmingly chose to keep the red, white and blue banner adopted last year by the Legislature. About three of every four voters chose that flag over a blue flag selected in 2001 to replace the 1956 banner that was dominated by the Confederate battle emblem.

Only about one in five registered voters participated in Tuesday's nonbinding referendum. But political leaders of both parties expressed confidence that the referendum will end the flag flap.

Many particpants in neo-Confederate groups are unmoved by the referendum. Remarks from an online forum are typical.

From: rebeldog
Sent: 3/6/2004 9:27 PM

The flag fight in Ga. is just warming up, we have just begun to fight. The Confederate Battle Flag should be our national flag , it is drenched in Confederate Blood, that is what makes it so sacred. I could care less what the ignorant and yankees think about my Confederate Battle Flag. We know the Truth and if the Confederate Battle Flag was good enough for our ancestors to fight and die for then we should be honored to do the same. God Bless the C.S.A. Always remember this it will never be over till Jesus comes back and it does not matter what the ignorant, and the enemy thinks about our flag, all that matters is what God and we Confederates think about it.

The neo-Confederates miss or choose to ignore the obvious -- the new Georgia flag also is associated with the Confederacy.

Early in the movie "Cold Mountain," North Carolina villagers wave small red, white and blue flags as they cheer for their boys riding off to fight for the Confederate States of America.  

The same banner, slightly altered to include the Georgia coat of arms, now flies at the state Capitol in Atlanta.  

On Tuesday, it earned a permanent place there when Georgia voters, in a referendum, ratified the new flag by an overwhelming 3-1 ratio. The flag's supporters included many African-Americans who voted for the new banner in part to keep a more famous — or infamous — Confederate symbol from returning to the state flag. That symbol is the Confederate battle emblem, the image that for nearly half a century dominated Georgia's flag.

That flag was chosen as a compromise among three -- the Massive Resistance flag of 1956, Gov. Barnes' flag, which featured a small version of the Battle Flag along with four other Georgia flags, and the current choice. The pre-1956 flag, dismissed as "the black flag" by some white Georgians, was not part of the vote. So, a flag connected to the Confederacy was selected, though many citizens do not realize it.

. . ."If the true motive of 'heritage advocates' is to honor the South and those who fought for Southern independence, what better symbol than an actual national flag of the Confederacy?" Rep. Bobby Franklin (R-Marietta), one of the new flag's designers, wrote in a newspaper opinion piece.

"Unlike the battle flag, the national flag has never flown at a Ku Klux Klan rally or at a lynching," added Franklin, a former member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, an organization of descendants of Rebel soldiers. "Let us adopt a flag that, while Southern, is free of negative, racially divisive imagery."

Franklin is definitely in the minority of the heritage movement. Perhaps that is why he is no longer a member of the increasingly racist SCV. Either he is being disingenious or doesn't belong among the neo-Confederates at all. The hardcore members are opposed to the new flag because it lacks the insult value of the Battle Flag of the Confederacy. By insult value, I mean, the ability to know that the banner one is waving, wearing or siting will symbolize the fight to keep slavery, segregation and lynchings to a significant portion of the population. Because of its obscurity to both blacks and whites, the new flag does not convey that message, despite its origin. The majority of the neo-Confederate movement will continue to pine for the flag that has been retired. They will miss its ability to incite hatred.

posted by J. | 3:15 PM