Compiled by Sharon Gittleman
Summer brought good news for gays
This summer, big barriers crumbled in the face of gay unity and persistence. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that states couldn’t prosecute LGBT people for consensual sodomy immediately transformed gay people from potential criminals to good citizens. That decision, coupled with the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada in June, opened the door to the possibility of gay marriage in the U.S.
A second hurdle was overcome when the Episcopal Church confirmed their first openly gay Bishop.
Both acts show how far gay acceptance has come in the U.S. That fact hasn’t been lost on anti-gay forces who have kicked into high gear to roll back the gains enjoyed by the LGBT community.
• Canadian Court legalizes same-sex marriage
In June, Ontario’s Court of Appeal ruled that the Canadian federal governemnt’s definition of marriage was unconstitutional and ordered the city clerk of Toronto is begin issuing marriage liscences immediately to same-sex couples. Two former Michigan residents now living in Windsor, were among the individuals who brought the precedent-setting lawsuit.
Although the decision has caused some upset with conservative Canadian politicians, the ruling stands as we enter 2004. Same-sex couples from Michigan, and indeed all over the U.S., went to Canada to be legally married even though their marriages were not recognized once they crossed the border.
Canada joined Belgium and the Netherlands as the three countries in the world permitting gay marriage.
• Court strikes down Sodomy laws
In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state laws criminalizing gay consensual sodomy. By a 6-3 majority, the Court held a Texas statute punishing “deviate sexual intercourse,” violated petitioners’ John Lawrence’s and Tyron Garner’s constitutional right to privacy.
Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said American laws and tradition gave constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, family relationships, child-rearing and education.
Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice William Rehnquist dissented from the majority. Scalia’s blistering dissent called the majority decision a massive disruption of the current social order and claimed the opinion resulted from the Court’s adherence to the “homosexual agenda.”
• Legislature talks about gay marriage
In September, the US Senate listened to testimony at a hearing discussing whether the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act could be subject to legal challenges, following the Supreme Court’s sodomy decision. Gay people were among those telling Senators how laws limiting marriage to one man and one woman ruins lives.
Policy makers heard statistical information, including one study that revealed gay couples can not obtain over 1,000 federal rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities because they can’t marry. They also heard personal tragedies. One gay man who lost his partner in 9-11, told how he had to fight to prove they had a relationship just to keep the couple’s personal possessions because his partner never wrote a will.
“Two years ago, we were all united against the common threat of terrorism,” said Keith Bradkowski. “Now I am sitting here and being told that my relationship was a threat to our country.”
• Episcopalians confirm gay Bishop
The Episcopalian Church’s decision to confirm openly gay clergyman Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire at its General Convention in August, sparked a worldwide controversy among members of the Anglican Communion – the parent body of the Episcopal Church in the U.S. Opponents claimed the moved repudiated the church’s traditional teaching that only straight people should marry and a substantial number of dioceses threatened to withhold money or split from the church unless the decision was reversed.
The confirmation brought kudos as well as threats. Supporters hope Robinson’s confirmation would cause people to start rethinking negative views of the LGBT community. Robinson was elected Bishop by his own diocese in June.