Winter 04

Jason A. Michael
National News

President Bush calls for Constitutional amendment to ban marriage for gays
In his state of the union address in January, President Bush called for a Constitutional amendment to protect what he views as traditional marriage. "Congress has already taken a stand on this issue by passing the Defense of Marriage Act, signed in 1996 by President Clinton," said Bush. "That statute protects marriage under Federal law as the union of a man and a woman, and declares that one state may not redefine marriage for other states. Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives."
The following month, on Feb. 24, Bush called a brief press conference in the Roosevelt Room to make his position clear.
"Today I call upon the Congress to promptly pass and to send to the states for ratification an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as the union of a man and woman as husband and wife," Bush said. "Our government should respect every person and respect the institution of marriage. There is no contradiction between these responsibilities."
New Jersey offers DP benefits
The state senate of New Jersey voted 23-9 to make the state the fifth in the country to recognize domestic partners. Gov. James E. McGreevey signed the measure into law Jan. 12.
Under the legislation, domestic partners would get access to medical benefits, insurance and other legal rights, and surviving partners would gain property rights and other survivors' benefits. The bill would not force businesses to offer health coverage to same-sex partners, but would require insurance companies to make it available.
The bill applies predominantly to gay or lesbian couples, but also includes some benefits for domestic unions between unmarried heterosexual couples age 62 and over. Not surprisingly, the bill was strongly opposed by conservative and religious groups, who said it undermined traditional marriage.
Marriage madness overtakes gays in San Francisco
On Feb. 12, the county clerk in San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples per Mayor Gavin Newsom's request. This made San Francisco, at least symbolically, the first place in the nation where gay and lesbian couples could wed.
Demand for marriage licenses for same-sex couples proved so great that the city was quickly overwhelmed and had to turn couples away at times.
"We normally do about 20-30 couples a day," said Mabel Teng, an official who oversees marriage license distribution. "[Now] we're doing about 50-60 an hour."
Kansas court backs harsher sentence for underage gay sex
A Kansas appeals court ruled Jan. 30 that it is constitutional to give a bisexual teenager a sentence 13 times longer than a straight teenager would receive for the same crime. Judge Henry W. Green Jr. wrote in the 2-1 decision that legislators could justify differing penalties for heterosexual versus homosexual sodomy in plenty of ways, including higher health risks or an attempt to "encourage and preserve the traditional sexual mores of society."
The ruling rejected an appeal by Matthew R. Limon, who was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison for having sex when he was 18 with a 14-year-old boy in 2000.
Kansas law makes any sexual activity involving a person under 16 illegal, however, a 1999 "Romeo and Juliet" law provides lesser penalties for consensual sex when one partner is 19 or under and the other partner's age is within four years. Had Limon's partner been a girl, he could have been sentenced at most to one year and three months.
Portland jumps on marriage equality bandwagon
Portland, Oregon began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on March 3. Portland residents Mary Li, 40, and Rebecca Kennedy, 42, were the first couple married in a ceremony by retired Oregon Supreme Court Justice Betty Roberts. By weeks end, more than 1,200 couples had followed their lead.
HRC uses conservative split over marriage amendment in new ad campaign
In partnership with conservative and state groups, the Human Rights Campaign launched a new ad campaign highlighting conservative opposition to a proposed Constitutional amendment that would permanently deny marriage rights to same-sex couples. Print and radio ads quoted well-known conservatives George Will, former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson and former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr, among others, all voicing opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment (H.J.Res.56/S.J.Res.26).
"Be conservative with the Constitution," the ad said. "Don't amend it."


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