The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) (S. 815) creates special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It would make it illegal for organizations with 15 or more employees to “fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual … because of such individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”
ENDA defines “gender identity” as “the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms … of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.” In other words, it creates special rights for transgendered individuals—males who dress and act as females, and females who dress and act as males—and forbids employers from considering the consequences of such behavior at the workplace.
Problems with ENDA
Employers should respect the intrinsic dignity of all their employees, but ENDA is bad public policy.
Concerns about ENDA unite civil libertarians concerned about free speech and religious liberty, free marketers concerned about freedom of contract and government interference in the marketplace, and social conservatives concerned about marriage and culture.
Civil Liberties. ENDA tramples fundamental civil liberties and unnecessarily impinges on citizens’ right to run their businesses the way they choose. Individuals should be free to form associations and contracts according to their own beliefs and should not be coerced into accepting the federal government’s set of values.
Free Market. ENDA would further increase federal government interference in labor markets, potentially discouraging job creation. ENDA does not protect equality before the law, but creates special privileges that are enforceable against private actors. It would impose liability on employers for alleged “discrimination” based on subjective, self-disclosed identities and not on objective employee traits.
Social. ENDA would further weaken the marriage culture and the ability of civil society to affirm that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and that maleness and femaleness are not arbitrary constructs but objective ways of being human. ENDA would treat these moral convictions as if they were bigotry.
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Are Unlike Race
Jim Crow laws represented pervasive, onerous, and legally enshrined obstacles to employment based on race. There is no similar history of society-wide legal prohibitions on employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Voluntary actions and market forces have emerged that undermine the clamor for federal intervention: for example, 88percent of Fortune 500 companies prohibit employment decisions based on sexual orientation.
While race is usually readily apparent, the groups seeking special status under ENDA are not defined by objective characteristics. Sexual orientation and gender identity are commonly understood to be subjective, self-disclosed, and self-defined.
Unlike race, sexual orientation and gender identity are usually understood to include behaviors. Decisions reasonably taking into account the behavior of employees are core employment decisions, best left to businesses themselves—not the federal government.
Two gay couples have filed a federal lawsuit for the right to marry in Texas–one of 29 states with a constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex marriage.
“In Texas, Plaintiffs cannot legally marry their partner before family, friends, and society—a right enjoyed by citizens who wish to marry a person of the opposite sex. And should they become married in a state that has established marriage equality, Texas explicitly voids their marriage,” San Antonio attorney Barry Chasnoff argued in the lawsuit filed Monday in
The two couples listed as plaintiffs in the case—Marc Pharriss and Vic Holmes and Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman—are suing the state for violating the the right to marry under the U.S. Constitution, which they argue trumps state law.
“We’ve talked numerous times of getting married and going to one of the states that allows gay marriage,” Pharriss told the San Antonio Express-News. “The problem with that is we have no legal rights when we return.”
De Leon and Dimetman were married in Massachusetts in 2009, but their marriage was not recognized in Texas. But after the Supreme Court earlier this year struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, the Obama administration began to recognize same-sex marriages for federal tax purposes—even if the couple lived in a state that does not legally recognize their marriage.
Whether Texas and other conservative-led states will follow the federal example is questionable: the Texas National Guard announced in September it would not provide benefits to same-sex couples, despite a direct order from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in the wake of the DOMA ruling.
Twenty-nine states, including Texas, have with a constitutional amendment that limits marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Six additional states have statutory provisions defining marriage, though one of those states—Hawaii—is considering approving same-sex marriage by the end of the year.
The lawsuit goes on to state, “There is no rational basis, much less a compelling government purpose, for Texas to deny plaintiffs the same right to marry enjoyed by the majority of society.”
A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry told My San Antonio that the governor stands by “the majority of Texans” who voted back in 2005 to amend the state’s constitution to define marriage as being between one man and one woman.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Indiana University has joined a campaign fighting a proposed state constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages.
The university announced Monday it was joining Freedom Indiana, a bipartisan coalition that includes Eli Lilly and Co., Cummins Inc. and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce.
IU President Michael McRobbie said the amendment would turn some prospective employees away from Indiana and increase the state's challenges to remaining economically competitive.
The General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the proposed ban in 2011, but the current Legislature would need to approve it again before it would go to voters in a statewide referendum. Indiana law already bars same-sex marriage, but backers of the constitutional ban say it would provide an impediment to potential court decisions that would overturn the state law.
Thirty states have constitutional amendments banning legal recognition of same-sex marriage and five others, including Indiana, ban it by law.
Monday, October 28, 2013
By Oskar Garcia
OCTOBER 28, 2013
HONOLULU — A special session of the state Legislature that starts Monday could make Hawaii the next state to formally legalize same-sex marriage.
Many credit a Hawaii case that began in 1990 with prompting action on the issue of gay marriage in courts and state houses nationwide. That led Congress in 1996 to pass the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which was struck down this year by the Supreme Court.
The state allows civil unions for gay couples. If lawmakers approve full marriage rights, Hawaii would join 14 other states and the District of Columbia in recognizing same-sex marriage.
In calling the special session, Governor Neil Abercrombie said legalizing gay marriage would help resolve a pending federal lawsuit and also put Hawaii in line with Supreme Court rulings, which don’t apply to couples in civil unions.
Proponents say granting equality would exemplify the state’s aloha spirit — the word literally means “love’’ in Hawaiian — and also spur tourism.
Some opponents of the proposed law contend that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
Others say the matter should have a regular vote, not be rushed outside the legislative calendar.
For Dr. Allan Wang, a 56-year-old Hawaii doctor, the issue is about being treated fairly.
‘‘It’s unfair that our amazing relationship — which we’ve been together over 33 years — our amazing relationship cannot be acknowledged,’’ Wang said, sitting next to his partner, Tom Humphreys, a longtime molecular biology professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Wang and Humphreys, 77, married in California in July, one month after entering a civil union in Hawaii and after decades of pressing for gay marriage in the state. Humphreys said they were effectively forced to marry outside Hawaii after he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer and told he had only a short time to live.
They married exactly one week after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, granting federal benefits to legally married gay couples. Congress had passed the act as part of a growing backlash to a case from Hawaii, after a couple tried to apply for a marriage license in 1990.
Differences between civil unions and full-fledged marriage have been a key part of the debate in Hawaii. A lawsuit pending in the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals argues that gay couples should be allowed to marry and shouldn’t have to settle for civil unions.
On Friday, Attorney General Martha Coakley of Massachusetts filed a brief in the federal appeals case and another case from Nevada involving couples who maintain that the state’s ban violates the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. Attorneys general from 14 other states are listed as co-counsel in the brief.
Hawaii and Nevada provide many protections for same-sex couples, but deny them full marriage status.
Coakley said the experience in Massachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage, shows that allowing same-sex couples to marry only strengthens the institution of marriage.
Coakley led the filing of the amicus brief on behalf of Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.
Lawmakers and followers of Hawaii’s Legislature — which is heavily Democratic — say they are confident a bill will pass, but not certain.
Representative Chris Lee, a Kailua Democrat who supports the bill, said legislators have been bombarded by passionate calls on both sides.
Jim Hochberg, president of Hawaii Family Advocates, said coalitions from every Hawaii island are building to push for a public vote.
‘‘They don’t support the concept of same-sex marriage. They don’t support the special session,’’ Hochberg said. ‘‘They want to vote on it.’’
The legislative hearings are expected to draw heavy crowds, with an opposition rally planned Monday night.
In Oklahoma next week, Darren Black Bear, 45, and his partner of nine years, Jason Pickel, 36, plan to be legally married, even though the state bans same-sex marriage. Their marriage license is being granted by the Cheyenne Arapaho Tribe, which is among the few Native American tribes in the United States that allow same-sex marriage.
Like all federally recognized tribes, the Cheyenne Arapaho can approve laws for its land and members.
Its code regarding marriage doesn’t address gender, referring to the parties simply as ‘‘Indians,’’ and requires that one person be a member of the tribe and reside within its jurisdiction.
Like gay couples who legally marry in other states, Black Bear and Pickel will not be awarded state benefits given to married couples in Oklahoma. But they will receive federal marriage benefits, including health insurance.
At least six other tribes allow same-sex marriage, including the Coquille Tribe in Oregon and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in Michigan, states that also ban same-sex marriage, according to national gay marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry. Other tribes, such as the Cherokee Nation, specifically bar gay marriage.
Soldiers attending a pre-deployment briefing at Fort Hood say they were told that evangelical Christians and members of the Tea Party were a threat to the nation and that any soldier donating to those groups would be subjected to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
A soldier who attended the Oct. 17th briefing told me the counter-intelligence agent in charge of the meeting spent nearly a half hour discussing how evangelical Christians and groups like the American Family Association were “tearing the country apart.”
Michael Berry, an attorney with the Liberty Institute, is advising the soldier and has launched an investigation into the incident.
“On the very base that was the site of mass murder carried out by a radicalized Muslim soldier, it is astonishing that it is evangelical groups that are being identified as a ‘threat.’”
- Tony Perkins, Family Research Council president
“The American public should be outraged that the U.S. Army is teaching our troops that evangelical Christians and Tea Party members are enemies of America, and that they can be punished for supporting or participating in those groups,” said Berry, a former Marine Corps JAG officer.
“These statements about evangelicals being domestic enemies are a serious charge.”
The soldier told me he fears reprisals and asked not to be identified. He said there was a blanket statement that donating to any groups that were considered a threat to the military and government was punishable under military regulations.
“My first concern was if I was going to be in trouble going to church,” the evangelical Christian soldier told me. “Can I tithe? Can I donate to Christian charities? What if I donate to a politician who is a part of the Tea Party movement?”
Another soldier who attended the briefing alerted the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. That individual’s recollections of the briefing matched the soldier who reached out to me.
“I was very shocked and couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” the soldier said. “I felt like my religious liberties, that I risk my life and sacrifice time away from family to fight for, were being taken away.”
And while a large portion of the briefing dealt with the threat evangelicals and the Tea Party pose to the nation, barely a word was said about Islamic extremism, the soldier said.
“Our community is still healing from the act of terrorism brought on by Nidal Hasan – who really is a terrorist,” the soldier said. “This is a slap in the face. “The military is supposed to defend freedom and to classify the vast majority of the military that claim to be Christian as terrorists is sick.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, tells me the Pentagon is pushing anti-Christian propaganda.
“On the very base that was the site of mass murder carried out by a radicalized Muslim soldier, it is astonishing that it is evangelical groups that are being identified as a ‘threat,’” he said. “Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel must immediately intervene to stop this march against the rights and freedom of our soldiers.”
The soldier said they were also told that the pro-life movement is another example of “radicalization.”
“They said that evangelical Christians protesting abortions are the mobilization stage and that leads to the bombing of abortion clinics,” he said, recalling the discussion.
An Army spokesman at the Pentagon tells me they do not maintain or publish a list of organizations considered extremist.
“None of these slides [shown at the briefing] were produced by the Army, but by soldiers who included information found during an Internet search,” the spokesman said.
He said commanders and other leaders were cautioned that they should not use “lists of extremists, hate groups, radical factions or the like compiled by any outside non-governmental groups or organizations for briefings, command presentations, or as a short cut to determining if a group or activity is considered to be extremist.”
Meanwhile, the public affairs office at Fort Hood is denying the soldiers' allegations.
“The allegations you are asking about were brought to the attention of the Fort Hood leadership immediately and a (sic) inquiry is occurring,” read a statement from Tom Rheinlander, the public affairs director at Fort Hood. “At this time, initial information gathered about the training and what you claim occurred is not substantiated by unit leadership and soldiers present at this training venue.”
I sent the public affairs officer additional questions about the specific content of the briefing but he declined to respond.
But this is not the first time an Army briefing has labeled evangelicals as extremists. Last April an Army Reserve briefing classified Evangelical Christianity and Catholicism as “religious extremism.”
In a letter to Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Secretary of the Army John McHugh said the briefing in April was an isolated incident and the material used was not sanctioned by the Army. McHugh said it was a “misguided attempt to explain that extremism is not limited to a single religion.”
Two weeks ago, several dozen active duty troops at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, were told the American Family Association, a well-respected Christian ministry, should be classified as a domestic hate group because it advocates for traditional family values.
Again, the military called it an isolated incident with a trainer using material that was not sanctioned by the military.
That explanation is wearing thin with American Christians.
“How much longer can the Army claim no knowledge or responsibility for these things?” Berry asked.
“These repeated incidents show either that this training was directed from Army leadership at the Pentagon, or else the Army has a real discipline and leadership problem on its hands because a bunch of rogue soldiers are teaching this nonsense.”
The most recent allegations at Fort Hood have drawn sharp rebuke from religious liberty groups around the nation.
“Why is the Army engaged in these anti-Christian training propaganda briefings?” asked Perkins, himself a veteran of the Marine Corps. “The only explanation is that this is a deliberate effort of the Obama administration to intimidate and separate soldiers from Christian groups that they support and that support them.”
Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance, called the military’s behavior dishonorable.
“Far from mere ‘isolated incidents,’ as the Army has dismissed previous occurrences, this latest incident demonstrates a pattern and practice of Army briefings identifying mainstream religions, such as Evangelical Christianity, Judaism, and Catholicism, as examples of ‘religious extremism’ similar to Al Qaeda, Hamas and the Ku Klux Klan,” he told me.
Perkins said it’s time for the Pentagon to “ensure that instructors carry out their role to train our troops to defend our freedom, and not push anti-Christian propaganda.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Monday withdrew his challenge to legalized same-sex marriage in the state, after a court determined that the appeal is not likely to prevail.
The decision by Christie came as, in response to the court move, the state on Monday began to recognize same-sex marriages. Christie's administration formally withdrew the appeal in a letter to the state Supreme Court.
"Although the Governor strongly disagrees with the Court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people, the Court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law," the governor's office said in a statement. "The Governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his Administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court."
Earlier in the day, gay couples exchanged vows in early morning ceremonies in several New Jersey communities as the state became the 14th state to recognize them.
The hastily planned first weddings to legally unite long-time couples were planned for a state Senator's grand home in Elizabeth, the boardwalk in Asbury Park and government buildings in small towns and big cities.
In the arts community of Lambertville, Mayor David DelVecchio led the ceremony to marry Beth Asaro and Joanne Schailey. He also presided when they joined in a civil union the minute they became recognized in the state in February 2007.
Soon after they cut the cake, DelVecchio handed Asaro a pink marriage license. "We're floating on air," she said. Added Schailey, "It's like winning the Super Bowl."
The couple, both wearing suits, hosted a reception attended by friends, family and several politicians. The song "In the Mood" played.
Asaro, a member of the city council in Lambertville, said they wanted to get married at the first moment, in part, to promote the gay-friendliness of their community north of Trenton.
"This shows to the world that Lambertville is open for business," DelVecchio said.
In Newark, Mayor Cory Booker was marrying the first of several couples when someone attempted to disrupt the ceremony.
Booker had asked if anyone had reason to object to the marriage and a protester screamed "This is unlawful in the eyes of God and Jesus Christ."
Booker, who was elected to the U.S. Senate last week, called for the person to be removed and police dragged him out.
As Booker continued speaking, "...not hearing any substantive and worthy objections," thunderous applause erupted.
The weddings came amid a flurry of legal activity after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the federal government should recognize gay marriages and confer couples with the same benefits that it does for heterosexual married couples, including joint tax filings, the right to live together in government-funded nursing homes and Social Security survivor benefits.
A state judge last month agreed with advocates who said that by allowing civil unions but not marriage, New Jersey was keeping gay couples in the state from legal equality.
The administration of Christie, a Republican and possible 2016 presidential candidate, had appealed both the ruling and Monday's implementation date to the state Supreme Court.
And on Friday, less than 60 hours before the weddings were to begin, the state's top court refused to delay them while it sorts out the overall case. The court said the state is not likely to prevail.
Many of the people who have long fought for the right for gay couples to marry had been bracing for a delay, even while they were optimistic the state's top court would ultimately force New Jersey to recognize same-sex marriage.
For the first couples to tie the knot legally, it's been a weekend of fast wedding planning and confusion.
Some towns began taking applications for same-sex marriage licenses on Thursday and continued even after the state government told them not to until there was clarity from the courts.
Other towns refused to grant licenses even after the state Health Department said Friday evening that towns should accept the applications.
It's expected that a rush of weddings will continue in coming days as couples are able to get licenses.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Friday, October 18, 2013
Detroit— Legal and legislative battle lines are being drawn in the wake of a judge’s decision to put the Michigan Marriage Amendment on trial in February.
Supporters of same-sex marriage are preparing for a $20 million campaign to repeal Michigan’s ban on gay marriage and replace it with a law legalizing it. Meanwhile, opponents say they’ll do all they can to convince voters to oppose such an initiative.
Emily Dievendorf, the managing director of Equality Michigan, said her group will be part of a coalition to get a measure before voters in 2016.
“Now Michigan is on everyone’s Top 10 list for the next place to look for marriage equality,” she said Thursday. “A repeal (of the marriage ban) would put into place full marriage equality.”
To put an initiative guaranteeing marriage rights to gays on the ballot, supporters will need more than 322,609 signatures or about 10 percent of the votes expected to be cast in the November 2014 gubernatorial race.
The deadline to submit the signatures is early July 2016 for the November election.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman heard arguments Wednesday on both sides of the issue and set a Feb. 25 trial date. Some same-sex couples had expected a possible ruling against the ban and had gathered Wednesday at county clerk offices around the state to apply for a marriage license.
State Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, said Thursday he thinks if voters today were given the same choice they were given in 2004 when they approved the state ban on gay marriage, the outcome might be different.
“Public opinion has changed and more people realize love is love,” said Irwin, a co-sponsor of a bill introduced in June to legalize same-sex marriage. “The public knows this is an issue of equal protection.”
State Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, who campaigned for Proposal 2, also known as the Michigan Marriage Amendment, said he plans to campaign against a repeal.
“We’ll vigorously oppose it,” he said Thursday. “We will aggressively defend what we have in our constitution and any attempts to change it.”
Other gay marriage opponents such as Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan and a co-author of the marriage amendment, said he doesn’t believe they will be successful in repealing it.
“The American Family Association of Michigan will encourage Michigan voters to vote ‘no’ on any such measure on a Michigan ballot,” Glenn said Thursday.
But Grace Wojcik, who was planning to legally marry her partner, Jessica Wojcik, on Wednesday if Friedman overturned the ban, says she will be part of the campaign to put a measure supporting gay marriage on the ballot in two years.
Grace Wojcik, a Farmington Hills resident, said while she was disappointed Friedman did not strike down the ban, she remains hopeful the February trial will bring more positive results.
“It helps build a stronger case,” she said. “A stronger decision by Friedman will be harder to overturn. Michigan is one of the worst states in terms of civil rights and equality for the LGBT community.”
ANN ARBOR, MI, October 15, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Catholic priest in Georgia has filed a lawsuit after he was barred from even volunteering to offer Mass at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base.
Father Ray Leonard, who is contracted to serve as base chaplain, and Fred Naylor, one of Father Leonard’s parishioners and a retired veteran with over 22 years of service, launched the suit Monday in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Priests have been prohibited from offering Mass at military bases in the wake of the government shutdown, despite provisions in the Pay Our Military Act.
According to the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, MI, only Catholic Masses have been banned at the Georgia Naval Base. Protestant services have continued. They say Father Leonard was told if he said Mass in violation of the order he could be subject to arrest.
Fr. Leonard is a civilian Catholic Pastor contracted by the Department of Defense (DoD) to serve as a military chaplain at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia.
The priest, who served Tibetan populations in China for 10 years, told the court in an affidavit, “In China, I was disallowed from performing public religious services due to the lack of religious freedom in China. I never imagined that when I returned home to the United States, that I would be forbidden from practicing my religious beliefs as I am called to do, and would be forbidden from helping and serving my faith community.”
On October 4, 2013, Fr. Leonard was ordered to stop performing all of his duties as the base’s Catholic Chaplain, even on a voluntary basis. He was also told that he could be arrested if he violated that order. The approximately 300 Catholic families, including Fred Naylor’s, served by Fr. Leonard at Kings Bay have been unable to attend Mass on base since the beginning of the shutdown.
Additionally, Fr. Leonard was locked out of his on-base office and the chapel and denied access to the Holy Eucharist and other articles of his Catholic faith. The order has caused the cancellation of daily and weekend mass, confession, marriage preparation classes and baptisms as well as prevented Fr. Leonard from providing the spiritual guidance he was called by his faith to provide.
The submarine base is remotely located. It consists of roughly 16,000 acres, with 4,000 acres comprised of protected wetlands. There are approximately 10,000 total people on the base.
A Catholic Church is located off base in the town of St. Mary’s. However, many of the parishioners both live and work on base and do not own a car and cannot otherwise access transportation. Therefore a sixteen (16) mile journey to and from the off-base church is simply not possible. Moreover, many of the sailors have an extremely limited amount of time off. With their time highly regimented, they are not given a long enough break time for this exceptionally long walk and the Mass service.
Defendants in the lawsuit are the Department of Defense (DoD), Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the Department of the Navy, and the Secretary of the Department of the Navy, Ray Mabus.
Currently, about 25% of the US Armed Forces is Catholic and due to a shortage of active duty Catholic Priests, the DoD contracts Catholic Priests to provide religious services, sacraments and support for other religious practices for military base communities. Catholic Priests serve the Military Archdiocese.
For active duty service members, on base religious services are crucial given issues associated with off base transportation, extremely limited time off and the highly scheduled lifestyle of active military duty. Additionally, as service members tend to have high rates of divorce, depression and suicide, the need for readily available spiritual encouragement and guidance is critical.
The Pay Our Military Act, which was enacted before the beginning of the government shutdown, provides provisions for the funding of employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale and well-being of the military.
To express concerns to the President, the contact form is here.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act said that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages from states that allow them. Since the decision, couples in states which do not recognize same-sex marriages have filed a flurry of lawsuits.
Conditions are ripe for litigation in those states, like Pennsylvania. In July, a rogue county clerk outside Philadelphia started granting marriage licenses to gays and lesbians, defying the state's ban.
Pennsylvania filed suit against D. Bruce Hanes, but he had already issued more than 100 licenses before the court told him to stop.
Under a Jewish wedding canopy, two brides signed the very first marriage certificate issued to a same-sex couple in the state of Pennsylvania. Dee Spagnuolo and Sasha Ballen were married, surrounded by their three young children, friends and family.
Hanes argued that after the Supreme Court's decision, denying couples like Spagnuolo and Ballen marriage licenses would violate the Constitution. Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, spokesman for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, said that wasn't Hanes' call to make.
"We are a government of laws, and the process is there to change laws or challenge laws. And that issue, these issues, are not solved by individual public officials deciding based on their own personal opinions what to do or what not to do," Frederiksen says.
Wanting The Same Benefits Other People Get
Spagnuolo and Ballen are now among two dozen couples who have asked the state to recognize their marriage licenses from Montgomery County.
They want the full spectrum of federal benefits now provided to same-sex couples in other states following the Supreme Court's decision. There's been a lot of legal activity regarding gay marriage in Pennsylvania's state and federal courts since the ruling.
"You have a lot of people living here, seeing that their neighbors are getting something that they aren't," says the couple's lawyer, David Cohen.
Pennsylvania remains the only state in the Northeast which does not yet allow same-sex partnerships. A judge in New Jersey ruled last week that New Jersey, which has civil unions, must begin recognizing marriages. Gov. Chris Christie has appealed.
Pressure From Inside And Out
Since the Supreme Court's decision, couples have filed dozens of constitutional challenges to state laws around the country, says Brian Moulton, legal director of Human Rights Campaign.
"It's less about identifying a particular state where it's the right argument, but a state where there's perhaps the greatest likelihood of success before the courts," he says.
The American Civil Liberties Union has thrown its weight behind suits in Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina in efforts to set precedents that would legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country. It expects federal judges in these regions will be receptive.
Opponents of same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania say they would rather work this out legislatively.
"We should debate it as a society. And ultimately the best place in a democracy to deal with difficult issues is in our Legislature," says Randall Wenger, counsel for the Pennsylvania Family Institute.
On Thursday, Rep. Brian Sims, the state's first openly gay man elected to the Pennsylvania Legislature, introduced a same-sex marriage bill in the state House of Representatives.
TRENTON — A new coalition opposed to same-sex marriage said today its members will aggressively fight legislative efforts to override Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of gay marriage, calling instead for a voter referendum.
“We believe strongly, with Gov. Christie, that this issue should be decided by the people,” Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, said at a Statehouse press conference today. “Same-sex marriage is not about civil rights. It’s about special rights for people who do not want to marry someone of the opposite sex.”
The New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage includes numerous organizations that support traditional marriage, among them the Family Policy Council, the state Catholic Conference, New Jersey Family First and the state council of the Knights of Columbus.
Members of the groups admitted they were out-funded by organizations supporting gay marriage, but said they believe a majority of New Jerseyans agree with them. They said they were confident Democratic leaders in the Legislature would fail to find enough votes to override the governor. And they also rejected claims that they had “Neanderthal” mentalities or are stuck in the “dark ages.”
The renewed push comes less than a week after a state Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled that same-sex couples in New Jersey were being denied their equal rights and must be allowed to marry, setting an Oct. 21 starting date.
The Christie administration said on Monday it would appeal the ruling directly to the state Supreme Court to prevent the marriages, bypassing the appellate courts, which is the normal procedure. It has asked Jacbobson to put same-sex marriages on hold while it appeals.
Representatives from the groups said the court should not decide on an issue that, in their view, “redefines” marriage and threatens religion.
Activist John Tomicki called Jacobson’s decision “56 pages of moral relativism which now is going to supposedly set the policy for the state of New Jersey.”
“It would completely strike at the heart of religion and religious freedom,” Tomicki said of allowing same-sex marriage.
Jim White, who was representing the state council of the Knights of Columbus, said same-sex marriage would open the gates to arguments for polygamy, polyandry, group marriage and marriage between siblings.
“Marriage under the present definition has served humanity well for millennia, and we change the definition at our own peril,” White said. “Finally, keep in mind that defending marriage is not bigotry, and change is not necessarily progress.”
Gay rights groups have argued that civil unions, currently allowed in New Jersey, do not provide same-sex couples rights equal to those afforded married couples. Many do not want a voter referendum because they say it not an issue of public opinion but rather civil rights.