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President-elect Obama promises to back gay rights legislation

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  1. robin williams 19 Nov 2008, 2:48pm

    hope he dose it.

  2. Excellent news! At last America will be following in the steps of the European Union it seems, and giving equal rights to all citizens regardless of gender, race sexuality etc. Given that much of the rest of the world follows in America’s footsteps this could be great news for many beyond America’s shores. One in the eye for those backwards religious funda mentalists!

  3. Agree with you robin, sounds fantastic, A commitment to introducing civil unions “equal to marriage” with “federal rights” sounds as good as we have here ! and for those die hards who aren’t happy unless they have the full white dress and tuxedo terminology of gay “marriage” he’s even promised to repeal the defence of marriage act, so the federal rights he envisages for those in civil unions will apply “in other legally recognised unions”, so ex-pat Rob looks like you’ll even get your Gay MARRIAGE if your state decides to call civil unions that. Ofcourse he’s got to get it into law. I really hope he manages it!

  4. american brothers – you have voted well – what a guy !!

  5. Sister Mary Clarence 19 Nov 2008, 5:40pm

    Yep, I agree with you Andy, they can refer to the British civil partnerships as a model of good practice.

    His statement makes it clear that same sex couple will be given ‘equal’ rights – which is therefore equality under law.

    I’d like to think that this will bring and end to the much argued issue of marriage, civil partnerships and the white dresses that some have been keeping in their bottom drawers, but life seldom goes as smoothly as it should.

  6. PCG from Portugal 19 Nov 2008, 5:55pm

    Wow, this is a very ambitious programme for Gay Rights, perhaps he has been reading the news from Nepal, anyway this programme is already well beyond any other taken place in World, not even the well known open minded Scandinavians have reached so far. I hope the whole European Union will follow, sadly and a bit thanks to the British the European Constitution failed, the European Constitution would have enabled the EU Leader to implement such a programme for gay rights, anyway I wish all the best to Mr Obama, it sounds like the USA is finally becoming a decent state, the World should follow this example. I hope many countries will do.

    Regarding the wording for the union, it does not really matter if it is not called “marriage” as long as the civil union guarantees equality for all, that is what matters and everyone should be concentrated on that.

  7. sister Mary, I have mellowed on this one! I am very happy in my civil partnership, but I’m sure those who want to call it marriage will keep fighting for the word. I just hope they are mature enough to let Obama put the equal rights in place first. A man as intelligent as Obama realises equal rights are the most important thing, and he knows that the term CIVIL UNIONS will get the rights available so much more easily and smoothly. Then presumably the white dress brigade can fight for the word “marraige” on a state by state basis which Obama implies he will respect at a federal level. I really hope they let him. He’s gonna have a big enouugh fight against the republicans and christians on this one, without some gay rights activists attacking him on semantics.

  8. Ward Stewart/George Vye 19 Nov 2008, 6:28pm

    This is clearly the beginning of the end for this invidious discrimination that has plagued our lives. We were enthusiastic for Obama back when his stand on equal rights was seemingly vague. We counted on his essential decency and intelligence and he has come through wonderfully.

    It has been a LONG pull but the end is in sight. We “had a dream” and it is coming to fruition!

    — Martin Luther King —
    “This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

    Ward and George
    54 Years together
    And yet
    Strangers before the law.

  9. I would like to be able to say I am married than in a civil partnership. Everybody is brought up to believe that marriage is the moment where you dedicate your life to the person who you are utterly in love with! Why can this be the for everyone? Including gay people! I say: GO OBAMA!

  10. Well I live in the UK and call my wife my wife…and no one gives me strange looks for it (I find it demeaning to call her “partner” she’s not part of a business or something). So it’s all fine by me, as long as it’s equal rights. FINALLY the immigration problem will get fixed in the US.

  11. Sister Mary Clarence 19 Nov 2008, 8:33pm

    I have to say Andy that that is a bit of a concern for me that the ‘Marriage or Death’ fifth column start working against him if he pushes civil unions rather than marriage. There ar a volcal view that can seem to see past the name.

  12. Robert, ex-pat Brit 19 Nov 2008, 8:51pm

    Sorry to disappoint you Andy, but my state already has marriage legislation pending. If that fails which I doubt, I can easily go next door to the state of Connecticut and marry tomorrow if I so choose. The state of New York where I live will recognise my marriage regardless, in fact it recognises all out of state and foreign same-sex marriages. Civil Unions? Thanks, but no thanks, Connecticut just abandoned them for full marriage. New Jersey may well follow suit. Even if civil unions are enacted at the federal level, those of us who are already married or intend to marry can expect those marriages to gain the federal rights as Obama intends to end state bans on full marriage equality if any state legislates them, such as Massachusetts, Connecticut thus far. It has to do with full faith and credit that the U.S. constitution and state constitutions provide.

  13. Mary Flying Eagle Ray 19 Nov 2008, 11:51pm

    This is such good/positive news, touches my heart with hope,to long
    have we been denied true equality, The time is Now!!Churches,phony
    bible thumpers,hate mongers and all ding bats go out into the world,
    feed the hungry, clothe the poor, help the homeless, the elders,the
    abused the addicted, you have brought dishonor to the true meaning
    of “God’s Love”Shame on you all.
    Perhaps Obama has had pause to remember a time when jumping the
    broom stick was the blacks only path to a union, and not that long
    ago were not permitted to marry outside their race, so let us not
    be foolish with each other. Marriage is an equal rights issue.
    We are grateful for civil unions, but marriage is our right, not
    to be judged or voted as to whom, how or when.
    Thank you to all who, in heart felt support for your lesbian sisters
    and gay brothers gathered together in protest the shameful out-come
    of prop 8.Reminded me of the fifties when we tried to strike out at
    judgements and hostility that maimed and killed many among us.
    Still today 2008. Alas, could this be a really bad dream? and with
    relief we will wake up to discover churches are doing church like
    things, our goverment has decreed equal rights for all,and is working
    toward no wars,no child abuse, rape, and women sit in circles unafraid.
    May We Walk Gently Among Many Blessings, Aho
    Mary Flying Eagle Ray

  14. Lincoln - Australia 20 Nov 2008, 8:42am

    Good article – however America’s unjust laws reach further than its own citizens and America needs to right a wrong for all those non Americans it has touched with discrimination. Hopefully this new President will lift the ban on HIV travellers/workers coming to USA. For me I resigned from undertaking a large portion of my job due to constant transits and one night stopovers in America. It wasn’t worth the risk and I wasn’t willing to face dicrimination last seen during the 80’s.

  15. At last a real leader, rather than one that plays to the worst of people’s fears and bigotry.

  16. rob, i’m not dissapointed. i’m DELIGHTED for you… as i said it “fantastic!” i have no desire to be petty about this, if you want to call it marriage go ahead and do that, Obama has already said that he will support “other legally recognised unions” and like you say a handful of US states will call it marriage and i’m sure that number will grow. Best of Luck! But perhaps you could start showing the same amount of respect and goodwill to those of us in civil partnerships, or the civil unions Obama proposes in your “own” country. Surely you will not continue to be snide about gay/lesbian americans who may not live in as liberal a state as yourself, and who accept all the equal rights that federal civil unions will bring them. Or do you intend to tell gay couples from say Georgia or Wyoming, who are unlikely ever to get Gay marriage approved at the state by state level, that their relationships are 2nd class/2nd rate and not “real”, because they don’t have the all important “marriage” label, even though they have identical rights to a married couple? Please can we bury this and just be pleased that something real might actually happen in the US to give gay couples equal rights to heterosexuals

  17. Andy, I totally agree, well said.

    There’s more to “gay rights legislation” than marriage. Too many people are sanctimonious about the gay marriage over civil partnerships/unions, and it begs the question, why? I for one have zero interest in calling my relationship to marriage, I want nothing to do with that institution. I couldn’t care less what they call it once I have the equal legal rights, and that’s where the true test of equality lies.

    Its a pity some people here are so (supposedly) left wing that they have developed all the prejudicial intolerances of their right wing counterparts, including towards other gay people.

    Stupid really, when when you consider most of our kind still has to live in fear in work and in public because of their orientation… and being “married” wont do one thing to stop that.

  18. Robert, ex-pat Brit 20 Nov 2008, 1:50pm

    Andy, I’m prepared to call a truce on this one…BUT…I have absolutely no objection to any couple forming a civil union or a partnership and I do respect their right in the absence of any other formal relationship. What I do object to are those who think that we should not want to “marry” or not have the right thereto for those of us who so choose. If it weren’t for marriage, there would be no civil partnerships or unions. As soon as others here respect that, instead of denigrating marriage then I and others will have no need to defend it. Make no mistake, even if the next administration enacts civil unions at the federal level, we will see the same trend as we have seen in Connecticut where civil unions were already in place when marriage was recently legislated for same-sex couples. A paltry 2300 or so couples formed civil unions out of a state population of just under 4 million people. We can expect marriages to surpass that number quite significantly. What we won’t see in the U.S. is the demotion of those 18000 already married in California, Massachusetts and Connecticut to civil unions. They will be recognised for what they are, marriages, as they should be and that’s a good thing. I’m already beginning to see a silver lining in all this.

  19. ok rob, i agree to your truce! it’s excellent news for the Gay community in the US and around the world, because once America enacts civil unions at federal level ( cos i’m sure that’s what they’ll be called initially atleast) it will have a massive knock on effect, for countries all over the world, even here in Europe as the most backward of the eastern european and baltic states rushed through defence of marriage acts to copy the US positon, if America turns around it’ll be harder for them to maintain their stance. Ireland is already preparing for civil partnerhsips and this will give them a boost and also australia, another country which has fallen somewhat behind on gay rights issues during the Howard years. But neither Ireland nor Australia atleast according to their leaders are yet ready to call their equality bills marriage. Obviousdly that doesn’t matter to me, the equality bit is the important bit BUT in fairnesss to you rob and othes who agree with you, i do believe that over time, like many of the Northern European countries and some US states, what start as civil partnerships/unions will become “marriages”. In the UK, everyone including the most reactionary newspapers and politicians calls them gay amrriages anyway, probably in 5 years time, we’ll have legislation like Holland or Sweden to change the name so yes i’m sure eventually most of Europe and most of the US will use the term “marriage” for gays and straights. I’m ambivalent about that, for lots of reasons i won’t rehash BUT all that matters to me is EQUALITY, so bring it on whether it’s called civil unions/partnerships marriage etc. Hopefully we are moving in the right direction!!!!

  20. Bill Perdue 21 Nov 2008, 6:24am

    Obama ran a campaign pandering to bigots from day one and his worst act was to publicly condemn same sex marriage while we were trying to defend it in California, Arizona and Florida. It lost us the election.

    It’s not surprising that the Democrats waited until after the election to publish a GLBT agenda, or that they refused to recognized us in their platform before the election or even to mention our existence.

    Their record of trashing our agenda and pandering to bigots means that we’ll have to ramp up the level of demonstrations and finish the work of creating a large GLBT left. If we were alone that would be difficult but Obama is intent on expanding the Oil Wars from Palestine to Pakistan and the US economy is moving from severe recession to depression. We’ll have lots of allies.

  21. Bill Perdue 21 Nov 2008, 6:27am

    The question of marriage vs. civil unions or civil partnersh9ips has never been a semantic one in the US. It’s always been a very concrete one based on the 1200 or so rights and privileges denied to anyone of any status who is not married.

    In the US when you get married you get a marriage license it entitles you to those rights and privileges, but it you get a certificate saying you’re in a civil union or civil partnership you don’t. That real distinction overrides what terminology is used. Marriage is a civil institution and it doesn’t matter what it called if it’s equal in all ways for all people.

  22. “The question of marriage vs. civil unions or civil partnersh9ips has never been a semantic one in the US.”

    And here lies the issue… the EU is not the US, we have a shared history but very different culture, especially towards LGBT. Our Civil Partnerships are light years ahead of the US. Our EU Parliament regularly pushed the equality agenda, while the Federal US Giv does not.

    Indeed, it is easier to be gay on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Much easier.

  23. Bill, Chalk – thanks for the clarification, I think I missed that point back down the line. Seems strange to give civil partnerships with 1200 rights missing from them, but then I guess the Xtian right has had a tougher stranglehold on US politics than it has in the UK, at least until now.

  24. The point is “marriage” and its rights are embedded in the laws of every country, and to exclude same-sex marriage requires legislation. However, CP also requires legislation to recognise it – an active decision rather than a passive acceptance. Yes, the homophobic nations will undertake the step to exclude same-sex marriage, but equally pusilanimous politicians will avoid conflict by not bringing forward legislation for CP.

    CP isn’t even recognised throughout western Europe, eg France.

  25. Sister Mary Clarence 21 Nov 2008, 10:39pm

    I think certain individuals seem to be missing the point here, probably intentionally just to be contrary. Governments can bestow exactly the same rights on civil partnerships as they can on marriage. We have see it done here, and just as those Bible bashing bigots feared would happen, those entering into a civil partnership are now often being referred to as ‘marrying’

    I can’t get my head around why some people seem to feel that to be equal it has to be called a marriage and nothing ‘less’ will do. By the same token, to be gay and equal do I have to be called straight? Not f**king likely.

    The US view of civil partnerships may have been tainted by some make-do civil partnerships that are neither here nor there and do not offer full equality. Perish the thought that the mighty US should look to other shores for inspiration on how they might do it properly. That more than anything is probably the crux of the problem – too arrogant by far to even consider the fact that someone has come up with a fairer, more workable solution that they ever have.

  26. Bill Perdue 22 Nov 2008, 8:58pm

    Chalk, flapjack – “Our Civil Partnerships are light years ahead of the US.”

    It depends. Until we were betrayed by the bigot pandering of both candidates we had full rights in California. We have them in Massassachuttes and Connecticut and will likely have them in New Jersey and Maine. Those marriages have none of the stain of ‘separate but equal’; that’s a statues the civil rights struggles in the US exposed as untenable. However, even in these states where we do have marriage, because of Bill Clintons federal Defense of Marriage Act – DoMA – we only get a few state related rights and privileges with our marriage licenses. Most of them are related to federal laws and cover everything from taxes, affordable housing loans to spousal benefits like Social Security and Veterans benefits.

    Elsewhere the situation is very bleak. Christian bigots and our equivalent of the Tories, the Republicans, have used marriage related homophobia for over a decade as a wedge weapon against us. State DoMAs, many of them constitutional amendments, are in place in most states, I think it’s up to 40 states with this latest round of defeats.

    I’d like to tell you that things will get better soon, but I think it’ll be later. The losses in California, Florida and Arizona did have the effect of galvanizing the LGBT communities, not so much because everyone wants to get married, but because rights were taken away after being won. There have been demonstrations in hundreds of towns and cities, some quite large.

    The demonstrations will likely fizzle out but in their wake they left the beginnings of a large pool of GLBT left activists from which we can rebuild our movement. And we’ll have allies. The antiwar movement will surge if Obama continues to kill muslims from Palestine to Pakistan and the economy is collapsing. We’ll have plenty of allies

  27. Bill Perdue – “The question of marriage vs. civil unions or civil partnersh9ips has never been a semantic one in the US. It’s always been a very concrete one based on the 1200 or so rights and privileges denied to anyone of any status who is not married.”

    Married same-sex couples still don’t have access to any of those rights and privileges at the federal level, so the distinction really is mostly semantic. And if future administrations scrap DOMA and extend federal recognition to civil unions and domestic partnerships, the distinction will continue to be mostly semantic.

    Chalk – “Indeed, it is easier to be gay on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Much easier.”

    As an American who’s lived and studied on both sides of the Atlantic, I’d say it’s pretty much a toss up as to where it’s easier to be gay. Europe and America are both huge places where laws and attitudes vary widely from place to place. I don’t know about the UK, but I felt more comfortable and more accepted as a gay kid on the eastern seaboard of the US than I did as a student in Switzerland, which is not an especially liberal country. In my state the age of consent for gay sex has been 16 since the 70s, schools have had GSAs since the 80s, anti-gay discrimination is illegal, same-sex couples can register their partnerships, our supreme court recently ruled unanimously to recognize gay couples’ parental rights, and some of our churches have been at the forefront of the fight for marriage equality. It’s mainly in areas where we’re at the mercy of the federal gov’t that we’ve fallen behind, but that will change now that our long national nightmare of conservative rule in Washington is coming to an end. (I’d still choose London over NYC just for all the yummy British boys, though.)

    Sister Mary Clarence – “Perish the thought that the mighty US should look to other shores for inspiration on how they might do it properly. That more than anything is probably the crux of the problem”

    I don’t think that’s the problem. Americans aren’t the least bit shy about appropriating other people’s ideas when it suits them. After all, Vermont took Denmark’s registered partnerships as a model when it became the first state to create civil unions back in the 90s. If some American activists look down on civil partnership-type arrangements it’s not because they see them as something foreign. It’s because they tend to view the struggle for gay rights through the prism of the civil rights movement of the 60s and see parallel forms of marriage for gays as a latter-day form of segregation. It’s a point of view I understand and respect even if as a pragmatist I don’t entirely share it.

  28. “but I felt more comfortable and more accepted as a gay kid on the eastern seaboard of the US than I did as a student in Switzerland”

    Living in Switzerland (which is not in the EU) and London is not all of Europe, Chris. Europe is a little bigger than that and its not the 60’s claymore. Chalk is right, the EU has moved far ahead of US Federal recognition of gay rights. I think the comments here refer to Europe as a whole being more accepting towards gay people (especially western Europe) than the US, and I would tend to agree with that.

  29. Tom – “Chalk is right, the EU has moved far ahead of US Federal recognition of gay rights. I think the comments here refer to Europe as a whole being more accepting towards gay people (especially western Europe) than the US, and I would tend to agree with that.”

    I’m not sure I would. God knows we’ve fallen behind at the federal level here, but we’ve made a lot of progress elsewhere. Besides, gay-friendly laws only tell part of the story when it comes to how safe or accepted you are in a place – the recent increase in gay bashing in Amsterdam ought to be a reminder of that.

  30. Well Chris, a few news stories does not constitute a window into the state of mind of a nations or culture. If that was the case, the Matt Sheppard should pretty much sum up the mind set of the US.

    Simple facts are: more of the population are covered by better protections and rights this side of the Atlantic then in the US. Most barometer polls indicate that the US is less favourable to gay people than most of western Europe.

    For example, a “Report on Surveys of Religion in Europe and the United States” by Peter Lüchau shows that the US is more affected by religion and less tolerant than the EU. Religious rights is by far the most vocal in gay rights. Not to mention, the EU has little to match the Westboro Baptist Church.

    Also, for example, a recent poll in Ireland shows that 51% supported FULL gay marriage. California, one of the most socially liberal states, passed Prop 8.

    The list is endless.

    I appreciate your patriotism and love of your country, but US patriotism tends to be a bit on the dumb side, lacking the obvious. The US arrogance and blind self-belief in Iraq has shown us that. Try deal in facts.

  31. Tom – “Well Chris, a few news stories does not constitute a window into the state of mind of a nations or culture. If that was the case, the Matt Sheppard should pretty much sum up the mind set of the US.”

    I don’t think Amsterdam’s gay bashing problem sums up Holland any more than Matthew Shepard’s murder sums up the US, or the murder of Michael Causer or Jody Dobrowski sums up the UK. But I think they’re an important reminder that even in liberal democracies like Britain or Holland or America the question of how safe and accepted gay people are is still a complicated one that can’t be answered just by looking at polls or laws.

    “For example, a “Report on Surveys of Religion in Europe and the United States” by Peter Lüchau shows that the US is more affected by religion and less tolerant than the EU. Religious rights is by far the most vocal in gay rights.”

    The religious right may be loud and well organized, but they’re not in the majority. There have been studies on religion in the US that asked people a series of questions about the specifics of their beliefs instead of relying on their self-identification, and found that only about 7% of the population are evangelicals. There are lots of gay-friendly religious traditions in the US, from churches that have openly gay clergy and solemnize same-sex unions, to all the various flavors of neopaganism (which is supposedly the fastest growing religion in the country – the military even provides pentacles now to mark the graves of Wiccan soldiers). Even with conservative religious traditions things aren’t completely black and white – there are Baptist churches that perform commitment ceremonies for gay couples, and the world’s first gay Muslim organization was founded here. The point is, when Americans say they’re religious it can mean a lot of crazy complicated things. It’s a mistake to lump all people of faith with the Christian right, or assume that all or even most “religious” people are intolerant.

    “Not to mention, the EU has little to match the Westboro Baptist Church.”

    The EU has worse – it has radical imams who call for violence against gays in the west and orthodox nationalists who turn pride parades into near riots in the east. I’d worry more about them than the Westboro Baptist goofballs, who are offensive but harmless. The only violence they’re likely to inspire is violence directed against themselves, especially if they don’t stop picketing the funerals of servicemen.

    “Also, for example, a recent poll in Ireland shows that 51% supported FULL gay marriage. California, one of the most socially liberal states, passed Prop 8.”

    Polls taken before the election also showed a majority of Californians supporting gay marriage. The thing is, you can’t compare polls with elections, because election results are more than just a snapshot of public opinion – they’re also a reflection of how well each side succeeds in swaying undecideds and getting their supporters out to actually vote. In the case of Prop 8, the other side raised more money early on and had a better ground game, and that was enough to swing it their way. Let me know when Ireland actually puts gay marriage to a popular vote and we’ll have a fairer comparison.

    BTW, parts of Cali are famously liberal, but the state as a whole isn’t as liberal as a lot of people think. It’s the state that gave us Nixon and Reagan, after all. A better example of a socially liberal state might be Connecticut, where the courts legalized gay marriage, 53% of the public supports it, and a recent attempt to convene a constitutional convention to ban it was voted down even though the soonest another one can be called for is 2028.

    “I appreciate your patriotism and love of your country, but US patriotism tends to be a bit on the dumb side, lacking the obvious. The US arrogance and blind self-belief in Iraq has shown us that.”

    This isn’t love of country – it’s impatience with bullshit generalizations. I don’t have a lot of patience for them when they come from Americans, either. I loved the bit in Stephen Fry in America where he visits the northern border and responds to the CBP guy’s cheesy patriotic bullshit about everyone wanting to come to the Land of the Free (TM) by noting the conspicuous lack of Canadians trying to sneak across. Hahaha. Exactly what I was thinking.

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