Gay marriage victory: Iowa
DES MOINES, Iowa — On April 3, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously struck down the 1998 state ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The ruling recognized that the constitutional guarantee of equal protection requires that same-sex couples have “full access to the institution of civil marriage.” The court further declared that civil unions or domestic partnerships cannot meet the demands of full constitutional equality.
Speaking for the seven-member court, Justice Mark S. Cady wrote, “We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective.”
The case, Varnum v. Brien, began in December 2005, when Lambda Legal filed suit in Iowa District Court on behalf of six gay and lesbian couples (later amended to include three of their children). In August 2007, the Iowa District Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to deny gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. The District Court granted a stay of the decision pending appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court. The first marriage licenses for same-sex couples are expected to be issued on April 24.
Gay marriage victory: Vermont
MONTPELIER, Vt. — The Vermont legislature voted April 7 to recognize marriage for same-sex couples. The state Senate voted 23-5 and the House of Representatives voted 100-49 to override Gov. Jim Douglas’s veto, making Vermont the first state to recognize marriage for committed lesbian and gay couples through the legislative process. The law goes into effect Sept. 1.
“The struggle for equal rights is never easy. I was proud to be President of the Senate nine years ago when Vermont created civil unions,” said Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin. “Today we have overridden the Governor’s veto. I have never felt more proud of Vermont as we become the first state in the country to enact marriage equality not as the result of a court order, but because it is the right thing to do.”
California’s legislature has twice passed gay marriage legislation that was subsequently vetoed and not enacted into law. Vermont is the fourth state, after Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa, to extend marriage equality to committed lesbian and gay couples.
Presby court rebuffs lesbian
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — On March 25, a Presbyterian Church regional commission set aside a vote by the Presbytery of San Francisco to move an open lesbian forward in the ordination process. The commission said the presbytery acted improperly in supporting Lisa Larges, an openly lesbian candidate for ministry in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
The ruling marks the second time Larges’s ordination has been stopped by a denominational body. In 1991, the Twin Cities Presbytery affirmed her call to ministry as an open lesbian; however, the decision was overturned the following year by the highest judicial court in the Presbyterian Church.
Last year, the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly, voted to remove restrictive language prohibiting lesbian and gay ordination from the church’s constitution. The 173 Presbyteries are currently voting on this change, which needs a simple majority for ratification.
Bullied pre-teen commits suicide
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Eleven-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover hung himself April 6 after enduring bullying at school, including daily taunts of being gay. According to reports, the boy’s mother had made weekly pleas to the school to address the problem. This is at least the fourth suicide of a middle-school aged child linked to bullying this year.
Carl, a junior at New Leadership Charter School who did not identify as gay, would have turned 12 on April 17, the same day hundreds of thousands of students will participate in the 13th annual National Day of Silence by taking some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment at school.
The boy’s mother, Sirdeaner L. Walker, told the Springfield Republican, “If anything can come of this, it’s that another child doesn’t have to suffer like this and there can be some justice for some other child. I don’t want any other parent to go through this.”
Anti-gay adoption bill dies
FRANKFORT, Ky. — A bill that would have prohibited adoption or foster parenting by any person “cohabiting with a sexual partner outside of a marriage that is valid in Kentucky,” died in the legislature. The Kentucky House of Representatives adjourned without voting on the measure, which had been approved by a Senate committee and was pending in the Senate when the legislative session ended March 30.
Currently, four states — Florida, Mississippi, Utah, and Arkansas — have laws that prohibit adoption by same-sex couples (Florida’s law additionally bars adoption by gay or lesbian individuals). At press time, the Tennessee legislature was considering an anti-gay adoption bill.
Family leave bill re-introduced
WASHINGTON, D.C. — National LGBT rights organizations hailed the re-introduction of the Family Leave Insurance Act in the 111th Congress. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), would expand the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to provide paid leave for all workers to care for their families.
Currently, millions of gay Americans in committed relationships are unable to take FMLA leave to care for their same-sex domestic partners in need. While some states and private employers have filled this gap in coverage by offering family medical leave for gay workers, advocates say an expansion of the FMLA is needed to adequately cover millions of unprotected American families.