Beyond the Carolinas: Minnesota legalizes marriage equality

Beyond the Carolinas

National

Minnesota legalizes marriage equality

Gov. Mark Dayton

Gov. Mark Dayton

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota became the 12th state to legalize marriage rights for same-sex couples when Gov. Mark Dayton (pictured) signed the legislature’s bill on May 14. This victory comes just six months after voters in the state defeated a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, was credited for helping the state achieve the legislative victory.

“From staff on-the-ground, research, advice, to financial resources, HRC has been a valued and trusted team member working alongside our state and other national groups,” State Sen. Scott Dibble said in a release from the organization. “Thank you, HRC.”

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Other national groups also offered resources to Minnesotans United for All Families. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has offices in Minneapolis. Freedom to Marry provided staff support.

“The transformative nature of people talking about their love and their lives is clear, as we see in reaching this milestone in Minnesota, and in the fact that a clear and growing majority of Americans supports the freedom to marry,” said Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey in a statement.

“Coming on the heels of victories in Rhode Island and Delaware, this win for marriage shows that the freedom to marry is a value that Americans across the country stand behind,” Thalia Zepatos, director of public engagement for Freedom to Marry and strategic adviser for Minnesotans United, said in a statement.

Minnesota is the third state in May to pass marriage equality legislation. Advocates said pressure is rising on other states to pass similar measures. Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov wants his state to take the plunge. The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act has already been introduced to the state House of Representatives.

“Everyone has done the hard work to draft a fair bill that provides for marriage equality while guaranteeing religious freedom. Now, it is imperative that Illinois House members do their job at their next opportunity,” Cherkasov said in a press release.

These steps towards equality for LGBT people are being made at a time when the whole nation awaits with bated breath the U.S. Supreme Court decisions on two cases integral to the cause: Hollingsworth v. Perry, challenging California’s Proposition 8, and United States v. Windsor, which challenges the federal Defense of Marriage Act passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996.

— Maria Dominguez

Bakker breaks rainbow bread

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Rev. Jay Bakker, the son of the former Fort Mill, S.C., PTL Club leaders Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, was in the city two days prior to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton’s signing of a new gay marriage law. Bakker was opening another branch of his Revolution Church on May 12.

Bakker and his wife recently relocated to the state from New York, The Huffington Post reported. The Brooklyn congregation continues to meet in a bar.

A pro-LGBT supporter, Bakker also performs same-sex marriages.

During the opening of the church, blogger Tony Jones and his photographer wife Courtney Perry and their daughter Lilly shared a rainbow-colored communion bread that they had made with the congregation. It was done to show support for the then pending pro-LGBT legislation.

“It was special to honor Chirst as well as to honor those LGBT people who didn’t make it this far and hope for a better future. It became a real source of redemption,” The Huffington Post reported Bakker saying as a response to hearing about a gay man’s former partner who had committed suicide. He also said that the bread became a “really beautiful thing.” (For detailed instructions on how to make rainbow bread, visit taste-for-adventure.tablespoon.com/2013/04/13/rainbow-bread/.)

The following day, he visited the state’s legislature at the time the Senate was taking the vote on the marriage equality bill, The Huffington Post added.

Revolution Church is progressive, welcoming and affirming. It was created in Phoenix, Ariz., in 1994. It was followed up by churches in Atlanta, Ga., New York, N.Y., Charlotte, N.C., and now the one in Minnesota. Podcasts are available online.

Bakker has authored three books about his life-long experiences within the Christian community. “Faith, Doubt, and Other Lines I’ve Crossed,” explores questions that are not asked and suggests that people welcome other interpretations of the Bible as they read it, leading to finding God with limitless grace. “Fall to Grace” chronicles Bakker’s life when his parents were beset by scandal when PTL was under fire. It asks readers to challenge their understanding of salvation and encourages non-believers to see Jesus with fresh eyes. In “Son of a Preacher Man,” he searches for a way to find grace amidst the turmoil of his life when it seemed remote.

— Lainey Millen

HIV criminalization repeal introduced

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A California congresswoman on May 7 reintroduced the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act in the U.S. House, a bill that would would lead to an eventual repeal of laws that criminalize exposing others to HIV.

Currently, 32 states and two U.S. territories that have laws that make “exposure” to or nondisclosure of HIV a crime.

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U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who first introduced the measure in 2011, said those laws “are based on bias, not science.”

“We need to make sure that our federal and state laws don’t discriminate against people who are living with HIV. These laws breed fear, discrimination, distrust, and hatred, and we’ve got to modernize them. That’s exactly what this legislation would do,” said Lee.

The REPEAL act (“Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal” HIV Discrimination) calls for review of all federal and state laws, policies, and regulations regarding the criminal prosecution of individuals for HIV-related offenses.

If enacted, it would be the first piece of federal legislation to take on the issue of HIV criminalization, encouraging states to reconsider laws and practices that unfairly target people with HIV for consensual sex and conduct that poses no real risk of HIV transmission.

“The more messages we can send to states to modernize or eliminate HIV criminalization laws the better — and that is exactly what this bill does,” said Scott Schoettes, HIV project director at Lambda Legal.

“It is high time the nation’s HIV criminalization laws reflect the current reality of living with HIV, both from medical and social perspectives. Except for perhaps the most extreme cases, the criminal law is far too blunt an instrument to address the subtle dynamics of HIV disclosure,” said Schoettes.

The bill has the support of the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA), the Positive Justice Project and AIDS United.

Though condom use significantly reduces the risk of HIV transmission, most HIV-specific laws do not consider condom use a mitigating factor or as evidence that the person did not intend to transmit HIV.

Sentences imposed on people convicted of HIV-specific offenses can range from 10-30 years, even in the absence of intent to transmit HIV, actual transmission or even the potential for transmission. Though most convictions are based on consensual sexual activity between adults, those convicted are often required to register as “sex offenders.”

Lambda Legal noted that it is arguing a case pending before the Iowa Supreme Court in which they are seeking to overturn the 25-year sentence of an HIV+ man who used a condom during a single sexual encounter in which there was no HIV transmission.

— LGBTQ Nation

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