Monday, October 27, 2008

Web Spotlight: Gay Rights @ Change.org

Today's web spotlight and shout goes to the Gay Rights section of change.org. It is one of the best websites I have come across packed with LGBT videos, statistics, gay history, activism, news, and more. If you can think of it and it has to do with LGBT issues, it is there!

Check them out at http://gayrights.change.org/

1 comment:

Diane J Standiford said...

from USA Today
By Andrea Stone, USA TODAY
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The presidential race won't be the only close vote here next week.
A constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman and deny recognition to any "substantial equivalent" has stirred pocketbook concerns among Florida's seniors and those with domestic partner benefits.

Voters in California and Arizona also will decide Nov. 4 whether to change their constitutions to prevent courts from overturning laws barring same-sex marriage.

The California Supreme Court threw out a ban on same-sex nuptials in May. Since then, more than 11,000 gay couples have wed, says UCLA's Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy. Polls show voters evenly divided.

Floridians are more focused on the presidential race. "When we have such monumentally critical issues as the cratering economy and the war, those seem so much more important," University of South Florida political scientist Susan MacManus says.

FIND MORE STORIES IN: Arizona | Michigan | Barack Obama | Massachusetts | God | Christianity | Social Security | Tampa | Census Bureau | Pew Research Center | California Supreme Court | Lutheran | Human Rights Campaign | Sunrise | Blue Cross | Public Policy | Connecticut Supreme Court | Susan MacManus | Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law | Blue Shield of Florida | Brad Luna | John Stemberger
The issue has faded nationally since 2004, when voters in 13 states approved constitutional bans after the high court in Massachusetts made it the first to legalize gay marriage. There are now 27 states with amendments.

A decision this month by the Connecticut Supreme Court making it the third state where gays can wed lends urgency to the effort in Florida, says John Stemberger, head of Yes2Marriage.org, the main sponsor of Amendment 2 here. "There really is a national movement amongst judges and our opponents who do not appreciate the way marriage has always been and want to redefine not just marriage but the human experience," he says.

A Mason-Dixon poll this month found 55% favor the amendment, but Florida requires 60% to pass ballot measures.

Expected record turnout among blacks and young voters backing Democrat Barack Obama could cut both ways.

Most members of Tampa's African-American Beulah Baptist Institutional Church view gay marriage as "an abomination to God's word," minister W. James Favorite says. He rejects equating the struggle for gay rights with the civil rights movement.

Opponents hope young people, who a Pew Research Center for the People & the Press poll showed are more tolerant of gay marriage, will help their side.

Much hinges on how voters interpret the amendment: "Inasmuch as a marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized."

A similarly worded measure was rejected in Arizona in 2006 amid fears that senior citizens would lose domestic-partner benefits. A version is on the ballot this year without mentioning unmarried couples.

The Census Bureau reports 435,492 unmarried-partner households in Florida. Nearly nine of 10 are heterosexual, says demographer Gary Gates of the Williams Institute. Many are widowed seniors who would lose Social Security or pension benefits if they remarried.

At least 86 companies and government agencies in Florida offer domestic-partner benefits such as health insurance to same-sex and heterosexual couples, says Brad Luna of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy group.

Backers of Florida's Marriage Protection Act say it would not affect them. Terry Kemple of the Community Issues Council, a conservative Christian group, says domestic partners get few benefits compared with married couples so theirs is not a "substantial equivalent."

Helene Milman, 68, and Wayne Rauen, 59, of Sunrise are convinced that after 25 years together, nine of them as registered domestic partners, the measure will strip them of protections. They are featured in a TV ad paid for by the group Say No to 2.

Milman shudders at the idea that she might have spent five hours alone on a hospital gurney as she awaited breast cancer surgery in 2003. Without his domestic partner I.D. card, Rauen might not have been able to stay by her side. If forced to marry, the widow would lose $13,000 in annual Social Security benefits.

"Why can't they let people live their own lives?" Rauen asks.

Kemple says conservative groups have no plans to challenge domestic partnerships in court.

The state's largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, and former Florida secretary of elder affairs Bentley Lipscomb, are among amendment opponents who point to Michigan as a warning. After voters approved a similar amendment there in 2004, the state's high court ruled it unconstitutional for government agencies to provide benefits to the partners of gay employees. Policy changes have allowed some benefits to continue for some employees.

"It should not be called the 'marriage protection act' but the 'domestic partners benefits exclusion act,' " says retired Lutheran pastor John Hayner of Clearwater. "It's mean-spirited."

Interviews reveal support for defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman but concern that the measure may go too far.

Haven Eaton, 61, a Tampa handyman, says he will vote no. "While I may not favor same-sex marriage," he says, "I don't think they ought to be denied benefits available to traditional marriage."

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