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Brown signs same-sex marriage bill into law

With a stroke of Gov. Jerry Brown’s pen Monday morning, California did away with its last statutory barriers to same-sex marriage.

Brown signed SB 1306 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, which replaces references to “husband and wife” with gender-neutral language, bringing state statutes into line with the state and U.S. Supreme Court rulings recognizing marriage rights for same-sex couples. The bill officially takes effect Jan. 1.

“This legislation removes outdated and biased language from state codes and recognizes all married spouses equally, regardless of their gender,” Leno said in a news release.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013 let stand California’s ruling that Proposition 8 of 2008 – which wrote a ban on same-sex marriage into the state constitution – was unconstitutional. By repealing Proposition 8, that ruling essentially restored the California Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling that had cleared the way for same-sex marriages; weddings resumed almost immediately.

Leno’s bill was cosponsored by Attorney General Kamala Harris, Equality California and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“Although there is no question that same-sex couples can marry in California, the discriminatory language that remains on the statutory books creates confusion about the rights of same-sex couples,” NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell said in Leno’s news release. “This law makes it clear to everyone that same-sex couples can marry and that all spouses have the exact same rights and responsibilities under the law, regardless of gender.”

Posted on Monday, July 7th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Mark Leno, same-sex marriage | 3 Comments »

Justice Dept. urges passing DiFi’s marriage bill

A Justice Department memo issued Friday on implementing same-sex marriage rights under last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision calls for passing a California senator’s bill to fully repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The report says the only way to fully implement the decision and ensure same-sex, legally-married couples are treated equally under federal law is by passing bills such as S. 1236, the Respect for Marriage Act, offered one year ago by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Feinstein introduced the bill on the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, finding a key part of DOMA unconstitutional.

“I welcome the Justice Department’s call for passage of our legislation to finally repeal DOMA once and for all and ensure that legally-married, same-sex couples are treated equally under federal law, regardless of where they live,” Feinstein said in a statement issued Friday. “The Justice Department today made clear what we have known all along: the only way key federal agencies like the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs can fully implement the Windsor decision is by enacting the DOMA repeal legislation I introduced with Congressman Nadler.”

“I commend the administration for the painstaking work it has done to go through more than 1,100 federal laws affected by DOMA and implement as much of the decision as possible. But the only way we will achieve full equality under federal law for legally-married, same-sex couples is to enact our bill.”

Feinstein’s bill has 44 co-sponsors, none of whom are Republicans. H.R. 2523, the House version of the bill offered by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., has 174 co-sponsors including two Republicans: Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.

Posted on Friday, June 20th, 2014
Under: Dianne Feinstein, same-sex marriage, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Texas GOP endorses ‘reparative therapy’ for gays

The Texas Republican Party now endorses what it calls “reparative therapy” for gay and lesbian people.

The party adopted this as part of its platform at its convention Sunday in Fort Worth after the Texas Eagle Forum tea party group urged endorsement of therapy to turn gay people straight. Thus the party now recognizes “the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle.”

Speaking for myself, I endorse reparative therapy and treatment for Texas Republicans because, after all, who would want to live that way?

As a practical matter, the willful ignorance here is staggering. The American Psychological Association and other major health organizations have condemned such counseling, especially for minors, because of the danger of serious psychological harm.

As a political matter, it’s suicide. Consider Gallup’s trend lines:

gallup - legal

gallup - marriage

Please note that I confine this criticism to Texas Republicans. I know there are Republicans across the nation – and perhaps particularly here in California – who read news of the Texas GOP’s whack-jobbiness, do a swift facepalm and exclaim, “What is WRONG with you people?”

It’s amazing that anyone who claims to stand for conservatism, small government, individual rights and personal responsibility would simultaneously believe a political party should say anything about whom one can be sexually attracted to and/or love. It’s hypocrisy of the highest order, piled atop a foundation of bigotry based either in fundamentalist religious dogma or plain old xenophobia.

I believe the Republican Party has a future, but I also believe the Texas Republicans who are now holed up in their ideological Alamo are standing in that future’s way.

Posted on Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
Under: Republican Party, Republican politics, same-sex marriage | 1 Comment »

Liberty Counsel touts Croatia for marriage stance

Conservative law center Liberty Counsel issued a news release Monday noting citizens of Croatia overwhelmingly – 66 percent to 34 percent – passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Support for the amendment was organized by the Catholic church in response to a bill “that would create homosexual ‘life partners,’” the group reports.

Mat Staver“The memories of so-called ‘progressive’ regimes controlling society are fresh in the minds of Eastern Europeans. They know if the people stand united, they can overcome these ‘progressive’ ideals that wreak havoc on families and communities,” Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver said in the release, blasting the Obama administration for “working to undermine marriage and family around the world” with an ideology that “is morally bankrupt and anti-American.”

Wait. A. Minute.

Are we looking to Croatia as a model for human rights and values? The nation that saw some of the most savage and deadly ethnic cleaning of the past two decades, and that still celebrates that effort with a national holiday? Because that would be pretty remarkable, wouldn’t you say?

I’m not gonna go all Bob Dylan on y’all, but maybe we shouldn’t be taking a page from the Croats on how we do unto others.

Posted on Monday, December 9th, 2013
Under: same-sex marriage | 6 Comments »

County GOP’s support of gay marriage draws fire

California Republicans are abuzz following the Marin County Republican Central Committee’s vote Thursday to support same-sex marriage, becoming the nation’s first Republican county central committee to do so.

“We recognized that we were not providing Marin voters with a viable choice at the polls, and we looked at ways to begin correcting that perception,” Kevin Krick of Fairfax, the committee’s chairman, told my Marin Independent Journal colleague Richard Halstead.

But Harmeet Dhillon – chairwoman of the San Francisco Republican Party and vice chair of the state GOP – on Monday said the feedback she’s hearing from Republicans all around California is “pretty overwhelmingly in opposition” to the Marin GOP’s vote. She called the vote “ill-advised politically and premature at best,” and said she doesn’t know of any other county that’s considering following suit.

Harmeet Dhillon“I don’t think it’s appropriate to have platform positions at the local level that contradict what the party positions are at the state and national level,” she said. “I don’t believe in meaningless gestures, and we don’t engage in them at the San Francisco Republican Party.”

Activists have not been agitating for the San Francisco GOP to take a position on the issue, she said, “and I don’t expect that to change because they’re not single-issue voters and it’s not the most important issue for them.” Dhillon said gay Republicans like other Republicans are more focused on economic issues, and though she considers Krick a friend, she finds this decision surprising: “I don’t think it was properly aired, vetted, thought out.”

“There’s really no groundswell for taking what I think is a premature position on the issue,” she said. “It’s not decided by any stretch of the imagination in the courts, by the Legislature or by the people.”

Nor does she believe it’ll attract new voters to the party, Dhillon said: People for whom same-sex marriage is a prime issue usually disagree with the GOP on many other issues as well, so all this does is vex the party’s conservative base.

Stuart Gaffney of San Francisco, spokesman for Marriage Equality USA, said though this is a first for the Republican Party, “it confirms what we already know: Support for marriage equality is increasing on a daily basis across all spectrums of our society.”

Stuart Gaffney“It wasn’t that long ago where marriage equality might’ve been thought of as a partisan issue, but we see more and more politicians and leaders working across the aisle,” he said, noting actions like those of U.S. Sen. Rob Portman – who last year became the first GOP senator to support same-sex marriage – and the Marin GOP’s “are a result of seeing their LGBT constituents as human beings worthy of full dignity in all aspects of their lives.”

“Any politician and any political party needs to be looking at how they can put together a majority, because they need to win elections,” Gaffney said, citing a new Gallup Poll that shows 52 percent of Americans would vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.

“The numbers are only getting stronger and stronger… so any party that hopes to remain relevant needs to get on board or get out of the way. It’s a question for politicians and political parties now whether they want to be on the right side of history or not.”

UPDATE @ 1:25 P.M.: Gregory Angelo, executive director of the national Log Cabin Republicans, said the Republican Party of Washington, D.C., in June 2012 became the first GOP affiliate to officially declare its support of same-sex marriage, but Marin is the first county committee.

“This news is encouraging and only further shows what we’ve long said: that the GOP is no longer walking in lockstep on this issue,” Angelo said. “Enabling local Republican party central committees to take their own positions on marriage equality is an inherently conservative choice because it lets those closest to the ground have the ability to make policy and platform decisions that best meet the needs of their community and constituencies. That’s what the Republican Party advocates across the board.”

Posted on Monday, July 29th, 2013
Under: Republican Party, Republican politics, same-sex marriage | 10 Comments »

RNC votes unanimously against same-sex marriage

Rebranding only goes so far. From Time magazine:

The Republican National Committee voted unanimously Friday to reaffirm the party’s commitment to upholding the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, upending party efforts to grow support among younger voters.

A resolution introduced Wednesday by Michigan committeeman Dave Agema, who came under fire last month for posting an article describing gays as “filthy” on his Facebook page, passed the full RNC by a voice vote and without debate. A second resolution reaffirming “core values” of the party — including opposition to same-sex marriage — was also passed.

[snip]

Republican Party officials bristle at coverage of the controversy. “While we have to do things differently, there’s one thing that can’t and won’t change: our principles,” said RNC chairman Reince Priebus.

Evan Wolfson, president and founder of Freedom to Marry, was quick on the draw with a statement.

“With Republican support for the freedom to marry increasing every day — aided by the journeys of leaders like Senators Mark Kirk and Rob Portman — the RNC is showing itself out of touch with this resolution,” he said. “A party that claims to value individual freedom, personal responsibility, family stability, and limited government should be embracing the freedom to marry, as have a growing majority of young Republicans. RNC leaders would do well to align themselves with these supporters, who represent the party’s future, instead of digging in against the right side of history.”

But I’d be shocked if Wolfson or anyone else seriously thought the RNC wouldn’t pass such a resolution.

Posted on Friday, April 12th, 2013
Under: Republican Party, Republican politics, same-sex marriage | 6 Comments »

Skinner: Dems must choose battles, but fight some

With supermajorities in both legislative chambers, Democrats must walk a finer line than ever, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner said Wednesday.

My coffee meeting with Skinner, D-Berkeley, yielded a wide-ranging conversation about her party’s considerable new power and the responsibilities that go with it, as well as her own legislative priorities. The former Berkeley councilwoman has just won re-election to her third and final Assembly term, and she sees a productive but sensitive session ahead.

“We’ve been given this privilege by the voters and we want to be respectful of the privilege we’ve been handed,” she said Wednesday.

The caucus must choose its battles, she said, but not choose them so carefully that none ever get fought.

She’s in a position to help choose those battles because, as the Assembly Rules Committee’s chair, Skinner is among the Legislature’s top leaders. Rules is responsible for assigning bills to committees, setting salaries for legislative staff, waiving rules and overseeing the Assembly’s business; it’s basically an executive committee for the chamber, and its seats are coveted.

But Skinner on Wednesday said the supermajorities were achieved by votes in individual districts, not a statewide vote, and so lawmakers must move cautiously to ensure they don’t salt the field.

For example, she said, voters’ approval of Proposition 30 – Gov. Jerry Brown’s measure temporarily increasing sales taxes and income taxes for the state’s richest residents to fund K-12 and higher education – was “great,” but it would take a lot more revenue to return the state’s schools, colleges and universities to their heyday.

“There’s probably appetite for some more revenue,” she said, but it has to be something that’s palatable to voters.

For example, state Sen. Ted Lieu’s proposal to triple the Vehicle License Fee – which was slashed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, blowing a huge hole in the state budget – was withdrawn almost as soon as it was advanced last month due to public backlash. And voters in November 2010 handily rejected Proposition 21, which would’ve boosted the VLF to bankroll state parks. Voters just don’t like the VLF, Skinner said.

“We have to look at the range of … tax expenditures, what I call tax loopholes or tax giveaways, that were part of various budget deals in order to get a Republican vote” in past years, she said.

One such loophole was the single-sales factor, just repealed last month by Proposition 39; that’ll bring in about $1 billion a year, half of which for the first five years is earmarked for projects increasing energy efficiency and creating green jobs. Skinner this month introduced the Assembly version of a bill to implement that.

“But there’s others like that,” she said, citing the “net operating loss carryback” deduction that was suspended for 2010 and 2011 but will apply to 2012’s corporate taxes.

This and other loopholes, if closed, “could be worth from $2.5 billion to $4 billion, which is significant,” she said.

And of course there’s the possibility of “split-roll” reform of Proposition 13 so that residential properties remain protected but commercial properties are re-assessed more often, she said. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, already has announced a bill to tighten state laws enacted under Prop. 13 so that it’s harder for businesses to avoid re-assessment and higher taxes when property changes hands – a half-step toward split-roll that wouldn’t require voters’ approval of a ballot measure.

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
Under: Assembly, gun control, marijuana, Nancy Skinner, same-sex marriage, state budget, taxes | 2 Comments »

SCOTUS delays deciding if it will review Prop. 8

Californians on both sides of the gay-marriage debate will have to wait a bit longer to hear whether and how the U.S. Supreme Court will weigh in.

Though the high court originally had been scheduled to confer next Tuesday, Nov. 20 on whether to take a case challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 of 2008 – which added a same-sex marriage ban into the state constitution – the justices will now consider it Friday, Nov. 30 instead, with an announcement expected Dec. 3.

If the court decides not to review the case, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ Feb. 7 ruling will stand, invalidating Proposition 8 and allowing gay marriages to resume in California.

The court also moved from Nov. 20 to Nov. 30 its consideration of whether to accept several cases challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 statute barring gay marriage for all matters of federal law.

Posted on Tuesday, November 13th, 2012
Under: same-sex marriage | 1 Comment »

Who’ll decide the future of marriage in California?

I and my colleague Howard Mintz wrote an article today about how four other states’ votes in favor of gay marriage this week might or might not affect California’s situation on that issue. Here’s a tidbit that didn’t make it into the story:

Even if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds both California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, it might not fall to activists alone to make a renewed electoral push for same-sex marriage in California, suggested Rick Jacobs, chairman of the Courage Campaign, a Los Angeles-based progressive activist network claiming more than 750,000 members nationwide.

Thanks to this week’s elections, Democrats now hold supermajorities in both chambers of California’s Legislature as well as the governor’s office, Jacobs noted. Should the courts fail the movement, he said, “I can imagine a scenario … wherein we wouldn’t even have to pay the money to put it on the ballot: The Legislature and the governor could do it.”

Gil Duran, spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, responded that “it is premature to speculate on these matters while the case is pending before the United States Supreme Court.”

Similarly, John Vigna, spokesman for Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said “the Speaker believes this discussion is premature because the case is still before the courts, and the Speaker is very confident that the courts will invalidate Proposition 8 because of the eloquent and powerful case made by the plaintiffs and cited by Judge Walker in his decision ruling Proposition 8 as unconstitutional.”

But state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, seemed to embrace Jacobs’ idea: “I’m open to any and all ways to promote the cause of marriage equality and civil rights for all people.”

Posted on Thursday, November 8th, 2012
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Jerry Brown, John Perez, same-sex marriage | 3 Comments »

Stark targets Medicare glitch for same-sex couples

A bill introduced today by Rep. Pete Stark aims to close a loophole deep in Medicare’s rules that has been costing seniors who are in same-sex marriages.

Medicare’s secondary payer rules generally let someone maintain employer-sponsored coverage after they’ve obtained Medicare eligibility. They don’t have to join Medicare Part B (covering certain doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical supplies and preventive services) and pay its monthly premium as long as they maintain that workplace insurance as their primary coverage and Medicare Part A (covering inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care and some home health care) as their secondary coverage.

The law also protects people in this situation who later transition to Medicare Part B when they lose that employer-sponsored coverage: They don’t have to pay a late enrollment penalty, as would someone who simply waited to obtain Part B coverage until they got sick.

But Stark, D-Fremont, said constituent Joseph Goleman of Newark was told he would have to pay that late-enrollment penalty because he disclosed that he was in a same-sex marriage.

“The practical effect of my legislation is to provide people over age 65 in same-sex marriages the choice to remain on their spouse’s employer health coverage as their primary insurance, without facing significant financial penalties from Medicare in the future,” he said. “Regardless of one’s position on same-sex marriage, this small change in law makes financial sense for Medicare and will ensure consistent treatment of people regardless of their age.”

Current law has different definitions for family depending on whether one becoming eligible for Medicare through disability or through age. The definition is “family member” for people with disabilities includes legally-recognized same-sex marriages, but for those turning 65, the term is “spouse” – and the federal Defense of Marriage Act prohibits that term from including state-recognized same-sex marriages.

“Joseph knew what happened to him when he visited the local Social Security office didn’t feel right. Thankfully, he immediately reached out to my office and we were able get him the benefits he was due,” Stark said in a news release. “The confusion in current law is likely denying eligible beneficiaries the benefits they are due today – as it would have Mr. Goleman if he’d not reached out to me.”

Stark is the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee that oversees Medicare.

Posted on Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
Under: Pete Stark, same-sex marriage, U.S. House | No Comments »