Friday, November 28, 2014

Warming in Scandinavia


Finland doesn't seem to be in any hurry. It did get around to legislating marriage equality at last, today.

Over 10,000 years ago, it was the last place to get ready for the Stone Age as the last ice sheets receded. Then nomads began settling. It has since nudged its way to over five million residents (about the same as Houston or Madrid). With its empty spaces and sparse population, it has a high percentage of internet and cellphone use, but no leading modernity. Even in its atavism, it is not very political and so low key in that way it doesn't even have a national motto.

Let it be written though that on 28 November 2014, its unicameral parliament approved same-sex marriage 105 to 92. They had registered partnerships of homosexual couples for 12 years and were the only Scandinavian country without marriage equality.

So, the deal is done but not the details. Finland is never rushed. The Grand Committee of parliament gets the decision for a pro forma approval and then the whole parliament reapproves it also pro forma. Then as in other backwaters like Massachusetts many forms, regulations and enabling lawn need tweaking. Couples there may have to wait though next year or as long as March 2017 for everything to be in place after all the approval. Finland is not to be rushed.

Another oddity is that the head of the official church is on board. It's good for the country and in line with the church's values said Archbishop Kari Mäkinen of the Evangelical Lutheran church, About three quarters of Finns belong.

However, Finland became a focal point for anti-gay/anti-equality types there and even our own MassResistance bozos. In Finland, audible complaining came from the likes of Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen. It remains to be seen whether she'll be obstructionist n helping implement parliament's marriage decision. However she promises to be a sore loser, saying, "I believe that in the future a large group of Finns will continue to consider marriage to be a bond between a man and a woman, and that they will not consider relationships between people of the same gender to be marriages."

Regardless, she can sit in a corner and spew. Like New England, Scandinavia is now a marriage-equality bloc. Happy holidays.




Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Marc Solomon on the long battles for SSM

Marc Solomon mug, from his websiteMarc Solomon is justifiably flogging his newly published Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of how Same-Sex Couples took on the Politicians and Pundits — and Won. He is national campaign director for Freedom to Marry and has been a key player in several rights groups for 13 years.

Eager-Reader Note: You can order his book through his website. Click on the title above to go there.

In fundamentally another stop on his book tour, Solomon came on to answer past, present and future questions about marriage equality in the U.S., as well as describing what's in WMTISOHSSCTOTPAPAW. We're not huge on promoting books. That's for the likes of The Daily Show. However, I think this is one is really timely, very important, and with a strong local angle.

Solomon admits we aren't quite to full marriage equality yet, but expects it soon. He figures that with or without Chief Justice John Roberts' vote, the Supreme Court will expand it to the nation, likely this term, by the end of June 2015.

Getting there has not been easy nor linear. Click the player below to hear some of the road blocks and struggles. He recounts the anguish of California's Prop 8, which stripped legislated equality away, only to have it restored in another initiative. There, then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger "punted" as Solomon put it, after vetoing SSM twice and claiming the courts should decide. In the end though, Schwarzenegger aided the cause by not fighting the result.

Solomon also recalled the struggle to keep marriage equality alive in MA, the first state to legalize it, with the Goodridge decision of our Supreme Judicial Court. Efforts to overturn that pivoted on a ballot initiative that would require only 25% of the combined bicameral legislature to put to a risky vote. Listen in as Solomon describes what worked in MA and later elsewhere. Convincing lawmakers to support equality required gay couples, many with children, to visit their Reps and Senators to simultaneously present themselves and plead the case. That made the difference here and elsewhere.

While that campaign went on, Solomon said the pro-marriage-equality forces often felt the whole world opposed them — leadership in the Vatican, the commonwealth's Republican party, local pols like Sen. John Kerry, and national ones like Karl Rove. He talks about how their strategy won the day, even with legislators from rural and more conservative urban areas.

Now, Solomon says, the anti- forces have pretty much lost their strength. The Catholic Church has shifted its position, the Mormon Church has backed away, and the professional anti-gay groups have much less support as the nation favors SSM by 60% or more.

For one point, Solomon is much kinder to President Barack Obama than I on the issue. Many political insiders hold that Obama was always pro-SSM but cynically held off saying so before his first election. I am incredulous that he and his wife, both lawyers with him also a former law professor, certainly knew the distinction between religious ritual and civil marriage.Solomon, who was privy to White House thinking, phrases the process leading to Obama's support for equality differently. Solomon sees a very narrow range where politicians feel comfortable making definitive statement on controversial issues. "It's simply the way the political process works," he said.







Cross-post note: This appears at Left Ahead.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Marriage Fight on a Platter to the Supremes


No more hiding from marriage-equality for the US Supreme Court, as the 6th Court of Appeals ruled 2 to 1 to uphold same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. This stands alone after the 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th Courts rejected the bans and upheld lower-court rulings.

Despite the jive rhetoric of right wingers, has seldom been "activist" or "legislators from the bench." That's what wingers have called it when the Supremes or state high courts do their jobs but don't find as conservatives want.

Instead, the Supremes have largely waited until pushed hard and often enough. Every so rarely, they do something wacky, illogical and spitting in precedence, such as Citizen's United. Normally our highest court only goes into huge battles when there is a direct conflict between Courts of Appeal.

Ta da.

Observers figured this was eventually going to happen, even after a long, thick string of victories for equality. The 6th Circuit is very conservative and was the likely catalyst. Simply put, come out, come out. You guys have to decide. Suddenly equal protection is up against states' rights.

Today's ruling was about more than just marriage of homosexual couples. Among the cases the three-judge panel considered were whether same-sex couples could adopt, whether they had such rights as being on each other's death certificates (with all those ramifications), and whether states had to offer comity — recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states where they are legal (i.e. most of the nation).

There is no legal option for the Supremes. They likely won't rush into this one, but will have to decide it.

Friday Update: LGBTQNation reports that the lesbian couple who sued Michigan for the right to jointly adopt their three kids are preparing an appeal to the SCOTUS. This likely will hasten the schedule for taking up the big question at the top.


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