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28th February 2004 (# 12) News Clippings Digest.

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  • Graham Underhill
    28th February 2004 (# 12) News Clippings Digest. 1. LOS ANGELES TIMES San Francisco Gets a Week to Make Case for Gay Marriage: The state Supreme Court
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 3, 2004
      28th February 2004 (# 12) News Clippings Digest.

      1.  LOS ANGELES TIMES  San Francisco Gets a Week to Make Case for Gay Marriage:  
      The state Supreme Court refuses to immediately halt the city's controversial policy.  But it signals that it will decide quickly on taking up the legal issues.

      2.  ASSOCIATED PRESS  Pope: Same-Sex Unions 'Degrade' Marriage

      3.  ASSOCIATED PRESS  New Paltz, NY:  More than 500 same-sex couples have signed up on a waiting list to be married in this village that has joined San Francisco in offering the ceremonies

      4.  MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE  U.S. Senator Mark Dayton to oppose gay-marriage ban

      5.  OAKLAND TRIBUNE (California)  Oakland City Council waded into the national debate over same-sex marriage Thursday and is expected to urge the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to allow gay and lesbian couples to be married by the county clerk's office

      Los Angeles Times, February 28, 2004
      Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA, 90053
      (Fax: 213-237-7679 or 213-237-5319 ) (E-Mail:  letters@... )
      ( http://www.latimes.com )

      S.F. Gets a Week to Make Case for Gay Marriage
      The state Supreme Court refuses to immediately halt the city's controversial policy. But it signals that it will decide quickly on taking up the legal issues.
      By Maura Dolan, Times Staff Writer

              SAN FRANCISCO ? The California Supreme Court refused to immediately halt this city's same-sex marriages on Friday but decided that it would swiftly consider whether to review the legal challenges to those nuptials.
              The state's highest court gave San Francisco seven days to present arguments to the judges why they should not immediately order the city to stop marrying gay couples and invalidate the 3,400 licenses already issued.
              The city also plans to ask the court to determine whether the state Constitution protects same-sex unions.
              Under state law, marriage is defined as between "a man and a woman."  The city argues that the California Constitution, however, protects against discrimination and, therefore, allows the same-sex marriages.
              The court issued two orders in the gay marriage dispute Friday afternoon after state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer filed a lengthy petition asking the court to intervene immediately.
              His petition argued that the marriage licenses violated state law and had caused conflict and uncertainty within various government agencies.
              One of those conflicts involved the Social Security Administration, which Friday ordered its offices nationwide not to accept San Francisco marriage licenses as proof of identification for newlyweds seeking name-change requests on Social Security cards.
              In his petition, Lockyer had asked the state high court to decide the constitutional questions immediately.
              "Peaceful civil disobedience may have its place in an open society, but there are usually consequences for such disobedience," Lockyer said.
              He said San Francisco had refused to respond to a directive issued by the California Department of Health Services to stop issuing licenses other than those approved by the state.
              The city changed the wording on the standard marriage licenses Feb. 12 to accommodate same-sex couples.
              Lockyer, asked at a news conference in Anaheim why he had not acted earlier, said his petition had been contemplated for "many, many" days.
              "Some politicians have opinions in 10 seconds," Lockyer said, "but when you do legal work, you like to have it right before you go to court.  We wanted to act thoughtfully and judiciously ."
              Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent a strongly worded letter last week to Lockyer ordering him to take immediate action to stop the marriages.
              The attorney general responded that he was already anticipating going to court and that the governor did not have the authority to order him to act.
              Lockyer, a liberal Democrat who has support from backers of gay marriage, described San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision to marry gays as a "principled stand," but added, "There's a way they could have done it without all the drama," by going to court first.
              Instead, San Francisco's decision to issue same-sex marriage licenses has "created a situation of extreme public significance," Lockyer said.
              "The recognition of marital status carries with it too many legal consequences to be determined on a county-by-county basis in each of California's 58 jurisdictions."
      The state Supreme Court directed San Francisco to respond both to Lockyer's petition and to a more narrow request filed with the court Wednesday by a group opposed to gay marriage.
              "What the court is saying is, we want to take another look at both sides of the issue before we decide whether or not to hear the case," said Lynn Holton, a spokeswoman for the court.
              Santa Clara University law professor Gerald Uelmen, an expert on the state high court, said the judges' orders Friday "suggest that if they are going to hear the case, they are going to rule very quickly."
              "And it also may suggest that there are a number of justices who are leaning toward hearing it," he said.
              The court has asked for written arguments in the past on emergency petitions that have bypassed lower courts.  But it is rare for the court to grant such petitions and intervene before lower courts have ruled.  The court generally prefers to review a case only after a full factual record has been developed.  Judges in San Francisco Superior Court have postponed a hearing on the marriages until March 29.
              But retired state Supreme Court Justice Edward A. Panelli said a factual record in the same-sex marriage case was not particularly important because the key question to resolve was constitutional.
              "This is strictly a legal, constitutional issue that they will ultimately have to decide," said Panelli, who predicts that the high court will intervene.
              San Francisco contends that the California Constitution's equal protection clause makes state marriage laws unconstitutional.  The high court has the final say in interpreting the state Constitution.
              "Since it is such a pressing issue, why wait two years to decide it?" said Panelli, who remembered the court granting one or two such petitions during his eight-year tenure.  "I feel pretty confident they will."
              The fact that the court did not summarily reject the petitions Friday also "obviously indicates some interest in hearing what the parties have to say," Panelli said.
              Benjamin Bull, general counsel for one of the groups that also asked the state high court to intervene, said he was encouraged by the court's orders.
              "Most extraordinary writ applications are rejected out of hand," Bull said.  "When they ask for responsive briefings and set a certain date, it means they are probably going to rule on it."
              He said he was pleased that the court was moving quickly.  "We were celebrating in our office when we saw that order," Bull said.
              But Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for San Francisco City Atty. Dennis Herrera, said the city was pleased that the court did not agree to the petitioners' request for an immediate halt to the marriages.
              "By inviting opposition briefs from the city attorney next week, the Supreme Court has already tacitly rejected pleas that same-sex marriages in San Francisco be halted immediately," Dorsey said.
              Lockyer said the controversy had prompted the Social Security Administration to ask the state to help it determine whether marriage licenses issued in San Francisco were valid.  Married couples present their licenses to the federal agency when asking for name changes.
          The new Social Security ID directive applies to all marriage licenses ? not just the same-sex ones ? issued in the city since Feb. 12.  The move drew strong criticism from Mayor Newsom.
              ? Times staff writer David Haldane and Associated Press contributed to this report.

      Associated Press, February 28, 2004

      Pope: Same-Sex Unions 'Degrade' Marriage
      By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press Writer

              VATICAN CITY (AP) ? Pope John Paul II urged authorities Saturday to stop approving gay marriages, saying they "degrade" the true sense of marriage between a man and a woman, and them.
              It was the second time in a week the pontiff has raised the issue, which is making headlines in the United States as gay couples marry in cities like San Francisco and New Paltz, N.Y.
              The California Supreme Court on Friday also declined a request to immediately stop San Francisco from marrying gay couples and to nullify the weddings already performed.  More than 3,400 gay couples have tied the knot in San Francisco.
              John Paul said a family based on marriage between a man and a woman was a pillar of society that justly had rights and duties specific to it.
              "This is a time in which there is no lack of attempts to reduce marriage to a mere individual contract, with characteristics very different from those that belong to marriage and the family, and that end up degrading it as if it were a form of accessory association within the social body," he said.
              John Paul urged all public authorities, but particularly Catholic ones, to stop approving such laws, saying they should not contribute to legislation contrary to "the primary and essential norms that regulate moral life."
              Authorities must instead protect laws that favor the family "knowing that they promote a social development that is just, stable and promising," he said.
              The pope made the comments as the new ambassador of Argentina to the Holy See presented his credentials.  In 2002, the city of Buenos Aires passed a law extending certain civil rights like health insurance and pension rights to same-sex couples ? the first Latin American city to adopt such a measure.
              Last year, the Vatican launched a global campaign against gay marriages in a bid to stem the tide of widening legal recognition for same-sex unions in Europe, North America and elsewhere.
              John Paul has pressed his point on several occasions since then.  On Thursday, he called for the support of the "authentic" Christian family, which he defined as being based on marriage between a man and a woman.
              The debate has spilled into the U.S. presidential race, with President Bush saying this week he would back a federal constitutional amendment barring such marriages.

      Associated Press, February 28, 2004

      More Gay Couples to Marry in N.Y.
      By Michael Hill

              NEW PALTZ, N.Y. (AP) ? More than 500 same-sex couples have signed up on a waiting list to be married in this village that has joined San Francisco in offering the ceremonies.
              Mayor Jason West married 25 couples Friday and vowed to continue.
              "Absolutely, I'll be doing this again," he said Friday before a cheering outdoor crowd. 
      "I broke no law.  I abided by the constitution of New York state and my oath of office."
              That's being debated.  Although New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer refused a request from state health officials to block the marriages, he did not issue an opinion on whether the unions were legal.
              "The validity of the marriages and the legality of the mayor's action will be determined in due course in the courts," Spitzer said.
              West and the New York Civil Liberties Union say state law does not explicitly bar same-sex couples from marrying.  He said his "solemnization" of gay marriage was legal and will survive legal scrutiny.
              When word got out Thursday that West would perform the ceremonies, the number of couples seeking to marry grew so quickly that the mayor set up a waiting list.  More than 500 couples had signed up by Saturday afternoon, according to the village's Web site.
              West said Friday he also had received many calls and e-mails from people who want to marry.  He planned no more weddings before Monday, according to his office.
              West, the Green Party mayor in this village 75 miles north of New York City, joined San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom as the country's only mayors to marry same-sex couples.  In the past two weeks, about 3,400 gay couples have married in San Francisco.
              "What we're witnessing in America today is the flowering of the largest civil rights movement the country's had in a generation," West told a roaring crowd Friday.
              The state Health Department has said New York law bars the issuance of marriage licenses to same sex couples and that New York courts have recognized only marriages between men and women.  A clerk who issues a marriage license outside the guidelines, and anybody who officiates at such a marriage, would be violating state law, the department said.
              Ulster County District Attorney Donald Williams Jr. said Friday it was his understanding the same-sex couples West married Friday didn't have licenses, and he advised the mayor that state law bans public officials from performing marriages knowing the couple doesn't have a license.
              Williams said he would wait for a police report before deciding whether to prosecute.  The misdemeanor offense is punishable by up to a year in jail.
              ? On the Net:  http://www.villageofnewpaltz.org

      Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 28, 2004
      425 Portland Avenue, Minneapolis, MN, 55408
      (Fax: 612-673-4359 ) (E-Mail: opinion@... )
      ( http://www.startribune.com/ )

      Dayton to oppose gay-marriage ban
      Kevin Diaz, Star Tribune Washington ?Bureau Correspondent

              WASHINGTON, D.C. ? After wrestling with the issue all week, Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., is expected to speak out today against a proposed constitutional amendment to bar gay marriage.
              Call him another reluctant soldier in the Culture War.
              Despite his longtime support for civil rights and domestic-partner legislation for gays and lesbians, Dayton's aides say gay marriage is not an easy call for the senator.
              Dayton's unease is not unusual in a Congress that so far has been reluctant to embrace President Bush's election-year call for a constitutional ban on gay marriage, no matter how lawmakers feel about gay marriage itself.
              Leaders in both major parties have said that despite all the sound and fury, prospects for congressional action this year are dim.
              Even House Republican Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, a die-hard conservative, has cautioned against moving too fast, saying he does not want to "take a knee-jerk reaction."
              Although Dayton has told aides he doesn't want to limit anybody's rights, he's just as adamantly opposed to forcing churches and other religious groups to recognize gay marriages.
              For that reason, Dayton's statement at today's Rainbow Families Conference, a gathering of gay and lesbian parents, is likely to fall short of a call for legal recognition of gay marriage.
              Although Minnesota's members of Congress are nearly evenly split on the constitutional amendment, reservations about the issue have surfaced on both sides.
              Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn. supports an amendment to bar gay marriages, but not the one Congress is considering.  That amendment, proposed by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., would ban not just gay marriage but "the legal incidents thereof," which could affect employer benefits for gay couples.
              "He wants to focus on the issue of defining marriage," said Coleman spokesman Tom Steward.  "He's for an amendment that says marriage is the union between a man and a woman."
              Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., a cosponsor of the Musgrave amendment, said Congress has been "put into a box" by court decisions allowing gay marriage in Massachusetts and the current run of gay marriages in San Francisco.
              "I wish we didn't have to get into this," Peterson said.  "I don't think we should deny anybody in this country their basic rights to make contracts [such as insurance benefits for gay couples].  But when it starts getting into government saying that marriage can be something other than between a man and a woman, I've got a problem with that."
              Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., a social conservative and opponent of gay marriage, is similarly reluctant to see Congress act before the issue is resolved in state courts.
              "He doesn't want to see an amendment come to the House floor," said his spokeswoman, Angelyn Wollen.  "But if it comes to the floor, he'll support it."
              Wollen said Kline's considers the amendment "a last resort."
              The rest of Minnesota's GOP delegation ? Reps. Jim Ramstad, Mark Kennedy and Gil Gutknecht ? have expressed varying degrees of support for a ban on gay marriage.
      All of them say it is necessary to protect the sanctity of the institution of marriage.  Gutknecht and Kennedy also are cosponsors of the Musgrave proposal.
              But even in welcoming the president's endorsement, Gutknecht added: "Isn't it sad that we may be forced to amend the Constitution because of the irresponsible actions of a handful of activist judges?"
              Opponents of the amendment tend to blame the White House for forcing a debate on Congress.
              "I am opposed to Mr. Bush playing reelection politics with our Constitution at the expense of the real issues America is facing at home and around the world," said Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn.
              Many Democrats believe the White House is using the issue as a wedge against Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the Democratic presidential front-runner.  Kerry was one of 14 senators who voted against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which codifies marriage as between a man and a woman and provides that no state has to recognize the same-sex "marriage" of any other state.
              Bush has raised the specter of a court challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act as a reason for passing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
              Besides McCollum, Minnesota Reps. Jim Oberstar and Martin Sabo ? both Democrats ? have sided against Bush's proposed amendment.  Oberstar described it as a states'-rights issue.
              But Dayton, so far, has avoided any public pronouncements on the issue ? the only member of the Minnesota delegation to remain silent.
              "Sen. Dayton thinks changing the Constitution is an extremely serious matter," said his spokeswoman, Chris Lisi.  "It needs a lot of thought."
              ? Kevin Diaz is at kdiaz@...
      Oakland Tribune, February 27, 2004
      Box 24304, Oakland, CA, 94623
      (Fax: 510-208-6477 ) (E-Mail:  triblet@... )
      ( http://www.oaklandtribune.com )

      City pushes for gay marriage
      Resolution asks county
      By Heather MacDonald, Staff Writer

              OAKLAND ? The Oakland City Council waded into the national debate over same-sex marriage Thursday and is expected to urge the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to allow gay and lesbian couples to be married by the county clerk's office.
              Sponsored by Councilmembers Danny Wan (Grand Lake-Chinatown), Jean Quan (Montclair-Laurel) and Nancy Nadel (Downtown-West Oakland), the resolution calls on the county recorder to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples.
              "Civil marriage should be about equal rights under the law," said Wan, the council's only gay member.
              Oakland city officials have been under an increasing amount of pressure to follow San Francisco's lead and defy state law by allowing same-sex couples to wed.  However, since only counties issue marriage licenses, the ball is in Alameda County's court.
              "It's unfortunate that we can't issue the licenses ourselves, but I want to move this issue forward," Wan said.
              The resolution is expected to be approved by the council on March 16.
              Berkeley adopted a similar resolution on Feb. 17, calling on California to stop discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people.
              "Gay couples are an important part of our community and play a huge role in community organizations," Quan said.  "As people get to know people, a lot of the prejudice is broken down."
              Earlier this week, President Bush called on Congress and the states to amend the Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage, a move he said was prompted in part by the marriages of 3,300 gay and lesbian couples in San Francisco since Feb. 12.
              A law signed in 1973 by former governor and current Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown limits marriage in California to one man and one woman.  That law was strengthened in 2000 by passage of Proposition 22.  Brown did not return a call for comment Thursday afternoon.
              California courts are now considering challenges to both those laws and the same-sex marriages.
              Two weeks ago, about 50 members of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Oakland marched on City Hall to encourage Oakland to allow same-sex marriages.
              "It's very gratifying that Oakland is moving forward with this," said Dan Goss, a member of the church and its same-gender marriage task force.  "It is a basic civil rights and social justice issue."
              The East Bay's gay population should have the same opportunity to get married as people who live in San Francisco, Nadel said.
              "These are issues that the government should not be involved in," she said.
              Gail Steele, Board of Supervisors chairwoman, said the council's action would likely push the issue to the top of the board's agenda, although she would recommend supervisors wait until the state Supreme Court rules on the issue to take action.
              "There all are all kinds of ramifications if we do it ahead
              ? E-mail Heather MacDonald at hmacdonald@...
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