A New Jersey judge has ruled that a Monmouth County church violated the state’s discrimination laws when it prevented a lesbian couple (pictured) from holding a civil union ceremony on its property. The legal battle dates back to 2007 when the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association stopped the couple from using its boardwalk pavilion. Administrative Law Judge Solomon Metzger wrote in the ruling that the pavilion area was a public space that advertised itself as a wedding venue without any mention of religious preconditions.
Former Governor of Utah Jon Huntsman used CNN to share his opinion that same-sex couples deserve some sort of legal recognition. “I believe in civil unions,” Huntsman told Piers Morgan. “I think we can do a better job in this country as it relates to equality and basic reciprocal beneficiary rights.” President Obama favors civil unions, but his opinion is “evolving.” Huntsman, a Republican, served in the Obama administration as Ambassador to China. In order to do so, Huntsman stepped down as governor of Utah.
Chile’s conservative president Sebastian Pinera [pic] recently proposed civil unions legislation that would give gay and lesbian partners many of the rights now offered to married couples in the South American nation. Pinera, fulfilling a campaign promise with the civil union bill, insists the initiative doesn’t change the concept of marriage in Chile. But said all couples “deserve respect, dignity and the support of state,” in a speech at the presidential palace that was followed by prolonged applause. If the bill is approved as written by both houses of congress, then couples who sign agreements to life as a couple before a notary or at the civil registry would be able to resolve legal problems with inheritances, social welfare issues and health care benefits. “There is a majority in congress that believes that couples of the same sex have the same right to be happy as the rest of the couples in our country,” said Pablo Simonetti, president of the Equality Foundation.
Cuban authorities are considering the legalization of same-sex civil unions. The announcement was made by Mariela Castro, daughter of Raul Castro. As Castro told the interviewer, “A socialist society can’t be a homophobic one.”
Castro, the island’s leading gay rights advocate, said Cuban authorities are already studying the proposal in preparation for the upcoming Community Party conference on Jan. 28. “This is a historic opportunity, and I think we’re close to having draft legislation,” said Castro, who also revealed in the interview that gay Cubans can serve in the military. “We’ve been working on this issue for a long time, with a lot of activism. We’re starting to see results and a political solution.” Six other Latin American nations already recognize same-sex civil unions: Uruguay, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico (in certain states).
It was called “a historic day” by Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed when the Rhode Island passed a bill that legalizes civil unions. This progress puts RI on a short but growing list of states that provide marriage-like rights to same-sex couples. The bill is favored by most lawmakers, many of whom describe it as a compromise or at least “a step in the right direction.”
“This nation was founded on the idea that all people are created equal, a concept expressed right from our Declaration of Independence and improved upon by the course of history,” Sen. Hanna M. Gallo, D-Cranston, said before the vote. “For me, this vote is about just that — treating people equally.”
The bill defines civil unions as “a legal union between two individuals of the same sex,” assigning the same state “rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities” that come with marriage. It also states that religious organizations and their employees “shall not be required to” provide services for civil-union ceremonies or “treat as valid any civil union.”
[via The Providence Journal]
Illinois joins five other states in legalizing civil unions, a move that will give same-sex couples many of the legal protections that are now granted to straight, married couples. Those who enter into civil unions will be able to: make medical decisions for each other, file a lawsuit for a partner’s death, receive pension benefits if a partner dies, dissolve the relationship in court and be considered legal parents of their children. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the historic civil union legislation into law in January. June 1, 2011 is the first day gay or straight couples can apply for licenses in the state. Five other states and the District of Columbia have civil unions or similar laws on the books. Those states include California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.
Gay-rights organizations in New York believe civil unions are legally problematic, create confusion and don’t carry the same weight or respect as marriage. Gov. Cuomo announced last week that marriage equality is one of his top three legislative priorities in the remaining weeks of the session, which ends June 20, and he began his “People First” tour to drum up public support and put pressure on lawmakers.
Four of New York’s neighbors — Canada, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut support marriage equality.
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell has signed a bill into law that gives same-sex couples legal protections and recognition beginning in 2012. Markell says that for the children of gay and lesbian parents, the law will recognize their families with equality. The Governor said the legislation is a historic moment for the state. He says it serves the greater good to speak out and oppose bias, prejudice or outdated laws that “lessen any one of us.” It makes Delaware the eighth state to allow civil unions or domestic partnerships for same-sex couples, and takes effect Jan. 1, 2012.
[via The AP]
A bill offering legal recognition to same-sex couples in Delaware has been sent to the full Senate for a vote on whether to establish civil unions in that state. The bill limits same-sex couples to entering civil unions and keeps marriage limited for opposite-sex couples. The Rev. Dr. Douglas Gerdts, pastor of First and Central Presbyterian Church and the father of a gay daughter, urged lawmakers to support the bill. “Delaware can continue its trajectory of justice by affording people like my daughter the rights and responsibilities under this bill,” he said. Michael Bouchard, a New Castle County police officer added, “If I’m willing to make the ultimate sacrifice while serving the state of Delaware, why cannot I enjoy the same rights bestowed on every other citizen who happens to have a partner of the opposite sex.” The bill also calls for Family Court to have jurisdiction over the dissolution of civil unions, as it does with marriages.
A bill flowing through the Colorado legislature could provide civil unions for same-sex couples. The Colorado Civil Unions Act would give gay couples power to make medical decisions for their partners and become eligible for insurance and retirement benefits. The CCUA passed the Democrat-controlled Senate this week, but it faces a fight in the House of Reps, where Republicans hold the majority. Senate Bill 172 – sponsored by Denver Democrat Pat Steadman [pic] – would authorize any 2 unmarried adults, regardless of gender, to enter into a civil union.