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Washington voters say ‘I do’ to same-sex marriage

In the Nov. 6 general election, Washington state voters passed Referendum 74, which legally recognizes same-sex marriages.

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KIRKLAND — Former Seahawks linebacker Ken “The Hutch” Hutcherson, who later became a vocal opponent of gay rights and gay marriage as a senior pastor of Antioch Bible Church, died Wednesday. He was 61.

hutchersonHis death followed more than a decade-long battle with prostate cancer.

Hutcherson was drafted in 1974 by the Dallas Cowboys and retired from professional football in 1977 after playing for the Cowboys, San Diego Chargers and Seattle Seahawks.

Hutcherson started the Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland with Mark Webster and Dwight England in 1984.

Hutcherson was a vocal opponent of state anti-discrimination laws that were based on sexuality and conducted signature-gathering efforts on petitions to try to repeal one such law. And, on May 1, 2004, Hutcherson organized a “Mayday for Marriage” rally against marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples. The highly publicized effort drew an estimated 20,000 supporters from around the Puget Sound region to Safeco Field. Later, in October 2004, he organized another “Mayday for Marriage” rally in Washington, D.C., which attracted an estimated 140,000 participants.

In early 2007, despite opposition from Hutcherson and several Christian groups, a bill allowing State Registered Domestic Partnerships in Washington state passed the Legislature and was signed into law.

Hutcherson is survived by his wife, Pat, and four children.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn today signed a historic measure into law making Illinois the 16th state in the nation to allow gay marriage.

The Democratic governor put pens to paper at a desk brought up from Springfield that his administration says President Abraham Lincoln used to write his first inaugural address. That speech, delivered on March 4, 1861 as the Civil War was unfolding, called on Americans to heed “the better angels of our nature.”

“Love never fails and I’m going to sign this bill right now,” said Quinn, who used many pens to sign his name to the bill so that those who helped pass the measure could have a souvenir.

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Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn appears on stage at the UIC Forum before signing the gay marriage bill into law, making Illinois the 16th state to legalize same-sex marriage. (Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune /November 20, 2013)

The bill signing capped a gay rights push in Illinois that’s gained major momentum since 2005. That year, then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a gay rights measure into law — a bill that had failed to pass since 1974. In January 2011, Quinn signed a civil unions measure.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and several statewide elected officials were on hand.

“It’s time to stop planning rallies and start planning weddings,” said Democratic Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon.

Republican Judy Baar Topinka said it took both parties to get the bill passed. One Republican voted for the bill in the Senate and three in the House. “They were there,” said Topinka, who went on to add she’s available to be a “flower girl” at gay weddings and “will even waive the fee.”

More than 2,000 people packed into the University of Illinois-Chicago Forum to watch the signing ceremony.

Casey Cameron, 38, traveled from Downstate St. Elmo, saying it represents a huge step forward for the gay rights movement given the intense fight that took place just years ago to ensure gays and lesbians had equal access to housing and employment opportunities on Illinois.

“It took a long time and a very tall mountain to get that, and to finally see this is quite an amazing bit of accomplishment for the state,” Cameron said.

Cameron also noted the significance of same-sex marriage begging legalized in Lincoln’s home state.

“The whole vision of Lincoln was setting free an entire group of oppressed people, and that’s what’s happening today in his state, which is also my state.”

Seth Hannen, 20, of Downstate Tremont, said he hoped the new law would give hope to gay teenagers facing adversity by demonstrating they are equal to their peers.

“I grew up in a very small, conservative school district. I was he first out kid in my school district and I was teased a lot for who I was,” Hannen said. “If we make this legal, it normalizes it, it makes it more of an accepted thing and that will filter into the rest of society so in ten years that boy who was like me in high school won’t have an issue.”

The stage was decorated in several dozen flags, alternating between the U.S. flag, the state flag and rainbow flags representing the GLBT community. Seats are adorned with programs and miniature rainbow flags featuring the outline of the state of Illinois.

The celebratory tone is a marked departure from late May, when the legislation stalled in the House to the bitter disappointment of advocates who had been pressing for a vote on gay marriage since shortly after Illinois legalized civil unions in 2011.

 

By Soumya Karlamangla

Los Angeles Times

With Gov. Neil Abercrombie expected to sign a same-sex marriage bill as early as Wednesday morning, Hawaii is poised to become the 15th state to legalize gay weddings.

SB 1 has been awaiting Abercrombie’s signature since the Hawaii Senate passed the bill Tuesday afternoon in a 19-4 vote. If he gives the bill his OK, couples would be able to marry as soon as Dec. 2.

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Hundreds of people gathered outside the state House on November 6, 2013, to demand lawmakers let the people vote on the legalization of gay marriage. (Photo credit: Mel Ah Ching/Hawaii Reporter.com)

The legislation in the Aloha State is just the latest in a recent flurry of activity regarding same-sex marriage rights. The Illinois Legislature passed a same-sex marriage bill last week, though Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has said he will not sign his state’s bill until Nov. 20.

Illinois and Hawaii will bring the total number of states permitting gay marriage to 16. The District of Columbia also permits same-sex couples to wed.

“By giving loving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry if they choose, Hawaii exemplifies the values we hold dear as a nation,” President Obama, a native of Hawaii, said in a statement after the vote. “I’ve always been proud to have been born in Hawaii, and today’s vote makes me even prouder.”

Abercrombie, who has been a vocal proponent of same-sex marriage, had called Hawaii’s Legislature into special session to consider the same-sex marriage legislation.

“I look forward to signing this significant piece of legislation, which provides marriage equity and fully recognizes and protects religious freedoms,” he said in a statement after the Senate vote.

The House passed the bill 30-19 Friday night after a session that lasted nearly 12 hours. The bill, which had initially passed the Senate late last month, returned to accommodate changes made in the House.

Abercrombie noted the more than 50 hours of public testimony from thousands of citizens on both sides of the issue during the debate in the House, which he said resulted in “this significant bill, which directly creates a balance between marriage equity for same-sex couples and protects our 1st Amendment freedoms for religious organizations.”

The Honolulu Capitol rotunda has been filled with both supporters and detractors of the bill. When the House passed the measure in the late hours of the night, both cheers and chants of “Let the people vote!” broke out.

Opponents cite a 1998 constitutional amendment that they claim prohibits the Legislature from allowing same-sex marriage. Supporters of the bill believe that the amendment gave the legislature

the power to ban same-sex marriage, but did not declare an outright prohibition.

In anticipation of the bill’s passage, opponents of the law went to court to seek a temporary restraining order to block Abercrombie from signing any such measure, but Hawaii Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto ruled Thursday that the action would be premature.

The judge has said he is willing to hear the case at a later date, and attorney Jack Dwyer said the group will seek an order to prevent any government official from issuing a marriage license until the question of the law’s constitutionality is decided.

Atty. Gen. David Louie has said he believes the Legislature had the authority to approve same-sex marriage regardless of the amendment.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June to void a key section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to gay and lesbian couples who were married under state law has opened the door to a number of lawsuits and new legislation on the issue.

In 2013, Delaware, Minnesota and Rhode Island began allowing such nuptials. New Jersey began allowing same-sex weddings in October after that state’s supreme court ruled that the law now allowed it and Gov. Chris Christie dropped his opposition.

In Idaho on Friday, four couples filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court seeking a similar right. The lawsuit covers those who were married elsewhere and want their nuptials to be legally recognized in Idaho, as well as those seeking to wed within the state.

 

Offbeat
10/18/13

VIDEO: Coolest marriage proposal ever?

samesex-marriageNEW YORK (CNN MONEY) — Two months after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, the Treasury Department on Thursday ruled that legally married same-sex couples will be treated as married for federal tax purposes.

The decision has a host of implications, even for same-sex married couples who now live in states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage.

It affects how they will be treated in terms of federal income taxes, federal estate and gift taxes, the tax breaks they get for employer-sponsored health insurance and other benefits.

(Full coverage of LGBT financial issues)

The ruling applies to any same-sex couple legally married in any state, the District of Columbia, a U.S. territory or foreign country. It does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions or other formal relationships recognized under state laws.

Currently 13 states and D.C. have legalized same-sex marriage as have 15 other countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, Sweden, South Africa and Brazil.

(Related: Experts answer same-sex marriage questions)

“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a statement. “It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve.”

Practically speaking, in terms of filing their 2013 federal taxes, legally married same-sex couples must choose to file either as “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately.”

They may also choose to file an amended return as a married couple and a refund claim for tax years 2010, 2011 and 2012.

(Map: Where same-sex marriage is legal)

In terms of health insurance, until now money used to buy same-sex spousal coverage in an employer-sponsored plan was subject to income tax. Now, as a result of Treasury’s ruling, that money will be treated as tax free for federal income tax purposes. And the participating employee can file a refund claim for the income taxes paid on those spousal coverage premiums.

The federal estate tax will also offer more favorable treatment. Same-sex surviving spouses will now be entitled to inherit the estate of their late husband or wife tax-free.

But it may not be all good news and savings.

Some legally married same-sex couples, like their opposite-sex counterparts, will find themselves subject to the notorious marriage penalty. That refers to situations where a married couple ends up with a higher tax bill as a result of filing jointly than when they filed as single people making the same income.

(For more information, here’s an IRS FAQ on the same sex marriage ruling.)

bakeryGRESHAM, Ore. (KPTV) — A wedding cake, or lack of one, for a same-sex couple is at the center of a state discrimination investigation.

The Portland-area couple filed an anti-decimation complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries against ‘Sweet Cakes by Melissa’ in Gresham.

The complaint, filed by Rachel Cryer and received by the bureau Aug. 8, contends she was refused service based on sexual orientation.

A similar case occurred in Washington state, where Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed suit against a Richland florist shop, Arlene’s Flowers, for refusing to provide flowers at the wedding of a gay couple. Robert Ingersoll, who’d been a customer for nine years, was turned down because of the owner’s religious beliefs, which the state says violates the Consumer Protection Act.refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. That case has not been scheduled for trial yet.

The Oregon bakery’s decision also made national headlines when an initial complaint was filed with the Oregon Department of Justice by Laurel Bowman against the business in January.

The initial complaint alleged one of the owners of Sweet Cakes, after learning the customers wanted a cake for a same-sex wedding, said they were “abominations unto the lord” and Bowman’s fiancé was “reduced to tears.”

In February, owner Aaron Klein denied making those statements. However, he did admit turning down the couple’s business for religious reasons.

“I stopped what I was doing, I looked at them and said, ‘I’m sorry I may have wasted your time, we don’t do same-sex marriages,’” he told Fox 12 in February.

The new Bureau of Labor and Industries complaint states that Klein asked for the names of the bride and groom and was told, “there are two brides and our names are Rachel and Laurel.”

“Respondent then told me that they do not provide their services for same-sex weddings,” citing religious beliefs, according to the complaint.

While Oregon law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, Klein believes the U.S. Constitution protects him. He said business picked up after the story went viral, but also stressed his decision wasn’t about publicity.

“I’m free to exercise my religion however I see fit. I should not be compelled to violate my conscience,” he said earlier this year. “If I’m told I have to make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage, I feel that I’m violating my beliefs. I don’t think I should have to do that.”

The Bureau of Labor and Industries will now decide if the bakery violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007.

Melissa Klein of Sweet Cakes by Melissa declined to comment Wednesday on the complaint or the investigation.

Stutzman and her longtime business are being sued by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson for refusing to provide flowers at the wedding of a gay couple. Robert Ingersoll, who’d been a customer for nine years, was turned down by Stutzman because of her religious beliefs, which the state says violates the Consumer Protection Act.

BOLI investigations are required to conclude within a year. If investigators find substantial evidence, the bureau may bring formal charges against Sweet Cakes by Melissa. Those involved could also reach a settlement through conciliation, according to the bureau.

“We are committed to a fair, through investigation,” said Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian.

The couple filing the complaint ended up getting a wedding cake from another local bakery, Pastrygirl. Food Network star Duff Goldman also offered to bake and transport a cake to Portland for them, which the couple accepted in February, according to a statement released by their attorney at the time.

That attorney declined to comment on the case Wednesday.

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SEATTLE — The Capitol Hill neighborhood will become home to the second LGBT visitor center in the country Friday, the Capitol Hill Blog reported. The center will be located inside the newly opened 1st Security Bank on Broadway and will provide visitors with information about Seattle destinations, restaurants and shops that welcome the LGBT community.

The Seattle LGBT Visitors Center is a project of the Greater Seattle Business Association. Other travel and tourism sponsors include the Sheraton Seattle Hotel, Sound Transit, Amtrak and OutCity magazine. The center will be staffed part-time.

Read more about the visitors center here.

By Maura Dolan, Anthony York and Maria LaGanga, Los Angeles Times

FRANCISCO — Same-sex marriages began in California on Friday after a federal appeals court lifted a hold on a 2010 injunction.

The first wedding in San Francisco began at 4:45 p.m. At 4:10 p.m., a cheer went up in the San Francisco City Hall rotunda. Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, one of the two same-sex couples who sued, made their way from the city clerk’s office where they got their marriage license to the marble steps of City Hall, stopping for photographs.

Attorneys said they had no advance word that the 9thCircuit was going to lift the hold on the Proposition 8 ruling.

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Photo Christina House/Los Angeles Times

Photo Christina House/Los Angeles Times

Speaking during a telephone press conference, Sandy Stier introduced “my beautiful wife” Kris Perry to reporters. They had married earlier at a ceremony in San Francisco City Hall.

“First we went to work, and then we got married,” Stier said. “Today was fantastic day.”

Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit, were married by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Ted Boutrous, one of the lawyers in the federal lawsuit, confirmed that ProtectMarriage, the sponsors of the Proposition 8, still can ask for a rehearing within the 25-day waiting period.  Even though the Supreme Court decision is not technically final, the 9th Circuit was free to lift the hold on the injunction, he said.

He said he has seen federal appeals courts take similar actions in other cases before a Supreme Court decision was technically final.

“It was a great move by the 9th Circuit and totally authorized by the courts rules and the federal rules,” Boutrous said.

Boutrous insisted that the Supreme Court could not issue another stay to stop the marriages and said the legal team was not worried that ProtectMarriage would persuade a state judge or a federal judge to narrow the scope of U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s order.

“The federal injunction trumps anything anyone can do it state court,” Boutrous said. “I think it would be frivolous…. They should hang it up and quit trying to stop people from getting married.”

In a surprise action, a federal appeals court cleared the way, bypassing a normal waiting period and lifting a hold on a trial judge’s order that declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

The news came in a single, legalistic sentence Friday afternoon from the appeals court.

“The stay in the above matter is dissolved immediately,” the three-judge panel wrote.

Gov. Jerry Brown told county clerks that they could begin marrying same-sex couples immediately, launching plans for ceremonies up and down the state. The same-sex couples who filed the federal lawsuit headed to city halls in Los Angeles and San Francisco to tie the knot, ending their long fight to become legal spouses.

“It couldn’t come a moment too soon,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who sparked the legal effort for gay marriage in California when he was San Francisco mayor.

“What extraordinary timing, right before [gay] pride weekend,” Newsom said. “All that time, all the struggle and the moment has arrived.”

Supporters of Proposition 8 were furious that the 9th Circuit acted before the normal waiting period. ProtectMarriage, the sponsors of the ballot measure, have 25 days from the ruling to ask for reconsideration.

“It is part and parcel of the utter lawlessness in which this whole case has been prosecuted, said Chapman law professor John Eastman, a supporter of Proposition 8. “Normally courts let the parties kind of pursue their legal remedies before they issue a mandate.”

He said that the 25-day period for asking the Supreme Court to reconsider still applied and that a rehearing, though extremely unlikely, remained a technical possibility.

 (CNN) — If you believe the cover of The New Yorker magazine, Bert and Ernie may be ready to come out.

The cover, titled “Moment of Joy,” shows the Sesame Street pair cuddling as they watch a television set featuring members of the United States Supreme Court. The suggestion is that the characters were happily celebrating the recent SCOTUS rulings on gay marriage.

There has been plenty of speculation about Bert and Ernie over the years, which intensified after a tweet from the Sesame Street account which quoted Bernie talking about his mohawk hair cut that some took to be a hint to the character’s sexuality.

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Image courtesy of The New Yorker

The tweet read: “Bert: Ever notice how similar my hair is to Mr. T’s? The only difference is mine is a little more ‘mo,’ a little less ‘hawk.’”

When a petition was circulated in 2011 urging the pair to marry, Sesame Street Workshop posted a statement on their Facebook page insisting that the characters were just “best friends.”

“Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets™ do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation,” the statement said.

The New Yorker posted on its site that the image was created by artist Jack Hunter who said he had originally submitted the picture to a Tumblr.

“It’s amazing to witness how attitudes on gay rights have evolved in my lifetime,” the magazine’s website quotes Hunter as saying. “This is great for our kids, a moment we can all celebrate.”

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