Why Marriage Matters

Beginning Valentine’s Day, a new campaign will be launched by Freedom To Marry to get the message out about marriage equality in a clear and compassionate voice.

From Freedom To Marry: “Across the country the thinking of many Americans, from the president to the people next door, continues to – as President Obama put it – ‘evolve’ toward support for same-sex couples joining in the freedom to marry. Freedom to Marry’s team has crunched over a decade’s worth of polling data and field experience to crack the code on moving the reachable but not yet reached,” said Evan Wolfson, Founder and President of Freedom to Marry.

“By engaging friends, families, and neighbors in personal conversations about why marriage matters, each of us can help fair-minded people wrestling with a lack of information and uncertainty, and change hearts and minds.”

More information can be found here.

Hawaii: House committee approves Civil Union Bill

From The Star Advertiser: “The state House Judiciary Committee voted last night to approve a civil-unions bill with amendments to ensure that the relationships are recognized in the tax code and are under the jurisdiction of family court.”

This version of the civil unions bill will now go to the full House for a vote, possibly by next week. It would then need to go back to the Senate to approve added language that will “clarify that since civil unions will not be recognized under federal law, certain provisions of the Internal Revenue Code that apply to husbands and wives in Hawaii apply with the same force and effect to partners in civil unions. Family Court will also have jurisdiction in matters of annulment, divorce and separation in civil unions, like the court does over marriages.”

With what appears to be strong support in both chambers and a new Democratic governor who has stated he will sign the bill, things look optimistic for the bill’s passage into law.

“State Board of Education member Kim Coco Iwamoto urged lawmakers to pass civil unions, arguing that granting equal rights would help ease discrimination and harassment of gay, lesbian and bisexual students.”

“Rampant anti-gay rhetoric emanating from this debate is subjecting students to a heightened level of harassment,” she said.

Supporters urged lawmakers to recognize equal rights for all of Hawaii’s citizens.

Maryland: 6 Hours of Senate Testimony on Marriage Equality

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The Maryland State Senate heard over 6 hours of testimony in support and opposition to the proposed marriage equality bill working it’s way through the Maryland State legislature.

From the MetroWeekly: “At the hearing, which began about 1 p.m. and lasted into the evening, Senate president Thomas Miller (D-Calvert, Prince George’s) spoke with optimism about the bill’s chances for success. Miller declared then that he predicts about a 70 percent chance that the bill will pass the Senate’s chambers, adding that a Senate vote is expected next week. The Senate’s Clerk Office reported that votes on such matters usually occur on Wednesdays, which would be Feb. 16.”

On the opposition side, National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher, in underestimating the compassion and common sense of equal rights, testified about what she said SB 116 would do to the “public understanding of marriage.”

What always amazes me about the opposition to marriage equality is the often repeated argument that marriage is only about procreation and raising children, and yet many heterosexual marriages have no children. I always wonder would Maggie Gallagher invalidate a marriage if no children were produced? Many senior citizens marry later in life, at a point when child rearing is out of the picture. Yet I never see Maggie opposed those marriages.

Also, there is a very weak argument that marriage is about the Bible and religion. And yet, in the Bible women were also considered “property.” Society evolved. 200 years ago, in this country, African-Americans were slaves and considered 3/5 of a human being. Society evolved. 100 years ago in this country, women didn’t have a voice in government or the right to vote. Society evolved. 50 years ago inter-racial marriage was against the law in many states. Society evolved.

For a marriage to be recognized in the United States, you are required to have a legal marriage license issued by a CIVIL government. This is why opponents are wrong when they try to say their opposition isn’t about civil rights. As long as a marriage license is issued by a CIVIL government, marriage is a civil rights issue. The church doesn’t extend hospital visitation rights, tax inheritance rights, social security survivorship rights – the civil government does. And as long as those rights are attainable by one group and not another, this is clearly a civil rights issue.

I personally have no desire to re-define a religion or it’s beliefs. I don’t want to see any law force a church to do anything against it’s will. But I do think, as long as the government is involved in issuing civil rights attached to a form of partnership, we should have equality for all. These rights should be available to everyone.

One last thing – some opponents argue that gay men have the same right to marry whatever woman they want, just like straight men. I’d like to ask those people: “would you like your sister to marry a gay man? Is that the solution you think would solve problems?”

UPDATE: According to the Baltimore Sun: “Baltimore County Sen. James Brochin found the testimony Tuesday by opponents of gay marriage “troubling,” and said this morning that he may support the bill. The Baltimore County Democrat had previously said he was against same-sex marriage.”

“The demonization of gay families really bothered me,” Brochin said. “Are these families going to continue to be treated by the law as second class citizens?”

Testimony of Marriage Equality continues in Maryland

HRC

The following is from HRC’s Regional Field Director Sultan Shakir:

“After three hours of testimony, supporters of marriage equality are going strong, testifying about the many reasons that loving and committed couples should have access to marriage equality.”

“One couple, Stacy and Barbara, spoke about the need to protect their family, which includes their 10 month old son. Stacy and Barbara spoke about the need to protect themselves and their son through the institution of marriage. They spoke about their love and commitment and how they hope that the state in which they live will honor their love and commitment by allowing them to raise their family under the protections of the law.”

Streisand confirms “Gypsy” rumors

Happy day in musical theater land and every gay man’s universe – Barbara Streisand has confirmed to the L.A. Times that she will be starring in a remake of the Broadway musical “Gypsy.”

The news leaked “a little early, because the deal wasn’t finished,” Streisand said. “I am not sure about directing it. It may just be too much. I know I will be playing the part. It’s like a bookend starting with ‘Funny Girl.'”

Streisand is getting ready to appear at this year’s MusiCares event where she’ll be honored as Person of the Year. Tony Bennett, Jeff Beck, LeAnn Rimes, Seal, BeBe Winans, Stevie Wonder, Diana Krull, Barry Manilow and the cast of “Glee” are among the performers who will be offering their interpretations of Streisand’s classic recordings at the benefit Friday evening at the L.A.

And Barbra will be performing herself at the end of the evening.

The 8 time Grammy winner is nominated again this year in the Traditional Pop category for her CD “Love Is The Answer”. AND she’s currently recording a new CD of songs by Alan & Marilyn Bergman. This is on top of her best-selling coffee-table book “My Passion For Design”. A portion of the book’s proceeds go to the Barbra Streisand Women’s Cardiovascular Research and Education program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

You’ve got to love a diva who keeps delivering. Go Barbra!

Singer/Songwriter Leslie Ellis

I love that I can say I have such talented friends.

I met Leslie Ellis at the beginning of our careers when we were both cast in the National Touring company of CATS back in the day. Kids, this was back when CATS was a ‘good’ credit, as I like to joke.

Leslie was our amazing “Grizabella” who sang “Memory” every night to wildly screaming audiences across the country.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this incredible talent. Since then, she’s gone on to release her own albums, sung back up for some world-class artists like Celine Dion (Leslie is the voice that mirrors Celine on “My Heart Will Go On” which earned Leslie a Grammy Award for her work on the recording), and become a mainstay singer/song-writer in Nashville.

But wait – there’s more! Leslie has the most fantastic sense of humor. About life, about the industry, about everything… she makes me laugh so much. A simple, short email can send me into stitches with no warning. AND on top of it all, she’s gorgeous – which really isn’t fair.

I want to share some of her music with you today. The first is a song she wrote with one of her writing partners Robin Ruddy – “Let Me Be The Hero”. After the video link, go check out her performance on “We Came Close” which kills me every time, and then her amazing “Flyer Song” dedicated to our incredible US Naval Aviators. And then finally, a very cool new song with the Consoulers – “Love Is A Mystery.”

I invite you to sit back and enjoy. This is a world-class talent. This is it, kids. It really doesn’t get any better. I promise you you’re going to head out to buy all her music. Just remember I told you about her…


Leslie Ellis – “Let Me Be The Hero” from Randy Slovacek on Vimeo.

We Came Close I have to say, this song and Leslie’s performance knocks me out. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s having “come close” before I met my husband but it’s a real knock-down drag out “deal with reality” kind of song. The first time I heard it I had to play it about 12 times over and over. It’s THAT kind of song and performance. Get ready to hear your new “favorite” song.

The Flyer Song  I have the utmost respect for our armed forces. Leslie really captures a unique perspective to what it must be like for the spouses and partners of our US Naval Aviators. Anyone who loves a “flyer” can relate to this personal and powerful performance.

Love Is A Mystery – excellent new song from Leslie and Steve Williams from The Consoulers.

Makin’ The Best of A Broken Heart – this is pure, strong country. I defy you to listen and not smile.

Indiana: Marriage equality ban moves forward

Indiana

From The Chicago Tribune: “Republican lawmakers in Indiana have resumed their push for a constitutional amendment that would shore up an existing state law banning gay marriage.”

“A GOP-ruled House committee voted 8-4 along party lines today to advance the proposal, which now moves to the full House for consideration.”

“The amendment states that only marriage between one man and one woman is valid in Indiana, and prohibits civil unions by stating that a legal status “substantially similar” to marriage for unmarried people is not valid.”

So not only would same-sex marriage be outlawed, but civil unions and domestic partnerships would be dead in the water as well.

As in many other states, to put an amendment up for public vote, the bill has to pass in two consecutive legislative sessions. So this bill, poised to pass in both state houses this year, would have to pass again in 2013 or 2014 to be on the ballot.

Amazing how state legislators, with many more pressing issues like unemployment and state budgets, choose to take up tax payers time with writing hate into a state constitution.