Monday, December 24, 2012

Episcopal Diocese Of Northwestern Pennsylvania To Allow Blessing Of Same-Sex Unions

The Rev. Sean Rowe was a member of the Franklin Area School District Board during the making of "Out In The Silence," a documentary film chronicling the challenges faced by LGBT residents of Venango County. One of the stories in the film follows the courageous struggle of a gay teen and his mom who had the courage to stand up to a climate of extreme anti-gay bullying in Franklin High School. Sean Rowe's silence at the time made him an accomplice to the violence many students experienced.

As reported in this article, he is progressing ever-so-slowly in his practice of Christianity as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

But still a long, long way to go ... 

from Erie Times-News:

Same-sex couples will be able to have their unions blessed in the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

The Right Rev. Sean Rowe (right), bishop of the Erie-based 13-county diocese, announced Thursday that he will allow clergy to conduct the blessings.

However, priests and congregations won't be forced to offer it. Churches that want to use the trial liturgical rite, which was approved by the Episcopal Church's General Convention in July, will go through a process of study, reflection and conversation before receiving permission from the bishop.

"I support blessing same-sex unions, but some of my faithful fellow Episcopalians do not," Rowe said in a statement. "The Episcopal Church in northwestern Pennsylvania is a place where people of good conscience can disagree charitably about such matters. We respect and love each other, and we are united in the hope and healing of Jesus Christ."

Rowe said there are people in the diocese with strong opinions on both sides but they're willing to continue to "live together and discern God's will together."

He and the Rev. John Downey, dean of Erie's Episcopal Cathedral of St. Paul, said Episcopalians have spent 30 years taking a careful, deliberate and prayerful approach to understanding same-sex relationships.

"We've been considering this for so many years, it's really not a surprise we've come to this point," Downey said.

Any of the diocese's congregations can choose to hold a conversation about blessing the unions, officials said. If a congregation's priest and governing board of laypeople decide they want to offer the service at their church, they will go to Rowe for permission.

He said he expects some to begin the process immediately, others to do it in the future and some not to participate at all.

Downey anticipated that his congregation would be conducting those conversations in the first part of 2013. He said he thinks the liturgical rite for same-sex blessings will be supported at the downtown cathedral.

Downey said, however, that there's no rush to be the first in the diocese to hold the service, which he said is similar to a marriage liturgy. No St. Paul members had asked for the blessing yet, he said Thursday.

At least one half of a couple seeking it must be a communicant in good standing of a congregation of the diocese, which has about 4,700 Episcopalians.

The provisional rite was approved by the Episcopal Church in July but a blessing couldn't be given until the first Sunday of Advent, which was Dec. 2, and the start of the church year.

Some dioceses, including Erie, weren't quite ready by that date. Rowe said the local policy didn't go out until Wednesday.

It can be viewed on the diocese's website at under resources for clergy.

Some church members and leaders had already been talking about adding the blessing to their ministry.

"I'm wholeheartedly for it," Joyce Gieza, a member of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Lawrence Park Township, said.

"We're an inclusive church, which is why I'm there," she said. "I don't want to exclude anybody." The Rev. Shawn Clerkin, vicar of St. Mary's, said his congregation has begun the process of discernment and is ready to seek Rowe's permission to offer the blessing there.

Clerkin said it is a way to be welcoming to same-sex couples but at the same time the church doesn't want to isolate people who oppose the liturgy.

An opponent of the blessing couldn't be reached for comment.

Episcopalians tend to be very respectful of one another's point of view and it's important for them to continue to show one another the same love and appreciation even if they disagree on this issue, Clerkin said.

He and Rowe said they've heard from couples appreciative of the new blessing but none is in the works to receive it yet. Rowe said the first isn't likely to occur for a month or so.

"We have many faithful gay and lesbian Christians living in faithful monogamous relationships that are seeking the blessing of the church," Rowe said. "We've had a fair number express interest."

Mike Mahler, the editor of Erie Gay News and a local pagan, said acceptance of gays and lesbians varies by congregation, but it was good to see the local Episcopal diocese offering this blessing.

"That is a wonderful thing," he said.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gingrich Says GOP Should ‘Deal With Reality’ And Accept Legal Marriage Equality

Maybe Venango County-based Hate Groups Will See The Light Soon Too

from ThinkProgress:

In a stunning reversal, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) said this week that he thinks his party needs to “accommodate and deal with reality” and get on board with legal equality for same-sex couples. Gingrich, who pushed the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) through Congress in 1996, has been one of the nation’s most consistent opponents of marriage equality.

The Huffington Post reports:

On gay marriage, meanwhile, Gingrich argued that Republicans could no longer close their eyes to the course of public opinion. While he continued to profess a belief that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman, he suggested that the party (and he himself) could accept a distinction between a “marriage in a church from a legal document issued by the state” — the latter being acceptable.

“I think that this will be much more difficult than immigration for conservatism to come to grips with,” he said, noting that the debate’s dynamics had changed after state referenda began resulting in the legalization of same-sex marriage. “It is in every family. It is in every community. The momentum is clearly now in the direction in finding some way to … accommodate and deal with reality. And the reality is going to be that in a number of American states — and it will be more after 2014 — gay relationships will be legal, period.”

Despite Gingrich’s two divorces and history of infidelity, he has attempted to present himself as a defender of traditional marriage throughout his unsuccessful campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. He signed the National Organization for Marriage’s pledge to support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex unions. He said the movement toward marriage equality was a “temporary aberration that will dissipate” and compared same-sex relationships to “pagan behaviors.”

What a difference an election makes.

After voters in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington all rejected Gingrich’s marriage inequality position, Gingrich now thinks marriage equality is “inevitable.”

Noting that his own openly-lesbian half-sister works for the Human Rights Campaign and that he has gay friends who have married legally in Iowa, Gingrich observed, “I didn’t think that was inevitable 10 or 15 years ago, when we passed the Defense of Marriage Act. It didn’t seem at the time to be anything like as big a wave of change as we are now seeing.”

Pictured above, Diane Gramley, President of the Venango County-based Hate Group known as the American Family Association of Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hate Groups Doin' What They Do Best: HATIN'

James Dobson, American Family Association Blame Shooting on Gays, Lack of God

The religious right leader said acceptance of gays contributed to the tragedy, while the likes of 
Mike Huckabee and Bryan Fischer said it's due to America's abandonment of God.

from The Advocate:

Several conservative Christian leaders across the nation are trying to make sense of Friday's deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., which lead to the murders of 26 people — 20 of them children — and they're pointing the finger at a "Godless" nation that they believe is too accepting of liberal evils like abortion and marriage equality.

It all started with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Just hours after news of the massacre broke on Friday, Huckabee said the tragedy should come as no surprise to a culture that has "systematically removed God from our schools." Huckabee clarified his statements on his Fox News program Sunday, saying he didn't really think that prayer in schools would have prevented the massacre, "but we've created an atmosphere in this country where the only time you want to invoke God's name is after the tragedy," according to The Huffington Post.

The antigay American Family Association's Bryan Fischer (right) echoed Huckabee's claims, telling listeners on his AFA radio show that God could have protected the victims of the massacre but declined to do so because "God is not going to go where he is not wanted," according to video posted on LGBT blog Towleroad.

On Monday, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson took to the airwaves to blame America's acceptance of marriage equality and abortion specifically for the violence in Connecticut. Speaking on his morning radio show, Dobson outlined a litany of sins that he said have driven God away from America.

Right Wing Watch has the audio and transcript:

"Our country really does seem in complete disarray. I'm not talking politically, I'm not talking about the result of the November 6 election; I am saying that something has gone wrong in America and that we have turned our back on God.

"I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn't exist, or he's irrelevant to me and we have killed 54 million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. Believe me, that is going to have consequences too.

"And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that's what's going on."

Never wanting to be outdone, the antigay haters at the Westboro Baptist Church took to Twitter on Friday to blame the gunman's actions on American acceptance of marriage equality. But when Westboro announced plans to picket Sandy Hook Elementary and the funerals of the victims, the "hacktivist" collective Anonymous hacked the group's accounts and posted key members' names and phone numbers online.

While right-wing "people of faith" find scapegoats for Friday's massacre, LGBT activists including the Human Rights Campaign expressed condolences and hopes for peace.

"We extend condolences, thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims as well as to the entire state of Connecticut which is still reeling from this senseless act violence," said HRC president Chad Griffin in a statement. "We note with sadness that it was less than a week since two innocent lives were lost at a mall in Oregon, and we offer our well-wishes and support to law enforcement officials investigating these truly heinous crimes.”

Sentenced to Prison for the Crime of Love in Cameroon - Is This What Hate Groups Want in America?

Cameroon Upholds 3-Year Term for Gay Text Message

from The Associated Press:

DOUALA, Cameroon (AP) — An appeals court on Monday upheld a three-year sentence against a man found guilty of homosexual conduct for sending a text message to another man saying: "I'm very much in love with you."

Activists said the court's ruling in Yaounde, the capital, marked yet another setback for gays and lesbians in Cameroon, widely viewed as the most repressive country in Africa when it comes to prosecuting same-sex couples.

Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, 32, had been provisionally released on bail in July after serving a year and a half in prison. His lawyer has 10 days now to file an appeal to the country's Supreme Court.

Holding back tears Monday, he said he wasn't sure whether he could withstand more jail time given the conditions he faced there.

"I am going back to the dismal conditions that got me critically ill before I was temporarily released for medical reasons," he told The Associated Press by telephone. "I am not sure I can put up with the anti-gay attacks and harassment I underwent at the hands of fellow inmates and prison authorities on account of my perceived and unproven sexual orientation. The justice system in this country is just so unfair."

Mbede's provisional release earlier this year followed pressure from rights activists over his deteriorating health aggravated by malnutrition and repeated assaults.
Homosexuality is illegal in many African countries, and lawmakers in Liberia, Nigeria and Uganda have recently presented legislation that would strengthen anti-gay laws that are already on the books.

But even in those countries, prosecutions are rare or nonexistent, said Neela Ghoshal, a researcher in the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.

Cameroon's penal code calls for sentences ranging from six months to five years for people found guilty of "sexual relations with a person of the same sex." And last year, 14 people were prosecuted for homosexuality and 12 were convicted, according to Justice Ministry records cited by Human Rights Watch.

"It's the country that arrests, prosecutes and convicts more people than any other country that we know of in Africa for consensual same-sex adult conduct," Ghoshal said.

"In most of these cases there is little or no evidence. Usually people are convicted on the basis of allegations or denunciations from people who have claimed to law enforcement officials that they are gay."

She said many suspects were tortured or otherwise treated poorly in custody until they gave confessions, which were then used as evidence against them.

In October, two men were convicted of homosexuality because of their "effeminate" appearance and because they were drinking Bailey's Irish Cream, which was viewed as a drink favored by gay men, according to a statement issued Nov. 16 by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Andre Banks, executive director of All Out, said Mbede had already been significantly harmed by the case against him because of pervasive anti-gay stigma in Cameroon.

"Roger said he had to leave the university where he was studying because of the attention from the case and because of the mounting threats and fear of violence that have been very concerning to him," Banks said. "He's worried that he won't be able to have a normal life in Cameroon because of the amount of attention it's brought to him."

Lawyers defending those accused of homosexuality also have faced death threats including Mbede's attorney, Alice Nkom.

A text message sent in October to Yaounde-based lawyer Michel Togue, who has also defended people accused of homosexuality, similarly threatened his children. Attached to the message were photos of the children leaving school.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Kill the Gays -- American Evangelicals in Uganda

by Jim Burroway, Box Turtle Bulletin:

American pastor David Dykes has traveled from Tyler Texas, where he pastors Green Acres Baptist Church, to Uganda to offer his apparently unqualified support for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Here, he appears on NTV, Uganda’s largest independent television station to denounce the State Department’s efforts to avert a human rights catastrophe and says that American churches will come together to fully back Uganda if the U.S. withdraws aid:

Dykes: I’m extremely upset that our state department is putting pressure on Uganda to recognize homosexual behavior. And I’m praying that Uganda will say, “We don’t want your money, America. It is blood money. It is sin money.” I hope that you will continue to stand strong on what the Bible defines as the definition of a real marriage.

…Already in Canada, there’ve been pastors who have been arrested for simply saying from their pulpit that a union between two men or two women is an abomination in the sight of God. A Canadian pastor was arrested for that. … But there’s also maybe a law soon that says we could be arrested if we say anything bad about gay marriage or about homosexual behavior. It would fall under the category in America of “Hate Crimes.”

… In America, Christians are going to put as much pressure as we can on our government not to cut the aid to Uganda over this issue. But if they do decide to do that, we’ll let our displeasure be known, but we’ll try to step in as the Church in America to try to make up sending resources over here, especially to the churches. We hope to stand alongside the believers of Uganda during this time of crisis.

Dykes’s Green Acres Baptist Church (Facebook page here), which is a member of the Southern Baptist conference, is one of the sponsors of Pastoral Care Ministries (Facebook page here). It appears that Dykes was in Uganda as part of a Pastoral Care Ministries effort. The PCM web site describes their work in Uganda (Emphasis in the original):

The work has just begun with Parental Care Ministries USA, yet the Lord has accomplished much in a short time. The effort in Parental Care SchoolMbarara Uganda, our first area of focus, has brought many improvements to the quality of life for this group of orphans and their staff of employees. Our accomplishments in 2008 included a new 16 passenger van for the ministry, dormitories for the orphans, new classrooms for the school, a uniform for every orphan, school desks, and teaching bibles for the teachers and pastors. …

Our other focus arm of the ministry is working with Pastor Emmy’s 50+ ruralUgandan pastors. We try to gather them from all over Uganda at least twice a year for conferences. We are assisting them with resources to help equip their churches to minister to local people. We have started a program called Cows for the Kingdom where pastors are given a cow to milk to provide for their family and sell the excess milk for a daily profit of a few dollars a day. Nearly 2/3 of all our pastors have a cow now. Pastors are also provided a bicycle which they use effectively sharing God’s Word wherever they go.

The other focus of work regarding the pastors is the School of Ezra that Pastor Emmy and Reuben direct. Here they teach these young pastors many Biblical truths and motivate them to share God’s Word with the reached and unreached in their particular areas. The school of Ezra currently meets at Mbarara Parental Care School when the children are on holiday.

It is worth remembering exactly what it is that David Dykes is so eager to support. The full text of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is available online here (PDF: 847KB/16 pages). Our examination of the bill’s nineteen clauses are available here:

Clauses 1 and 2: Anybody Can Be Gay Under the Law. The definition of what constitutes “homosexual act” is so broad that just about anyone can be convicted.

Clause 3: Anyone Can Be “Liable To Suffer Death”. And you don’t even have to be gay to be sent to the gallows. There has been talk of removing the death penalty — which has not happened yet; it’s just talk — and replacing it with a life sentence. But can anyone seriously imaging that spending a lifetime in Uganda’s notorious Luzira prison is any better? Especially once your fellow prisoners learn that you were sent there for “aggravated homosexuality”?

Clause 4: Anyone Can “Attempt to Commit Homosexuality”. All you have to do is “attempt” to “touch” “any part of of the body” “with anything else” “through anything” in an act that does “not necessarily culminate in intercourse.”

Clauses 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10: How To Get Out Of Jail Free. The bill is written to openly encourage — and even pay — one partner to turn state’s evidence against another.

Clauses 7, 11, and 14: Straight People In The Crosshairs. Did you think they only wanted to jail gay people? They’re also targeting family members, doctors, lawyers, and even landlords.

Clause 12: Till Life Imprisonment Do You Part. And if you officiate a same-sex wedding, you’ll be imprisoned for up to three years. So much for religious freedom.

Clause 13: The Silencing of the Lambs. All advocacy — including suggesting that the law might be repealed — will land you in jail. With this clause, there will be no one left to defend anyone.

Clause 14: The Requirement Isn’t To Report Just Gay People To Police. It’s To Report Everyone. Look closely: the requirement is to report anyone who has violated any the bill’s clauses.

Clauses 16 and 17: The Extra-Territorially Long Arm of Ugandan Law. Think you’re safe if you leave the country? Think again.

Clause 18: We Don’t Need No Stinking Treaties. The bill not only violates several international treaties, it also turns the Ugandan constitution on its head.

Clauses 15 and 19: The Establishment Clauses For The Ugandan Inquisition. These clauses empower the Ethics and Integrity Minister to enforce all of the bill’s provisions. He’s already gotten a head start.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Decoding Gay on HuffPost Live

Scientists may have finally solved the puzzle of what makes a person gay, and how it is passed from parents to children. What are the implications of this discovery?

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Wedge Has Lost Its Edge, Except For Hate Groups Like The American Family Association Of Pennsylvania

Supreme Court and Prop 8 - A Longer Walk Down the Aisle

by Hank Plante for SFGate:

In the words of those other Supremes, You Can't Hurry Love.

After months of waiting, Friday's news that the U.S. Supreme Court will finally hear California's Proposition 8 case as well as the validity of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, means all this has dragged on longer than a Kardashian's wedding.

It was already bad enough for anxious Californians, as tens of thousands of gays and lesbians in this state were left at the altar on election night, when voters in four other states delivered what gay writer Andrew Sullivan called, "The biggest night for gay rights in electoral history."

But here in the state known as a trend-setter, we've been dealt a different hand: a four-year engagement in the courts that ultimately led to the U.S. Supreme Court now hearing the cases.

Californians watched from the sidelines as gay and lesbian marriages were approved for the first time by voters in Washington, Maryland and Maine (and an attempt to write a same-sex marriage ban into Minnesota's constitution failed). The November election results meant that 15 percent of Americans now live in states where same-sex marriage is legal. California same-sex marriages would double that figure if they're allowed to happen.

In addition to the Prop. 8 case, the Supreme Court will also act on DOMA, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Like Prop. 8, DOMA was ruled unconstitutional by federal appeals courts.

Much has been written about how DOMA denies more than 1,100 federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples, including the ability of one partner to inherit another's Social Security benefits.

But for a real-time glimpse of DOMA's impact, look at last month's news from Seattle. There, the Boeing Co. is saying it is undecided about awarding pensions to surviving gay spouses, despite the fact that Washington State voters just passed same-sex marriage.

It seems that pensions are covered under federal law, which trumps state law, and under DOMA there is no recognition of same-sex marriage. Boeing's spokesman told the Seattle Times, "This is obviously a new law and we'll take a closer look to see how it impacts us across the board."

But union negotiators at Boeing say the company has "no intention of providing such coverage."

Meanwhile, while all this excitement about same-sex marriage is thanks to the Supreme Court, it stands in stark contrast to how quiet the subject has been during the presidential election. Once President Obama endorsed same-sex marriage, it never seemed to dominate the campaigns. And there's a reason for that.

An important study from the Pew Research Center this year found same-sex marriage last on a list of voters' concerns. In fact, it was number 18 on that list, following issues like the economy, health care and terrorism. Gay marriage has lost its punch as a political issue, even for Republicans.

As Evan Wolfson of the group Freedom to Marry says, "The wedge has lost its edge."

Even young evangelicals are more accepting of gay peers than their elders. A 2011 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found nearly half of young evangelicals favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.

None of this is any surprise to political analysts like Dan Schnur, former communications director for both McCain and California Gov. Pete Wilson. Schnur, who is now director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, says: "The age demographics on the same-sex marriage issue are almost unique in public opinion annals. I've never seen a generational trend so pronounced. Call it the 'Glee-ification' of America, but younger voters in both parties have been trending much more strongly in support of same-sex marriage than their older counterparts."

And the numbers bear that out.

A Field Poll released this year found 59 percent of California voters now support same-sex marriage, which is an exact reversal of the 59 percent who opposed it back in 1977, the first year Field polled on the subject.

Can we draw any clues from history on what the Supreme Court will do?

For an answer, look no farther than the U.S. Supreme Court's own history on gay rights: The court upheld Georgia's anti-sodomy law in the 1986 Bowers vs. Hardwick case. But then, in 2003, the court reversed itself and struck down a similar Texas sodomy law in the Lawrence vs. Texas case. With that, the court essentially decriminalized homosexuality in the United States.

No one exemplifies the evolution in thinking on gay rights more than Sen. Dianne Feinstein. When she was mayor of San Francisco in 1982, she vetoed a domestic partnership bill that the Board of Supervisors had passed. A popular joke in the gay community back then was, "Dianne must think 'domestic partners' is a housecleaning service."

Feinstein drew criticism from gays and lesbians again on the day after the 2004 presidential election, when John Kerry lost to George W. Bush. Standing on the front lawn of her Presidio Terrace home, Feinstein was asked by a reporter if San Francisco's premature issuance of same-sex marriage licenses hurt Democrats.

Her now famous reply: "I think the whole issue has been too much, too fast, too soon."

But fast-forward to 2012, and it was Feinstein who was the most prominent politician to speak out against Prop. 8, and who has been leading the charge in the U.S. Senate to repeal DOMA.

Prop. 8's passage is how it all wound up in the courts.

After the botched "No on 8" campaign, the backlash against its LGBT leaders was so strong that when Hollywood's Rob Reiner enlisted heavyweight lawyers David Boies and Ted Olson to take Prop. 8 to court, they refused to allow the gay groups from joining their case. All sides now say they have patched up their differences, but it remains ironic that some of the strongest voices for gay rights in California's court case have been three straight men: Reiner, and the two lawyers he raised money to hire: the odd couple of Boies and Olson. Boise is an old-fashioned liberal, and Olson is an old-fashioned conservative, from back in the days when conservatives believed the government should stay out of your bedroom.

The bottom line now is we will know something definitive from the highest court in the land, even if it means waiting a little longer. As Jon Davidson, from the pro-gay Lambda Legal Defense Fund puts it, "The tide is not turning; it's turned."

Hank Plante is an Emmy and Peabody-winning reporter who covered the Prop. 8 election and trial for CBS 5 TV News in San Francisco.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Venango County Hate Group Among Right-Wing Hysterics Promoting Discrimination Against Disabled

Senate Fails To Ratify U.N. Treaty On Disabilities

Venango County Hate Group, American Family Association of Pennsylvania, Among Right Wing Groups Opposing Elimination of Discrimination Against Disabled People

National Public Radio - December 5, 2012

Republicans in the Senate on Tuesday blocked ratification of a U.N. treaty that would have helped countries protect the rights of disabled people. It was inspired by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Opponents argued, among other things, it would threaten the ability of parents in this country to home school their children.

Listen to the Story HERE

Monday, December 3, 2012

First LGBT State Legislator in Pennsylvania Comes Out

Republican Rep. Mike Fleck Becomes
First Openly Gay Legislator in Pennsylvania History

from The Keystone Student Voice:

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition (PSEC) and LGBT youth across Pennsylvania commend Republican State Rep. Mike Fleck (R-81) for coming out today, becoming the first openly LGBT lawmaker in the Keystone State. Not only is Fleck the first and only legislator currently in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly who is openly gay, he is also one of only two openly gay Republican state legislators nationwide.

This is a historic and significant event for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A Pennsylvania General Assembly that reflects the true diversity of her citizens is a better state for us all. Fleck said he hopes his openness will help others better understand the journey people have to take to live an authentic life, according to the Huntington Daily News.

Rep. Fleck represents a largely conservative and rural district stretching over Blair, Huntingdon, and Mifflin counties in Central Pennsylvania. In the breaking article in his local paper today, he noted that he remains committed to the same political ideals as before the announcement, as he has since he was first elected in 2006.

PSEC has been proud to work with Rep. Fleck. Prior to his big announcement, Rep. Fleck was already a friend of PSEC as a cosponsor of the Pennsylvania Safe Schools Act (HB 2636), which is a landmark anti-bullying bill to update Pennsylvania’s weak safe schools statute. Supporters of the PASS Act have appreciated considerable diversity of cosponsors, in terms of political affiliation, gender, and now–as of today–sexual orientation.

“Rep. Fleck has made history in becoming the first openly gay member of the Pennsylvania legislature. We could not be more proud of his courageous decision to be open and affirming of his identity.” said PSEC Executive Director Jason Landau Goodman.

PSEC wrote personally to Rep. Fleck on the day of his announcement. “On behalf of the thousands of LGBT youth we represent across the state, we thank you for coming forward and becoming a role model for us.”

PSEC is excited to continue working with Rep. Fleck in helping make the Commonwealth a better place for all Pennsylvanians, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Republicans Helped Same-Sex Marriage Win At The Polls


By Walter Olson for the Washington Post:

After years of defeats, same-sex-marriage advocates scored a remarkable 4-0 sweep of state ballot contests on Nov. 6. One major reason: This year, significant numbers of Republicans voted their way. That should give pause to a GOP establishment that has alienated many younger voters and independents with its stance on the issue and now faces the prospect of dissent among its core constituents as well.

The evidence comes straight from a close study of the election returns in Maryland, Maine and Minnesota. (Washington state, with its unique system of mail voting, has been slower to report its results in detail. I’ve based my analysis on the other three states that had same-sex-marriage contests.)

Let’s break it down.

The Maryland ballot referendum, Question 6, essentially asked voters to confirm or reject a new law allowing same-sex marriage. In 11 of the 18 counties that Mitt Romney carried, Question 6 fared better than President Obama, a sign that GOP voters had crossed over in support. While the phenomenon could be seen everywhere from farm towns to blue-collar inner suburbs, the biggest swings tended to come in affluent bedroom communities. At one precinct in Hunt Valley, north of Baltimore, with 2,116 votes cast, there was a 28 percentage-point swing, leading to a landslide for Romney and the ballot question: Obama drew a paltry 37 percent, but Question 6 carried the precinct with a whopping 65 percent.

The margins weren’t as large in other precincts, but swings of 10, 15 and 20 points were common. (I should mention that I volunteered on my own time for the Question 6 effort, working especially among libertarians and conservatives on its behalf.)

In Minnesota, where voters were asked to ban same-sex marriage through a state constitutional amendment, precinct returns show that suburban Republicans broke from their party in droves to defeat the ban. According to the Pioneer Press of St. Paul, 47 towns around the Twin Cities area voted for Romney while opposing the measure, known as Amendment One. Exurban Scott County, the state’s fastest growing, narrowly turned down Amendment One, even as it gave Romney a comfortable 56.5 percent of its vote.

To be sure, rural parts of Minnesota saw ticket-splitting the other way, with some Democratic-leaning areas backing the marriage ban. But within commuting distance of the Twin Cities, the defections from the Republican line were deep and unmistakable. Romney won easily in such lakeside Hennepin County towns as Orono, Deephaven and Shorewood. Conventional wisdom would have them voting for the marriage ban as well — but they rejected Amendment One by 60 percent or more, an outcome that suggests a significant change in demographics and attitudes from even a decade ago.

In the large and politically competitive middle-class suburb of Eagan, Minn., home to former GOP governor Tim Pawlenty, Romney wound up losing by nine points, about the same as his statewide margin. That was close, though, compared with the results for Amendment One, which Eagan voters buried by a 22-point margin.

One quick way to look for towns where Republicans were especially likely to approve same-sex marriage is to consult the state-by-state “Best Places to Live” series, which highlights communities with high incomes, high education levels and low rates of property crime. The list of “Best Places to Live in Minnesota” is dominated by outlying Twin Cities suburbs, most of which tilt strongly GOP: Sixteen of the 20 supported Romney — six of them by 60 percent or more. But only one town among the 20 voted to ban same-sex marriage, and by an anemic 50.28 percent (had nine voters there switched sides, the outcome would have been different).

Maine voters were asked to legalize same-sex marriage through a referendum that lost narrowly in 2009. This time it won, with 53 percent of the vote. Again, Republicans helped secure the victory.

Maine, unlike Maryland and Minnesota, has a shortage of classic Republican bedroom suburbs; most of the suburbs of its only sizable city, Portland, lean Democratic. Consider, however, the five towns atop Yahoo’s “Best Places to Live in Maine” list. The Bangor suburb of Hampden voted both for Romney and for freedom to marry. The other four towns, all Portland suburbs — Cumberland, Falmouth, Yarmouth and Cape Elizabeth — went for Obama by votes ranging from 53 to 63 percent, and then in each case registered a further 10- to 13-point swing toward same-sex marriage.

Fox News sponsored exit polls in each of the three states; of self-described Republicans, between 21 percent and 25 percent said they were breaking from the party’s official position in their vote. The pollsters asked voters which was closer to their own view: “Government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals” or “Government should do more to solve problems.” Of voters who said government is doing too much — prime prospects for anyone trying to assemble a majority Republican coalition — 34 percent to 38 percent sided with same-sex marriage advocates.

So where next for the Republican Party on this issue? Despite the GOP’s historic identification with individual liberty and with getting the government’s nose out of citizens’ business, no one expects it to endorse same-sex marriage anytime soon. But one plausible path would be a GOP call for leaving the issue to the states, with New York going one way, for instance, and Texas another. That would probably capture a consensus among a broad range of active Republicans, fit reasonably well with the party’s other ideological stands and still distinguish its position from the Democratic Party’s support for same-sex marriage in its 2012 platform.

The GOP has left itself little room to maneuver. When some in the Romney campaign took an interest in the “leave it to the states” position this fall, they discovered that the candidate, like several of his former rivals for the nomination, had already signed a pledge circulated by the National Organization for Marriage committing him to support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Although many national polls now show support for marriage equality, the national Republican platform continues to endorse the same deeply out-of-touch proposal.

If and when the party’s leadership changes its mind, a whole lot of suburban Republicans will be murmuring under their breath, “About time.”

Walter Olson is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of “Schools for Misrule.”