by Michael Klarman

Gay marriage plays a prominent role in American politics today.  Four states conducted referenda on the topic in November.  President Obama and the Democratic Party endorsed gay marriage this year, posing a stark contrast with Mitt Romney and the Republicans.  A quick look back at the way national political parties have treated gay rights issues over the last few decades illuminates the extraordinary changes that have taken place in American society.

As late as 1970, every state but one criminalized gay sex between consenting adults, and until 1973 the American Psychiatric Association deemed homosexuality a mental disease.  Not until 1977 were gay activists welcomed at the White House—and then only on a weekend when President Carter was out of town.  In 1980, for the first time ever, the Democratic platform called for government protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation.  Eighty-six openly gay delegates attended the party’s convention that year—up from four in 1976.

By contrast, the Republican’s 1980 platform, influenced by the recently formed Moral Majority, included a novel plank defending “the traditional American family.”  Late in the campaign, a group called Christians for Reagan ran television advertisements attacking Carter and other Democrats for their support of gay rights—the first such ad ever run in a presidential campaign. 

In the 1980s, only one prominent Democratic presidential candidate, Jesse Jackson, courted gay voters, explicitly including them in his “American quilt” speech at the 1984 convention.  Four years later, Jackson promised, if elected, to ban federalgovernment discrimination against gays.  By contrast, the party’s 1988 nominee, Governor Michael Dukakis, had supported barring gays from becoming foster parents in Massachusetts. 

Gay marriage was absent from the agenda of gay activists in the 1980s.  Even domestic partnership legislation, which provided minimal benefits such as health insurance to same-sex couples, made few inroads before 1990.   

In 1992, for the first time, a major party’s presidential nominee aggressively courted the gay vote.  Bill Clinton promised, if elected, to rescind the ban on gays in the military and to support a “Manhattan project” to fight AIDS.  One hundred thirty-three openly gay delegates attended that year’s Democratic convention. 

The contrast with the Republican convention could not have been starker.  G.O.P. delegates were seen waving signs proclaiming, “Family Rights Forever/Gay Rights Never.”  Pat Buchanan called for a “cultural war” for “the soul of America” and declared that he and President Bush stood together in opposition to “the amoral idea” of gay couples enjoying the benefits of marriage.  The party’s platform rejected all gay rights legislation.   

An estimated 72 percent of self-identified gays voted Democratic in the 1992 presidential election.  Yet, while activists celebrated Clinton’s victory, during the campaign he had opposed gay marriage, and his promise to rescind the ban on gays in the military was quickly sacrificed in the face of extraordinary conservative resistance.  

Gay marriage first entered national politics in 1996 when the Hawaii supreme court appeared poised to declare it constitutionally protected.  The Christian Coalition had become a prominent player in Republican politics, and as the presidential election approached, its leaders threatened to withhold support from Republican candidates who failed to endorse conservative Christian values.  The party’s presidential frontrunner, Bob Dole, returned a $1,000 check from gay Log Cabin Republicans.  Dick Armey, the Republican House whip, referred to openly gay Democratic congressman Barney Frank as “Barney Fag.” 

Days before the Iowa caucuses, anti-gay activists conducted a “marriage protection” rally in Des Moines.  Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan proclaimed, “We’ve seen all the false gods of secular humanism, including the false god of gay rights.”  Candidate Alan Keyes denounced the “homosexual agenda,” which was “destroying the integrity of the marriage-based family.”

That spring, Dole co-sponsored the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which both denied federal recognition of gay marriages and freed states from any obligation to recognize them.  Democrats attacked the measure as an “election year gimmick,” but Clinton signed it to remove the issue from the presidential contest.

In 2000, Vermont became the first state to enact civil unions after its supreme court ruled that same-sex couples must be afforded the rights and benefits of marriage.  Both leading Democratic presidential candidates, Bill Bradley and Al Gore, endorsed civil unions.

By contrast, all ten candidates for the Republican presidential nomination opposed civil unions and all other laws protecting gays from discrimination.  Candidate Gary Bauer called the Vermont ruling “in some ways worse than terrorism.”  Keyes declared that homosexuality, like pedophilia, was a perverse choice and thus government discrimination against homosexuals was desirable. 

In 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Court became the first to rule squarely that gay marriage was constitutionally protected.  The issue then figured prominently in the 2004 presidential contest.  Democratic presidential contenders Howard Dean, John Kerry, and John Edwards all supported civil unions while opposing gay marriage.  Yet they also condemned a proposed federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.  By contrast, the Republican platform and President Bush strongly endorsed the amendment as a necessary response to efforts by “activist judges” to redefine marriage.   

In 2004, thirteen states enacted constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. Tom Daschle lost his Senate seat—the first Senate party leader to be defeated in fifty years—and gay marriage played a prominent role.  Indeed, the issue may have enabled President Bush’s re-election.  Bush would not have won without Ohio’s electoral votes, and his popular-vote margin in Ohio was just 2 percent. The gay marriage ban passed by 24 percentage points.   
In 2008, the nation elected not just its first African-American president, but also its most gay-friendly one. Obama supported every major legal reform on the gay rights agenda short of marriage equality: repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’tTell” and DOMA and enactment of federal hate crimes legislation, and the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.  Republicans opposed all of these measures. 

In 2012, President Obama endorsed gay marriage, as did the Democratic Party platform and most prominent speakers at the Charlotte Convention.  Although the Republican platform still opposes gay marriage and civil unions, presidential candidate Mitt Romney generally avoids the topic, and it is easy to see why.  Two-thirds of Americans now support civil unions, and a majority of Independents endorse gay marriage.  Billionaire Republican financiers Paul Singer and Charles Koch support gay marriage, as  do many other prominent Republicans, such as Dick Cheney, Steve Schmidt, and Ken Mehlman.   In 2011-12, Republican legislators provided the critical votes to enact gay marriage in New York and Washington State.   

Support for gay marriage has grown rapidly over the last twenty years: from less than 25% in 1990 to 30-35% in 2004 and to slightly more than 50% today.  The number of states with either civil unions or gay marriage has increased from one in 2000 to 15 today.  For the first time, multiple states are poised to endorse gay marriage by popular vote.  

According to one statistical model, within a mere dozen years, gay marriage will command majority support in every state.  To be sure, religious conservatives continue to strenuously oppose it, which is why virtually every Republican presidential candidate in 2013 pledged to support the federal marriage amendment and defend DOMA.  Yet, given the speed at which public opinion is changing, one wonders whether the Republican party will have dropped its opposition to gay marriage by 2016—or not until 2020.  

Michael Klarman is a professor at Harvard Law School and author of From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash, and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage (2012).

by Ginny Grimsley

For the first time, a new poll shows more Americans “strongly support” same-sex marriage than “strongly oppose” it, a finding that could be attributed to changes occurring within organized religions, says a Presbyterian elder and lay preacher.

“For 2,000 years, religion has been the genesis of antipathy toward homosexuals, but now, three major American denominations have approved ordination of openly gay clergy,” says Paul Hartman, a retired PBS/NPR station executive and author of The Kairos, a novel that imagines Jesus as gay.

“Gay has become the civil rights issue of the 21st century,” he says.

The May survey of more than 1,000 adults found a dramatic reversal from earlier surveys: more adults now “strongly support” same-sex marriage rights (39 percent) than “strongly oppose” them (32 percent).  Over all, Langer Research Associates says, 53 percent of Americans believe same-sex marriages should be legalized – up from only 36 percent just six years ago.

“Episcopalian, Lutheran and Presbyterian denominations have overturned centuries of tradition in welcoming openly gay clergy,” Hartman says. “There’s a growing realization that religion can and should help lead us all toward a more mature understanding and acceptance of minority sexual orientations.”

In 2012, he says, there is a new human rights landscape in the United States. He cites these additional recent developments:

  • The U.S. military joined 43 other countries when it repealed “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and allowed openly-gay service members.
  • Same-sex marriages are now legal in six states and the District of Columbia. Three other states -- Washington, Maryland and California -- have same-sex marriage under active consideration. Eleven more offer “civil union”-type status for same-sex couples.
  • A federal appeals court in Boston recently struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (which defines marriage as “one man, one woman”), making consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court almost certain.
  • Dr. Robert Spitzer, one of the last nationally-respected scholars whose studies lent credence to “gay reparative” therapies, recently offered a retraction and apology to the gay community.

“Unfortunately, the occasionally hateful crowd still resonates with a very small group of people, including those headed by preacher Fred Phelps and congregants, who continue to make news as they picket the funerals of soldiers and celebrities,” Hartman says.

Western cultures’ condemnation of same-sex love appears to have originated from Judeo-Christian scriptures, but contemporary biblical scholarship amends old interpretations, he says.

“That’s why I wanted to tell a religion-based suspense story about homophobia,” Hartman says. “It addresses fear of all kinds, because in passage after biblical passage, scripture tells humans who are facing change, sickness, alienation, death, and everything else: ‘fear not.’  It applies to homophobia, as well.”

About Paul Hartman
Paul Hartman is a retired PBS/NPR station executive with a passion for biblical history. He is a Presbyterian elder, a lay preacher and a Dead Sea Scrolls aficionado. Hartman, a father and grandfather, confesses he is a lifelong fear-fighter. 
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 African-American support for same-sex marriage has surged

BALTIMORE – A new Public Policy Poll of Maryland voters shows a decisive majority (57%) would vote in favor of same-sex marriage if it's on the ballot this fall, while 37% would vote against. This is a 12-point swing in support from two months earlier and is due to growing African-American support in Maryland since both President Obama and the NAACP endorsed same-sex marriage.

“Things are moving in Maryland,” said Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality. “We’re approaching a supermajority who want to uphold the state’s new marriage law. The message of stronger families and greater fairness is resonating, and we’re confident Maryland will be the first state to win a ballot measure on marriage equality and religious freedom." 

In a memo, PPP pollster Tom Jensen notes there has been a “major shift in opinion about gay marriage among black voters [in Maryland].” Fifty-five percent of African Americans now say they would vote for the law and only 36% oppose it. These numbers have essentially flipped since PPP conducted an identical poll in March.

"Those opposed to same-sex marriage have some ground to make up," added Levin.

The Maryland data are in line with recent national polls reflecting majority African-American support. Yesterday’s ABC News/Washington Post poll registered 59 percent of African-Americans who expressed support for same-sex marriage – an 18-point jump from polls taken before the President's announcement.

“The President’s backing of marriage equality has added to our momentum– and his being on the November ballot also helps us,” Levin said. “Younger voters, who are overwhelmingly supportive, are much more likely to turn out in a presidential year." 

An overwhelming majority of Obama voters in Maryland and almost a third of Romney voters favor same-sex marriage.

The Civil Marriage Protection Act passed the Maryland legislature and was signed into law by Governor Martin O’Malley. Committed gay and lesbian couples can get a marriage license from the courthouse beginning in January, should voters approve the law. Churches and other religious institutions do not have to marry a gay or lesbian couple if they don’t want to.

Today's PPP poll, commissioned by Marylanders for Marriage Equality, surveyed 852 likely voters, including an oversample of 398 African Americans between May 14 - 21. The overall margin of error is +/-3.4% and for African-Americans it is +/-4.9%.  The polling memo can be found here.

Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the coalition working to defend Maryland’s new civil marriage law, is made up of 1199 SEIU, ACLU of Maryland, Equality Maryland, Human Rights Campaign, and others.

Why Conservatives Should Favor Gay Marriage
by Jonathan Dudley

Abortion. Homosexuality. Environmentalism. Evolution. Conservative positions on these topics have divided American politics and defined mainstream evangelical Christianity. But what if the strongest arguments against popular evangelical stances on these issues come from evangelical Christianity itself?

    Growing up as an evangelical Christian, I was taught that abortion is murder, homosexuality sin, evolution nonsense, and environmentalism a farce. I had learned to accept these conclusions—the "big four"—as part of the package deal of Christianity. Yet, when I began studying biology at the evangelical Calvin College and theology at Yale Divinity School, my views started to change. I realized that what I had been told about the Bible—and those four big issues involving scripture and biology—may have been misconstrued and that what so many Christians believe about key social and political issues may be wrong.

    By arguing against absolutism on abortion and opposition to embryonic stem cell research, I show that most Christian theologians throughout history, including Augustine, Aquinas, and even American evangelicals up until the 1980s, have believed that life does not begin at conception. I argue that evangelical opposition to gay marriage has more to do with allegiance to socially conservative cultural values than allegiance to the Bible. I demonstrate that traditional Christian valuations of science, as well as scientific evidence itself, should lead evangelicals to accept evolution and reject both creationism and intelligent design. I survey how evangelicals are changing their minds about environmentalism, and how this development supports a new way of thinking about the Bible. Now as an M.D. student at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, I also illustrate the scientific problems with popular evangelical views.

    In the process, I lay the groundwork for a new generation of post-Religious Right evangelical political activists, who believe in evolution, rally behind the environmental movement, are moderate on abortion, and support gay marriage—and who are more faithful to orthodox Christianity than their counterparts. When I was earning my Master’s degree in divinity at Yale, I never thought that years later, I would be cheering the legalization of gay marriage in the state of New York. Still, while I was at Yale, I began to see an interesting pattern in some of the biblical passages I was analyzing.

    Many conservatives use the Bible as a definitive source for why gays shouldn’t be afforded the right to marry. The problem is that there is very little in the Bible about same-sex pairings, and what’s there can easily be interpreted in multiple ways.

    My point is that the biblical prop that politicians use to condemn gays is an illusion, as are other elements of their arguments. My arguments, backed by my research, undermine the basis for the far right’s objection to gays in America.

    If the goal is legislation that both preserves marriage and reflects the Bible’s teachings, it is far easier to argue that divorce should be illegal than it is to condemn gay marriage.  Although the New Testament only contains one uncontested reference to same-sex pairings, divorce is condemned throughout the New Testament, both by Jesus and the Apostle Paul. What’s more, the growing prevalence of divorce poses a far more credible threat to the culture of marriage in America than does the prospect of gay people marrying each other. In today’s America, the divorce rate for new married couples is 50 percent. As gay marriage is still outlawed by the Defense of Marriage Act, we can’t blame the divorce rate on gay marriage. That figure is due to the dissolution of heterosexual marriages.

    A growing number of theologians and young evangelicals have realized the Bible doesn’t require Christians to condemn gay rights. In fact, there is a growing movement that supports the idea that some of the translations and interpretations of passages in contemporary Bibles are errant, and also that the Bible even provides fodder for
supporting gay marriage.

    The community of evangelical biblical scholars, almost exclusively white heterosexual men, has a history of producing interpretations of the Bible that reflects its own interests and disadvantages those without power. The same leaders that insist on the most rigorous, stringent reading possible on homosexuality have come up with all sorts of nuances and complicating considerations to justify leniency for themselves when it comes to more obvious biblical condemnations of divorce. So, why is it that same-sex relationships don’t get the same treatment.” The reason is because it doesn’t serve anyone involved with interpreting the Bible for the purposes of creating modern religious canon.

    The same community that insists on ‘the traditional reading’ of the Bible on homosexual relationships has embraced tendentious, historically recent interpretations claiming the Bible says life begins at conception. And the same intellectual habits and social structures that led yesterday's white evangelical community to ignore the civil rights movement, oppose the feminist movement, and drag its feet for far too long in the face of environmental destruction are still in place today —and they shape how evangelical leaders are thinking about homosexuality. In reality, the older generation’s opposition to gay marriage tells us more about their allegiance to social conservatism than it does about their allegiance to the Bible.
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by David Cohen

Love means never having to say you’re sorry” is one of the most meaningful line ever said about love in any blockbuster movie. In the1970 film Love Story, Ali MacGraw made us wonder what it all means, but to Cheri Giacomi and her partner Alex Ivelic, it means twenty-two years of affection, kindness, compassion and emotions they share with each other over the years.

Now in their late 40′s, their love is just as young as it was on the first day they met. Still passionate and in lust, the two don’t hide their desire for intimacy. You wonder what is the secret to their continuous love and affection?

For Cheri the ability to laugh together with Alex every single day is a necessity for  their love to stay young and strong.  To Alex the simple little things you do everyday with your partner,  are just as important as laughter. “There’s not a week that goes by that we don’t give each other a card, or tell each other I love you, you’re the one for me.” Every person in any relationship should declare their love to each other every single day. The words “I love you” should be used more often and not only on Valentine’s Day. For Alex and Cheri Valentine’s Day is celebrated every single day of the year.

Twenty-two years ago in a gay club at Melrose Park in Illinois, Alex at 104 pound wearing tight  Spandex outfit noticed Cheri’s long brown hair, her white cowboy booths, white jeans and the white shirt with an open back. All she knew, there was a beautiful girl dancing on the dance floor. Alex was determined to get this girl to dance with her before the night is over.  At the end it was Cheri the twenty-two year old woman, who lured Alex into the dancing floor and captured her hart forever.

With the approval and legalization of Civil Union in Illinois, Alex and Cheri decided to get married for the second time. On June 17, 2011, they announced their love and commitment to each other at Chicago’s City Hall. After the wedding ceremony, Alex and Cheri were heading to  Mexico for their honeymoon. They knew how special and meaningful this trip was. They went back to the Riviera Maya Hotel, the place where they tied the knot for the first time in 2009.  Although getting married in Mexico didn’t mean anything legally, it meant a lot to the emotional Cheri. She is the one  who always believed in the institution of marriage regardless of what the sexual orientation is.

Alex the back bone in this relationship managed to surprise Cheri, and give her the best gift she ever gotten–a marriage. With the help of Cherie’s mother, Alex was able to hide the wedding ring she bough in Chicago for Cherie. She was planning a special vacation to Mexico, where the couple were to be wed for the first time.

With Cheri’s mom approval and blessing, Alex planned this trip to be a surprised wedding celebration. Cherie did not have a clue until the moment Alex got on her knees, and asked for her hand in marriage. At 2 o’clock in the morning, in their hotel room at the Riviera Maya, Alex finally proposed.  Astonished, surprised and chocked, Cherie couldn’t believe her own eyes. It took her about twenty-seconds to realize what was going on, and finally she said the words “I DO.” Touched by the idea of marrying her beloved woman, her best friend, lover and partner, Cherie couldn’t stop crying for days. She was crying out of happiness, she was crying for the unconditional love she had for the woman she loves. Although the non stoping crying became annoying, Alex never said a word. Theses days taught them the full meaning of love. They have learn to except each other the way they are, they learned what unconditional love means. They finally realized and understood the true meaning of what “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” is all about.

Last year on Friday, September 16, 2011, PINK named Cheri Giacomi and her partner Alex Ivelic as the lucky couple to win the title “PINK's Favorite Couple”  in the “Marry Me PINK” contest for 2011. This contest took place on August 13-14, 2011, during the North Halsted Market Days Street Festival in Chicago. The lucky couple won a two night get-away, to the upscale Belvedere Inn in Saugatuck Michigan,  courtesy of owners Sean and Peter.