December 19, 2011
By Matt Baume
George Clooney takes a stand for marriage equality with his latest role. A new study connects anti-gay marriage laws to cardiovascular disease. Republican voters increasingly favor marriage equality, but this week several presidential frontrunners had some particularly unpleasant things to say about LGBTs. And after a year of monetary and staffing battles, there’s fresh conflict in Maryland.
How’d you like to be 13% healthier? A new study this week indicates that states with marriage equality see 13% fewer health care visits and 14% lower health care costs. There’s a marked decrease in ailments related to blood pressure and depression, likely the result of reduced stress.
The link between marriage equality and public health is well-known. The American Medical Association says “exclusion from civil marriage contributes to health care disparities,” the American Psychoanalytic Association says that “anti-homosexual bias negatively affects mental health,” and the American Academy of Pediatrics says that many of the health risks borne by non-heterosexual youth are primarily due to societal stigma.
One source of that exclusion, bias, and stigma: political leaders who refuse to stand up for equality. This week Mitt Romney proposed a bizarre three-tiered marriage system to withhold marriage from LGBT families. He’s joined by Rick Santorum, who claimed that the country’s declining marriage rate is somehow the gays’ fault; and serial husband Newt Gingrich, who this week suggested that being gay is a choice.
But these Republican frontrunners are increasingly out-of-step with their constituents and growing factions within their own party. A New York Times survey of likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa shows 58% favor legal recognition for LGBT couples. And in Colorado, a group of conservative Republicans lawmakers plans to launch a campaign for marriage equality called Coloradans for Freedom. A civil unions bill is expected in the state in 2012, with support for civil unions polling at around 72%.
Polling’s somewhat more mixed in Montana, where 62% support legal recognition, but still just 37% support marriage.
There was a flurry of activity at state equality organizations this week. Marriage Equality USA merged with Marriage Equality New York; and Equality California is bouncing back from widespread staff departures with new team members announced to lead public education and legislative work.
There’s trouble brewing in Maryland, where the national organization Freedom to Marry has sounded serious alarm bells about an upcoming marriage equality campaign. Legislators will attempt to pass a marriage bill in 2012, but Freedom to Marry has concerns that equality organizers are unprepared to defend the law if anti-gay groups launch a referendum.
Polling in Maryland has fluctuated over the last year. In January of 2011, a marriage bill was favored 51 to 44 percent. But this past October, those numbers had flipped, with 49 percent opposed to 48 in favor.
As we’ve seen before, voters can be misled by anti-gay groups, which is why we continue to suffer losses when fundamental rights are put up to a popular vote. But equality advocates are finding increasing success by pursuing protections in court.
On Friday of last week one of the country’s leading lawsuits against DOMA had a hearing in a San Francisco District Court.The case is Golinski versus the Office of Personnel Management, and it’s still many months — or possibly years — away from a conclusion. But Friday’s proceedings were encouraging, with the judge asking tough questions of the anti-gay lawyers hired by House Speaker John Boehner.
And finally this week, George Clooney signed on to the LA premier of “8,” Dustin Lance Black’s play about the Prop 8 trial. The curtain goes up on March 3rd at the Wilshire Ebell Theater.
Those are the headlines — join us over at MarriageNewsWatch.com for more on all these stories and more. And head on over to Facebook.com/MarriageNewsWatch to sign up for breaking news alerts right on your wall. We’ll see you next week.