December 26, 2011
By Matt Baume
A new law in Ireland means that New Yorkers have more rights on Emerald Isle than they do in their own country. A hospital in Tennessee violates federal guidelines in denying visitation to a lesbian couple. There’s a new ad for marriage equality in New Hampshire that epitomizes Yankee thrift. And 20,000 Australian doctors agree: marriage equality is good for your head.
Here’s a holiday present for you: yet another Senator has signed on for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. The repeal now boasts 32 sponsors with New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, who voted for the anti-gay ban back in the 1990s.
This means that fully one-third of the Senate is now sponsoring the repeal bill. That’s a record level of support — but let’s be realistic: we still have a long way to go — possibly years — before it has a chance of passing. And even when DOMA does go away, that won’t automatically legalize marriage. All DOMA does is prevent the federal government and individual states from recognizing the marriages of LGBTs who live in states that do recognize their marriages.
Or in other words, if you get married in Massachusetts, DOMA prevents states like Utah and agencies like the IRS from acknowledging your marriage. But if you live in Utah and want to get married, DOMA’s won’t stop you — it’s the local laws of Utah that do that. It’s a complicated patchwork of laws that, once again, highlights the need for national uniformity when it comes to full federal marriage equality.
There’s lots of reasons LGBTs want to get married — starting with wanting to spend the rest of our lives with the people we love — but this issue that keeps coming up is hospital visitation. This week Rolling Hills Hospital in Tennessee denied visitation to the partner of a woman in their care. They’re not actually allowed to do that: guidelines issued under President Obama stipulate that hospitals like this one allow patients to designate same-sex partners for visitation. The hospital has since apologized, but it’s still pretty incredible that without marriage, we still have to worry about this kind of thing anytime we go to the hospital for care.
The good news is that public opinion keeps turning in our favor. This week a survey in Utah showed that 64% of residents support legal recognition for LGBT couples. And across the country, a council member in Washington DC has introduced a bill that would reform the district’s divorce laws in 2012 to provide greater parity to LGBT couples. The move is necessary because, once again, differing laws in other states have complicated the process of recognizing DC marriages and divorces.
Advocates in New Hampshire have begun airing a new marriage equality television ad. It’s designed to pressure lawmakers into resisting an attempt by a small group of Republicans who want to eliminate both marriage and domestic partnerships. It’s about as no-frills as an ad can get, so we’ll see if this stoic approach resonates with natives.
In international news, Ireland will begin recognizing marriages performed in New York. That means that married New Yorkers will have more rights when they travel abroad than they do in their own country. And Scotland is considering a compromise on marriage. The country may recognize civil marriage recognition while prohibiting marriage ceremonies in churches. That proposal has drawn strong criticism from Quakers, Unitarians, and numerous other faith groups that support the freedom to marry.
And in Australia, a Queensland MP is attempting to undo that state’s new civil unions law. That’s drawn strong opposition from psychologists, who explain that it would “re-traumatize” an oppressed minority group. Meanwhile the Australian Psychological Society issued a strong statement in favor of marriage equality on the grounds that social exclusion is harmful to mental health.
Those are the headlines, visit us at MarriageNewsWatch.com for more on all these stories and more. And visit AFER.org for more on the federal fight to overturn Prop 8 and win full federal marriage equality in every state. I’m Matt Baume at the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Have a great holiday time and we’ll see you next week.