Weekly Political Roundup

FlagsInspirational quotes of the week:

Mom was not an extraordinary person, but she was a person who accomplished extraordinary things, and this is an important thing because each of us is needed to continue her work. It would be a shame if you left here today thinking that Mom was somehow bigger and bolder than you could ever be.

Kendra Mon, daughter of Del Martin, at a memorial for her mother at San Francisco City Hall

Last time they used us as a wedge, but this time we’re going to be the edge.

Sex and the City star and lesbian mom Cynthia Nixon, stumping in Florida for Barack Obama

On to the news:

  • In the vice presidential debate, Joe Biden gave one of the strongest statements ever made by a national politician in support of same-sex relationships, saying, “in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple. . . . It’s what the Constitution calls for.” He did say that neither he nor Obama supports “redefining” marriage to include same-sex couples. Sarah Palin, however, said that she would not even support benefits for same-sex couples because of the risk that they could lead to such a redefinition. She added, though, that a McCain-Palin administration would not do anything to prohibit “visitations in a hospital or contracts being signed, negotiated between parties.” Palin said earlier this week that she thinks being gay is a choice. For most of us, it’s not. Picking who we want to lead our country? Definitely a choice.
  • John McCain spoke with the Washington Blade about LGBT issues. Say what you will about the content of his responses, the fact that his campaign felt it necessary for him to try and engage LGBT voters is a sign of progress.
  • Speaking of the debate, Leah McElrath Renna at HuffPo (and a lesbian mom, in addition to a communications professional) hits the nail on the head with her analysis of Joe Biden’s passionate statement of paternal love.
  • Supporters of a measure that would change Arizona’s constitution to ban marriage of same-sex couples have raised 17 times more than their opponents. Jim at Box Turtle Bulletin reminds us that “Arizona became the first state in the nation to defeat the so-called marriage amendment in 2006. . . . If we really want to secure our victories, it is imperative that we tell them that no really means no. Otherwise, they’ll just come back again in a few more years in California and Florida.”
  • Officials with Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and other groups plan to testify Thursday against the policy that bans “cohabitating adults” from fostering children.
  • Straight parents of LGBT children are taking an outspoken role in the fight against Prop 8 in California.
  • Jonathan Lewis, entrepreneur and political activist and scion of the Progressive Insurance Cos. fortune, pledged $500,000 to defeat California’s Prop 8 if the entertainment industry does the same.
  • San Franciscans are debating whether to uphold a 2006 decision to remove JROTC programs from public schools, in part because of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Some argue, however, that “The San Francisco JROTC has been recognized as a model of inclusion for LGBT students.”
  • California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill honoring the late San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, saying “I believe his contributions should continue to be recognized at the local level by those who were most impacted by his contributions.” He did, however, sign the Civil Rights Act of 2008, which clarifies sections of law that prohibit discrimination (including on the basis of gender, sexual orientation) in insurance and government services and activities. He also signed a bill that requires senior care facilities’ employees to receive training on needs and issues specific to LGBT seniors.
  • A gay couple in North Miami is challenging Florida’s ban on adoption by same-sex couples. The men have been foster parents to 4-year old and 8-year old half brothers since 2004, and the boys are now eligible for adoption.
  • The mayor of Orlando, Florida announced plans to offer benefits to same-sex domestic partners of city employees when the City Council approves changes to its employee health-care policy next week.
  • The Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on December 9 in a case challenging the state’s law banning marriage of same-sex couples.
  • A Missoula District Court judge on Monday confirmed Montana lesbian mom Michelle Kulstad’s custody rights to children she raised for years with her partner Barbara Maniaci, who then sought sole custody when the relationship ended and she married a man. The partner had legally adopted the children; Kulstad had not. The conservative Alliance Defense Fund, which has represented other “ex-gay” parents in custody cases, represented Maniaci. Maniaci has now filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court.
  • Nancy Polikoff updates us on the struggle to get the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to take action on proposed legislation that would solidify the parental relationships of same-sex couples and their children in Washington, D.C. While the OAG claims to support these relationships, they also told Polikoff that the bill needs revisions, “without identifying a single substantive change they want in the bill.”
  • The Washington State Bar Association Board of Governors, “despite considerable opposition from association members,” adopted a resolution in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples “as a matter of practicality for lawyers and of fairness in society.”
  • Milwaukee School Board member Jennifer Morales sponsored and pushed through a change in school policy, giving benefits to domestic partners of non-union employees in the school system. Morales, who married her partner in Canada, fought for the issue even after the city attorney’s office urged board members who are themselves in domestic partnerships not to take part in the debate or vote on the issue. On another topic, Morales also has a piece up at 365gay.com about the value of an LGBT high school.

Around the world:

  • A Northern Ontario candidate for Canada’s parliament told high school students that gays should be executed. Local police have started a criminal investigation as to whether this violates the country’s hate crimes laws.
  • Voters in Ecuador approved a new constitution, a provision of which permits same-sex couples to enter into civil unions.
  • Indian Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said he and colleagues would meet with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to find ways of overcoming the Home Ministry’s opposition to decriminalizing gay sex.
  • Portugal’s governing Socialist Party says it will block an attempt by smaller parties to pass legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry.
  • Spain’s Constitutional Court agreed to hear a challenge to the country’s laws permitting marriage of same-sex couples. The government and gay rights activists say they believe the laws will remain.
  • Baroness Ashton, Leader of the U.K.’s House of Lords and a vocal supporter of LGBT rights, will leave the Cabinet to become an EU Commissioner. She takes over for openly gay Peter Mandelson, who will rejoin the Cabinet as Business Secretary. Her replacement as Leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Royall has been “very supportive” of LGBT rights, according to LGBT advocacy group Stonewall. If that isn’t enough, openly gay MP Nick Brown will become Chief Whip of Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Cabinet.
  • The next French envoy to the Vatican was chosen after Roman Catholic officials rejected the first candidate because he is gay.