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Jun 6, 2011: Encouraging New Polls in NY and MN, but is it Enough?
By Matt Baume
A new poll shows us neck-and-neck in Minnesota, with a vote on marriage still a year off. There's just two weeks left to pass marriage in New York, but a Senate bill still hasn't even been introduced yet. Illinois launched civil unions this week as Rhode Island debated doing the same. And a Michigan Republican can't tell the difference between gay couples and child abusers.
This Thursday marked the start of civil unions in Illinois, with long lines at marriage counters around the state. Only five other states recognize civil unions -- Vermont, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Hawaii, and Delaware -- and the work in Illinois is still far from over. The next step: getting full marriage.
But our opponents are already trying to block any further advances in Illinois. Anti-gay groups have launched a campaign to put a marriage ban in the state constitution. But it's a long shot: voters can't amend the Illinois constitution, they can only vote on non-binding advisory questions that are then sent to the General Assembly.
To find out more about the strategy for winning civil unions and the plan for marriage, click here to watch my interview with Illinois writer and advocate Phil Reese. You can also click over here to hear from some of the couples who got civil unions this week.
Civil unions remain controversial in Rhode Island, with lawmakers holding another hearing on the subject this week. Pretty much everyone opposes the plan: anti-gay groups want to block any protection for LGBT couples, while civil rights groups feel that anything less than marriage simply isn't enough.
And marriage is still the goal in New York, even though time's really running out. There's just two weeks left to pass a marriage bill this year. Meanwhile, a new survey shows higher public support than ever before, with 58 percent in favor to 36 opposed.
There's even more support for legal recognition in Minnesota, with a new poll showing 72 percent in favor of either marriage or civil unions. But opinion is evenly divided on the anti-gay marriage ban that voters will face in 2012, with 46 percent in favor of the ban and 47 percent opposed.
To stop that ban, we have just one year to build support in Minnesota. And to do that, we'll need to win over new allies. Allies like Iowa's Jeff Angelo, a former Republican Senator. He sponsored Iowa's Defense of Marriage Act back in 1997, but since then he's learned more about his LGBT friends, family, and constituents, and this week he launched Iowa Republicans for Freedom, an organization to rally conservative support for marriage equality.
But overall, Republican support for marriage is weak. In Congress, House Speaker John Boehner continues to press ahead with his defense of DOMA, despite mounting criticism over his potentially illegal accounting.
He still refuses to explain how he intends to pay the half-million dollar price tag for defending the anti-gay law. Boehner insists that he has the money, but he won't say where it is. If he's committed Congress to paying a bill without appropriating the money first, he's violated the Anti-Deficiency Act, which would subject him to potential fines and up to two years in prison.
Let's look at some news in brief. In Connecticut, Representative Chris Murphy wants to lift a military ban that limits where same-sex couples are allowed to hold their weddings. Despite having marriage equality in the Connecticut, Army regulations currently forbid the state's gay couples from getting married on bases.
In North Carolina, GetEQUAL activists were arrested for disrupting the Assembly with a protest over an anti-gay constitutional amendment.
In Michigan, Tea Party-backed Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler compared gay marriage to polygamy and child abuse.
And in international news, two lesbians in France were able to get a marriage license despite a national ban on marriage equality. The loophole: one of the women is transgender and still classified as male on government paperwork.
Meanwhile, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera has promised to advance a bill that would recognize civil unions. And Australian activists have launched MyMarriageStory.com.au to gather stories from LGBT couples about why marriage equality matters to them.
Those are the headlines. Click over here to subscribe to weekly updates or over here to watch some of our previous coverage, including the infighting that could doom Equality Maryland and more bad news in Minnesota.
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