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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri House Democrat has introduced legislation that would repeal the state's ban on gay marriage.

Mike Colona, a House member from St. Louis who is gay, filed a proposed constitutional amendment this week that would go before voters in November. Colona was joined by 30 of his Democratic colleagues as co-sponsors.

Missouri in 2004 became the first state to enact a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage after the Massachusetts high court permitted gay marriage there. The Missouri measure passed with 70 percent of the vote.

With only seven weeks left in the legislative session, Colona's proposal is unlikely to gain traction. And Missouri Republicans, who control both legislative chambers, remain opposed to overturning the state's ban.

Published in Local News
   DETROIT (AP) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday put an indefinite halt to gay marriage in Michigan while it takes a longer look at a judge's decision overturning a 2004 ban on same-sex nuptials.
   The court granted the state's request to suspend a ruling by U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, who declared the voter-approved ban unconstitutional on Friday. Hundreds of same-sex couples in four counties were married Saturday before the appeals court stepped in with a temporary stay that had been set to expire Wednesday.
   The 2-1 decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was a victory for Attorney General Bill Schuette, who had pledged to rush to the U.S. Supreme Court if the court turned him down.
   Judges Karen Caldwell and John Rogers said a stay is appropriate, especially because the Supreme Court ordered a similar time-out in January in a gay marriage case in Utah.
   "There is no apparent basis to distinguish this case or to balance the equities any differently than the Supreme Court did" in Utah, Caldwell and Rogers said. "Furthermore, several district courts that have struck down laws prohibiting same-sex marriage similar to the Michigan amendment at issue here have also granted requests for stays made by state defendants."
   Appeals court Judge Helene White disagreed.
   It will be months before the next major step by the Cincinnati-based court. It set May and June deadlines for additional filings by the state and attorneys for two Detroit-area nurses who had challenged the gay marriage ban. The court has yet to schedule a day for arguments.
   "We will now focus on preparing an appeal in defense of the constitution and the will of the people," Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout said.
   Friedman, a judge in Detroit, ruled last week in favor of Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, who live with three adopted children. They can't jointly adopt each other's kids because joint adoption in Michigan is tied to marriage.
   The judge held a two-week trial, listening to experts mostly talk about the impact of same-sex parenting on children. Friedman said conservative social scientists and economists who testified for Michigan were "unbelievable" and "clearly represent a fringe viewpoint."
   Seventeen states and the District of Columbia issue licenses for same-sex marriage. Since December, bans on gay marriage have been overturned in Texas, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia, but appeals have put those cases on hold.
   Attorneys for Rowse and DeBoer had urged the appeals court to allow gay marriages in Michigan while the case was under review.
   "The public interest in this case lies on the side of ending discrimination, promoting equality and human dignity and providing security for children," they said.
   Nearly 60 percent of Michigan voters in 2004 approved adding an amendment to the constitution that says marriage only is between a man and a woman. Friedman, however, said the election result was no defense to discrimination against gays and lesbians.
   What remains unclear is the legal status of more than 300 couples who were married Saturday in Washtenaw, Ingham, Oakland and Muskegon counties. Supporters of same-sex marriage are urging the Obama administration to recognize the marriages for purposes of federal benefits as it has done in other states.
   Gov. Rick Snyder has not signaled if the state will recognize the marriages.
Published in National News
   CHICAGO (AP) - Chicago's mayor and the governor of Illinois are among those celebrating the life of gay rights activist Vernita Gray, who died Tuesday at age 65.
   Gray and her partner, Patricia Ewert, wed in the state's first same-sex marriage in November. Her terminal cancer and her wish to marry convinced a federal judge to order an expedited marriage license. That allowed the couple to get married before the June 1 effective date of Illinois' new same-sex marriage law.
   Gray had worked for gay rights for decades.
   Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised Gray's work for equality and civil rights in a statement Wednesday, calling her "an inspiration to all who crossed her path."
   Gov. Pat Quinn says Gray "fought for what she believed in and made a difference for people across Illinois."
Published in Local News
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A federal judge has struck down Texas' ban on gay marriage, but is leaving it in place pending a ruling by an appeals court later this year.
 
Judge Orlando Garcia issued a preliminary injunction on the ban Wednesday, then suspended his ruling. Two gay couples had challenged the state's constitutional amendment and a longstanding law banning gay marriage.
 
Under federal court rules, a judge may suspend a law if he or she believes the plaintiffs have a strong case and will suffer if the law is enforced.
 
Garcia said his injunction against Texas enforcing its ban will take effect once an appeals court has a chance to rule on the issue.
 
The ruling is the latest in a recent series of victories for gay rights activists.
Published in National News
CHICAGO (AP) - Cook County Clerk David Orr says he'll start issuing marriage licenses immediately for same-sex couples.
 
Orr made the announcement Friday, just after a federal judge ruled gay couples in the Chicago area don't have to wait until June to marry. That's when the state law is set to take effect.
 
Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman's order says there is no reason to delay same-sex marriages. Her finding applies only to Cook County.
 
Orr says he'll keep the downtown Chicago Bureau of Vital Records open an extra two hours on Friday evening - until 7 p.m. He says he's doing that to accommodate any couples who want to get marriage licenses after work. Only the downtown Chicago will issue same-sex licenses on Friday. All Cook County offices will offer licenses on Monday.
Published in Local News

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Opponents of same-sex marriage are scrambling to find effective responses, in Congress and state legislatures, to a rash of court rulings that would force some of America's most conservative states to accept gay nuptials.

Some gay-marriage foes are backing a bill introduced in Congress that would leave states in charge of their marriage policies, though it stands little chance of passing. They're also endorsing bills in statehouses — some intended to protect gay-marriage bans, and others to assert a right, based on religious freedom, to have nothing to do with gay marriages.

Federal judges have voided part or all of the same-sex marriage bans in Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Virginia. Each ruling has been stayed pending appeals, and a final nationwide resolution may be a few years away.

Published in National News
Wednesday, 20 November 2013 09:02

Illinois governor to sign gay marriage into law

  CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois is about to join the ranks of states allowing same-sex marriage.

   Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign a bill Wednesday making Illinois the 16th state to legalize gay marriage. The event will be held at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

 

   Illinois allowed civil unions in 2011. But it was a bumpy road to same-sex marriage in President Barack Obama's home state.

   The Illinois Senate approved the measure in February, but the House sponsor said he didn't have the votes. It wasn't called until this month and passed by a close margin.

   Those who opposed the measure included some of Illinois most well-recognized religious leaders.

   Same-sex couples will be allowed to wed starting in June.

Published in Local News

   A Pennsylvania pastor charged under United Methodist law with officiating his son's same-sex marriage is scheduled to go on trial.

   The Rev. Frank Schaefer, 51, could be defrocked if a jury comprised of fellow Methodist clergy convicts him of breaking his pastoral vows by officiating the 2007 ceremony in Massachusetts. Schaefer's supporters argue that church teaching on homosexuality is outmoded.

   "Public opinion has changed very rapidly," said the pastor's son, Tim Schaefer, 29. "I hope this leads to a renewed conversation to revisit these policies to see if they are a little archaic."

   The nation's largest mainline Protestant denomination accepts gay and lesbian members, but rejects the practice of homosexuality as "incompatible with Christian teaching." Clergy who perform same-sex unions risk punishment ranging from a reprimand to suspension to losing their minister's credentials.

   The issue has split the church. Hundreds of Methodist ministers have publicly rejected church doctrine on homosexuality, and some of them face discipline for presiding over same-gender unions.

   Critics say those pastors are sowing division within the church and ignoring the church's democratic decision-making process. Indeed, the denomination's top legislative body, the 1,000-member General Conference, reaffirmed the church's 40-year-old policy on gays at its last worldwide meeting in 2012.

   The Methodists have set aside three days for Schaefer's trial, to be held at a church retreat in Spring City, Pa., beginning on Monday.

   Tim Schaefer, of Hull, Mass., will testify on his father's behalf.

   "(The defense wants) to highlight how hurtful the policy of the church is toward the LGBT community," he said.

   Tim Schaefer struggled as a teenager, aware of Methodist doctrine on homosexuality. He said he prayed every night that "God would make me normal, take this away from me." He contemplated suicide but knew it would devastate his family. Schaefer finally told his parents at age 17, and he said they accepted him completely.

   Years later, Schaefer knew he wanted his dad to perform his wedding ceremony.

   "I remember thinking I have two choices: I can ask my dad and know I am putting him in a position ... where he would risk his career, or I could not ask my dad and really risk hurting his feelings. I think he would have been devastated if I hadn't asked him," he said.

   Frank Schaefer has said he informed his superiors in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference that he planned to officiate his son's wedding, and again after the ceremony, which took place at a restaurant near Boston. He said he faced no discipline until April — about a month before the church's six-year statute of limitations was set to expire — when one of his congregants filed a complaint.

   Schaefer could have avoided a trial if he had agreed to never again perform a same-gender wedding, but he declined because three of his four children are gay.

   A Methodist trial resembles a secular trial in many ways, with counsel representing each side, a judge and jury, opening statements and closing arguments, and testimony and evidence.

   The 13 member jury, called a "trial court," will be selected from a pool of 35. It takes at least nine votes to convict. If Schaefer is convicted, the trial moves to a penalty phase, with the same jury settling on a punishment. At least seven members of the jury must agree on the penalty.

   Schaefer can appeal a conviction, but neither the church nor the person who brought the charge may appeal an acquittal.

Published in National News

With an executive order, Missouri joins rare company in the fight for marriage equality.

Governor Jay Nixon ordered to Department of Revenue to accept tax returns from same-sex couples who were married in another state. This move mirrors one made by the IRS that same-sex marriages in any state will be recognized for tax purposes.

Missouri is the first state that does not recognize the marriages of same-sex couples but gives those couples the ability to file jointly. 

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois House has approved legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry in the state.

The vote 61-54 vote sends the measure back to the Senate for minor changes to a version it approved on Valentine's Day. Gov. Pat Quinn says he'll sign it.

Fourteen states plus Washington D.C., allow same-sex marriage. Most recently, New Jersey, Minnesota and Rhode Island have allowed it.

The historic vote in Illinois came after months of arduous lobbying by gay-rights advocates, but the bill was never called for a House vote earlier this year because the sponsor said there weren't enough votes. Proponents say momentum had been building, especially as the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Opponents say marriage should remain between a man and woman.

Published in Local News
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