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by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Sen. Kerry goes to bat for binational Gay couple
U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., has gone to bat for a binational Gay couple, asking the Obama administration to let Genésio Oliveira return from Brazil to live with his husband, Tim Coco, in Massachusetts.

The couple married in 2005 and own a home in a Boston suburb.

Oliveira was sent home in August 2007 after losing an asylum case based on anti-Gay persecution he said he experienced in Brazil. He also lost a case this year in which he sought to return to the U.S. based on his marriage to a U.S. citizen.

Kerry is a co-sponsor of a bill in Congress to extend spousal immigration rights to same-sex couples.

Gay couples can marry in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Vermont Senate passes same-sex marriage bill
Vermont's Senate passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage March 24. The vote was 26-4.

At press time, the measure was under consideration in the House of Representatives, where it also is likely to pass.

Gov. Jim Douglas opposes the bill and has threatened to veto it.

If he doesn't - or a veto is overridden - Vermont would become the fourth state to legalize Gay marriage, after Massachusetts, Connecticut and California.

California voters later amended the state constitution to re-ban same-sex marriage. The constitutionality of the amendment is under review by the state Supreme Court, which must issue a ruling by early June.

N.H. House passes same-sex marriage bill
New Hampshire's House of Representatives passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage March 26 by a vote of 186-179.

The measure now moves to the Senate.

"This is a very proud day for New Hampshire and a very proud day for every American who believes in the promise of equal rights for all," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "We congratulate Reps. Ed Butler, Paul McEachern, Barbara Richardson and Jim Splaine for their leadership in sponsoring this bill."

At present, Massachusetts and Connecticut permit Gay and Lesbian couples to marry and New York recognizes Gay marriages entered into elsewhere. In addition, 18,000 same-sex couples were married in California between June and November 2008, before voters amended the state constitution to stop same-sex marriage. The validity of both the amendment and the 18,000 marriages is under review by the state Supreme Court, with a ruling due by early June.

Eight states and the District of Columbia legally recognize same-sex couples but do not let them marry. California, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and D.C. extend all state-level rights and obligations of marriage to Gay couples who enter into a civil union or domestic partnership. Maine, Washington and Hawaii grant registered Gay couples some benefits of marriage.

Same-sex marriage also is legal in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa and Spain.

EQCA stages statewide meetings with the grassroots
Stung and damaged by criticism that the No on 8 campaign leadership was haughty, insular and unwilling to listen to outsiders, key player Equality California is now co-staging a series of community meetings around California to listen to grassroots activists.

The gatherings are taking place from April 1 to May 7 in Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Fresno, Sacramento, Orange County, San Francisco and Long Beach.

"The meetings will include updates from Prop 8 legal experts and open discussion on the future of the movement," says EQCA's website.

Thirty-five co-sponsoring organizations include Gay community centers, the American Civil Liberties Union, Join the Impact, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Lambda Legal, Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

"Any future [marriage] campaign must do better at engaging our community and our allies at the grassroots level by providing a variety of ways in which people can participate," EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors said in an interview. "EQCA is committed to regularly seeking input from members of the LGBT community, the community we serve, and making decisions based solely on what is best for LGBT Californians."

Kors said EQCA is hiring new regional grassroots field staff in locations where Prop 8 passed, including the Central Valley.

"With the Supreme Court decision on Prop 8 expected in the next one to two months, it is especially important to engage as many people as possible in a discussion about the public response to the decision and the various events planned for the day and week it is issued - media, educational, grassroots, online and coalition-building efforts to continue moving public opinion in support of the freedom to marry; and issues surrounding a future ballot measure to secure marriage equality in the event the court upholds Prop 8," he said.

Last November, 52 percent of California voters amended the state constitution to re-ban same-sex marriage by passing Proposition 8. Many California Gay activists believe the measure would have failed had the No on 8 campaign leadership not been, according to its critics, isolated and inept.

Same-sex marriage had been legal in California since June 2008, following a ruling by the state Supreme Court that prohibiting gay couples from marrying was unconstitutional. The constitutionality of Prop 8 and the status of 18,000 same-sex marriages that occurred in California before Nov. 4 are now under review by the court, with a ruling due by early June.

With assistance from Bill Kelley
picture: SanDiego, Bob Lehman,Tom-Felkner at Marriage Bureau

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