Tag Archives: heterosexual

What is sexual intercourse? That’s for the Florida Supreme Court to decide

What does “sexual intercourse” mean in Florida?

The state’s Supreme Court justices are pondering the question in a case involving a 1986 law requiring HIV-positive people to reveal their infection before having “sexual intercourse.”

A defense lawyer told the court last week that Florida’s laws have always used the term to describe heterosexual sex and not any other sexual activity by either gender.

The case involves a man charged with a felony after failing to tell his male sex partner that he carries the human immunodeficiency virus. His public defender, Brian Ellison, is simply trying to get the charge dropped, but told The Associated Press outside court that the same defense could apply to HIV-positive heterosexuals who engage in anything other than traditional sex.

“In the history of Florida law the specific term, sexual intercourse has always been interpreted to mean reproductive sexual conduct,” Ellison said. “It’s not the way that I’d want to define it, maybe — maybe not the way you’d want to define it —  but that’s the way it’s always been in Florida law.”

Ellison didn’t try to persuade the justices that his client, Gary Debaun, did nothing wrong; instead, he argued that Debaun didn’t violate the law as written.

The record shows that Debaun’s partner asked him to take an HIV test, and that Debaun, who knew that he was living with HIV, gave the man fake test results showing he was free of the virus. A lower court threw out the charge, but it was reinstated on appeal.

A number of states legally require people with HIV to disclose the infection to sex partners, but Ellison told the justices that other states’ laws use term “sexual activity” or specifically spell out sexual acts, rather than use Florida’s narrow language.

“But would you agree that when that statute was enacted, it was the intent to make sure that anybody that was going to have any kind of sexual activity that could transmit AIDS advise their partner?” asked Justice Barbara Pariente.

That’s exactly the point Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Geldens made in arguing that the charge should stand. He noted that the Legislature passed other laws at the time aimed at curbing the spread of HIV, including education programs on how to prevent its spread through sexual activity.

“It’s clear that the statute was intended to address the harms that are at issue in this case,” Geldens said. “That’s exactly what the Legislature intended to prevent, and they used the language of sexual intercourse because they wanted to do that.”

But if Florida lawmakers wanted to spell out exactly what it means by sexual intercourse, it’s had nearly a century to do so, said Ellison. The term has been used in state laws since 1919, when Florida first required disclosures to prevent the spread of syphilis, gonorrhea and other venereal diseases, he said.

“It’s always been defined as between a man and a woman,” he told the justices. “In all of that time, the Legislature has never expressed any intent to give it a more expansive meaning than it has always had, both in this court and elsewhere in this entire criminal code.”

Pariente agreed that lawmakers have had ample opportunity to clarify the law.

“This could be solved easily by the Legislature,” she said.

Florida high court to define ‘sexual intercourse’ in HIV case

The Florida Supreme Court is considering the definition of sexual intercourse in a case involving a gay man charged with not letting a partner know he was HIV-positive.

Arguments were held on Feb. 4 in the case involving Gary Debaun, who is trying to have a charge dismissed under a 1986 law designed to prevent the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus.

Lawyers for Debaun argue that the law says it’s illegal not to disclose an HIV infection before “sexual intercourse,” but that the definition in Florida applies only to traditional sex between a man and a woman — not two men.

A lower-court judge dismissed the charge against Debaun, but an appeals court reinstated it, saying the law was clearly intended to include other sexual activity with a risk of transmitting the virus.

Science of love: Getting to the heart of the heart

Birds do it. 

Bees do it.

But why do we fall in love? How do we stay in love? What do we gain from love?

To explore those questions and more, WiG poured some wine, unwrapped a box of truffles, lit a candle and delved into a year’s worth of science and health journals. 

Sex or no sex?

Jesse Hollister and colleagues at the University of Toronto were captivated by the elegant, showy evening primrose because 30 percent of the species in the genus have evolved to reproduce asexually. This made the primrose the right plant to test a theory that biologists have long promoted: Species that reproduce sexually are healthier over time than species that reproduce asexually, because they don’t accumulate harmful mutations.

The researchers, working with teams in Canada and China, examined 30 pairs of the primrose species — one in the pair reproduced asexually; the other sexually.

“What we found was exactly what we predicted based on theory,” Hollister stated. 

“This is the first genetic support for the theory that a significant cost to being asexual is an accumulation of deleterious mutations,” said University of Toronto professor Mark Johnson. “This study has allowed us to unlock part of the mystery of why sex is so common. It’s good for your health, at least if you are a plant.”

Going pitter-patter?

Falling in love really does make the heart go pitter-patter and takes one’s breath away, say scientists with the Loyola Sexual Wellness Clinic at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago.

Clinic co-director Pat Mumby said falling in love releases a flood of feel-good chemicals — dopamine, adrenaline and norepinephrine.

“This internal elixir of love is responsible for making our cheeks flush, our palms sweat and our hearts race,” said Mumby.

Credit dopamine for that euphoric feeling.

Credit adrenaline and norepinephrine for that pitter-patter of the heart and the pre-occupation with that other person.

Not so total recall

Think you remember the details of a love at first sight?


Maybe not, according to research from Northwestern University that was conducted with the support of the National Institutes of Health and published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

The researchers showed that fragments of the present get inserted into the past to form faulty memories. Memories get adapted and updated, reframed to fit the now, according to lead author Donna Jo Bridge, who led the research at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

For the study, people viewed object locations on a computer screen with varied backgrounds. When asked to place the objects in the original location, the participants always placed them incorrectly. Next participants were shown the objects in three locations on the original screen and asked to choose the correct location. They placed the objects in the misremembered location because they had reformed the memory.

The look of love, or lust

Researchers with the University of Chicago, working with the University of Geneva, analyzed the eye movements of test subjects studying black-and-white photographs of strangers.

They found that people tended to fixate on the face, especially when they said an image elicited a feeling of romantic love.

However, subjects’ eyes moved from the face to the rest of the body when images evoked sexual desire. 

Marital investment

Professors with the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, examined changing expectations of marriage and relationships — from the 18th century to the 21st.

They reported that Americans, on average, are making smaller investments of time and energy in their relationships than in the past and they have very different expectations from the couples of yesterdays. 

“In 1800, the idea of marrying for love was ludicrous,” stated psychology professor Eli Finkel, the lead author of a paper presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Chicago. “That isn’t to say that people didn’t want love from their marriage; it just wasn’t the point of marriage.”

Today, according to Finkel, “Americans look to their marriages to help them ‘find themselves’ and to pursue careers and other activities that facilitate the expression of their core self.”

Table for four?

A study presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual conference in Austin, Texas, this past year suggested that double dating can help spark romance for a couple—provided the double date involves deep, revealing conversation.

Passion can decrease for a couple over time, but research shows that self-disclosure in a couple affects closeness and passion.

So what happens when two couples form a fast friendship and go beyond small talk to discuss deeper, personal topics?

“The more that the other couple responds to your self-disclosures in a validating and caring way when on a double date, the more passionate you feel about your own relationship,” said study author Keith Welker of Michigan’s Wayne State University. “Although we still need to investigate why responsiveness from other couples predicts increases in passionate love, one possibility is that having another couple respond positively to yourself and your partner may provide you with a fresh, positive view of your partner and relationship.”

A caution: Be sure that other couple is going to make you look good before you book a table for four on Valentine’s Day.

Faith-based frisky

A study from the University de Porto in Portugal published in Applied Research in Quality of Life indicates that people of faith and regular churchgoers are positive about their love lives and tend to express greater satisfaction with life and sexual relationships than the average adult.

The research involved nearly 1,300 Portuguese adults between 18 and 90 years old and used the “Satisfaction With Love Life Scale.”

Love, and loving sex

For her study on sexual pleasure, Penn State sociologist Beth Montemurro conducted a series of interviews with heterosexual women between the ages of 20 and 68.

Most women in the study said being in love made sex physically more pleasurable. Women in love said they felt less inhibited and more willing to explore.

Montemurro said the women interviewed “seemed to say you need love in sex and you need sex in marriage.”

Romance and rights

A team at Indiana University looked at attitudes toward couples and found that people generally think of loving relationships in a hierarchy: heterosexual couples being the most “in love,” followed by lesbian couples and then gay couples.

And these attitudes, the IU researchers wrote, led people to form beliefs about who should enjoy what rights and liberties — from holding hands to legally marrying.

The paper was titled “(Double) Standards for Granting Formal and Informal Privileges.” 

Matched up

Nearly all the gay and bisexual men involved in a first-of-its-kind study on love and sex said their most recent sexual event occurred with a relationship partner and that they felt “matched” in feelings of love with that partner.

The study, “Sexual Health in Gay and Bisexual Partners” was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior and conducted by Virginia’s George Mason University’s Department of Global and Community Health and Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health and Promotion.

“These findings highlight the prevalence and value of loving feelings within same-sex relationships,” Joshua G. Rosenberger, lead investigator and George Mason professor, said when releasing the research.

The study was based on an Internet survey of 25,000 men.

“Very few people had sex with someone they loved if that person didn’t love them back,” said research scientist Beth Herbenick. “This ‘matching’ aspect of love has not been well explored in previous research, regardless of sexual orientation.”

Thinking of cheating, and cheating

Cheating — is it worse to think about it than to do it?

Well, researchers of a newly published study report that heterosexual men are more likely than heterosexual women to be most upset by sexual infidelity — 54 percent of heterosexual men, 35 percent of heterosexual women.

However, heterosexual men are less likely than heterosexual women to be upset most by emotional infidelity — 46 percent of heterosexual men, 65 percent of heterosexual women.

Bisexual men and women, gays and lesbians did not differ significantly.

“Heterosexual men really stand out from all the other groups: They were the only ones who were much more likely to be upset by sexual infidelity rather than emotional infidelity,” stated lead author David Frederick, who suggested insecurity about paternity may have something to do with the emotions.

The study was conducted by Chapman University in California and involved a survey of about 64,000 people.

Couple counseling

Psychologists at the German Universities of Jena and Kassel reported last fall that a romantic relationship helps neurotic people find stability.

The researchers interviewed 245 couples several times over nine months. Using a questionnaire, the researchers gauged changing degrees of neuroticism and relationship satisfaction. Participants also were asked about fictitious everyday life situations and their possible significance for their own partnership.

“This part was crucial, because neurotic people process influences from the outside world differently,” study author Christine Finn stated, noting that neurotic people react more strongly to negative stimuli and have a tendency to interpret ambiguous situations negatively.

The researchers found that over time, neurotic tendencies decrease as a romantic relationship builds.

Finn stated, “The positive experiences and emotions gained by having a partner change the personality — not directly but indirectly — as at the same time the thought structures and the perception of presumably negative situations change.” 

Revealing ‘likes’

A report in the journal PNAS indicated that computer models might know a person’s personality as well as his or her significant other. 

Researchers at the University of Cambridge and Stanford University said a computer model using a person’s likes on Facebook can predict a person’s personality more accurately than most friends and family and well enough to rival the judgment of a partner.

In the study, the computer more accurately predicted a person’s personality than a work colleague based on just 10 likes, more than a friend based on 70 likes, better than a parent or sibling with 150 likes and as well as a spouse with 300 likes.

“People may choose to augment their own intuitions and judgments with this kind of data analysis when making important life decisions, such as choosing activities, career paths or even romantic partners,” said lead author Wu Youyou of Cambridge’s Psychometrics Centre. “Such data-driven decisions may well improve people’s lives.”

Before crucial meeting, Catholic cardinals debate marriage

The battle lines are being drawn before a major church meeting on family issues that represents a key test for Pope Francis.

Five high-ranking cardinals have taken one of Francis’ favorite theologians to task over an issue dear to the pope’s heart: Whether Catholics who divorce and remarry without an annulment can receive Communion.

They have written a book, “Remaining in the Truth of Christ,” to rebut German Cardinal Walter Kasper, whom Francis praised in his first Sunday blessing after he was elected pope as “a great theologian” and subsequently entrusted with a keynote speech to set the agenda for the two-year study on marriage, divorce and family life that opens Oct. 5.

Kasper, for a decade the Vatican’s top official dealing with the Orthodox and Jews, delivered his remarks to cardinals earlier this year on the issues to be discussed during the synod. At the pope’s request, he asked whether these divorced and remarried Catholics might be allowed in limited cases to receive the Eucharist after a period of penance.

The outcry that ensued has turned the 81-year-old Kasper into the biggest lightning rod for internal debate that the Catholic Church has seen in years.

Conservatives, including the five cardinal authors, have vehemently opposed Kasper’s suggestion as contrary to Christ’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.

The second most powerful man in the Vatican has backed their view: Cardinal George Pell, one of Francis’ key advisers, wrote in another new book that debating something that is so peripheral to begin with and so clear in church teaching amounts to “a counterproductive and futile search for short-term consolations.”

“Every opponent of Christianity wants the church to capitulate on this issue,” Pell wrote. “We should speak clearly, because the sooner the wounded, the lukewarm and the outsiders realize that substantial doctrinal and pastoral changes are impossible, the more the hostile disappointment (which must follow the reassertion of doctrine) will be anticipated and dissipated.”

Francis, however, seems to think otherwise. He praised Kasper’s speech, calling it “profound theology” that did him much good and represented a true love for the church.

Church insiders say Francis is none too pleased by the war of words that has ensued, such that he instructed one of the book authors – Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, the Vatican’s top doctrinal chief – not to promote it.

The unusually raw and public debate has crystalized the growing discomfort among conservatives to some of Francis’ words and deeds, and sets the stage for a likely heated discussion on family issues.

Church teaching holds that Catholics who don’t have their first marriage annulled – or declared null by a church tribunal – before remarrying can’t participate fully in the church’s sacraments because they are essentially living in sin and committing adultery. Such annulments are often impossible to get or can take years to process, leaving untold numbers of Catholics unable to receive Communion.

Francis has asserted church doctrine on the matter but has called for a more merciful, pastoral approach. He reportedly told an Argentine woman earlier this year that she was free to receive Communion even though her husband’s first marriage was never annulled.

Knowing the issue is divisive, though, he has convened the whole church to discuss it.

The new book asserts there really is no better solution – and no grounds to argue for it since Catholic doctrine is clear. Aside from Mueller, the authors include another high-ranking Vatican official: Cardinal Raymond Burke, the American head of the Vatican’s supreme court.

“These are not a series of rules made up by the church; they constitute divine law, and the church cannot change them,” the book says. Kasper’s assertions, reading of history and suggestions for debate “reinforce misleading understandings of both fidelity and mercy.”

Kasper has agreed there can be no change to church doctrine and no sweeping, across-the-board allowances. But he has said the matter must be looked at on a case-by-case basis, that mercy is God’s greatest attribute and the key to Christian existence, and that God always gives faithful Catholics a new chance if they repent.

It is rare for cardinals to publicly and pointedly accuse one another of being wrong, and rarer still for a cardinal to question the pope, as Burke has done.

Regarding the purported phone call to the Argentine woman, Burke told the EWTN Catholic channel: “I wouldn’t for a moment impute that Pope Francis intended to give a signal about church doctrine by calling someone on the phone. This is just absurd.”

Burke has also questioned Francis’ first encyclical on the excesses of capitalism and obliquely criticized Francis’ decision to not focus on abortion.

Francis last year removed Burke, a key figure in the U.S. culture wars over abortion and gay marriage, as a member of the powerful Congregation for Bishops. A leading Vatican insider has reported that his days at the Vatican high court are numbered.

Rate of steroid use higher among gay, bisexual boys

A new study from The Fenway Institute published online in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, shows that gay and bisexual boys use anabolic-androgenic steroids at rates much higher than their straight counterparts.

Fenway researchers Aaron Blashill and Steven Safren used a nationally-representative dataset of 17,250 U.S. adolescent boys ages 14-18 to assess if there were higher rates of steroid use among gay and bisexual boys compared to heterosexual boys. The investigators found that 21 percent of gay and bisexual boys compared with 4 percent of heterosexual boys used AAS at least once in their lives.

Gay and bisexual boys were also much more likely to be heavy users of AAS — 4 percent compared with 0.7 percent of heterosexual boys.

Anabolic-androgenic steroids — testosterone and synthetic derivatives — are substances typically used to increase strength, performance, and muscularity. Chronic use of AAS is associated with poor health outcomes, including cardiovascular, neurological, endocrine and psychiatric complications.

Previous research suggests that between 1 percent and 5.4 percent of adolescent boys have used AAS. However, no known studies have examined the prevalence of AAS use among gay and bisexual boys.

“This is the first known study that examined the prevalence of AAS use among gay and bisexual boys. We hypothesized that a disparity would exist. However, we were rather shocked at the magnitude, with gay and bisexual boys being over 5 times more likely to use AAS compared to heterosexual boys,” said Dr Blashill.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people experience bullying, verbal and physical harassment at rates much higher than their straight peers and Blashill noted that gay and bisexual boys may be at elevated risk of AAS use due to increased symptoms of depression, victimization, substance use, and poor body image because of this.

The data used for this study was excerpted from a research project being supported by the Center for Population Research in LGBT Health at The Fenway Institute.

Survey finds Brits are having less sex, but enjoying more variety

When it comes to the bedroom, the British may be getting less busy, but more creative. According to results from the latest national sex survey, Britons are having sex less often — but the kinds of sex they’re having are more diverse than in the past.

Scientists also found the sex habits of British women are changing faster than those of men, with a fourfold jump in the proportion of women who had a same-sex experience since the first survey was done in 1990, from 4 percent to 16 percent. In comparison, the numbers of men who reported a same-sex experience have remained virtually unchanged since 1990, at about 7 percent.

On average, the number of sexual partners reported by women has doubled, from four to eight, whereas the number for men rose from nine to 12. The research also found an increasing sexual repertoire among both genders, with higher levels of anal and oral sex reported.

“It reflects a shift away from sex being seen purely in the context of reproduction toward a greater emphasis on pleasure and recreation,” said Kaye Wellings, head of social and environmental health research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, one of the leaders of the research. She said similar results about changes in women’s sex lives have been found in France.

The study found half of Britons reported having sex at least three times in the last month, versus five times when the first survey was done in 1990. Wellings noted that drop occurred at the same time as major changes in the use of technology and the financial crisis, which could interfere with a regular sex life.

“People are taking their iPhones and iPads into bed,” she noted. “They’re also working harder and maybe have less time for sex,” she said.

Researchers also found half of Britons also lose their virginity by the time they were 17, about the same as 20 years ago. The study found people under 25 are at greatest risk of sexually transmitted infections and of being forced or coerced into sex.

The series of six papers were published online Tuesday in the journal, Lancet. Researchers interviewed more than 15,000 people aged 16 to 74 between 2010 and 2012 using in-person interviewers and a computer-assisted part for sensitive questions; no names of participants or other identifying details were shared. The studies were funded mostly by U.K. governmental groups and the Wellcome Trust.

Other scientists said the findings supported previous research that have found sexual orientation for women tends to be more fluid than for men.

“Women are more changeable in relation to social norms than men,” said Cynthia Graham, a sex researcher at the University of Southampton, who was not part of the series. “Orientation isn’t just gay, straight or bisexual,” she said. “The boundaries are getting fuzzier.”

Debra Lynne Herbenick, who led a survey on American sexual habits at Indiana University in 2009, said the findings in the U.K. were comparable to evolving attitudes in the U.S.

“There’s been a relaxation of constraints on sexual expression,” Herbenick said. “People are now more free to explore their sexual interests,” she said.

Still, she said doubted current trends on increasing rates for certain kinds of sex would continue to increase indefinitely.

“Not everybody is going to want to do certain things, like have sex with somebody of the same sex,” Herbenick said. “So there will be limits in terms of people’s attractions.”

On the Web


Health and Human Services extends Medicare benefits to married gay couples

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today (Aug. 29) issued a memo clarifying that all beneficiaries in private Medicare plans have access to equal coverage when it comes to care in a nursing home where their spouse lives.

This is the first guidance issued by HHS in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

“HHS is working swiftly to implement the Supreme Court’s decision and maximize federal recognition of same-sex spouses in HHS programs,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.  “Today’s announcement is the first of many steps that we will be taking over the coming months to clarify the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision and to ensure that gay and lesbian married couples are treated equally under the law.”

At the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, administrator Marilyn Tavenner added, “Today, Medicare is ensuring that all beneficiaries will have equal access to coverage in a nursing home where their spouse lives, regardless of their sexual orientation. Prior to this, a beneficiary in a same-sex marriage enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan did not have equal access to such coverage and, as a result, could have faced time away from his or her spouse or higher costs because of the way that marriage was defined for this purpose.”

Under current law, Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan are entitled to care in, among certain other skilled nursing facilities, the SNF where their spouse resides – assuming that they have met the conditions for SNF coverage and the SNF has agreed to the payment amounts and other terms that apply to a plan network SNF. Seniors with Medicare Advantage previously may have faced the choice of receiving coverage in a nursing home away from their same-sex spouse, or dis-enrolling from the Medicare Advantage plan, which would have meant paying more out-of-pocket for care in the same nursing home as their same-sex spouse.

The announcement today clarifies that this guarantee of coverage applies equally to all married couples.

The guidance specifically clarifies that this guarantee of coverage applies equally to couples who are in a legally recognized same-sex marriage, regardless of where they live.

Divide shifting over religious exemptions on gay marriage

The battle over gay marriage is heating up in the states, energizing religious groups that oppose same-sex relationships – but also dividing them.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court gave married gays and heterosexuals equal status under federal law, but did not declare a nationwide right for gays to marry, setting the stage for state-by-state decisions. So faith leaders are forming new coalitions and preparing for the legislative and courtroom battles ahead.

Yet, traditional religious leaders, their supporters and the First Amendment attorneys advising them are divided over strategy and goals, raising questions about how much they can influence the outcome:

– Several religious liberty experts say conservative faith groups should take a pragmatic approach given the advances in gay rights. Offer to stop fighting same-sex marriage laws in exchange for broad religious exemptions, these attorneys say. “If they need to get those religious accommodations, they’re going to have to move now,” said Robin Fretwell Wilson, a family law specialist at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Critics reject the idea as a premature surrender.

– Religious leaders lobbying for exemptions can’t agree how broad they should be. A major difference is over whether for-profit companies should qualify for a faith-based exception.

– Some religious liberty advocates and faith leaders are telling houses of worship they could be forced to host gay weddings, with their clergy required to officiate. The Louisiana Baptist Convention is advising congregations to rewrite their bylaws to state they only allow heterosexual marriage ceremonies, and the Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty group that opposes same-sex marriage, is advising the same. But legal experts across a spectrum of views on gay rights say it can’t happen given strong First Amendment protections for what happens inside the sanctuary.

“A few people at both ends of the spectrum have talked about religion and religious freedom in a way that is really destructive,” said Brian Walsh, executive director of the Ethics & Public Policy’s American Religious Freedom program which has formed legislative caucuses so far in 18 states. “I think they’ve made it polarized and difficult to understand.”

The issue of accommodating religious opponents has already been a sticking point in legislative battles. In Rhode Island and Delaware, disputes over broader religious exemptions led to the failure of some same-sex union bills. Both states went on to approve civil unions in 2011, then same-sex marriage this year. In New York, gay marriage became law only after Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state’s top two legislators struck an eleventh-hour compromise on religious exemptions.

Still, advocates for stronger religious protections haven’t won anything close to what they’ve sought in the 13 states and the District of Columbia where gay marriage has been recognized.

A few states have approved specific religious exemptions related to housing or pre-marital counseling, or benefits for workers in private, faith-based groups, such as the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, according to analysis by Fretwell Wilson. Most of the states have protected religiously affiliated nonprofits from potential government penalty for refusing to host same-sex marriage ceremonies.

The only other protection written into the laws is a provision First Amendment scholars consider redundant: All spell out that clergy are exempt from performing same-sex ceremonies and can’t be sued for their refusal.

The overall result: a patchwork of regulation, with gaps that are likely to become the target of lawsuits. Massachusetts and Iowa, where same-sex marriage won recognition through the courts, have approved no enhanced religious exemptions related to the rulings.

The statehouse negotiations concern what, if any, exemptions religious believers should have in the public arena. Should a religious social service agency with government funding be required to legally recognize married same-sex couples in all circumstances? Should a congregation that makes money renting property to the public be required to allow gay wedding receptions in the space?

Some advocates go further, arguing religious accommodations should extend in some cases to individuals. In this view, owners of a mom-and-pop bakery that makes wedding cakes should be exempt. So too should the county clerk who issues marriage licenses, as long as someone else in the clerk’s office can step in easily and provide the service.

Many cities and states have anti-discrimination ordinances that include sexual orientation, setting up fines or other penalties for failing to comply. Absent an exemption, objectors may have to shut down their businesses or give up their jobs, religious leaders say. They argue losing your livelihood is too harsh a punishment for views on such a core religious issue as marriage.

But gay rights advocates say this argument puts too heavy a burden on gays and lesbians, and presents them with an unfair set of choices.

“In some states, the price of equality in marriage has been agreeing to give up protections against discrimination as part of the negotiations,” said Jenny Pizer, senior counsel for the gay rights group Lambda Legal. “In ways, I think, other politically vulnerable groups are not required to pay that price.”

Advocates for the exemptions don’t agree on where they should go from here.

Nathan Diament, policy director for the Orthodox Union, which represents Orthodox Jewish congregations and has been a prominent voice on religious liberty issues, said his group hasn’t taken a position on the religious rights of businesses or employers, but has advocated for broader religious exemptions for employees, such as a clerk who issues marriage licenses. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which in the last two years has made religious freedom a signature policy issue, believes any organization with faith objections, whether a for-profit corporation or a nonprofit agency, should be exempt.

Fretwell Wilson is among legal experts urging faith groups to be practical, in light of growing public support for gay relationships, and focus solely on securing exemptions, instead of trying to block a specific gay marriage law. She is part of an informal group of lawyers who have been drafting model language for exemptions to share with state lawmakers. These legal experts differ on whether same-sex marriage should be recognized, but agree on the potential risks to religious liberty.

“The religious community would have done much better to ask for protection for their religious liberty instead of trying to stop same-sex marriage and try to prevent it for everybody,” said church-state expert Douglas Laycock of the University of Virginia, who is recommending the more pragmatic course. “The more same-sex marriage seems inevitable, the less likely we are to see religious liberty protection in blue states.”

But Matthew Franck, of the Witherspoon Institute, a conservative think tank in Princeton, N.J., argued the only real protection for religious freedom is maintaining the traditional definition of marriage. He said same-sex marriage advocates are unlikely to tolerate for long any “deviations from the `new normal’ they wish to create,” so he predicted religious exemptions granted now will eventually be repealed.

“We have not lost the fight for the truth about marriage, and surrendering the field is premature,” Franck said. “I continue to hope that it will never finally be necessary, and I work to make that hope a reality.”

Whatever strategy the faith groups choose, there’s no sign gay rights advocates are prepared to make major concessions.

Jonathan Rauch, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is one of the very few gay-rights supporters publicly urging fellow advocates to be more magnanimous. He argues that offering religious accommodations makes sense politically.

“I think there’s a real risk that we will overreach and set up the other side to portray itself as the victim if we decide we have to stamp out every instance of religious based anti-gay discrimination,” Rauch said. “I also think that there’s a moral reason. What the gay rights movement is fighting for is not just equality for gays but freedom of conscience to live openly according to their identity. I don’t think we should be in the business of being as intolerant of others as they were to us.”

Others reject such accommodations.

Rose Saxe, an ACLU senior staff attorney, said the call for a middle ground, “while trying to sound reasonable, is really asking for a license to discriminate.” And the Rev. Darlene Nipper of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said religious groups have another choice: They can accept same-sex marriage.

Gay couple complains that discrimination’s no fun and Ohio fun park cancels wedding contest

An Ohio amusement park is canceling a wedding contest after a gay couple organized a protest against it.

The Cedar Point amusement park initially limited the contest to heterosexual couples because it said Ohio law doesn’t allow gay couples to legally marry. A spokesman says the park decided to cancel the event once it started to take on political undertones.

The amusement park sits along Lake Erie in Sandusky and bills itself as the best in the world.

It had planned to select 13 couples to get married there on Friday the 13th in September.

A gay couple from Akron told the Sandusky Register they wanted to enter until seeing the rules. They asked people online to contact the park in hopes of getting the rule changed.

Cedar Point is owned by Cedar Fair Entertainment Co.

Can Philadelphia be the most LGBT-friendly city in the world? The mayor hopes so

Mayor Michael Nutter says he hopes Philadelphia can be “the most LGBT-friendly” city in the world.

Earlier this month, Nutter signed legislation that makes Philadelphia the first city in the United States to offer tax credits to companies that extend the same health care coverage to LGBT employees’ domestic partners and their children as they provide to heterosexual spouses and their children.

The legislation also makes Philadelphia the first city in the United States to offer businesses tax credits as a way to encourage providing transgender-specific health benefits.

“My goal is for Philadelphia to be one of, if not the most, LGBT-friendly cities in the world and a leader on equality issues,” said Nutter.

He added that the signing struck a personal note because his friend, the late City Councilman John Anderson, was a gay man and a mentor who inspired him 30 years ago to pursue a life of public service.

In addition to the business tax incentives, which were backed by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce as well as LGBT civil rights groups, the legislation:

• Requires gender-neutral bathrooms in newly constructed city-owned buildings.

• Revises Philadelphia’s anti-discrimination law to include transgender people.

• Extends decision-making rights to life partners on medical and other issues.

• Changes city forms and websites to offer options for same-sex couples and transgender people.

“Equal protection under the law means equal protection under the law,” said Councilman James Kenney, sponsor of the legislation. “It doesn’t mean sanctioned by religion or custom or anything else.”

Kenney called the bill, which the city council passed easily last month, “the next iteration of civil rights and freedom in the United States.”

“This is a city that is truly respecting all its citizens,” said state Rep. Brian Sims, a Philadelphia Democrat and the first openly gay candidate to be elected to the Legislature. “It is because of that respect that we are indeed a first-class city and we will continue to shine.”

Neither gay marriage nor civil unions are legal in Pennsylvania, and the state has a law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.