Tag Archives: love

Ohio man who challenged anti-gay marriage ban dies

John Arthur, who with his longtime partner helped lead a legal challenge to Ohio’s ban on gay marriage, died today (Oct. 22) at the age of 48.

Arthur suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Earlier this year, he and his partner of more than two decades, 47-year-old James Obergefell, went to Maryland to marry because Ohio bars same-sex couples from marrying. When they returned to their home state, the two men filed a federal complaint seeking recognition of their marriage in Ohio so that they could be buried together in the Arthur family plot. The Associated Press reported that the plot only allows decedents and spouses.

Arthur’s attorney, Al Gerhardstein, said on Oct. 22 that the love the Arthur and Obergefell shared “is a model for all of us.” Together they fought for equality and the rights for all same-sex couples in Arthur’s last days.

“Part of John’s legacy will be the difference he has already made in the struggle for marriage equality,” Gerhardstein said, according to the AP.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Timothy Black ruled in favor of the couple and a second couple that joined in the lawsuit. He wrote that they deserved to be treated with respect and that Ohio law historically has recognized out-of-state marriages as valid as long as they were legal where they took place.

“How then can Ohio, especially given the historical status of Ohio law, single out same-sex marriages as ones it will not recognize?” Black wrote in August. “The short answer is that Ohio cannot.”

The lawsuit has been expanded to have the out-of-state marriages of all gay couples in similar situations recognized on Ohio death certificates, despite the statewide ban. Black is expected to rule on that in December.

Critics of the lawsuit said it’s a backdoor approach to legalizing gay marriage in Ohio and that the cemetery where Obergefell and Arthur want to be buried likely would accommodate their request without litigation.

But the president of the cemetery where they want to be buried said he has to follow Ohio law.

March on Springfield for Marriage Equality set for today

Illinoisans are headed to Springfield today (Oct. 22) to march on the Capitol and rally for marriage equality.

Citizens are driving, taking Amtrak trains and boarding chartered buses this morning for the mid-day event that marks the start of the fall veto session.

In Chicago, buses were set to depart from North Side and South Side locations at 7:30 a.m.

Speakers scheduled for a noon gathering in the Capitol rotunda include Gov. Pat Quinn, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, Senate President John Cullerton, Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov and the sponsors of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.

The equality bill passed in the state Senate on Valentine’s Day. The measure, apparently lacking the votes needed in the House, was not taken up on the last day of the regular session in May.

The measure’s sponsors agreed to a delay until this fall, with the expectation the bill would be called.

Polls show a clear majority of Illinois voters support the legislation.

Newspapers throughout the state have endorsed equality and called for passage of SB210.

And the number of businesses, nonprofits and other organizations backing the measure continues to increase.

Lawmakers face a number of decisions in the annual two-week veto session, including the equality bill, supplemental spending, tax incentives for Archer Daniels Midland, state retiree health insurance costs and, perhaps, the most contentious, pension reform.

Out state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, has said he hopes colleagues are ready to vote on the marriage bill he’s sponsored.

The legislation that the Senate approved would take effect immediately. According to the Springfield Journal-Register, that means the measure needs 71 votes in the House during the veto session to pass. If the bill is amended to delay the effective date, the required vote drops to 60 but the Senate would need to vote again.

Equality opponents are scheduled to rally on Oct. 23 at the Capitol.

Poll finds majority support for marriage equality in Illinois

A new poll, released as Illinois lawmakers return to Springfield for a fall session that begins Oct. 22, shows majority of likely Illinois voters support legalizing same-sex marriage.

Lawmakers could, in the session, take up the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which has the support of the governor and passed the state Senate on Valentine’s Day. The measure did not pass in the House before the close of the regular session in May.

The new poll, released by Equality Illinois, shows that 52 percent of Illinois voters said they support legalizing marriage for same-sex couples. The number climbed two points to 54 percent when voters were informed of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning the federal ban on recognizing same-sex marriages.

Equality Illinois contracted with Fako & Associates of Lisle, Ill., a national public opinion research firm, to conduct the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.94.

Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov said, “With Illinois same-sex couples suffering because they cannot access federal benefits available to married couples, the time is now in the fall legislative session for the House to complete its unfinished business on the marriage bill.”

He added, “With these poll results, there is certainly no political reason why representatives shouldn’t pass it in overwhelming numbers. There are simply no excuses left. We expect every House member who has expressed support publicly or privately for marriage equality or who has been leaning in favor of it to vote ‘aye.'”

The poll found:

• 52 percent supported legalizing marriage for gay and lesbian couples; 40 percent opposed.

• Support grew to 54 percent, with opposition dropped to 39 percent, when voters “contemplated” that Illinois gay and lesbian couples do not have access to more than 1,100 federal rights and protections stemming from marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a section of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

• Support stayed solid at 53 percent, with 41 percent opposed, when pollsters read a statement about who supported the bill, including Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, and who opposed it, including Catholic Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield.

• Catholics supported marriage fairness 61 percent to 32 percent; Catholic support increased to 63 percent, 31 percent opposed, when read the balanced statement that included the bishops’ opposition.

• Hispanic voters supported the freedom to marry 63 percent to 29 percent opposed, a level of support that increased to 70 percent when the Supreme Court decision was explained.

• African American voters favored the law by a 55 percent to 36 percent majority.

• Women supported the proposed marriage law 57 percent to 34 percent opposed.

• And the level of support among all the groups grew the younger the voter being interviewed: 63 percent of voters under 50 backed the law, and that grew to 78 percent support from voters under age 35.

Minnesota House votes for marriage equality

The Minnesota House voted 75-59 on May 9 for legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage while protecting religious freedoms.

Lawmakers, as they said repeatedly in floor speeches, voted for love, equality, freedom when they hit the green lights.

The Democratic-led state Senate is expected to vote on the bill on May 13. Gov. Mark Dayton has promised to sign the measure so gay couples could marry beginning Aug. 1.

The bill arrived to the House floor with Speaker Paul Thissen, of Minneapolis, saying he had the 68 votes needed for the measure to pass.

Still, debate included tense discussion on a proposed amendment from state Rep. Tim Kelly to establish civil unions for all in Minnesota.

Openly lesbian state Rep. Karen Clark, sponsor of the marriage equality bill, objected to the amendment, stating she wants to expand access to “marriage” not abolish “marriage” in Minnesota.

She added, “Every state that has tried civil unions has found that they don’t work.”

About an hour into the debate, Kelly’s amendment failed 111-22, which led to the clerk’s third reading of the bill and then more debate.

Another amendment to add “civil” before “marriage” in the bill, offered by state Rep. David FitzSimmons, R-Albertville, proved more popular.

“Rep. FitzSimmons’ amendment affirms the fact that Minnesotans want same-sex couples to have the freedom to marry in our state while also ensuring that clergy members and religious institutions are free to practice their beliefs free from government intrusion,” said Minnesotans United campaign manager Richard Carlbom.

Opponents of marriage equality, on the third reading, argued the bill doesn’t protect business people who, because of their religious beliefs, don’t want to sell or cater to gay or lesbian couples.

Responding, supporters of the bill said it already is against Minnesota law for a business to discriminate against people based on gender or sexual orientation.

Opponents also argued, citing debunked studies, that the bill threatens the health and welfare of children, who, they claimed, are best served by a mother and father.

But many lawmakers spoke in favor of the bill, sometimes with deeply personal stories, often with passionate calls to colleagues to do what’s right.

State Rep. Joe Radinovich, in his floor speech, said he was so excited about the upcoming vote “my heart is beating out my chest.”

The bill was passed shortly after 3 p.m. CST.

The chamber was crowded with equality advocates wearing blue and orange and carrying signs that read, “I’m Catholic and I support the freedom to marry,” “I’m a teacher and I support the freedom to marry,” “I’m a pastor and I support the freedom to marry,” “I’m a frat boy and I support the freedom to marry” and more.

Last November, voters in Minnesota defeated a proposal to amend the state constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman and ban same-sex marriage.

The vote in the Minnesota House followed the legalization of same-sex marriage in Delaware this week and the legalization of gay marriage in Rhode Island a week earlier.

The only state in the Midwest where same-sex couples can marry is Iowa, as a result of a 2009 judicial order.

A marriage equality bill also is pending in Illinois. The Senate has approved the measure and the governor has promised to sign it if the bill clears the House.

Gay weddings began at midnight in Maine

Arriving in a limo, Donna Galluzzo and Lisa Gorney had all the trappings of a traditional wedding: Rings, flowers, wedding vows, an entourage and a friend to officiate. With tears in their eyes, they were among the first gay couples to exchange wedding vows early Dec. 29 after Maine’s same-sex marriage law went into effect at midnight.

“We’re paving the way for people to go after us. I think it’s just amazing. It’s freeing. It’s what’s right,” an emotionally drained Gorney said after their ceremony in front of City Hall.

After waiting years and seeing marriage rights nearly awarded and then retracted, gay couples in Maine’s largest city didn’t have to wait a moment longer than necessary to wed, with licenses issued at the stroke of midnight as the law went into effect.

Steven Bridges and Michael Snell were the first in line, and they received cheers from more than 200 people waiting outside after they wed in the clerk’s office.

“It’s historic. We’ve waited our entire lives for this,” said Bridges, a retail manager, who’s been in a relationship with the Snell, a massage therapist, for nine years. Bridges, 42, and Snell, 53, wore lavender and purple carnations on black T-shirts with the words “Love is love.”

Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington state approved gay marriage in November, making them the first states to do so by popular vote. Gay marriage already was legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia, but those laws were either enacted by lawmakers or through court rulings.

In Maine, Gov. Paul LePage signed off on the certified election results on Nov. 29, so the new law was to go into effect 30 days from that date. The law already is in effect in Washington state; Maryland’s takes effect on Jan. 1, the first day of 2013.

Nobody knew exactly how many couples would be rushing to get their marriage licenses early Saturday in Maine. Falmouth joined Portland in opening at midnight. Other communities including Bangor, Brunswick and Augusta planned to hold special Saturday hours.

In Portland, the mood was festive with the crowd cheering and horns sounding at midnight as Bridges and Snell began filling out paperwork in the clerk’s office in Portland City Hall. There were free carnation boutonnieres and cupcakes, and a jazz trio played.

Outside, the raucous group that gathered in front of the building cheered Bridges and Snell as if they were rock stars and broke into the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love.”

Fourteen couples received marriage licenses, and five of them married on the spot, a city spokeswoman said. Many of those who received their marriage license were middle-aged, and some said they never envisioned a day when gay couples could wed just like straight couples.

“I came out years ago and the only thing we wanted was to not get beaten up,” said Steven Jones, 50, who married his partner, Jamous Lizotte, on his 35th birthday.

Not everyone was getting married right away.

Suzanne Blackburn and Joanie Kunian, of Portland, were among those in line to get their license at midnight, but they planned to have their marriage ceremony later. One of their grandchildren wanted them to get married on Valentine’s Day.

“I don’t think that we dared to dream too big until we had the governor’s signature,” Blackburn said. “That’s why it’s so important, because it feels real.”

Bridges and Snell already considered themselves married because they’d held a commitment ceremony attended by friends and family six years ago. Nonetheless, they thought it was important to make it official under state law, as Snell’s two daughters watched.

Katie and Carolyn Snell, the daughters, said the ceremony made formal what they knew all along to be true about the couple.

“It’s just a piece of paper,” said Katie Snell. “Their love has been there, their commitment has been there, all along. It’s the last step to make it a true official marriage because everything else has been there from the start.”

For more coverage and a video, go to the Portland Press Herald: http://www.pressherald.com/politics/Maine-same-sex-couples-begin-license-process-at-1201-am.html

Top five lesbian love scenes

Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis play bitter ballet rivals in Darren Aronofsky’s trippy “Black Swan.” But the heightened emotion they feel for each other ends up bubbling over into a passionate sex scene that’s had people talking for months before the film’s release.

Well, now “Black Swan” is finally here, so it’s a great opportunity – and not gratuitous at all, really – to take a look at the five most famous lesbian scenes on film. A side note: “Showgirls” might have been a serious contender, but it appeared last week among the five most irresistible guilty-pleasure movies. It is tempting to find a reason to talk about “Showgirls” every week, though…

“Mulholland Dr.” (2001): The first intimate encounter between Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring is soft and sweet … but because this is a David Lynch movie, naturally the relationship between these two women becomes darker and more complicated. Watts, as aspiring starlet Betty Elms (at this point in the film, at least), gets tangled up with Harring’s gorgeous amnesiac Rita. As the two embark on an adventure, playing girl-detective to solve the mystery of Rita’s past, their fear and loneliness lead to a kiss, which leads to one of the loveliest lesbian scenes ever filmed. In a movie full of twists, this is a rare moment of pure, instinctive emotion.

“Wild Things” (1998): It starts out as a face-slapping, hair-pulling cat fight in a swimming pool and ends up in a make-out session, complete with bikinis and T-shirts being tossed aside with sultry music in the background. Denise Richards plays the naughty rich girl and Neve Campbell plays the naughty poor girl; despite coming from opposite sides of the tracks, they manage to get together to concoct some rape accusations against their high school guidance counselor (Matt Dillon). The fact that this takes place in South Florida makes the whole movie feel even more steamy and tawdry. “Wild Things” easily could have made last week’s guilty-pleasure list, too. It’s so multipurpose.

“Bound” (1996): Before The Wachowski Brothers entered the Matrix, the writing-directing duo made their debut with this funny, tense and sexy neo-noir. Jennifer Tilly plays Violet, the seemingly ditzy girlfriend of a mobster; Gina Gershon plays Corky, the maintenance woman in their apartment building who just got out of prison. Violet’s attraction to Corky is instantaneous, and eventually the two cook up a scheme to steal $2 million in stashed cash from Violet’s boyfriend. A ridiculous amount of contrived meetings and flirting leads to an intense – but artfully photographed – love scene between the two women.

“D.E.B.S.” (2004): As if it weren’t enough to have a bunch of beautiful, teenage spies dressed in naughty schoolgirl outfits, their leader (Sara Foster) ends up secretly falling for the deadly criminal (Jordana Brewster) who is their primary target. Writer-director Angela Robinson’s film isn’t exactly great cinema but it also doesn’t take itself too seriously, and features plenty of fun, cheeky moments. (Its tagline: “They’re crime-fighting hotties with killer bodies.”) That’s indeed true of Foster and Brewster, who share a few kisses and teasing moments before their eventual playful and passionate hook-up.

“Cruel Intentions” (1999): The most chaste of the five on this list, but it did earn Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair the highly coveted “Best Kiss” prize at the MTV Movie Awards. In this prep-school version of “Dangerous Liaisons,” Gellar functions in the Glenn Close role as a conniving and manipulative rich girl who dominates Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Blair is in the Uma Thurman role as a malleable innocent. Since Blair’s character has never kissed a boy before, Gellar’s teaches her what to do during a picnic in Central Park: “I’m gonna stick my tongue in your mouth, and when I do that I want you to massage my tongue with yours.” It all sounds pretty straightforward._

Think of any other examples? Share them with AP Movie Critic Christy Lemire through Twitter: http://twitter.com/christylemire.


Making Valentine’s Day our own

From the jewelry counter to the Hallmark shop, same-sex couples are surrounded by idealized images of heterosexual love. But people like them are almost invisible — or, when they’re not invisible, often controversial.

Despite this unwelcoming environment, the love that once dared not speak its name is thriving. Just ask the same-sex Wisconsin couples WiG spoke with about Valentine’s Day:

Maria & Jennifer Cadenas

As executive director of Cream City Foundation, Maria Cadenas promotes the visibility of same-sex couples by coordinating the “Gay Neighbor” campaign, which features pictures of same-sex couples and their families on billboards and public transit. Cadenas’ life reflects that of the couples on the billboards — she has a spouse and a child.

This Valentine’s Day, Maria and Jennifer Cadenas, who had a civil union ceremony in 2003, will have 13-month-old Alejandra in tow if they go out to celebrate their relationship. But, “We might just buy a cake and stay home,” Maria says, noting the perils of dining out with an infant.

Although Alejandra is a new addition to their relationship, the Cadenases will continue practicing a personal tradition they’ve observed since their first Valentine’s Day together: They will create handmade cards for each other.

“Mine tend to be very short,” Maria says. “She puts glitter on hers and uses colorful markers.”

In addition to Jennifer, Cadenas remembers her friends on Valentine’s Day. “In Mexico, Valentine’s Day is also Friendship Day — “El Dia de Amor y Amistad” — and it’s a chance to call your friends and say how much they mean to you as well,” Cadenas says.

John Becker & Michael Knaapen

John Becker and Michael Knaapen got married four years ago in Toronto during spring break from UW-Steven’s Point. Their first Valentine’s Day together was a modest event.

“We were living in the dorms and we didn’t have much of our own space,” Becker says. “Michael made a card and bought some candy and trinkets and decorated my room while I was gone. It was a sweet gesture. It was unexpected.”

This year, Valentine’s Day will be less modest, but still frugal. They’re living in Milwaukee now, where Knaapen is taking pre-med courses and Becker, who’s a musician and singer, is looking for work.

“We’re going to combine celebrating Valentine’s Day with our anniversary (March 22),” Becker says. “We’ll probably have a nice dinner, and we like to surprise each other with something like a note on the bed or a box of chocolates or flowers.”

Becker says he refuses to let the heterosexism in society put a damper on his relationship.

“As a musician, I perform at weddings, and it’s slightly bittersweet, because you’re reminded every time that we’re denied that kind of public affirmation of love in our own state,” he says.

Genia Stevens & Andrea Kleinheksel

“I finally like Valentine’s Day,” says Genia Stevens. “To me, it used to be just a stupid holiday, because I never had a person I was in love with before.”

After meeting Andrea Kleinheksel a little over a year ago, Steven’s attitude changed.

“I remember telling (Genia) that after this Valentine’s Day, you’re going to love Valentine’s Day,” Kleinheksel says.

She was right.

For their first Valentine’s Day, Stevens warned Kleinheksel that she didn’t like spending money on flowers, because they die. So Kleinheksel made paper flowers and wrote a poem that she framed and left on Stevens’ dresser.

But Stevens has come to embrace romantic gestures like flowers and candy. In fact, she sent both to Kleinheksel at the school where she teaches. Her colleagues gave her a good-natured ribbing, Kleinheksel says.

“I hadn’t gotten flowers in 10 years,” she says.

Stevens and Kleinheksel live in Beloit, where they became well-known locally as a couple after the Beloit Daily News profiled them on the front page for a story on the state’s domestic partner registry. But for Stevens, who hosts the podcast SistersTalk Radio, being out is a way of life.

This holiday, they are going to Atlanta, where they plan to enjoy an elegant dinner and an evening on the town.

“That is our gift to each other,” Stevens says. “We love to travel.”

Mark Pocan & Phil Frank

This Valentine’s Day, Mark Pocan and his spouse Phil Frank plan to be on a plane traveling home to Madison from South Africa. They originally wanted to marry there in 2006, but instead tied the knot in Toronto before a honeymoon in Bali and Indonesia.

It’s perhaps ironic that Pocan, who’s an openly gay state representative from Madison, had to travel out of state to get married.

As co-chair of the Assembly’s Joint Committee on Finance, Pocan wields a lot of power in Madison. But when it comes to romance, he’s an ordinary citizen.

“One Valentine’s Day we rented a room at a little hotel here and decorated it,” Pocan says. “Another year, I took lessons from a masseuse, so I could do a real nice massage.”

But, “birthdays are the days that we tend to go more overboard on,” he adds.