Tag Archives: same-sex

Bill for opposing gay marriage? Nearly $500,000 for Florida

Florida taxpayers are going to pay nearly $500,000 for the state’s losing battle to keep intact a voter-approved ban on gay marriage.

State officials have now reached settlements with two separate groups of attorneys representing same-sex couples that challenged the state’s ban. Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office reached a final settlement that brought the total to $493,000.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ordered the state in April to pay the fees of attorneys who successfully sued the state.

Hinkle ruled the ban unconstitutional in August 2014, but he postponed implementing the ruling pending appeals that were further along in other federal courts. Same-sex couples started getting married throughout the state in January 2015, six months before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage across the country.

Florida negotiated separate settlements because two federal lawsuits challenging the ban were consolidated into one case. The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida represented eight couples who got married in other states and challenged the ban. Bondi’s office agreed to pay $213,000 for their attorneys.

The Jacksonville attorneys who represented two other same sex couples initially asked for Hinkle to award them as much as $460,000 in the case, but they agreed this week to accept $280,000.

Florida first banned same-sex marriages nearly two decades ago, and voters reinforced that ban when they passed a constitutional amendment in 2008. Bondi maintained that she had a constitutional duty to defend the ban because it had been approved by voters.

In some of the initial court filings, lawyers for Bondi’s office argued that recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states would disrupt Florida’s existing marriage laws and “impose significant public harm.”

Walmart sued for denying benefits to same-sex couples

A Massachusetts woman filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday accusing Wal-Mart of wrongly denying employee benefits for same-sex spouses.

Jacqueline Cote says Wal-Mart repeatedly denied medical insurance for her wife before 2014, when the retail giant started offering benefits for same-sex spouses.

The couple incurred at least $150,000 in medical costs after Cote’s wife, Dee Smithson, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston seeks damages for the couple and for any other Wal-Mart employees who weren’t offered insurance for their same-sex spouses. It asks for money to cover out-of-pocket medical costs and for other punitive damages.

Cote said in a call with reporters that the financial stress worsened Smithson’s suffering through cancer treatments.

“I’m following through with this for my wife and actually for anyone else who has suffered a similar injustice,” Cote said.

Wal-Mart issued a statement Tuesday noting it expanded benefits last year to include same-sex spouses and domestic partners. “We have not yet seen the details of the lawsuit and out of respect for Ms. Cote we are not going to comment other than to say our benefits coverage previous to the 2014 update was consistent with the law,” the Bentonville, Arkansas, company said.

Cote, of New Bedford, previously took her case to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which decided in January that Wal-Mart’s denial amounted to discrimination and ordered the company to provide a “just resolution” for violating Cote’s civil rights.

In an interview, Cote said they “weren’t able to work it out.” The commission gave her permission to sue in May.

The lawsuit, filed with the help of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, claims that hundreds or thousands of the company’s employees had been denied benefits before Wal-Mart offered insurance for same-sex spouses in 2014.

“Wal-Mart’s position that it has no continuing, legal obligation to provide these benefits equally to same-sex spouses creates significant uncertainty and insecurity for Jackie, Dee and other same-sex married couples,” according to the complaint.

The nonprofit GLAD said Cote’s case is the first class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of gay workers since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in June.

Cote and Smithson met in Cape Cod in 1991 and later they both worked at Wal-Mart stores in Maine and Massachusetts. They were married in Massachusetts in 2004, just days after same-sex marriage was legalized there.

Smithson quit her job in 2007 to take care of Cote’s elderly mother. That prompted Cote to try to add Smithson to her health plan the following year.

Cote said she tried to enroll online, but the system wouldn’t let her proceed when she indicated her spouse was a woman. When she sought an official explanation, she was told that same-sex spouses were not covered.

Each year thereafter, she tried and failed to enroll Smithson — including in 2012, when Smithson got her cancer diagnosis.

In 2014, the cancer returned and Smithson went through another round of chemotherapy, Cote said, but it took a heavy toll on her health.

“Right now Dee’s receiving hospice care at home,” Cote said. “We take things one day at a time and try to make the most out of every hour that we get to spend together.”

ONE UNION: Marriage for all in 50 states

“No union is more profound than marriage,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in the Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states.

And no Supreme Court decision in recent history delivered such joy across the America.

“Justice that arrives like a thunderbolt,” proclaimed the president on June 26.

“One union!” cheerleaders for equality shouted on Capitol Hill after learning of the 5-4 opinion handed down by the court.

“Oh, say, can you see,” the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C., sang outside the Supreme Court building.

“Love wins!” boomed celebrants at Pride parades June 28 in San Francisco, New York City, Chicago and other U.S. cities.

“I do!” said newlywed same-sex couples in states where they can still be fired for saying “I’m gay.”

An outpouring of congratulations and affirmation spilled from Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr as smartphones lighted up with texts about the triumphant ruling.

“Was there a major company that didn’t have a rainbow logo ready to go?” Paula Sibley wondered aloud as she celebrated at St. Pete Pride June 27 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Well, yes, she acknowledged, “But who cares about them?”

Many politicians, from the nation’s Capitol to the presidential campaign trail to common council chambers, gushed praise — but not all, obviously.

President Barack Obama, before departing the White House for a funeral in Charleston, South Carolina, stepped into the Rose Garden to celebrate Decision Day. He paid tribute to the LGBT civil rights movement and the courage of each LGBT person and their families. “What an extraordinary achievement. What a vindication of the belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things,” the president said.

Meanwhile, others, most notably the right-wing Republicans seeking to succeed Obama in the Oval Office, attacked the Supreme Court decision as judicial activism, though dozens of other courts — state and federal — have ruled for marriage equality.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, an unofficial candidate for the GOP nomination as of press time, called the decision a “grave mistake” and accused Kennedy, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan of taking “it upon themselves to redefine the institution of marriage” in Obergefell v. Hodges.

But words from Walker and others didn’t damper Decision Day rallies held in many cities, including Milwaukee and Madison, or mute the euphoric Pride celebrations held June 28 to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in 1969.

“They can go back under their rocks,” said Chicago Pride celebrant Ray Naifen. “What happened June 26 means there is no more ‘same-sex marriage,’ there is only marriage.”

Tussles continue over marriage licenses in some places, but the court declared there is no legal or moral justification for standing in the path of marriage equality. In the history books, June 26, 2015, will be the date gay marriage was declared legal across the United States.

“The court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry,” Kennedy wrote.

“No longer may this liberty be denied,” he said in the decision.

Obergefell was a consolidation of disputes over marriage bans in Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky and Michigan but also impacted bans in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, most of Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas.

The lead plaintiff, James Obergefell, dedicated the ruling that “our love is equal” to his late husband, John Arthur. 

Obergefell and Arthur sued the state of Ohio two years ago, seeking recognition of their out-of-state marriage. There was urgency to their plea — John Arthur was ill and he died three months after their wedding.

“The fact that the state I have long called home will finally recognize my marriage to the man I honored and cherished for more than 20 years is a profound vindication — a victory I’m proud to share with countless more couples across the country,” Obergefell said. “Today’s victory proves that anything is possible, and I could not be more hopeful about the capacity of this country to change for the better.”

By July 1, as WiG headed to press, two New Orleans men had married in Louisiana, the last state to move to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.



Mexico Supreme Court rules for same-sex marriage

Mexico’s supreme court has ruled it is unconstitutional for Mexican states to bar same-sex marriages.

But the court’s ruling is considered a “jurisprudential thesis” and does not invalidate any state laws, meaning gay couples denied the right to wed would have to turn to the courts individually.

Given the ruling, judges and courts would have to approve same-sex marriages.

The high court ruled that any state law which considers the ultimate purpose of marriage to be “procreation, and or defines (marriage) as celebrated between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional.”

Gay marriage is legal in some parts of Mexico, including Mexico City and the northern state of Coahuila.

The ruling was delivered June 3, but didn’t become known until this week.

Same-sex Madison couple sues state over missing name on birth certificate

A same-sex couple from Madison has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit because the state has failed to put both their names on their baby’s birth certificate.

Chelsea and Jessamy Torres say the state’s practice of listing opposite-sex parents on birth certificates, but not same-sex parents, is discriminatory.

WISC-TV reports the couple listed both their names on their son Asher’s birth certificate after Chelsea gave birth March 15. But, when the certificate arrived in the mail, the state had omitted Jessamy’s name.

The Torres’ lawsuit cites state law that says a birth mother’s spouse is the presumed parent of a child born during the marriage. And that opposite sex couples who conceive with the help of a fertility clinic, like they did, are routinely given birth certificates.

The couple was married in New York in 2012.

Love, death, family and justice: Marriage equality at the Supreme Court

A middle-of-the night trip to the emergency room, with her 9-month-old son coughing and laboring to breathe, gave Pam Yorksmith her latest reminder of why she took up the fight for same-sex marriage.

Before baby Orion could be treated for croup, the hospital had to call his birth mother — Yorksmith’s wife, Nicole — “to get permission to treat my child,” Yorksmith said.

Although the Yorksmiths started their family together through artificial insemination, hospital records and Orion’s birth certificate don’t list Pam Yorksmith as a parent.

Beyond the right to wed, gay and lesbian Americans in the 13 states that continue to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman confront obstacles across the course of their lives, from adoption to hospital visits to death benefits.

The Yorksmiths live in Kentucky and work in Ohio, both states that ban same-sex marriage. That complicates school enrollment, benefits, travel and tax matters, as well as medical care.

They are among the 19 men and 12 women whose same-sex marriage cases from those two states, plus Michigan and Tennessee, will be argued at the Supreme Court on April 28. 

Some sued for the right to marry, while others are fighting to have states recognize a marriage performed elsewhere. They include young parents and grandparents, as well as a couple of grieving men who already have lost their life partners.

Some have never known a moment’s fear about living life as an openly gay person.

Others, like Luke Barlowe and Jimmy Meade, still don’t hold hands in public, even after more than 40 years together.

“We grew up in an era where you didn’t show your affection for a same-sex person,” Barlowe said. “We’ve never gotten over that.”

Barlowe and Meade met in 1968 at the Gilded Cage, a gay bar in Lexington, Kentucky. Both retired, they married in Iowa in 2009 and live about an hour outside of Louisville.

“We wanted to do this not for us – it does nothing for us – but we wanted to do it for the kids coming up behind us,” Barlowe said.

Once the couple signed up for the lawsuit, they finally felt they could stop living in the shadows.

Meade had a doctor’s appointment recently and Barlowe filled out his paperwork. In the blank asking for their relationship, Barlowe did something he hadn’t done before. He wrote “husband.”

“It was the strangest feeling,” he said. “Even after all these years.”

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse were not planning to challenge Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage when they went to court to win the right to jointly adopt each other’s children. A federal judge transformed their case into one about the right to marry, and the nurses have become celebrities in their Detroit suburb of Hazel Park.

“We’ve been stopped multiple times at our local shopping center with people just telling their story. These are people’s lives that we’ve changed,” DeBoer said.

They live with their four adopted children, ages 2 to 6, and a foster child. Each woman has adopted two kids, but Michigan ties joint adoption to marriage.

“We decided that not doing anything would do more harm to our children than standing up and saying we’re going to fight,” DeBoer said.

DeBoer is a part-time neonatal nurse while Rowse works full time as an emergency room nurse. They hope to adopt a fifth child soon.

“These young children usually have medical needs,” DeBoer said. “We have training. We have room. We have the love.”

Sgt. 1st Class Ijpe deKoe and Thom Kostura were married in New York in 2011, just before deKoe deployed to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army. The Army has since moved them to Tennessee.

They have a game they play on the many road trips they take from their home in Memphis.

Each time they cross into another state they declare, “We’re married!” or “We’re not married!” – depending on whether the state recognizes same-sex marriage.

“I wish we could register for gifts every time we cross a state line,” Kostura said.

Those trips mimic daily life for deKoe, an Army Reserve sergeant on active duty. His marriage is considered valid while at work at a military base in Millington, Tennessee. But back home in Memphis, there is no legal recognition for his nearly 4-year-old marriage to Kostura.

In 2013, Jim Obergefell and John Arthur were watching TV news about the Supreme Court striking down part of the federal anti-gay marriage law. Obergefell leaned over, kissed the man he had loved for more than two decades, and said, “Let’s get married.”

They knew they didn’t have much time. Arthur was in the final stages of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Ohio voters had banned same-sex marriage. So within weeks, a medically equipped plane carried them to Maryland, where Arthur’s aunt waited to officiate. Arthur lay on a gurney as the couple exchanged their vows inside the plane, on the tarmac.

Less than four months later, Arthur died at age 48. Obergefell was listed on the death certificate as his surviving spouse; the couple had won a court order before Arthur’s death to make it so.

That victory was overturned by the federal appeals court in Cincinnati, which upheld the same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee as well.

Obergefell also has run into problems with survivor benefits and he worries about being excluded, after his own death, from a family cemetery plot that Arthur’s grandparents set aside for married spouses and direct descendants.

None of it was a fight Obergefell and Arthur were looking for.

“No one could ever accuse us of being activists,” Obergefell said, smiling. “We just lived our lives. We were just John and Jim.”

Texas AG says court-allowed lesbian marriage is invalid

As a newlywed lesbian couple in Texas celebrate defying a statewide ban on gay marriage, the state’s Republican attorney general is preparing to tell a court today why it should rule their nuptials invalid.

The marriage license given to two Austin women — who succeeded by seizing on a ruling this week in an unrelated estate squabble — thrust Texas back into the national spotlight over gay marriage but didn’t send same-sex couples rushing to courthouses.

The Texas Supreme Court acted quickly after an appeal from Attorney General Ken Paxton to block other potential gay marriages, making the nuptials somewhat bittersweet for Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend.

“We just feel like we were in the right place at the right time, to maybe put a nice crack in that door that’s going to open up for all Texans,” Bryant said. Texas is one of 13 states where gay marriage remains outlawed.

Friends and Democratic lawmakers toasted Bryant and Goodfriend, who have been together 30 years and have two teenage daughters, at a downtown Austin bar earlier this week after county officials obeyed a judicial order to wed the couple.

Goodfriend, 58, has ovarian cancer. A state district judge raised the “severity and uncertainty” of her condition in granting the women permission to marry, sending the couple scrambling through a Travis County clerk building in case state Republican leaders got wind and intervened.

Within hours, the Texas Supreme Court had blocked other gay couples from getting married under similar special exceptions – but didn’t address the women’s marriage, which Paxton said he considered void.

But that remains in dispute, and Paxton’s spokeswoman, Cynthia Meyer, said their office will file additional paperwork with the state Supreme Court on Friday to argue their case.

“Activist judges don’t change Texas law and we will continue to aggressively defend the laws of our state,” Paxton said in a statement.

New Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also reaffirmed his support for Texas’ constitutional ban on same-sex marriage that voters overwhelmingly approved in 2005.

The women were granted a one-time license after an Austin probate judge this week ruled the state’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional in an estate case that was unrelated to the couple. Sensing an opportunity, Goodfriend and Bryant had their lawyer petition the judge Thursday morning.

State District Judge David Wahlberg, an elected Democrat, sided with the couple and directed Travis County officials to stop relying on “the unconstitutional Texas prohibitions against same-sex marriage as a basis for not issuing a marriage license.”

Bryant said that being legally married to Goodfriend would ensure inheritance and allow the couple to make medical decisions for each other should one of them become critically ill.

Courts in Indiana made a similar exception for a lesbian couple in April because one of the women was dying of cancer and wanted her partner’s name on her death certificate. A federal appeals court overturned Indiana’s ban in September.

A federal judge in San Antonio last year overturned Texas’ same-sex marriage ban but put his ruling on hold while the state appeals to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We are all waiting for a final decision on marriage equality,” said Travis County Clerk Dana Debeauvoir, whose office issued the marriage license. “However, this couple may not get the chance to hear the outcome of this issue because of one person’s health.”

Goodfriend, policy director for state Rep. Celia Israel, said during a news conference that her last chemotherapy treatment was 4 1/2 months ago. But, she added: “All of us wonder if the cancer grows back along with the hair growing back.”

Bryant, an Austin lawyer who works on adoptions for same-sex couples, said she and her wife believe their marriage license is valid.

Mark Phariss, who along with his partner are leading the Texas gay marriage lawsuit in federal court, said he was “thrilled” by news of the nuptials even though it’s unlikely to impact their bigger case. He said Bryant and Goodfriend’s circumstance “is evidence of the harm the ban is having on the state.”

Shortly after their marriage, Travis County officials said two other same-sex couples inquired about marriage licenses. By then, Paxton’s office was already preparing its emergency filing with the state Supreme Court.

“The AG can do what he wants. This is a very good day in Texas for progressively minded people, much less lesbian and gay people,” said Steven Tomlinson, who celebrated with Goodfriend and Bryant at their party Tuesday night.

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.

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.

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.”

Conservative group tries to block same-sex marriage in Florida

A conservative group on Dec. 30 sued a county clerk of courts, Orlando’s mayor and a judge in an effort to stop them from helping same-sex couples get married in Florida next week.

The lawsuits filed by the Florida Family Action, Inc. asked a judge to prevent the officials from either officiating or issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting next week when Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage is set to expire.

The officials named in the lawsuits are Osceola County Clerk of Court Armando Ramirez, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Circuit Judge Robert LeBlanc.

The conservative group argued the lifting of the state’s ban on same-sex marriage applies to only Washington County in the Panhandle, where the legal challenge originated.

Ramirez is the only Florida clerk of courts outside of Washington County who has publicly said he will issue licenses to same-sex couples, according to a survey of clerk of courts done by The Associated Press last week.

Dyer and LeBlanc have said they plan to officiate at same-sex weddings on Jan. 6, the day Florida’s ban on gay marriage is scheduled to be lifted.

Ramirez said that he hadn’t been served with the lawsuit, and that 30 couples already have registered online to get their licenses. A Dyer spokeswoman said in a statement that the mayor doesn’t believe a local judge has the authority to stop a notary public, such as the mayor, from conducting a ministerial act such as a wedding ceremony.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that Florida’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. He stayed his ruling, but the stay is scheduled to expire Jan. 5. The association that represents county clerks said the ruling applies only in Washington County, and an overwhelming majority of Florida clerks in the AP survey said they won’t issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples until they have further clarification that it is legal to do so.

Gay rights groups dispute the association’s interpretation and say the ruling applies to all 67 clerks.

Hinkle asked two Florida agencies to state their positions by Monday on whether the lifting of the ban applies to counties outside of Washington County.

In a brief filed late Monday, Attorney General Pam Bondi didn’t offer a clear opinion on who is right. If Hinkle intends for the ruling to apply more widely, he should “provide appropriate clarification,” the brief said.

“This court is best situated to determine the reach of its own order,” stated the filing made by Allen Winsor, the state’s solicitor general, on behalf of Bondi.

The legal filing argued that clerks are independent officials under Florida’s constitution and that Hinkle’s initial ruling took aim at other statewide officials under Gov. Rick Scott who are not connected to clerks.

Some clerks who are undecided about what to do said this week that the attorney general’s brief did little to clarify what action to take.

“I have no idea what their objective was. They have made it about as clear as mud,” said Dwight Brock, clerk for Collier County. “It hasn’t given me a lot of clarity. I still don’t know what I will do.”

Meanwhile, Washington County’s clerk said Tuesday that all couples, gay and straight, seeking marriage licenses would be asked to use a side entrance. The purpose is to process the marriage licenses efficiently in a way doesn’t interfere with other business conducted in the building, said Lora Bell, Washington County’s clerk of court.

Bell’s office, which typically handles 10 to 15 marriage licenses in a month could be handling as many as 25 a day after Monday, although no one knows for sure how many couples than usual will be seeking licenses in Washington County.

“We’re not able to do hundreds. We’re not staffed for that,” Bell said. “We are a small office and our staff is small.”