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48 posts categorized "Gay Marriage"

May 15, 2012

Pop-Up Pride and Memories of 135 Pearl

135-pearlLast week, when President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, Vermonters didn't flock to gay bars to celebrate — there aren't any here. The state's best-known LGBTQ bar, 135 Pearl, closed six years ago next month. So far, no one has been able, or willing, to replace it.

Not permanently, anyway — several temporary queer social spaces have popped up recently around the state. Seven Days food writer Corin Hirsch took a break from the farm and restaurant beat to check them out. Here's a link to her story, "Pop-Up Pride," which appears in this week's paper.

Coincidentally, a new audio documentary about 135 Pearl, "Pearl's", debuted online today. Sarah Ward, the 22-year-old Burlington College documentary studies student who produced the piece, never actually visited the bar; it closed a few months before she arrived from Massachusetts to start her studies.

Ward was looking for a local place to profile for an academic project and came across this Seven Days story I wrote about Pearl's closing. It intrigued her. "I really like stories about places," she says, "and how people interact, how people get tied to spaces."

She put out a call for stories about the bar through the RU12? Community Center. "I got 30 to 35 emails right away," she says. "That was the first indication that Pearl's was really important to a lot of people."

Continue reading "Pop-Up Pride and Memories of 135 Pearl" »

November 29, 2011

Who's Sitting Next to Vermont Supreme Court Justice Beth Robinson in Tuesday's Burlington Free Press? Her Wife!

DSC00924A photo on the front page of Tuesday's Burlington Free Press captured a lighthearted moment from yesterday's swearing-in ceremony of Vermont Supreme Court Justice Beth Robinson. The 46-year-old lawyer and gay rights advocate is responsible for the fact that same-sex couples can marry in Vermont.

To Robinson's left is Gov. Peter Shumlin, the guy who appointed her to the bench and for whom she has served as legal counsel for the past year.

To Robinson's right? The picture shows a smiling woman — with a camera — sharing a laugh with Robinson. But the caption doesn't identify her. Not a whisper. And she is, of course, Robinson's wife: Dr. Kym Boyman.

Normally such an omission would be no big deal. Standard, even. But the irony of this one can't be ignored.

Robinson has spent most of her professional life trying to get Vermont to recognize gay and lesbian relationships. She made a convincing case for civil unions before the Vermont Supreme Court in 1999. Then she masterminded the lobbying effort that led the legislature to pass same-sex marriage into law in 2009.

That Robinson's own partner remains nameless in a photo that otherwise perfectly documents her personal odyssey proves there's still work to be done.

If that was Mr. Robinson sitting next to Vermont's newest supreme court justice, do you think a copy editor would have tracked down the photographer to confirm his identity? No doubt.  

Justice for all? Not yet.

November 03, 2011

Once a Supporter, Sen. Leahy Leads Charge to Repeal Defense of Marriage Act

DOMAHrg1The Senate Judiciary Committee today began debate on legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and replace it with something called the Respect for Marriage Act, setting the stage for a first vote on the measure next Thursday

Leading the repeal effort is U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who voted in favor of DOMA when it first passed in 1996.

At the hearing, Leahy said the Respect for Marriage Act, introduced by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and cosponsored by 30 senators, would restore the power of the states to define marriage "without the federal government imposing its restrictive definition of marriage on the states.

"No one can dispute that the issue of marriage has traditionally been left to the states,” said Leahy, according to a statement released by his office. "Repealing DOMA would return this power to the states where it belongs. I look forward to the repeal of DOMA. This Committee taking favorable action on this bill takes us closer to that day.”

Continue reading "Once a Supporter, Sen. Leahy Leads Charge to Repeal Defense of Marriage Act" »

August 09, 2011

Poll: Vermonters Say Yes to Vermont Yankee, Single-Payer Health Care

Vy Oh, Vermonters are a fickle bunch. A new poll finds that most Vermonters want Vermont Yankee to remain open and support Gov. Peter Shumlin's call to create a single-payer health care system.

Those are the latest, and final, results from a poll conducted late last month by Public Policy Polling out of North Carolina. The firm began to release its poll results last week. The final results were released this morning.

Among the last were miscellaneous questions PPP asked more than 1200 Vermonters related to Vermont Yankee, single-payer health care and same-sex marriage. They also asked what Vermonters thought of Sen. Patrick Leahy, Rep. Peter Welch and possible candidates running for Vermont Treasurer. The poll's margin of error was 2.8 percent.

According to PPP, Vermonters are closely divided on VY and health care: 40 percent support the new health care law while 35 percent are opposed and 25 percent remain unsure. The polling firm called it a "single payer health care" law, but the law doesn't establish a single-payer system. Rather it merely moves the state in that direction. The state would need to receive multiple waivers from the federal government, and come up with a way to finance it, before enacting the system.

Continue reading "Poll: Vermonters Say Yes to Vermont Yankee, Single-Payer Health Care" »

July 08, 2011

7 Questions For... Wayne Besen, Gay Rights Activist and "Ex-Gay" Mythbuster

Picture 4 In December of last year, Truth Wins Out — an advocacy organization dedicated to fighting anti-gay religious extremism, debunking the myth of "ex-gay" therapy and exposing its oft-hypocritical supporters — moved to Burlington from New York City. The nonprofit's founder, gay rights activist Wayne Besen, was taken by our quaint college town on the lake during a vacation and promptly ditched the city for our more peaceful environs.

New York's loss is our gain. Besen, 41, has been featured on numerous TV news shows including "NBC Nightly News," "The O'Reilly Factor," "The Rachel Maddow Show" and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," and is known as one of the leading voices in the crusade against "pray away the gay" therapy. In honor of gay pride seasonSeven Days asked Besen to give us his take on current issues affecting the LGBT community, including the passage of New York's marriage equality law and raving anti-gay nutball cum presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.

SEVEN DAYS: There have been some pretty big victories for the gay community in the past year — the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell; the Obama Administration's decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act; the New York marriage equality bill; and that crazy gay Tony Awards opening number, to name a few. How can gay rights advocates maintain this momentum?

WAYNE BESEN: It is an odd experience to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in America today because there is an incoherent patchwork of laws that govern your life. Your legal status and that of your family is capricious, arbitrary, and subject to the whims of the majority. It is a perverse and precarious situation when your status as a family or even as an equal citizen can evaporate whenever you cross state lines or leave a friendly locale.

Continue reading "7 Questions For... Wayne Besen, Gay Rights Activist and "Ex-Gay" Mythbuster" »

December 10, 2010

National Gay Rights Group Moves to Burlington

Wayne_besen1_thumb A national gay rights group that has made a name for itself countering the so-called "ex-gay" industry — which claims to help people "pray away the gay" — is moving to Burlington.

Truth Wins Out founder and executive director Wayne Besen said he chose Burlington as a way to cut operating costs, but also believes the region's well-educated workforce will help it find new volunteers to continue its work. Besen first began thinking about the move in 2009 after he spoke at the University of Vermont.

In 2009, Vermont became the first state in the nation to enact same-sex marriage by legislative fiat rather than a court ruling. To do so, the legislature had to override a gubernatorial veto.

"Burlington is a charming college town situated on a magnificent lake with smart people who can help us monitor anti-gay religious extremism," said Besen. "By moving to Burlington, we will significantly cut costs in tough economic times. While Burlington is not a large city, it is in a great location because it is only a short flight from Boston, New York City, Chicago, or Washington."

Continue reading "National Gay Rights Group Moves to Burlington" »

August 20, 2010

Fringe Friday: Dan Feliciano


For week three of "Fringe Friday," we feature independent candidate for governor Dan Feliciano, a corporate "change consultant" and workout buff who wants to run state government like a lean, mean business.

Fringe Friday is Seven Days' weekly web series about the independent and minor party candidates running for governor, U.S. House and U.S. Senate — many of whom are pitching more radical ideas for bettering the lives of average Vermonters.

While "fringe" might seem disparaging, we don't mean it that way. Vermont has a strong tradition of putting independent and third party candidates on the ballot, giving voters the option to choose from a wide menu of ideologies. Still, these candidates rarely garner more than 1 percent of the vote, perhaps due to their less-traditional ideas, or poor organization or even lack of media exposure. As such, they remain on the fringes of the state's political system.

Candidate: Dan Feliciano

Party: Independent

Office Sought: Governor

Age: 47

Hometown: Essex

Education: Virginia Commonwealth University (bachelor of arts in Production Operations Management, 1997) Feliciano dropped out of high school, joined the Navy and later got his GED.

Occupation: Strategy and Change Consultant for IBM Global Business Services

Family: Feliciano grew up in Monroe, N.Y., 40 miles north of the Big Apple, the eldest of three children in what he says was a traditional Puerto Rican family — "Father worked, mother was home, rice and beans twice a day." His wife, Carol, is an MBA and stay-at-home mother. They have three children: Daniel, 12; Jaime, 10; and Julie, 5.

Websites: Dan Feliciano for Governor Facebook page; Dan Feliciano Lean Sigma Six Rock Star; Dan Feliciano Blogspot

Platform: Feliciano subscribes to the Lean (developed by Toyota) and Six Sigma (developed by Motorola) business methods for making companies less wasteful and more efficient — and that's how he wants to run Vermont government. He's spent a career helping make businesses lean, a job that's often resulted in major jobs lost — a process he calls "brutal."

Continue reading "Fringe Friday: Dan Feliciano" »

August 17, 2010

Tuesdays With Sonny

J7 audette On Saturday, Rep. Albert "Sonny" C. Audette, 78, died at Starr Farm Nursing Center after years of declining health. Since I generally don't know my points of order from my points of law, his passing wouldn't have been notable for me, but for the fact that I once spent an hour in his living room.

During the same-sex marriage debate in 2009, I was working as a reporter at the Burlington Free Press. On the day of the historic override of Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of same-sex marriage, Audette was home sick. While Audette's vote wasn't crucial to the override (the governor's veto was shot down 100-49 in the House and 23-5 in the Senate), it was curious that someone who had previously voted against same-sex marriage would not show up to defend his position.

Since casting his initial vote against same-sex marriage a few days prior to the override, Audette, a devout Catholic, had been deluged with calls from activists and supporters of marriage rights from around the country. They chastised him for being homophobic and anti-civil rights. Soon, people in his own district and in his own Democratic party were calling him to ream him out for voting against the party and the wishes of his constituents.

No wonder Audette didn't want to show up for the override. And no wonder he wouldn't take any more phone calls. His dutiful wife, Terri, turned off the ringer and let the machine pick up any messages.

Continue reading "Tuesdays With Sonny" »

July 09, 2010

Federal Ruling Weakens Defense of Marriage Act

Wedding-bands A federal judge in Massachusetts Wednesday handed a major victory to Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) opponents, ruling that parts of the infamous law are unconstitutional.

Enacted in 1996 during the presidency of Democrat Bill Clinton, DOMA amended federal law to define marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman.

The case was brought to federal court by seven married same-sex couples and three widowers from Massachusetts. Under the ruling, the plaintiffs are entitled to the same federal spousal benefits and protections as heterosexual married couples.

Judge Joseph L. Tauro sided with the plaintiffs. He reasoned that DOMA does not truly provide nationwide consistency when it comes to defining marriage because not all states define heterosexual marriage equally. For example, a 13-year-old girl can marry a 14-year-old boy in New Hampshire, he noted. He also added that prior to 1996 no state had granted marriage to same-sex couples, therefore he questioned the rationale behind the law's intent to preserve the "status quo" and address what Congress deemed "social problems."

Continue reading "Federal Ruling Weakens Defense of Marriage Act" »

December 21, 2009

Couple Make History in Essex County

IMGP0136 It's not every day that I receive a press release from the town of Guildhall, the shire town of rural Essex County in the Northeast Kingdom.

With fewer than 300 people, Guildhall is a small town in arguably one of Vermont's more conservative counties.

That's why I was surprised to receive what can only be described as a ebullient email from Town Clerk Laura Wilson announcing Essex County's first same-sex marriage had taken place Saturday at the town's Guild Hall. Vermont's same-sex marriage law went into effect on September 1.

Teri Anderson and Rose Fitzgerald, who both live in Guildhall, were married in the town's Guild Hall. The ceremony was officiated by Barbara Peaslee Smith, Guildhall's Justice of the Peace and witnessed by a group of close friends and neighbors.

The celebration was followed by a solstice party attended by hundreds of loved ones which spilled out onto the historic Guildhall Town Green and included fireworks and a bonfire. Of course, the green isn't so  green in December.

Continue reading "Couple Make History in Essex County" »

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