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Houston Voice, No. 1000, December 24, 1999
File 009
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Houston Voice, No. 1000, December 24, 1999 - File 009. 1999-12-24. University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. December 16, 2017. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/montrose/item/6369/show/6348.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(1999-12-24). Houston Voice, No. 1000, December 24, 1999 - File 009. Montrose Voice. University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/montrose/item/6369/show/6348

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Voice, No. 1000, December 24, 1999 - File 009, 1999-12-24, Montrose Voice, University of Houston Libraries, accessed December 16, 2017, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/montrose/item/6369/show/6348.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Voice, No. 1000, December 24, 1999
Contributor
  • Hennie, Matthew A.
Publisher Window Media
Date December 24, 1999
Language English
Subject
  • LGBTQ community
  • LGBTQ people
  • Gay liberation movement
Place
  • Houston, Texas
Genre
  • newspapers
Type
  • Text
Identifier OCLC: 31485329
Rights In Copyright: This item is protected by copyright. Copyright to this resource is held by the creator or current rights holder, and the resource is provided here for educational purposes. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without permission of the copyright owner. Users assume full responsibility for any infringement of copyright or related rights.
Note This item was digitized from materials loaned by the Gulf Coast Archive and Museum (GCAM).
Item Description
Title File 009
Transcript VOICES AND ECHOES DECEMBER 24, 1999 • HOUSTON VOICE EDITORIAL STAFF The Vermont court givetft, and taketh away Associate Publisher Mike Fleming mike@houstonvoice.com Editor Matthew A. Hennie editor@houstonvoice.com Production Bethany Bartran - Graphic Designer Mike Swenson - Graphic Designer Contributors Rich Arenschieldt, Kay Y. Dayus, Trayce Diskin, Earl Dittman, D.L. Groover, Robert 6. Henderson, Gip Plaster, Ella Tyler Photographers Dalton DeHart, Kim Thompson, Terry Sullivan Advertising Sales Richard B. Hayes Ken Burd Office Administrator Marshall Rainwater Classifieds & Directory Carolyn A. Roberts Carolyn White National Advertising Representative Rivendell Marketing Company, Inc. 212-242-6863 Publishers Chris Crain Rick Ellsasser A WindowMedia Publication L_C«M BJ CHARTER MEMBER GREATER HOUSTON GAY & LESBIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE Established 1974 as the Montrose Star. 500 Lovett Blvd., Suite 200 Houston, Texas 77006 (713)529-8490 (800)729-8490 Fax: (713) 529-9531 Contents copyright 1999 Office hours: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays To submit a letter Letters should be fewer than 400 words. We reserve the right to edit for content and length. We will withhold names upon request but you must include your name and phone number for verification. Please send mail to Houston Voice, 500 Lovett Blvd., Suite 200, Houston, Texas 77006; fax (713) 529-9531 or e-mail to editor©houston voice.com Opinions expressed therein do not reflect those of the Houston Voice. The decision this week by the Vermont Supreme Court represents dramatic progress in the battle for recognition of gay marriage, but its impact is still sinking in among combatants on both sides. On the one hand, the court ruled that gay couples are entitled to the exact same legal benefits and protections as married couples. That's remarkable progress, even in a state like Vermont where gay couples already enjoyed the right to adopt children, win visitation rights should they split, and where as individuals they are protected from workplace discrimination and anti-gay hate crimes. Along the way, the Vermont court noted with striking language the fundamental human right at issue in the case. "[The decision] to acknowledge plaintiffs as Vermonters who seek nothing more, nor less, than legal protection and security for their avowed commitment to an intimate and lasting human relationship is simply, when all is said and done, a recognition of our common humanity," the court held. On the other hand, the court didn't order the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even though that is the only remedy sought by the gay couples who brought the lawsuit. Four of the five Vermont justices decided that doing so might have "disruptive and unforeseen consequences" on the institution of marriage. Instead, the state legislature has been given "a reasonable period of time" to either expand marriage to include same-sex couples or enact a "domestic partnership" regime that looks and acts like marriage. Already, the state's political leaders, who are among the most receptive anywhere to gay civil rights, are talking about enacting a separate domestic partnership regime for same-sex couples rather than expanding marriage to include gays. Gay marriage "makes me uncomfortable, the same as anybody else," Gov. Howard Dean said after the ruling. It's striking how a court could appear to so clearly "get it," but at the same time directly encourage a Jim Crow, "separate but equal" legal system for gay couples and straight couples. As the dissent rightly points out, it would seem "unfathomable" to us today that the U.S. Supreme Court would have considered a "separate but equal" set of partnership rights for interracial couples when it struck down anti-miscegenation laws in 1969. On the one hand, the court deftly rejected all the state's purported reasons for withholding legal sanction from same-sex couples, including the principle worry that doing so would undermine "the link between procreation and child-rearing." The court pointed out that many opposite-sex couples don't get married with any idea toward having children, some never do and others can't. At the same time, many same-sex couples are raising children, and their future is harmed, not helped, by withholding legal protection from their parents' relationship. What's more, the court ruled, there's no sign that the lack of a biological connection from one or both parents in a same-sex relationship results in less parental attention—anymore than there's evidence of a similar problem among opposite- sex couples who resort to medical assistance when one partner is infertile. On the other hand, having cast aside these baseless reasons for denying recognition for same- sex couples, the Vermont court refused to concede that the attempt to Limit marriage represented anti-gay discrimination, even acknowledging society's "longstanding hostility" toward homosexuality. That's right, the court made clear that the ban isn't one on gay marriage, but on "same-sex" marriage. Under the current law, the court noted, gays could freely marry an opposite-sex partner. "Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that the exclusion of same-sex couples from the definition of marriage was intended to discriminate against women or lesbians and gay men, as racial segregation was designed to maintain the pernicious doctrine of white supremacy," the court held, incredibly. Not only is this the kind of argument only a lawyer could love, it seems impossible coming from the same court that just pages earlier in the same decision listed as justifications for limiting marriage argued by the state things like "bridging differences" between the sexes and discouraging "marriages of convenience." Is it such a leap to conclude that inherent in the idea that gay marriage cheapens the institution is the "pernicious doctrine of heterosexual supremacy," otherwise known as homophobia or anti-gay bias? "There is no doubt," said the one Vermont justice who disagreed with the majority on this point, "that the requirement that civil marriage be a union of one man and one woman has the effect of discriminating against lesbian and gay couples, like the plaintiffs in this case, who are unable to marry the life partners of their choice." On the one hand, the court listed dozeas of legal benefits and protections to which married couples are entitled but which are denied to same-sex couples, among them "access to a spouse's medical, life, and disability insurance, hospital visitation and other medical decisionmaking privileges, spousal support, intestate succession, homestead protections, and many other statutory protections." That's a significant list, and the most important one there may be spousal support and divorce laws, which not only provide extra "glue" to keep couples from splitting at the first sign of trouble, but which also protect both parties if it comes time to split up belongings. If the court succeeds in forcing the Vermont legislature to enact such protections, it would represent among the most progressive approaches in the world today toward equality and fairness for gay couples. On the other hand, the court does not list what is without doubt the most important legal benefit that the state of Vermont bestows upon couples wishing to marry: a marriage license recognized by the governments of the other 49 states and most foreign countries. If the legislature takes the bait, as expected, and passes a DP regime, then gay Vermont couples lose every one of those newly minted legal rights the minute they cross the state line, something you could do by making a wrong turn in a state as tiny as Vermont. What's more, the state of Vermont has the authority to issue marriage licenses to presumably anyone asking for one, regardless of where they reside, and there's a long history of legal recognition for those licenses in other states. If a gay couple from Texas, for example, should travel to Vermont and obtain a marriage license no different from that bestowed on straight couples, the document has a much greater chance than a "DP certificate" of affording legal rights and benefits back home, or at least in the 20 states that haven't yet enacted laws that refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. And even in states like Georgia that have passed a "Defense of Marriage Act," the Vermont license offers a much more powerful challenge to DOMA under the U.S. Coastitution's "Full Faith and Credit Clause." First in Hawaii and then in Vermont, gay couples are finally winning fairer treatment from the judicial system designed to protect our civil rights. But just as the Hawaii court shrank from its responsibility and withheld judgment for more than two years so the heterosexual majority could decide whether to pass an amendment overruling the court, the Vermont justices have stopped short of doing justice for fear of offending. We applauded Hawaii, and we cheer Vermont. But we wait for some court of last resort that understands its responsibility to recognize these most fundamental of human rights.
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