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Minn. anti-bullying bill advances

Mark Dayton, Minnesota, Democratic Farmer Labor Party, gay news, Washington Blade, anti-bullying

Gov. Mark Dayton has said he would sign the bullying measure if it were to reach his desk. (Photo public domain)

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Senate on April 3 approved a measure that would strengthen the state’s anti-bullying laws.

Minnesota Public Radio reported the bill passed by a 36-31 vote margin after lawmakers debated it for nearly six hours. The measure’s sponsor, gay state Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis,) said his proposal would require schools to train teachers and other personnel on how to better respond to bullying and mandate the district to investigate and track incidents.

“It provides for that balance of local initiative and control,” said Dibble, according to Minnesota Public Radio. “There’s some training and some resources so people have tools to respond in an appropriate fashion.”

The Minnesota House of Representatives on April 8 debated an anti-bullying bill that state Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis) introduced.

The Associated Press reported that Gov. Mark Dayton has said he would sign the bullying measure if it were to reach his desk.

09
Apr
2014

Obituary: S. Eric Thomas, 56

S. Eric Thomas, obituary, gay news, Washington Blade

Original Nellies investor S. Eric Thomas (Photo courtesy of Tim Schoeffler)

S. Eric Thomas, an investor who helped start Nellies Sports Bar in Washington, died May 15 at Sibley Memorial Hospital after a battle with cancer of the kidneys, according to his friend Tim Schoeffler. He was 56, gay and had been a D.C. resident since 1983.

Thomas, a Minneapolis native, was the son of W. Lee Thomas and Jean McGrath Thomas and was born on Dec. 29, 1956, the second of five children. He graduated from Cook County High School in 1975 and the University of Minnesota in 1980.

Thomas worked as assistant press secretary to Minnesota Congressman Gerry Sikorski before becoming a PR consultant with the Fratelli Group where he became vice president. He continued there as a principal of the firm until his death.

Thomas is survived by his mother, sisters Leah Thomas, Carah Thomas, Emily Thomas and brother Matthew Thomas, and his nieces Molly Thomas, Sophia Anderson, Audrey Yukimura and Elise Yukimura.

A memorial was held at LongView Gallery in Washington on May 18. Doug Schantz, Nellie’s owner, gave the eulogy. About 350 attended. A memorial is planned in Thomas’s Grand Marais, Minn., hometown in June.

Donations may be made in his name to the Casey Trees Foundation (crowdrise/com/ericthomasmemorial) or the Cook County Historical Society (razoo.com/story/eric-thomas-memorial-fund).

22
May
2013

Minnesota Senate approves marriage bill

Mark Dayton, Minnesota, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The Minnesota Senate on Monday approved a bill that would allow same-sex marriage in the state.

The 37-30 vote took place four days after the measure passed in the state House of Representatives.

“I am proud to be a Minnesotan today,” gay state Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis) said before lawmakers approved House File 1054. “Today we have the power — the awesome, humbling power — to make dreams come true.”

State Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin) referenced his sister who has been with her partner for 16 years as he spoke in support of the bill.

“We have nothing to fear from love and commitment,” he said.

An emotional state Sen. Roger Reinert (DFL-Duluth) evoked the Declaration of Independence before he announced he would vote for HF 1054. State Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Minneapolis,) who is originally from Colombia, explained her support for the measure to her family members and others in Spanish.

“My work is for justice,” she said.

Lawmakers rejected two proposed amendments to HF 1054 that state Sens. Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) and Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) introduced that would have expanded religious exemptions and kept “mother, father” and “husband, wife” in Minnesota laws.

State Sen. Dan Hall (R-Burnsville) stressed marriage exists to “bring a man and a woman together as husband and wife.”

“Dismantling marriage will bring hurt, shame, confrontation and more indoctrination,” he said.

Assistant Minority Leader Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) stressed HF 1054 did not protect faith associations, corporations and non-profits that receive public funds who oppose same-sex marriage based on their religious beliefs.

“While advancing the rights of some, this bill denies the rights of others in the process,” she said.

Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) said the state would “go down that road of taking mother and father out of our recognition of what our children” if lawmakers approved HF 1054. Assistant Minority Leader Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake) added she feels “our very nature” and not statute defines marriage.

“While Minnesota statutes will change today, the foundational truth of this uniqueness will remain,” she said before the vote.

Neighboring Iowa is among the nine states and D.C. in which same-sex couples can currently marry.

Delaware’s same-sex marriage law will take effect on July 1, while gays and lesbians can begin to tie the knot in Rhode Island on Aug. 1.

Minnesota voters last November rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage in the state as between a man and a woman.

“The Minnesota Senate has just taken a historic step towards affirming what we already know to be true: Marriage is about the love, commitment, and responsibility that two people share,” Minnesotans United, which led the campaign in support of HF 1054, said after the vote. “It is time to stop denying that to some Minnesotans just because of who they are.”

White House spokesperson Shin Inouye last week reaffirmed to the Washington Blade President Obama’s support for marriage rights for gays and lesbians in response to HF 1054’s passage in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

“While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by the states, he believes all couples should be treated fairly and equally, with dignity and respect,” Inouye said. “As he has said, his personal view is that it’s wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so.”

Same-sex marriage opponents quickly criticized HF 1054’s passage.

“The full social and legal effects of marriage redefinition will begin to manifest themselves in the years ahead,” the Minnesota Catholic Conference said in a statement.

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann reaffirmed her opposition to nuptials for gays and lesbians shortly before state senators approved HF 1054. National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown said advocates for nuptials for gays and lesbians who campaigned against the state’s proposed marriage amendment “because Minnesota already had a traditional marriage law on the books” had changed it and “imposed genderless marriage.”

“Legislators who voted to redefine marriage were foolish to do so,” he added. “They cast a terrible vote that damages society, tells children they don’t deserve a mother and a father and brands supporters of traditional marriage as bigots. We predict that this vote will be career ending for many legislators in Minnesota.”

Gov. Mark Dayton is scheduled to sign the bill into law on the steps of the state Capitol in St. Paul tomorrow at 5 p.m. (6 p.m. in D.C.) local time.

Chris Johnson contributed to this story.

13
May
2013

Minnesota governor signs same-sex marriage bill

Mark Dayton, Minnesota, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday signed a bill that made his state the 12th to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

“You changed the course of history for our state and for our nation,” he said as he referenced President John F. Kennedy’s book “Profiles in Courage” in his praise of lawmakers who supported the measure. “It is now my honor to sign into law this next step for Minnesota to fulfill its promise to every Minnesotan.”

State Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Minneapolis) and state Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis,) the two gay legislators who introduced House File 1054 in their respective chambers, joined other same-sex marriage supporters on the steps of the state Capitol in St. Paul as Dayton signed the bill into law.

“Today is a day for rejoicing and celebrating in Minnesota,” Dibble said.

Dayton signed HF 1054 into law a day after the state Senate approved it by a 37-30 vote margin.

Minnesota voters last November rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

“We never guessed two years ago when we had that horrible constitutional amendment proposed that we would be here today,” Clark said. “We are very blessed to be here.”

Minnesota’s same-sex marriage law will take effect on Aug. 1.

14
May
2013

Del. advocates optimistic ahead of marriage debate

Jack Markell, gay news, Washington Blade

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (Photo by Molly Keresztury via Wikimedia)

Marriage equality advocates in Delaware continue to organize in advance of the expected introduction of a bill later this year that would allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot in the First State.

More than 150 people attended an Equality Delaware-sponsored town hall meeting in Wilmington on Jan. 30 at which U.S. Sen. Chris Coons spoke. A second gathering that drew nearly the same amount of people took place at Camp Rehoboth in Rehoboth Beach on Jan. 31.

Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman told the Washington Blade her group continues to work with the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry, the Gill Foundation, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and other national and local organizations on the issue.

The organization is holding weekly volunteer events, trainings and phone banks across the state to garner further support for marriage rights for same-sex couples. Goodman said Equality Delaware also continues to engage people of faith and communities of color on the issue.

“We are doing a very serious and robust faith outreach,” she told the Blade. “We had wonderful faith support for the civil union bill, and we are very confident that we will have an even broader-based faith support for the marriage effort. We also believe that we will have even broader support of people of color and across the board.”

Gov. Jack Markell, who signed Delaware’s civil unions bill into law in 2011, suggested to the Huffington Post last August that state lawmakers could debate a same-sex marriage bill during the 2013 legislative session that ends on June 30. He referenced the looming debate in his second inaugural speech last month.

“We will advance the cause of liberty, equality and dignity in our time,” Markell said. “Our state will be a welcoming place to live, to love and to raise families for all who choose to call Delaware home.”

Goodman did not provide a specific timeline in which she feels lawmakers would consider the issue, but stressed “we expect it to happen later this session.” She further noted House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) and Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere) are among the lawmakers and other state officials who support marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“Obviously given the events of this last election cycle, there is a lot of momentum,” Goodman told the Blade.

Neighboring Maryland is among the nine states and D.C. that allow same-sex marriage.

An Illinois Senate committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to the knot, while the Rhode Island House of Representatives last month overwhelmingly approved a same-sex marriage measure.

Hawaii lawmakers on Jan. 24 introduced two proposals that would extend nuptials to gays and lesbians in the Aloha State. New Jersey legislators in the coming weeks are expected to once again debate the issue after Gov. Chris Christie last February vetoed a same-sex marriage bill they approved.

“Every state that passes a marriage equality bill I think starts to convince other legislators that, wow, it’s OK for us to do it too,” Andy Staton, a gay Rehoboth Beach Realtor who unsuccessfully ran for the state Senate last year, told the Blade. “Legislators are very influenced by their constituency. And if the constituency is telling them not to do it, then they’re not going to do it, which is why it’s important for people to be vocal.”

President Obama spoke out in support of the same-sex marriage referenda that passed last November in Maryland, Maine and Washington. The White House has also urged Illinois and Rhode Island lawmakers to support measures to allow nuptials for gays and lesbians in their respective states.

Goodman said she expects Obama and Vice President Biden to do the same in Delaware.

“We certainly would welcome his support and have no reason to think that he will not be supportive and publicly so, as will our vice president, Joe Biden, who of course all of Delaware is incredibly proud of,” she said.

06
Feb
2013

Freedom to Marry pledges $2 million for state marriage campaigns

Evan Wolfson

Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Freedom to Marry on Thursday announced it hopes to raise $2 million for various state same-sex marriage campaigns around the country this year.

The group said it will invest an initial $800,000 through the “Win More States Fund” to groups in Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey and Rhode Island fighting to allow gays and lesbians to tie knot.

“Building on our four for four ballot victories in November, Freedom to Marry is calling on supporters to join us in continuing the momentum and winning still more states in 2013,” Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson said in a statement. “With the clock ticking on the Supreme Court’s review of marriage cases, we want to make as much progress as we can – and with battles already under way now in state capitals, we all need to put our money where our momentum is.”

The announcement comes as Delaware same-sex marriage advocates await the anticipated introduction of a bill later this year that would allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot in the First State.

Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman declined to tell the Washington Blade how much money Freedom to Marry gave her organization, but she welcomed the contribution.

“We are thrilled to have Freedom to Marry as one of our national partners and are incredibly grateful for their participation and their expertise,” she said.

Freedom to Marry’s announcement came a day after Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton expressed support for nuptials for gays and lesbians in his annual State of the State address.

An Illinois Senate committee earlier this week approved a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot, while the Rhode Island House of Representatives last month overwhelmingly approved a same-sex marriage measure.

Hawaii lawmakers on Jan. 24 last month introduced two proposals that would extend marriage to gays and lesbians in their state. New Jersey legislators in the coming weeks are expected to once again debate the issue after Gov. Chris Christie last February vetoed a same-sex marriage bill they approved.

Indiana lawmakers on Thursday announced they would delay a vote on a proposed state constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman.

“It’s encouraging to see Indiana’s leaders making this choice, because limiting the freedom to marry is never in the best interest of a state, its residents, or its businesses,” Marc Solomon, national campaign director at Freedom to Marry, said. “This announcement gives the people of Indiana some much-needed time to have important conversations about marriage and freedom. As they do, we are confident that lawmakers of both parties will recognize that permanently eliminating the freedom to marry in the state constitution is wrong for Indiana’s families.”

08
Feb
2013

Illinois gay marriage bill advances

Illinois State Capitol, Springfield, gay news, Washington Blade

Illinois State Capitol (Photo by Meagan Davis via wikimedia commons)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.—The Illinois House Executive Committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the state.

The 6-5 vote came less than two weeks after the state Senate approved the measure.

“The momentum we are seeing on this legislation is truly inspiring,” said gay state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago,) who sponsored the bill in the House. “Illinois is very close to treating all of its families equally under the law. I look forward to bringing this to a full vote in the House.”

Nine states and D.C. currently allow gays and lesbians to legally marry. Lawmakers in Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware and Minnesota are expected to debate the issue in the coming days and weeks.

Gov. Pat Quinn has repeatedly said he would sign the same-sex marriage bill if it were to reach his desk.

27
Feb
2013

Minn. lawmakers introduce marriage bill

Minnesota, gay news, Washington Blade

Minnesota State Capitol (Photo via Wikimedia)

ST. PAUL, Minn.—Minnesota lawmakers on Feb. 27 introduced a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the state.

“In Minnesota, we don’t turn our backs on family – and this legislation will make that statement as true as possible,” Minnesotans United Campaign Manager Richard Carlbom said.

State Sen. Branden Peterson (R-Andover) and other legislators introduced the measure less than four months after Minnesota voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington last November approved same-sex marriage referenda in their respective states.

Nine states and D.C. allow gays and lesbians to legally marry. Lawmakers in Rhode Island, New Jersey and Delaware are expected to debate the issue in the coming weeks and months.

Gov. Mark Dayton, who spoke out against the proposed marriage amendment, is among those who supports same-sex marriage.

06
Mar
2013

Minnesota marriage bill advances

Minnesota, gay news, Washington Blade

Minnesota State Capitol (Photo by History127 via Wikimedia Commons)

ST. PAUL, Minn.—Two Minnesota legislative committees on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the state.

The 5-3 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee and the 10-7 vote in the House Civil Law Committee took place just weeks after state Sen. Braden Peterson (R-Andover) and other legislators introduced the measure. Minnesota voters last November rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

Lawmakers approved the same-sex marriage bill on the same day the Colorado House of Representatives passed a civil unions measure.

Nine states and D.C. allow gays and lesbians to legally marry.

Gov. Mark Dayton, who opposed the proposed marriage amendment, is among those who support the same-sex marriage bill.

13
Mar
2013

Video: Moving Minnesota legislature marriage testimony

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i1wrruTU9c

Former Republican Minnesota lawmaker Lynne Osterman tears up on the stand as she implores legislators to back gay marriage and be on the right side of history.

22
Mar
2013