Too Great A Burden To Bear

In America, political whims are what dictate the cultural current of the nation. After the 1980 Presidential election, America went through a period of conservative revitalisation…which was briefly interrupted in the 90s during the Clinton administration, but reasserted itself in 2000 with the election of George W. Bush. Except the Christian conservative nature of the United States isn’t that new. There has always existed in the US a misconstrued belief that America was founded on conservative, Christian, puritanical ideals. It wasn’t. In reality, America wasn’t ‘founded’ on any principles…it was ‘founded’ as a colony of Britain during the time of Elizabeth I.

The first successful, long standing, colony in America was ‘founded’ in 1607… that’d be 13 years before the Pilgrims ever stepped foot on Plymouth rock. There were colonists already in America before the Pilgrims had a pique and sailed away from Holland fearing that they’d lose their identity… they didn’t flee England because of religious persecution and sail across an ocean to establish a religiously tolerant country…that’s nice and romantic, but it’s just not true. Unfortunately for equal rights in America, the romantic idea that the Pilgrims fled religious persecution and sailed to a new land literally created American social and political culture.

Religion and American culture are, and shown above, indistinguishable. Although the Founding Fathers insisted on protecting religious freedom (the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution prevents Congress from establishing a national religion), politics in America is almost entirely built on religious foundations…or at least for one party. In the United States, there are, in reality, only two political parties.

The US has been a two party system since the 1780s, although they often deny this. Because there are only two parties, there is a sliding scale from moderate to extreme… although, compared to European political parties, extreme liberal and extreme conservative aren’t actually. However, having said that, the political scale in the US sliding right is, ostensibly, a hay day for Christian ideology… but then, so is sliding left. See, in America, politics and culture influence each other…and American culture is almost as heavily influenced by religion as any Middle Eastern country. In America, political justification for hate and discrimination has always been God. When it comes to gay rights, particularly marriage equality, religion is the defining reason for the entire anti-campaign.

The years 2004 and 2005 became defining years in the equal marriage campaign in America… 2004 started off well, but by the end of 2005 it was quite clear that that Christian right was both louder, and better funded, than the equal marriage advocates. In January 2004, the New Jersey legislature passed a bill which created domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. Governor James McGreevy signed the bill into law on 5 January, making NJ the fifth US states to offer marriage status to same-sex couples. On 6 February, however, the tone for the next several years was set when the governor of Ohio signed its own version of DOMA.

San Francisco has always been a bastion of light for the gay community, and on 12 February it proved that once more. On National Freedom To Marry Day (a holiday created by LAMBDA legal in 1999) the city of San Francisco began issuing marriage licences in direct violation of state law. Between 12 and 16 February, the city of San Francisco estimated they’d issued 2,000 marriage licenses. On 13 February, the Campaign for California Families and the Proposition 22 Legal Defence and Education fund filed action in San Francisco Superior Court demanding an immediate stay prohibiting the City from issuing same-sex marriage licences. The Court refused to grant the stay.

On 18 February, the California agency which records marriage informs San Francisco that since the marriage forms had been altered, the same-sex marriages performed would not be registered. On 19 February, San Francisco sued the state of California in an attempt to force the state to accept same-sex marriage licences. In an attempt to distance itself from the issue, California Democratic party leaders extricated themselves from the marriage debate. On 22 February, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer stated he would defend the California law limiting marriage, and petitioned the Supreme Court of California for an immediate ruling on the constitutionality of the California same-sex marriage ban. On 24 February, President George W. Bush (who was campaigning for re-election) announced his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment. On 26 February, taking inspiration from San Francisco, the Mayor of New Paltz, NY, began performing civil marriages for same-sex couples.  On 27 February, the Supreme Court of California refused AG Lockyer’s petition.

On 2 March, the mayor of New Paltz, NY was charged with 19 criminal counts of performing marriages without a licence. On 3 March, Multnomah County, OR began issuing same-sex marriage licenses after four county commissioners decide that the current Oregon law banning same-sex marriages violated the Oregon state constitution. On 5 March, the Wisconsin State Assembly passed a constitutional amendment which banned same-sex marriage and civil unions; and Kansas passed a similar constitutional amendment.

On 11 March, the Supreme Court of California ordered San Francisco to stop performing same-sex marriages. San Francisco complied, and the City Attorney sued the state of California on the grounds that prohibiting same-sex marriage violated the California state constitution. On 12 March, the Attorney General of Oregon concluded that state law prohibited issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but issued no order preventing Multnomah County from continuing to do so. On 15 March, Multnomah County declared their intent to continue to issue same-sex marriage licences.

On 16 March, in Rhea County Tennessee, all eight county commissioners voted in favour of a resolution which requested state law be changed to allow county officials to, ostensibly, ban homosexuality by allowing the county to charge them with crimes against nature. Political uproar ensued, and the resolution was withdrawn two days later. On 20 April, an Oregon Circuit Court Judge ruled that the state must register same-sex marriage licences. He ordered a temporary stop to the licences and gave the Oregon state legislature 90 days to write a law giving equal marriage rights to same-sex couples. If the legislature did not comply, licences for same-sex couples would resume. On 9 July, the Court of Appeals of Oregon lifted the marriage license ban, and Multnomah County resumed issuing same-sex marriage licenses. On 21 May, Defence of Marriage Coalition began circulating a petition to put Measure 36, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman, on the November ballot.

On 17 May, Massachusetts became the first US state to issue marriage licenses, legally, to same-sex couples. On 22 July, the US House of Representatives passed legislation that prevented federal courts from ordering states to recognise same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. On 30 July, Maine began legally recognising same-sex domestic partners. On 12 August the Supreme Court of California declared void the 4000 same-sex marriages performed in San Francisco in February and March, arguing the City officials overstepped their rights in ignoring state law.

On Election Day 2004, George W. Bush was re-elected president, and 11 states passed amendments to state constitutions which banned same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships…including the state of Oregon. Those states would join with 15 other states that had already enacted constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.

On 1 January 2005, California law AB 205 went into effect. AB 205 extended marriage rights to domestic partners, including registered same-sex partners. On 4 February, a State Supreme Court judge in New York ruled that the state ban on same-sex marriages violated the state constitution. On 14 March, a San Francisco Superior County court judge issued a ruling which stated that the California ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. On 5 April, Kansas amended its state constitution to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions. On 20 April, Connecticut legalised same-sex civil unions. On 1 July, the Attorney General of California, requested that the California Supreme Court officially decide whether same-sex marriages are legal in California. On 6 September, the California state legislature passed a which legalised same-sex marriage. On 29 September, the governor of California vetoed the same-sex marriage bill. On 21 October, the Kansas Supreme Court struck down, in State v. Limon, a Romeo and Juliet law which punished underage sex (statutory rape) more severely if it involved homosexual sex.

Although the United States saw some equalisation, or more equalisation, of gay rights between 2004 and 2005, it also saw the political gulf between supporters and opponents widen. As the world moved into the second half of the first decade of the second millennium, that gulf would become more pronounced, and more divisive.

Whilst the United States was muddling through cultural upheaval over same-sex marriage, the rest of the world moved forward. On 1 January 2004, a Tasmanian law which recognised same-sex civil unions came into effect. On 15 March, the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act allowed transexual and interest persons to legally change their gender in South Africa. On 19 March, Quebec legalised same-sex marriage after the Quebec Court of Appeals upholds Hendricks and Leboeuf v. Quebec. On 31 March, the British government announced the details of the Civil Partnerships Bill, which gave legal recognition to same-sex couples. On 3 June, the first civil union is recognised in Brazil. On 30 June the minister of justice of Spain announced several bills to be introduced to the Spanish parliament, including one which would have legalised same-sex marriage, and one that would have allowed transgendered persons to legally change their gender and name without sexual reassignment surgery. On 1 July, the Gender Reorganisation Act of 2004 received Royal Assent in the UK…the act allowed transexual people to legally change their name and gender. On 14 July, the Yukon became the world’s first territory to legalise same-sex marriage. 

There were still some areas of the world where homosexuality was still prosecutable. On 9 August, Nepalese authorities raided various clubs and bars, which resulted in the arrest of 39 members of the Blue Diamond Society, a gay rights organisation, and charged them with spreading perversion.

On 16 August, the Canadian justice minister announced that the federal government would no longer resist orders requiring provincial governments to issue same-sex marriage licenses. On 17 August, UNAIDS and Human Rights Watch requested the release of the 39 members of the Blue Diamond Society.On 16 September, Manitoba legalised same-sex marriages. On 1 October, Spain approved a bill legalising same-sex marriages… it passed parliament on 30 June 2005 and Spain began issuing marriage licenses on 3 July 2005. On 29 October, Germany expanded it’s adoption laws to allow registered, same-sex, domestic partners to adopt.

On 5 November, a judge in Saskatchewan ruled that same-sex couples have the legal right to marry. On 18 November, the Civil Partnership Act received Royal Consent in the United Kingdom. On 9 December, the Parliament of New Zealand passed the Civil Union bill, establishing civil unions in the country which included same-sex couples. On 21 November, Newfoundland and Labrador legalised same-sex marriages.

On 1 February 2005, Canada introduced the Civil Marriage Act, which legalised same-sex marriage in all of Canada. On 5 May,  voters in Switzerland approved a measure which extended marriage rights for registered civil-unions of same-sex couples. On 5 July, Uganda amended its constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. on 20 July, a bill which legalised same-sex marriage in all of Canada received Royal Assent. On 26 August, the high court of Fiji declared, in Thomas McCosker v The State that sodomy laws violated the constitutional guarantee prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In December, Latvia amended its constitution to ban same-sex marriage. On 1 December, in Minister of Home Affairs v. Fourie, the Constitutional Court of South Africa declared that it is unconstitutional for the government to allow opposite-sex couples to marry but prevent same-sex couples marrying. The Court gives Parliament one year to rectify the discrimination. On 5 December, same-sex civil partnerships began in the United Kingdom.

Part XXVIII- Homosexuality, Politics, and the late Noughties 

[Disclaimer: I admit, this post is by FAR the most opinionated of all of them. But hey, I’ve made it through 26 with nary a side commentary, so I think I deserve a little slack. Or, feel free to disparage me in the comments, I’m down with that too.]


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