In Brief: making gay money off of Rick Warren, Maine gets marriage bill

by Bay Windows Staff

Bay Windows

Thursday January 22, 2009

Local activist to turn Rick Warren speech into LGBT fundraiser

For those LGBT people vexed at the thought of having to watch anti-gay Pastor Rick Warren deliver the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration, Boston LGBT activist Chris Mason has a solution. Mason is raising money for Driving Equality, a road trip he plans to take this summer across the 48 continental United States to promote LGBT rights. Last month, when hate monger Fred Phelps and his family traveled from Kansas to Boston to protest a performance of the Laramie Project, Mason staged a "Phelps-a-thon," collecting pledges for donations to Driving Equality for every minute that the Phelps clan held their protest. This time around Mason is holding a Rick-a-thon, asking people to pledge money for every second of Warren's invocation. Mason will be attending the Jan. 20 inauguration with his father.

"I was thinking about it, realizing I'm going to be at the inauguration and listening to Rick Warren's speech and was not looking forward to that," said Mason. "Then I was thinking about the Phelps-a-thon, turning Fred Phelps's hate into something positive for LGBT equality, and I thought, why not do the same thing with Rick Warren?"

The Obama campaign angered many in the LGBT community by selecting Warren as his invocation speaker. Warren campaigned on behalf of Proposition 8, the successful ballot initiative that stripped same-sex couples in California of the right to marry. He has publicly compared same-sex marriage to incest and pedophilia, and his Saddleback Church does not allow gay and lesbian people to become members unless they renounce their homosexuality.

Mason said before and after the festivities he and friends attending the inauguration will hold signs in public places announcing that Warren's invocation will help raise money for LGBT rights. He said he hopes the signs attract media coverage, and following the inauguration he and his friends will write the total dollar amount raised by the Rick-a-thon on their signs.

Thus far Mason said about 100 people from 30 states have pledged money.

"It's going to be thousands of dollars that Rick Warren is raising," said Mason.

Based on the e-mails he's received from contributors Mason believes the Rick-a-thon gives LGBT people a way to remove the taint from an otherwise celebratory event.

"People are saying it makes it possible for them to watch the inauguration without feeling that it's ruined," said Mason.

For more information on the Rick-a-thon visit
-- Ethan Jacobs

Equal marriage bill introduced in Maine

AUGUSTA, Maine -- The gay marriage issue moved onto the legislative agenda Jan. 13 as supporters of the idea said this is the time to recognize marriages between same-sex couples -- even if the debate comes amid major concerns in the State House over budget cutbacks and their impact. State Sen. Dennis Damon (D-Trenton) said he is introducing a bill to rewrite Maine's existing statute that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, instead defining it as a union between two people. In addition, it recognizes gay marriages from other states.

Damon answered critics who questioned the timing of the bill as lawmakers face an $838 million shortfall by saying it's "long overdue."

"Currently there is discrimination. Heterosexual couples who have decided to spend their lives together are treated differently than same-sex couples who have ... that same commitment to each other," Damon said. "I don't see the fairness of that. I don't see the need for that, and this bill will put an end to that."

Maine currently has a domestic partnership registry that's open to same-sex couples. But that's not enough for gay marriage supporters. Damon says it's time to "fully end discrimination in Maine."

Gay marriage is being debated elsewhere in the region.

In New Hampshire, a bill has been submitted to replace the term "civil union" with "marriage" in the state's year-old civil union law. Vermont, the first state to recognize same-sex couples with its civil unions law, is now likely to consider a gay marriage bill.

In Maine, Damon's gay marriage proposal faces a fight.

House Minority Leader John Tardy, (R-Newport), is expected to propose bolstering the state's one man-one woman definition by putting it in the Constitution.

The Maine Family Policy Council also plans to oppose the gay marriage bill "with everything we've got," Executive Director Michael Heath said.
Heath said gay marriage supporters are making a mistake running their bill now, when so much else is at stake because of the recession and state budget problems.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland also will work aggressively against the bill, which goes to the heart of a fundamental issue for many, said Marc Mutty, diocesan public affairs director. Mutty believes the proposal will ultimately be sent to referendum.

Gov. John Baldacci issued a statement in which he acknowledged his past opposition to same-sex marriage, adding the debate "is extremely personal for many people, and it's an issue that I struggle with trying to find the best path forward."

"Right now, I'm focused on creating jobs and doing what I can to help our economy recover from an unprecedented recession. We cannot allow ourselves to be divided or turned against one another during this crisis," the governor said.

The gay marriage bill has won the support of leaders of more than a dozen faiths across the state, who formed the Coalition for the Freedom to Marry in Maine.

EqualityMaine, which advocates on behalf of gay and lesbian Mainers, said it gathered more signatures of gay marriage supporters than it expected when it sent volunteers to polls on Election Day.

Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders have announced their intention to secure same-sex marriage rights in all six New England states by 2012. Massachusetts and Connecticut already recognize same-sex marriages.
-- Associated Press

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