Tag Archives: New Jersey

Ten States* Where I Can Get Married?!?

25 Jan

There is a whole lot going on around marriage equality in this country right now and it seemed like as good a time as any to review what’s going on! As of right now, as I’m planning my wedding, there are 7 places I can get married. Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont (gotta love New England), Iowa, New York and Washington D.C.. While 7 weddings would be fun, wouldn’t 10 be funner?

Washington State: Our friends in the northwest are poised to become the 7th state to legalize marriage equality! The measure was proposed by Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire and immediately, we began counting the votes. In the past few weeks, it was seeming more and more likely as we counted. Then after several undecideds had taken a stand on the right side of history, we stood just one vote shy before stating conclusively that we could win this. Then Democratic Senator Mary Margaret Haugen, after having taken time to listen to her constituents and consider her own beliefs and values, she announced that she would be supporting the bill.

“For me personally, I have always believed in traditional marriage between a man and a woman,” Ms. Haugen said in a statement. “That is what I believe, to this day. But this issue isn’t about just what I believe. It’s about respecting others, including people who may believe differently than I. It’s about whether everyone has the same opportunities for love and companionship and family and security that I have enjoyed.”

A vote there has not yet been scheduled, but when it passes, opponents are expected to challenge it with a voter referendum in the fall.

Maryland: The Free State has grappled with marriage on several occasions before. In 2004, a lawsuit was filed by the ACLU and Equality Maryland on behalf of 10 gay and lesbian couples. The suit claimed that the anti-gay marriage law on the books was unconstitutional because it discriminated based on sex. The judge found in favor of the plaintiffs, but her decision was immediately taken to appeals, where it was overturned.

Anti-gay legislators spent the next few years going crazy, trying to pass additional amendments to the constitution to make sure the discrimination was enshrined in their laws. They even went so far as to have the judge who first found in favor of the plaintiffs impeached for her decision.

Then last year, a new marriage equality bill was widely expected to pass. With Catholic Governor Martin O’Malley announcing he would sign it into law, things looked good. The Senate (which was seen as the biggest hurdle) passed the measure and then it was sent to the House. That’s when the religious groups and the out-of-state National Organization “for” Marriage jumped in and began lobbying legislators to vote against it. The bill was sent back to committee as it was clear it would not pass if brought for a vote.

This month, a new bill which contains the most explicit religious protections of any in the nation, was introduced by the Governor. Keep your fingers crossed!

New Jersey: Having moved from New Jersey to DC just this past year, I have particular interest in this race. You see – when anti-gay Republican Governor Chris Christie was elected, it was made clear that NJ would not be seeing marriage equality anytime soon. Christie made an election promise that he would veto any marriage equality bill that landed on his desk.

In recent weeks though, as discussions of a marriage equality bill made their way around, Christie seemed to hedge. There were some thoughts that he might let the bill pass without actually signing it. There’s a rule that says if it sits on his desk for 30 days without him signing it, then it becomes a law. But just in time for the debate to start, Christie announced he would stick with his homophobic decision to veto the bill should it be given to him.

But then this happened. State Senator Steve Sweeney was asked by a reporter why they were still going through with a debate and vote if the Governor had already promised a veto? What followed was one of the most poignant and clear arguments I’ve ever heard from a legislator:

Reporter:Senator Sweeney, would you comment on this veto promise of the Governor as to what the point is of even going through this exercise?Senator Sweeney: The point of going through a fight for civil rights? Are you kidding me? For standing up for people to give them the same rights? I’m offended by that.

The Governor’s a governor. He’s got his opinion. But there are many Republicans — because I’ve spoken to them — that want to vote for this bill. Now, if the Governor wants to stifle and silence his colleagues that’s one thing, but he’s not going to stifle or silence us. Someone has to stand up for equality and fairness.

You know, I apologized in the past, but I’m telling you right now, I’m fighting to get this done. And if we have to go for an override we’ll work every angle we possibly have to. But right now it’s about getting it onto his desk.

And it’s offensive for anyone to think, why bother if the Governor doesn’t want to do it. Well guess what? He’s wrong on this one.

You know his announcement today was to try to put a damper on what we’re trying to do. It’s not happening. We’re not walking away, we’re not backing down, we’re not giving up. This is about civil rights, period.”

* – About the asterisk – While Washington D.C. is not technically a state, it is still a US locale where I can get married. Some of you may not realize that D.C. has no representation in the Congress or Senate, which means we are fighting the same thing the U.S. fought in the American Revolution. We still pay local and federal taxes but have no representation. For more information on this, visit DC Vote.

NJ Bridal Shop Denies Lesbian Bride Over ‘Illegal’ Wedding

18 Aug

Alix Genter is getting married next July. She lives in New Jersey and is going to get a civil union there, followed by a wedding in New York City (where marriage equality is now a reality).

Alix spoke to the Philadelphia Daily News all about her impending nuptials as she completed her PhD in history.

Last Saturday, Alix’s whole family joined her as she tried on her wedding dress at a store called “Here Comes the Bride” in Somers’ Point, NJ. Her mom and dad, her aunt, her cousin and two friends were there to cheer her on during this incredible time in her life by watching her don the dress and veil she thought she may never get to wear.

She tried on several gowns and finally found the one she loved – which if you’ve ever watched “Say Yes to the Dress” you’d know how trying a chore this can be. She asked Donna, the store manager if the designer might make the gown with a more lightweight fabric for her wedding next summer, and Donna agreed to look into it. It seemed to be a very happy smiling endeavor for all involved.

So naturally, Alix was floored to receive a call from Donna a few days later saying she would not be getting that dress. On the customer information sheet, Alix had crossed out the word “groom,” written in “partner” and put down her fiancee’s name. That didn’t sit well with Donna, who called Alix and told her she would not work with her because she is gay. She told her “There’s right. There’s wrong. And this is wrong.”

Donna went on in the voicemail to say that what Alix was doing was “illegal” and that the store would “not participate in any illegal actions.” The author of the article, Ronnie Polaneczky, called Donna back and they had quite the conversation.

“When I called Donna yesterday to get her side of the story, she both confirmed your version of events and accused you of “stirring up drama.” She said that your writing the word “partner” was basically a provocation, evidence of a need “to show that she’s different.”

“They get that way,” she told me.

By “they,” she meant women who were fed up with men because “men can be difficult,” and so now they “experiment” with female relationships because they’re tired of having men boss them around.

“She told me about a friend whose wife left him for another woman. And about a young family member who was molested by a same-sex adult male. And about a gay man who once plunged a knife into a chair in the restaurant where she worked. And – she finally lost me here – something about the Navy SEALs.”

According to New Jersey’s State Judiciary website, it is illegal to refuse service to someone based on their sexual orientation in that state. We’d like to refer Alix (and anyone else who has experienced discrimination there) to visit http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/factsheets/fact_sexordis.pdf. Please read the passage below on places of public accomodation:

“Examples of places of public accommodation in which sexual orientation discrimination is not allowed include places generally open to the public where goods and services are provided. This includes restaurants, movie theaters, stores, camps, organizations, schools, professional offices (such as doctors and lawyers), and other facilities.”

Please check out the shop’s Yelp review page and feel free to let them know how you feel about discrimination. And make sure you read the original poignant article here.

 

Deportation Proceedings Dismissed in Same-Sex Marriage Immigration Case

30 Jun

Josh Vandiver (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

With marriage equality now a reality in New York, our next step is securing more state victories while at the same time – overturning the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). As we discussed here recently, there have been several challenges to the constitutionality of DOMA, including now 14 federal court cases finding the law to be unconstitutional.

Another battle which is loosening the Jenga pieces under this bigoted piece of legislation is the fight for immigration rights by bi-national couples. One such case that we’ve covered is that of Henry Valendia and Josh Vandiver, a legally married couple residing in New Jersey. Under DOMA, Valendia, a Venezuelan national, was denied legal residency.

Last month, AG Holder vacated a decision made by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). He followed up with four questions to the board:

In the exercise of my review authority under that regulation, and upon consideration of the record in this case, I direct that the order of the Board be vacated and that this matter be remanded to the Board to make such findings as may be necessary to determine whether and how the constitutionality of DOMA is presented in this case, including, but not limited to: 1) whether respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union qualifies him to be considered a “spouse” under New Jersey law; 2) whether, absent the requirements of DOMA, respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union would qualify him to be considered a “spouse” under the Immigration and Nationality Act; 3) what, if any, impact the timing of respondent’s civil union should have on his request for that discretionary relief; and 4) whether, if he had a “qualifying relative,” the respondent would be able to satisfy the exceptional and unusual hardship requirement for cancellation of removal.

While there is no news as to any answers received by AG Holder, some incredible news came to the Valencia-Vandiver family yesterday in the form of a dismissal by Jane H. Minichiello, the chief counsel at the Newark office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and arm of the Homeland Security Department. The judge granted the motion to close the case on June 13th and the couple’s lawyer, Lavi Soloway received official copy of the order yesterday. While the decision was confirmed, no further information on future similar immigration cases was given.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Valendia said: “I can start breathing now after so many months of fighting. I was holding my breath for fear of any moment being sent away.” he continued by saying the decision was a “big step forward” but did not address the continued problem of whether federal recognition of marriage equality would become a reality. “The fight isn’t over.” Valendia said.

Congratulations to the Valendia-Vandiver family and thank you for the work you’ve done in advancing equality.

Evan Wolfson, Founder and President of Freedom to Marry also commented on the government’s decision to dismiss these proceedings:

“Freedom to Marry applauds the U.S. government for bringing anend to this deportation process, which threatened to cruelly separate a couple who, like so many others, fell in love, made a lifetime commitment to one another, and got married – but because they are gay, were denied the normal family immigration protections afforded other married couples.  While this exercise of sound government discretion is most welcome, Josh and Henry, along with so many other families, should not be vulnerable to the unfair treatment or uncertainty caused by federal marriage discrimination against same-sex couples.  It is time for Congress to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and end the hardship and unfairness that burden the lives of loving and committed couples.”

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