Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Florida Attorney General ducks state's National Guard same-sex marriage issue
TALLAHASSEE -- As National Guard commands across the nation grapple with implementation of the new Pentagon policy change, which extended health and housing allowance benefits to gay spouses who “provide a valid marriage certificate,”
an inquiry from Florida Guard officials to the state's Attorney General was met with a refusal to answer.  
Florida’s National Guard adjutant general, Major General Emmett R. Titshaw Jr., in a September 6 letter sent to Attorney General Pam Bondi, sought clarification whether processing gay and lesbian Guard members’ spouses requests for benefits enrollment on state owned Guard property would conflict with the state’s constitution, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Last Friday according to the Miami Herald, Gerry Hammond, senior assistant attorney general, wrote Titshaw that his request for an opinion “provided insufficient information about the connection between the newly announced policy of the United States Secretary of Defense and your official duties as the head of the Florida Department of Military Affairs.” 
The issue revolves around the September 3 directive regarding the Pentagon's policy change, a result of the June Supreme Court ruling that overturned the Defence of Marriage Act, (DOMA) that extended health and housing allowance benefits to military married same-sex couples who “provide a valid marriage certificate.” 
Hammond added that Titshaw needs to conduct his own analysis first and then spell out for the attorney general’s office “the actions the new federal policy requires of” the Florida National Guard as well as “how any obligations imposed on you by the federal government might conflict with your duties under state law.”
The National Guard headquarters commands in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana have declined to extend benefits to military married same-sex couples telling their Guard units that is the obligation of the Pentagon and federal government since same-sex marriage is illegal under their laws.
Air Force Lt. Colonel James Evans, a spokesman for the Florida National Guard advises that same-sex couples may enroll for benefits at federally controlled military bases in the state. Evans told the paper;
“The Florida National Guard is required to accept and process same-sex benefit applications at any federal facility managed by federal employees,” Evan said Sunday. 
“In a state facility, we are standing by for state legal guidance. We are coordinating with the attorney general’s office to provide required documentation to facilitate the legal review.”
Will Same-sex marriage advocacy groups succeed in pushing lawmakers to override New Jersey Governor's veto?
By Brody Levesque | TRENTON -- A new push by same-sex marriage advocacy groups led by New Jersey United for Marriage, a new alliance of national and state gay rights and civil rights groups, think that it maybe possible to override New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s 2012 veto of a same-sex marriage bill before the current legislative term expires in January, 2014.
Their efforts to persuade Republicans and reluctant Democrats in both houses of the legislature is well organised, and according to political sources in New Jersey and in Washington, well funded.
Christie has wielded near total control of the Assembly and Senate with the leadership of both houses unable to gather enough required votes or a “supermajority” needed to override his veto.  
Political analysts point out that Christie's legendary short temper could damage any lawmaker's career who crossed him on an attempt to override a veto. This coupled with a likely Christie reelection win this November would mean that the vote to override would occur just prior to the governor being sworn in for his second term.
Christie has repeatedly said that any vote or measure on same-sex marriage should be left up to New Jersey's voters and the conventional wisdom would say any successful override effort would most likely anger him.  
New Jersey United for Marriage and the other advocates are banking on changing enough minds in the legislature to make it happen though.
In an analysis piece published Sunday by the New Jersey Star-Ledger, a columnist pointed out that the bill Christie vetoed, S1, passed the state Senate 24-16, with two Republicans, Sens. Diane Allen and Jennifer Beck voting yes and two Democrats voting no. If those four votes remain unchanged, three additional yes votes will be needed to beat the veto.
In the Assembly, the tally was 42-33, with no Republicans voting yes, two Democrats voting no, three Republicans and one Democrat not voting, and one Democratic seat temporarily vacant.
The advocacy groups argue that their case will win because of examples of individual lawmakers who are on the fence, in part because of the Supreme Court decision in June that overturned the federal Defence of Marriage Act.
Freshman Republican Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi acknowledged to the Star-Ledger that for her, the deciding factor was the SCOTUS decision, which "ended any pretense that New Jersey’s law authorizing civil unions affords the equal rights and privileges to same-sex couples to which the New Jersey Supreme Court has said they’re entitled."
A spokesperson for New Jersey United for Marriage said;
“Assemblywoman Schepisi said it: The Supreme Court's decision to throw out DOMA was a game-changer. It's now clear that New Jersey's civil union law doesn't do what it's supposed to do. As legislators who respect the national and state constitutions, you should want to address that problem.”
This week, two Democratic Assembly members- who weren’t available for the original vote- Wayne DeAngelo and Gabriela Mosquera also intend to back the override effort. A spokeswoman for Mosquera, said her boss “supports same-sex marriage and will vote for the override.”
Even with those lawmakers who have indicated a change in their viewpoints, advocates will still need to find 9 more votes in the Assembly and 3 in the Senate before the session's January end to beat Christie's veto.
In a written pitch to lawmakers,referring to Christie, the advocacy groups said:
“The Christie factor? Assume the governor is re-elected. Whether he wins big or wins small, the day he takes the oath of office he’ll be a lame duck. The pressure on you to do things his way will ease. 
In a couple of years, he could resign to run for president. But you’ll still be here, probably long after he’s gone. As for other concerns, we can show you evidence that only a tiny number of legislators nationwide who voted for gay marriage paid any price for it at election time. 
“It’s going to be part of your legacy, one way or another. If it happens because of the courts, and not because of your vote, it will be a part of history that you can’t change. 
Do you really want to have to explain a few years from now — when marriage equality will be in the mainstream, not even in the discussion any longer — why you resisted it to the end?”