The U.S. military has its first openly gay flag officer with the promotion of Tammy Smith to the rank of Army brigadier general on Friday.
Smith received her stars in a private ceremony at the Women's Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, according to a press release from the Service Members Legal Defense Network, an organization promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality in the U.S. military.
Friday was also the first day she publicly acknowledged her sexuality, according to a report from Stars and Stripes, and that acknowledgement comes less than a year after the military ended the "don't ask, don't tell" policy under which an active-duty service member faced punishment or discharge if he or she admitted being homosexual.
“I don’t think I need to be focused on that," Stripes quoted Smith as saying. "What is relevant is upholding Army values and the responsibility this carries.”
Smith is serving as deputy chief at the Office of the Chief at the Army Reserve in Washington. She is a 26-year veteran of the Army and has served in Afghanistan, Panama and Costa Rica as well as stateside assignments.
“It is indeed a new era in America’s military when our most accomplished leaders are able to recognize who they are and serve the country they love at the same time," Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said in a statement.
Smith's spouse is Tracey Hepner, director of operations for the Military Partners and Families Coaliton, an advocacy and support organization for LGBT members of the military.
Hepner presented Smith with her stars at Friday's ceremony.
Chick-fil-A says it set a sales record on Wednesday, the day that supporters rallied around the fast-food chain amid a debate over its president's opposition to same-sex marriage.
The chain won't release sales numbers, but "we can confirm reports that it was a record-setting day," said Steve Robinson, Chick-fil-A's executive vice president of marketing.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee had called on people to buy food at the chain on Wednesday, which he dubbed "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," after a backlash against the company and their president.
The controversy started after an interview with the fast-food restaurant chain's president and COO, Dan Cathy, appeared in The Baptist Press on July 16. He weighed in with his views on family.
"We are very much supportive of the family - the biblical definition of the family unit," Cathy said. "We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."
On a Facebook page Huckabee created announcing the event, more than 620,000 people said they would participate.
He called for a response to a backlash against the restaurants and its president. Customers flocked to the restaurants on Wednesday, many showing their support for the chain and Cathy's opposition to same-sex marriage.
Gay rights activists are planning to hold a "national same-sex kiss day at Chick-fil-A" on Friday.FULL STORY
[Updated at 6:36 p.m. ET] The comments about same-sex marriage made by Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy a week ago continue to generate controversy this week, with politicians and fantasy creatures, well at least their handlers, weighing in.
"Guilty as charged," Cathy was quoted as saying in the Baptist Press last week when asked about his company's support of the traditional family unit as opposed to same-sex marriage.
"We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business," Cathy was quoted as saying.
That stance didn't go over well with the Jim Henson Co., whose Jim Henson's Creature Shop toys have been served up in Chick-fil-A's meals for kids. Jim Henson Co. is named after the creator of the Muppets, though the company transferred the Muppets' rights and ownership to the Walt Disney Co. in 2003, according to Jim Henson Co.
"The Jim Henson Company has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over fifty years and we have notified Chick-fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors," the company said in a posting on its Facebook page.
"Lisa Henson, our CEO, is personally a strong supporter of gay marriage and has directed us to donate the payment we received from Chick-fil-A to GLAAD (the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation)," the Henson Co.'s posting said.
The posting, which is dated Friday, had drawn more than 10,000 likes and 2,000 comments as of Tuesday morning.
The fact that Chick-fil-A is a company that espouses Christian values is no secret. The fact that its 1,600 fast-food chicken restaurants across the country are closed on Sundays has long been testament to that.
But the comments of company President Dan Cathy about gay marriage to Baptist Press on Monday have ignited a social media wildfire.
"Guilty as charged," Cathy said when asked about his company's support of the traditional family unit as opposed to gay marriage.
"We are very much supportive of the family - the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that," Cathy is quoted as saying.
Strong feelings of support and disagreement have followed, making Chick-fil-A the top Google trend on Thursday morning as the company's Facebook and Twitter pages were burning up with arguments.
"Hate mongers! Never again! Not another $ from me," Duke Richards wrote on Facebook.
"Goodbye Chikkk-fil-a! your food was delicious, but I can no longer eat nuggets filled with hate!" read a post by Blake Brown.
"I am truly ashamed of the recent admittance from Mr Cathy about your bigoted company practices. I hate the fact that my money was used for this. I will never support your company (and) will make sure anyone I know does not either," Mikell Kirbis wrote on Facebook. "While I'm not a Christian I know that hate is not in God's plan nor (is) ignorantly picking sections of the Bible to brandish. Good bye and I hope either you change your ways or close down."
But the support for the company was just as vehement.
"Just wanted to say I'm proud that you stand firm in your beliefs. You knew the risks, and still took the plunge. May God bless this company with abundance. Never back down!" said a Facebook post from David Jones.
"Thank you for standing up for what you believe. The truth is not hate. It's just the truth," wrote Sharon R Boyd.
"I love the values that this restaurant stands for and will support it every dang chance I get! Pay no attention to the morons spewing hate!" read a post from Raymond Joy.
The Ugandan government said Wednesday it will ban at least 38 nongovernmental agencies it says are promoting gay rights and recruiting children into homosexuality.
"We have investigated them thoroughly and we have found their sponsors," said Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo. "We will ask them to step aside and stop pretending to work in human rights."
"Some NGOs, under the pretext of providing social services, are receiving funds to promote homosexuality," he said.
The organizations - both international and local - will lose their registrations and no longer be able to operate in Uganda. He did not name the groups on the list.
"The sooner they are phased out, the better," he said.
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, as it is in many African countries, and legislation is pending in parliament that could bring even harsher penalties for gays.
At one point the bill included life imprisonment and even the death penalty. That provision was dropped, under intense pressure from donor countries, but several Ugandan politicians still plan to push it through parliament.
The announcement of the ban comes in the wake of a police raid Monday that disrupted a gay rights activists' workshop in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.FULL STORY
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston has ruled the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, discriminates against gay couples.
In the unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel agreed with a decision made by a lower court in 2010 that DOMA is unconstitutional on the basis that it interferes with an individual state's right to define marriage.
“Invalidating a federal statute is an unwelcome responsibility for federal judges; the elected Congress speaks for the entire nation, its judgment and good faith being entitled to utmost respect,’’ the ruling said. “But a lower federal court such as ours must follow its best understanding of governing precedent, knowing that in large matters the Supreme Court will correct mis-readings.”
At issue is whether the federal government can deny tax, health and pension benefits to same-sex couples in states where they can legally marry.
"If we are right in thinking that disparate impact on minority interests and federalism concerns both require somewhat more in this case than almost automatic deference to Congress' will, this statute fails that test," said the three-judge panel.
In the ruling, the judges said that they weighed various factors. While they noted that the law does discriminate against a group that has, like many others, faced oppression, they did not view the federal law as something fueled by anti-homosexual sentiment.
“As with the women, the poor and the mentally impaired, gays and lesbians have long been the subject of discrimination,’’ the ruling said. “In reaching our judgment, we do not rely upon the charge that DOMA’s hidden but dominant purpose was hostility to homosexuality. The many legislators who supported DOMA acted from a variety of motives, one central and expressed aim being to preserve the heritage of marriage as traditionally defined over centuries of Western civilization.’’
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley hailed the ruling by the appeals court.
“Today’s landmark ruling makes clear once again that DOMA is a discriminatory law for which there is no justification," she said in a press release. "It is unconstitutional for the federal government to create a system of first- and second-class marriages, and it does harm to families in Massachusetts every day. All Massachusetts couples should be afforded the same rights and protections under the law, and we hope that this decision will be the final step toward ensuring that equality for all.”
Last year President Obama announced that the Justice Department would no longer argue for the constitutionality of the ban on same-sex marriage.
"My Justice Department has said to the courts, we don't think the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional," the president said on "The View" earlier this month. "This is something that historically had been determined at the state level and part of my believing ultimately that civil unions weren't sufficient."
In an interview with ABC this month, Obama also officially expressed support for members of the same gender to legally wed.
"I've just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married," Obama said in the interview.
As if becoming the first black president wasn't momentous enough, Barack Obama has just been handed a new title: "First gay president."
A Newsweek magazine cover bestowed that distinction on Obama this week with a picture of the president and a rainbow halo. If you view that as a naked attempt to grab your attention, capitalize on the moment and have you pick up a newsmagazine, you might be right.
But that illustration – along with a New Yorker cover showing the columns of the White House lit up in rainbow colors – certainly shows how the president’s public support of same-sex marriage has pushed the issue back into the spotlight.
The magazines’ choices also speak to the broad cultural impact of Obama's announcement and pose questions about whether this moment may become a lasting part of his legacy.
That's not to say the president's announcement is necessarily a watershed moment. It earned him kudos and criticism despite the fact that he left the legal standing of same-sex marriage in the hands of the states and made no policy changes.
The issue also is far from resolved in the African-American community, and some conservatives say Obama's announcement comes at a political cost.
CNN.com's John Blake writes that some suggest the black church may punish Obama for announcing his support for same-sex marriage.
As millions went to church this weekend after the president's announcement, clergy across the country offered their opinions, with the words of black pastors – a key base of support for Obama in 2008 – carrying special weight in a presidential election year. But black pastors were hardly monolithic in addressing Obama's remarks.
President Obama's announcement that he now supports same-sex marriage has sparked a global discussion about the issue and what his statements mean for politics and the upcoming election, cultural views, the economy and public perception. There has been a running dialogue as politicians, public figures and others weigh in on the meaning of Obama's announcement.
We'll bring you all of that throughout the day with the latest strands of this story. Let us know what you think about the announcement by having your voice heard on iReport, and leave us your comments below. We'll dig through them and pull out some of the best comments from you as well.
[Updated at 11:58 a.m. ET] Over at Slate.com, an interesting piece by Linda Hirshman points out "Why Obama is able to endorse gay marriage in a way a white Democratic president couldn’t."
The article takes a look at the long history of presidents and figures who have made claims about trying to help the gay community, but never got traction or were told to shy away from it. Hirshman also issues a reminder: It was Colin Powell who actually slammed then-President Bill Clinton's attempts to repeal the exclusion of gays in the military. At the time Powell said gays couldn't use racial bias as a reason to rise up against the expulsion.
But these days, race and sexuality have been large parts of America's changing winds when it comes to equality.
So what's changed? And why Obama? And does it really help or hurt if he's black? Hirshman says yes, history and racial issues led our first black president to a place where he was able to make this statement in a profound way.
"A simple thought experiment reveals the issue: Try to imagine Don King in black churches exhorting congregations to vote against Barack Obama over gay marriage. Not going to happen," she writes. "In this way, the president was uniquely suited among Democratic politicians to advance the issue (just as Powell could have done in 1993). Until today, Obama’s mealy-mouthed and harmful public statements on gay marriage looked suspiciously Powell-esque. But as happens now and then to Barack Obama, history gave him an opportunity no one else could seize, and he did."
Another source said the recent events gave renewed life to old jokes and flippant remarks like, "Hello? Does he know this is the Obama presidency not the Biden presidency?"
None of these sources said they believed it would create a lasting rift between the West Wing and the vice president's office – because Biden has gone off script before and will do it again.
[Updated at 11:39 a.m. ET] Some columnists and voters have said everyone needs to hold off on the congratulations for Obama. After all, they say, he merely made his viewpoint heard but isn't actually doing anything to change equality for members of the LGBT community. Many are pushing for him to go even further than just saying what he personally supports.
Ben Adler, writing for Reuters, says that if Obama really wants to do something for the LGBT community he should push for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. ENDA would essentially ban discrimination in the workplace based on your sexual orientation.
"If Obama gave a campaign speech in which he called on Congress to pass ENDA and demanded that Romney do the same, he would stick Romney between a rock and a hard place," he wrote.
[Updated at 11:19 a.m. ET] The pundits have had plenty to say following Obama's announcement. And it spurred a slew of statements from politicians and conservative and liberal groups.
But one of the biggest movements came in the social media world where everyday people around the world, politicians and celebrities let it rip in 140 characters about how they felt.
It is perhaps a quick way to check the pulse of the public's view of Obama's announcement. Here are some of the best, funniest, most poignant or interest tweets we've seen.
We stand w/Pres. Obama - love doesn't have a color, love doesn't care if you're gay or straight. Love doesn't discriminate #MarriageEquality—
Antonio Villaraigosa (@villaraigosa) May 09, 2012
Joseph (@Joseph_MSU) May 10, 2012
Those against gay marriage: in 20 yrs you'll be the villains in an Oscar-nominated movie about the gay rights struggle. Just an FYI.—
Devin Faraci (@devincf) May 10, 2012
Flip-flopping is when you change positions for clear and obvious political expediency. Like Obama on drilling or Romney on everything.—
Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) May 10, 2012
Feels to me that today, Obama became the president America elected three years ago.—
Othman Laraki (@othman) May 10, 2012
We would also be remiss if we didn't point out how quickly after Obama's announcement a new Tumblr popped up. Following on the success of several other blogs filled with gifs and photos such as TextFromHillary, right after Obama's statement that he supported same-sex marriage a new one came to fill the void left by the faux texts of Secretary Clinton: When Obama Endorsed Marriage Equality.
[Updated at 11:10 a.m. ET] Will Obama's support for same-sex marriage swing the election towards social issues? It's hard to say. The election cycle has been mostly dominated by a frustration among Americans with the current state of the economy. With the number of unemployed people still at a rate deemed unacceptable and with homeowners still struggling to unload homes often worth markedly less than years ago, it is no doubt it's considered the number one issue in this race to the White House by most voters and our poll of readers.
"Remember, Republicans characterized the war on women as a Democratic strategy to divert attention from the "real issue" of the economy," Granderson wrote. "Over the next couple of days we'll see if the GOP will be as dismissive with gay rights. Or will the fact that in 2004, George W. Bush successfully used discrimination against the gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender (GLBT) community to motivate his base be too juicy a strategy for Romney and the gang to pass up?"
Granderson argues that Obama's move separates him from Romney in the biggest way - his conviction - and moves him into the class of an Abraham Lincoln, FDR, John F. Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson in the realm of presidents:
"Men who risked a great deal personally to move the country forward socially," Granderson wrote. "And given the fact that he can point to the 12 consecutive months of job losses before taking office and the 26 consecutive months (and counting) of job growth since 2010, there's no reason to believe the economy will cease to be his campaign's top focus. As it should be. We'll find out if the GOP agrees."
[Updated at 10:45 a.m. ET] President Obama's election was in large part boosted by the youth vote as well as from African-Americans who went to the polls hoping to see the first black president elected. But when it comes to same-sex marriage, the African-American community is a divided one. And Time contributor Touré, author of "Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness? A Look At What It Means To Be Black Now," wonders whether this most recent announcement could damage Obama's allure in the South, in heavily religious states and with black Americans.
"With blacks lagging behind the country on marriage equality but still a crucial bloc for Obama, the White House has made a courageous bet that black voters won’t punish him and that being on the right side of history will not eventually hurt him," Touré wrote. "Obama has seemed to want to overtly support marriage equality for a while — a year ago he said gays 'are our brothers, our sisters, our children, our cousins, our friends, our coworkers, and they’ve got to be treated like every other American. … I think we’re moving in a direction of greater equality and — and I think that’s a good thing.' ”
Touré wonders whether Obama will be able to pull off the delicate balancing act of trying to be a president who follows his beliefs instead of doing things that ensure his re-election.
"Does it mean Obama would rather stand on principle and lose than be a politician and win? Or perhaps he sees this as part of a victory strategy that rebrands himself as the courageous politician who will take hard stands and will stand up for the people," he wrote.
[Updated at 10:25 a.m. ET] Many of our iReporters and commenters have had strong reactions to Obama's announcement. We posed the question to iReporters: What would you say to Obama about his remarks?
John Richardson said he was thankful for Obama "coming out of the closet" for gay Americans. But he questioned Obama's statements that same-sex marriage is ultimately a states' rights issue over a civil rights one.
He referenced North Carolina's recent vote to ban same-sex marriage and wondered what Obama's comments meant to a gay couple in North Carolina.
"They didn't decide to be gay, and they definitely didn't decide to be born in North Carolina. In my opinion, leaving it to the states to decide forces the gay community to choose between the lesser of two evils: leaving your home or leaving your principles."
President Barack Obama said in an interview with ABC that "it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."
With his Wednesday announcement, the president reversed his longstanding position on the issue. It came on the heels of his own vice president and education secretary saying they were in favor of gay marriage.
According to an ABC blog post, Obama further described his thought process as an "evolution" that progressed as he discussed the issue with staff members, gay and lesbian service members and his own family.
He said he thinks Americans are growing increasingly comfortable with the concept of gay marriage and cited his own daughters' views on the matter.
“It’s interesting, some of this is also generational,” he said. “You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we’re talking about their friends and their parents.
"And Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them, and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.”Read CNN's full coverage of President Barack Obama's stance on gay marriage
Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
LZ Granderson wrote today about a woman named Jennifer Tyrrell who was forced to resign as den leader of the Tiger Cubs for Pack 109 in Bridgeport, Ohio, because the national office learned she is a lesbian. Granderson argues that the Girl Scouts of America, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the 4-H Club allow gay kids and leaders, so why not the Boy Scouts? Readers shared varied opinions.
Several readers said the woman should not join the group if she does not like its policies.
LeviFreck21: "Don't be a part of Boy Scouts then if you disagree with their rules/bylaws. Plain and simple. Don't join a group or an organization on your own free will and then protest the rules that that group/organization has in place. If you disagree, don't join. No one forced her to be in Boy Scouts. She chose to. It's her own d**n fault. No sympathy here. This is just another example of LZ writing a lousy article and focusing on small, isolated incidents that matter to few rather than something that is worth writing about. His CNN articles are the only things worse than his ESPN articles."
Another reader said they thought the active choice of removal didn't make much sense.
Karl Blessing: "I fail to see why they removed her. She wasn't teaching sex to her pack, and unless she was flaunting around a lesbian pride tshirt or preaching about it, then there would have been no way within the institution to know the sexual orientation of the pack leaders straight or gay. It's just messed up that if they find out you're gay outside of the organization you're canned, but as a straight person you have to actually go as far as doing something lewd inside of the organization to get fired."
Some former Scouts said that regardless of their own personal views, the organization should not be restricted from making its own decisions. FULL POST
It’s a policy that’s been on the books in Buffalo, New York, for nearly 40 years: Free plastic surgery for teachers.
On Sunday, she was tumbling down a mountainside, caught in a deadly avalanche. A look at how Elyse Saugstad lived to tell about it.
A scandal playing out in Arizona involves a sheriff with a bright political future, his ex-boyfriend, abuse of power allegations and the presidential race.
Editor's note: Shortly after a federal appeals court ruled against California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin answered questions about the implications of ruling and his reaction to it.
WHAT, IN A NUTSHELL, DID THE COURT DECIDE?
Proposition 8, the initiative passed by voters in 2008, is unconstitutional, a violation of the rights of gay and lesbian people who want to get married.
CAN SAME-SEX COUPLES IN CALIFORNIA GET MARRIED NOW?
No - not yet. The 9th Circuit panel left a stay in place that will continue as long as the defendants in the case continue their appeal. Since the defendants have indicated they will continue their appeals, it is likely to be months before same-sex marriages may resume.
[Updated at 1:26 p.m. ET] California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution, a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled Tuesday.
The decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to be appealed, to either the full court or to the U.S. Supreme Court. But supporters of same-sex marriages cheered the decision when it was announced outside the courthouse Tuesday morning.
The 2-1 decision found the ban – known as Proposition 8 – "served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationship and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples." That violates the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law, the decision states.
The 9th Circuit, in a hearing just over a year ago, indicated it was inclined to toss out Proposition 8. The court also rejected arguments by supporters of the ban that now-retired federal judge Vaughn Walker – who found Proposition 8 unconstitutional in 2010 – should have recused himself and let another judge hear the case.
Walker disclosed after his retirement that he is gay and in a long-term relationship, leading Proposition 8 advocates to argue he should have stepped aside.
California's Supreme Court had allowed same-sex marriages in California. But Proposition 8 passed with 52% of the vote in 2008, bringing an end to the practice.
Prior to Walker's ruling, the California Supreme Court allowed that initiative to stand, saying it represented the will of the people.FULL STORY
The Washington City Council is on track to make it easier for same-sex couples who got married in the District of Columbia to get divorced.
D.C. Councilman Phil Mendelson proposed the legislation after hearing reports that same-sex couples who wed in the District were being denied divorces after moving to jurisdictions that don't recognize same-sex marriages. The District of Columbia began allowing same-sex marriages in 2010. But those marriages are recognized in only a handful of places, meaning divorce proceedings can't be started in many places that haven't recognized the marriages in the first place.
"I received a number of reports from couples or attorneys about this impossible situation," Mendelson told the Washington Examiner.
Mendelson's bill removes a six-month waiting period during which someone seeking a divorce must reside in the District, provided the marriage occurred in the District in the first place.
The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington has applauded Mendelson's bill.
"This bill fills a gap in the law created by our being ahead of the historical curve. None of us celebrates the dissolution of a marriage, but equality under the law must extend to every contingency. The lack of a clear legal mechanism for divorce can make an unhappy situation much worse for all involved," Rick Rosendall, the alliance's vice president for political affairs, said in a statement.
The bill was co-sponsored by seven other members of the 13-member council, meaning final passage is likely.
Approval by the mayor or an override of a veto is required, as is a 30-day congressional review period, before the measure can become law.
North Carolina will put an amendment banning same-sex marriage on the ballot in May after the state's House and Senate passed the measure.
The measure cleared the Senate by a vote of 30-16, according to Mark Johnson, spokesperson for governor's office. On Monday the House also passed the measure by a vote of 76-41.
If the constitutional amendment is approved by voters during the primary in May, North Carolina would become the final state in the Southeast to add a constitutional amendment regarding same-sex marriage.
Proponents of the measure said they felt it was important that the amendment be added so that it would protect the state's policy on gay marriage. North Carolina currently has a ban on same-sex marriage, but legislators are seeking to protect that ban by chiseling it into their constitution.
“We think the people of this state – not judges, bureaucrats, or politicians – should define marriage, which I personally believe should be between one man and one woman," Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement after the measure passed. "We look forward to eight months of healthy debate before voters decide this issue at the polls.”
The proposed constitutional amendment sparked anger from many Democrats in the legislature, who argued the Republicans were trying to push through the measure since they have control for the first time in 140 years.
Others argued the legislature should be focused on more pressing issues such as the economy or jobs.
That concern also came from North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue.
“I’m focused on solving problems and creating jobs. This partisan exercise does neither: Same-sex marriage is already illegal in North Carolina, and this constitutional amendment would not create a single job. In fact, it could hurt existing North Carolina businesses - as Speaker Tillis himself acknowledged - and harm our ability to attract new businesses to invest and grow jobs here. “
[Updated at 8:42 p.m. ET] The North Carolina House voted Monday to put on the 2012 ballot a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in the state, a spokesman for the House speaker said.
The bill, which the House approved 76-41, now goes to the Senate. Three-fifths of the House's 120 members - 72 - were required for the bill to pass.
If the measure passes in the entire Legislature and is approved by voters during the primary in May, North Carolina would become the final state in the Southeast to add a constitutional amendment regarding same-sex marriage.
"This amendment pushes the power away from us and pushes the decision to the people of North Carolina," state Rep. Dale Folwell, a Republican from Winston-Salem and the speaker pro tem, said.
Proponents of the measure said they felt it was important that the amendment be added so that it would protect the state's policy on gay marriage. North Carolina currently has a ban on same-sex marriage, but legislators are seeking to protect that ban by chiseling it into their constitution.
The bill came to the House floor Monday after a House committee passed it by a voice vote earlier in the day. Many Democrats who opposed the measure argued that Republicans, who are in the majority in the Legislature for the first time in 140 years, were trying to push the amendment through quickly without allowing for a real debate or public comment. Republicans argued that the content of the proposed amendment has long been known, even if the specific wording was not.
During debate on the House floor, Rep. Susan Fisher, a Democrat from Asheville, questioned why legislators were asking for such swift movement on the issue.
"I think it's somewhat ironic that we would be asked to debate or have this bill in front of us for immediate consideration," she said. "I don't think you ever consider an amendment to the state constitution immediately, yet here we are."
Jordan Shaw, communications director for North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, told CNN that he did not believe there was a requirement to have a public debate on the issue.
"But I would point out the very nature of this measure would be for the people to vote on it," he said. "It is hard to have a more democratic process than to put it up to the voters."
Gay men who have not had sex with another man in 12 months will be allowed to donate blood in parts of the UK for the first time since a ban was put in place in the 1980s in response to the spread of AIDS and HIV, the UK Department of Health announced Thursday.
Blood banks in England, Scotland and Wales have said they will allow gay men to begin giving blood if they qualify under new rules beginning on November 7. Northern Ireland is expected to announce a decision on whether they too will lift the ban soon. (The UK is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.)
"Currently, men who have ever had oral or anal sex with another man, even if a condom was used, are permanently excluded from blood donation in the UK," UK National Health Services Blood and Transport said on their website. "The change means that in future only men who have had anal or oral sex with another man in the past 12 months, with or without a condom, will be asked not to donate blood. Men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than 12 months ago will be able to donate, subject to meeting the other donor selection criteria."
The decision follows a review of the ban by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) who studied the latest details on relevant sexual contact in relation to the safety of donating blood and completed a full review of review of overall blood donor selection criteria that is related to sexual behavior. The committee looked at the risk of infection being transmitted in blood as well as improvements in testing donated blood for diseases before reaching their conclusion to change the guidelines.
The UK Department of Health said the review found "evidence no longer supported the permanent exclusion of men who have had sex with men.
A San Francisco man and his Australian husband will be forced apart when the Australian is deported this month after the federal government denied his request to be a permanent resident.
Anthony Makk was trying to become a permanent U.S. resident – like many heterosexual couples do – so he could stay with his loved one who he married seven years ago in Massachusetts. Makk, who has been with Bradford Wells for 19 years, is also doing it because he is a caregiver for his husband who has AIDS.
But the federal government denied his final appeal two weeks ago on the basis of the Defense of Marriage Act which doesn’t recognize their same-sex marriage.
"The claimed relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary is not a petitionable relationship," the government's ruling said. "For a relationship to qualify as a marriage for purposes of federal law, one partner must be a man and the other a woman."
The U.S. Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services echoed the sentiment, saying as long as DOMA was in place, they will continue to operate under that standard.
So now, unless someone steps in for them, the couple says they will have no choice but to part, with Makk being forced to leave the country by August 25.
Twenty-four gay and lesbian couples were wed Saturday under two “pop-up” chapels designed to celebrate the first full weekend of same-sex marriage in New York.
With every “I do,” jubilant whoops and cheers burst from the crowd, a mix of friends, family and passers-by.
The weddings, although held adjacent to the commotion of New York City’s Columbus Circle, felt comfortably ensconced in Central Park. The event’s organizers reported no protests or disturbances throughout the day.
The two chapels, named KISS and ICRAVE, were chosen from more than 50 entries after a 10-day design competition. KISS, designed by architect Guy Zucker, consisted of two interlocking, helix-shaped wood frames.
Carley Roney, co-founder of the marriage service The Knot, which co-sponsored the event, said KISS was constructed this way because, as with a marriage, “the two pieces can’t stand on their own. They need each other to stand up.”
Meanwhile, ICRAVE, designed by architect Lionel Ohayon, covered the betrothed with an array of rainbow-colored ribbon bands dangling from a makeshift roof. The rainbow colors were chosen to reflect gay pride, Roney said.
While the pop-up chapels will be demolished after the event, the newlyweds said there was nothing ephemeral about the vows taken beneath them.
“I promise to always help you find your keys; I promise to give you all the credit when people compliment me in your clothes... I promise to always have your back,” Katrina Olson said to her new wife, Tiffany Hopkins. “The only thing I can’t promise you is my heart, ’cause you stole it so many years ago.”
Afterwards, a friend of the couple’s played The Beatles’ “When I’m Sixty-Four,” inviting a sing-along from the street crowd and many of the event’s volunteers.
Like the ceremony for Hopkins and Olson, the services throughout the day focused far more on the relationships than the novelty, or historical significance, of a same-sex marriage.
Shari Berkowitz, one of the wedding’s officiants, said this marked a change from some of the same-sex commitment ceremonies she oversaw 15 years ago, which were often marked with tension. On Saturday, Berkowitz officiated the wedding of Gabrielle Harmon and Jacqueline Cabrera.
“Now, you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter to the other,” she said at the ceremony.
The weather Saturday – sunny without a cloud in the sky – seemed to make this assurance unnecessary.
Additionally, the day’s attendees said their thoughts were not clouded by the lawsuit, filed this Monday by the conservative group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom, challenging the legality of the same-sex marriage law.
“I think it’s going to die,” Jen Frankel said of the lawsuit before she married Jessica Schoen.
Bex Schwartz, one of the event’s organizers, added, “I’m an eternal optimist; I hope the right way will win out... people realize that we can’t say some people are better than others.”
Although the Rev. Jason McGuire, NYCEF’s executive director, has questioned the impact of same-sex marriage on religious institutions, the wedding ceremonies Saturday seemed to embrace the convergence of religious rites and homosexuality.
For instance, during the wedding of Tom Carujo and Scott Baumann, a gay couple of nearly 30 years, Pastor Mark Cutolo discussed the significance of the rainbow in the Bible.
After the flood, “the eternal God gave Noah the rainbow as a promise he would never destroy the earth again,” Cutolo said.
Now, rainbows also serve as a powerful symbol of gay rights and diversity, he said, and the two are complementary, not contradictory.
“So, the rainbow is a sign of hopefulness, of life,” Cutolo said, looking up at the effervescent ICRAVE. “A sign that we feel blessed by God.”
President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen certified Friday that the U.S. military is prepared to accept openly gay and lesbian service members, and that doing so will not harm military readiness, according to the White House.
Under a bill passed last year that set up a process for repealing the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy, all three men needed to sign a certification that confirms the military's ability to accept the integration of openly gay and lesbian troops.
A 60-day waiting period will now begin before the repeal is fully implemented.FULL STORY