At a certain point 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.
– President Obama, May 9, 2012
Lawmakers in February introduced two new pieces of legislation that would make homosexuality punishable by possible jail time. And a vow by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf last month to preserve an existing law criminalizing “voluntary sodomy” prompted a statement of concern from the U.S. State Department.
The fliers distributed over the weekend in parts of Liberia’s capital were signed by the Movement Against Gay’s in Liberia, or MOGAL. The group said those involved in promoting gay rights “should not be given space to get a gulp of air.”
“Having conducted a comprehensive investigation, we are convinced that the below listed individuals are gays or supporters of the club who don’t mean well for our country,” the fliers read. “Therefore, we have agreed to go after them using all means in life.”
No individual members of MOGAL signed the flier. But Moses Tapleh, a 28-year-old resident of the main community where the flier was distributed, said he was affiliated with the group and stressed that its threats should be taken seriously.
“We will get to them one by one,” Tapleh said. “They want to spoil our country.”
Asked what specific action might be taken against those on the list, he said they could be subjected to “dangerous punishments” including “flogging and death.”
A relative of one of those targeted, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said the person on the list already had received threatening phone calls.
Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, said the emergence of the hit list should put pressure on Liberia’s president to take a stance in support of gay rights. Simply refusing to sign the new anti-gay laws, he said, was insufficient.
“She cannot sit on the fence when there’s this kind of provocation taking place. She needs to take a clear and unequivocal stance on this issue,” Reid said.
Robert Kpadeh, a deputy minister at the Ministry of Information, said the ministry had not heard about the fliers but that it would be open to receiving complaints.
The list includes two men who launched a campaign in January to legalize gay marriage, and who have since been subjected to protests by angry mobs and threats of violence.
That campaign began one month after the United States announced a new government-wide policy to push for the decriminalization of homosexuality overseas. As in other countries in sub-Saharan Africa where homosexuality remains a largely taboo topic, the announcement drew swift condemnation from Liberian officials and media outlets.
Liberian law currently does not explicitly address homosexuality. “Voluntary sodomy” is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison.
One of the two new bills would make same-sex sexual practice a second-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. The other anti-gay bill would make same-sex marriage a first-degree felony, with sentences ranging up to 10 years in prison. Both bills are being reviewed in committee.
The U.S. Embassy in Monrovia has kept quiet throughout Liberia’s gay rights debate. In an interview last week, David Bruce Wharton, deputy assistant secretary for public diplomacy in the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, said by phone from Washington that the department was wary of being seen as “seeking to impose Western values on more conservative African societies.”
Homophobia is rife in many African countries. Last year, Nigeria’s Senate voted in favor of a bill that would criminalize gay marriage, gay advocacy groups and same-sex public displays of affection. A newly added portion of the bill levels 10 years in prison for those found guilty of organizing, operating or supporting gay clubs, organizations and meetings.
And in 2009, a Ugandan legislator introduced a bill that would impose the death penalty for some gays and lesbians. The bill was reintroduced earlier this year, though its author has said the death penalty provision will be dropped.
Even in South Africa, the only African nation to recognize gay marriage, gangs carry out so-called “corrective” rapes on lesbians.
The flier distributed in Liberia warned that the group would begin taking action shortly. “Let these individuals be aware that we are coming after them soon,” the flier reads. “We urge them to also begin saying their Lord’s prayers.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
ABC NEWS | by Lauren Torrisi
A longtime advocate for equal rights, Ben & Jerry’s UK has re-named its apple pie flavor “Apple-y Ever After” in support of gay marriage. This week, the UK government is set to decide whether to make gay marriage legal.
Available in select stores in the UK, the limited-edition carton features two men atop a rainbow-detailed white cake. The flavor features apple pie ice cream with apple chunks and pieces of pie crust.
The company has partnered with gay rights organization, Stonewall, and has launched a webpage as well as a Facebook fan page in support of its cause. Facebook users have the option to “marry” on the page, along with the option to chose a partner and post your “marriage” on your Facebook feed as well as your photo.
This isn’t the first time Ben & Jerry’s has promoted marriage equality. In 2009 the brand renamed the flavor “Chubby Hubby” to “Hubby Hubby” in response to gay marriage legislation in Vermont.
“Apple-y Ever After” follows the recent controversy over Ben & Jerry’s limited-edition “Taste the Linsanity” flavor, for which the company later issued an apology.
Posted on Advocate.com February 26, 2012 01:55:54 PM ET | By Lucas Grindley
Rick Santorum Tells Two Whoppers
Rick Santorum tried yet again to pretend on Meet the Press today that he doesn’t talk about social issues, and in response he got a swift dressing down from moderator David Gregory. But that didn’t stop Santorum from telling an even bigger whopper, claiming no proof exists that he wants to impose his own values on other Americans.
“These are my personal held religious beliefs,” Santorum said. “There is no evidence at all that I want to impose those values on anyone else.”
Lately, Santorum has regularly claimed he doesn’t actually talk about social issues. Instead, it’s a myth perpetuated as part of a “game” the media plays, he’s said. After the CNN debate in Arizona this week, Santorum predictably attacked moderator John King for asking him about contraception, for example. And before that, he sniped at a television reporter in Michigan for asking about whether same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt.
So today it was Gregory’s turn, and he asked about Santorum’s past criticism of President John F. Kennedy for saying a president’s religious views should be separate from policy. He noted that Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel has called Santorum “Moralizer in Chief” for his belief that contraception and homosexuality, among other things, are against God’s will.
“It’s so funny,” Santorum started to answer Gregory’s question with a smirk. “I get the question all the time, why are you talking so much about the social issues as people ask me about the social issues —”
“Senator, no wait a minute,” Gregory interrupted him. “You talk about this stuff every week, and by the way, it’s not just in this campaign.”
Gregory had done his research. (And so have we; check out our list of some of the many places on the campaign trail where Santorum’s gone antigay.)
“I’ve gone back years when you’ve been in public life, and you have made this a centerpiece of your public life,” Gregory lectured. “So the notion that these are not deeply held views worthy of question and scrutiny, it’s not just about the press.”
Santorum admitted that, “Yeah, they are deeply held views, but they are not what I dominantly talk about.” And then he implored Gregory to “look at my record, I never wanted to impose any of the things that you’ve just talked about.”
The list of reasons why that statement isn’t true would, of course, have to start with Santorum twice signing pledges that, if elected, he would ban same-sex marriage via an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He’s said that would also immediately annul the marriages of thousands of same-sex couples and have the effect, he has promised, of banning adoption by those same couples. Santorum has actually bragged about being one of the original authors of the “Federal Marriage Amendment” that would do all of that.
Posted on Advocate.com February 28, 2012 10:00:00 AM ET | By Julie Bolcer
The Portland Press Herald reports on the move from the high court, which let stand a ruling from the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld Maine election laws as constitutional. The law requires groups that raise or spend more than $5,000 to influence decisions to register and disclose their donors.
“The National Organization for Marriage filed its lawsuit in 2009, claiming that Maine laws violated its constitutional rights to free speech and due process,” the Press Herald reports. “Maine defended those laws, saying they are designed to inform voters about who is spending money to influence their votes.”
A separate appeal that would permit NOM to shield its donor list is still pending. The organization is seeking to avoid revealing the identities of donors who gave more than $100 to the campaign against same-sex marriage.
NOM gave nearly $2 million in 2009 to Stand for Marriage Maine, the PAC that helped repeal the state’s marriage equality law in a referendum. Last week, the Maine Secretary of Stateconfirmed that same-sex marriage advocates had collected enough valid signatures to bring the issue back to the ballot this fall, where polls show that a majority of voters support marriage equality.
Posted on Advocate.com February 17, 2012 08:31:37 PM ET, By Lucas Grindley and Andrew Harmon
What a week for marriage equality.
Following signing of the law in Washington Monday, then a decisive vote for same-sex marriage in the New Jersey legislature Thursday, lawmakers in the Maryland House voted today in favor of marriage equality in their state for the first time.
Nearly a year ago, the House voted to shelve a marriage bill by sending the legislation back to committee — this after it became clear that supporters simply did not have enough votes. But the Senate passed the bill and is expected to do so again this year. Gov. Martin O’Malley has pushed for the law and pledged to sign it. “Today, the House of Delegates voted for human dignity,” he said in a statement after the vote.
The Maryland House of Delegates needed 71 votes to pass the bill. Whether the chamber had the requisite votes was a matter of much speculation just hours before the vote. Pro-marriage equality lawmakers Thursday had to delay consideration of the legislation until today, when it passed 72 to 67 as cheers erupted from the gallery and on the floor.
Del. Anne Kaiser, a lesbian, said during debate of the bill that her parents had hoped she “finds someone to love.” Then, “I have, and I wish to be married.” Del. Maggie McIntosh, who come out as a lesbian while serving in the House, said “We seem to be on a roll.”
First, Democratic lawmakers succeeded in defeating a string of amendments that tried to transform the bill into a voter referendum or a civil unions law, plus one attempt to delay the vote until Monday so Republicans had enough time to ask the attorney general a question. Ultimately, the only amendment to pass was one from Democrats that claimed to give the courts the power to hold up implementation of the law if legal challenges are still outstanding.
On Thursday bill supporters agreed to an amendment that would push the effective date of the legislation to January of next year. Opposition groups have already begun collecting signatures for a potential November referendum. Only 53,650 signatures are needed to put the issue on the ballot.
Anti-marriage equality groups, including the National Organization for Marriage, told supporters they were “working the halls of the Capitol” as lawmakers considered the bill. And opponents were vocal on the floor of the House during debate.
“I’m not voting against this bill in judgment of these people,” Del. Patrick McDonough told his colleagues. “I am voting against this bill because of what my God told me.”
Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell suggested that passage was aided by inappropriate political deals. “We all are not blind, and we all are not deaf,” O’Donnell said at the start of debate.
Meanwhile, national pro-marriage equality figures including New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman, who came out in 2010 and whose campaign contributions to anti-equality GOP candidates have recently come under scrutiny, called a small number of undecided delegates and asked them to support the bill, according toThe Baltimore Sun. The Sun claimed that even former vice president Dick Cheney offered to call Del. Wade Kach, who had been on the fence.
On Thursday morning, Kach, from Baltimore County, became the second Republican in the chamber to announce his support for the bill. The delegate said his thinking on the issue had “evolved” over recent months and that the enhanced religious exemptions in the bill championed by O’Malley were “instrumental” to his decision to change his vote.
“While no one event or conversation prompted me to come to this decision, I was significantly moved by the testimony of families — who are raising children in a loving environment and deserve every right to enjoy the same protections and responsibilities that our laws provide for others,” Wade said in a statement.
On Thursday, the New Jersey Assembly passed the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act for the first time in a 42-33 vote. The historic passage, following Senate approval on Monday, turned the spotlight to Gov. Chris Christie, who fulfilled his pledge to veto the measure Friday, even as Maryland lawmakers debated. Supporters say they have two years to find enough votes needed to override the veto.
And on Monday, Gov. Christine Gregoire in Washington signed a marriage equality bill into law there. It is scheduled to go into effect on June 7, unless anti–marriage equality groups gather enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot in November.
Washington would become the seventh state in the nation, plus the District of Columbia, to legalize same-sex marriage, with Maryland possibly becoming the eighth.