February 25, 2009

Adoption bill sparks protest

By: Andy Mead

For more than a decade, a small group of people has gathered in Frankfort while the legislature is in session to support bills that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

This year, they're also rallying against something — a bill that would ban adoptions by anyone "cohabiting with a sexual partner outside of a marriage that is legally valid in Kentucky."

Senate Bill 68 is seen as anti-gay by gay rights organizations in the state.

The main thrust of the "Kentuckians Value Fairness" rally scheduled from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Capitol Rotunda will be to support the "fairness" anti-discrimination bills.

But the rally could get a boost from people who turn out to oppose the adoption bill.

"A lot of additional allies have cropped up since this Senate bill came out," said Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign.

People from several groups, including social workers and pro-adoption organizations in Louisville and Pikeville, are expected to take part in Wednesday's rally, Hartman said.

Political activists, including members of Young Democrats and the Libertarian Party of Kentucky, also are lending their support, said Jordan Palmer, president of the Kentucky Equality Federation.

There's even a group on Facebook, the social networking site. "Stop SB 68 in Kentucky" has more than 5,000 members.

The sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Gary Tapp, R-Shelbyville, did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

The bill has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee. Its chairman, Sen. Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he had not formed an opinion on the bill. He said he planned to meet with Tapp to discuss it, but until then "I don't know enough to be opposed to it or for it."

The Family Foundation of Kentucky is for the bill, said David Edmunds, a policy analyst for the group. He said research shows that homes with unmarried couples — either homosexual or heterosexual — are less stable than homes with married couples.

"This is about a child's needs, not adult desires," Edmunds said.

But Ken Moellman, chairman of the state Libertarian Party, said the bill would hurt children if it became law.

"It's unfortunate that some would rather see a child left in a group home or in the foster care system rather than put in a stable environment ... and brought up in a home where they're loved," he said.

Hartman, of the Fairness Alliance, said that if SB 68 is approved by the Senate, he thinks it can be stopped in the House.

The bills that will be supported at the rally are Senate Bill 95, sponsored by Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington; and House Bill 72, sponsored by Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville.

Similar bills have never gotten out of a committee in either house. Hartman said he isn't expecting more this year.

February 14, 2009

Same-sex couples march for marriage

Sandra Maggard and Tina Parker have been together for five years.

On Thursday, they walked arm-in-arm down the hallway of the Fayette County Clerk's Office. The couple asked the county to recognize their relationship with a marriage license.

They were denied.

"In a way I was hoping we would come and people would change their mind" about gay marriage, Maggard said. "If our grandkids are OK with it, why can't the world be OK with it?"

On Thursday, gay couples across Kentucky walked into county clerks' offices to request marriage licenses. The event was part of National Freedom to Marry Week, which was organized by Marriage Equality USA and other gay rights groups.

Jordan Palmer, president of the Kentucky Equality Federation, said they were trying to draw attention to the denial of a human right. He wants to see repeals for the state's gay marriage amendment (a recent constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage and civil unions) and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and allows states to do the same).

"We don't really care if it changes people's minds," Palmer said. "It is really about making people aware that we are not afraid anymore, and we will be fighting for our rights and we will overturn it."

Nonetheless, Palmer admitted to being nervous before he asked for his marriage license with his partner, Daniel Hill.

"It is intimidating," he said. "I'm shaking just thinking about it."

The clerk, Getha Helfenberger, politely refused to issue the license, explaining that gay marriage is banned by the state. Palmer shook her hand.

Only two couples asked to be married in Lexington. Palmer said turnout was stronger in Louisville. He estimated that 70 people from college gay-straight alliances showed up.

The Family Foundation of Kentucky, a socially conservative group that was instrumental in passing the state constitution's gay marriage ban, said gay rights groups should follow the proper procedure for amending the constitution.  "I think that there is nothing wrong with people making symbolic gestures like this; it's a free country," said Martin Cothran, a senior policy analyst. "But at the same time, this is not how you change the constitution. Trying to do it any other way is at bottom cheating. And we don't believe in cheating."

February 12, 2009

Kentucky Equality's Response to the Family Foundation of Kentucky's attack on the National Freedom to Marry Day

Kentucky Equality Federation and Marriage Equality Kentucky coordinated (with many allies in Louisville), the Marriage Counter Actions here in Kentucky; the Herald-Leader covered the story with the Family Foundation of Kentucky calling our initial attempts to raise awareness of the harm the current same-sex marriage ban has on couples in Kentucky "cheating." In addition, they announced their support of Senate Bill 68.

Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer responds:

"This is another example of how so-called family organizations are some of the most useless, money-hungry scams in the world with their bizarre and all-encompassing 'gay fetish.'

With national divorce rates rising because of layoffs, increases in daycare, and an economy in the tank, one would think a 'family oriented organization' would be focused on economic solutions to help take the stress off couples (such as using their money to provide free daycare instead of lobbying Frankfort against domestic partner benefits, and using children as political pawns). But, instead, they continue to focus on keeping a minority group of families from having the same civil liberties and protections as the majority.

How can excluding gay couples from hospital rooms, fighting to keep us from providing health insurance for each other, and teaching hatred for people who are different be a family value? In Kentucky, you cannot be fired for being a smoker, but you can be fired for being gay……now THAT is cheating (what the Family Foundation of Kentucky called Kentucky Equality Federation’s coordination of the National Freedom to Marry Day in Kentucky).

It is our generation's obligation and opportunity to bring equality to the gay community; we stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us – the time is here."