by Rex Wockner -
SGN Contributing Writer
Minn. House sends marriage ban amendment to voters
After nearly six hours of debate, Minnesota's House of Representatives voted 70-62 on May 21 to send voters a referendum to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
Gay couples already are prohibited from marrying, but supporters of the constitutional amendment said it would be stronger than the current statutory ban.
The vote came around 11:30 p.m. Protesters outside the chambers could be heard chanting 'Just vote no' as legislators pushed the buttons.
Four Republicans voted against sending the amendment to the ballot and two Democrats voted in favor of the move. Sixty-eight yes votes were needed to advance the amendment.
'We basically lost by three votes,' said Dale Carpenter, an openly Gay professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. 'The atmosphere outside was moving, powerful. Hundreds on our side, almost none on theirs. ... A movement was born here tonight.'
Gay people will fight the amendment via a new coalition called Minnesotans United for All Families.
'Our campaign is hitting the ground running and we plan on using every resource available to defeat this anti-family constitutional amendment,' said spokesman Donald McFarland.
The proposal had passed the Senate 38-27 on May 11. It will appear on the November 2012 ballot.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, 29 states ban same-sex marriage via their constitutions and 18 of them also ban civil unions. Five states and Washington, D.C., let same-sex couples marry.
EQCA hires new ED
Equality California announced its replacement for former Executive Director Geoff Kors on May 16. Roland Palencia will lead the LGBT movement in the nation's most populous state.
Unknown to many California LGBT activists outside of Los Angeles, Palencia will leave his current job as community-benefits director for L.A. Care Health Plan.
'I am committed to creating a better future for all LGBT Californians and to connecting the LGBT movement to the broader movement for socio-economic justice,' he said.
In the '90s, Palencia was vice president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. He later was executive director of Clínica Monseñor Oscar A. Romero. He also co-founded Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos, EQCA said.
EQCA said Palencia, a native of Guatemala, is a board member of HONOR PAC, an LGBT group that 'led efforts in East Los Angeles to fight Proposition 8.'
Palencia told LGBTPOV.com on May 16 that he 'was not very involved in the mechanics of the [Prop 8] campaign, so I did not know in an intimate way how the campaign was run.'
Another big California Gay-rights group that occasionally locked horns with EQCA over Prop 8 issues, the Courage Campaign, expressed excitement over Palencia's selection.
'Roland is a visionary and by appointing him, the board of EQCA demonstrates its awareness of the future of our movement,' said the Courage Campaign's chair, Rick Jacobs. 'With his considerable success in a variety of nonprofit, public service and health care-related efforts, and just plain smarts, Roland embodies the movement for equality as a part of the broader social justice movement - exactly where it belongs.'
In the LGBTPOV interview, Palencia suggested that California's Gay community shares blame with EQCA for the failure to stop Prop 8, via which voters amended the state constitution in 2008 to re-ban same-sex marriage.
'Look, it's easy to find a single culprit and I think people were very disappointed, obviously, that we lost,' he said. 'I also think that we, the community as a whole, could have been a lot more involved, could have done a lot more things. It was an issue that was not getting us much traction for the community. ... I think a lot of us were really focused on the Obama election.'
The alternative newspaper LA Weekly called the remark 'controversial.'
Palencia also seemed to suggest that his work with the Legislature may be somewhat less aggressive than Kors' was.
'I think it's important to acknowledge the kinds of gains we have made and also acknowledge the kinds of minds we have changed because of the efforts that have been made certainly by Geoff in the past,' he told LGBTPOV. 'They are making political calculations and I think that kind of pressure needs [to be] there, especially with elected officials who don't necessarily want to support us. So I think that kind of tactic [being aggressive] still needs to be used, even though we have a more sympathetic Legislature. [But] we want to try some more collaborative kinds of approaches.'
Equality California has been responsible for 76 pro-LGBT measures passing the Legislature, a record for any state. Forty-two of them were signed into law, 20 were resolutions that did not need the governor's signature, and 14 were vetoed. Under Kors' leadership of EQCA, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed more Gay rights measures into law than any governor in U.S. history.
Recently, EQCA has been focused on a bill to mandate inclusion of LGBT people in social-sciences textbooks and on expanding anti-discrimination protections for transgender people, among other issues.
Palencia said he wants to direct the organization toward more interconnectedness with other causes.
'There's been & whether it's an implicit or explicit notion, that the Gay movement and the people-of-color movement or community are like separate communities,' he told LGBTPOV. 'And I don't think that we have as a whole related to our community in a very empowering way that we are, by nature, already connected to hundreds, if not thousands of communities. I'm talking about not only Latinos and African Americans and Asian Americans and Native Americans but people in the Middle East, people throughout California, people at different social and economic levels, people with different gender identities, gender and so forth.'
'I want to work on those intersections and to interconnect the movement for us to have a permanent majority that is irreversible so that our rights will never have to go back to the ballot,' Palencia said.
It's an approach that addresses one part of the strong criticism directed at EQCA over its leadership role in the costly 2008 campaign that failed to stop Prop 8 at the ballot box.
Critics said the campaign failed to engage key voting blocs, including people of color, didn't have enough door-to-door contact with voters, turned over too much power to outside consultants and big donors, and aired insipid TV ads.
Palencia will start work in early July. The Bay Area Reporter said he will be paid $170,000.
(LGBTPOV.com material courtesy of Karen Ocamb)
With assistance from Bill Kelley.
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