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Topics In the News
Marriage Watch: California, Brazil, Denmark, New Hampshire
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 10/26/11
Last updated on: 10/26/11
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Attorney David Boies. Photograph by David Shankbone (CC BY 3.0).

David Boies, co-counsel in the Proposition 8 case, expresses frustration at the delays in rulings from the California Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, Brazil's Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage and Denmark's governing coalition announces plans to legalize same-sex marriage, and a Republican-controlled committee in the New Hampshire House of Representatives votes to repeal gay marriage there.

On October 23, 2011, David Boies, co-counsel in the American Foundation for Equal Rights case challenging the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, officiated at the high-profile wedding of Bill White and David Eure at New York's Four Seasons restaurant. The wedding, whose guests included Barbara Walters, Joel Grey, Gayle King, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, and former Governor David Patterson, featured entertainment by Aretha Franklin.

At the wedding, Boies commented that the struggle for marriage equality was the United States' last great civil rights battle and expressed great frustration over the slowness of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is waiting for a ruling on a question of standing from the California Supreme Court, to issue a decision in the case, which was originally filed in May 2009 and has been on appeal since Judge Vaughn Walker declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional on August 4, 2010.

"We still don't have a decision," Boies said. "Every day, people's constitutional rights are being restricted."

On October 25, 2011, Brazil's Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. In a case brought by a lesbian couple who had been denied the right to marry in Rio Grande do Sul state, the court ruled 4-1 that the Constitution "makes it possible for stable civil unions to become marriages" and that "sexual orientation should not serve as a pretext for excluding families from the legal protection that marriage represents."

The decision is a victory for the couple who brought the suit, but it does not mandate same-sex marriage throughout the country. However, legal experts say that the Supreme Court ruling will play a significant role in discouraging Brazil's states from blocking same-sex marriage.

On October 21, 2011, Denmark's newly installed coalition government announced that it will introduce legislation to authorize same-sex marriage and to permit same-sex weddings in the Church of Denmark.

"The first same-sex weddings will hopefully become reality in Spring 2012. I look forward to the moment the first homosexual couple steps out of the church. I'll be standing out there throwing rice," the new church minister, Manu Sareen, a Social Liberal, remarked.

In 1989, Denmark became the first country in the world to permit same-sex civil unions, known as registered partnerships. The registered partnerships convey all the financial benefits and civil rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples, but the law bars church ceremonies and the use of the term marriage.

In 1997, the Church of Denmark began blessing same-sex partnerships. However, despite the fact that 69% of the Danish public favors same-sex marriage, church officials are expected to oppose the new legislation authorizing same-sex church weddings.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee of the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 11-6 on October 25, 2011 to advance a bill that would repeal the state's marriage equality law and replace it with a form of civil unions.

The measure would eliminate all future same-sex marriages and instead allow unmarried adults, including relatives, to enter into civil unions. The proposed civil unions law would be open to any two adults and would let anyone refuse to recognize the unions. It also would allow anyone to discriminate against the couples in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on religious or moral beliefs.

The full House is expected to vote on the bill early next year. It would then head to the Senate for consideration. Republicans control both houses of the New Hampshire legislature.

However, polls have shown that large majorities in the state support marriage equality, and Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, has vowed to veto the repeal attempt.

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