What Marriage Equality Means to Me

The Marriage Equality Bill, proposed by Labour MP Louisa Wall, passed the vote by 77 votes to 44 meaning same-sex marriage will now be legal in New Zealand (Photo Credit: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images).

The Marriage Equality Bill, proposed by Labor MP Louisa Wall, passed the vote by 77 votes to 44 meaning same-sex marriage will now be legal in New Zealand (Photo Credit: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images).

By Lexie Matheson, Academic and Program Leader for Amnesty International New Zealand at AUT University

On Tuesday April 17, New Zealand became the 13th country to legalize same-sex marriage as the Marriage Amendment Bill passed its third reading 77-44. The law will take effect in August 2013 and will allow same-sex and transgender couples to marry.

Marriage means an awful lot to me.

It hasn’t always, but when I met my spouse, I knew that this was the path I hoped we’d walk together. Things worked out, and despite a 30-year age difference and the odd gender peculiarity, we married in Te Whare Karakia o Hato Pateriki raua o Hato Hohepa – otherwise known as St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral – in central Auckland.

We were able to marry because my spouse Cushla is a natal female and I was born biologically a male, even though I identify as female and had, by that time, already begun my gender transition.

We were legally able to marry because my birth certificate said I was male even though I’m not and the church treated us as they would any other heterosexual couple, despite knowing from day one of my intention to transition. This was in 2001 and Marriage Equality was no more than a twinkle in the eye of New Zealand society – and possibly not even that.


Maryland: Will Death Penalty Repeal Follow Marriage Equality?

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley speaks ©AFP/Getty Images

Yesterday, marriage equality became the law in Maryland with Governor Martin O’Malley’s signature.  Death penalty repeal is another issue the Governor says he feels strongly about, and he should push for the chance to sign that into law too.

In 2009, Maryland legislators tried to create the perfect death penalty law, one that would not risk executing the innocent.  Of course, human beings are still running Maryland’s capital punishment system. Mistakes will be made, and that awful risk remains. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Protesters March on U.S. Capital

Photo credit - Yousef Almulhem (September 2009)

Photo credit - Yousef Almulhem (September 2009)

Tens of thousands of protesters came together at a rally Sunday afternoon following a march through the streets of Washington DC.  The event, known as the National Equality March, was an enormous gathering of support for equal rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) citizens in the country.  While the demand for “equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states,” seems reasonable enough, the matter of whether LGBT citizens should be granted equal rights under the law has been a huge debate in recent years. Two major points of protest are, first, for the government to put an end to the don’t ask, don’t tell (DADT) policy, which has resulted in hundreds of soldiers being discharged from the military, and, second, to put an end to The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which gives states the right to not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states and forbids federal marriage rights from being granted to any same-sex couples, regardless of their state laws. Other issues such as legal discrimination, legal physical protection, equitable healthcare, and immigration policies were also discussed at the rally. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Why Prop 8 Impacts All of Us

Until I attended law school, my strongest exposure to court rooms came from an old “L.A. Law” addiction.  (If you don’t know what that is, do me a favor and don’t depress me by asking.  Think “Boston Legal” for the 80s.)  One of my girlfriends in grad school came from a family with a strong legal tradition and was a lot savvier than me when it came to actual courtroom experience.  For years, her father argued cases in front of the Supreme Court and I listened with interest as she shared insider’s knowledge.  Jennifer said that one of the hardest things to explain to her dad’s clients was that by the time the cases reached the Supreme Court, they were not about them.  They had become cases about the law and the way the law is interpreted for everyone.

I’ve been thinking about that lesson this morning, as the California Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to Proposition 8.  It’s been a hard thing to explain to the people of California – and the country- that Proposition 8 is not just a case about same-sex marriage.  It’s a case about the rights of all minority populations in California.

If that doesn’t seem obvious, let me explain.  The California Constitution, like all constitutions provides fundamental rights for those under its jurisdiction.  Last year, the state Supreme Court ruled that marriage was a fundamental right and must be extended to same-sex couples.  When Californians voted for Proposition 8, they voted to take away a fundamental right of a minority group.  The case is really about whether we can allow fundamental rights to be taken away from citizens by majority vote.  Do the majority of voters have the power to take away constitutional rights from any group?  The answer must be no. Otherwise, every minority group based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender, is vulnerable.  Without the security of equal protection under the law, all minority groups are at risk of losing fundamental rights whenever the majority decides to take them away.