News (USA)

Civil Unions and beyond in 2012

Welcome to 2012! We got a lot of work to do this year, so let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. The new year marks new civil union laws in Delaware, Hawaii, and California. Psychologists in North Carolina lash out at anti-gay prejudice, LGBTs can marry in Cancun — probably — and something fishy’s going on with civil unions in the European Union.

This week’s Marriage News Watch is here:

Following is the text of Matt Baume’s report:

Civil unions are legal starting now in Delaware. State offices are closed on Monday, but one county clerk opened early on New Year’s Day to solemnize eight unions. Among those: Lisa Goodman, President of Equality Delaware.

Hawaii’s civil unions also started on January First, despite a last-minute lawsuit by an Oahu church group. The two congregations in Waipahu claim that allowing civil unions violates their freedom of religion. It’s a weird argument: they’re saying that the civil unions law forces them to rent out their facilities to LGBT couples. The state has responded, saying in essence, “no it doesn’t.” And a judge agreed.

And despite a ruling expected any day now in the Prop 8 case, California still doesn’t have marriage. And its civil unions still fall short of offering the same protections. But that gap will close slightly this month, with the enactment of the Domestic Partner Equality Act. The bill was authored by Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco and passed with the help of Equality California, and it corrects numerous inequalities between civil unions and marriage. Among them: residency requirements, age limitations, divorce procedures, and confidentiality. Previously, straight couples were allowed to seal their names for privacy when getting married, while LGBTs were prohibited from doing so.

Of course, this patchwork approach to civil unions gets us closer to equality, but it doesn’t change the ultimate goal: marriage.

This week the cause got a boost in North Carolina, with the state Psychological Association stating its opposition to a constitutional ban on marriage equality. The NCPA wrote, “There is no empirical evidence that supports the denial of marriage rights to people in same-sex relationships,” and added, “differentiation based on sexual orientation is an expression of prejudice.”

In international news, eight couples will marry in Cancun, where marriage equality isn’t explicitly allowed, but it also isn’t prohibited.

We’ve seen a lot of progress around the globe in the last year, particularly in South America and Europe, but some countries still lag behind. A new poll in Lithuania shows just 4% support civil unions. But that number may not be right. We know Lithuania’s not a great place for equality, but a survey in 2009 showed support at 42%, and a 2006 survey came in at 17%. The timing is also a little suspicious, since a civil unions bill is currently stalled in Parliament.

Those are the headlines, visit us over at for more on all these stories and to sign up for email alerts for breaking news stories. And check out for details on the fight for federal marriage equality. I’m Matt Baume at the American Foundation for Equal Rights. We’ll see you next week.

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