Lavender Alert

Our latest roundup of lesbian and gay news features an advance in New Jersey, a setback in Ireland, a misstep in Britain, and good news for America's Second Family.

New Jersey to grant civil unions. Washington Blade: 'Over the strong objections of gay activists and conservative religious groups, both houses of the New Jersey Legislature were expected to pass a civil unions bill late this week by lopsided margins. The bill represents the legislature’s response to an Oct. 25 decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court declaring that same-sex couples must be given the same rights and responsibilities as opposite-sex spouses under the state’s constitution. The court left it up to the legislature to decide whether to call it marriage, civil unions or some other name. “I absolutely support a full marriage bill,” said New Jersey Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo (D-Newark), a gay rights supporter who introduced the civil unions measure. “But at this time we just don’t have the votes to pass it.”' Edge New York: 'Ordered by New Jersey’s highest court to offer marriage or its equivalent to gay couples, the Legislature voted Thursday to make New Jersey the third state to allow civil unions. Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine said he would sign the measure, which would extend to same-sex couples all the rights and privileges available under state law to married people. The bill passed the Assembly 56-19 and the Senate 23-12. "Love counts,’’ Democratic Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo, a chief sponsor of the bill, said as the debate opened. "The gender of whom one loves should not matter to the state.’’ ... Massachusetts is the only state to allow gay marriage. Vermont and Connecticut have civil unions, and California has domestic partnerships that work similarly. Since 2004 New Jersey has had a more limited version of domestic partnerships. Among the benefits gay couples would get under New Jersey’s civil unions bill are adoption rights, hospital visitation rights and inheritance rights. Officials could begin granting civil unions 60 days after the governor signs the legislation; Corzine did not say when he would do so.' Gay Orbit: 'Another win for everyone, compliments of New Jersey!'

Mary Cheney to be a mom. It wasn't easy to find positive news coverage of this, but here's some from Pink News - UK:
US Vice-President Dick Cheney has been applauded by gay campaigners for his attitude towards his lesbian daughter’s pregnancy.

Mr Cheney’s office released a statement last week describing him and his wife as “looking forward with eager anticipation to the arrival of their sixth grandchild” amid reports that their daughter Mary is having a baby with her partner of 15 years Heather Poe.

The US Administration has ignored criticism from Christian groups over the pregnancy.

Citing an official of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the article noted that the couple "will not be given equal parenting rights in their home state of Virginia, where gay couples are not allowed to adopt."

Ireland won't recognize lesbian marriage. 247Gay.com: 'A lesbian couple living in Ireland have lost a landmark court case to have their marriage recognized there. Reuters UK reports that Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan, who married in Canada in 2003, took legal action after Irish Revenue Commissioners refused to recognize them as a couple for tax purposes. According to Reuters, the couple argued that not recognizing their marriage breached their rights under the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. Justice Elizabeth Dunne rejected that argument on Thursday, saying in a written statement that she hoped lawmakers would address "the undoubted hardship caused to people in relationships of cohabitation sooner rather than later," reports the Associated Press.'

Wrong way to go. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press ..." But subjects of the Crown still don't enjoy the protection of those words, as we see in this article from the Advocate:
A British politician has been found guilty of a public-order offense over a quip that likened gay people to pedophiles.

Peter Willows has served on the city council of Brighton and Hove, a district of East Sussex in the south of England, for 12 years. The area is city renowned for its large and vocal gay community. He made the comment at a mayoral inauguration reception in May.

The 75-year-old was asked by the editor of the gay magazine Gscene whether he thought fellow council member Paul Elgood, who is gay, was a pedophile, Brighton Magistrates' Court was told.

"Willows replied to that with, 'I know you are not, Paul -- it's the other gays'."

The lawyer for the prosecution argued that Willows' words "equated gay people with pedophiles."

Willows, a war veteran, former welder and member of the Conservative party, was ordered to pay 250 pounds and received a conditional discharge.

Willows' excuse is as pathetic as his comments were disgusting. He should pay for them politically. But criminalizing speech simply because it is "offensive" threatens the very foundation of a free society.

Remarks. Richard at Hyscience asks "What in the hell is going on with the New Jersey courts and Legislature, and what's in the water that causes them to lose all reason, moral values, and common sense?" - and then anxiously awaits debate from "folks of a different persuasion and view".

Errrrm, no. If your basic premise is that the New Jersey courts and legislature - and presumably anyone who agrees with them - have lost "all reason, moral values, and common sense", then why on Earth should I waste my time talking to you?

Moving on to more important matters. I want to talk about the "hate speech" thing. The Peter Willows case is much like the case of Holocaust denial in France - as the Freeper put it succinctly, "As nutty as it is to deny it, this shouldn't be a crime." I've made this point before in the case of the high school students in South Windsor, Connecticut, who wore T-shirts to protest Connecticut's civil unions legislation. (I hasten to clarify that the Connecticut students were not the subject of criminal prosecution; so it was a matter of "free speech" in principle but not, strictly speaking, a First Amendment violation.)

My basic point is that (1) criminalizing any speech simply on the basis of its "offensiveness" is wrong; (2) these laws are the first step down a "slippery slope" that could place ever-broader restrictions on free speech and debate; (3) by fostering the perception that certain minorities enjoy a "protected" or "privileged" status, the laws end up hurting the very people they're supposed to help. The best remedy for free speech is more free speech.

And now ... FINALLY! A positive story among the many snarky stories about Mary Cheney's pregnancy:
Vice President Dick Cheney's pregnant lesbian daughter Mary will make a "fine mom," President George W. Bush said, sidestepping his past comment that a child ideally would be raised by a mother and father.

Mary Cheney, 37, and her longtime partner, Heather Poe, are expecting their first child, which would be the sixth grandchild for the vice president. Cheney was hired last year as an executive for America Online.

"I think Mary is going to be a loving soul to her child. And I'm happy for her," Bush said in an interview with People magazine.

The Washington Post reported that the baby was due in late spring.

Congratulations to Mary Cheney and Heather Poe.