More Steps Toward Equality in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick today signed two important bills that advance GLBT equality. One was a repeal of the “1913 law” that prevented out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their marriages would not be recognized in their home states. Some historical evidence suggests that this law was intended to block interracial marriages. After gay marriage was legalized here in 2004, the 1913 law was used to restrict out-of-state couples from coming here to marry. But now the way is clear for Northampton to become the gay wedding capital of America. Come up and see us sometime!

I found it amusing that a Republican state senator was quoted in our local paper with the following objection to the 1913 repeal: What if a Rhode Island couple gets married here, moves back home and can’t get divorced because Rhode Island doesn’t recognize gay marriage? Uh, I thought you guys were about protecting marriage. Now you’re worried that divorce isn’t easy enough?

Gov. Patrick also approved the MassHealth Equality Bill, which would grant married same-sex couples in Massachusetts the same access to Medicaid benefits as heterosexual couples. The federal Defense of Marriage Act denies spousal protections to same-sex couples in federal benefits programs, but since Medicaid is also state-funded, the state can make its own policy with respect to that program. The New England Blade has the full story.

While we celebrate, however, let’s remember that GLBT people in other parts of the world are still fighting for their basic rights to be free from criminal sanctions and mob violence. MadPriest has the story, courtesy of Afrol News:

One of Uganda’s key gay rights activists who had led demonstration at an AIDS international conference in the country was arrested, tortured and dumped with bruises on his body in the capital Kampala on Saturday.

Usaam Auf Mukwaya was among the three activists arrested at the HIV/AIDS Implementers’ Meeting last month for protesting against comments by Uganda’s AIDS commission that the gay community was shooting up the number of infections in the country, but would not have access to HIV services.

The activist was arrested by the police while on his way back from Friday prayers. He was reportedly driven to a building where he was led through a dark hall to an interrogation room, and aggressively question about Ugandan LGBT movement.

Mukwaaya was cut around the hands and tortured with a machine that applies extreme pressure to the body, preventing breathing and causing severe pain before being driven out of the building and dumped. He boarded a motorbike taxi to the city center and telephone his colleagues from Shaken and bruised, he boarded a motorbike taxi to the city center and telephoned colleagues from Sexual Minorities Uganda who found him weak, filthy and without shoes and some of his clothing.

There’s been a lot of noise coming out of the Anglican Communion’s Lambeth Conference about “conditions” the conservative faction wants to impose on the ECUSA and other affirming churches: no gay bishops, no blessing same-sex unions, and so forth. Has anyone heard our Archbishop of Canterbury proposing reciprocal “conditions” on the African church leaders, namely that they take steps to oppose anti-gay violence in their home countries? Throwing stones at sinners, after all, wasn’t high on Jesus’ list of favorite hobbies.

If the Communion splits, the Western churches will probably be all right. We are the land of 1,000 Protestant sects. One more or less won’t make a difference. The real losers will be gay Anglicans and their straight allies in the developing world, whose religious leaders will no longer feel any pressure from within the church to defend their civil rights.

2 comments on “More Steps Toward Equality in Massachusetts

  1. A lively discussion is underway about “gay spirituality” versus “everybody spirituality” at the Jesus In Love Blog. The news and controversy surrounding the Lambeth Conference is another example.

    Can gays and lesbians contribute our unique gifts to the whole spiritual endeavor of humanity? Does “inclusiveness” threaten to water down or gloss over the unique characteristics of GLBT spirituality? Is it time to move beyond the “gay” label, or just another way to be in the closet?

    I’m pondering these questions as I read the thoughtful comments at my blog, and consider the Lambeth news on your blog.

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