Tennessee Lawmakers Reintroduce Bill to Ban Same-Sex Marriage

The proposed Natural Marriage Act surely is persistent, as it has been tossed around in both 2016 and 2017 as a way to claim that the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges would not be valid in Tennessee. After a year-long hiatus, Tennessee lawmakers are trying to reintroduce it, according to Gay Star News.

If the bill is passed, it would prohibit clerks or other officials who give out marriage licenses from recognizing same-sex unions, as well as providing protection from incarceration for said officials for not recognizing same-sex marriage. 

Jerry Sexton, a Representative from Tennessee effectively insulted the citizens of Tennessee and "similar states" by claiming that the ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges created confusion about how marriage laws should work. One would assume that the laws are fairly straightforward, but what would I know? The purpose of the bill, he claims, is to pass laws that would go to the courts and let them be challenged and to create a discussion. 

When asked if this bill would attempt to outlaw same-sex marriage, he said that he and Senator Pody are still working on it and that "It’s just too early for me to get into the details and say what the exact intent of it is." It's clear to see the bill's exact intent, is it seeks to exempt Tennessee from recognizing same-sex marriage. 

The fact that the bill has failed to get passed twice is a good indicator that it will not get passed this year, but it is still rather disheartening that some people will go to such great lengths to stop LGBTQ individuals from marrying the person they love.  

h/t: Gay Star News

Kim Davis May Have To Pay $222K For Denying Gay Couples Marriage Licenses

Back in 2015, then-candidate for Kentucky governor Matt Bevin was proud to announce he “absolutely supported” Kim Davis, the infamous county clerk who denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Even though the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that marriage equality had become the law of the land, Davis refused to issue the licenses citing her deeply-held religious beliefs. 

It’s important to note that those ‘deeply-held religious beliefs’ about the sanctity of marriage didn’t stop her from marrying three different men four times, so, there’s that.

At the time, the state required the name of the county clerk to appear on each marriage license, and Davis saw that as tacit endorsement of same-sex marriage. Digging in her heels, she stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether.

Gay and straight couples, now unable to marry, sued Davis with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. The result was a federal judge ordering Davis to issue the licenses, but she still refused.

And so it was that the judge found her in contempt of court, and she was jailed for five days making her the darling of the anti-LGBT crowd.

The eventual solution was the Kentucky legislature changing state law that required county clerks names on marriage licenses. The gay and straight couples were issued marriage licenses, and the lawsuit against Davis was dismissed in that the issue had been resolved. 

Davis went on to write a book, campaigned for a failed same-sex marriage ban in Romania, and then, this past November was voted out of office.

But this sad tale isn’t quite done, yet. There is, as they say, the issue of the bill.

In 2017, a district judge ruled that the state of Kentucky had to pay the $222,000 legal costs of the gay and straight couples who had brought the lawsuit against Davis.

According to the Associated Press, lawyers for now-Governor Matt Bevin say state taxpayers "should not have to collectively bear the financial responsibility for Davis' intransigence."

"Only Davis refused to comply with the law as was her obligation and as required by the oath of office she took," Bevin attorney Palmer G. Vance II wrote in a brief filed with the court.

“Her local policy stood in direct conflict with her statutory obligation to issue marriage licenses to qualified Kentucky couples,” continued Vance in the brief. “Davis had an independent and sworn duty to uphold the law as an elected county officer.”

For clarity, both Bevins and Davis believe that the court should not award legal fees saying the gay and straight couples didn’t technically ‘win’ the lawsuit since it was dismissed after the legislative action.

Steve Pitt, an in-house lawyer for the governor, says Bevins “continues to support Ms. Davis’s actions,” but if legal fees are to be awarded, “the taxpayers of Kentucky are not responsible to pay the ACLU’s attorney fees.”

Davis’s lawyer, Mat Staver of the virulently anti-LGBT organization Liberty Counsel, which has been labeled an ‘extremist group’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center, argues that Davis was acting on behalf of the state.

Since Bevins appealed the initial ruling regarding court costs, the two sides will face off Thursday at the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati where a three-judge panel will hear arguments on who should pay the legal fees.

(h/t Associated Press, Kentucky.com)

Judge Rules Same-Sex Married Couple Can't Live In Retirement Community

A Missouri lesbian couple was told they couldn’t buy a unit in a retirement community because they’re married. 

The women took their case to court, filing a lawsuit alleging sex discrimination.

They lost.

Beverly Nance, 68, and Mary Walsh, 72, have been in a committed relationship for 40 years, and married for ten.

In 2016, the couple visited and applied to move into the Friendship Village Sunset Hills community - doesn’t that sound lovely? - a retirement community near St. Louis. 

They were qualified tenants and they even put down a $2,000 deposit.

But a week after putting down the deposit, a representative of Friendship Village called to inquire about the nature of the women's relationship.

When Walsh informed the rep that they were married, they were told they couldn’t move into Friendship Village because it has a policy that “defined marriage as between a man and a woman” and as “marriage is understood in the Bible.”

So, the women, with the help of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, sued in federal court claiming that the Fair Housing Act (FHA) had been violated.

The FHA bans discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.”

“Mary and Bev were denied housing for one reason and one reason only – because they were married to each other rather than to men,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Senior Staff Attorney Julie Wilensky in a statement. “This is exactly the type of sex discrimination the Fair Housing Act prohibits.”

But U.S. District Judge Jean Hamilton didn’t see it that way and dismissed their case this week, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“The Court finds the claims boil down to those of discrimination based on sexual orientation rather than sex alone,” wrote Judge Hamilton. “The Eighth Circuit has squarely held that ‘Title VII does not prohibit discrimination against homosexuals.’”

In the state of Missouri, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is legal. There are no statewide protections for LGBTQ people in the Show Me state.

The couple's lawyers told reporters, “We disagree with the court’s decision, and our clients are considering next steps.”

(h/t St. Louis Post-Dispatch - image via Facebook/MaryWalsh)

Although Same-Sex Unions Are Still Not Recognized, Lithuania is On The Right Track

In a historic moment for the country of Lithuania, top court ruled that the Baltic state must grant residency permits to foreign spouses of gay citizens reports AFP. Even though same-sex unions are still not recognized by law, this is an important moment ruling for the majority Catholic country. Lithuania is home to over 2.8 million residents.

Head of the Lithuanian Gay League, Vladimir Simonko, said to the AFP:

This is a progressive ruling that sends an important message to our LGBT community and politicians. I hope it will lead towards more positive attitude towards gay families.

Homosexuality was only decriminalized in Lithuania in 1993

The Catholic church was not pleased with the ruling and has stated:

The postulate that the family concept is gender-neutral is not in line with the teachings of the Church. Marriage is the basis of the family and it is concluded upon the free mutual consent of a man and woman.

Lithuania’s immigration department will have to begin issuing permits for same-sex spouses of Lithuanian residents.

h/t: AFP

Within Hours Of Taking Office, President Bolsonaro Began His Assault On LGBTQ Brazilians

The LGBTQ community in Brazil began to see its fears realized on New Year’s Day when newly-elected President Jair Bolsonaro immediately issued executive orders targeting the South American country’s gay citizens.

Just hours after his inauguration, Bolsonaro removed all LGBTQ issues from the agenda of the Human Rights Ministry.

Damares Alves, a former evangelical pastor who is now Brazil’s new human rights minister, said in her first public statement, “The state is lay, but this minister is terribly Christian.”

“Girls will be princesses and boys will be princes,” said Alves. “There will be no more ideological indoctrination of children and teenagers in Brazil.”

In removing LGBTQ concerns from the Human Rights Ministry, Bolsonaro did not name another agency to take on the responsibilities.

Bolsonaro has been virulently anti-LGBTQ his entire career having worn the label of “proud homophobe” for years. In the past he’s said parents should beat their children if they suspect they might be gay, and that he’d rather have “a dead son rather than a gay son.”

Sadly, his platform of anti-LGBTQ, anti-Black, anti-women, and anti-Indigenous positions won his the presidency with more than 55% of the vote in October.

As Instinct has recently reported, numerous same-sex couples made a dash to the alter to get married before Bolsonaro took office, concerned he might attempt to reverse the country’s 2013 same-sex marriage law.

According to NBC News, Bolsonaro signed a document in partnership with the Catholic organization Voto Católico Brasil promising “to defend and promote the true meaning of matrimony: the union between a man and a woman.” LGBTQ activists and advocates saw that as a threat to repeal marriage equality.

Bolsonaro's impending presidency led to a 66% spike in same-sex weddings in November according to The New York Times.

Considering the assault on LGBTQ rights by the Trump administration, it comes as no surprise that Donald Trump tweeted a message of support to Bolsonaro, who has been called the “Trump of the Tropics.”

President Trump also sent his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to attend Bolsonaro’s inauguration.


(h/t AP - image via WikiMedia)

Same-Sex Couple Wed Just Minutes After Marriage Equality Came To Austria

Shortly after midnight today, two women in Velden, Austria, exchanged wedding vows becoming the first same-sex couple to officially marry as marriage equality came to the Alpine country.

After being engaged for four years, Daniela Paier and Nicole Kopaunik were wed early Tuesday morning after patiently waiting for same-sex marriage to become legal in their country.

Austria's constitutional court ruled in 2017 that the country’s ban on same-sex marriage was discriminatory after years of challenges from LGBTQ rights groups.

Although same-sex couples have been allowed to enter into civil partnerships since 2010, marriage was still out of bounds.

The country’s governing parties, the People's Party and the Freedom Party, opposed marriage equality, but honored the court's ruling.

Five couples who filed the legal challenge to Austria’s marriage laws with the Supreme Court were granted special permission to wed early as part of the ruling.

A September 2018 poll for Österreich found that 74% of Austrians supported same-sex marriage and 26% were against.


(h/t Miami Herald)

LGBTQ Brazilians Worry Marriage Equality May Be Revoked Under New President

Even though same-sex marriage has been legal in Brazil since 2013, LGBTQ couples are hurrying their wedding plans before right-wing politician Jair Bolsonaro is sworn into office as the country’s new president.

Bolsonaro, often referred to as the “Donald Trump of the Tropics,” has been virulently anti-LGBTQ his entire career and campaigned on a promise to defend “the true meaning of matrimony as a union between man and woman.”

Bolsonaro's campaign already seems to have begun to influence public opinion and actions.

Comparing 2017 to 2016, anti-LGBTQ murders are up 30% (387 in 2017 vs. 327 in 2016) according to local LGBTQ advocacy group Grupo Gay de Bahia.

And openly lesbian city councillor Marielle Franco of Rio de Janeiro was murdered in March of this year.

All of this and Bolsonaro's impending presidency has led to a 66% spike in same-sex weddings in November according to The New York Times.

In Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo, 57 same-sex weddings were celebrated during the first ten days of December compared to 113 in all of December 2017.

Aline Foguel set a date for her wedding to her girlfriend Carolina Zannata right after Bolsonaro’s landslide victory. She, like many in the LGBTQ community, worries that the new far-right president’s ascension will give permission to homophobes to openly air their hateful, divisive rhetoric, possibly leading to violence.

“People now have this open homophobic discourse that they were too embarrassed to say before,” Ms. Foguel told the Times. “I’m so afraid of reliving a past that I thought we had already conquered. I’ve had panic attacks.”

The Brazilian Bar Association’s head of sexual diversity, Maria Berenice Dias, urged same-sex couples “who want to get married to hurry up and formalize their union before the end of the year.”

And it’s not just marriage equality Brazilian LGBTQs are concerned about.

Noah Beltramini, a transgender man, not only rushed to marry but also to officially change his name and gender identification after a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year allowed.

“It wasn’t something I was worried about before,” said Beltramini. “But with Bolsonaro I feel completely vulnerable.”

(h/t The New York Times)

Sexy US Navy 'First Kiss' Photo Goes Viral

As is tradition in the US Navy, a lottery is held to determine which lucky spouse will get to receive the ceremonial ‘first kiss’ as sailors return home from a long deployment

Spouses can enter the raffle with the funds donated to charity.

Kenneth Woodington, who works in special education, was the lucky winner meaning he would be first to kiss his spouse, Bryan Woodington, when the USS The Sullivans returned from seven months in the Middle East.

Kenneth told News4Jax, "When he got off the ship, I lost all control, I just dropped everything and I just ran.”

“And I knew I was going to dip him,” added Bryan.

The kiss reminded many of the iconic 1945 Times Square kiss on V-J Day.

In the news report from News4Jax, you can hear the cheers from the crowd.

But some folks just got to hate. And so it was that the news station received some angry emails over broadcasting the same-sex kiss.

From some of the email comments:

“How sad that your station has dropped to such a low as to show a gay couple kissing on your newscast. How many people are now trying to explain their young kids why 2 men are kissing, very disgusting.”

“I’ll never watch your news again!!!! So long, News4Jax."

“I thought this was a ‘family friendly’ news channel.”

However, the photo of the smooch was also posted to Naval Station Mayport’s Facebook page where the image received overwhelmingly positive response.



Times have changed when a Gay sailor can welcome home his partner without fear. Welcome home. Life is short love whoever you want to love

Duty, honor, country. Love whomever you want. Semper fi.

I'm not gay and this doesn't offend me one damn bit. Why should it? Love is love for goodness sake!

Wish my man would kiss me like this!! Just saying…

This is so bad ass

Some folks trolled the few haters with backhanded comments about the weather and fashion sense:

This is digsuting. (sic) The weather should be ashamed of itself looking all gloomy.

This makes me sick to my stomach. White shoes after Labor Day

In the responses, over 500 viewers clicked “Love,” another 250+ clicked “Like,” and only four sad fools clicked “Angry.”

The Woodingtons, who are newlyweds, are aware of the negative comments, but say this moment can be a teaching moment in 2018.

"It didn’t really bother me," Kenneth said. "Honestly, I’m the type of person who doesn’t really care that much about what people say."

"My grandmother always taught me, she said, 'You know some people have a different life and that’s just  how they are and you just have to treat them as such, and treat them with kindness and respect,'"  Bryan added.

For now, Bryan says that he’s more focused on happiness: “I gave him nothing but love and care and understanding right out the gate, so I think we just fell for each other really hard and we both knew what we really wanted.”

The couple also says the Navy has been nothing but supportive to them as a family.

A spokesman for Naval Station Mayport, Bill Austin, told News4Jax this isn’t the first same-sex kiss and it is not an issue for the Navy. He said the maritime branch of the armed forces “has always been gender neutral and on the forefront of progress.”

Watch News4Jax’s report below.



(h/t News4Jax)

LGBT Brazilians Rush To Wed Before New Year & Before Homophobic President Is Sworn In

It wasn't too long ago that we were sharing 'Why I'm Marrying My Partner Before Trump Can Take My Rights Away'

No one knows what the new presidency will hold when Trump and his advisors take over. Will it be a turning back of the clocks?  Is it all just hot air?  The questions right now outweigh the answers. 

Zach Brooke is not waiting for many of those questions to be answered.  He's taking matters into his own hands and is making changes before the Trump administration takes over.  He explains his actions in "Why I'm Marrying My Partner Before Trump Can Take My Rights Away."

No, Trump has not taken away our right to marry. Some will say 'yet', some say he won't be able to, others think Kavanaugh will be there for the assist.  It's all very debatable, but thinking back to where we were mentally in November and December of 2016, we know how the Brazilian LGBT community is going through right now. 

Brazil's incoming president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been unequivocal when it comes to his negative views about homosexuality. He takes office on Jan. 1.

Far-right Brazilian Congressman Jair Bolsonaro — once considered unelectable due, in part, to his long history of offensive comments — was elected on Oct. 28. The former military captain, who officially takes office on Jan. 1, has been unequivocal when it comes to his views on homosexuality. He has attributed homosexuality to drug use, compared same-sex marriage to pedophilia, advocated that parents beat being gay out of their children and once said he’d rather his son die in an accident than be gay. In 2013, he even admitted, “Yes, I am homophobic — and very proud of it.” - NBCNews.com

Was our panic n 2016 just the LGBT community worrying or was there a larger sign saying we should run to the courthouse and say our 'I DO's'?

Many in Brazil point to two distinct signs that LGBT citizens should worry.  The first would be the advice from Brazilian judge and president of the Brazilian Bar Association’s Commission on Sexual Diversity, Maria Berenice Dias. She stated that couples need to highly consider getting married before the new president takes office because there was a risk rights could be taken away.

Julio Moreira, director of Grupo Arco-Iris, one of the oldest LGBTQ organizations in Brazil, 

Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2013 in Brazil based on a “judical understanding” by the country’s Supreme Court. Marriage equality is bases on interpretation of the Brazilian Constitution and not based on any federal law. Interpretations change.  Sound familiar?

The other not so subtle sign occurred two weeks before the election.

Bolsonaro signed a document in partnership with the conservative Catholic organization Voto Católico Brasil promising his commitment “to defend and promote the true meaning of matrimony: the union between a man and a woman.” Many have interpreted this as a sign that preventing same-sex marriages may be among his priorities while in office. - NBCNews.com

NBCNews caught up with Caique Paz, a corporate event planner based in São Paulo, who stated that there has been a national movement to assist same-sex couples to marry before the new year. 

Here's a post by Caique Paz on the Facebook page of Casa das Caldeiras, site of a multiple wedding ceremony just a week ago. 

Last Sunday, 16/12/2018, we celebrate the love of these couples in one of the most beautiful resistance acts i have ever seen. As many of you know, there was a large number of early marriages after guidance from the chairman of the special committee of the sexual and gender diversity of the Federal Council of OAB, Maria Berenice Dias, so that the couples couples would seek to ensure the right In the face of this, we created a network of countless people willing to make these marriages without pre-planning happen.

In the middle of all help to some couples, I contacted some spaces to help us and Katia from Casa das Caldeiras gave us a date to use the house. Then I called RafaellaBianca, I found Fernanda and Karinaand we started running after all the rest. Without each of these people none of this would have happened! I leave here my greatest respect, admiration, affection and gratitude for the universe having crossed our paths at the moment I and all those involved most needed after these last months.

And around 15 days, with the help of more people and professionals with a huge heart, we managed to perform this ceremony and make history in front of the scenario we live in. I still have no words to explain what we felt at that moment and much less to thank everyone who supported from the beginning, the collaborative vakinha and the presence in the day.

Will Jair Bolsonaro upset the path that marriage equality has been on since 2013?  Will he have the power to do so?  Will the courts bend to his homophobia?

Keep those wedding bells ringing as long as you can, Brazil.

h/t: NBCNews.com

Cuba Reverses On Marriage Equality After Evangelical Uproar

The government of Cuba announced Tuesday that the proposed constitutional Article 68, which would open the door for same-sex marriage in the island nation, has been removed from the latest draft of a new constitution.

Instinct previously reported that President Miguel Díaz-Canel has publicly supported legalizing marriage equality.

Cuba’s National Assembly announced the news in a series of tweets:



According to Emmy Award winning South Florida journalist Hatzel Vela, translated from Spanish the tweet read, "The [Constitutional] Commission proposes to defer the concept of marriage, meaning it will be taken out of the constitutional project, as a way to respect all opinions. Marriage is a social and jurisdictional institution. The law will define the rest of its elements."

Another tweet said, "The Family Code should establish who can engage in marriage." The Family code is scheduled to be updated shortly after the confirmation of the new constitution. 

The first draft of the new constitution was made public in July.



For months now, LGBTQ activists had worked towards eliminating the description of marriage as a union of a man and woman. Instead, the language would have been changed to the union of "two people with absolutely equal rights and obligations."

But, as the public debate continued, evangelical church leaders led protests at meetings on the new constitution. 

Vela pointed to another National Assembly tweet that said, “Article 68 was the one most discussed by the people in the popular consultation, in 66 percent of the meetings (of citizen debate).”

The final version of the new constitution is scheduled to be voted on by the National Assembly later this week in advance of a public referendum on February 24.

Former President Raul Castro’s daughter, Mariela Castro Espin, who has led to charge to legalize same-sex marriage, took to Facebook to say “there is no setback” and that the tweet from the National Assembly wasn’t accurate.

“There is no setback, the essence of Article 68 is maintained, the struggle continues, now let’s give the YES to the Constitution and then close ranks to achieve a Family Code as advanced as the new constitutional text,” she wrote according to Gay Star News. “Cuba is ours, Cuba belongs to everyone.”

However, The Washington Blade reports that several of the Cuban journalists and LGBT activists they communicate with on regular basis say “they face harassment and even arrest if they publicly criticize Mariela Castro and/or the Cuban government.”

(h/t WPLG, Gay Star News, Washington Blade)