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Friday, June 17, 2005

A New Challenge to Same-Sex Marriages

More than a year after gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts, Gov. Mitt Romney said Thursday that he would support a newly proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would overturn that right.

"My view is that marriage should be defined as a relationship between a man and a woman," Mr. Romney said at a news conference, adding, "I hope that this amendment will ultimately be the one which the citizens have an opportunity to vote on."

Mr. Romney's endorsement of the amendment is likely to inject new vigor into the efforts of gay marriage opponents, who failed to block a court decision that allowed the marriages to begin in May 2004.

At that time, most opponents of same-sex marriage supported a two-pronged amendment that would ban gay marriage but create civil unions for same-sex couples. That amendment passed its first-round vote in the Massachusetts Legislature in March 2004 and is scheduled for the second required vote this fall. If passed, it would go before voters in November 2006.

But because some new legislative leaders now favor gay marriage, the compromise amendment has been given slim chance of passing its second round.

As a result, gay marriage opponents have proposed the new amendment, which, because it was not initiated by the Legislature, would require a lower threshold of legislative support to get on the ballot. The new amendment needs to get signatures from 65,825 residents on petitions, and then the support of only 50 of the Legislature's 200 members, in each of two consecutive sessions, before it can be brought before the voters in 2008. Proponents of the measure say they have 60 votes.

The new amendment, drafted by a coalition of conservative groups led by the Massachusetts Family Institute, would generate some unusual consequences. It would not, for example, require that same-sex marriages that have already taken place be dissolved or invalidated.

Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, said his group had decided not to require that because "the homosexual marriages that occurred happened because of a flawed decision" made by judges, and "it's unfair to penalize those people for a bad decision made by the courts."

Asked if it would be confusing if some same-sex couples were legally married, while others would be barred from getting married, Mr. Mineau said, "It will be for a season, but eventually it will be a thing of the past, a brief social experiment that happened because of court activism."

Mr. Romney said Thursday that he supported the compromise amendment last year because he hoped that after it passed the first vote, the courts could be persuaded to delay the onset of gay marriage until the amendment reached its final vote.

He said he now preferred the new amendment because "it's a very clean, straightforward, unambiguous amendment." The compromise amendment, he said, was "somewhat confused or muddied" because it included civil unions.

Mr. Mineau said that arrangement would be like asking people "to vote for George Bush and John Kerry on the same ticket."

Mr. Romney said that instead of civil unions, he would support "certain domestic partnership benefits like hospital visitation rights and rights of survivorship and so forth."

Mr. Mineau's coalition, however, opposes domestic partnerships, believing they discourage heterosexual marriage. They favor defining same-sex couples as part of larger group including "any two adults living together who are ineligible for marriage," and to provide them assistance under a proposal Mr. Mineau called a "reciprocal benefits" bill.

"It would apply to two elderly sisters living together, an uncle taking care of a handicapped nephew, or even adults taking care of elderly parents," he said.

Gay marriage supporters said on Thursday that they hoped opposition to same-sex marriage had decreased now that about 6,000 same-sex weddings have taken place over the last year. They accused Mr. Romney of trying to appeal to conservatives outside Massachusetts in preparation for a possible run for president.

"We believe he's projecting himself to a national Republican audience," said Marty Rouse, campaign director for MassEquality, a group that supports gay marriages.

Still, Arlene Isaacson, co-chairwoman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, said she was concerned that some legislators who had planned not to support the compromise amendment this fall might support it now on the theory that establishing civil unions would be better than losing out on both marriage and civil unions.

"Some people in the gay community are torn about that," she said. "There are some people who think, 'At least get us civil unions.' "

Gay Marriage Ban Upheld

SAN FRANCISCO, June 16 (Reuters) - Delivering a setback to supporters of same-sex marriages, a federal judge in California on Thursday upheld the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which recognizes only unions between a man and a woman.

In addition to preventing the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, the act allows states to disregard those performed in other states.

The case was brought by two men who sued Orange County after they were denied a marriage license. The ruling was made by Judge Gary Taylor of Federal District Court.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Clinton/Bush Takeover of UN Will Have To Wait

Contractor Now Denies He Talked With Annan on Oil-for-Food Bid

UNITED NATIONS, June 16 - The contractor executive in the United Nations oil-for-food program who claimed in a 1998 memo that Secretary General Kofi Annan supported an award to the company where his son Kojo worked now denies ever talking about the bid with Mr. Annan.

In a statement issued by his lawyers, the executive, Michael R. Wilson, said Wednesday that he "never met or had any discussion with the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, on the issue of the bid for the U.N. contract," not "during the bidding process or at any time prior to the award of the contract."

The Dec. 4, 1998, memo from Mr. Wilson, made public on Tuesday, said that in late November 1998 he had conversations with "the S.G. and his entourage" and was told that his company, Cotecna Inspection Services, "could count on their support."

Mr. Annan, who denies having known about Cotecna's bid, said Thursday that he would leave the matter to Paul A. Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman who heads a United Nations-appointed panel investigating the program, "to look into it and get to the bottom of the allegations."

He urged reporters "to resist the temptation to substitute yourself for the Volcker commission."

In a report on March 29, the Volcker panel concluded that Mr. Annan had not influenced the awarding of the contract. On Tuesday, the committee said it was "urgently reviewing" the case in light of the December 1998 memo.

Congressional committees investigating the program have been exploring whether Kojo Annan and Mr. Wilson have tried to coordinate their accounts of what they told United Nations officials about Cotecna's bid for the $10-million-a-year contract.

This is not the first time that Mr. Wilson has recanted a statement involving the secretary general and his son.

The March report of the Volcker committee records an interview with Mr. Wilson last January in which he recounted a conversation with Kofi Annan in November 1998, when Mr. Annan's son was still a consultant for the company, about a potential conflict of interest in Cotecna's bid.

The Volcker report said that 15 to 20 minutes after the interview, Mr. Wilson called the investigator to change the conversation date to after Kojo Annan had left Cotecna.

Julia Preston contributed reporting from New York for this article.

Max Boot’s Recruiting Plan Deserves the Boot

Max Boot, one of the most ardent boosters of the U.S. government’s invasion of Iraq and one of the most pro-empire proponents you’ll ever find, is lamenting the difficulty that military recruiters are having in signing up young American men to give their lives for foreign democracy and the establishment of an Islamic regime in Iraq. Given his enthusiastic devotion to the U.S. government’s military occupation of Iraq, Boot rejects withdrawing from Iraq, but he also rejects the idea of a draft because the latter would “dilute the high quality of the all-volunteer force.”

So, what does Boot suggest? He says that the military should recruit foreigners to do the fighting, dying, and killing in exchange for U.S. citizenship. Yes, you read that right — he didn’t say simply recruit illegal aliens living in the United States — he said recruit foreigners living anywhere in the world and make them American citizens in return! Presumably Boot feels that this would not “dilute the high quality of the all-volunteer force.” He even uses the French (!) Foreign Legion as his model.

Anticipating the rabid reaction that he knows will come from many in the anti-immigrant (and anti-French) crowd, Boot says, “There is no better way to build [a cultural bond to America] than through military training and discipline. Drill sergeants have been forging cohesive units out of disparate elements since the days of the Roman legions.”

So, how about that? According to Boot, culture and militarism now go hand in hand, just as they did in the Roman Empire (or, for that matter, in the Soviet and British empires as well). Military boot camp, humiliation, right-face and left-face, cadence songs, obeying orders, spit-shining, and “yes sir” and “no sir.” Now, that’s what the culture of a free country is all about, according to neoconservative icon Max Boot.

Boot fails to address a critical moral point: If Americans are refusing to sign up to become cannon fodder or killers of innocent people in the war of aggression and illegal occupation of Iraq, why is it moral to encourage or pay citizens of foreign countries to do so?

I’ve got another solution that perhaps Boot hasn’t considered: Rather than doling out advice on how the U.S. government should run the occupation of a country that never attacked the United States and that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, and rather than coming up with a bizarre solution to the U.S. government’s recruiting woes, why doesn’t Boot himself volunteer for the army, just as Pat Tillman did after the 9/11 attacks?

That is, if Boot honestly believes that the security of the nation (or the government) is at stake or if he feels that democracy or the establishment of an Islamic Shi’ite regime in Iraq are so important, why is he wasting his time coming up with ludicrous plans to fill the military’s ranks? Why doesn’t he instead go down to his recruiter’s office and simply sign up and volunteer for service in Iraq? Wouldn’t that be the “patriotic” thing to do? Doesn’t genuine leadership entail his doing what he is asking others to do?

Or does Boot feel that only the poor, uneducated people of Latin America, Africa, and Asia (or the United States), and not the elite, well-to-do, intellectual pointy-heads of America should be put in the position of fighting, dying, and killing for the U.S. government’s military adventures overseas?

What better reflection of the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the neoconservative vision for our nation than Boot’s military-recruitment plan? Not only have these people destroyed Iraq, unless they’re stopped their pro-militarism and pro-empire vision will ultimately destroy our nation as well.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Send him email.