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In Bible Belt, rift emerges in pro-gay marriage movement

People carry a banner during a march celebrating a U.S. appeals court ruling made on February 5, 2012 that found California's gay marriage ban (Proposition 8) unconstitutional in West Hollywood, California in this February 7, 2012

People carry a banner during a march celebrating a U.S. appeals court ruling made on February 5, 2012 that found California's gay marriage ban (Proposition 8) unconstitutional in West Hollywood, California in this February 7, 2012

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- In Kentucky, a Bible Belt state where voters have passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, the movement to promote gay rights has two factions.

One seeks to overturn discrimination through a legislative path, admitting it faces long odds. The other wants to break down barriers to gay marriage with demonstrations and civil disobedience.

Chris Hartman, head of Kentucky's Fairness Campaign, spends his time lobbying for a nondiscrimination law that would protect gays and lesbians from losing their jobs or being denied housing because of their sexual orientation.

He concedes that the law, which has been proposed every year for a decade and has never been brought to a vote, has little chance of passing any time soon.

Then there is Rev. Maurice Blanchard, who says he is less patient. He is calling for an historic gay rights march on the state capitol on March 26, the day the Supreme Court begins hearing two gay-marriage cases: one on a marriage ban in California and another on a federal law that restricts the definition of marriage to the union of a man and a woman.

The issue has put the two men, both openly gay and in their early 30s, at loggerheads. Hartman says gay marriage is a non-starter for state lawmakers and talk of it will only set back negotiations for more moderate proposals, like a non-discrimination law.

"Marriage is on the forefront of many people's minds, and it's tough to go to the folks who are excited about relationship recognition and be the person to say, 'But that's not where our leaders are,'" said Hartman. "It's not that it's ambitious; it's unrealistic."

Blanchard, who was arrested with his partner in January when they refused to leave the Jefferson County clerk's office after being denied a marriage license, likens his fight to the struggle for black civil rights and says there is no proper time to demand equality.

"I want the (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) person who sees this event to feel affirmed: Faith is not against me and in fact it is the basis for calling for your rights," Blanchard said.

LEGAL TO DISCRIMINATE

Nationally, 63 percent of Americans say gay marriage or civil unions should be legalized, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll of 22,395 people in 2013. Of those, 41 percent said they support full marriage while 22 percent support civil unions; 25 percent say neither option should be legal.

Of 7,869 respondents in the South, support for gay marriage is considerably less: 57 percent support gay marriage or civil unions, with 36 percent favoring same-sex marriage and 21 percent favoring civil unions. Another 30 percent oppose gay marriage and civil unions.

The poll's accuracy is measured using a credibility interval, which was plus or minus 0.8 percentage points among Americans and plus or minus 1.3 percentage points among Southerners.

"Regional efforts to redefine marriage have only been successful in deep-blue states," said Thomas Peters of the National Organization for Marriage, the leading national group opposing same-sex marriage.

He noted that the last time gay marriage came to a vote in the South, last year in North Carolina, it was easily defeated.

"Those who are organizing this march in Kentucky know that they are doing so against the face of overwhelming opposition to same-sex marriage in the state," said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. "They are intending to make a statement and I am sure they will succeed in making a statement."

In 2004, Kentucky was one of 11 states to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as heterosexual. Since then, national gay rights groups have focused on marriage and, over the last decade, nine states plus the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage.

This year, with gay marriage proposals being considered in Illinois, Rhode Island and Minnesota, there has been little talk of a "Southern strategy" for Bible Belt states.

But momentum has been building, said Michael Aldridge, who heads the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. In January, the tiny Appalachian town of Vicco passed an ordinance prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based upon a person's actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Louisville, Lexington and Covington also have nondiscrimination ordinances.

Aldridge said there is no reliable count of how often gays and lesbians are penalized in the state because of their sexual orientation. Last summer, a lesbian couple in Richmond made headlines after being kicked out of a park while taking maternity pictures ahead of the birth of their baby boy.

"No state has ever passed relationship status without first having state-wide nondiscrimination protection, which is why that's our focus," Aldridge said. "A lot of people don't realize that it's still legal to discriminate."

Pockets of Louisville suggest times are changing.

On Saturday nights, a gay night club called the Connection, which claims to put on the "best drag show in America," lights up Louisville's Market Street. On a recent Saturday, the dance floor was packed with same-sex and opposite-sex couples in almost equal numbers.

NO MORE PUTTING LIFE ON HOLD

On Sunday, March 3, Blanchard came to the Open Door Community Fellowship, a gay-friendly church that sits several miles from where the Kentucky Derby is held each spring.

The reverend wanted to talk about the rally on March 26, and noted that the date nearly coincides with Martin Luther King's famous civil rights march.

"You're going to hear that this march and rally won't make one bit of difference," Blanchard said. "In 1965, when Dr. King marched with over 8,000 people from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama, he knew and they knew that they were not going to change the law in Alabama. They were going to have the opportunity to get a witness of faith that would dramatize the discrimination. That's what we need to do."

Four couples from the church have been married in Washington D.C. and in one of the nine states that allow gay marriage, but the licenses have no legal weight in Kentucky.

"It's gotten to a point where I can't put my life on hold any longer," said Jay Joseph, who is 34. He recently traveled to Connecticut to marry his partner of seven years, Dane Joseph.

The couple would like to adopt children, but Dane, a citizen of Grenada, has been unable to secure work papers in part because gay couples are not entitled to spousal benefits.

Cassey Gillett, who married her partner, Stephanie Gillett, in New York last September, says she would not want to live anywhere but Kentucky, where the couple is raising four children from their previous heterosexual marriages.

"I'd love to live in New York, but I can't just abandon Kentucky," said Cassey. "Kentucky is a place for families. It is an awesome place to raise children."

She said she expects marriage to be legalized in her lifetime, but she said Kentuckians need to be shown that homosexual couples are no different from straight couples.

"I swear, if you come to our house, the most exciting thing is reading a book or playing a game," said Cassey. "We are a completely normal family."

Comments

Trustbuster 1 year, 6 months ago

I'm sure that potential senatorial candidate Ashley Judd has an opinion on this like not having children. So much for my ole Kentucky home.

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MRKIA 1 year, 6 months ago

I'VE TOLD THESE KNUCKLEHEADS OVER AND OVER AGAIN: THERES NO SUCH THING AS "GAY" MARRIAGE. AGAIN, MAN UNDERMINING GOD'S DEVINE AND PERFECT PLAN.

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Sherwood_Eagle_Alum 1 year, 6 months ago

How dare you treat heterosexuals and homosexuals equally! They are just perverted sinners who deserve the fiery pit of hell! Get to the back of the bus, gays!! Wait...

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Trustbuster 1 year, 6 months ago

The gay people I have known don't ride in the back of the bus. They rode in the front.

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Sherwood_Eagle_Alum 1 year, 6 months ago

That was a metaphor, and trust me, they ride in the back of the bus. It is getting easier for homosexuals, but your life and theirs is very different.

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alleebrin 1 year, 6 months ago

Astonishing that some people can be so shallow, so narrow-minded! I don't know anybody so saintly as to judge another person. Get off your high horse and get real!! I am not gay and I find the lifestyle repulsive, but I don't believe these people wake up one more and decide they are going to be gay. How it got in the genes, I have no clue, but they should not be treated like an alien from another planet.

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Cartman 1 year, 6 months ago

Gay marriage has never passed when it was put to the voters.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 6 months ago

Careful. Maine 53% yes. Maryland 52% yes. Washington State 53% yes. 2012. Hawaii by acclamation (lol).

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VSU 1 year, 6 months ago

I think gay marriage is sickening. "Hi, my name is Bill, meet my wife Bob" or My name is Susan, meet my husband Debbie"

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Sherwood_Eagle_Alum 1 year, 6 months ago

I'm not looking to start an argument with you, but your statement on gays sickens me. This is not because you said it, but because I know that many others out there view it the same way.

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StephenT 1 year, 6 months ago

I refer to my husband by that term though he prefers spouse.

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Jax 1 year, 6 months ago

Can anyone tell me how two people marrying each other effects your life?

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dmyers80 1 year, 6 months ago

I agree with you jax... I understand the biblical aspects of it... But the bible also says that each person has to account for their OWN sins... My wife and I wont be any less married if the gay guys across the street get married, It doesnt affect anyone but the two getting married!!

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Sherwood_Eagle_Alum 1 year, 6 months ago

Many "Christians" also overlook the whole Golden Rule thing...but good point, dmyers.

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Sally_O 1 year, 6 months ago

"Can anyone tell me how two people marrying each other effects your life?".............. It doesn't effect my life at all as long as the married couple is a man and a woman. If you have two sickos of the same sex marrying each other, I don't want them anywhere near my house or children.

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Sherwood_Eagle_Alum 1 year, 6 months ago

Do you know any homosexuals, personally?

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Jax 1 year, 6 months ago

So, um, how does it effect you?

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Sherwood_Eagle_Alum 1 year, 6 months ago

It doesn't, she is simply a homophobic bigot.

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chinaberry25 1 year, 6 months ago

Gay people are effected in a lot of ways under the legal aspects of America. I can understand where they are coming from when it comes to their pocketbooks and insurance. I think that they should be allowed to legalize their cohabitation and move on. The single tax deduction really hits you. Morally I think it is wrong, but it is also wrong if you live together in a heterosexual relationship too.

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Sherwood_Eagle_Alum 1 year, 6 months ago

I mostly agree with you, CB25, which scares me a little. I would like to see civil unions allowed. If you want to keep marriage between a man and a woman then so be it, since it was defined that way in the good book.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 6 months ago

chinaberry25, you get it. Live and let live. Marriage has less than a 50-50 chance of survival. Why shouldn't it be visited upon the gays? They complain of misery. Give it to 'em.

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TRUTH101 1 year, 6 months ago

If Billy and Bob want to get married....then let them....... It does not affect me, my wife, or kids in any manner.......

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Sherwood_Eagle_Alum 1 year, 6 months ago

Aren't you scared that if a married gay couple sit next to you at Olive Garden that their gayness will infect you?

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DRTexas 1 year, 6 months ago

I think you have to sit on their lap for that to happen.

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Jax 1 year, 6 months ago

Thanks for the big laugh to start my day, Doc.

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Jacob 1 year, 6 months ago

"Aren't you scared that if a married gay couple sit next to you at Olive Garden that their gayness will infect you?"

Most gays have better taste.

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WTFwtf 1 year, 6 months ago

Albany- the epicenter of unevolved religous based ignorant bigotry and hypocracy. Still fighting the civil war or any other wrong headed BS u can put in front of them. U realize that people/businesses that might move to alb might read the local blog right? Dumarses

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