Feb 012004
 
Authors: Kim Barone

Tim Sagen and Ken Hoole pay taxes, help their neighbors and

attend church, just like many other Fort Collins residents. A

difference arises when they cannot receive domestic benefits when

they have the legal documents.

Sagen and Hoole are concerned about the future of their union

and other same-sex marriages across the nation with the recent

introduction of the Federal Marriage Amendment to change the

constitution.

“This would be the first time that a constitutional amendment

would be used to deny citizens their rights,” said Hoole, a retired

social worker and ardent supporter for gay rights. “Contrary to

what Allard says the amendment would negate the Vermont Civil Union

Act,” said Sagen, a retired engineer and also a proponent of gay

rights. On May 21, 2003, Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., along with

representatives from various states introduced to the House

Committee the Federal Marriage Amendment. It would amend the

constitution to read: “Marriage in the United States shall consist

only of the union of a man and a woman.”

This has many same-sex couples concerned. Currently, if a gay

couple wants to marry, they can go to Vermont and have a civil

union ceremony and be eligible for domestic benefits within

Vermont.

However, if they choose to move to another state, the civil

union and the benefits are subject to the laws of the state in

which the couple lives. Although Sagen and Hoole had been a couple

for 34 years and had a ceremony of commitment in 1970, they decided

to have a civil union ceremony in Vermont in 2001 as well.

If they choose to live in Vermont, they would be eligible to

receive domestic benefits such as health care, compensation or

insurance. They would also be eligible to receive the same

treatment as heterosexuals in terms of state tax, lawsuits, probate

or property transfers.

Because they have chosen to live in Colorado, which does not

have any laws governing civil unions, they are not eligible for

domestic benefits.

“Civil unions in Vermont are a good step toward the recognition

toward couples, but it’s a far cry from full recognition and the

benefits that would accrue from marriage.” Sagen said.

Some opponents of the amendment say the civil union laws that

are currently issued state-by-state would be subject to federal

laws and therefore would go unrecognized.

“I think it is wrong,” said Randy McCrillis, director of the

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Student Services on campus.

“It’s a smoke screen. It’s a diversion from other important issues

like the economy. Our energies should be spent on the economy and

creating more jobs.”

According to an online report by the Catholic News Service,

support for the amendment is growing among the Catholic community.

The Administrative Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic

Bishops in Washington, D.C., is in support of the Federal Marriage

Amendment. “We offer general support for a federal marriage

amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” the report said.

In Fort Collins, the Catholic Church is also showing its support

for the amendment.

“The Catholic Bishops and (the) Pope believe marriage is between

a man and a woman. That is the basic structure,” said Father Don

Willete, a priest at John the 23rd University Center. “Marriage is

the key building block of community and society.”

He continued to point out that practicing celibacy is part of

living a healthy single lifestyle.

“Catholics are strong in supporting a single lifestyle,” Willet

said.

He also agreed with The Administrative Committee in Washington,

D.C., that gays should not face unjust discrimination.

“I would want to affirm in any way the rights of gay people with

dignity and value for every person in our community. This means a

policy of inclusion verses any kind of exclusion from the parish

life of the community. There are no second class citizens and no

rejects in our community,” Willet said.

Locally, the Muslim community has not dealt with gay members in

its community or the request for a Muslim gay marriage.

“From the Islamic point of view, homosexuality is the result of

social influences and that everyone is born heterosexual,” said

Shakir Muhammad, outreach representative for the Islamic Center in

Fort Collins.

Although Muhammad was not completely familiar with the Federal

Marriage Amendment, he said the Islamic community would probably

support it because it states marriage is between one man and one

woman.

“From the Islamic point of view, homosexuality is forbidden,” he

said.

For same-sex couples like Sagen and Hoole, the security of

having domestic benefits and a ceremony that is legally recognized

by the state of Colorado could prove to be a long wait.

As the debate about same-sex union thickens in Washington, D.C.,

and more organizations are coming out in favor or against the

amendment, the process could be a lengthy one.

Reading from a prepared statement Sagen pointed out that ”

promoting stable, mutually supportive civil unions among same-sex

couples would be beneficial to the community and the state. People

in committed relationships are less likely to become dependent on

the government in old age and in times of declining health.”

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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