May 14, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Meet the new scapegoats for social conservatives in this country:
In its perversion of the professed conservative desire for checks on government intrusion, the [new Arizona immigration] law evokes the McCarthy era's war on so-called sex deviants. That reign of error in the early Cold War, as historian David Johnson documents in his 2004 book Lavender Scare, focused the resources of the federal state on thousands of trained and taxpaying workers. It succeeded in ferreting out hundreds of homosexuals and served them up as trophies to placate the prejudice and grand-standing ambitions of a few Congressional overseers. …
The past is not the only guide toward greater solidarity with immigrants. One would think an entire decade of antigay ballot measures that played on stigma and bigotry to ban recognition of same-sex partners' freedom to marry would make the gay community staunch foes of anti-immigrant bias and its deployment in state law. That is mostly the case, in part because thousands of LGBT people are themselves immigrants or have partners or family members who must navigate the exploitation, suspicion, ignorance, and outright hate that greets immigrants, undocumented and otherwise.
Let's be sure to stand up for them (or us, for our gay Latino amigos) the way we want to be defended ourselves. Not to mention that we desperately need the support of groups like LULAC and La Raza to make sure comprehensive immigration reform includes gay binational couples so that gay Americans can sponsor their partners for residence here and not be forced into "love exile."
April 21, 2010
Posted by: Chris
A judge in Buenos Aires today upheld the validity of the first civil marriage between two women, rejecting the decision of another judge, Martha Gomez Alsina, who had set aside as "null and non-existent" the marriage between the two women, the newspaper La Capital is reporting.
This is the latest twist in quite the roller coaster ride for Norma Castillo and Ramona Arévalo, who were married after 30 years together, only to see their marriage declared "null and non-existent" by a judge acting at the behest of Roman Catholic lawyers. Now that judge's order has been struck down and a gay group is filing a civil and criminal complaint against the interfering judge for malfeasance.
It's the same pattern that followed Latin America's first gay marriage, also in Argentina, just last December, which was also later struck down by a second judge, acting at the behest of lawyers from the Catholic Church.
Unless jurisdiction is a loosey-goosey concept in Argentina, this sort of interference should subject the judges to ethics complaints, at a minimum. These are not appeals court judges, overturning the rulings of lower courts, but judges with entirely different jurisdiction responding to appeals to religion by a church that has no business claiming to be a moral arbiter of anything these days.
Don't expect to hear any condemnation of this very blatant form of judicial activism from the right. Just like conservatives here in the U.S. are marshaling forces to ask unelected judges to overthrow the will of the people on health care reform and financial regulatory reform -- and just as they already did on campaign finance reform. How will Republican senators question Obama's Supreme Court pick about "judicial activism" and keep a straight face?
According to the nationwide gay rights group, none of these annulments has any legal effect:
The Argentinian LGBT Federation reiterated that the ruling confirmed that "no" marriage between persons of the same sex has actually been annulled in the country, La Capital reported.
"The acts of these judges … besides being a new act of discrimination, do not bear any legal or procedural analysis," the Federation said in a statement. The group reiterated that "all marriages of same-sex couples are still valid and in force" and questioned the conflicting court rulings, saying that "being a judge does not entitle anyone to impose their religious beliefs to the rest of the population."
"They could not cancel any of the marriages because they do not have the legal authority to do so," said Maria Rachid, president of the Argentinian LGBT Federation. The group called for a ruling by the Supreme Court in these cases so that "these judges are no longer confusing society."
The question may be resolved before it even reaches the Supreme Court, since it appears the country's parliament may take up legislation as soon as this week that will clarify that marriage rights extend to same-sex couples.
April 19, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Call it the Ron Paul wing of the Tea Party movement, but a sizable portion of the colorful, spelling-challenged protesters are at least consistent about wanting the government out of our pocketbooks and out of our bedrooms:
In general, those who turned out for the April 15 Tea Party event tended to be less culturally conservative than national Republicans.
Asked to rate their level of anger about 22 issues on a scale of one (not angry at all) to five (extremely angry), the issue that drew the most anger: the growing national debt. The least: courts granting same-sex couples the right to marry. Twenty-four percent said they’re “not at all” upset about gay marriage.
Politico neatly divides the Tea Parties thusly, into Sarah Palin and Ron Paul camps:
The results suggest a distinct fault line that runs through the tea party activist base, characterized by two wings led by the politicians who ranked highest when respondents were asked who “best exemplifies the goals of the tea party movement” — former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), a former GOP presidential candidate. …
Specifically, 51 percent of tea party activists say “government should not promote any particular set of values,” while 46 percent said “government should promote traditional family values in our society.” Compare this to national Gallup Polls, which recently found 67 percent of self-identified Republicans think government should promote such values.
What can you say about conservatives who believe it's a betrayal for government to promote basic medical care for its citizens but who fully expect it to promote their own theological beliefs about marriage and family? That their anger underlies a deeper-seated, ugly tradition of conservative resistance? Or maybe that it's just way past time that they reread the Gospels?
(Photo via USA Today)
March 24, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Speaking of effective activism, the kind that gets your attention and produces results, the Gill Action Fund folks behind Fight Back NY are back with another viral video, fresh off their lopsided defeat of ousted state Sen. Hiram Montserrate.
Last time around featured "Sex and the City's" Cynthia Nixon with a make-my-day attitude that would make Clint Eastwood blush. This time around it's a Jaws theme, designed to put on edge the other 36 senators up for re-election who voted against marriage equality. Particularly in the hotseat are those eight, now seven, who promised beforehand to vote for the gay marriage bill but switched sides when time came to be counted.
Can anyone imagine the D&G crowd at the Human Rights Champagne producing something this much fun...and this effective?
March 10, 2010
Posted by: Chris
"We tried the carrot. Now it's time for the stick."
That's the message from Cynthia Nixon, Miranda of "Sex and the City" fame, in a simple yet powerful new PSA for the fledgling group Fight Back NY, which exists for the sole purpose of voting out of office those state senators who voted against marriage equality a few months back.
As the dysfunctional New York legislature was winding down for the Christmas break, hopes for same-sex marriage never seemed brighter. The state Assembly had already approved the measure and embattled Gov. David Paterson (D) was vocal in his support. The last piece of the puzzle was the Senate, where a majority or close to it had given private assurances to activists that they would supply the votes needed for passage. Instead, same-sex marriage went down to defeat by a lopsided 38-24 margin.
With big-time political backing by Tim Gill and others, Fight Back NY was born, and convicted girlfriend abuser Hiram Montserrate (D-Queens) has been named the first target for his high-profile vote with Republicans against marriage equality.
Cynthia Nixon asks for donations to Fight Back NY's PAC, and with a smile on her face, makes it clear that it's no more ms. nice gay for her:
March 09, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Last week was one for the history books in the movement for gay civil rights worldwide. As of last week, same-sex couples are marrying in the capitals of four of the five most populous countries in the Americas, and each city offers an important lesson about what works in making progress on the mother of all items on “the gay agenda.”
In Mexico City, Buenos Aires and, of course, Washington, D.C., gay couples are now registering or entering into civil marriage, accessing a fundamental right already enjoyed by same-sex couples in Ottawa and throughout Canada. The only country missing from the Americas’ Top 5 is Brazil, where a patchwork of common law and judicial rulings extend some legal recognition to gay relationships in the capital Brasilia, and across the country.
The U.S. capital of Washington, D.C., grabbed most of the headlines last week, as the conservative Chief Justice John Roberts refused a last-minute attempt to block a gay marriage law adopted by the duly elected representatives of the District of Columbia. So much for the argument that “activist judges” are imposing gay marriage on their citizens; in D.C., it was gay marriage opponents who appealed to unelected judges to thwart the will of the majority.
Primary credit for that mammoth electoral achievement goes to a grassroots effort by a group called D.C. for Marriage, who tired of the snail’s pace and incremental progress made over many years by long-time activists and pushed the envelope with local politicians who had given lip service to marriage equality but still ducked for cover whenever possible.
If you agree with that aggressive strategy, then take a moment to check out the national org Freedom to Marry, where Michael Crawford, one of D.C. for Marriage’s founders, is now heading up online organizing.
The other key player in the fight for marriage in our nation’s capital was David Catania, first elected as a gay Republican to a citywide seat on the D.C. Council and later quit his party when President Bush introduced a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage nationwide.
Allies are crucial to the fight, of course, but we have seen time and again that having one of our own at the table makes all the difference. The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund has taken the leadership role in electing out LGBT politicians to office, and has consistently maintained some of the highest non-profit ratings for putting donor dollars to use in actually accomplishing that mission.
As important symbolically as gay marriage is in Washington, D.C, the real impact is dwarfed by the availability just two days later of marriage to same-sex couples among the 20 million-plus living in Mexico City, the most populous city in either North or South America.
As in D.C., marriage equality was achieved in Mexico’s Districto Federal by the locally elected legislature, which defied last-ditch conservative attempts to veto the new law in court. Despite dire threats about a national backlash, the center-left Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), which is a minority party at the federal level, pushed the gay marriage bill through.
The same courage hasn’t been displayed of yet by the center-left party that in firm control of the federal government here in the land of the free and home of the brave. Despite Barack Obama’s pledge during the primaries that, unlike Hillary Clinton, he would support full and total repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, a bill to do just that has languished for months in Congress.
Even Barney Frank, the powerful gay Democrat, is acting like he is a Democrat first and a gay man second, refusing even to co-sponsor the legislation for fear it would pressure Nancy Pelosi into actually expending some political capital on our behalf. After years of broken promises to push gay rights legislation through Congress, the Democratic Party at a minimum owes LGBT Americans the immediate repeal of the two anti-gay law signed by a Democrat, Bill Clinton: DOMA and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
Finally, and for only the second time, a gay couple in the beautiful Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires has tied the knot, after a deadlock in rulings by local judges was broken. Now that events in D.C. and Mexico City have put the lie to that old conservative saw about “activist judges” being the target of gay marriage opposition, rather than gay folks ourselves, it’s important to redouble our efforts here in the U.S. in the courtroom.
The most promising case is a lawsuit brought in San Francisco to challenge Proposition 8, which could lead to universal gay marriage rights throughout the country. The suit, brought by conservative legal kingpin Ted Olson and liberal David Boies, is itself a rogue effort associated with the newly founded American Foundation for Equal Rights.
Still, the good folks at Lambda Legal continue to achieve groundbreaking results that can’t be matched by any other national gay group, to forego the black tie dinners for once and get more equality bang for your buck.
March 07, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Many of us were already disgusted that Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C., chose to axe health coverage for all spouses rather than include same-sex spouses, who as of this week can enter into civil marriage in the nation's capital. The move was gratuitous for any number of reasons, since the Catholic agency had no trouble covering the spouses of divorced and remarried employees, despite that flagrant violation of church teaching.
What's more, the D.C. chapter could have followed the example of the San Francisco archdiocese and replaced spousal coverage with an option for domestic partners, defined to include spouses or any other family member or significant other with whom the employee shared a residence.
Now comes word that there was an even easier option, one that wouldn't have required Catholic Charities to change current coverage at all. All the archdiocese had to do was "opt into ERISA," the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which allows private employers like Catholic Charities who self-insure to define "spouse" any why they want:
Catholic Charities of Maine Inc. opted into ERISA in July 2003 in response to a 2002 city of Portland ordinance requiring all employers that accept housing and community development funds from the county to provide domestic partner benefits.
The trade journal Business Insurance asked Catholic Charities of Washington, whose self-insured plan is administered by Care First Blue Cross Blue Shield, why it didn't opt into ERISA instead of discontinuing all future spousal coverage, regardless of gender. They declined to answer.
I'll answer for them: Because that administerial change wouldn't have carried the same political bang for the buck, and Catholic Charities of Washington is part of a growing rightward trend by the Roman Catholic Church to influence public policy in a way that is hostile to gay rights, abortion rights.
How bitterly ironic, then, that as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops claims to support universal health care, the archdiocese of Washington has prioritized scoring political points over the health care of the families of its own employees.(Photo of Archbishop Donald Wuerl (left) via Life Magazine)
March 04, 2010
Posted by: Chris
The Washington Post editorial page had it right yesterday when they wrote, "the tide of history is moving … toward a recognition that gays and lesbians, no less than heterosexuals, are entitled to sanctify their love in marriage, and that society will be better off when that right is universally extended." I wouldn't use the word "sanctify," since it conflates civil and religious marriage, but the tide, she is a-rising.
A new analysis of existing laws by Timothy Kincaid at Box Turtle Bulletin shows that nearly half of all Americans live where there is at least some form of relationship recognition for same-sex couples. Some 140 million Americans (46% of the total U.S. population) live where gay couples can either marry or enter into civil unions or domestic partnerships:
- 5.1% (15.5 million) live in jurisdictions with same-sex marriage: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and (as of yesterday) the District of Columbia.
- 19.2% (58.4 million) live in states with either civil unions or their domestic partnerships equivalent, offering basically all the rights and responsibilities of marriage without the name: California, New Jersey, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington.
- 8.3% (25.2 million) live in states that recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere: New York and Maryland.
- 4.7% (14.2 million) live in states that offer domestic partnerships with limited, itemized rights: Hawaii, Colorado, Wisconsin, Maine and Rhode Island.
- 4.7% (14.2 million) live in dozens more counties and cities with some form of limited local recognition and benefits: Salt Lake City, UT; Phoeniz AZ; Tuscon AZ; Duluth, MN; Minneapolis, MN; St. Paul, MN; Lawrence, KS; Columbia, MO; Kansas City, MO; St. Louis, MO; Ann Arbor, MI; Cook County, IL (Chicago); Urbana, IL; Cleveland, OH; Cleveland Heights, OH; Toledo, OH; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Harrisburg, PA; El Paso, TX; Travis County, TX (Austin); Eureka Springs, AR; New Orleans, LA; Carrboro, NC; Chapel Hill, NC; Clarke County, GA (Athens); Fulton County, GA (Atlanta); Broward County, FL (Fort Lauderdale); Key West, FL; Miami-Dade County, FL; and West Palm Beach, FL.
Add up the first three categories and fully one-third (32.6%) of the U.S. population is located in jurisdictions where gay couples can either marry or have their marriage recognized or enter into civil unions or domestic partnerships with basically all the same rights and responsibilities of marriage without the name. That's still inversely related to public opinion surveys, which repeatedly show that two-thirds of Americans support marriage or civil unions for gay couples, but it's impressive nonetheless.
Still, let's not forget in all the excitement one more important statistic: 0%
That's the percentage of Americans who live in places where the federal government offers any form of recognition whatsoever for gay couples who are married or have entered into civil unions or domestic partnership. That final statistic is why repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and enacting federal civil unions ought to be at the very top of "the gay agenda" in Washington.
March 03, 2010
Posted by: Chris
I speculated yesterday that must not have been easy for a conservative Catholic like Chief Justice John Roberts to deny a stay that would have blocked gay couples from lining up this morning to apply for marriage licenses in the District of Columbia. Apparently, I was right.
I haven't yet reviewed Roberts' three-page ruling (available here), but the well-respected SCOTUSblog indicates that he left plenty of wiggle room for the Supremes to revisit gay marriage in the nation's capital once local courts have ruled on a challenge designed to put the matter directly before voters:
Even while saying a delay was not now legally justified, Roberts noted that the challengers may still try to undo the new D.C. marriage provision by attempting to put it on the ballot asking local voters to repeal the law. That separate maneuver is now under review in the D.C. Court of Appeals, Washington’s highest local court. …
Roberts said the opponents’ legal challenge “has some force.” … And, he noted, the potential to pursue the initiative process will not cease to exist even though the marriage law does take effect Wednesday.
The opponents still have the option of asking another Justice, or the full Court, to consider their plea for delay, but Roberts’ action makes success unlikely on any such plea. Ultimately, the legal questions may reach the Court in a future test case after the Court of Appeals rules on the initiative maneuver.
The issue isn't as cut and dried as some gay bloggers have suggested, portraying the suit as desperate and baseless. In an effort to prevent these sorts of referendums, the D.C. Council amended the city's Human Rights Act to provide that it could not be altered in by referendum in a discriminatory way. As much sense as this makes in principle, it is unusual for a simple ordinance to be used as a mechanism for blocking a referendum process provided for in the D.C. home rule charter.
More on this later, when I've had a chance to look at the arguments myself, but it's enough to put a bit of a damper on today's festivities here in Washington. My advice to couples ready to the knot is get thee to the altar, lest you miss your opportunity a la Prop 8 in California.
(Photos of Darlene Garner, left, and her partner, Candy Holmes, via AP).
March 02, 2010
Posted by: Chris
This can't have been too easy for the conservative Catholic chief justice of the United States:
It's nice to see that sometimes the ministers of Judicial Restraint actually practice what they preach.
Chief Justice John Roberts rejected the request of gay marriage opponents to stay the effective date of the District of Columbia's marriage equality bill. He wrote: "Without addressing the merits of petitioners’ underlying claim, however, I conclude that a stay is not warranted."
Roberts specifically noted the argument advanced by the District that the Supreme Court generally defers to the local D.C. courts for "matters of exclusively local concern." He also noted the fact that Congress did not act to disapprove of the law during the 30-day review period and the remaining availability of the initiative process in reaching his decision not to grant the stay.
Bishop Harry Jackson, along with others opposed to marriage equality coming to Washington, filed a last-minute request at the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, March 1, seeking to stop the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 from becoming law on March 3 so that he can proceed with his referendum effort.
Aided by lawyers from the national organization Alliance Defense Fund, Jackson filed a request for an immediate stay of the law with Roberts because the chief justice is responsible for hearing appeals coming from the District.
Posted by: Chris
With all that's been written about the case brought by Ted Olson and David Boies challenging the constitution of Proposition 8, you would think that the outcome there will decide gay marriage nationwide. In fact, it well could, if the U.S. Supreme Court agrees that it's a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law to deny gay Americans the fundamental right of marriage to the person of their choice.
We're a long way from that day, obviously, with the matter still before (semi-closeted gay) Judge Vaughn Walker in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. However Walker decides the case, it will be appealed as of right to a three-judge panel of the fairly predictably liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which could then decide to hear the case en banc (with all judges participating) if enough of them are unhappy with how the panel rules. Then comes the appeal to the Supreme Court, which will only hear it if a minimum of four justices want to.
One factor that may help determine whether the nation's high court gets this gay marriage case is how broadly Judge Walker rules, if he strikes down Proposition 8. If he issues a sweeping ruling that gay marriage violates the 14th Amendment and that's upheld in the 9th Circuit, then odds are very strong the Supremes will take the case.
But David Levine, a law professor at the University of California's Hastings College of Law, points out a third possibility:
If [Walker] writes a more boring factual opinion of the special situation California is in, that would have the least impact nationwide. That argument is that there’s no rational reason to have three categories of unions in the state: heterosexual married people, domestic partners and the 18,000 same-sex married couples who were married in California.
He could argue, what’s left that separates domestic partners and married couples in the state? If there’s no legal difference, then what is the rationale for saying there needs to be a distinct group?
Keep in mind that even with Prop 8 in place, gay couples in California can enter into domestic partnerships that carry all the rights and responsibilities of marriage except the name (and the automatic portability to other states and countries). Also, California presents the unique situation where gays could marry for eight months and remain married still. Proposition 8 allowed the voters to amend the state constitution to take away existing rights from a single class of people, making it much more like the notorious Amendment 2 in Colorado that was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in Romer vs. Evans in 1996.
Those unusual facts are very different than those presented by a gay couple in Georgia, for example, who could never marry in the years before the voters there amended the constitution to limit marriage to straight couples, and different also from gays in Maryland, for example, where the constitution is silent on the question and the state recognizes gay marriages from elsewhere.
Judges (and justices) often like to decide lawsuits on the narrowest possible ground, following the principle of judicial restraint and reducing the risk they'll get reversed or overturned down the road.
Given the strength of the presentations made at trial in the Prop 8 case, and the predilections of Judge Walker, I would be very surprised to see him choose this narrow, third way. The silver lining of such a narrow ruling, at least from some quarters, would be to stave off the day the Supremes get the gay marriage question, allowing for the possibility that President Obama might fill in some timely vacancies.
Posted by: Chris
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has engaged in another round of shenanigans today in its continuing battle against recognizing the civil marriage of same-sex couples. Catholic Charities axed all spousal benefits for its employees rather than be forced to extend those same benefits to married gay workers.
Some complain the change is cynical, hypocritical and contrary to Catholic values. Let us count the ways:
- The "dilemma" faced by the Catholic Charities does not impinge on religious freedom, as anti-gay groups like the National Organization for Marriage have charged. The Catholic church may refuse to marry -- or even refuse communion -- gay parishioners. It simply may not "suck at the teet" of District government -- to the tune of $22 million annually -- and simultaneously flout District law.
- Something other than a mere desire to conform to papal teaching on homosexuality is at work here, since Catholic Charities happily provided spousal benefits for years to employees who had divorced and remarried, a sin that is every bit as severe, if not more so, than same-sex love.
- Catholic Charities chose the cheap way out. The Washington Archdiocese could have followed the example of its San Francisco counterpart, which eliminated spousal benefits while expanding the definition of domestic partner to include a spouse, parent, sibling or anyone else who in the household.
- By eschewing the San Francisco example, D.C. Catholic charities missed an opportunity to set a Christian example that says to its employees, gay and straight, that whatever the church's teaching on gay marriage or divorce, the church as employer wants to assist each worker to provide health care for a member of its household.
March 01, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Sometimes it seems the greatest obstacle to same-sex marriage in our nation's capital has been those who claim to support the effort. It was an unnecessarily long and winding road to get here, and now that our happy day has almost arrived, a cockamamie scheme threatens to crash the reception.
Even with a super-majority on the D.C. Council and the mayor on record supporting marriage equality, an older generation at the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance stayed an absurdly conservative course, incrementally adopting a few extra "domestic partnership" rights each year, year after year. Even after Congress was firmly in Democratic hands after the 2006 election, GLAA gave District pols and their DNC pals the cover to do nothing.
Finally, a fresh crop of activists and outside pressure dragged D.C. to the altar, the last legal hurdles to full marriage equality have been surpassed, and the congressional veto deadline is nigh. In just two days, on March 3, same-sex couples may apply for marriage licenses at the D.C. Superior Court.
How best to celebrate? How about a mass wedding ceremony of the type made famous by the Moonies that would trivialize the very institution we are finally -- finally -- allowed to participate in? For that ridiculous notion, we have to thank Event Emissary, a for-profit "destination management company."
For the pleasure of joining in the mass wedding, the same-sex spouses-to-be need only pay the low, low, ok not so low, price of $300.00 per couple. If you want to invite up to four friends along for the reception, that'll be $1,050.00.* Note the asterisk -- only the couple may actually attend the group ceremony.
For those yearning for something a bit more private, the "Forever Yours Private Ceremony," lasting a grand total of 15 minutes, will set you back $500.00, or $1,750.00 with the reception tickets included. Or double the bang from your buck and schedule an eternally long (30-minute) "Eternal Love Private Ceremony" for $900.00 per couple, or $6,250.00 including tickets for the mass reception.
We shouldn't cast aspersions on companies offering services to the gay community, including the newly-minted freedom to marry in Washington, D.C. But it's quite another to create a public spectacle that damages the cause of marriage equality elsewhere, and expect to cash in to boot.
February 26, 2010
Posted by: Chris
... Miss Beverly Hills, a title she gave herself while a resident of Pasadena, trying to "clarify" that she's not literally advocating the execution of gays by saying gays should abide by a passage in Leviticus that urges death to those who have sex with those of the same gender.
Confused? You've got company. Asked whether gays who find Jesus can stay gay, she resorts to the hair toss after an answer escapes her...
February 25, 2010
Posted by: Chris
The legal separation of San Diego hotel developer Doug Manchester and his wife of 43 years is final, but court records don’t reveal how the couple’s substantial wealth was divided — or if it will affect Manchester’s most-ambitious project to date, the Navy Broadway Complex in downtown San Diego.
Perhaps the eight months in which same-sex couples could marry in California proved too much for Manchester and his wife to overcome. Another straight marriage killed by the gays.
February 20, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Just when I thought that Ann Coulter would win the testosterone award at this year's CPAC, the various factions fighting over gay issues at the annual conservative confab are gunning for gold.
The GOProud didn't start off looking particular courageous, what with their head-scratching decision not to participate in a roundtable on Don't Ask Don't Tell but instead parlay their sponsorship to join a technology panel. But they found their inner-feisty after the National Organization for Marriage issued a statement attacking GOProud after appearing too chummy in this CNN report.
In this short clip, which is already going viral, GOProud Executive Director** Jimmy LaSilvia calls NOM out, asking why they couldn't deliver their statement in person, just two booths down, and asking, "Who's the real pansy at CPAC?"
Not to be outdone, an incredibly cocky Ryan Sorba, head of the Young Conservatives of California, "condemned" CPAC for allowing GOProud's participation, and launched into a rant attacking gay rights (video below). Nothing too shocking there, except for the audience reaction, which was more boos and jeers than applause. Eventually, Sorba walks off the stage.
Whatever you think of GOProud's politics or its history as a splinter group complaining that Log Cabin wasn't conservative enough(!), it is a net-plus that even at CPAC, the rightwing inner sanctum, attacking gay rights risks jeers as well as cheers.
** LaSilvia gets bonus points for taking the title executive director and not "president," like Joe Solmonese of HRC, who was in no way elected by that group's membership, or "president and CEO" like some at the helm of other gay rights groups. Next thing you know, these guys will start calling themselves bishops like some ministers with grossly oversized egos.
February 19, 2010
Posted by: Chris
...is from the real extant threat against the traditional institution of marriage, and it isn't coming from the gays.
A heterosexual couple in Austria is fighting for the right to enter into a registered civil partnership - introduced for homosexual couples in January 2010. Under current law the couple will be denied that right - but they have vowed to take the case to the country's constitutional court to overturn what they says is a discriminatory legislation.
Austria introduced civil unions for gay couples on January 1, affording them some of the rights enjoyed by their heterosexual counterparts. The new legislation, passed after weeks of wrangling between the ruling Social Democrats and their conservative coalition partner in government, gives same-sex couples a status similar to traditional marriage but different in a number of respects. For instance, there are less strict rules in the event of a divorce.
The heterosexual couple in question argues that this is a more modern form of union - which simply suits them better than a traditional marriage. And if it's offered to gay couples, why shouldn't it be an option for them as well? The issue at stake, they argue, is standing up against discrimination.
This is what irrational fear over same-sex marriage have wrought. Across Europe, and in many U.S. jurisdictions, government have adopted forms of "marriage lite" because they aren't ready to allow gay couples full marriage equality.
Whether called "domestic partnerships," "civil partnerships," "civil unions," "PACS" or some other name, they have evolved from the halfway measures toward marriages they were originally intended to be. Instead, these weigh stations on the road to equality have become a loosy-goosy alternative for gay and straight couples alike that represents a serious challenge to traditional marriage, especially in Europe.
In this week's Cato Institute panel (video now available here or after the jump for this post), Maggie Gallagher warned gays that they would have a difficult time finding a place among conservatives when they insist on remaking such a fundamental institution. What she can't or won't see is that gays do not want to remake the institution, they want to join it because they believe in it. They revere it, as Andrew Sullivan said in response.
Rather than become more uppity, as Gallagher implied, the gay movement has become remarkably more conservative. From its beginnings in sexual liberation and radical counterculturalism, the movement has sharpened its focus on what the vast majority of gay Americans want -- to participate as equals in the fundamental, conservative institutions they grew up believing in: marriage, the family, the Boy Scouts, the church, the military, and so on.
The question becomes how much Gallagher's social conservative allies are willing to tear away at those institution just to keep us out.
Posted by: ChrisUPDATE: At the end of the post.
Over at Gay Patriot, my friend Dan (a.k.a. Gay Patriot West) writes that he's confused by the reaction that Bruce Carroll is receiving as that blog's representative at the CPAC conference here in D.C. this weekend:
So, you’re at a gathering of conservatives . . . and . .
Folks couldn’t be nice to a guy bearing a badge identifying himself as a gay blogger?!?!?
They give a standing ovation to a man who opposes the Federal Marriage Amendment and favors repeal of Don’t Talk/Don’t Tell?!?!?
How could that be!?!?!?
I thought our critics told us conservatives don’t like homosexuals and that preventing any forward motion on gay issues was anathema to their agenda, such that they’d blackball anyone who paid so much as lip service to such issues.
I share Dan's confusion but for different reasons. Surely Bruce has spent enough time around Washington to know that polite smiles and applause mean nothing if they're not followed up with votes and co-sponsorship and party planks, etc.
I'm always happy when my gay conservative and Republican friends join me in calling out Democrats and progressives who only give our cause lip service, and nothing more. So why are they so excited when on rare occasions they are get that same lip service, and nothing more?
It's unquestionably a good thing anytime the presence of out gay bloggers is greeted by conservative smiles and a call for equality receives a CPAC standing ovation. But we are long, long past the day when anything short of co-sponsorship and votes in support of DOMA/DADT repeal were cause for self-congratulation.
UPDATE: It wasn't even lip service to opposition to a marriage amendment and repeal of DADT that got a standing ovation. It was Dick Cheney, who (sort of) holds those positions but said nothing about them at CPAC. He only walked in after his daughter Liz finished speaking and made a few off-the-cuff remarks.
Gentlemen... please... we can hold the bar higher than this, can't we?
February 18, 2010
Posted by: Chris
UPDATE: At the end of the post.
My favorite exchange of yesterday's Cato Institute forum on gay conservatives came in response to columnist Maggie Gallagher's claim that permitting same-sex couples to marry would invariably leads somehow to government intrusion into religion of the sort that all conservatives should abhor. In support, Gallagher, who is Roman Catholic, cited the requirement that Catholic Charities, for example, place children into households led by gay couples, despite their genuine faith-based belief this is against the child's best interest.
Let's leave aside for the moment the irony of conservatives resorting to the politics of victimization, previously the P.C. province of liberals, even as she claimed that 50-60% of Americans are on her side. Poor majority conservatives, oppressed by the 3-5% of us who are gay.
Let's even forgive Gallagher the obvious straw man here, as if a line can't be drawn in the law between opening up marriage to same-sex couples and requiring that religious institutions recognize those marriage in the provision of social services. Her example, as it turns out, comes straight out of the headlines, as the D.C. archdiocese just announced yesterday that it was shuttering its 80-year-old foster parent program for precisely this reason.
Gay Catholic blogger Andrew Sullivan, his forehead marked from Ash Wednesday services that morning, drew a crucial distinction between laws that over-reach, prohibiting independently funded religious groups from discriminating in hiring or in the provision of services, and less troublesome regulation requiring those faith-based orgs that "suck at the teat of government," as he put it, to treat us taxpayers equally.
Catholic Charities receives some $20 million annually from the District of Columbia, so any "interference" in their pristine religious function occurred at the time the Catholics showed up with their hands held out, asking for our money.
Even more devastating was Sullivan's pointing out that the rest of us can be forgiven for suspecting "some animus" behind complaints of the type Gallagher raises when Catholic Charities has for years placed foster and adopted children into the homes of remarried couples, despite the church's very clear prohibition on divorce. Seen in that light, the Catholic threat to suspend its social services looks more like a cynical attempt to bully gay couples out of the civil marriage pulpit.
The Washington Post story on the archdiocese decision suggest as much, reporting without explaining that despite yesterday's decision on foster parenting, Catholic Charities "is optimistic that it will find a way to structure its benefits packages in other social service programs so that it can remain in partnership with the city without recognizing same-sex marriage."
Most telling of all, however, was Gallagher's final reply to Sullivan, acknowledging the church's inconsistent treatment of gay and remarried couples and cheerfully, if ominously, warning that the bishops would soon be "cleansing" that process further, likely meaning that remarried couples would find themselves out of favor as well.
There, my friends, is the slippery slope. Marriage equality between gay and straight couples does not necessarily lead to forcing faith based groups to act contrary to their beliefs in the provision of services, but the coming cleansing will prove very instructive to millions of heterosexuals Americans who would never imagine that their households could be refused foster and adoption placements funded by their government.
UPDATE: Video of the forum is now available here or view it after the jump to this post.
February 13, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Since rational arguments never fail to convince fair-minded folks to exclude gay and lesbian Americans from the fundamental freedom to marry, its foes typically resort to the "yuck factor," and in doing so give us an unintended glimpse of the ignorance behind their bigotry.
In years gone by, the yuck factor typically took the form of two men in tuxedos or two women in wedding gowns, exchanging vows. Happily marrying same-sex couples in Massachusetts, California took care of that old canard, showing the universal feelings of love and caring that form the bonds in our relationships, just like in opposite-sex couples.
Then came same-sex kisses, but they've lost their shock value due to Hollywood's more realistic portrayals on TV and the movies, along with the increased frequency of airport and sidewalk smooches -- again showing we're just like our straight brethren.
That means gay marriage opponents have to up the ante once again on the yuck factor, but I'm guessing this particular attempt by one Republican state rep in New Hampshire won't catch on:
New Hampshire state Rep. Nancy Elliott (R-Hillsborough) has asked other members of the House Judiciary Committee to repeal the recently enacted gay marriage law. Her argument? Anal sex between gay men is yucky.
"We're talking about taking the penis of a man and putting it in the rectum of another man and wriggling it around in excrement," said Elliott. "And you have to think, would I want that to be done to me?"
Elliott didn't stop there, complaining that marriage equality will result in public schools "showing presentations of anal sex. … They are showing our fifth graders how they can actually perform this kind of sex. … That is the context of the lesson, that 'This is something that you, as a fifth grader, you may want to try.'"
Not only is Elliott's portrayal of anal sex grossly inaccurate (pun intended), it is of course completely irrelevant to whether gays should be able to marry, anymore than Nancy's right to marry should hinge on whether we're grossed out by imagining her lying back and thinking of New England with her partner.
Raising the sex education boogeyman is straight out of the Prop 8 playbook, and let's hope activists in New Hampshire are more effective in putting the lie to that falsehood.
Not surprisingly, Elliott's allies have yanked the YouTube video after a round of well-deserved Internet scoffing:
Apparently they discovered the yuck factor can backfire (pun intended) on those sleazy and cynical enough to employ it.
February 12, 2010
Posted by: Chris
More very encouraging results from a new ABC News/Washington Post poll released today showing the public is evenly divided on whether gay couples should be able to marry, with 47% in favor and 50% opposed.
That statistic is remarkable most for how much it contrasts with the nation's elected officials, from the president on down, who overwhelmingly oppose marriage equality. I would venture to say that less than half the percentage of Democratic politicians back gay marriage as do their partisan supporters.
Also striking is the degree to which the South stands as a bulwark against our basic equality. Without my home region living up to its long and ugly history of civil rights intransigence, support for gay marriage would be overwhelming -- not that overwhelming support on a gay rights issue necessarily translates into political action by Democrats and Republican moderates.
Fortunately, the dustbin destination of hetero-only marriage laws is every bit as certain as it was for Jim Crow segregation. Two-thirds of adults under 30 support marriage for gays and -- for the first time ever -- a majority "strongly favor" our full equality.
Let's be clear about what this means: it should be clearer than ever that our civil rights movement is not over whether we win but how soon; it is inconceivable that Congress would pass, or the states would adopt, a federal constitutional amendment banning gays from marrying when two-thirds of young people are with us, and half the population overall.
So enough with the pussyfooting in Congress and the White House. Barney Frank needs to sign on today as a co-sponsor of DOMA repeal (the Respect for Marriage Act), and we need clear backing from the House and Senate leadership, as well as the White House.
The new ABC News/WaPo poll also shows support for civil unions reaching historic new levels, a full two-thirds of the public now believes we are at least entitled to all the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. In addition to DOMA repeal, which would still leave gays in most states with no federal recognition of their relationships, the Congress needs to take up federal civil unions legislation, ensuring equal recognition without regard to bias at the state level.
Finally, the Post offered some detail on the marriage numbers, which suggest that on marriage as on Don't Ask Don't Tell, a small percentage is more supportive of our civil rights when we are described as "gay and lesbian" as opposed to "homosexual." Not coincidentally, gays have for decades now preferred the former over the latter designation.
If you haven't already, I'd also encourage you to sign the Freedom to Marry Pledge announced this week by Evan Wolfson's FreedomToMarry.org and its new online coordinator Michael Crawford, who did a great job spearheading the marriage movement here in Washington, D.C.
February 11, 2010
Posted by: Chris
After three years in exile followed by eight months apart from my partner due to this country's discriminatory immigration and marriage laws, and not particularly caring for the current White House Chief of Staff (and I'm not particularly alone in that view), this GOP valentine just about summed up my sentiments.
I'm not saying Rahm's the R-word or anything, but his Clintonian brand of political arrogance and screw-the-base triangulation is everything Barack Obama ran against in the primaries and does not serve his presidency well.
February 01, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Schoolhouse Rock fans will enjoy this cartoon rock video about how the U.S. Supreme Court intervened at the 11th hour to block the judge's plan to broadcast the Prop 8 trial on YouTube. The video tells the story about how a group of actors reacted to the decision by reenacting the trial each day from transcripts so that the public still gets access -- of sorts. (iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad users can watch the video after the jump.)
Kudos to actor Joseph Gordon Leavitt, who didn't exactly set the world on fire when he hosted SNL last fall, for producing the cartoon video. In addition to the sympathetic view on gay marriage, the video breaks down the basic fairness that comes from transparency in the judicial process. Cameras in the federal courtroom is the third rail for most conservative, and some liberal, judges, but it's absolutely essential to ensuring the fairest possible judicial system.
January 29, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Many gay marriage advocates will no doubt feel on the defensive when they hear about a new study showing many long-term same-sex couples that enter into marriage do so with notions about monogamy and fidelity that differ significantly from the mainstream:
A study to be released next month is offering a rare glimpse inside gay relationships and reveals that monogamy is not a central feature for many. Some gay men and lesbians argue that, as a result, they have stronger, longer-lasting and more honest relationships. And while that may sound counterintuitive, some experts say boundary-challenging gay relationships represent an evolution in marriage — one that might point the way for the survival of the institution.
New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area. The Gay Couples Study has followed 556 male couples for three years — about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners.
That consent is key. “With straight people, it’s called affairs or cheating,” said Colleen Hoff, the study’s principal investigator, “but with gay people it does not have such negative connotations.”
The study also found open gay couples just as happy in their relationships as pairs in sexually exclusive unions, Dr. Hoff said. A different study, published in 1985, concluded that open gay relationships actually lasted longer.
Many who are hostile for religious reasons to any legal recognition for gay couples will of course point to this sort of research to argue that gay couples are unique from heterosexual couples and not entitled to the same government support and protections.
Not so, at least so far. Gay couples who marry in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa or (soon) the District of Columbia will have to accept the same legal restrictions on monogamy as heterosexual couples do. Criminal prohibitions on adultery aren't really at issue; they are almost certainly unconstitutional after the Supreme Court's Lawrence vs. Texas sodomy ruling, which outlawed the criminalization of private, consensual sex between adults. But come divorce time, adultery can be used to leverage better monetary settlements and in some cases achieve a better verdict from the court.
Still, politics and legal impact be damned, let's address the issue head on: Does the monogamy standard to which the vast majority of heterosexual married couples aspire make sense for gay couples as well? I've tried for years to spark a discussion within the community about monogamy and open relationships, based on the differences within our relationships not because we are gay, but because we are men.
We are part of the first generation ever to try en masse to make male-male romantic/sexual relationships into long-term commitments. We do ourselves no favors by allowing the politics of the gay marriage fight to censor that conversation.
How many relationships do you know that have failed over this issue, whether because of cheating or disagreements over whether monogamy should be our standard? Do you really believe that gay men could tackle this whole monogamy
thing if we could legally marry? There are thousands of gay male
couples in Canada, Massachusetts, the Netherlands, Spain and South
Africa who would beg to differ.
I think we could use all the guidance we can get from studies like this one, preferably not limited to San Francisco, and the advice of professionals and those who have successfully navigated these waters in their own lives. It's high time we acknowledge there are meaningful differences between how two men (or two women) interact in a relationship and how a man and a woman interact. Are those differences of legal significance? Absolutely not. But in terms of interrelationships? Absolutely.
There's a reason why sitcoms, dramas and watercooler conversations about relationships usually devolve into the differences between men and women. They matter. Remember "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus"? Well, Gay Men Aren't From Uranus but a Mars-Mars relationship is different in ways it is worth our time (and the political heat) to explore.
And yet the problem most of us have is an information-deficit, without many role models and limited to our own personal experiences and the anecdotal evidence of friends in making these incredibly important decisions. Especially given our trailblazing status as a generation of gay men, I think we can use all the help we can get, especially from broader studies of relationship experiences, the advice of professionals and the sharing that comes from conversations just like this one.
January 27, 2010
Posted by: Chris
5. Even in the throes of a grave economic crisis, Democrats in Congress could not resist converting the stimulus into an orgy of pork barrel spending that targeted neither job growth nor speedy infusion into the economy. How can you make the case for the capability of government to solve intractable problems when your own leaders are incapable of any fiscal self-restraint?
4. President Obama and the Democrats run so scared of GOP charges of being "weak on defense" that they double down on nation-building in Afghanistan masquerading as war, even though neither project ranks high enough in our national interest to justify the additional lives to be lost, much less the outrageous sums to be spent.
3. Conservative Democrats in the U.S. Senate (and a Connecticut independent bought and paid for by the insurance industry) may well have killed historic health care reform by their willingness to join with Republicans in the rank abuse of the filibuster so as to grease their own parochial pockets.
2. The party's congressional leadership appears prepared to throw universal health coverage under the bus to satisfy labor unions and abortion rights absolutists.
1. Despite controlling the White House and commanding supermajorities in the House and Senate, Democrats have almost completely failed to deliver tangible progress toward basic equality for gay and lesbian Americans. This government, firmly in control of the gay-friendly party, still refuses even to correct the horrors of the last Democratic high tide -- "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act.
January 26, 2010
Posted by: Chris
What other message can we take from the participation of Cindy and Meghan McCain in the NOH8 campaign to overturn the Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage in California? Even before John McCain ran to the right for the Republican presidential nomination, he filmed TV ads backing Arizona's Prop 107, which was far more draconian than Prop 8 ever dreamed of being.Whereas Prop 8 banned same-sex couples from legally marrying, it nonetheless preserved domestic partnerships, a brand of California civil unions that is pretty much marriage except for the name. McCain-backed Prop 107, on the other hand, banned not just marriage, but also civil unions, domestic partnerships and other forms of legal recognition for gay couples, including even DP benefits for state and local government employees.
John McCain also "strongly supported" Proposition 8 itself during the 2008 campaign:
If Cindy and Meghan agree that Prop 8 was motivated by "H8" then what must they think of John McCain's motivation for backing Propositions 8 and 107? H8-baiting political opportunism at its worst.
Don't get me wrong, I'm always happy when a prominent heterosexual, especially one with Republican ties, backs marriage equality. But it's supremely ironic to see these two ladies with duct tape over their mouths, "symbolizing their voices not being heard," according to the NOH8 website. Where were those voices during the 2008 campaign, when Proposition 8 was actually on the ballot, backed by Daddy/Hubby McCain?
Posted by: Chris
Harold Ford, Jr., and I go way back. OK, not personally, but his dad (that would be Sr.) represented Memphis in Congress for pretty much all of my childhood there, and his uncle John was repeatedly arrested during my stint in Nashville for college and ultimately went to prison a few years back. Harold Jr. famously ran for Senate in 2006 and almost won, derailed by a blatantly racist commercial that featured a white, blonde Playboy bunny saying, "Harold, call me!"
It was during that Senate run that Junior veered sharply to the right, pledging not just his opposition to gay marriage and most other gay civil rights legislation, but his support for a federal constitutional amendment banning gays from marrying nationwide. I shed no tear when he went down to defeat, however despicable th race-baiting tactics of his Republican rival.
Since then, Junior took on "centrist" Democratic Leadership Council and moved back to NYC, where he had lived till Senior left Congress in disgrace and Junior swooped in to take the family Congressional seat. is making noise about challenging Kirsten Gillibrand's Senate seat. Leave it to Stephen Colbert to slice and dice this opportunistic carpetbagger extraordinaire as his "alpha dog of the week":
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Alpha Dog of the Week - Harold Ford Jr.|
I wouldn't be quite so harsh on Ford for switching sides on gay marriage, considering Kirsten Gillibrand made the same switch in time for her appointment to take Hillary Clinton's Senate seat last year. I'm more pleased that the politics of gay marriage have shifted such that a viable Democratic candidate for statewide office in New York must be on record supporting full marriage equality.
January 17, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Ever since Ted Olson and David Boies, who were on opposite sides of the infamous Bush vs. Gore case, announced they were marshaling forces to challenge the federal constitutionality of Proposition 8, I've been mightily encouraged by their prospects of success. It's so effective and utterly refreshing to see two straight men, one of them with unquestionable credentials as a conservative, who "get it" so completely.
Take for example this exchange from an entertaining profile of the two men penned by Maureen Dowd for today's New York Times:
I asked the lawyers if they were disappointed that the president who had once raised such hope in the gay community now seemed behind the curve.
“Damned right,” Boies snapped. “I hope my Democratic president will catch up to my conservative Republican co-counsel.”
Olson added: “I’m not talking about Obama, but that’s what’s so bad about politicians. They say, ‘I must hasten to follow them, for I am their leader.’”
Yes you were, Ted, along with Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid and dozens and dozens of others.
December 26, 2009
Posted by: Chris
This little ditty from John McCain's flight home after voting on Christmas eve against expanding access to health care for the uninsured:
After voting against the Senate's health-care bill Thursday morning, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) caught a commercial flight bound for the Valley of the Sun, and along the way home, he was peppered by fellow passengers with a host of health-care-related questions.
McCain, sitting in a first-class aisle seat, was greeted by Phoenix-bound passengers on the US Airways flight who jokingly asked if he got what he wanted for Christmas. (The answer was no.)
One passenger asked if, as his Christmas gift, McCain could help legalize same-sex marriage. The senator laughed it off.
Ho, ho, ho, Senator McCain. Hope this marriage traditionalist remembered on Christmas to call his first wife -- the one he dumped after she was disfigured in a traffic accident while waiting for his return from Vietnam.
Along those lines, something McCain ought to file under "elections have consequences" -- it's an oldie but goodie:
July 16, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
I was shocked and delighted at the way Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) approached his questioning of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor during the Senate confirmation hearings today. He seemed to be laying the groundwork for Justice Sotomayor and the Supreme Court to rule DOMA unconstitutional.
Graham's two areas of concern in his questioning were whether the right to bear arms was a fundamental right and whether one state should be forced to recognize another state's same sex marriage. He indicated that these were two questions of potential major societal change that the Supreme Court will one day soon have to consider. Graham conceded that although he doesn't want activist judges, that indeed sometimes the Supreme Court needs to step in to secure certain rights because those rights make people uncomfortable and are so unpopular that they could never be achieved by the legislative process.
Graham then cited an example of where the Supremes imposed a major change on society -- Brown v Board of Education, the decision that desegregated the nation's schools. Graham confessed that if he himself had been a Senator from SC in 1954, he could not have voted to desegregate the schools because it made so many of his constituents uncomfortable and was so unpopular. It could not be done legislatively. He seemed to feel that this case of judicial activism and major social change was the right thing to do. He claimed that the case was well argued and that harm to that group was well documented.
Graham concluded his history, sociology and government lesson with this surprising statement praising Sotomayor:
"I think fundamentally, judge, you're able to embrace a right that you may not want for yourself to allow others to do things that are not comfortable to you, but for the group, they're necessary."
I have no idea if Graham only had the right to bear arms in mind when he encouraged Sotomayor to rule for rights that are necessary even if they make other people uncomfortable, but the two cases he told her (and us) were heading for the Supreme Court were gun rights and gay marriage rights.
To me it sure sounded as if he was arguing for Sotomayor to become part of a Supreme Court that would proclaim a fundamental right to bear arms as well as the right of gays to be married in every state of the union --- no matter how uncomfortable this made some people.
Who would have thought that Senator Lindsey Graham was a closeted freedom to marry supporter?
July 02, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
We are all familiar with the right wing mantra that gays are asking for "special rights" when in reality we are only asking for equality. Well, here's an example that turns the "special rights" argument on its head. In some situations, the very act of denying gays equal rights, actually creates "special rights" for gays, not vice versa.
Exhibit A is Martina Navratilova. She has been in two high profile long term same sex relationships. In both relationships she went through a "marriage" ceremony with her spouse, but these marriages were not recognized by the state. In the first marriage Martina escaped the usual division of assets that heterosexual couples must endure when they split because her marriage was not recognized by the state. It appears that the same thing is happening in Martina's second "divorce." The state of Florida will not recognize her New Hampshire union. As a result, Martina will most likely once again be able to walk away from this second marriage with all her assets.
It's possible some gays are happy with these special rights, because it indeed allows gay couples to dodge loss of assets in a divorce. However, if I were a straight person I would be quite unhappy with the special rights gays are getting in this area. I think I would come up with a bumper sticker that read:
Stop special rights for gays: allow them to marry.
June 15, 2009
Posted by: Chris
... of the Defense of Marriage Act. OK not really. But at the risk of being labeled (once again) as an Obama apologist, I want to add a bit more context to the excellent analysis done by Andoni and others of the DOJ's brief defending DOMA.
Like most of you, I was profoundly disappointed by the filing, and my heart sank even further when I read some of the arguments used by the Obama Justice Department in favor of DOMA's constitutionality. The analogy to incest, in particular, was completely beyond the pale. Although (once again) it's not fair to say the brief directly compared same-sex relationships to incestuous relationships, it is ludicrous and insulting to suggest there is no meaningful legal distinction between laws that don't exclude gays from marrying and laws that permit an uncle to wed his niece.
It was also patently irrational to argue that DOMA doesn't discriminate against gay Americans because we, too, can enter into "traditional marriages." Its unfathomable that lawyers for a president who is the product of an interracial marriage would use an argument that was rejected some four decades ago in Loving v. Virginia. In that case, the Supreme Court rejected the state's argument that anti-miscegenation laws weren't racist because both whites and blacks were equally restricted to marrying within their own race.
Even so, once my blood pressure came under control, I cannot join those who see the DOMA brief as a "betrayal" by President Obama or even as a sign that his administration will be "throwing us under the bus" like the last Democrat occupant of the White House did. Here's why:
First and foremost, candidate Obama did not make any commitment that I'm aware of to refuse to defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. That would have been an extraordinary promise for any presidential candidate to make about any piece of duly adopted legislation, and yet I don't know of a single time the question was even put to Obama or his competitors, or where he was even asked the more general question of whether DOMA is unconstitutional.
There's obviously a big difference between believing a law is wrongheaded or unfair or even discriminatory, on the one hand, and believing it is unconstitutional, on the other. Since Hillary Clinton defended her husband's decision to sign DOMA into law, and only favored half-repeal, it's fair to conclude she agrees with the Obama DOJ that DOMA's deficiency is a matter of policy, not constitutionality. Ditto the Human Rights Campaign, since "the nation's largest gay rights group" chose only to score the candidates on whether they support DOMA's half-repeal -- thereby equating Clinton's views with Obama's.
If this question of DOMA's constitutionality is so crucial and fundamental, then why did everyone -- all of us -- fail to raise it during the eons-long presidential campaign? We thought about DOMA enough to make a big deal -- or not -- about half-repeal vs. full repeal, and others questioned Obama about the positions the DOJ might take in defending Don't Ask, Don't Tell in court. So why didn't we ask for a commitment about refusing to defend DOMA as well? And if we didn't, maybe we should take a deep breath before accusing Obama of treason for how his lawyers ultimately answered our unasked question -- in a lawsuit that most gay legal experts wish had never been brought and hopefully will get dismissed.
A spokesperson has explained the DOJ brief saying that, "As it generally does with existing statutes, the Justice Department is defending the law on the books in court." John Aravosis makes a good point by digging up examples of the DOJ under previous presidents declining to defend the constitutionality of certain statutes in court, but rather than proving the Obama administration is "lying," he accomplished the opposite. Four examples out of thousands hardly disproves the claim that "generally" the DOJ defends laws passed by Congress and signed by the president.
Let's also pause long enough to consider whether we want to advocate the politicization of the Justice Department. Let us recall from the debate over the Bush administration's "enhanced interrogation techniques" that the DOJ has an independent obligation to weigh questions of legality and constitutionality. Those decisions ought to be made on the basis of the law, not politics. It's not fair for us to switch sides on that argument when it suits our cause, however worthy.
Please, please don't take away from these observations any hesitation on my part about the constitutionality of DOMA. As someone whose entire life has been torn apart for years now because of this single federal law, I know its destructive force, and for years counted myself among those who see DOMA as a gross affront to the Constitution. Nonetheless, I think it's a bit too easy to condemn President Obama for failing to anticipate a complicated legal question that our own advocates either also failed to anticipate or decided was unworthy of raising during the presidential campaign.
Speaking of our own advocates, I will say it was refreshing to see Joe Solmonese at HRC actually speak out on the issue, even if he ultimately cops out by attempting to evade any institutional or personal responsibility for the mess we find ourselves in. Solmonese's impassioned letter to Obama calls on the president to "put your principles into action and send legislation repealing DOMA to Congress."
Is that the way Washington works, Joe? Are we really to believe that this consumate lobbyist -- who couldn't resist bragging about his own White House access in the same self-serving letter -- completely missed that "Schoolhouse Rock" episode on how a bill becomes a law?
Solmonese and his Beltway minions know damn well the president doesn't "send" legislation to Congress. Even on top administration priorities like the stimulus package and health care reform, the bills are drafted by legislators -- hence the name -- with public and private input from the White House throughout the process, including what importance the president puts on passage.
If pressure is to be brought to bear, and indeed it should, then it ought to focus first on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. So when the mayors of San Francisco and Los Angeles raised a public ruckus with the president over DOMA this weekend, HRC should passionately remind them that not one of the Democrats in Congress from these two gay meccas, including a certain Speaker of the House, has introduced, much less given priority to, a bill to repeal DOMA.
Why is it, then, that in the 13 years since passage of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act that HRC and its friends in Congress have failed to "put principles into action" and draft repeal legislation, identify House and Senate sponsors and co-sponsors, pressure for hearings or otherwise shepherd the bill through the legislative process?
I will answer my own question. Because anyone with even a passing familiarity with gay politics in our nation's capital knows that HRC long ago agreed with its cronies in the DNC and on the Hill not to even begin pressing for DOMA repeal until a whole laundry list of other (far less important and less controversial) legislation is adopted.
With all of this context in mind, I would humbly suggest that we take each of Andoni's five examples of direct action and aim them also (not instead) at your member of Congress, the Democratic leaders in both the House and the Senate, and our dear friends at the Human Rights Campaign. Has either Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid even committed publicly to repealing DOMA, or half-repealing it?
Let's demand that HRC publicly release draft language for repealing DOMA and point us to members of Congress we should lobby to take on leadership roles in sponsorship. (And how about federal civil unions legislation while they're at it!) With those pieces in place, pressure on the White House can be much more concrete, and all this righteous anger might move the ball forward toward relationship equality.
Posted by: Andoni
ADDENDUM AT END: (THE NEW YORK TIMES AGREES)
As you can read here and here, the Obama Justice Department filed a brief defending DOMA. This was no ordinary brief. It was way over the top with arguments that could have just as well been made by Pat Roberson or Jerry Falwell. I'm still scratching my head over how this could have happened.
One of the authors of the brief was a Bush appointee who happens to be Mormon. It's pretty obvious in reading the brief that his personal religious views got in the way of prudent arguments. The Assistant Attorney General in charge of the office that filed the brief is Tony West, an Obama appointee, and by all accounts a progressive person. He is married to someone who was the ED of a major California pro gay non profit. (I don't want to drag names of uninvolved spouses or organizations into this, but a few googles will give this information if you are curious). The point being, I doubt the Assistant Attorney General -- the head of the office that filed the brief, is anti-gay.
So this is a major screw up that should never have happened. What do we do? So far, we've been complaining among ourselves. This is my advice to my friends and my email lists:
Complaining amongst ourselves about the horrendous brief that was filed by the Obama DOJ last Thursday afternoon defending DOMA does no good. We need to do something constructive, like TODAY -- when the government offices are open again in Washington after the weekend. I don't know how many people are reading this, but I bet if we all make a focused attempt to do the following, we will be heard:
1. Call or email the the White House (or do both) to register your strong complaint/disapproval/anger at the the Dept. of Justice's legal brief filed last Thursday defending the "Defense of Marriage Act" in US District Court, Central District of California, Southern Division (Smelt v United States). Make sure you reference DOMA, Dept of Justice, and filed in federal court in CA last Thursday so that when they tally the calls at the end of the day, our calls get lumped together. (Referencing Smelt v United States would be icing on the cake.) Emails to the White House can be made at: whitehouse.gov/contact/ and the comment phone line is: 202-456-1111. If you wish and have time, you can cite as an example some particular section of the brief that is particularly outrageous to you.
2. Ask/demand that the president fulfill his campaign promise to repeal DOMA by immediately introducing legislation to repeal DOMA
3. I would hope that all three (in concert if possible) of our representatives in Congress call or meet with the appropriate person in the White House to explain/protest how demeaning and over the top the DOJ brief was. They should stress that this was a completely avoidable fiasco if the White House had only consulted with them on this matter first. They should also point out that this is an example of why we need an LGBT senior staff liaison in the White House.
4. I would hope that every person who represents an LGBT organization would have that organization also contact the White House with the same above messages.
5. If you are a member of another email list, you would send the above suggestions to that list, so that the calls and emails snowball.
Taking action is preferable to complaining among ourselves. We've been run over here. If we don't make a loud noise and protest, the next time it will be even worse.
If we can't get enough people to take action over this -- to make our voices heard at the highest levels on this very justified complaint, I fear we don't have the energy, unity or passion to achieve equal rights in the near future.
ADDENDUM: The New York Times agrees with us. Here is their great editorial this morning. And I'm glad to report that Joe Solmonese, ED of the Human Rigths Campaign sent the president a strong letter that is well worth reading.Here's a key clip from the opening paragraph:
"I realized that although I and other LGBT leaders have introduced ourselves to you as policy makers, we clearly have not been heard, and seen, as what we also are: human beings whose lives, loves, and families are equal to yours. I know this because this brief would not have seen the light of day if someone in your administration who truly recognized our humanity and equality had weighed in with you."
June 12, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
ADDENDUM AT END
In case you haven't heard, the Obama Justice Department has decided to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court. You can read the brief in Smelt v The United States of America here (at the bottom) along with some reactions here. A statement from some of the major LGBT organizations are here.
Reading the arguments the DOJ makes to defend DOMA really makes me angry and I wonder if this is what President Obama or the higher ups in the White House really think. It's the same arguments the Republicans and religious right have been making for years --- with even a few new ridiculous ones thrown in.
The only thing I can conclude is that we've been thrown overboard by the Obama administration or by presenting such ridiculous arguments, this is a really clever way to throw the case.
For instance they argue that restricting rights is a legitimate action of the federal government because it can save the federal government money. What federal court accepts the principle that you can deny rights because there's not enough money to administer them. By that reasoning we can close down polling places in poor neighborhoods or Democratic neighborhoods and say we don't have enough money to keep those places open. Lack of money should never be a reason to deny equal rights.
Or the argument that federal tax money can't be collected from people in states that do not recognize same sex marriage going to benefit sames sex married couples in states that do. This is bullshit. A citizen or state or any other entity cannot specify or prevent federal dollars from being sent to a specific place or for a specific designation. If citizens could specify how and where their federal tax dollars could be used, a lot of people would request that their money not be spent on war or the pentagon or tobacco.
The people in the Justice Department writing this brief made so many discredited and ridiculous arguments for DOMA, I hope these were really intended to help the court see the fallacy of DOMA to persuade the court to strike it down. Otherwise my only other conclusion is that the Obama White House has thrown us overboard.
ADDENDUM: Harvard constitutional law exprert, Prof. Lawrence Tribe, offers the Advocate another plausible reason for the DOJ filing this lawsuit. Of all the federal lawsuits challenging DOMA, this is the worst one and has the least probability of succeeding. It has a good chance of going to the Supreme Court and losing, thus cementing DOMA consitutionally in place for a long time. The DOJ has merely asked that this lawsuit be dismissed, then made a laundry list of every single argument ever made for DOMA, hoping that one would stick and the case would be thrown out. Tribe seems to think that the GLAD case (you know that group that has been so successful in the New England states) is the best challenge to DOMA out there, but that one (timing wise) is behind this one, so this one had better not reach the Supreme Court before the GLAD case. The GLAD case was crafted to appeal to five or more justices on bases that we are fairly certain they agree with. If GLAD wins, that will slice DOMA open and some of pieces holding it together will fall apart, making DOMA much more vulnerable for the next lawsuit. The idea is to put a hole in DOMA first, then go in for the kill later. Most experts think the Smelt challenge (above) doesn't have a chance of touching DOMA at the Supreme Court level, and would only serve to cement it in place for years (think Bowers) if they lose. That's why it has to be moved out of the way by having it dismissed.
So maybe the DOJ is doing its job (defending the United States laws) and helping the marriage equality cause both at the same time. I mean, if this case doesn't have a chance at the Supreme Court, knock it off now.
It still hurts to read all those debunked (and even pre-Lawrence) laundry list of arguments being used against us. But I guess if you are trying to get a case thrown out, you use everything you have, hoping that one will stick.
I would feel much better if Obama would simply let us in on what his plan and timeline are to achieve LGBT equality. Since June is Pride month, now would be a good time to tell.
So if any reporters are reading this, the question for Press Secretary Gibbs is, "Can you share with us what is the president's plan to achieve his campaign promise of gay and lesbian equality and what is the timeline for that plan?"
June 08, 2009
Posted by: Chris
Two New York City Democrats defected to the other side in a Senate leadership vote that appears to have swung control of the body over to Republicans. At stake in the switch is a vote on gay marriage legislation which both men are said to oppose:
One source of contention among Democrats recently has been Mr. Smith’s support for same-sex marriage. Senator Rubén Díaz Sr., a Democrat from the Bronx, has been outspoken in his insistence that legislation allowing gay couples to marry not be allowed to come to a vote. Some had speculated he might leave the Democratic Party if Mr. Smith were to allow a vote.
But Mr. Díaz did not join Mr. Espada and Mr. Monserrate in the leadership vote on Monday. It was not immediately clear whether the same-sex marriage legislation played any role in the leadership dispute.
It's ironic that Republicans are trumpeting the changeover as an opportunity to "bring real reform to the Senate" considering that the GOP had controlled the body for four decades until this January, and both the Democratic turncoats are under investigation: Pedro Espada Jr. (R-Bronx) is under scrutiny for his business dealings and Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens) is facing felony charges for assaulting his girlfriend.
(Photos of Espada and Monserrate via the New York Times)
June 04, 2009
Posted by: Chris
I've been writing for years and years about the tragic willingness of those in "leadership" roles of the gay rights movement to cut deals that betray their supposed constituents. Joe Solmonese and David Smith of the Human Rights Campaign are archetypes of this pathetic trend -- grossly overpaid lobbyists who spend far more political capital lowering the expectations of gays on behalf of the Democratic Party than they do pressuring for equality in Washington.
Thanks to a report for the Daily Beast by Jason Bellini -- formerly with Logo -- we have yet another pathetic example of HRC's betrayal of the movement, agreeing not to press for repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell until next year:
Don't say I didn't warn you. HRC and the Democrats have been promising (with no plan to deliver) passage of a hate crime law and Employment Non-Discrimination Act for more than a decade, including before the 2006 election, and yet we are still expected to be satisfied by these same civil rights crumbs for the entire first year that Democrats are firmly in control of Washington.
In some ways, delay is somewhat more justifiable on DADT than other gay rights measures, given the implementation steps to be taken in the midst of two foreign wars. But make no mistake: if DADT waits until 2010, then relationship recognition -- whether repeal of DOMA or a federal civil unions law -- won't get touched until after the midterm elections, if then.
I hope that grassroots activists and gay folks nationwide play Bellini's report again and again, paying special attention to Smith's dissembling and Solmonese's smarmy status-whoring, along with the ridiculous excuse-making by Tammy Baldwin. Come on, Congresswoman -- there hasn't been enough "education" on gay rights issues? Polls show overwhelming public support for not just ENDA and hate crime laws, but repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and for marriage or civil unions. Enough with the lame, self-serving excuses!
As for "the nation's largest gay rights group," we are definitely not getting what we pay for. Despite an astronomical budget, we get backroom deals and snail's pace progress. Then again, what do we expect from a civil rights group that recently bought a building with a 30-year mortgage? The Beltway tuxedo crowd is in no hurry, especially if actual activism might risk their coveted access and cocktail invites.
All this nonsense reminds me, unfortunately, of why I burned out on gay politics earlier this year. We can only hope that independent voices bypass the Solmonese/Smith crowd and demand change directly from the Democrats in power -- in the White House and on Capitol Hill.
Count me in for another March on Washington -- let's just make sure the HRC building is included on the protest route.
June 03, 2009
Posted by: Chris
It was a bit of a head-turner this week when Dick Cheney, the former vice president and conservative attack dog, took time out from his blistering critique of Barack Obama to disagree with the president from the left on the issue of same-sex marriage.
“I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish — any kind of arrangement they wish,” Cheney said during a question-and-answer session that followed his harsh assessment of how the current occupant of the White House is handling the economy and national security.
“The question of whether or not there ought to be a federal statute to protect this, I don’t support. I do believe that historically the way marriage has been regulated is at the state level. … But I don’t have any problem with that. People ought to get a shot at that,” he added.
Instant analysis from the blogosphere took pleasure in the obvious irony that such an iconic figure from the Republican right now appeared better on the issue than the Democratic president who despite opposing marriage equality has promised to be a “fierce advocate” for gay rights.
Not so fast. Careful observers like Denis Dison, who blogs for the Victory Fund at GayPolitics.com, noted that Cheney stopped just short of saying he actually supports marriage for gays, referring as he has in the past to gay couples entering into “any kind of union they wish.” We are dealing here, after all, with a politician who knows how to parse his words, re-branding waterboarding and other forms of torture as “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
More concretely, Cheney’s opposition to “a federal statute to protect this,” while also vague, could either be referring to a law banning states from marrying gays or a law that extends marriage rights nationwide.
In that sense, Obama still comes up better than Cheney on marriage friendliness, since the president supports full repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the heinous federal statute that allows states to ignore same-sex marriages elsewhere, as well as blocking federal recognition.
A “federal statute” repealing DOMA could decide things nationwide as a practical matter, since even couples in states that ban gay marriage would be able to travel to places like Massachusetts or Iowa, get married, and demand legal recognition back home.
Even if Obama remains better on paper, it is certainly fair to complain that he’s done nothing concrete thus far toward ridding us of DOMA — much less been a “fierce advocate.” Then again, no Democrat in Congress has introduced repeal legislation either.
All in all, Dick Cheney’s supportive comments tell us less about the president than they do about gay marriage as an issue and how a personal connection can be so critical in winning over even hardened hearts and minds.
As we all know, the former veep’s younger daughter Mary is gay, and she and her long-time partner have a young son. By all accounts father and daughter are very close, personally and politically; so much so that Mary managed her father’s re-election campaign in 2004. From that close-in vantage point, Dick Cheney understands full well that her desire to marry — or “union”-ize — is a basic human need that poses no threat to the “traditional family.”
A Gallup poll out last week confirmed the importance of that personal touch. Among Americans who said they don’t know personally know anyone who is gay or lesbian, opposition to same-sex marriage runs almost three to one. Among those with who do, slightly more support marriage equality than oppose it.
Marriage isn’t the only hot-button controversy impacted this way. Nancy Reagan became such a "fierce advocate" for stem cell research, parting ways with the religious conservatives who are her husband’s greatest admirers, because she saw firsthand the devastating effect of Alzheimer’s.
There is a word to describe this ability to look beyond politics and even religious teachings to see how an abstract issue has real impact in real lives, whether among loved ones or strangers. It’s called empathy.
It’s the quality that President Obama said he was looking for in a Supreme Court nominee, and it’s the reason Sonia Sotomayor may well be right that, on average, “a wise old Latina” ought to make a better judge than “a wise old white man.”
It’s the reason your's truly is no longer the conservative Republican I once was, because seeing bigotry and grossly unequal treatment up close has given me greater empathy than I had before for the struggles of others.
And it’s empathy that will ultimately be responsible for President Obama eventually finding the political courage to lend his support for full marriage equality.
May 27, 2009
Posted by: Chris
The ruling yesterday by the California Supreme Court upholding Proposition 8's same-sex marriage ban sent thousands into the streets of San Francisco, Los Angeles and dozens of cities across the country to protest. Long-time activist Robin Tyler, who was a plaintiff in last year's successful suit challenging the state's gay marriage ban and the unsuccessful legal attack this year on Prop 8, didn't mince words.
"The upholding of Proposition 8 by the court is a cowardly retreat from the pro-equality stance it took last year," said Tyler, "and makes our state a laggard behind pro-equality states like Iowa and most New England states."
The reason for her frustration is obvious enough. A little more than one year ago, the California high court struck down a ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage as a bias-motivated measure that violated equal protection under the law and impinged on a "fundamental right" guaranteed by the state's Constitution. Six months later, an almost identical ballot initiative called Proposition 8, adopted by an even smaller margin of votes, snatched away that "fundamental right."
Confronted with such a naked power play -- a bare majority re-adopting the same ballot initiative found unconstitutional a year earlier -- the California Supreme Court this week just shrugged its shoulders. "There's nothing we can do," the 6-1 majority said, essentially. "It's just really easy to amend our Constitution."
That’s really what the challenge to Prop 8 came down to -- the very same simple majority of California voters that can adopt a state statute by proposition can also amend the state’s constitution by proposition. It’s a huge flaw in the constitutional design of our most populous and influential state.
If individual rights are to be protected from the majority abuse, then trampling on a minority should obviously require something more than a simple majority of voters. That’s why the U.S. Constitution and the founding documents of the vast majority of other states don’t let amendments go before the voters at all, or only after they are pre-approved by a legislature, usually by super-majority and often over successive sessions.
The gay plaintiffs challenging Prop 8, backed by state Attorney General Jerry Brown, tried their best to make an end-run around the easy amendability of the California Constitution, honing in on archaic language that says “amendments” can go before voters but “revisions” have to get the legislature’s OK first.
Parsing through the difference between an “amendment” and a “revision” is the kind of thing that earns lawyers the revulsion of right-thinking people everywhere. In this case, the court majority got the better of the argument, pointing to an uninterrupted chain of earlier court rulings about what amounts to a “revision.”
Despite the best pro-gay efforts of some very smart lawyers, calling Prop 8 a “revision” rather than an “amendment” would require ramming a very square peg down a very round hole.
It’s very cold comfort, of course, to know that the justices weren’t simply cowardly fearing recall by voters -- another fundamental flaw in California’s legal system -- when they upheld Proposition 8; just like it’s pretty cold comfort that the court didn’t forcibly divorce the 18,000 same-sex couples who married before Prop 8 passed.
Still, the news isn’t all bad. Politically speaking, it will be much better for the gay rights movement in the long haul to repeal Prop 8 at the ballot box, rather than from the bench. Equality California has already announced plans to put a pro-gay proposition -- call it Prop Anti-8 -- on the 2010 ballot, and this week’s court ruling has at least energized volunteers.
What’s more, this temporary defeat may actually turn into the mother of all victories for same-sex marriage. Just today, two of the most prominent lawyers in the U.S., who just so happened to be on opposite sides of the Bush vs. Gore case back in 2000, have come together to file a federal lawsuit challenging Proposition 8.
These two strange same-sex bedfellows include Ted Olson, a conservative hero as George W. Bush’s lawyer back in 2000 and subsequently solicitor general for W.’s first term, along with David Boies, Al Gore’s lawyer and the guy who took on Microsoft back in the ’90s for the Clinton Justice Department. Their Prop 8 suit is based on the guarantees of equal protection and due process in the U.S. Constitution, and if successful would in domino fashion strike down gay marriage bans everywhere, along with DOMA, the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Even with the involvement of these legal giants, this latest lawsuit is itself a risky gamble, given the conservative state of the judiciary and the precarious balance of power on the U.S. Supreme Court. But if it works, this week’s protesters can take special joy in how Proposition 8 ultimately won the great gay marriage war.
(Protest photo via San Francisco Chronicle/AP)
May 05, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
Remember those same sex civil weddings on the Greek island of Tilos that I reported a while back? Well, a Greek court, under strong pressure from the Greek Orthodox Church, ruled yesterday that those marriages were illegal.
One of the married couples said they are going to appeal -- that it's a human rights violation.
I believe this one will eventually end up in the European Union Court of Human Rights. Then we will find out if in the new Europe (the EU) the church is still stronger than the state.
As an aside, I just happen to be in Greece (on the island of Corfu). I have been planning to take a break from posting, but this is a story I had been following, so I felt obligated to report on it.
Although Corfu is not off the beaten path, my intention is to see many of the off the beaten path Greek islands (traveling as a local) over the next 8 weeks. On the list are Tilos (the island where the marriages took place), Amorgos, Folegandros, Symi, Patmos, Kefalonia, Paxi and Skopelos. That means I won't be visiting my favorite one, Santorini (or Thira, as it's called in Greek). Hmm..... Santorini, Corfu...how did so many Greek islands end up with Italian names?
As you have noticed, Chris is taking a break, and now I am too. So this site is going to get even quieter.
I will occasionally do a post if the news warrants, like if President Obama nominates an openly lesbian person to the Supreme Court. Short of that, not too many posts from me for a while.
April 19, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
No matter where I am in the world, the first thing I do on Sunday morning is read Frank Rich's column in the NYTimes. It's a sad day for me when he is off.
As you know I am of the opinion that the California Supreme Court should void Proposition 8. You can read my reasoning in Dred Scott and the CA Supreme Court and in Marriage decision in Iowa - UNANIMOUS. Evan Wolfson's argument to void Prop 8 is here.
In today's NYTimes, Frank Rich (to my mind) reminds the California Supreme Court Justices of their role. After citing Brown v Board of Education, Rich asserts:
"But the judiciary has long played a leading role in sticking up for the
civil rights of minorities so they’re not held hostage to a majority
This is exactly the situation that we have in California. The majority (a very slim one at that) is holding a minority hostage and the Supreme Court has to speak out loudly and clearly to remedy this situation and lay a precedent so that it cannot happen again. There is no clear precedent to deal with this exact situation in California. The Court should set a precedent for this situation. They should declare loudly and clearly that a simple majority cannot strip away the rights of minority the way they did.
Should they decide the other way, this will be their Dred Scott decision and they will go down in history as the court that repeated that infamous mistake.
Posted by: Andoni
A recent Advocate article reports that LGBT Congressional supporters are working on a bill to partially repeal DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act). The elements of their legislation are remarkably similar to the one I made in a post the day after President Obama's inauguration.
In my proposal I didn't actively seek to repeal DOMA because I thought it would be politically too difficult at this time, but I effectively repealed it through definitions. The difference between my proposal and the current one being debated by gay leaders is that with theirs, marriages from MA, CT, IA, and VT will be able to be called marriages at the federal level instead of civil unions. Theirs is the better solution, but politically more difficult to do. Repealing DOMA, even only section 3 will be a hard task. But it is also the cleaner solution.
One current aspect of their legislation that is still under discussion is whether and how to open up the 1138 federal benefits of marriage to people in all 50 states. They seem to be leaning in the direction to do this. The legislation would have to be written so that it is triggered when a couple enters into a legally recognized same sex relationship in a state that creates same sex unions. It should not depend on where the couple resides, but rather that it was a legally sanctioned union when it occurred and that it continues to be legal in that jurisdiction. This would allow a couple from GA which has a constitutional amendment against recognizing same sex unions to go to MA to get hitched and then return to GA to receive the federal benefits (filing income taxes jointly, social security survival benefits, etc), even though the state of GA would not recognize them as married and they would receive no benefits from GA.
This is very important. For instance what happens if a couple is married in MA, lives there for a few years receiving both state and federal benefits and then the company transfers them to GA? Why should the federal benefits cease upon crossing a state line? It's the same federal government, it's the same couple and it's the same country. Of course, their state benefits would cease in GA, but I believe that their federal benefits should not. And if someone suggests that they should have to live in MA for a certain period of time before their federal benefits can be portable, what is the proper time? Six months? A year?
Another logical question is what if the couple remains in MA their whole life but move to FL (a non marriage state) to retire and one spouse dies the next day? Should no Social Security survival benefits be paid after all those years and a legal marriage in MA? What if the couple is in MA when one spouse dies, and the surviving spouse starts receiving Social Security survival benefits but then decides to retire to FL. Should the benefits stop when she moves to FL? These are all real life questions.
I argue, that the law should be written so that once you are in the federal system, triggered by a legal marriage, you stay in the system with respect to the federal government unless that marriage is legally dissolved.
But as I argued in my previous post:
You may ask, how can the federal government grant rights at the federal level, when the state government where the couple resides may not do the same?
There is at least one parallel situation - probably more.
Just like marriage licenses, the federal government does not issue doctors' licenses either -- states do. So how does the federal government recognize doctors who can practice in the federal medical system (the Veterans Administration, the military, the public health system, etc.)? It recognizes the state licenses. To practice medicine in the federal system and receive all the rights and benefits granted to a physician by that license, you must hold a license legally obtained from one of the 50 states. Your license may be from MA, but the federal government will recognize you as a doctor in the federal system in Alabama (for example at the VA hospital) even though the state of Alabama will not recognize that license and will not allow you the rights and benefits to practice in their state outside of the VA system. Alabama will not recognize your license to practice medicine from MA even if the federal government does. So just as the state of Alabama does not recognize a same sex marriage license from MA, or a doctors license from MA, the federal government does recognize the doctors license and could do the same with the other license. The federal system and the state system are two separate and independent systems. This is at the heart of federalism that some Republicans like Bob Barr strongly support.
Another point made by Mark in the discussion part of my prior blog is whether it is too much to ask a poor gay couple to have to travel to one of the coasts to get a civil union or marriage to receive those 1138 federal benefits? Now that Iowa has gay marriage, the people writing this legislation believe there is no need to consider how to get benefits to these people. (That would have required the federal government to create unions -- something that it is not in the business of doing.)
These are exciting times and I am anxious to see what the final legislation looks like. But I think that it is very important that it is written so that people in all 50 states can participate in federal benefits.
April 12, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
What's going on with Rick Warren? Yesterday , I wondered if he was changing his view on gay marriage, trying to rewrite history, or what.
Today, Warren was scheduled to be interviewed on This Week With George Stephanopoulos, but canceled just moments before the interview. It was a sure bet that Stephanopoulos would have asked him to clarify his position on gay marriage.
This is getting interesting.
April 11, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
Evangelical preacher Rick Warren claimed on Larry King Live earlier this week that he was not a proponent of Prop 8. This has stunned fellow evangelical leaders. Warren's words seem at odds with a video he sent to his parishioners just before the November election asking them to vote for Prop 8.
So what's going on here? Is Warren in denial over what he exactly said and did back in November? Or is he now ashamed of his actions and is trying to distance himself from those actions? Or has he changed his position?
If Warren is actually transitioning his position on gay marriage, then this is another example of Obama knowing exactly what he was doing when he invited Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration.
I would vote (again) for the fact view that Barack Obama knew exactly what he was doing by inviting Warren to the inauguration, and when the time comes Warren will be more of an ally for gay rights legislation than we ever dreamed.
April 10, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
Following the victories in Iowa and Vermont this past week, Matt Coles, Head of the ACLU LGBT and AIDS Project sent out an email analyzing the future of our continuing battle for marriage equality. With his permission I post his comments here:
Some week. The Vermont legislature voted to let same-sex couples marry, and the Iowa Supreme Court decided that it is unconstitutional not to let same-sex couples marry. Together, these two events are a much needed shot in the arm for marriage.
April 03, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
The Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that gay couples have the same right to marry in Iowa as straight couples.
Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and House Speaker Pat Murphy, they issued the following remarkable joint statement following the decision:
"Thanks to today's decision, Iowa
continues to be a leader in guaranteeing all of our citizens' equal rights.
"The court has ruled today that when two Iowans promise to share their lives together, state law will respect that commitment, regardless of whether the couple is gay or straight.
"When all is said and done, we believe the only lasting question about today's events will be why it took us so long. It is a tough question to answer because treating everyone fairly is really a matter of Iowa common sense and Iowa common decency.
"Today, the Iowa Supreme Court has reaffirmed those Iowa values by ruling that gay and lesbian Iowans have all the same rights and responsibilities of citizenship as any other Iowan.
"Iowa has always been a leader in the area of civil rights. In 1839, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected slavery in a decision that found that a slave named Ralph became free when he stepped on Iowa soil, 26 years before the end of the Civil War decided the issue.
"In 1868, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated "separate but equal" schools had no place in Iowa, 85 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.
"In 1873, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against racial discrimination in public accommodations, 91 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.
"In 1869, Iowa became the first state in the union to admit women to the practice of law.
"In the case of recognizing loving relationships between two adults, the Iowa Supreme Court is once again taking a leadership position on civil rights.
"Today, we congratulate the thousands of Iowans who now can express their love for each other and have it recognized by our laws."
Iowa is indeed a remarkable state. What a great decision and reaction from their political leaders!
I will update this post as I can. I'm beginning 3 months of intensive today, so my posts will be infrequent.
I am hoping that the justices from the California Supreme take note and read this decision. It just might help them develop the backbone to void Prop 8. They got it right in May in their landmark decision. To uphold Prop 8 at this point will not look good for them in history......and they should realize that.
March 21, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
Finally, someone has put together an Omnibus Gay Rights Bill.
Tired of the piecemeal approach for equal rights taken by our leadership over the past 15 (or more) years, eQualityGiving decided to put it all on the table. If the goal is LGBT equality, let's spell out exactly what that means at the federal level -- in one bill. This is a very comprehensive, very well thought out proposal that has been months in the making. It is more than just the sum of the parts of our current proposals before Congress.
There are the major pros and cons of this approach. Critics will say that this bill is DOA. There is no way Congress will do all this. We aren't equal, we aren't close to being equal and they simply won't do it. Besides, a bill that encompasses so many issues will be split up and sent to a dozen different Congressional committees based on legislative jurisdiction, where it will turn into mincemeat when finished .....if it ever survives any of the committees.
The pro side says that we need to show Congress what true equality really looks like for the LGBT community. When you spell out what true equality is, it is glaringly obvious that we are second class citizens at best and in many cases -- non citizens. At the least this proposal can be used as the gold standard, the measuring stick, against which all piecemeal legislation will be measured.
So after ENDA (the Employment Non Discrimination Act) is passed and everyone says, wow how great, we can point to the Equality Bill and say, OK, that's a little bit of what is necessary, but look at how much is still missing. I think that alone makes this bill worthwhile to have around.
A lot of work by a lot of smart and enthusiastic people went into crafting this proposed legislation. I think you should take a look at it to see how good it is. It addresses everything but marriage at the state level, which is not a federal issue.
Feel free to tell us what you think.
Full disclosure: I am a member of eQualityGiving.
March 15, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
History repeats itself. That is the theme in Frank Rich's wonderful Op Ed The Culture Warriors Get Laid Off in today's New York Times.
According to Rich, we are entering a new period where the public has again tired of the anti-science, let me impose my values on you crowd. After the major economic downturn we have experienced over the past year, the culture wars are a luxury we can no longer afford. The same sort of cultural reversal happened in 1933 during The Great Depression.
In the period leading up to the Depression fundamentalists pushed for Prohibition and anti-evolution legislation - succeeding on both counts. The Depression ended all that nonsense. In the period leading up to today's great recession, the fundamentalists peddled an anti-gay, anti-stem cell research agenda and also succeeded broadly.
Now history is repeating itself. Anti-stem cell research was reversed last week by President Obama with only a whimper from the religious right and public opinion is showing majority support on most of the crucial gay rights issues - employment, the military, and our relationships.
We need to take advantage of this moment in history. FDR demonstrated that a president can lead a nation to reform on cultural issues when the country's mood changes. Obama should follow that example. As the saying goes - it is his moment, it is his time.
March 13, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
The New York Times says President Barack Obama is in a tough spot with regard to whether he should allow the federal government to provide health insurance benefits to partners of same sex couples as two California federal appeals court judges ruled yesterday.
The Office of Personnel Management has instructed insurers not to obey the judges' order because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). And of course religious conservatives such as Gary Bauer, president of American Values, are threatening (in an almost gleeful manner) that if Obama provides these benefits it will reinvigorate the conservative coalition. To complicate all this further is the fact that Obama's designated, but unconfirmed, new director of the Office of Personnel Management is M. John Berry, a gay man.
The judges' ruling was not the result of of a lawsuit but as part of a ruling as employers resolving employee grievances.
I don't think Obama is in as tough a position as the Times says he is. He should simply say this is not about marriage, it's about equal pay for equal work. The partner benefits are part of the pay package for federal employees and the federal government cannot and will not be part of discrimination that pays some employees less than others for the exact same work. He can even say, "Let me be clear about this" so we know he means business.
There really is no other way to provide equality, because the insurance package is more than just the money involved to pay for the partner's insurance; a major benefit is the access to that insurance as well. In most instances the partner would not be able to buy this good insurance on their own.
Unfortunately, the IRS will tax this insurance benefit as income, which is patently unfair, but that's a different matter that is best left to fight about on another day.
March 06, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
I watched online the entire oral arguments at the CA Supreme Court yesterday challenging the legitimacy of Prop 8. I must say, I was quite disheartened when it was all over. Our side's argument that Prop 8 was a constitutional revision (major change requiring a higher bar) versus an amendment (simple change requiring a lower bar) pretty much fell on deaf ears.
Chief Justice Ronald George pretty much summed it up when he suggested that maybe the real problem is that the California constitution is just too easy to change by amendment, having been done over 500 times, and that maybe it should be made more difficult to amend. My first thought was well, yes, but please don't change the rules now that we will probably have to go back to the people to amend again in order to get Prop 8 out of the constitution. Wouldn't that be the irony of ironies... they change the rules to make amendments more difficult to pass after we've been screwed, just in time for when we have to get something passed to undo the damage. Wouldn't that be great?
There was a line of reasoning during the case that didn't pass my logic test. The California constitution refers to the inalienable rights of all Californians to life, liberty, etc. But the justices also kept referring to the inalienable right of the people to change the constitution. The justices chose to think that the inalienable right of the people collectively to change the constitution (a simple majority) outweighed any inalienable rights of any individual or minority. This translates into the inalienable rights of the majority is more powerful than the inalienable rights of the minority. That means the majority rules the minority, regardless of inalienable rights.
Conclusion: there are no inalienable rights -- it's simply a matter of majority rules.
I can't imagine that is what the framers of the CA constitution had in mind when they wrote the constitution and described inalienable rights. If the that is what the CA Supreme Court decides, then the document is internally inconsistent.
Another point that got me angry was that the justices seemed to admit that it was indeed unfair for a simple majority to take rights away from a minority. They also said it would be unfair to those already married to have their marriages nullified. Both things unfair. But they chose reasoning that seemed to indicate that they would allow the first unfairness to stand, and somehow were finding reasons that the second unfairness should not stand.
My take-away is that the court would rule against the Prop 8 challengers (our side) and say Prop 8 is valid, but allow those 18,000 marriages to stand. Maybe they believe that by doing this they will seem more moderate, coming down on both sides of the issue giving the Prop 8 supporters a win, while also giving us a little something.
From my personal perspective (not married in CA or living in CA), I would rather that if we are defeated on Prop 8 the question, that they also rule to un-do all those marriages already performed. My reasoning is that this will demonstrate to the public more fully the damage they have wrought by voting for Prop 8 and it will demonstrate the real agenda of the religious right. If those 18,000 marriages are undone, I believe, we have a better chance of winning in 2010 when we try to overturn Prop 8. It will be crystal clear to the voters in the middle how damaging Prop 8 really was.
Finally, I was dismayed by the totally slavish way the justices felt their hands were tied by precedent (in the amendment versus revision question) even as they were simultaneously saying how they could see that it was unfair that a simple majority could remove a fundamental right from a minority. And they were simultaneously acknowledging that this was a totally unique case- nothing like this had ever come before them. They were certainly in new territory.
Well, news flash to the justices. When you are in totally uncharted territory you cannot go to the field manual they gave you in school. Old maps, precedents, etc don't apply! They won't work. Trying to apply old charts, rules, doctrines, to a totally new situation is what chained to the past people like Herbert Hoover do. In truly uncharted territory, smart people and true leaders find new ways to do the right thing and get to the right solution, even if it's not in the books. Think Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War or FDR during the Great Depression and World War II.
I'm afraid that the CA Supreme Court is going to act more like bureaucratic lemmings using inapplicable precedents to tackle a never before seen situation, rather than incorporating logic, wisdom, and creativity.
In one of the most monumental cases ever before the CA Supreme Court, I'm afraid these justices are going to think like the justices who produced the Dred Scott decision, rather than the Brown v the Board of Education decision. The Dred Scott justices based their decision on the old manual; it was tethered to precedent and the past. The justices in Brown used logic, wisdom, and new thinking to move the people to a better place.
I certainly hope I am wrong and will gladly admit it if I am.
March 03, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
Finally, someone is challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a smart fashion. The Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD, with one "A"), the same group that successfully challenged the marriage laws in MA and won -- resulting in the first state to perform same sex marriages, is now challenging DOMA. It isn't challenging all of DOMA, but only certain aspects of Section 3, the section that says that the federal government won't recognize same sex marriages.
The legal group is honing in on "equal protection" of certain federal benefits that most Americans can relate to, such as Social Security survival benefits, joint filing of income taxes, retirement plans for federal employees, and passports. GLAD has found eight married couples and three widowers as plaintiffs for the suit. One is Dean Hara, former spouse of deceased Congressman Gerry Studds (D-MA), who was denied the Congressional pension and other benefits normally given to surviving spouses of federal employees.
Will this work? I think it has a darn good chance. GLAD has a great track record of knowing when and how to challenge things. Because of the importance of this case, it is quite likely that the final word will be from the U.S. Supreme many years from now. But because it would be extremely difficult for the Court to enumerate exactly what rights and benefits Section 3 should exclude, it is quite likely that all of Section 3 would fall. That would mean any legal marriage would be eligible for those 1100+ federal benefits now denied gay married couples.
What will be interesting for me is how vigorously the lawyers from the Obama Justice Department will defend this case. If Obama himself feels that all of DOMA is unconstitutional, can this be reflected by the Justice Department? And if the plaintiffs win in the First Circuit (Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, and Rhode Island), would the Obama Administration appeal to the Supreme Court? Or would they let the decision stand, allowing most of New England to receive federal benefits for same sex marriage.
I believe the most likely outcome of this lawsuit is that the publicity surrounding this case will shift public opinion into realizing the inherent unfairness of DOMA section 3, and that Congress will repeal that section before this case reaches the Supreme Court.