Saturday, March 7, 2009

Justices seem to be leaning in favor of Prop 8

UPDATE: A few more thoughts on the hearings:

From interviews Geoff Kors from Equality California, and Brad Sears, executive director of the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
There's been many discussions about yesterday's Supreme Court Prop 8 hearing, but not a lot of in depth analysis. Unfortunately, those that have sprung up are rather discouraging.

Check out Bob Egelko article at the SF Gate: Justices seem to be leaning in favor of Prop 8

Here's Pete Williams from MSNBC: Court appears ready to uphold Prop. 8.

But be encouraged. Not everyone agrees with these analysis, and one can never predict what the court will decide. In May, not only did they say gays and lesbians had the right to marry, they proclaimed the LGBT community a suspect class due to years of harassment and discrimination, granting us all protections guaranteed by the Constitution (which was argued in yesterday's hearing that this alone should overthrow Prop 8), a decision which was more than we were expecting and were gratefully surprised.

There's a strong chance we'll be surprised again!

The movement is going forward whether or not Prop 8 is overturned. Win or lose, we still have a long way to go for equal rights, and we're not about to stop. Change is coming. Don't give up hope.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Away for the Weekend . . . Working Hard for the Movement

I will be away facilitating at Camp Courage in Fresno starting today. As a result, I won't be able to do in depth blogging over the weekend, but there will be an occasional post. So stick around!


Below is an open letter from Molly McKay, Marriage Equality USA Media Director, to the LGBTI Community and Activists reflecting on the California Supreme Court hearing and where we go from here.

Hey Folks -

I know we are united in spirit and purpose to bringing marriage equality back to California.

I join in the sense of disappointment in the Justices' questions and leanings yesterday, but we could not have asked for better advocates and our amazing legal team of Terry Stewart from the City & County of San Francisco, Shannon Minter from the National Center for Lesbian Right, Michael Maroko from Gloria Allred’s office, and Ray Marshall representing our amici (friends of the court) who were inspiring and totally righteous. I think we need to keep in mind the CA Supremes did the right thing last year by declaring that marriage was a fundamental right of citizenship and that the LGBT community was a suspect class and made marriage equality the law of the land until the nefarious Proposition 8 was passed by 2% of the voters. The 2008 historic marriage decision from this Court continues to resonant and help set the stage in support of our position in a critical way.

Additionally, the California Legislature has already stood with us now 3 times (2005, 2007 and again in 2009 with the resolution supporting the invalidation of Prop 8.) Even Governor Schwarzenegger, Senator Diane Feinstein and Attorney General Brown have all finally seen the light and are vocal advocates for marriage equality. The state is ripe for us to step up and finish this chapter in the long history of our struggle for equality.

We have to face the facts, that this last phase is on US, you and me. No, it's not fair. No, we shouldn't have our civil rights up for a vote. No, we shouldn't have to ask 18 million Californians for permission to marry the person we love - Yes, this is totally ridiculous. But, we have to accept that these are the cards that are likely to be dealt. Life is often unfair, but the pivotal question is - what will we do about it? Getting angry and resentful doesn't win friends or influence others to our side - we must instead, get determined, get focused, get grounded, get mobilized, and see this crisis and an opportunity of righting this past wrong together. Hope springs eternal that the Court will still do the right thing, but let's adopt a "belt and suspenders' approach- time to roll up our sleeves and start planting our grassroots community garden today.

In 2008, history called for us to defeat Prop 8 and had we waged the campaign that we are all committed to now - we would not be in this situation. my sewing teacher always said, 'if you don't have time to do it right, you always have time to do it over.' We've gone through the "woulda, coulda, shoulda" phase and now is the time to mobilize.

We have the power to create the most creative, innovative, fun, inclusive, empowered and courageous campaign for equality that the world has ever seen. We have the chance to get out and talk about love, family, truth, justice in the broader frame of social and economic justice for all people. Fate has anointed our generation with the task of seeing this slice of civil rights struggle into the history books - are we ready to answer that call now?


The Eve of Justice events that took place on March 4th in 35 cities around the state are an example of what we can accomplish collectively. Together we stood with our families, our allies, our fellow organizations, shoulder to shoulder for justice, for community for peace. Let's be ready to do that again after the California Supreme Court rules.

If it goes our way - let us be graceful and joyous winners ready to reach out our hands to those who are still unsure and invite them to the wedding banquet so they can see that there is just more for everyone and nothing is taken from them. If we lose, let us be graceful and determined love warriors ready to gather signatures, supporters and new allies - let us transform our opponents with love, not further entrench them in their positions, but reach out (and reach in) and continue to be a peaceful stand for the vision of justice and equality we want to see in the world.

Let's not just pour into the streets for another rally (although coming together that evening is the right thing to do)- but let's follow that up with something even more powerful. Let's all make a commitment to do the challenging work of spending the next few months walking door to door in our neighborhoods, to attending non-marriage equality community events and being ambassadors for our community, to offer allies tangible ways to get engaged and take action with us.

It is up to us to be the change we want to see in the world - and I ask everyone to think long and hard about what that change should look like before you take actions that will affect all of us in the community - for the good, or for the bad. The people I saw screaming back at the Yes on 8 people outside the courtroom were prominently featured in mainstream media as portraying our community. If you can't remain a calm stance for are not helping and I believe you are harming our cause.

We have everything we need to knit together the passion, energy and existing organizations and coalitions across the state. Thanks to our brilliant techies for the cause, we have a new coalition website that is built on a model of the United Nations at

I urge everyone to move their organization into that site today- it is still under construction - but we can all help in ensuring that it becomes the thriving village, a beehive of grassroots action so we can communicate freely with each other, share ideas and plug new recruits into the best opportunity that matches their talents, resources and interests. I also urge everyone to get familiar with the amazing equality hub created by Courage Campaign modeled on the technology that allows us all to access the most incredible grassroots Voter ID program. Also, attend a Camp Courage training if you can - it has something wonderful for new and veteran activists - they will be training in Fresno this weekend. I urge you to order your "I Do" materials at, and etc to ensure that you are wearing and generating "marriage equality moments" at every opportunity.

We can't live by internet alone, so Marriage Equality USA will host a statewide call on March 18th at noon and again at 7pm to allow us to brainstorm and share ideas, projects, plans, trainings and give feedback for building and expanding the statewide coalition and regional networks. For call-in information, register for this call, go here to register.

We encourage everyone to come to the Fresno City Hall (2600 Fresno Street) on the first Saturday after the Prop 8 decision in a “Meet in the Middle” day of action. For more information, go to to show our support our LGBTI family and supporters in the Central Valley and to illustrate we are all in this together.

In this next phase of the movement, we all collectively own it - and no one organization runs the show or calls all the shots - we are committed to a transparent and accountable flow of communication and action. Getting organized at the grassroots level is we can right this past wrong together. Marriage Equality USA’s report “Respect Empower Include” highlights some amazing grassroots organizations and the amazing team we can create if we come together. We all need to keep our egos in check and realize we need to work together, we have to dig deep and stay committed to working out any internal conflicts that get in our way of collective action- if we are divided we will never win! We need to spend way less time arguing with each other about who is the leader and whose logo goes where and way more time - just getting out there and doing the work of having persuasion conversations with fair-minded Californians - with inviting interested leaders, organizations, parents, neighbors and everyone who has been chomping at the bit to help. "Many hands make light work" and there is more than enough Love, Recognition, Glory and Opportunity for everyone who wants to be involved and make change. The only mistake we can make is to undervalue the power we each have to be the change we want to see in the world.

Lastly, this is a marathon not a sprint. We need to embrace being mindful about how we do this work. We need to prioritize our health, our marriage, our friendships and ensure we are doing this work from a grounded place of abundance, joy and connection. No more "Ready, Fire, Aim." Let us ensure that we take the time to ensure everyone is at the table, let's ensure that we focus on how each of us can add value - we need to stay committed to the collective good and if we get fried, we need to step back, re-group and come back when we can do this work from a positive space. We need to stay committed to the time-tested and American tradition of Non-Violence in all our activities. I'm attaching the Marriage Equality USA policy adopting non-violence as our method of making lasting change. I encourage others to modify and adopt a similar policy so it is crystal clear that no matter what happens we will stand resolved and committed as peaceful agents of change. I understand Soulforce and MCC are organizing teach-ins on Non-Violence methods and I hope we can all support that important work.

"We have learned from our mistakes, picked ourselves up off the floor, we have learned just what it takes, now we are stronger than before. And we are standing side by side - we have the courage now, to win. We have come to far and we've got the scars and we are never going back into the shadow again. I am a Giant and you will not make me fall and you will not make me crawl, I am a Giant and I'm not alone, winds of change have blown and the walls come tumbling down." Melissa Etheridge - song: I am a Giant.

We are at a crossroads moment in our history. Will you join me in re-enlisting for another tour of duty as a Love Warrior? Will you stay engaged to see this through until it is done? If so, join us at or another grassroots group that appeals to you and let's all work in coalition together we will march on as a gentle, angry people onward to victory - wiser and stronger. Together, yes we can.

Molly McKay
Marriage Equality USA Media Director

The Makers of "Milk" Ask Us to Support Courage Campaign

A letter from the makers of "Milk":

Today is a turning point. And, as Harvey Milk used to say so often, we're "here to recruit you."

A few minutes ago, the California Supreme Court heard the final oral arguments in the case to overturn Proposition 8. Within 90 days, we will know whether the court will restore equal rights or uphold injustice.

No matter what the state Supreme Court decides, the fight for equality will continue in California and across the country.

If we win, the same people who backed Prop 8 will find another way to undermine equal rights. If we lose, we will need to take our case to the people of California again. No matter what, we'll eventually need to win full equality under federal law.

At nearly 700,000 members and growing, the Courage Campaign is building an army to prepare for this fight -- the kind of people-powered movement that Harvey Milk would lead. A movement that proudly portrays -- and tells the stories of -- the people victimized by the discrimination of Prop 8, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act.

We're here to recruit you. Will you help the Courage Campaign build this movement? Please contribute what you can today to restore marriage equality to California and bring equal rights to America:

Harvey Milk understood the need to organize communities from the bottom-up, the need for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender people to be out and proud as leaders in this movement, and the need for straight allies to join them in solidarity.

That's why we worked so hard to get the film "Milk" to movie screens across America. We wanted to show a new generation of Americans how Harvey organized to win landmark victories in the fight for equal rights.

Just like Harvey did in 1978 when he led the movement to defeat the "Briggs Initiative," the Courage Campaign is organizing across California to repeal Prop 8 -- training marriage equality activists at "Camp Courage" events, launching Equality Teams county-by-county, and producing online videos like the heartbreaking "Fidelity," viewed by more than 1 million people.

The only way we will win true equality in California and across the country is by giving people the power to do it themselves. And that's what the Courage Campaign is doing. Please contribute what you can afford today to help the Courage Campaign build this people-powered army from the ground up:

Thank you for joining us in supporting the Courage Campaign.

Sean Penn, Gus Van Sant, Dustin Lance Black, Cleve Jones, Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks
"Milk" Actor, Director, Screenwriter, Historical Consultant and Producers

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Eve of Justice Coverage

Unite the Fight slide show:

A beautiful event at El Pueblo, Eve of Justice in Los Angeles unified an already strong community with a message that no matter how the Supreme Court rules on Prop 8, no one can take our commitment to our loved one away. Committed to showing solidarity, the weather did not keep the hundreds of attendees away - in fact, the rain just made it more beautiful. No matter what elements are against us, no one can take our light away, as was explicitly shown when the crowd was led in unison to the classic song, "This Little Light of Mine."

Many spoke at the event, including Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign, Attorney Jenny Pizer with Lambda Legal, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who performed the recommitment ceremonies, and Father Geoff Farrow with a musical performance from Mandy Steckelberg. Videos "Fidelity" from Courage Campaign, relationship stories from and the "Permission" video from ThinkMTV aired.

The rain miraculously stopped just in time for the peaceful march led by a Korean drum band to the Los Angeles Ronald Reagan State Building which houses the Supreme Court when in the city. Upon reaching the building, the event and march ended with a moving speech from Rabbi Denise L. Eger of Congregation Kol Ami.

Orange County Register:

FOX LA Video:

KCAL video here.

LA Times article.

CNN article.

CNN San Diego Video:

NBC San Diego Video:

CBS San Francisco video coverage.

FOX San Francisco video coverage.


You can watch it live on the internet at CalChannel or find listings at here.

If you're having issues with CalChannel, try ABC Live feed.

Coverage of Eve of Justice on the way!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Eve of Justice Press Release



WHAT: Hundreds of LGBT activists and their allies come together at El Pueblo, the historic birthplace of the City of Los Angeles, to rally on the eve of a landmark supreme court hearing on Proposition 8, the measure which stripped away from gay and lesbian Californians the fundamental right to marry in our state and put the equal protection of all minorities in peril.

Special guests include Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LAMBDA Legal representative Jenny Pizer, Latino HIV/AIDS Activist Richard Zaldivar, Father Geoff Farrow, Rabbi Allen Freehling, Rabbi Denise Eger, Reverend Dr. Neil Thomas, & Ugly Betty's Alec Mapa.

Event will contain a legal update from LAMBDA Legal, video sequences, musical performances, speeches, a recommitment ceremony between a few of the previously married 18,000 couples, and a candle-lighting ceremony. The event will end with a candle-lit march through downtown
to the Reagan Courthouse Building where a rally will ensue.

The event is organized by Marriage Equality USA, Amnesty International, API Equality, California Faith for Equality, Christopher Street West / LA Pride, COLAGE, Courage Campaign, EQCA, Equality Network, Equal Roots Coalition, FAIR, Gays UN, GLAAD, GSA Network, Honor PAC, Human Rights Campaign, Join the Impact, Jordan Rustin Coalition, Love Honor Cherish, MCCLA, PFLAG, Postcards to the President, Progressive Jewish Alliance, Roots of Equality, Somos Familia, Unite the Fight, Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry CA, & White Knot.

WHEN: Wednesday, March 4th, 2009
STAGE EVENT: 5:30 PM – 8:00 PM

El Pueblo De Los Angeles Historic Park
845 N. Alameda St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Ronald Reagan Building
300 South Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013


Has the CA Supreme Court Already Made Its Decision on Prop 8?

Even before hearing the oral arguments?

According to the LA Times story, there's a strong chance that the answer is yes.

"Reporting from San Francisco -- The California Supreme Court may reveal Thursday whether it intends to uphold Proposition 8, and if so, whether an estimated 18,000 same-sex marriages will remain valid, during a high-stakes televised session that has sparked plans for demonstrations throughout the state.

"By now, the court already has drafted a decision on the case, with an author and at least three other justices willing to sign it. Oral arguments sometimes result in changes to the draft, but rarely do they change the majority position. The ruling is due in 90 days."

However, instead of 90 days, the court may announce its decision tomorrow, March 5th, the day of the hearings.

"Most legal analysts expect that the court will garner enough votes to uphold existing marriages but not enough to overturn Proposition 8. The dissenters in May's 4-3 marriage ruling said the decision should be left to the voters."

Read the rest of the story and hear both sides of the issue at the LA Times website.

Not going to be able to make it to the big event viewings of the argument? You can still watch the hearings, scheduled to be shown live from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday, March 5th, on the California Channel, available to cable customers. (A list of local channel numbers for this service is available at The California Channel)

Don't live in California? The hearing also will be streamed live on

Counter the LDS Church's Attempt to Squash a Civil Union Bill in Illinois

Thanks to Queers United, I was made aware that the following official email was just sent out through the LDS Church's website to its members in Nauvoo 3rd Ward by its website's administrator, Kristy Combs, and the ward's Bishop Chris, who approved the email.

"This message has been authorized for sending by Bishop Church.

The Civil Union Bill (HB 2234) has been scheduled for a hearing in the Youth and Family Committee this week on Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 9:00 a.m. in Springfield. If the bill is voted out of committee, it becomes eligible for a vote before the full Illinois House of Representatives. This bill will legalize civil unions in the state of Illinois, and will treat such civil unions with the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections and benefits as are afforded within marriage. In other words, civil unions will be different in name only from marriage. As has already been seen in Massachusetts, this will empower the public schools to begin teaching this lifestyle to our young children regardless of parental requests otherwise. It will also create grounds for rewriting all social mores; the current push in Massachusetts is to recognize and legalize all transgender rights (An individual in Massachusetts can now change their drivers license to the gender they believe themselves to be, regardless of actual gender, which means that confused men and women are now legally entering one another's bathrooms and locker rooms.What kind of a safety issue is this for our children?). Furthermore, while the bill legalizes civil unions, it will be used in the courts to show discrimination and will ultimately lead to court mandated same-sex marriages.

To help defeat this bill, please call your state representative and state senator and ask that they support traditional marriage and vote against the civil unions bill. If you are unsure who your legislators are, please see the link at the end of this email.

Also, please take a moment and call the following members of the Youth and Family Committee to encourage them to vote no on this bill. We need 4 votes to keep it from passing out of the committee. And - as always, please pass this on to all who believe in protecting our families and our children. If you are interested in attending the hearing, it will be held on Thursday, March 5th at 9:00 a.m. in Springfield in Room 122B of the Capitol Building (I can give you directions to the Capitol Building if needed).

Members of the Youth and Family Committee:

Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) (Greg Harris is also the sponsor of this bill, but he needs to hear your opposition to this bill)

Rep. LaShawn K. Ford (D-Chicago)

Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago)
Republican Spokesperson

Rep. William D. Burns (D-Chicago)

Rep. Michael P. McAuliffe (R-Chicago)

Rep. Al Riley (D-Matteson)

Rep. Dave Winters (R-Rockford)

Directions for identifying your legislators:

You can use the following link to identify your state legislators and their contact information: enter your 9 digit zip code). If this link doesn't work, you can use the general link and then click on "legislator lookup" near the bottom of the page, then click on "by zip+4". Type in your zip code, and you'll see a list of your legislators. You want your state senator and state representative as they will be the ones voting on the bill.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Sister Combs"

In order for the LGBT community and allies to be just as effective, we need to counter the LDS Church's strong influence in politics by contacting Congress ourselves in equal numbers. And thanks to them, we have Congress' contact information! Those who live in Illinois may need more support and instruction, so visit Equality Illinois for direction. Under "Events" they have a call to action and where to assemble on Thursday, March 5th, for the day of the hearing.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

EVENT REMINDER: March 4th, Eve of Justice

Across the nation, LGBT rights advocates and allies are gearing up for Eve of Justice on March 4th, the evening before the CA Supreme Court hears oral arguments against Prop 8.

Los Angeles info:

March Forth PC


- Jenny Pizer of Lambda Legal who will give an update on the case before flying to San Francisco to argue before the Supreme Court in the morning.
- A recommitment ceremony officiated by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. All married couples and couples wanting to get married are welcome to join in. This includes same sex and opposite sex couples.
- Musical entertainment by Tony Sweet, Nita Whittaker and Mandy Steckelberg.
- A Candlelight pledge to promote love, tolerance and equality in the future and the promise we will not stop until we our work is finished.

The event will finish with a candlelight march to the Supreme Court building.

Without support from the community, this even would not be possible. Please help cover the costs by donating.

Join the Facebook event page for Los Angeles and the National Page!

Already the Yes on 8 people are sending out the word to mobilize at the event. Let your voices by heard!

For information in your area, visit

On March 5th, go to a live viewing of the oral arguments in downtown LA or Lambda Legal's viewing (see calendar at the bottom of the blog for information).

GLAD Files Lawsuit Challenging Denial of Critical Federal Benefits to Married Same-Sex Couples

Married Same-Sex Couples Denied Critical Protections in the 1,138 Federal Laws in Which Marital Status Is a Factor

(March 3, 2009) The first concerted, multi-plaintiff legal challenge to Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was filed today by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).

Gill et al. v. Office of Personnel Management et al. targets the denial of certain federal rights and protections to married same-sex couples in Massachusetts. GLAD lawsuits brought marriage equality to Massachusetts (2004) and Connecticut (2008), the only states where same-sex couples can currently legally marry. This suit, filed today in federal District Court in Boston, addresses the use of DOMA Section 3 to deny spousal protections in Social Security, federal income tax, federal employees’ and retirees’ benefits, and in the issuance of passports.

“It’s time for the federal government to end its blatant double standard of providing rights and protections to all married couples except gay and lesbian married couples,” said Mary L. Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director for GLAD. “Same-sex married couples have taken on the commitment of marriage, play by the rules, and pay into the system. But they are denied critical federal legal protections that form a safety net to support other married couples and their children.”

Passed in 1996, DOMA Section 3, now codified at 1 U.S.C. section 7, limits the marriages the federal government will respect to those between a man and a woman. Section 2 of DOMA, not at issue in this lawsuit, allows states to establish public policies about what marriages they will and will not respect.

GLAD argues that DOMA Section 3 violates the federal constitutional guarantee of equal protection as applied to federal income tax, Social Security, federal employees and retirees, and in the issuance of passports. GLAD also contends that DOMA Section 3 is an unprecedented intrusion by the federal government into marriage law, always considered the province of the states.

The plaintiffs are eight married couples and three widowers, each of whom is currently eligible for a federal program. Each has applied for a benefit under that program and was denied because of DOMA Section 3.

“After decades together, we were thrilled to be able to marry,” said Nancy Gill, a postal worker married to Marcelle Letourneau. “But we were shocked when I applied to put Marcelle on my family health plan, and we were rejected. My employer, the federal government, doesn’t protect my family the same way it does my co-workers’ families. That’s not right.”

Dean Hara, the surviving spouse of late Congressman Gerry Studds, said “Gerry and I spent 16 wonderful years together and I miss him. The federal government’s denial to me of Gerry’s pension and health insurance added insult to injury at the worst time of my life. These systems are set up to help married people with the sudden loss of their partner, but instead of helping me, it hurt me.”

The plaintiffs represented in the case are:


Nancy Gill (51) and Marcelle Letourneau (47) of Bridgewater: Nancy has been a postal worker for more than 21 years, but as a federal employee she is unable to provide for Marcelle the health benefits that her co-workers' spouses readily receive. Nancy and Marcelle have 2 children.

Dean Hara (51) of Boston: The spouse of former Congressman Gerry Studds who died suddenly in 2006, Dean is denied Gerry’s congressional pension, health insurance, and the other protections available to surviving spouses of federal employees. Studds was a public servant for 27 years, 24 of those in Congress.

Melba Abreu (53) and Beatrice Hernandez (47) of Boston: Both Cuban-Americans, they are unable to file federal tax returns jointly and lose thousands of dollars each year. Because of that inequity, their dream of owning their own business is deferred.

Mary Ritchie (48) and Kathy Bush (49) of Framingham: Mary and Kathy are mothers of two school-age boys. Mary, a state trooper, and Kathy, a stay-at-home mom, have a harder time making ends meet because they cannot jointly file federal taxes. Additionally, Kathy would not be eligible for the full line-of-duty benefit for surviving spouses should Mary die while on the job.

Herbert Burtis (78) of Sandisfield: Herb, a 78-year-old musician and teacher, lost his spouse after 60 years together, including the last 13 when John battled Parkinson’s disease. Herb’s already limited income is severely reduced because he is denied the $700 month that would come with Social Security survivor benefits.

Dorene (43) and Mary (48) Bowe-Shulman of Acton: Dorene and Mary are raising two children and trying to save for their future. Mary, a lawyer, covers Dorene, an acupuncturist, on her health insurance but they pay taxes on the plan because the federal government doesn’t recognize their marriage. They also lose thousands each year because they can’t jointly file federal tax returns.

Randell Lewis-Kendell (52) of Harwich Port: Randy lost Rob, his spouse and partner of 30 years, to cancer in 2007. A shopkeeper on Cape Cod, Randy struggled to pay for Rob’s funeral expenses because the federal government denied him the $255 benefit it provides all other bereaved spouses. When Randy turns 60, he will not be eligible for Rob’s higher Social Security benefit.

Martin (Al) Koski (66) and Jim Fitzgerald (57) of Bourne: Al and Jim have been together for 33 years. Al has retired after working for Social Security for 22 years but unlike his fellow workers he’s unable to provide Jim with health coverage or access to his pension. Jim has severe asthma and they both worry about his health and their security in their old age.

Bette Jo Green (66) and Jo Ann Whitehead (67) of Jamaica Plain: Bette Jo is a retired labor and delivery nurse, and Jo Ann is a semi-retired gardening educator. Their retirement income is smaller than it should be because even though they paid into Social Security throughout their lives, they aren't eligible for the standard spousal Social Security formula that results in higher payments to the lower earning spouse.

Marlin Nabors (31) and Jonathan Knight (28) of Hyde Park: Young marrieds and Mid-Western transplants to Boston, Marlin and Jonathan have just bought their first house together and talk about having children. Unable to jointly file federal tax returns, they have lost thousands of dollars. Yet they would happily pay more in taxes if they knew their marriage was respected by the federal government.

Keith (37) and Al Toney (42) of Worcester: The couple raised Al’s now college-age daughter, and have been foster parents for several children. After choosing the family name “Toney” upon getting married, Keith has been unable to obtain a passport in his correct name because of DOMA, which makes him and the couple vulnerable when they travel in a security-conscious, post-9/11 world.

More than 10,000 couples residing in Massachusetts have married since 2004, and not one has received a single federal benefit or protection available to all other married couples. As soon as couples started marrying, GLAD started hearing from couples who have been harmed and whose children have been harmed because of DOMA.

While GLAD’s case focuses on certain federal programs, DOMA Section 3 cuts across virtually every area of federal law. Married same-sex couples cannot, for example, take family and medical leave to care for a seriously ill spouse; access the many family benefits associated with military service; or sponsor a foreign spouse to reside in this country.

GLAD’s legal team is led by Mary Bonauto and GLAD Legal Director Gary Buseck, and Staff Attorneys Nima Eshghi and Janson Wu. Co-operating counsel on the case include Foley Hoag LLP (Boston), Sullivan & Worcester LLP (Boston), Jenner & Block LLP (Washington, DC), and Kator, Parks & Weiser, PLLC (Washington, DC).

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders is New England’s leading legal organization devoted to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity and expression.

CA Congress Approves Resolution to Overturn Prop 8

Just days before the case on Prop 8 goes to the California Supreme Court, the California Senate has approved a resolution calling on the state Supreme Court to declare the measure - which bans same-sex marriage - illegal because it is an improver revision of the Constitution due to it not being approved by the Legislature. The House had approved its version of the resolution earlier.

Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) said the initiative is a fundamental revision to the document, not an amendment, which requires a two-thirds vote of both legislative houses to put it on the ballot.

"Do we have a constitutional democracy in California, or do we have mob rule?" Leno inquired of his colleagues. The resolution was approved with an 18-14 vote.

“Both houses of the legislature recognize that Proposition 8 undermines the fundamental principle of equal protection guaranteed by the California constitution,” Leno said. “Proposition 8’s revision to the California constitution violated key structural checks and balances in the state’s legal system when it was approved by a slim majority of voters last November. If Proposition 8 stands, we would be setting a dangerous precedent in California that allows a majority of the people to deny equal protection under the law to a minority of Californians.”

The state Supreme Court is scheduled to take up a legal challenge to the ballot measure Thursday, March 5.

Republican senators said the resolution was an inappropriate attempt by the Legislature to influence the courts.

Marriage Equality USA Issues New Report and Is Building New Grassroots Clearinghouse

Marriage Equality, who made a big impact at January's EQCA Equality Summit with their reports that countered many of the No on 8 Campaign's political advisers' findings, has issued a new report - "Respect, Empower, Include.". This report highlights dozens of grassroots organizations and projects underway that embody this new vision.

"It is time to implement the collective wisdom gathered from across the state, harness the renewed passion and creativity of grassroots power and chart our course towards securing marriage equality that is wiser and stronger than ever before," said Molly McKay, Marriage Equality USA Media Director. "Our third and final report – Respect, Empower, Include – adopts the Obama field campaign's mission statement as our own mission statement for the marriage equality movement going forward. It embodies what we missed the first time around in the No on 8 Campaign and creates a new vision where everyone is at the table and empowered and encouraged to participate in this civil rights moment of our generation."

"During the campaign and after the November 4th election, we witnessed amazing energy, innovation and leadership from other grassroots organizations and individuals who share common goals and values," said Pamela Brown, Marriage Equality USA Policy Director. "Through town hall meetings across California, the community has called for open, transparent operations that are accountable to the larger community. No one organization can, or should, do it alone, but together we can create an unstoppable, talented team of networked grassroots leaders working in coalition with one another to ensure that all Californians are treated equally under the law and that marriage equality is once again a reality in our state."

"To support this grassroots collaboration and strengthen our grassroots community, Marriage Equality USA will help organize the Statewide Grassroots Coalition Call to bring together representatives from grassroots organizations and support the creation of regional and targeted outreach teams," said Brown.

Interested organizations can register for the call here.

"In addition, we are working with volunteer technology experts from a variety of grassroots groups, including Equality Network, Equality Camp, and Join the Impact, to create a statewide clearinghouse and coalition website housing grassroots organizations and projects devoted to securing marriage equality in California," said McKay. "This site will allow grassroots organizations to sign on as coalition partners, share events through a regional community calendar, post ads for volunteers needed for specific projects and allow for supporters to explore and get involved with the organization/s that best fit their interests."


"Since the election in November, we’ve seen the strength that can come from grassroots collaboration," said Brown. "We have hundreds of organizations working together on over 25 statewide candlelight vigils planned on March 4th, the eve of the California Supreme Court hearing on Prop 8 and San Francisco speakers include Cleve and Dustin, and we expect thousands of supporters to watch the oral arguments on a jumbotron in Civic Center Plaza, just outside the steps of the California Supreme Court."

A complete list of March 4th candlelight vigils can be found at www.EveofJustice.comand individuals interested in donating to the jumbotron can go to

"There has never been more opportunity or potential for change and growth in our marriage equality movement," said McKay. "The community realizes that we must be the change we want to see in the world. The grassroots community is literally buzzing with life. Straight allies are joining us shoulder to shoulder, new leaders are teaching the old veterans new tricks, the Milk movie and the real-life stars from the Defeat of the Briggs Initiative are touring the state to remind us that corporate is not always better. It is the homemade - from the heart, sharing our lives and connecting as fellow human beings that will set us free. We are through with running our civil rights movement by focus groups and political consultants. We hereby take back our movement, reclaim our voices, our dignity, our power. Together we march proudly, with heads high knowing that it is our generation's responsibility and honor to right this wrong. The time is at hand. The movement awaits. Join us!"

The third and final report concludes Marriage Equality USA’s summary of the thousands of grassroots voices who contributed to the community debriefing following the Prop 8 campaign. "We ask that any future campaign start by reviewing the advice, heartache and recommendations from the people whose lives are as stake. We thank everyone who took the time to provide input on what has been a challenging but ultimately enlightening experience for our community," said McKay. "We have learned from the mistakes of the campaign, dusted ourselves off, and deepened our resolve to strengthen our relationships, to love each other for better or worse, to continue to march forward and to never go back into the shadows again. The world only spins forward – let’s get this done so our families can get busy living their happily ever afters."

Marriage Equality USA’s three reports on California’s No on 8 campaign, the harm of anti-gay initiatives like Prop 8, and where we go from here are all available for download on Marriage Equality USA's home page at

Monday, March 2, 2009

Check Out Vote for Equality!

Want to get involved in hands-on actions? Interact with voters by canvassing and phone banking to explain why they should support LGBT rights? Then check out Vote for Equality. See how you can get involved by reading their flyer below.

VFE flyer_022509

A Compromise for Marriage Equality?

On February 21, a NY Times op-ed piece written by David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch argued that the federal government should recognize state marriage laws and itself only extend civil union status to relationships recognized in such states. This argument was presented as an attempt to compromise the opposing views on same-sex marriage.

Reading this, I grew more and more irritated - where in the history of civil rights has any minority group compromised their rights? What makes us any different? Why set up a "special" new system for a group that has been accused so many times of wanting "special" rights when all we want is what our fellow citizens already have?

I was preparing a post in response, but the presented three great responses from marriage equality leaders that I feel do a much greater job responding than I ever could. They are Evan Wolfson from Freedom to Marry, Nicky Grist of Alternatives to Marriage Project and Jenny Pizer of Lambda Legal, who will be arguing against Prop 8 in the CA Supreme Court this Thursday, March 5th.

An excerpt of Jenny's response:

"We do not think it's a good compromise at all. The heart of the issue is that we're talking about civil marriage and the fact that the government should be treating everyone equally in this civil institution. They would never suggest that the government disallow interfaith or interracial marriages -- or people who remarry after divorce -- just to accommodate some who oppose such unions on religious grounds.

"The government shouldn't avoid this conflict and "compromise" by saying that a minority group that has been discriminated against and excluded for a long time should continue to be kept out of the system in order to accommodate the views of people who think this minority shouldn't have equal rights and should be segregated and subordinated."

Check out the full responses at the