Saturday, April 4, 2009

White House Responds to Iowa Ruling

The official White House statement:

"The President respects the decision of the Iowa Supreme Court, and continues to believe that states should make their own decisions when it comes to the issue of marriage. Although President Obama supports civil unions rather than same-sex marriage, he believes that committed gay and lesbian couples should receive equal rights under the law."

I couldn't agree more with Pam Spaulding over at Pam's House Blend that the statement is nothing but "tepid." (Pam reports that the original statement had to be amended by the White House to the above to include "equal rights" - oops). I know this statement contains nothing new from President Obama, but it's almost offensive how little he acknowledges the historic advancement this ruling does for LGBT equality.

It's hard for me to believe for a second that our "progressive" President actually believes that the marriage debate should be left to the states. One, there's federal benefits being extended to straight married couples no matter where they're married, so that automatically involves the federal government. Two, even if a state decides a gay couple is married, as it stands, the federal government still won't recognize it, so how is that "equal rights under the law." And three, how is it "equal" if in one state a couple can be married, drive for an hour to another state, and NOT be married?

Is President Obama kidding me?!

With the latest news that the Administration has delayed taking on Don't Ask Don't Tell, and ENDA seemingly still another pie in the sky, this tepid "response" from the White House seems anything but a sign of progress at a time when we can really need it.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that the president has to be cautious - he wants to be everyone's president, have everyone "at the table." Problem is, he's elected now. He has to make stands. He may be one of those types who don't like it when people are mad at them, but guess what? You're the president. You're going to make people mad. In order to make "change", you have to make tough decisions. Decisions that will piss people off. However, it seems like we're the ones who are going to be pissed off. Again.

I for one have a hard time believing that Obama truly has faith in the White House statement. I think what he really believes in would piss off the right-wing, not us (of course, I'm fantasizing here). That is, the LGBT community has the right to marriage. As he himself has said to The Advocate, "I'm the product of a mixed marriage that would have been illegal in 12 states when I was born."

The LGBT community has been screwed over and over by officials they helped get elected. Helped by donations, time, sweat and tears. Real change would be sticking by us. For a change.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Iowa Puts Pressure on California Supreme Court

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights and lead counsel for same-sex couples and Equality California in Strauss v. Horton, the challenge to Proposition 8 currently pending before the California Supreme Court, wrote a guest post on Bilerico Project about the implications of the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage for California's own high court.


. . .the Iowa court repeatedly underscored that equal protection is one of the "basic principles essential to our form of government," part of our very "blueprint for government," essential to the continued existence of "our republican form of government and our freedoms," and the foundation of "the rule of law." That is the centerpiece of our argument in the Prop 8 case. What is at stake in the Prop 8 case is not just marriage for same-sex couples, but the foundational principle that all people are entitled to equal protection of the laws.

Today's decision from Iowa strongly reinforces that the California Supreme Court must not permit a simple majority of voters to jettison that defining hallmark of our government by eliminating a right only for an unpopular minority. . .

Especially in light of today's decision, it would tarnish the California Supreme Court's credibility and stature for the court to back away from its prior decision and pretend that Proposition 8 does not relegate same-sex couples and their children to a second-class status. Proposition 8 installs an invidious inequality in the heart of the California Constitution. There is no principled way for the California Supreme Court to uphold Proposition 8 without compromising its prior decision in the Marriage Cases and causing grievous and unjust harm to an entire class of California families.

This is a defining moment for our state and for the California Supreme Court. The Court's decision in the Prop 8 challenge will either reaffirm the centrality of equality in our constitutional system, or it will hold, for the first time in our state's history, that a simple majority can amend the constitution to impose inequality on an unpopular minority.

Read the amazing full post at Bilerico Project.

More Work to Do in Vermont

Marty Rouse, National Field Director of the HRC, has issued a call to action to thank Vermont legislatures who shared their stories to help move the vote in favor of same-sex marriage, but to also urge them to override Governor Douglas' impending veto. Here's a section of his action alert.

Governor Jim Douglas has said he intends to veto the [Vermont same-sex marriage] bill. The bill heads into final technical passage in the House tomorrow and then returns to the state Senate for concurrence (remember last week's overwhelming 26-4 vote there). The bill should land on Governor Douglas' desk next Tuesday; he'll likely immediately veto and then the House will likely try to override on Tues, Wed, or Thurs of next week.

Since some Democrats who voted against the bill tonight may vote with their party to override (and some Rs who voted for the bill may not want to vote to override their Governor), it is not completely clear how close the votes are to override. If all 150 members show up, 100 votes are needed for override. Advocates believe they are very close to having the votes to override. We could very well be only 5 votes short of an override, and we have less than a week to get them. Vermont could very well be the first state in our nation to enact marriage equality by the legislature....or not. One vote could make the difference.

Vermont Freedom to Marry has done an amazing job in getting us to this place today. We owe Beth Robinson everything. We should all crack open a pint of Vermont maple syrup in her honor.

What can we do to help get this bill over the finish line and enacted? Email, post on Facebook, call everyone you know who lives in Vermont and urge them to call their state Representative and ask them to vote to override the Governor on the marriage bill. This really may come down to one vote. So please take action today.

You can send a note to Vermont legislators here at the HRC Action Center.

Tonight we are all Vermonters.
There's still more that you can do.


You can help make the veto override happen. Scott Gortikov, Executive Director of MassEquality, tells how:
The Vermont House voted with overwhelming support (95-52) last night to pass a marriage equality bill. Now, Governor Douglas is set to veto the bill.

It is critical that we do everything we can to override the Governor's veto. We are just votes away from overriding the veto and securing marriage equality in Vermont.

Your help can make the difference. How?

Join us for an emergency phonebank to Vermont. You can phone from home using our remote calling system or you can join us at our office in Boston.

To phone from home please call Samantha at (617) 878-2325 or email

To make calls from our Boston office Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday: SIGN UP HERE.

With your help, Vermont can become the fourth state in the nation to recognize marriage equality!

To listen to the bill's amendment debates, go to

UPDATE: Iowa Victory Celebrations Throughout the Country

UPDATE 1:33pm PST: Marriage Equality USA encourages everyone to join their local MEUSA chapter or create your own action with friends by going to your local movie theater tonight and hand out free popcorn, Iowa's staple snack, with signs that read:

"Marriage equality is popping up all over, and coming soon to a town near you!" or "Iowa Supreme Court Unanimously Supports the Value of Fairness for All!"

MEUSA says, "The value of fairness and equality for all has resonated today in Americas Heartland let us hope the ripple of hope and tradition of extending civil rights to all minorities travels to every state in the nation."

Silverlake, CA

Who: Jon Davidson, Legal Director, Lambda Legal

What: Rally and Victory Party

When: Tonight! 7:00 p.m., April 3, 2009

Where: Rally: Pocket Park at the intersection of Sunset Blvd., Edgecliff Dr. and Griffith Park Blvd.
Party: Casita del Campo Restaurant
1920 Hyperion Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(see calendar at bottom of blog for map info)


Rallies throughout Iowa can be found on Queers United.

Modesto, CA

WHEN: Friday, April 3rd, 5:30 PM
McHenry Ave & W Briggsmore Ave
Modesto, CA 95350

New York, NY

New York City
Day of Decision celebrating Iowa and Vermont victories!
Union Square Park
6:30 PM

Keep checking back for more rally information. Want to add your event? Email UTF at

UPDATE: Iowa Supreme Court Rules Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

UPDATE 10:55AM PST: Openly gay Iowa Senator Matt McCoy posted a video on YouTube declaring that "Iowa will not go backwards when it comes to civil rights."

Click on "More. . ." at the bottom of the post to view the video.

UPDATE 10:08AM PST: Nan Hunter at Bilerico has already written a piece call First Thoughts on the Iowa Marriage Decision where she states a few reasons why the Iowa victory is the most important to far in the marriage equality movement:
  • The decision was unanimous, the first time that any marriage case has been won without a dissent or, for that matter, by more than a one-vote margin.
  • The decision cuts off any impulse in the legislature to opt for civil unions, saying that "a new distinction based on sexual orientation would be equally suspect."
  • ...the statutory language must be applied and interpreted in a manner allowing gay and lesbian people full access to the institution of civil marriage.

  • The victory came in Iowa, widely perceived as an all-American, proudly midwestern, emphatically non-New England state.
Read the rest of the article on Bilerico.

UPDATED: Supreme Court opinion and summary added to bottom of this post. Click on "MORE..."

The Iowa Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling Friday finding that the state's same-sex marriage ban violates the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian couples, making Iowa the third state where gay marriage is legal.

The ruling strikes the language from Iowa code limiting marriage to only between a man a woman.

"The court reaffirmed that a statute inconsistent with the Iowa constitution must be declared void even though it may be supported by strong and deep-seated traditional beliefs and popular opinion," said a summary of the ruling issued by the court.

A statement from the court's remedy:

Consequently, the language in Iowa Code section 595.2 limiting civil marriage to a man and a woman must be stricken from the statute, and the remaining statutory language must be interpreted and applied in a manner allowing gay and lesbian people full access to the institution of civil marriage.

Due to court rules, the decision will take 21 days before being final and a rehearing can be submitted during that period. Several weeks can pass before same-sex marriage licenses will be issued.


However, Attorney John Sacrone of the county attorney’s office said a rehearing will not happen.

"Our Supreme Court has decided it, and they make the decision as to what the law is and we follow Supreme Court decisions," Sarcone said. "This is not a personal thing. We have an obligation to the law to defend the recorder, and that's what we do."

Richard Socarides, an attorney and former senior adviser on gay rights to President Clinton, said the ruling carries extra significance coming from Iowa.

"It's a big win because, coming from Iowa, it represents the mainstreaming of gay marriage, Richard Socardies, attorney and former senior adviser to President Clinton told the AP. “And it shows that despite attempts stop gay marriage through right wing ballot initiatives, like in California, the courts will continue to support the case for equal rights for gays.”

Lambda Legal scheduled a news conference for early Friday to comment on the ruling.



Thursday, April 2, 2009

Vermont Same-Sex Marriage Bill Passes House 95/52

Steve Adams, R-Hartland presented the third amendment, saying bill offers no relief to federal laws hindering full benefits of marriage. (See UTF post on first half of the debate) This amendment would call for Congress to acknowledge civil unions and provide federal benefits to couples. Instead of same-sex marriage. It was a strike-all amendment (meaning, it would kill everything.)

Rep. Floyd Nease, D-Johnson liked the idea of asking the federal government for benefits, but not voiding the whole bill in the process and offered substitute amendment. His amendment would add to end of bill an urging of Congress to erase legal barriers to benefits for same-sex couples.

Both amendments were withdrawn until tomorrow for further discussion in the judiciary subcommittee.

Rep. Bill Aswad (D-Burlington) I rise in support of bill - I was a strong supporter of civil union bill on April 25, 2000 and recites the lyrics to "Nature Boy" from a song by Nat King Cole.

After giving a history of marriage throughout the ages, especially referring to King Solomon's 200+ wives, Rep. Donovan said, "We now have serial traditional marriages given 50% end up in divorce." She continued, "There's only one thing truly equal to marriage and that is marriage."

"My husband died 3 years ago. Is my grief any greater than my friend who lost her partner of 40 years?" she asked. "I don't think so . . . It doesn't matter the way you love, but that you do. Give civil unions respectful burial."

Rep. Suzi Wizowaty (D-Burlington) told of her 30 year long committed relationship with another woman and asked everyone to imagine to kneel in the center of the floor and supplicate for rights that others already have and take for granted.

Rep. Jason Lorber, who started to cry, bravely told his story. "I don't particularly like asking my co-workers permission to marry. But I do."

The same-sex marriage bill PASSES 95/52!

This is enough for approval but not enough to override a promised veto by Republican Gov. Jim Douglas.

It goes up Friday for final approval, a largely procedural step before being sent to the governor.

Thanks to Burlington Press for live feed and photos.

Update on the Vermont Same-Sex Marriage House Debate

Sen. Bill Lippert opened the debate by going point by point over the same-sex marriage bill, reminding everyone on the floor what exactly the bill said in order to save time debating over issues that are already spelled out in the language of the measure. For example, that religious institutions that own public property are exempt from hosting any marriages on said property that they object to based on their faith, a point of contention for those opposing same-sex marriage.

Republican Anne Donahue introduced the first amendment by reciting testimonies from those who believed that marriage should remain between one man and one woman, saying that the current bill confuses the freedom of religion and that its language needs to be clearer about the civil institution of marriage. There should be a "brighter line" between the civil rite versus the religious rites of marriage, she said.

She submitted an amendment to the bill to remove "clergy" from the statute completely and only have civil language in the bill. (You can see the original bill at the bottom of this post.)

The amendment was supported by the committee 10-1 and the floor approved the amendment unanimously.

Rep. Robert Helm, Republican, submitted a referendum amendment which supported that the same-sex marriage bill should go to the people for a vote. The issue with this bill was that Vermont traditionally does not hold referendums and left it to the legislature to decide on such statutes. "One year is not a long time to wait," he said, referring to the March 2, 2010 advisory vote, a town meeting.


The judiciary committee had voted against this 7-3. Rep. Lippert, chair of committee, said lawmakers have an ongoing referendum - "we go home every day" - stating they are not distant from our constituents.

Rep. Carolyn Branagan (R-Georgia) countered non-binding referendums had been used at least 30 times in Vermont history.

Rep. Greg Clark (R-Vergennes) quipped that he's "suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome trying to answer emails" from those who support a referendum. Just because civil unions had been around for a decade, people at home haven't been chewing on this for 10 years. "Let them have the debate." Referendum will promote better understanding. Rep. Clark said amendment is not a political ploy, but way to come to better understanding

Rep. Mike Mrowicki, D-Putney said a referendums have not proven good in California and that he wanted to keep it simple - "like Vermonters do it." Robo-calls in Vermont last night is a "sign of things to come" if statewide referendums entered Vermont.

"Let's not fool ourselves here. Out-of-state money is already influencing us here on both sides." Rep. Patti Komline, R-Dorset countered.

Rep. Kurt Wright (R-Burlington) noted Vermont will not become California or any other binding referendum state, but that the vote would be "advisory only."

Rep. Willem Jewett made the point that the discussion has been going on for a long time.

Rep. Eldred French,D-Shrewsbury asked if the 1964 Alabama desegregation ruling went to referendum, "How would that have turned out?" This is a civil rights issue, he said. And the minority has to live in fear of tyranny from the majority. "I was elected to represent ALL of my constituents, sometimes the majority sometimes not."

The referendum amendment failed 52-96.

Currently, the House is taking an hour dinner break and will reconvene at 7:15 EST/4:15PST.

UPDATE: Vermont House to Vote on Same-Sex Marriage Bill Today

UPDATE 12:31 PM: The debate is about to begin. Watch it live here at Burlington Press!

What will the outcome be? Will they have enough votes to squash any veto threat from Republican Governor Jim Douglas?

From The Burlington Press:

The bill is expected to pass by a wide margin, but with a promised veto from the governor, the big question is whether supporters have the 100 votes needed for an override. Predicting the outcome is complicated by the fact that some Democrats who plan to vote against the bill say they would change course and challenge the governor’s veto, meaning that even if today’s vote falls short of 100 in support, an override might be possible.

The paper also reported that state residents have complained about automated calls telling them to contact their legislatures and urge them not to vote for the bill. The paper did some investigating into the number that showed up on caller-ID. Guess what? It was the National Organization for Marriage. Shock!

This organization, which some say is a front for the LDS church, have also released ads on the radio warning residents of the fall of civilization if same-sex marriage were made legal. You can hear that ad at NG Blog.

You can hear today's House debates at or watch the debates live on Burlington Press. It's expected to begin at 3pm EST/12pm PST.

Check out the House's session calendar below. S 115 is on page 821.


Iowa Supreme Court to Issue Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage Tomorrow

According to the Desmoines Register, the Iowa Supreme Court is set to issue its ruling on same-sex marriage in the state tomorrow morning.

As earlier reported on Unite the Fight, Lambda Legal argued the marriage case Varnum vs. Brien on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The case would have consequences outside the state's borders. Iowa would become the first Midwestern state to allow same-sex marriage and the fourth in the nation if the court sides with the gay couples. Legal experts say such a decision would echo across the country and strengthen the gay rights movement.

Iowa has a law defining marriage between one man and one woman, but it has no constitutional amendment to back it up. Republican Iowa lawmakers attempted last year to begin a constitutional amendment process to specifically prohibit same-sex marriage, but Democrats halted it to see how the court decides the case.

See how you can help at

REMINDER: Non-Violent Direct Action Trainings Online

REMINDER: One more non-violent civil disobedience webinar this morning!

Join CA Faith for Equality, Marriage Equality USA and the Religion & Faith Program of the Human Rights Campaign for one of two webinars on non-violent direct action so that you can help train activists in your community in three steps:

1. JOIN a one hour webinar to discuss reasons for, to review a brief history of, and to share methods of non-violent civil disobedience.

Tuesday, March 31st @ 7pm or Thursday, April 2nd @ 10am

Each call is limited to 250 phone lines. You MUST RSVP to Leticia at to reserve a line. To make sure as many people can participate as possible, join the presentation with a friend or fellow organizer on the same phone line. Upon RSVP, you will receive the participation link and instructions.

2. DOWNLOAD the presentation during the webinar (Powerpoint).

3. SHARE the presentation with fellow activists in your community. CA Faith for Equality can support your planning process, and answer any questions about the presentation or its facilitation.

For more information visit or call
(310) 598-5866.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

UPDATE 4/1/09: Vermont House Takes Up Same-Sex Marriage Bill

UPDATE 4/1/09: The Vermont House of Representatives is scheduled to debate and vote on the same-sex marriage bill S. 115 TOMORROW. Vermont Freedom to Marry is calling for numerous action steps to do overnight and tomorrow. Check it out!

UPDATE: With an 8-2 vote,
Vermont's same-sex marriage bill moves through the House Judiciary Committee and will now go to the floor for a vote this Thursday.
Earlier this week, Vermont's senate passed the same-sex marriage bill, and today the state's House takes up their version.


MONTPELIER – There was a sense of déjà vu as former Rep. Tom Little testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday afternoon on the same-sex marriage bill quickly moving through the Vermont Legislature.

Little, a Shelburne Republican, was chairman of that committee nine years ago when it passed the first-in-the-nation civil union law.

Now, Little was back before the panel as the 11-member body kicked off its deliberations on the same-sex marriage bill, which was easily approved by the Vermont Senate in a 26-4 vote on Monday.

"I've learned a lot in the last eight-and-a-half years," Little told the committee. "I think that gay and lesbian couples, under Act 91, have been more open and received more legal recognition in Vermont."

Read the rest of the article here.

Same-Sex Marriage Gaining Steam in Washington D.C.

As earlier report on UTF, same-sex marriage is making its way into the United States' capitol of Washington DC.

Now the new development.

In less than two hours, about 25 volunteers of D.C. For Marriage collected 600 D.C. resident signatures on last rainy Saturday from people who support same-sex marriage. This campaign start is to garner support for a same-sex bill that's expected to be introduced to the city council soon.

“Right now we’re focusing on identifying supporters,” said Michael Crawford, co-chair of D.C. for Marriage.

“We will build on this successful canvass to reach out to more residents of the District of Columbia to engage them in conversations about marriage and about gay people,” he said. “This will include continued canvassing in high traffic areas and later in the spring we will go door-to-door in targeted neighborhoods.”

Keep up with D.C. For Marriage and show support by joining their Facebook Group.

Like Michael Jones of said, "What is one way of forcing the Obama administration to confront marriage equality? Push for same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia. Commence pushing."

NY State High Court to Hear Same-Sex Marriage Challenge

The Christian right wing group, Alliance Defense Fund, is getting its way. New York State's highest court agreed Tuesday to hear two cases challenging New York's recognition of same-sex marriage performed legally elsewhere, like Massachusetts, Connecticut and Canada.

Neither case involved Gov. David A. Paterson’s directive last May that ordered state agencies to recognize legal same-sex marriages performed outside New York State.

One case, Godfrey v. Spano, stems from the Westchester County executive’s 2006 decision to begin officially honoring out-of-state marriage licenses for gay couples the same way it did for heterosexual couples.

The other case, Lewis v. New York State Department of Civil Service, was filed after the department agreed in 2007 to begin recognizing out-of-state, same-sex marriages for the purpose of extending health insurance to spouses of public employees.

Brian Raum, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, said Tuesday that the group believed that the Court of Appeals would reverse the lower courts in both cases.

“We’re confident that we’re on the right side of the law,” Brian Raum, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund told the New York Times. “The law in New York states it will not recognize marriages that conflict with public policy in New York. Since New York only recognizes marriage between one man and one woman, for any court to recognize same-sex marriage would be to recognize marriages that run contrary to New York law.”

Lambda Legal is representing Westchester County and the civil service department.

“I think the rulings in the lower courts were correct and consistent with all the other prevailing decisions in the state,” said Susan Sommer of Lamda Legal. “I’m looking forward to making the same arguments to the high court so we can ask it to affirm those same arguments that have prevailed in all other cases.”

UTF finds that its ironic that the Alliance Defense Fund motto is "Defending Our First Liberty." I gather from their website what they mean by "first" is the liberty to hear and speak the truth.

Whose truth? Whose liberty? Obviously theirs, because they don't care if they trample on anyone else's already given liberty to "defend" their own. The state of New York has already ruled to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere.

What does this have to do with them? Nothing. But for some insane obsessive reason, they'll insert themselves into the situation and do anything to keep gays from marrying. I'll have to give them this - they are motivated to stick to their mission. But I'd like to suggest them a slight change. "Defending Our First Liberty - And Trampling All Others."

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

11th Annual Cesar E. Chavez Day Walk & Festival

Cesar Chavez left behind a broad and enduring history of civil rights work, including support for LGBT equality. If you're in the greater Los Angeles area, then let's give back by remembering his life and joining those who continue his work for equal rights for all.

The Annual Chavez Day Walk & Festival is the largest community celebration in honor of the California state holiday of service and learning commemorating Chavez’s life of service. The event includes a walk and a community education and entertainment festival for the whole family to educate, empower, and serve the community.

Join thousands in honoring the Chavez legacy by fighting for justice in the fields and calling for a National Holiday.

9:00 AM: Registration
10:00 AM: Morning Program
10:45 AM: Walk
12:00 PM -3:00 PM: Afternoon Program & Festival

For more information, visit the United Farm Workers Foundation website or the UTF calendar.

Kathy Griffin Gives Her Two Cents on Proposition 8

At a rally yesterday in California's capitol, D-Lister Kathy Griffin gives her signature sound off, this time focusing on Proposition 8.

Evan Wolfson Weighs in On the CA Supreme Court and Proposition 8

Evan Wolfson, Executive Director of Freedom to Marry, and author of Why Marriage Matters; America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry, knows what he's talking about when it comes to same-sex marriage. Or marriage in general. He also knows judges, having argued before the US Supreme Court and filing amicus briefs that helped win cases.

In his role at Freedom to Marry, he uses his keen knowledge of the law to advance marriage equality through the courts. And today on the Huffington Post he weighed in on the responsibility of the CA Supreme Court to overturn Proposition 8. Some highlights:

"The Court has the duty to strike down Prop 8, a measure that, while it received a narrow majority, should not have been on the ballot in the first place. The Court should explain that the interests of all of us, even a temporarily disgruntled majority, are better served when the rules are upheld. The Court should remind the public that, as the U.S. Supreme Court has said, "There is no more effective practical guaranty against arbitrary and unreasonable government than to require that the principles of law which officials would impose upon a minority must be imposed generally." That restraining principle is an essential pillar of equal protection. The very idea that the Court would permit a simple majority to even inadvertently discard such a defining element of the Constitution is distressing.

"But, shockingly, the Chief Justice spoke as if his hands were tied by the mere fact of the November vote, the legitimacy of which is the very issue before the Court. He did not explain that equal protection at a minimum obliges the majority to itself abide by whatever treatment it imposes on a minority — a core structural principle eviscerated by Prop 8, which removed the fundamental right to marry for the gay minority alone while retaining that precious right for the majority. . .

"Never before has the Court allowed a fundamental right to be voted away from a targeted minority. Never before has the Court taken the invitation of a lawyer, such as Prop 8's Ken Starr, to set a precedent that, as Starr repeatedly conceded, would put no state constitutional limitation on a future majority's ability to vote away protections. . .

"Unlike right-wing opponents of equality, who denounce and seek to punish courts for doing their job, I criticize only when they flinch or fail to do it. If the Court, and if this Chief Justice, vote to uphold Prop 8's damaging blow to American constitutional principles, it will be a terrible mistake, failing their obligation under and to the California Constitution . . . "
Read the rest of Evan Wolf's amazing piece at the Huffington Post, Will the California Supreme Court Strike Down Prop 8, or "Willy-Nilly Disregard" Its Duty?

National Call for Civil Disobedience Issued

In response to the growing equality movement in California and across the country, community organizers are issuing a call for the use of nonviolent civil disobedience to further the cause. This call comes at a time when the equality movement is energized surrounding the upcoming California Supreme Court decision on the validity of Proposition 8.

The call to action, led by national groups Soulforce and Join the Impact, states “We are tired of agonizing political setbacks, token change, defending ourselves against charges of moral inferiority, and being told to 'wait' in the land we love while liberation occurs in other countries.”

To assist in educating the public on nonviolent civil disobedience, the website has been created and is launching today. On the website, community members can learn about the history and philosophy of nonviolent civil disobedience, sign the call to action, and connect with others locally who are interested in organizing nonviolent civil disobedience.

“Today, we affirm that nonviolent strategies such as marches, vigils, demonstrations, public protests, and civil disobedience seek to create what Dr. King called 'healthy tension',” the call to action reads. The call has been signed already by several community leaders, including Cleve Jones, who is the founder of the NAMES/AIDS Memorial Quilt, and was a historical consultant on the Academy Award winning film MILK.

The call specifically promotes nonviolent tactics. "As we resist injustice, we must avoid violence of the fist, tongue, and heart,” it reads. Community leaders are urged to sign the call to action at and to begin training in their own communities immediately. For questions pertaining to, please contact

Libertarian Party of California Backs Domestic Partnership Initiative

Source: The Libertarian Party of California

PANORAMA CITY, Calif., March 26, 2009 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Libertarian Party of California formally endorsed the Domestic Partnership Initiative (DPI), a proposed state measure that would replace the word "marriage" with "domestic partnership" throughout the California constitution and statutes. The DPI was approved on March 9, 2009 by the California secretary of state for petition signature gathering.

Under the proposal, legal rights for all domestic partners, in same or opposite sex partnerships, would be identical and would include the rights currently afforded to married persons. Marriages would become a matter for religious and other civil institutions rather than a province of the state. Supporters need approximately 700,000 signatures by August 8, 2009 to have the initiative proposed constitutional amendment and statute placed on the 2010 ballot.

The Libertarian Party of California endorsed the measure at a regular meeting of the party's 15-member executive board, and it required a two-third's vote to pass. Ali Shams, a pre-law senior at the University of California, San Diego and one of the authors of the Domestic Partnership Initiative, appeared in person and presented his case to the board.

"People on both sides of the same-sex marriage issue support our initiative because it gives equal rights to everyone, with the same legal benefits as marriage currently bestows," Shams said. "No one has to settle for second-class status, with one word used for one group, and different word for another. Yet, anyone that wishes can still have a traditional marriage ceremony performed by their church. The emotional and spiritual bond this represents is in no way affected by our initiative."

When questioned about allegations that California married couples would lose rights in other states or countries if the initiative passed, Shams replied that this is a false dilemma: "In Denmark, my parents were joined in a civil union. What they had in actual fact in Denmark is called a marriage here. When they moved to the United States, they had no trouble getting it accepted as such. The same should be true for Californians moving to other places."

Kevin Takenaga, chairman of the Libertarian Party of California, said, "A marriage is a union between two people, a union they may choose to have blessed by their chosen higher authority in a religious ceremony. There is no place for the state in this relationship. By introducing the government into the sacred institution of marriage, which should be a purely personal and religious matter, we have spawned an ongoing cultural war that pits American against American. The Libertarian Party of California is proud to support the Domestic Partnership Initiative so that all Californians can be treated equally before the law."


UTF asks you -

Where do you see this fitting into the marriage equality movement? Would completely changing the governmental institution of marriage to domestic partnerships actually validate the arguments typically lofted against the LGBT community that we are in fact acting for special rights?

Will other states truly recognize these relationships as equal to their marriages? Is this a failed effort when compared to same-sex couples simply asking for the right to marry, which would not require a whole institutional change but just an inclusion?

What do you think? Is this a good strategy?

Monday, March 30, 2009

West Virginia Anti-Gay Measure Dies

Despite a telemarketing campaign by the conservative Family Policy Council against two West Virginian lawmakers earlier this month, a bid to advance an amendment to West Virginia’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage has failed.

The two lawmakers, Delegates Carrie Webster and Barbara Fleischauer, were accused by the conservative group of blocking a vote on the measure. Calling the campaign "intimidiation", Webster and Fleischauer head house subcommittees that the bill needed to clear to go to a floor vote.

Monday, Republican delegates attempted to drive the bill directly to the floor for a vote. The bid failed 67-30 along party lines.

Amending the West Virginia constitution requires approval of the legislature and a vote by the electorate, and though West Virginia has a marriage law banning same-sex marriage, supporters for an amendment say the law could be challenged in court.

Many Rallies Held in Vermont Over the Weekend

According to Vermont Freedom to Marry, over a thousand protesters showed up over the weekend in towns such as Burlington, Montpelier, Rutland, White River Junction, and Brattleboro, with over three hundred showing up in Middlebury.

At Burlington's Unitarian Universalist Church, Karen Pike of Outright Vermont, the organization of which the now famous James Neiley is a part of, spoke about her pain of having her family called "inappropriate."

Elsewhere at Green Mountain College, roughly 200 protesters greeted Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas and his wife when they showed up there for a maple sugaring event Saturday. The crowd watched quietly, sang or chanted while Douglas used a hand-cranked drill to tap a tree in an arboretum decorated with rainbow ribbons.

Douglas did not address the crowd or respond to the protesters. But he has been getting a lot of mail. Since his veto threat, he's received over 1,500 letters and emails, 60% of them urging him not to veto the same-sex marriage bill while 40% are supporting him. Prior to his announcement, 70% were against the bill.

"Being ahead of one's time is what brought slavery and racial discrimination to an end ... please support the Freedom to Marry bill," wrote a Putney man.

Others were supportive of the governor.

"Our children, grand children will be harmed by this bill," wrote a Milton woman. "I've seen what their teaching can do to a impressionistic teenage (sic) like my nephew, who is very confused. Please, please, please veto this bill."

Released today, an unscientific survey taken by state. Sen. William Doyle shows that 55 percent of Vermonters support gay marriage, 38 percent oppose it and 7 percent are undecided. The data is embedded below.

Doyle Poll March 2009

Tempers flare and emotions show during Nevada gay rights bill debates

From Lez Get Real:

"Carson City, Nevada- Debate was intense, tempers flared and emotions ran high during committee hearings in the Nevada Senate and State Assembly on Friday as several bills dealing with same-sex domestic partnerships and discrimination based on sexual orientation and “gender identity or expression” were discussed.

"Last week, Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, introduced two of these bills into committee… Senate Bill 283, which calls for a new type of civil contract for domestic partnerships, in which domestic partners would have the same rights, protections and benefits as a married couple in Nevada and Senate Bill 207, which is designed to give protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations. Both came under fire from opponents.

"Richard Ziser, a former Republican nominee for the US Senate and a Nevada Concerned
Citizen lobbyist, expressed strong opposition to Senate Bill 283, pointing out that 6 years ago the Nevada State Constitution was amended to define marriage to be between one man and one woman and contended the bill was a move to circumvent that amendment.

"But in emotional testimony, Pamela Brooks of Reno, tearfully told the committee how she had been denied access to the body of her long-time partner after she passed away in a hospital, saying she was treated like a criminal and told to leave the hospital room.

“Since I was not next of kin, I had no rights to my deceased partner, could not have her final effects like her commitment ring, wallet or even an article of clothing to take away, I never saw her body again, and that was the last of our relationship,' Brooks told senators, adding that she 'doesn’t want special rights, only equal rights.'”

Read the rest of the article from Lez Get Real that contains information about the heated debate and personal offenses on Bill SB207, which would bar discrimination in public areas based on one's sexual orientation.

Marriage Vs. Civil Unions

The Bilerico Project, recently the victim of an "internet hate crime" by hackers in Eastern Europe, are not backing down - they keep bringing up topics of great debate for the LGBTQ community.

Today, Michael Crawford, Managing Editor of Bilerico, wants to know what you think about the argument that the United States should only issue civil unions to all despite gender and sexual orientation. He refers to contributor John Shields' hot topic piece that stirred up a lot of response, Marriage Vs. Civil Unions in which Shields says:

"I argued then, as I do now, that the separation of church and state - enshrined in the American Constitution - demands that we separate the church from what should be a civic matter. Civil unions for all, and then you can (if you so desire) head to your house of worship and "enshrine" your love and commitment in any manner you and your partner so desire."

So, Crawford issued a poll. And I'm curious to know what you think too. Poll is directly beneath this post.

Marriage Vs. Civil Unions Poll

Create a poll on SodaHeadShould the LGBT community continue fighting for marriage equality or fight for civil unions for everyone gay or straight?Poll Answers

Sunday, March 29, 2009

New England Marriage Equality Recap

A lot has happened this past week in New England and its race towards marriage equality. So much that it's a bit confusing - which state did what? What's the status? Who voted for which bill?

It's all a bit hard to keep track. If you missed a story, you'd be in the dark. If you were busy this week and didn't hear any news stories and are now catching up, it's like trying to watch "Lost" after missing a season. "What the hell is going on?!"

And I don't blame you. I report on it, and I still have a hard time keeping track of all of it in my head.

Luckily for me, Michael James over at has sorted some out already. Well, at least from the perspective of how each state's governor is going to react to the same-sex marriage bills flying through their respective legislatures.

But so much more lies in the details.

For instance, in Vermont, 17 year old James Neiley gives an already historic testimony to Vermont's legislature to urge them to pass the same-sex marriage bill there, the senate passed it, the House intends to hear it soon, the out-of-touch Republican governor promises a veto, tries badly to explain why, so protests were held at the statehouse last Friday and more throughout this weekend against his veto threat. And that was just this past week!

In New Hampshire, another same-sex marriage bill passes the house, the Senate will soon take it up, but Gov. John Lynch hasn't voiced his stance on it either way, in the pass saying he favors civil unions.

And then there's Maine, with the Marriage bill looking promising and amazing support pouring in for it this week.

That's a whole lot of good drama in a nutshell. So you may want to prepare for this week by reviewing last week. Because Monday promises to be the start of another wild, historical ride.

Cleve Jones and the LGBT & Labor Forum

Cleve Jones spoke yesterday at a LGBT and Labor forum hosted by Equal Roots and Unite Here! at West Hollywood's Kol Ami synagogue.

With a purpose to share and discuss the "building a powerful LGBT and Labor coalition to win full equality for members of the LGBT community and the community at large," the forum included a panel of individuals actively involved with the unions but were also part of the LGBT community.

With standing room only, the event was kicked off with an introduction by Cleve who reminded the attendees that the "queer movement began as a radical, liberal movement," and that change towards equality will "never happen with a click of a mouse but with the willingness to pound the streets, knock on doors and a willingness to be arrested." Referring to the Briggs Initiative that he worked against with Harvey Milk, he said, "That's how we won."

The proponents of the Briggs Initiative used the "same bullshit arguments" that are being used today to support anti-gay measures such as Proposition 8. Back then, polls showed them trailing, but in the end they defeated the homophobic initiative. And why?

The main reason: "Coalition."

Cleve related the story of how a Toronto union was planning on a strike vote against a Hyatt the weekend of the International AIDS Conference being held at that very hotel. He flew out to convince them not to do it that weekend because many of the hotel's rooms would be needed by those with HIV/AIDS who would be traveling very far distances and in need of rest. Crossing a picket line would prove extremely difficult, as would finding new rooms elsewhere.

Union members were at first resistant.

Many union members are immigrants coming from cultures with severe homophobia or at the very least, where homosexuality is a taboo subject. But with much hard work, setting up meetings between housekeepers and valet attendants and gay people, Cleve was able to remind them that members of their union were also members of the LGBT community, and some suffering from HIV/AIDS, and as a result, that this was their issue, too.

He was able to convince them to push the strike vote a week.

Many attendees of the HIV/AIDS conference stayed and picketed with them the following week.

That's coalition building.

Another example is the boycott on the Manchester Hyatt in San Diego. The owner gave $125,000 for the canvassing that led to Proposition 8. The local union and the LGBT community boycott has cost the hotel millions in dollars in business.


Unfortunately, during the No on 8 Campaign, many union leaders reached out to help but their calls of assistance were left unanswered by a campaign that lacked structure, strategy and any sort of capability of receiving such help. These unions are powerful with a long history of winning rights for their members. How could the LGBT community not have taken advantage?

Not wanting to diss the bureaucrats of non-profits who provide many great services to the greater LGBT community, Cleve said they're not the ones that should be fighting for our rights and running our political campaigns. The community should be. And the community needs to be building coalitions.

Members of the panel spoke of their own stories and how being part of both the LGBT community and the unions has given them a chance to build a bridge between the two. However, it's not always easy.

Yardeena Aaron, an African American lesbian of Here to Stay, spoke about how she helped unionize over 5,000 security guards in her area so they could receive better benefits from the employer, only to feel betrayed when the leaders of the unionizing campaign came out in favor of Yes on 8. She realized then that more work needed to be done and so began Here to Stay, a black LGBTQ group that's reaching out within its community that's made up of many union members.

The Latino community also makes up a good deal of unions, and Tom Walsh, president of the local chapter of Unite Here! had to remind them how they themselves felt discriminated against in their own unions when, years ago, they were told they couldn't speak at the meetings unless it was in English, and how the leaders refused to get a translator. And now, the LGBT members of their union feel they are being discriminated against in much of the same manner.

Douglass Marmol, another Latino LGBT member of Unite Here! told a moving story in Spanish about how he bravely stood up at a general meeting of his union and proclaimed, "We're fighting for free health insurance. For respect. So if we are fighting for everyone else's respect, we need to fight for our own. I am gay, and I'm fighting for my own."

Shortly after, the local union head helped Douglass come out to his own family.

After the panel spoke, the forum was opened up for Q&A. One person asked what the best approach was to building these coalitions with unions, especially its members who may be resistant.

Cleve responded many of them are people of faith and have deeply held beliefs, but we also have to remember how much they'd been lied to during the Proposition 8 battle. They were told their pastors would be thrown into jail if they refused to marry gay couples.

The lies need to be addressed.

But above all, the LGBT community needs to remember these people struggle together and fight together. They know about economic justice. About fighting backbreaking work for pennies on the hour. Tell them that LGBT rights is truly about economic justice, and they get it. And they'll fight with you.

And isn't that what the fight for same-sex marriage is about? Economic justice? Receiving the benefits in an albeit faulty benefit system that your fellow citizen already receives. Isn't it about being equals?

Despite a few differences, commonalities, or "intersectionality" abound. Like Yardeena said, "We want our rights. We want to feed our families. We want to move on."

There's the power of coalition. There's the power of the progressive movement.