Saturday, July 11, 2009

Get Engaged on the Next Steps Towards Marriage Equality In California!

The Get Engaged Tour is in full gear, setting up community meetings across the state of California.

In these town halls, local representatives will present to the community the data collected from the largest marriage equality poll conducted in California by a large coalition of LGBT organizations and gauge feedback from attendees on next steps. These gatherings well help identify local volunteers and establish or expand regional coalitions that can be integrated into a future statewide campaign.

Check out the Get Engaged Tour website to see when and where you can attend the next meeting. You can also find the events on the UTF calendar at the bottom of the blog.

The tour ends in two weeks.

This next week, gatherings are scheduled in:
  • Modesto
  • San Diego
  • San Joaquin
  • Walnut Creek
  • San Luis Obispo
  • Pacifica
  • San Francisco
  • Los Angeles
  • Inland Empire/Redlands
  • Napa
  • Morgan Hill
  • Berkeley
  • Seaside
  • San Bernardino
  • Fresno
  • Sacramento
. . . and more in the following week.

Don't see your town? You can host your own gathering. Find out how by downloading the Get Engaged Toolkit.

Don't miss a chance to say your piece and get involved!

Good News! Chance Remains for a Vote on NY Marriage Equality Bill

The New York Times reports that a chance remains that Gov. David Paterson will reintroduce his marriage equality bill for a Senate vote in yet another special legislative session in September. This is good news compared to it dying completely, but due to the sophomoric antics of the state senate this passed month, there's no chance they'll be taking it up any sooner.

The Times reports, "Senate Democrats are unlikely to take up the marriage bill on their own. They remain deeply divided and, in many cases, estranged from one another, after the infighting and personal attacks of the nearly five-week leadership battle."

However, the ridiculous pentecostal pastor and senator Ruben Diaz is still a thorn in the side of the bill. The extremely homophobic democratic senator for some reason has a hold on numerous senators who fear pissing him off lest they vote on the bill, or even worse, vote in its favor.

"On same-sex marriage, several senators said privately that the caucus was reluctant to take it up because of the strident opposition of Senator Rubén Díaz Sr., a Bronx Democrat and Pentecostal minister. With the caucus holding a tenuous single-seat majority, there is a focus on keeping members happy," the Times says.

"'We just got unity,' Mr. Díaz said in an interview when asked about the marriage issue. 'Don’t start to un-unify us. Let us have some kind of honeymoon.'"

Can't these guys grow a backbone? Are they seriously going to let one senator compromise the rights of thousands of New Yorkers?

Blabbeando calls Sen. Diaz a "homophobic asshole" and a "racist" and refers to the Senator's statement in this report to back his statement.

Thankfully, Senators exist in the Senate that do stand up to Diaz, or at least ignore his tantrums, such as marriage equality bill sponsor Sen. Duane. Though he earlier sounded resigned to the fate of the bill, Marriage Equality New York has written a very informative piece that contains further explanation from Duane.

"In a telephone interview with Gay City News the same evening, Duane said he expected action not only on marriage equality, already approved by the Assembly and supported by Governor David Paterson, but also on the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and the Dignity for All Students Act. The marriage bill, he said confidently, 'will get to the floor this year and it will pass.'”

And as for Diaz:
Duane cautioned against reading anything into who did and did not attend the victory lap at the Capitol. Asked whether the possibility that Diaz may have played a role in forging the new Democratic conference agreement caused him concern, Duane emphasized that he was looking to Governor Paterson’s leadership in making certain that marriage equality, transgender rights, and anti-bullying get votes this year. His most recent meeting with the governor on those matters, he said, may have been going on as Smith, Espada, Diaz, and nine other of his colleagues stood before the press.

“I have spoken to the governor several times in the past week, and he has re-emphasized his interest in moving marriage this year,” Duane told Gay City News. “We are going to strategize on how to move marriage this year, and we will get that done.”
This is good news indeed.

Friday, July 10, 2009

What Would MLK Say? Pastor Faces Ousting from MLK's Organization for Supporting Marriage Equality

Ever been in a situation where you're surrounded by friends, co-workers, fellow classmates, family, where they all vehemently share a very strong opinion on something and you alone disagree? Then you decide to yourself that you're actually going to speak up. Your heart is racing, your mouth is dry, you're sweating, you may even be shaking. You don't know how they're going to react - are they going to ostracize you or agree to disagree?

Fortunately, some of us have experienced the latter, but unfortunately, a majority of us have experienced the former, and for most, it's because of our sexual orientation or lack thereof or gender identification. And the rejection came for a variety of reasons - homophobia, transphobia, religious intolerance . . . the list goes on.

Imagine now a straight ally sticking up for the LGBT population in a religious environment that is opposed to us. A straight ally who has nothing to gain by standing up for us but has plenty to lose - his job, his reputation, his place in his own community.

The Rev. Eric Lee is this straight, religious ally. As president of the Los Angeles chapter of Martin Luther King Jr.'s organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Rev. Lee stood up against the multitudes of fellow African American pastors in California and abroad who supported Proposition 8 and helped get it passed.

The Rev. Lee stood up for us. He went to No on 8 rallies, he spoke to the media, he spoke at protests, he spoke to Unite the Fight! In the video below, Rev. Lee gave us an amazing interview after speaking at Meet in the Middle in Fresno, CA, detailing why believes denying LGBT the right to marry is not only wrong, but unethical. It's a MUST SEE.

Rev. Lee even wrote a book, Proposition 8: The California Divide in which he details his argument for marriage equality and how Prop 8 has torn apart not only our state, but our country.

And now he can lose his job. The New York Times writes, "The Southern Christian Leadership Conference — the 50-year-old civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others — is seeking to remove the president of its Los Angeles chapter in response to his support of same-sex marriage in California."

They go on to report, "During the battle last fall over Proposition 8... Rev. Eric P. Lee, was more than a tangential figure for the opposition. He was front and center at an opposition group’s large rally at City Hall and marched in the blazing sun for 15 miles in Fresno. Many other local African-American pastors prepared mailings featuring church leaders in support of the proposition and linking their views to President Obama, then the Democratic nominee for president."

From the Meet in the Middle March starting in Selma, CA and ending in Fresno, CA:

The article details the exchange between Rev. Lee and the organization, how at first they said they were neutral on the subject of same-sex marriage but then turned around and in May demanded to know why Rev. Lee and his autonomously ran chapter took a stand against Prop 8 and informed the reverend they intended to oust him.

"Dr. King would be turning over in his grave right now," Rev. Lee told the Times.

The president of the Los Angeles city council and Rev. Lee's own chapter are standing up for him. And we must join them.


Contact Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti and add your voice to the growing support for the Rev. Lee. You can email him at or call him at (213) 473-7013.

Contact the SCLC Los Angeles chapter and express your gratitude for their continued stance for our equality.

4182 S. Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90062
Phone: (323) 290-4100

Pennsylvania Sen. Daylin Leach Introduces Marriage Equality Legislation

The very pro-LGBT Sen. Daylin Leach introduced marriage equality Senate Bill 935 Thursday which would change the legal definition of marriage in Pennsylvania to "a civil contract between two people who enter into matrimony."

Currently, the state's law defines marriage as "a civil contract by which one man and one woman take each other for husband and wife."

Sen. Leach, well-known for his amazing rebuttal against Sen. Eichelberger and his "we allow gays to exist" argument to support his dueling anti-marriage equality legislation, has been able to get more senators to back the bill, including Sen. Jim Ferlo.

See more of his speech.

"Marriage is a fundamental bedrock of our society," Leach said. "It is good for society for both straight and gay people to be married. Married people are more healthy, successful, and productive."

The legislation would also allow Pennsylvania to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.

Here is a copy of the full bill.

PA Marriage Equality Senate Bill 935

New York State Marriage Equality Bill Dies Because Idiotic Senate Fails To Pull It Together

UPDATE: Empire State Pride Agenda, who has done amazing work trying to get the marriage bill passed, issued a more positive statement than the resigned tone of Sen. Duane: "Now that the stalemate is over and the State Senate has resumed its business, we expect that our equality will remain at the top of the chamber’s agenda." I sure hope they're right and prove me wrong because if that's the case, I wouldn't be happier to eat my words.
Yesterday, I expressed concerns about whether or not the dysfunctional New York State Senate would ever get around to voting on the marriage equality bill that had already passed the Assembly. With the governor ready to sign, the rights for the LGBT New Yorkers to marry seemed within reach.

Not anymore. With the asinine antics this passed month brought on by the June 8 coup, the self-centered Senate put their egos before the rights of their constituents.

The bill's main sponsor, Sen. Thomas Duane, issued this email:
“The month long stalemate in the Senate has ended. I am pleased that the Democratic Conference remains, as they were elected to be, in the majority. It is now time for the Senate to get back to work. The June 8th coup was a painful and disturbing moment in the history of the Senate. Members’ emotions are raw, feelings are hurt and trust is lost. It will take time for these wounds to heal. As a result, I expect that the Senate this week will pass only time-sensitive, non-controversial legislation.”

“As disappointing as it is to admit, it is clear that this week is not the right moment for same-sex marriage legislation. Senators need some time and distance to regroup after this month’s partisan-charged and explosive atmosphere. Before June 8th, Senators from both sides of the aisle committed to me that they would vote for marriage equality. I still believe this to be the case. However, as I have said many times this session, I will not gamble when civil rights are at stake. If this means a short delay in order for marriage to become law it is well worth the wait.”

“I will not be put off for long. I am 100% committed to passing legislation crucial to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. Our safety and civil rights must be enshrined into law. During the weeks and months ahead the Senate will be called back to Albany to deal with a range of issues that are extremely important to me and that impact the lives of all New Yorkers. I will fight for and demand, with bipartisan support, that bills important to the LGBT community come to the floor for a vote – and pass. The June 8th coup may have delayed equality, but it will not stop it.”
And yes, we'll have to start all over. Again. Getting it passed through the Assembly. Again. As Joe.My.God eloquently puts it, "My first thought upon receipt of the [email] was for Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, who will once again have to stand at that podium in Albany and defend his own marriage equality bill."

Guess we're far from a priority because NG Blog writes, "...that very same senate held a late night session and passed a number of bills, including one that eliminated citizen requirements for horse doctors."

So all the work by the amazing sponsors and the LGBT New York population into getting this bill (and other important legislation) passed got us here - aka nowhere. Yet again another failure in the long line of failures of the Senate to get this bill passed.

Maybe next time around there will be a whole new Senate. Fresh minds. Renewed energy. Because this Senate and their historic idiocy will hopefully be voted out completely.

LGBT Groups Respond to Icy Reception of Their Intent to Intervene on Fed Prop 8 Case

Thursday brought news of what's being described as a "turf war" over the federal case being brought against Prop 8 by the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) helmed by Ted Olson and David Boies.

NCLR, ACLU and Lambda Legal had initially declined to be part of the case describing it as "ill-timed" and gave disparaging remarks about it in the press, but have since filed a motion to intervene to be part of the case.

In response to the motion, Board President of AFER Chad Griffin sent them a rather harsh letter in which he states, "You have unrelentingly and unequivocally acted to undermine this case even before it was filed. In light of that, it is inconceivable that you would zealously and effectively litigate this case if you were successful in intervening. Therefore, we will vigorously oppose any motion to intervene."

Today, Law Dork reports on the groups' response to the letter.

Jenny Pizer of Lambda Legal, who in the letter is mentioned to have wanted the word "supportive" in relation to the friend of the court briefs they filed along with the other LGBT groups, not used.

Law Dork reports: “'It just leaves me scratching my head a little bit.' She said that Griffin had been 'delighted' by the filing of the amicus brief and that her concern about the word 'support' was that it mischaracterized the purpose of the friend-of-the-court filing: 'It’s not an endorsement of what’s in [the initial Olson-Boies] brief; it’s a complimentary presentation.'”

In regards to the groups delaying the case by jumping in at this point of the process, a concern shared by Unite the Fight, Pizer told Law Dork that the concerns about delay were unwarranted and the Lambda is “committed to an efficient but complete presentation of the case.”

Law Dork writes, "James Esseks, the co-director of the ACLU’s LGBT Rights Project, said of the distinction between the groups’ initial response and their filing on Wednesday, 'People can disagree about when and whether to jump into the pool, but once you do it makes sense to swim as hard as possible to get to the other side. . . . We’re all in the pool; it’s not just those plaintiffs.'”

Esseks added, “We know what the Alliance Defense Fund” — a group involved in many similar lawsuits and who will be supporting the Prop 8 proponent intervenors — “We know what arguments they’ll make.”

“Any suggestion that [the groups] would want to lose a marriage case is off-the-wall to me. It’s unfathomable,” Esseks told Law Dork in response to Chad suggesting that they would not rigorously argue the case they had initially dissed.

Shannon Minter, the legal director at NCLR, agreed. “Our only focus right now is on doing everything we can to help win the case.”

Law Dork concluded, "The lawyers for the proposed intervenors might be coming late to the party, but the reality is that the groups they are representing have the right to seek intervention in the case and to have counsel of their choosing in such an intervention effort. And though AFER clearly would strongly prefer for the other groups to remain as amicus participants only — and not be representing actual parties to the case — it is equally clear that Judge Walker is interested in presenting a robust factual record to the appellate court in this case, which is precisely what the proposed intervenors could help him do."

In the end, Law Dork hopes that everyone involved can sit down and discuss what's best for the case, a similar call that Unite the Fight made yesterday. However, I concluded that these groups should remain as consultants and not co-plaintiffs given that the course to trial is already underway and the division these groups have created over it.

Let Olson and Boies do what they phenomenally do best. To assume they will not do their homework and not know what the Alliance Defense Fund is going to argue is a pretty shallow response to the concerns brought up by AFER. The groups also don't respond to the harsh and divisive statements the groups made in the media about the case, signaling again that this is more about turf than it is about fighting for equal rights. It's an ego thing.

Yet they do make a solid point in that the groups they represent will will round out the case, representing the diversity of Californians harmed by Prop 8 and adding more facts to be recorded by the court in a case that will undoubtedly reach the appellate.

Having witnessed much division within our population, I get very impatient with those who purposefully and inappropriately voice they do not support others' efforts because of ego or a minor disagreement in tactic, which is my initial problem with NCLR, ACLU and Lambda Legal.

However, if these groups are truly ready to hop on board and can fully make this case stronger, without delaying the trial as Pizer says, I am willing to change my stance and say let them on board as co-plaintiffs to represent our LGBT diversity. Maybe AFER will too.

But first, let's hope they sit down and talk.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

UPDATE: LGBT Groups Who Opposed the Federal Case Against Prop 8 Now Want to Join In - Too Little Too Late?

UPDATE: Larry Kramer, who inspired the founding of ACT UP, tells the groups to butt out of the case in an email:
i implore your three organizations, lambda legal of los angeles, national center for lesbian rights, and aclu lgbt project, to not interfere with the olson/boies case. you will only botch up what they are trying to achieve. you have thus far not achieved it on your own and with your own tactics, so why are you trying to kybosh someone who has come along with fresh new energy, ideas, and clout? you are only behaving in the worst possible bitchy way, the way gay groups can fall victim to when their feelings are hurt. keep your noses out of it, will you please? i beg of you. you should be cheering these guys from the sidelines and showering them with gratitude for coming along and trying to help us in our hugely enfeebled position, brought on in great part by our inability to work together effectively ourselves. you are only perpetuating this useless behavior.

larry kramer
When the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) announced that they would be taking the fight against Proposition 8 to the federal court with power team Ted Olson and David Boies at the helm, numerous LGBT groups immediately issued a press release stating their opposition to this strategy, "reminding the LGBT community that ill-timed lawsuits could set the fight for marriage back."

The groups associated with the press release included ACLU, Lambda Legal and NCLR. However, now they have changed their tune and have filed a motion to intervene (see definition), which would allow them to be co-plaintiffs on the case. Having fought for marriage equality in the state for sometime, it appears they don't want to be edged out. And though they did file amicus curiae (friend of the court briefs) for the lawsuit, it was clear the support was lukewarm.

"These groups wish to illustrate for the court the diverse needs of their members and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community generally to provide the full factual record," said Jennifer C. Pizer, National Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal in the press release stating their new intentions.

Yet now, after slamming the case since day one in the media, "It would appear Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights and the ACLU LGBT Project are either realizing the case might actually be successful and therefore want to ride its coattails for credit and relevancy, or—depending on your capacity for cynicism—are intentionally dragging down a suit from a rival group working for the same cause," says Towleroad.

I hate to say it, but I agree. I'm all for uniting our efforts and our resources, but this action from these LGBT groups comes off as wanting credit for what now appears a chance at success. Having faith and trust in each other is key to winning, and these groups did not demonstrate that from the beginning. Now it just sounds as if they're looking for the media attention that a win could bring.

Chad Griffin, Board President for AFER, sent the groups a rather harsh letter. In it, he provides numerous examples of AFER's attempts to involve the groups from the beginning, but also he provides numerous other examples of how they dissed the case to the media.

He opens the letter with the following:
"On behalf of the plaintiffs and our board, donors and supporters, I am writing to ask that you not intervene in Perry v. Schwarzenegger.

"Given our willingness to collaborate with you, and your efforts to undercut this case, we were surprised and disappointed when we became aware of your desire to intervene.

"You have unrelentingly and unequivocally acted to undermine this case even before it was filed. In light of that, it is inconceivable that you would zealously and effectively litigate this case if you were successful in intervening. Therefore, we will vigorously oppose any motion to intervene."
Here is the letter in full:

American Foundation for Equal Rights Letter

The San Francisco Gate is calling this another skirmish within the LGBT equal rights movement due to the passing of Prop 8 and its aftermath.

I'm hearing some say this does not look good for us because its showing divisions amongst us. However, I would like to remind them that civil rights movements in the past weren't fully united and had their own share of disagreements. Not everyone agreed with MLK or the tactics that he used - some to the very end. But constant questioning of our strategies is essential to final victory.

History is hindsight 20/20, and because MLK was pivotal in winning the rights for African Americans, it now appears as if everyone was behind him from the beginning. We look back and think, "He did no wrong." And that is just not the case.

Nor will it be the case for us. We will have disagreements. We will pursue different strategies. We will have "skirmishes." However, as Chad Griffin of AFER told Unite the Fight about the beginning of the case, "We're in a war, and we [AFER board] discussed where we could take the war. If you have a single goal in winning that war, you want to have the opposition on the defensive on all fronts."

In regard to the LGBT groups criticisms, he said, "We can all agree to disagree on different tactics but at the end of the day, we all have the same goal - we can all agree on winning full federal rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."

It appears now the groups are agreeing with AFER's strategy to achieve that goal.

Don't get me wrong - I have nothing but respect for these groups. I for one am a fan of Jenny Pizer - she has done great work and I was thrilled to have a chance to meet her on several occasions. However, I would like to see us reach our goal as fast as possible. If these groups' direct involvement cause a delay in the courts because they failed to act earlier, then they shouldn't have direct involvement. But AFER is open to their consultation and assistance, and if that's the best resolve for a united front, then these groups need to accept their position and assist in fighting to the end for the common goal of full equality under federal law.

Is the NY Senate Ever Going to Vote on Marriage Equality? Maybe If They Can Get Over Themselves First.

More drama in the New York Senate.

Bronx Sen. Pedro Espada, who had defected to the Republicans in a June 8 coup, dividing the Senate in an even 31-31 split (after Sen. Monseratte flip-flopped), has flipped back to the Democrats, giving them back their slim majority of 32-30. As part of the deal, Espada takes the title of Senate majority leader from Sen. Malcolm Smith.

The Senate, which has been shut down in puerile dramatics, including the two parties holding simultaneous "extraordinary" sessions and railing against Gov. Paterson's surprise move at appointing a Lt. Governor who would break tie votes, met today but have gotten nowhere because now Democratic Sen. George Onorato has gone missing. (More than likely skipped out for a doctor's appointment!)

Will the idiocy ever end? Who knows. But what I do know is that it's keeping at bay any progress on Gov. Paterson's marriage equality bill, which already passed the Assembly.

If this power shift back to the Democrats sticks, there may be a small light at the end of the tunnel. But with crucial legislation, like mayoral control of city schools and a city sales tax hike in the pipeline, it may be a tough sell to get them to vote on it.

And I place the blame for such a failure squarely on the Senate. Hopefully the fed up residents of New York will vote them all out.

"Voices of Honor" National Tour Launched by HRC and Servicemembers United Against DADT

The HRC and Servicemembers United have collaborated to form the "Voices of Honor" national tour against Don't Ask Don't Tell. Rep. Patrick Murphy, former West Point professor and Iraq War vet, announced the tour Wednesday as well as announcing that he will be the lead sponsor of legislation to repeal the discriminatory policy.

The tour, stopping in several cities including Philadelphia, PA and Orlando, FL, will feature former Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, the first U.S. soldier wounded in the Iraq war; Jarrod Chlapowski, a former U.S. Army Korean linguist who opted to not re-enlist because of DADT and is currently a public policy advocate at the Human Rights Campaign; Alex Nicholson, a U.S. Army veteran fluent in Arabic discharged under DADT and current executive director of Servicemembers United; Army Staff Sgt. Genevieve Chase, a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and Executive Director of American Women Veterans; and others. Many on the tour are straight in order to do outreach to straight soldiers.

Later in the evening, Rep. Patrick Murphy spoke to Rachel Maddow telling her that now is the time to repeal DADT.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Check Out UTF's Top 15 Posts for June

Better late than never!

The top posts are calculated by how many unique views each received. Topics ranged from Obama once again, Coffee Bean and Open DNS blocking LGBT blogs and the police raid on a gay bar in Ft. Worth, Texas.

  1. Obama's Defense of DOMA Invokes Incest and Child Marriages - HRC Demands Action.
  2. Texas LGBT Bar Raided by Police on 40th Anniversary of Stonewall.
  3. UPDATE: Obama Makes Demonstration a Punchline/VIDEO: Obama Demonstration at Los Angeles DNC Fundraiser Demanding End to Silence on LGBT Issues.
  4. New Los Angeles Times Poll on Marriage Equality Shows Lots of Work Ahead for the City, Especially for POC Groups.
  5. Internet Problems and "Technical" Discrimination.
  6. Love Him or Hate Him, It Takes A Lot to Apologize, and Perez Hilton Does for Use of "F" Word.
  7. Erases 6 of 8 Promises to LGBT Community.
  8. Washington & Us: Hope or Hardball?.
  9. Gov. Sanford 12 Days Ago Vs. Gov. Sanford.
  10. Leadership Summit Organizations Going Back to Community to Assess Next Steps on Marriage Equality in CA.
  11. Unite the Fight Is to Talk with Coffee Bean - Statement Issued From Content Filter Co. Founder.
  12. Sen. Eichelberger Issues Statement on His Quote "We're Allowing Gays to Exist.".
  13. Not Looking Good for Marriage Equality in New York Senate.
  14. More Donors Cancel on the LGBT Democratic Fundraiser.
  15. Maryland's Bishop Jackson Complains DC's Marriage Equality 'Loons' Violate His Privacy.

Here are May's Top 15 posts.

Obama Wrestles With His Faith and LGBT Issues - Is He Using Religion As An Excuse?

Obama will be meeting with the Pope at the Vatican this Friday, but last week, he sat down for a 45-minute interview with the Roman Catholic news media and spoke of his struggle concerning LGBT rights.
"For the gay and lesbian community in this country, I think it's clear that they feel victimized in fairly powerful ways and they're often hurt by not just certain teachings of the Catholic Church, but the Christian faith generally. And as a Christian, I'm constantly wrestling with my faith and my solicitude and regard and concern for gays and lesbians."
This is a loaded quote. Many may take heart to the fact that Obama addresses the fact that the LGBT population (not community - we're bigger than that) have been victimized, but he doesn't state it for the fact that it is. He says we "feel victimized."

Imagine if he had said, "For the gay and lesbian community in this country, I think it's clear that they have been victimized in fairly powerful ways and they're often hurt by not just certain teachings of the Catholic Church, but the Christian faith generally."

See what a huge difference that is?

But now let's get to the second half of the quote. Michael A. Jones at did an amazing job of pointing out that Obama's church, the United Church of Christ, believes in full equality for the LGBT population. Their website states:
"For more than 30 years the national setting of the UCC has been on a clear course of welcome and inclusion, calling for serious study of human sexuality, [and] supporting the civil rights of LGBT persons..."
So what is he "wrestling" with? If his church and religion clearly state for full LGBT equality, what's the struggle?

I can only assume that the struggle in Obama is his own but clearly using religion as front for his inaction on LGBT rights. Sure, the context of the interview is religion, but it's not a reason for inaction. And this is nothing new - how many times have we heard politicians promise us they'll fight for our equality only to state once they make it into office that their religious and moral code forbids them for advocating for us?

I'm not going to assume what it is that Obama is personally struggling with, but it's certainly not his religion. It's something else, inside.

Despite the fact that Obama stated in the primaries that his personal belief didn't allow him to support marriage equality, I never thought that he would state that it would dictate to him his actions as president. I truly thought he held dearly the separation of church and state and that one would not directly influence the other.

I was wrong. Because truly, if he "believes" God doesn't approve of our full freedom, then he believes his inaction is justified. And since we only "feel" victimized, then where's the real harm, right?

(Rex Wockner interviews with openly gay Steve Hildebrand, who was Obama's deputy national campaign director and with whom Obama speaks to on LGBT issues. He believes Obama will keep his promises. It's encouraging to read.)

Main Marriage Equality Opponents Have Gathered Enough Signatures for November '09 Referendum

Stand For Marriage, a broad-based coalition of business, elected officials, the Catholic Diocese of Portland, the Maine Jeremiah Project, and more announced today that they have collected more than the 55,087 signatures needed for a People's Veto of the new marriage equality enacted by the state's legislature and signed by Gov. John Baldacci. They're collecting additional signatures to insure that the initiative is on the November 2009 ballot. (See video supporting an overturn using ex-gay's stories.)

"In just four weeks, we've gathered more than 55,000 signatures from Mainers who believe they, not the legislature and governor, should have the final say on the definition of marriage," said Marc Mutty, Chairman of the coalition. "There has been an extraordinary outpouring of support from voters across the state. This response gives us momentum that will lift us over the first hurdle of putting the issue before the people and, ultimately, carry us to victory in November."

All signatures must be certified by the Secretary of State for validity. Once certified, the issue is cleared to appear on the November 2009 ballot.

"The fact that we've gathered all these signatures in just a month to proceed with the People's Veto suggests that the people of Maine, like those in 43 other states, want to restore marriage to its historical and time-honored definition as between a man and a woman," said Bob Emrich, founder of the Maine Jeremiah Project and an Executive Committee member of Stand for Marriage Maine. "We look forward to submitting the measure for certification and engaging Mainers in a vigorous defense of marriage. Traditional marriage has never lost on the ballot in any state. We expect it to prevail in Maine."

ACTION: Maine Freedom to Marry recently launched their counter campaign. They announced several ways you can get involved to help keep the marriage equality law on the books.

BREAKING NEWS: Massachusetts Attorney General Sues U.S. Government Over Same-Sex Marriage Recognition

The Boston Herald reports that Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a lawsuit this morning against the U.S. government to force it to extend a wide range of benefits to some 16,000 gay and lesbian couples legally married in Massachusetts.

The lawsuit challenges DOMA which Coakley says prevents gay and lesbian couples here from receiving tax, retirement, insurance, Social Security and other benefits.

The attorney general says in court papers that her action would not affect other states’ laws regarding marriage.

The AG's lawsuit claims the federal DOMA interferes with the right of Massachusetts to define marriage as it sees fit and that the act "constitutes an overreaching and discriminatory federal law."

Specifically, the lawsuit challenges the section of the law that creates a federal definition of marriage as limited to a union between one man and one woman. (Read a further breakdown of the case at Law Dork.)

Before the law was passed, Coakley said, the federal government recognized that defining marital status was the "exclusive prerogative of the states." Now, because of the U.S. law's definition of marriage, same-sex couples are denied access to benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including federal income tax credits, employment benefits, retirement benefits, health insurance coverage and Social Security payments.

"In enacting DOMA, Congress overstepped its authority, undermined states' efforts to recognize marriages between same-sex couples, and codified an animus towards gay and lesbian people," the lawsuit states.

In a press release back in March, Coakley expressed her support for the lawsuit filed by GLAD challenging DOMA.
“We strongly support the efforts of GLAD and its clients to pursue equal rights for all married couples in Massachusetts. Since the Supreme Judicial Court issued its decision in Goodridge in 2003, Massachusetts has taken many affirmative steps to ensure and solidify marriage equality in the Commonwealth. Despite all of these efforts, married individuals in same-sex relationships do not enjoy equal rights in the Commonwealth. DOMA is a law that codifies discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Because of this law, individuals in same-sex marriages often pay more in federal income taxes, are not eligible for surviving spouse benefits from the Social Security Administration and, if they are employed by the federal government, cannot obtain healthcare coverage for their spouses.

Today’s lawsuit describes compelling stories of individuals in committed, loving, and lasting relationships, who have been deprived of rights and protections that they rightfully deserve. They are simply seeking the legal protections given to all other married persons. Massachusetts sees no reason to view these couples in any other way than as married couples, and we hope that this lawsuit results in a similar outlook at the federal level.”
GLAD's lawsuit, which is separate from the AG's, argues it discriminates against gay couples and is unconstitutional because it denies them access to federal benefits that other married couples receive.

The third lawsuit challenging DOMA is the Smelt case which resulted in the infamous DOJ brief comparing same-sex marriage to incest and pedophilia.

West Virginia to Review Marriage Equality Ban

The is reporting that West Virginia state lawmakers are planning a public hearing to discuss whether or not the state should amend its constitution to limit marriage between a man and a woman.

Why even consider passing an amendment when the state already has its own Defense of Marriage Act banning marriage equality? Because opponents, such as Family Policy Center and Alliance Defense Fund claim that the law could be thrown out if challenged, and they point to Iowa as an example. If there's an amendment, like Prop 8, then any court challenge to the ban has very little chance.

"We're thankful that the Legislature is setting aside time to carefully study this issue," said Family Policy Council President Jeremiah Dys whose organization plans on appearing at the hearing as a proponent to an amendment. "To my knowledge, this is the first time the West Virginia Legislature has ever officially discussed the Marriage Protection Amendment."

Dys and a representative of the Alliance Defense Fund -- a conservative organization that says it seeks to "aggressively defend religious liberty" -- will speak in favor of the amendment.

Fairness West Virginia board President Stephen Skinner and a representative of the ACLU of West Virginia will speak against a constitutional amendment.

"I think it's important to get out there and have some of these conversations in a public way," Skinner said. "Lesbian and gay people are not threatening quote-unquote traditional marriage."

"We shouldn't be wasting our money trying to ban something in West Virginia that's already banned under statute," Skinner said.

In March, Republicans in the House of Delegates tried to force a floor vote on a bipartisan resolution calling for a statewide referendum to define marriage. Democrats blocked their attempts.

Legislators later voted to have an interim committee study the amendment issue. Now a meeting has been set for 11 a.m. July 14 in the Senate Judiciary Committee room.

ACTION: If you live in West Virginia, go to the public hearing and tell them you do not support a marriage equality ban.

DATE: July 14
TIME: 11am
WHERE: Senate Judiciary Committee room (Location: 208 West)
State Capitol Complex
Charleston, WV 25305

CONTACT the judiciary committee and tell them not to support the amendment!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Flag for Marriage Equality

The Flag for Marriage Equality arrived as the result of Studio 360 LGBT flag redesign challenge but has now taken on a meaning of its own.

"This is an evolving protest flag for equal marriage rights in the United States," says its website. "The stars on the Jan 1, 2010 flag represent the states that actively perform same-sex marriages. Stars are arranged on the blue field in order of each state's admission into the union."

The creator told Joe.My.God, "The flag is based in the custom of 19th century suffragettes. At their annual convention they would add a star to the flag for each state that had adopted a women's right to vote. Although there is no official order - the stars are generally read right to left in the order they were admitted to the Union. Represented are - Massachusetts and Connecticut."

You can read more on the flag at get involved at the Flag for Equal Marriage Facebook group.

Maryland Governor O'Malley Open to Recognizing Out-of-State Same-Sex Marriages

Recently, it was made aware that Maryland's law, despite its ban on same-sex marriage, may still allow the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states legally.

A public push for Governor O'Malley to request Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, who supports marriage equality, to review the law followed. It didn't take long for openly gay Sen. Richard S. Madaleno to make the request and now we wait for Gansler's opinion.

However, in the meantime, Gov. O'Malley, whose official stance is that he supports civil unions over granting LGBT citizens marriage, yesterday told WTOP's "Ask the Governor" that "If a person has those rights under another state. ... I think we probably should respect those rights."

O'Malley won't act though until Gansler finishes with the opinion, which could take months. "If the law allows that, then that's what we will do," he said.

State Delegate Don Dwyer told WJLA he wants the voters to decide on this issue. "If I lose and we grant same sex marriages as a result of a defeat of my constitutional amendment, so be it... but at least the people of the state of Maryland have had the final say," he said.

"Again, I'm not homophobic about this specific issue -- I simply believe Maryland law was intended for specific purpose," said Dwyer.

O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said O'Malley has no intention of doing anything before Gansler's opinion is issued, saying that is the "prudent" course.

There's a chance that none of this may matter since a marriage equality bill is working its way through the legislative system that would overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Though similar bills have always died in the past, this time Sen. Frosh, a key senator and chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, has decided to co-sponsor the bill for next year.

Washington DC's Same-Sex Marriage Recognition Bill Goes Into Effect Today

As mentioned earlier in a post retelling the drama surrounding this bill, today Washington DC's same-sex marriage recognition bill went into effect at 12:01 AM today. This marks in history the first recognition of same-sex marriages below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Under the new law, same-sex couples legally married in Massachusetts, Iowa and Connecticut will be recognized in the District, and soon in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont when their marriage equality bills go into effect. The 18,000 marriages in California performed before Prop 8 will also be honored as well as legal marriages in foreign countries.

The 200 rights in the bill include hospital visitation, district taxes filed jointly, spousal benefits of employees of private companies and employees of the District and the right not to testify against a spouse.

Though the District doesn't currently allow same-sex marriages to be legally performed within its borders, the District Council has been very clear that they intend to make that their next step.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Injured Patron from Ft. Worth Bar Raid Speaks: "I'm Just Appalled."

Chad Gibson, injured victim of the Ft. Worth police raid on the gay bar Rainbow Lounge, says he wants the officers responsible prosecuted and calls the response from the city of Ft. Worth a cover up.

"I was at the bar buying drinks for my friends and I. The next thing I remember is waking up in the ICU," Gibson told CBS 11. "I'm just appalled that they took it to the level that they did."

The Ft. Worth police are claiming that Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) officers are responsible for Chad's injuries, saying they're the ones that manhandled him and not the Ft. Worth police. But Chad finds that inexcusable. In a taped interview with WFAA, he said they just stood their and watched, making them equally responsible.

"They have blamed it on me, that I was drunk [and] that I hit my head," he said. "I groped the officer. I did this. I did that. You know what, no ... Accept responsibility."

Gibson said he is also frustrated at the city pointing the blame at the TABC.

"Even if the Fort Worth Police didn't touch me, they watched it," he said. "They watched other people do that to me."

"A lot of the doctors I've talked to say you can't get this kind of blow to the head from just falling, if I had just fallen like they said I did," Chad said.

After a week in the hospital, Chad has been discharged, though a blood clot in his brain behind his right eye still exists.

The TABC officers are on desk duty during the internal investigation. The city of Fort Worth is still asking eye witnesses to come forward for their internal investigation. Any findings will be independently reviewed by the U.S. Attorney General.

Census Bureau Struggles to Update Software to Count Same-Sex Married Couples

Since the Obama administration ordered that same-sex couples be counted in the 2010 census for the first time ever, the Census Bureau has been struggling to update its software to include the change and is facing many obstacles.

Starting in 2000, whenever someone reported being married to someone of the same gender, the census software automatically registered them as "unmarried partner."

With six states now recognizing same-sex marriages and government lawyers stating that DOMA does not restrict the marriages from being counted, the Census Bureau faces a challenge.

USA Today reports that the challenges include:

• Changing the software that processes Census questionnaires so that it doesn't automatically convert same-sex married couples to unmarried partners. Census is not confident it can make the change by 2010.

• The federal marriage act may not apply to the Census but it does apply to every other federal agency that uses Census data to dole out federal funds and enforce fair housing and equal opportunity laws.

• Any change in the way the Census is tabulated has a domino effect on most other data collected. Counting same-sex couples as married stretches the definition of family. Data used by all federal agencies — from family income to family size — would have to be reclassified.

"We know for certain the vast majority (of same-sex couples) are not legally married," says Gary Gates, demographer at UCLA's Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, told USA Today.

Gates estimates 35,000 same-sex couples are married, but recent surveys show that 10 times as many report that they are.

How the Census will report its findings is still to be decided. "This is an important issue and legitimate question that we're working to resolve," said Nick Kimball, spokesman for the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau.

DC's Marriage Equality Recognition Bill Takes Effect Tuesday; Main Opponent Marion Barry Arrested

Tuesday, Washington's DC marriage equality recognition bill takes effect. In May the district's council approved a resolution that would allow DC to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in states that allow it.

Stiff opposition came in the form of Bishop Harry Jackson and former DC mayor and now councilman Marion Barry, who was the lone opposing vote to the recognition bill, but their attempts to obstruct the law have not succeeded.

Below is a video of Marion Barry at an anti-marriage equality rally in DC.

And now, in a twist that has become all too commonplace for those who oppose marriage equality, Marion Barry finds himself in trouble with the law again, this time arrested on Saturday night for stalking a former paramour.

Hopefully this incident will be a reminder of how far Marion Barry is from being able to judge others and how their relationships should look or be recognized. He has a long history of run-ins with the law and obviously needs to pay more attention to his own romantic relationships and worry less about others.

Maybe it's coincidence, but the timing of his arrest may highlight the hypocrisy in those who will do anything to keep LGBT from marrying. Luckily, he didn't succeed.

Joint Chief of Staff Ad. Mike Mullen Believes in "Measured" Approach to DADT; Colin Powell Withholds Judgment

"I haven't done any kind of extensive review. And what I feel most obligated about is to make sure I tell the president, you know, my - give the president my best advice, should this law change, on the impact on our people and their families at these very challenging times," Mullen said.

So naturally, my response, "What about our families? What about DADT impact on us? I guess we're beside the point of consideration."

See former top Clinton aide and lawyer Richard Socarides response to Mullen's comments at America Blog.

Even more disappointing is Colin Powell, who in 1993 helped get DADT passed.

Michael of Michael-in-Norfolk blog observes, "Powell's comments are particularly ironic since at the time President Harry Truman integrated the military there were many racist whites who viewed blacks much the same way gays are viewed by homophobic bigots. Using Powell's analysis, Truman should not have made the move he did - waiting instead for the country to be ready for the change. Living around the military as I do, it is likely the most anti-change institution there is save perhaps the bitter old queens at the Vatican."