Saturday, August 29, 2009

VIDEO: Michigan's Calvin College Issues Memo to Professors - "Don't Support Gay Issues."

Having gone to a very strict and very well-known Christian college, it saddens me that such schools feel it is necessary to issue such unnecessary proclamations. The Provost of Calvin College commends the school for having a safe environment for LGBT students and keeping a "no harassment policy", but many times, such schools turn a blind eye to LGBT student issues.

During my sophomore year at my school, a friend came out of the closet and received so much hate mail from fellow students, he felt forced to leave. I know for a fact the school was aware of this and still did nothing. When they DO act, they simply ship their students to Exodus Ministries which is near the campus. As I became an "issue" for them later, they simply swept me under a rug.

I support these schools right to believe what they do and teach it, but if they think for once that issuing such redundant proclamations while applauding themselves that they help their LGBT students, then they're over-the-top delusional.

First Iowa, Then Maine Ethics Board Sends NOM Warnings of Campaign Violations

First Iowa. Then Maine. All in the same day!

Poor Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) didn't have time to enjoy the amazingly inept, shoddy, biased, laughable, high school level journalism of this Washington Post piece because both Iowa and Maine Ethic Boards sent him warnings Friday of possible violations and consequentially, investigation.

Read UTF's post on Iowa

As for Maine, here's the Board's letter sent to NOM in response to Fred Karger's of Californians Against Hate claims.
By E-Mail and Federal Express
Joseph A. Keaney, Treasurer
Stand for Marriage Maine PAC
One Monument Way, Second Floor
Portland, Maine 04101

By E-Mail and Federal Express
Brian S. Brown, Executive Director
National Organization for Marriage
20 Nassau Street, Suite 242
Princeton, NJ 08542


Dear Sirs:

On August 13 and 24, 2009, the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices received correspondence via email from Fred Karger of Californians against Hate alleging that the Stand for Marriage Maine PAC and some of its contributors have violated the campaign finance laws of the State of Maine. He requests that the Commission investigate whether the violations have occurred. I have enclosed his requests, along with my August 14 memo to Mr. Karger asking him to provide more specific information in support of his request.

As explained below, the Commission is statutorily required to consider Mr. Karger's request. The Commission will consider the request at its meeting on Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 9:00 a.m. The meeting will be held in Room 208 of the Burton M. Cross Office Building, 111 Sewall Street in Augusta. At that meeting, I anticipate that the Commissioners will decide whether to conduct any investigation regarding the compliance issues listed below.

Your Opportunity to Respond to Mr. Karger's Request

The Commission would welcome written responses from the Stand for Marriage Maine PAC and the National Organization for Marriage no later than Thursday, September 17, 2009 concerning whether the Commission should conduct an investigation. You are welcome to attend the meeting to comment to the Commission in person and to answer questions. This is a regular meeting, not a formal hearing.

Commission's Standards for Requests for Investigation

Under 21-A M.R.S.A. § 1003(2), a person may apply to the Commission to investigate a PAC's reporting of campaign finance activity. Under this provision, the Commission "shall review the application and shall make the investigation if the reasons stated for the request show sufficient grounds for believing that a violation may have occurred."

Compliance Issues Raised by Fred Karger's Request

Mr. Karger does not specify which provisions of Maine's campaign finance laws were violated by the Stand for Marriage Maine PAC or its contributors. To assist the Commission in deciding whether to conduct any investigation, the Commission staff has identified the following compliance issues that are implicated by Mr. Karger's factual allegations. By discussing these legal issues, the staff does not mean to imply at this time that any investigation is merited.

Stand for Marriage Maine PAC

All PACs are required to report the names and addresses of contributors who have given more than $50 to the PAC. (21-A M.R.S.A. § 1060(6))

In addition, under 21-A M.R.S.A. §§ 1004(3) and 1004-A(3), it is illegal for a PAC to knowingly accept a contribution made by one person in the name of another person.

Mr. Karger alleges that "the four funders of Stand for Marriage Maine are merely conduits for those wishing to hide their contributions. These entities are laundering money to evade the disclosure of the actual contributors to Stand for Marriage Maine." (Aug. 24, 2009 letter, at 1) If true, these allegations might constitute violations of 21-A M.R.S.A. § 1060(6), 1004(3) and 1004-A(3).

National Organization for Marriage

Mr. Karger alleges that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has raised funds for the purpose of initiating or promoting the people's veto referendum to repeal P.L. 2009, Ch. 82, and has donated those funds to the Stand for Marriage Maine PAC. His allegations, if true, may indicate that NOM was required to file campaign finance reports with the Commission as a ballot question committee under 21-A M.R.S.A. § 1056-B or was required to register and file reports as a PAC under 21-A M.R.S.A. §§ 1052(5)(A), 1053, and 1058.

Mr. Karger points to a few factual circumstances which could be relevant to whether a violation has occurred: • NOM is a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization that is roughly two years old. Based on the information that is presently available to the Commission staff, it appears that NOM has contributed at least $250,000 to the Stand for Marriage Maine PAC. This is a large amount of funding, which could suggest that NOM solicited and received funds for the purpose of initiating the referendum.

• In 2008, NOM formed a committee in California to raise and spend money in support of an amendment to the California State Constitution (Proposition 8) stating that only marriage between a man and a woman would be recognized by the California state government. According to the California Secretary of State, NOM's California committee raised $1,870,134 and contributed $1,561,134 to a larger PAC supporting Proposition 8. So, NOM has demonstrated the capability to raise a significant amount of funds to support a referendum on same sex marriage.

• Mr. Karger has provided the Commission with some fundraising solicitations from NOM stating to potential donors that the funds would be used to oppose the legalization of same sex marriage in New England. The two most relevant are the communications dated March 13 and 31, 2009, which mention Maine specifically.

The March 31st communication refers to "a hard-hitting new radio ad that we're launching today as part of our 2009 Northeast Action Plan ..." and makes the following solicitation: "We're excited about this new ad, but we need your help to keep these ads on the air, especially in states like Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and New Jersey, where coordinated grassroots opposition to pending gay marriage legislation is urgently needed."

The ad was apparently intended to run while the marriage legislation was under consideration by the Maine Legislature (March or April 2009). Nevertheless, the solicitation does seem to look forward to more communications to voters later in the year: "Throughout the year, we'll be rolling out new ads as we work to identify and motivate marriage activists throughout the Northeast." (italics added) This could easily be a reference to communications to voters in support of a referendum petition drive in Maine, which was actively discussed during the 2009 legislative session.

• As Mr. Karger has noted, the March 2009 solicitations from NOM promise its donors anonymity: "[P]lease make the most generous donation you can to help us keep these important ads on the air. Use this hyperlink to make a secure online donation. And unlike in California, every dollar you give to NOM's Northeast Action Plan today is private, with no risk of harassment from gay marriage protestors."

Because of these factual considerations, the staff of the Maine Ethics Commission would welcome a written response by NOM regarding whether there are sufficient grounds to warrant a Commission investigation or fact-finding to determine if NOM was required to file campaign finance reports as a ballot question committee under 21-A M.R.S.A. § 1056-B or to register and file reports as a PAC under 21-A M.R.S.A. §§ 1052(5)(A), 1053, and 1058.

Other Contributors

Mr. Karger has alleged that three other contributors to the Stand for Marriage Maine PAC "laundered money." Because the information provided with regard to these contributors is less specific, the Commission staff is not inviting responses from them. Nevertheless, they are copied on this letter so that they are aware of this matter and have an opportunity to submit comments if they wish.

Thank you for considering this invitation. If you have any questions, please feel free to telephone me at (207) 287-4179 or the Commission's Counsel, Assistant Attorney General Phyllis Gardiner, at (207) 626-8830.


Jonathan Wayne
Executive Director
So, Mr. Brown, are you going to get your PR machine at the Washington Post to write you out of this one?

I wait with baited breath.

Three TABC Agents Fired Over Rainbow Lounge Bar Raid

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) has finished its investigation of the June raid of the Rainbow Lounge, which resulted in several arrests and an injured patron, and has decided to fired two of its agents and a supervisor while disciplining two others.

The two agents, Christopher Aller and Jason Chapman "failed to report that they used force when arresting the customer or that he was seriously injured . . . were accused of participating in the raid without their supervisor’s approval, disrupting the business during the raid and wearing improper attire," the AP reports.

Sft. Terry Parsons, their supervisor, who had taken leave while the investigation was underway, was also fired. He didn't follow-up with his officers resulting in their failure to file a use of force report during the raid arrests, did not take appropriate action for their improper attire and did not notify supervisors about the arrests.

Parson's director supervisor, Lt. Gene Anderson, will be suspended without pay for three days and put on a six month probation. Capt. Robert "Charlie" Cloud who oversees Dallas/Ft. Worth TABC offices, has received a written reprimand.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Iowa Ethics Board Sends Sharply Worded Warning to NOM

One Iowa, an LGBT advocacy group, posted this morning that National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has received a sharp warning from Iowa Ethics Board for their involvement in Iowa politics.

This week NOM started airing almost $90,000 worth of ads concentrated on a single rural Iowa House District. NOM's goal: to elect anti-gay candidates and overturn the freedom to marry in Iowa and across the country.
In a August 27 letter, the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, warns the National Organization for Marriage about their campaign activities in Iowa. Here are the key points of the warning (full letter at bottom of post):
  • Only an “insignificant and insubstantial amount” of NOM’s income is permitted to come from business organizations
  • If advocacy activities in Iowa exceed $750, NOM must form a PAC and disclose contributors
  • “To continue to file an independent expenditure statement for future elections in Iowa would mean that your organization is not raising more than $750 from outside sources for such purposes”
Last Friday NOM filed an independent expenditure report for nearly $90,000 worth of ads. The letter makes clear that to continue to file in this manner would run afoul of Iowa election laws.

One Iowa has been calling for NOM to release the names of their contributors since Monday. Please sign our petition now to keep their feet to the fire!

NOM had previously marketed the following claim to perspective donors: “NOM has the ability to protect donor identities, ensuring that you, your family, and your business are not targeted by gay marriage advocates for harassment.”

The anti-gay marriage group has spent thousands to flood rural Iowa with ads for an anti-gay legislative candidate and has raised funds specifically for their “Reclaim Iowa” campaign. The special election is set for next Tuesday and reports show that NOM has spent more than either of the candidates have spent on the race!

NOM is trying to buy this special election! Demand that they release their donors!
NOM has a history of funneling money from the Mormon Church into anti-gay measures, while refusing to disclose the source of their funds.

Demand NOM disclose who is funding their anti-marriage equality campaign ads by signing One Iowa's petition!

Iowa Ethics Board Warning to NOM

"Gathering Storm: The Sequel!"

Remember this train wreck, courtesy of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM)?

Well, believe it or not, it looks like lightning may strike twice. Unfortunately. And this time, it's striking Maine.

From the Kennebec Journal:
Casting Director James Stiles is putting out the word that he’s looking for two 'real Maine' women to appear in a television ad produced by supporters of traditional marriage.

Stiles is looking for a 'teacher type' and a 'working waitress type,' both in the 35-45 age range. If you want to try out, he’s holding auditions from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday (Sept. 2) at the Howard Johnson in South Portland.

If you’re hired, it’s a three day gig that pays $500 a day.
Well, if you're a struggling actor, you'll definitely get attention. Just maybe not the kind you want.

Which leads me to my next thought. They need actors to spread their message. The first pro-marriage equality ad to hit the air waves in Maine used real Mainers.

How sad for NOM. NOT!

Lawsuit Filed Against Referendum 71 Petition Signatures; Anti-LGBT Group Must Disclose Donors

Though the signature rejection rate for Referendum 71 is currently 11.81% and below the maximum survival percentage rate of 12.4%, it hasn't been going so well for the referendum supporters and the campaign behind it, Protect Marriage Washington.

Filing a lawsuit today, Washington Families Standing Together, the campaign to approve Referendum 71 (an approval keeps the same-sex inclusive domestic partnership law), alleges that the Secretary of State is accepting invalid petition signatures, and as a result, giving better chances for the referendum to appear on the ballot.

WAFST "seeks an order declaring that the petitions and signatures submitted in violation of Washington law cannot be included in the count toward placing Referendum 71 on the ballot."

Chair of WAFST, Anne Levinson, issued the following statement:
We respect the referendum process and the public’s right to vote, but we have been increasingly concerned that, along with other issues our observers have noted with signatures being accepted that in the view of observers should have been rejected, the Secretary of State has accepted thousands of signatures that were not in compliance with State laws related to fraud in the signature-gathering process.

Because of the limited number of signatures turned in, failure to enforce these laws could well lead to a measure being qualified for the ballot that should not be, and that measure has the potential to strip away important protections from thousands of families all across the state. There are domestic partners in every county of the state. They are same sex couples and heterosexual couples where one or both partners is 62 years or older. These couples should not have to worry about whether a partner can take sick leave to care for a loved one who is ill. A firefighter should not have to worry about whether her children will be taken care of if something should happen to her while fighting a fire. These are basic rights and protections that all families should have. Those trying to qualify Referendum 71 for the ballot do not think that families different than theirs should have these protections, so they are trying to overturn the law.

We expect a strong vote in support of the domestic partnership law if it is on the ballot, but we should not put people through the hardship of a statewide campaign and have them go through months of additional worry needlessly. Referendum 71 should only be on the ballot if it has qualified based on legally valid signatures. In order to ensure that it is not put on the ballot in error, we needed to file a legal challenge at this point.

We have waited because we wanted to give the process a chance to work, but we did not want to wait so long as to interfere with the Secretary of State’s ability to produce election materials in a timely manner. This motion will be heard on an expedited basis early next week. You can read the pleadings online.

Meanwhile we need to move full speed ahead with the campaign – the first ballots go out in about 6 weeks!
Lurleen of Pam's House Blend reports:
Here are the problems identified by WAFST in the signature gathering and validation process:
  • Some of Protect Marriage Washington's (PMW) "signature-gatherers sought to mislead voters into signing by suggesting that they should sign if the supported the expansion of rights and responsibilities for domestic partners."
  • "The SoS accepted thousands of signatures on petitions where the required declarations were either left blank, not signed by the person who circulated the petitions or not signed by the declarent." Apparently Larry Stickney's signature had been made into a stamp, and the SoS accepted 2,508 petitions bearing 33,966 signatures stamped with Stickney's name as if he were the person actually circulating those petitions. The SoS "also accepted an additional 162 petitions [bearing 2,058 signatures] where the declaration is entirely blank." A total of 36,154 signatures should be disqualified on this basis. Subtract this from the 137,689 signatures that PMW submitted, and the remaining 101,535 is below the minimum number needed to qualify the referendum for the ballot: 120,577.
  • "SOS staff accepted signatures of persons who were not registered voters when they signed the petitions....As of August 26, SOS staff had accepted over 700 previously rejected signatures, including signatures where the signer was not registered before the R-71 petitions were filed.
To make matters worse for Protect Marriage Washington, the names and addresses of donors to Referendum 71 will not be exempt from public disclosure, the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission decided, denying a request made earlier by the anti-gay group.

The commission said Protect Marriage Washington had not proved that disclosure of donors' names would result in "manifestly unreasonable hardship" to contributors. And though the group provided some threatening emails and blog postings as evidence, the commission concluded they "provided no evidence from or about donors that have demonstrated that they have received threats of violence against their lives or property."

One of the commissioners told them that they knew ahead of time this campaign wasn't going to be a cakewalk.

Need Some Inspiration? A Reminder Why You're Working Hard for Equal Rights? Check This Video Out!

The new independent media website called YOURNETWORK based in San Diego just finished a short 11-minute exposé on Proposition 8.

Featuring footage and hard-hitting interviews from San Diego rallies the day after the state supreme court upheld Prop 8, YOURNETWORK questions the legality of denying certain people their rights.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Florida State Attorney Cites Unstable Relationships and Mental Illness As Justifications For Gay Adoption Ban

State attorney Timothy D. Osterhaus argued in Florida's appeals court Wednesday in defense of the state's 32-year old gay adoption ban.

"There is evidence that homosexuals have higher rates of mental disorders, suicide and domestic violence," he argued. "This is a plausible rationale."

"We should focus on what is best for kids, not on what we can get by with," he added.

After lower court Judge Cindy S. Lederman ruled that there was "no rational basis" for the ban, the state appealed, giving them the burden of proving that there in fact is a basis to keep gays and lesbians from adopting.

The case originated with Frank Martin Gill who aims to adopt two young brothers whom he and his partner have fostered for four years.

Arguments were made in a packed courtroom before a three-judge panel. Osterhaus cited statistics of gay domestic violence and suicide rates that he said gave rational basis, despite what Judge Lederman rule, concluding that broad exclusion of gay and lesbians from adopting was justified.

ACLU attorney Leslie Cooper disputed the statistics, and Judge Gerald B. Cope Jr. questioned the state's rationale.

Cope noted that lawmakers chose not to forbid drug addicts, child molesters or even murderers from adopting, but explicitly banned only gay people. "This is the only absolute disqualifier, as far as I can tell," Cope said. "How can that be justified?"

One of the state's two experts acknowledged that decisions over fitness should be made on a case-by-case basis. The other expert acknowledged he based his opposition to gay adoption largely on religious grounds.

"These kids are thoroughly bonded with us," Gill said of the two brothers. "I really love my kids. I want to be their parent. I want to adopt them."

"I would be absolutely devastated if they were taken from me, but it would be worse for the children," he added.

The case is expected to reach the Florida supreme court.

Californians Against Hate Accuses Maine Anti-Marriage Equality Campaign of Money Laundering, Calling NOM Front for Mormon Church

Californians Against Hate founder Fred Karger has formally asked Maine election officials to investigate anti-marriage equality campaign Stand For Marriage Maine. He accuses the campaign of money laundering and lists specific allegations, the details which were requested by the officials after he initially contacted them.

In a letter to election official Jonathan Wayne, Karger wrote that, "These entities are laundering money to evade the disclosure of the actual contributors to Stand for Marriage Maine."

"The four organizational donors that gave to Stand for Marriage Maine, with the possible exception of Focus on the Family, circumvented Maine’s campaign reporting law to avoid disclosure of the true contributors."

Karger goes on to list the organizations as the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), Dioeces of Portland, Knights of Columbus, and Focus on the Family. In the letter, he details his allegations about how the groups have hidden where the donations are coming from to avoid identities being revealed and violating laws regarding churches donating past maximum amounts.

The group's first financial disclosure report raised even more suspicions when it listed total contributions from individual donors at a paltry $400 out of $343,689.50 reported.

“By way of comparison,” Karger says, “last year, the Protect Marriage, Yes on Proposition 8 campaign in California disclosed more than 60,000 individual contributors of $100 and above. Thousands more contributed under that amount to repeal same-sex marriage in that state.”

Pam's House Blend reports
that a reader has also had enough and has asked the IRS to investigate NOM.

Karger asked Maine's ethics commission to consider his request at their September 8 meeting, but the commission is likely to decide on the matter in October, its executive director Jonathan Wayne told the Associated Press.

Wayne has asked Stand for Marriage Maine to respond to Karger's allegations by September 16.

The Catholic Church: Their Money and Their F***ed Up Priorities

Years ago, when I was young and struggling to determine what I believed in, I toyed with the idea of joining the Catholic Church. Boy, am I glad I didn't (nor do I believe in any organized religion). After what I've been hearing about how the church is actively harming advances in marriage equality, I'm relieved that there's no record of any connection between me and the hypocrites leading the church.

News broke
recently that the Catholic Church in Maine has decided to close three parishes due to declining funds as less people attend church, all this under the watchful eye of Bishop Richard Malone. Yet, it's also been made public that this same Bishop donated $100,000 to anti-marriage equality campaign, Stand for Marriage Maine.

Maine's Portland Press Herald writes, "Good Shepherd Parish had a $48,000 deficit in the past fiscal year and projected a $170,000 deficit this year if no changes were made, according to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland."

Gee, imagine what that $100,000 could do. But nope, the Catholic Church has decided to stick to its priorities - stripping gays and lesbians of their right to marry, because if they do marry, it will somehow, though they don't know exactly how, but it WILL, destroy "traditional marriage," whatever that is.

It gets better. Reports have come in that the Church will somehow scrounge up $2 million to kill marriage equality nationwide. If I were a member and my Maine parish and its services were closing because of $170,000 deficit but heard about this, they would witness old-fashioned Biblical wrath.

It boggles my mind.

The Press also reported that weddings at the parishes were down, and these ceremonies where a good source of revenue for the church. I wonder if the parishes see the irony.

Now on to New Jersey. Yesterday, I reported that the Catholic Church has prepared sermons in advance of this Sunday's services for clergy across the Garden State to preach against marriage equality from the pulpit.

Why? Because this fall, it is expected that a marriage equality bill will hit the legislature floor for a vote after November's elections. Support is high and current Governor Corzine is an outspoken advocate.

But noooo, we can't have that! They must yet again stir the embers amongst the membership, telling them not to worry about how the economy is affecting their jobs and homes and families, and instead, place in the offering plate the little hard earned cash that they have in possession to go towards "God's work" of destroying any recognition of committed, monogamous same-sex relationships.

Now onto reports about the Catholic Church in Ireland. Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, has decided to focus his attention on a civil law recognizing civil, same-sex unions instead of the massive amounts of child abuse in Catholic children's homes and institution revealed in a government report earlier this year.

Speaking to the Catholic News Agency, the good Cardinal said, "The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, spoke out last Sunday against recognizing civil unions for homosexuals during a homily at the Cathedral of St. John in Limerick. He said that natural law cannot be violated by legislative norms, and that natural law forms the basis for integral human development. The cardinal recalled that nature must be used wisely, as Pope Benedict XVI explains in his encyclical 'Caritas in Veritate.' . . . Cardinal Brady urged the faithful to oppose a measure being debated in the Irish Parliament that would grant legal recognition to same-sex unions."

Fellow blogger Michael-in-Norfolk response: "I would suggest that if the alleged 'natural law' is so important, then it must certainly dictate against celibacy which refutes the role of procreation just as much as same sex relationships."

I might add that taking advantage of children would also be against "natural law."

These developments within the Catholic Church makes me sad for the hundreds of thousands of good-willed members of the church. Polls have shown that they're more ambivalent about marriage equality than evangelicals. Many don't support their leaders' decision. However, for many members, Catholicism is tradition - it offers community, a sense of belonging and a constant through what can be at times tumultuous life. It will now be these people who suffer most from malevolence that the Church has for gays and lesbians as their parishes, which have been a staple in their community for generations, will suddenly close shop, sacrificing their services to strip a minority's rights away.

Instead of taking heed to the Episcopal and Lutheran Churches, the Catholic Church has lost sight of its priorities and is taking huge steps backwards, repeating the history of the Dark Ages and the Inquisition by persecuting those from whom they want abject supplication.

VIDEO: "I Believe" - A Call To Our Leaders to "Step Up" Their Support for LGBT Rights

Gay & Lesbian Civil Rights... Now. from Jeffery Hammerberg on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Michelangelo Signorile Endorses National Equality March; David Mixner Says More Endorsements To Come

In an exclusive commentary with the Advocate, Michelangelo Signorile, host of XM/Sirius radio show The Gist, endorsed the National Equality March.
The time is now for an LGBT march on Washington, and every one of us should be heading to D.C. for the National Equality March planned for October 10–11. Let me explain why, first by reviewing recent events. Then we’ll look back a little in history.


A lot of people are saying we need to think big -- real big -- and that we need to stop denigrating ourselves by settling for crumbs, which we never get anyway. Perhaps we need an omnibus LGBT rights bill that covers everything -- go for it all, and leave it at the feet of Congress. Maybe we should amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include us. What about going for the most urgent things rather than the easiest—like pushing hard for the president to issue a moratorium on “don’t ask, don’t tell” -- something he has disingenuously said he can’t do and that gay groups more or less have given him a pass on -- rather than sitting idly by and watching careers be destroyed while we continue to investigate options for overturning the policy?


It’s not that I was ever really opposed to the idea of a march. To the contrary, as listeners to my Sirius/XM radio show know, I’ve been talking about marching on Washington ever since the morning after Election Day. For me, it’s been a matter of historical precedent: The black civil rights movement wisely took advantage of a window of opportunity in 1963, when Democrats controlled both the White House and Congress. Republicans could no longer be blamed for the lack of civil rights protections, and marchers knew that media attention would put pressure on the Democrats and shame them into action.

We have that same window of opportunity today.
David Mixner wrote on his blog that he has "been collecting an amazing number of leading endorsements" which will be announced in September.

"Can't promise you if there will be 20,000 at this March or 200,000," Mixner wrote. "What I do know is that a lot of very special people are coming. We have become invisible in this administration and so far have received almost nothing. And with that in mind, the community is geared to take a stand."

ACTION: Want to help spread the word about the march? Go here for National Equality March promotional tools!

New Jersey Gearing Up for Marriage Equality Struggle This Fall

After a research committee reviewed New Jersey's law and concluded that gay and lesbian couples should have a legally recognized relationships, the state Supreme Court ordered the legislature to come up with a law that would recognize these couples. With the decision in their hands, the legislature opted for civil unions in 2006.

However, after reports from couples in civil unions claiming that benefits are still being denied them, the push for marriage has increase in the Garden State. reports that Garden State Equality has lobbied for marriage, and the legislature is expected to vote on a marriage equality bill after November's elections.

Sen. Loretta Weinberg, who sponsors New Jersey's marriage equality bill, said the Supreme Court has "already said that same-sex partners are entitled to all the rights and responsibilities of marriage" -- and most lawmakers agree with it.

Current Governor Jon Corzine is also a major LGBT ally. He is currently running for re-election on a platform highlighting his support for marriage equality, representing it as a good and open-minded stance that residents should support him on through their vote. If a marriage equality bill were to make it to his desk, he would sign it.

Many New Jersey residents also support marriage equality. A poll back in April found that 42% supported marriage equality, a 6 point increase since civil unions went into effect.

Yet opposition is growing as well. writes:
The Marriage Minutemen, a group organized by the New Jersey Family Policy Council, is holding meetings in conservative churches, mostly in legislative districts where lawmakers are believed to be on the fence on the issue, to tell volunteers how they can help."

Volunteers at the meeting were given specific talking points -- for instance, to say that a state commission that recommended earlier this year that gay marriage be legal was biased. And they heard that the gay-rights advocates also are pressing lawmakers on the issue.

Much of the message was to tell the volunteers they'd have better luck if they talked about policy rather than morality.

"We're not here to take away anybody's rights and we're not here to stand against anything," Len Deo, president of the family policy council. "We're here to stand for something, and that is marriage."
The Star Ledger is reporting that the state's Catholic bishops are also joining the opposition, with prepared sermons for this weekend's masses called "The Call to Marriage" to be read from the pulpit throughout the state.

"We must protect and promote marriage," says the "The Call to Marriage." "God himself is the author of marriage. Marriage as union of man and woman existed long before any nation, religion, or law was established ... Governments, therefore, have a duty to reinforce and protect this permanent institution and to pass it on to future generations, rather than attempt to redefine it arbitrarily for transitory political or social reasons."

The bishops will strike a conciliatory tone by saying "we must pledge our support to all family members."

We, the LGBT population, have a lot of work on our hands. We have Maine to protect from the opposition hoping to strip marriage rights away this November, then New Jersey to press for marriage after the election, and California, where the LGBT population there hope to return to the ballot in 2010 or 2012.

ACTION: If you want to help New Jersey, go to Garden State Equality's website and find out how you can get involved!

Senator Ted Kennedy Dies at 77

The "liberal lion of the senate" Sen. Ted Kennedy has died at 77 after a year-long battle with brain cancer.

"We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever," the Kennedy family said in a statement. "He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it."

President Obama said in a statement today, "An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time."

An LGBT advocate, Sen. Kennedy was one of only fourteen votes in 1996 to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and also fought tirelessly to block an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have banned marriage equality nationwide.

Sen. Kennedy represented Massachusetts, the first state in the Union to legalize marriage equality.

"The nation’s eyes were on Massachusetts today, and they saw a triumph for civil rights and fundamental fairness," he said. "Today’s historic vote will have a national impact on civil rights for years to come. Massachusetts has led the nation in education, in health care and in biotechnology, and today Massachusetts renewed its commitment as a proud leader in civil rights."

“We know the future will outlast all of us, but I believe that all of us will live on in the future we make." - Sen. Ted Kennedy

He will be missed.

Repeal Prop 8 Coalition to Hold San Francisco Meeting Saturday to Establish 2010 Signature Campaign

An invitation from the Repeal Prop 8 Coalition, formerly the Coalition for 2010:

On August 9th, over 175 people came together in Los Angeles at the "Next Steps Working Meeting" to begin the work of establishing a signature gathering effort to repeal Proposition 8 in 2010. The attendees, from all walks of life, all affinity groups, both gay and straight, agreed that no matter when Proposition 8 gets on the ballot, the campaign to end legal discrimination was beginning that day. Steve Hildebrand, deputy campaign manager during Barack Obama's successful 2008 bid for president, urged the attendees of the August 9th meeting to quickly establish a structure for the campaign. Attendees took this warning seriously, and agreed to meet again, by the end of August, to prepare that structure.

You are invited to join people from all over California at the "Working Together for Equality" Interim Organizational Structure & Signature Gathering Meeting on August 29th, at San Francisco State University. Three key goals have been established for the meeting:

1. Establish an interim administrative body, elected by the attendees, which will form the PAC necessary to raise funds for the upcoming campaign;
2. Develop a statewide leadership and organizational structure for grassroots communication and decision-making, for the purposes of the signature gathering effort;
3. Continue the important work of building bridges across the entire statewide community of LGBT & allied activists who are committed to overturning Proposition 8.

Special guest speaker: Ace Smith, campaign veteran campaign strategist based in San Francisco who led Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary campaign in California, Texas and North Carolina, winning in both California and Texas despite being considerably outspent by the opposition. In 2005, Smith managed Antonio Villaraigosa's underdog campaign for Mayor of Los Angeles. Despite being outspent by over $1 million in the primary campaign, Villaraigosa beat the incumbent mayor, James Hahn by 11%, and went on to rack up a 19-point lead in the general election. He will bring a wealth of knowledge and campaign experience to the event!

We urge you to register your seat now. This critical event will have a huge impact on the future of the campaign to repeal Proposition 8, and to ensure that your voice is heard, you must be there. Everyone who is dedicated to working for marriage equality is is welcome to join us, regardless of your opinion on whether 2010, or 2012, is the best time to return to the ballot to restore our rights.

The decision-making method for this meeting will be to recognize one vote for each organization or local chapter of an organization, but all organizations are welcome (and encouraged!) to send observers to caucus with their chosen delegate and network with the other community organizers who are present. You do not have to be affiliated with a group to attend.

Your early registration ensures that you will receive related announcements and a copy of the agenda when it is finalized.

It’s time to work together. Juntos podemos. Together we can!


Organizing Committee

Individuals from the groups listed below participated in the organizing of this event. Participation in the organizing committee does not mean that these organizations endorse the meeting.

* Marriage Equality USA -San Mateo County
* Courage Campaign
* HealthCare for All (HCA)
* Long Beach, CA Chair
* Gay-Straight Alliance for Equality (GSAFE)
* San Diego Equality Campaign
* Stonewall Democrats - L.A.
* Equality Network
* Equal Roots
* Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles
* Democratic State Central Committee Delegate
* Boyle Heights Stakeholders Association
* One Struggle One Fight
* Equal Rights Initiative
* Rainbow Knights Coalition
* Yes! On Equality
* Sacramento LGBT Center/Pride
* Stonewall Democratic Club
* Love Honor Cherish
* Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association of Los Angeles (LGLA)
* North County LGBT Coalition
* San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality (SAME)
* Si Se Puede
* San Diego Peace Resource Center
* San Diego Branch of the International Socialist Organization

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Want an Active Role in a Marriage Equality Campaign? Learn How at OUT West's Campaign Boot Camp!

OUT West Campaign Boot Camp will train activists in fundamental campaign skills and offer them a campaign manager's view of how a solid campaign is run. Committed activists will gather for two days of training at USC in Los Angeles, CA that will prepare them to be leaders in the next campaign for marriage equality.

Keynote speaker will be Christine Pelosi, author of Campaign Boot Camp, the inspiration behind this event.

WHO: Committed activists who want to know how a campaign is run.
DATE: Saturday and Sunday, September 12-13
CAMP: Los Angeles (More information upon registering)
COST: Just $11 donation for two full days of education

Register now!

UPDATE: National Organization for Marriage Pours Funds into Iowa to Overthrow Court's Marriage Equality Decision, Dodges IRS Questions

UPDATE: One Iowa, an LGBT organization, has responded to NOM's launching of "Reclaim Iowa" campaign, claiming that NOM is a front of the Mormon church.

"The Mormon Church and NOM have invested millions of dollars to spread lies and fear in California and now they have their sights set on rural Iowa,” said Carolyn Jenison, Executive Director of One Iowa. “This raises the question: Has Burgmeier been bought and paid for by out of state religious extremists? If not, he should reject this divisive ad."

Read the rest of the press release here.


As reported earlier, Iowa will be holding a special election in September to replace a vacant seat in the state House. This race has now turned into a vote on marriage equality, with one candidate, Steven Burgmeier, using the recent Iowa Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage as a way to garner votes by adamantly opposing it.

The National Organization for Marriage has reportedly poured $86,080 into campaign ads, a large amount for such a race, using Burgmeier's run as a platform to launch their "Reclaim Iowa" campaign, which includes over one million robocalls, in an effort to overthrow the Supreme Court's decision. The effort is described as a multi-year “targeted intervention” into the politics of the state.

In Iowa, an amendment to the constitution must first be approved by the legislature before going to the voters, and they see their chances increasing through Burgmeier.

Here's a recently launched ad:

NOM Executive Director Brian Brown, responsible for the organization's efforts to pass Prop 8, wrote supporters that donations could be used across the country, to “allow us to rapidly intervene … in key races across the country where a handful of House or Senate seats could make the difference between whether a same-sex marriage bill or state marriage amendment passes or fails.”

However, NOM isn't escaping notice.

The Washington Blade interviewed Brian Brown. The article states, "Brown promised to release to the Blade NOM’s 2007 IRS 990 finance reporting form and said the group also would release its 2008 990 form as soon as it completes its processing. He said the group submitted the 2008 report to the IRS last Friday."

Right Wing Watch responded
, "NOM's finances are a complete mystery, and the group seems intent on keeping it that way for as long as possible. But there's just one problem -- there's no such thing as a 'processing' period."

They report that non-profits must make their 990s open to the public. "NOM should know better than to play games with its 990. The group could be fined by the IRS for its conduct and is succeeding only in generating greater interest in its finances."

California Senate Officially Calls for End to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Press release from Equality California:

The California Senate officially endorsed a resolution calling for the repeal of the discriminatory federal policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Sponsored by Equality California (EQCA) and introduced by Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), the resolution calls on the United States Congress to pass and President Barack Obama to immediately sign the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2009, which would end the unfair policy and allow gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans to serve openly in the armed forces. The resolution passed the State Senate in a 23-16 vote. The resolution will go before the State Assembly in January.

“The California Senate now joins the growing chorus of current and former service members who have called for the repeal of this discriminatory policy,” said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. “We applaud our representatives in the State Senate for standing up for what is right, and we urge our representatives in the Assembly and ultimately in Washington to do the same. President Obama and Congress must fulfill their promise to stand up for equality and overturn this policy now.”

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was first authorized in 1994. Since that time, more than 13,000 service members have been discharged under the policy, including hundreds of service members serving in ‘critical operations,’ such as counterintelligence, medicine, and translation. According to a General Accounting Office report, 323 language specialists have been discharged, resulting in a critical shortage of qualified translators in intelligence gathering posts. Currently, 149 members of the U.S. House have signed on as co-sponsors to the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” and replace it with a policy of non-discrimination across the armed forces. Earlier this summer 77 members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama requesting he immediately suspend discharges under the discriminatory policy.

“To be a quality soldier you must display courage, patriotism, commitment and ability – none of which have anything to do with sexual orientation,” said Senator Kehoe. “Overturning this shameful policy will help ensure that gay and lesbian Americans will be afforded the same opportunities as any other American who wants to serve our country.”

More than 24 other nations currently allow gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals to serve openly in their militaries, including Canada and the United Kingdom, alongside whom American forces have served in combat. Recent public opinion polls show that a majority of both the American public and active service members believe the policy should be overturned and that gay and lesbian Americans should be allowed to serve openly in the military.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Federal Judge Throws Out Defense of Marriage Act Case That Caused Tension Between Obama and LGBT Population

A federal judge today has thrown out a case that is challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) due to a technicality. The Smelt case was filed by a Californian couple claiming that DOMA discriminates against gays and lesbians and consequentially, is unconstitutional.

The Washington Post reports:
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter ruled the case - the first of several pending challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act - must be refiled in federal court.

Carter said the suit had been improperly filed in state court before it was transferred to his jurisdiction. As a result, the judge said, he would not entertain arguments on its merits, at least not yet.

"There is no point for us to go down the line of decision-making and waste time," he said during the hearing in Santa Ana.
The case caused a huge rift between the LGBT population and the Obama administration when the Department of Justice filed a brief which invoked incest and pedophilia when categorizing same-sex marriage, declaring that it was not in the best interest of the government to recognize such relationships.

A more recent brief filed by the DOJ on the case attempted to make amends by stating the Obama administration believes that DOMA is in fact discriminatory and should be repealed, a stance taken by Obama during his campaign. This was met with mixed reaction from the LGBT population. Though many were happy that for the first time the administration was on court record as being against the legislation, the DOJ went on to defend it, furthering the contradictions exhibited by the administration on LGBT rights since coming to power near eight months ago.

Alliance Defense Fund attorney, Brian Raum, who is working with the government to defend DOMA, stated that Carter had grounds to dismiss the case.

The federal government cannot be sued in state courts, Raum said.

Smelt and Hammer's lawsuit could be back in a federal court in a matter of months, when "ultimately it will come down to the merits," he said.

Request an Early Ballot to Vote No on 1 in Maine!

Crossposted with Queers United.

Mainers don't have to wait for the November 3rd referendum election to cast their vote for marriage equality. People can vote as soon as September against referendum 1 which if passed will eliminate same-sex marriage.

Registered voters can request an absentee ballot via mail and cast their vote early.

Please fill out the form via Equality Maine for their tracking purposes, and to be re-directed to the Secretary of State's form for ballot requests.

Wisconsin Attorney General Refuses to Defend New DP Law Against Right Wing Law Suit, Receives Harsh Criticism

This story makes the blood boil.

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said Friday he would not defend the state in a lawsuit brought by conservative groups over the state's new domestic partner law, which has allowed same-sex couples to receive many but not all benefits of marriage. However, the plaintiffs say that it too closely resembles marriage, violating the state's ban on both marriage equality and civil unions.

What makes them similar?

Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel reports that 413 couples have registered for domestic partnership since the law went into effect August 3 with more to come, giving these couples 40 of the more than 150 benefits available to married couples. But since the cost of registering is the same as applying for a marriage license, opponents claim that it's the cost that makes it too similar to marriage.

Can someone explain that logic to me? Please! If anything, it's a rip-off, and now we're being sued (indirectly) for that rip-off? Not only do gay and lesbian couples have to pay the same as married couples to get a tiny slice of the benefit pie, the whole of which their straight counterparts receive, they have to pay more taxes on top of it! If anything, the starkly separate AND unequal treatment of its citizens should cause Wisconsin to be sued.

The state's Supreme Court asked the state to respond to the lawsuit but has not decided yet to hear the case. Due to Van Hollen's decision, the state will not have to pay outside legal counsel on the back's of the taxpayers.

Van Hollen, a Republican who has not ruled out a run for governor in 2010, cited the state's 2006 amendment ban and stated that the domestic partnership law is unconstitutional so indefensible.

"My duty to is to the people of the state of Wisconsin and the highest expression of their will - the constitution of the state of Wisconsin," Van Hollen said. "When the people have spoken by amending our constitution, I will abide by their command. When policy-makers have ignored their words, I will not."

Governor Jim Doyle, who signed the law in July, said in an official statement, "The Attorney General's job is to represent the state and defend state law when there is a good faith defense to be made. His representation should not be based on whether he likes the state law. Clearly this is defensible. Constitutional law experts have examined the domestic partnership registry and believe it is sound and not in conflict with the state constitution. Attorney General Van Hollen's decision not to defend the domestic partner registry will force the costs of outside counsel onto taxpayers when the Attorney General should simply do his job."

Joint Legislative Council, a state nonpartisan legislative research office, agrees with the governor, saying the law would stand up to challenges because it doesn't come close to marriage, not providing “comprehensive, core aspects of the legal status of marriage to same-sex couples.” Those include the ability to divorce, file joint taxes and share marital property.

Critics of Van Hollen have been harsh, as they should be, stating that he's not doing his job but letting politics do the decision making, sacrificing the rights of LGBT citizens in an effort to keep his conservative supporters.

Openly gay State Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison), who ushered the law through passage, said in a statement, "It is unconscionable that in a time of fiscal crisis his actions will force the state taxpayers to fund outside attorneys to defend our constitution and perform Van Hollen's job. When the domestic partner registry is upheld, Van Hollen will have to explain to the people of Wisconsin why he shirked his duties and stuck them with the bill."

One Wisconsin Now, a liberal advocacy group, called Van Hollen out, claiming he has flip-flopped on his domestic partnership stance. In the attorney general's 2006 campaign for his position, he stated that it was clear lawmakers could extend benefits “traditionally associated with marriage” such as probate benefits and health insurance under the constitutional amendment.

"Attorney General JB Van Hollen is a right-wing legal activist who uses his taxpayer-financed office to serve his partisan political agenda. This abrupt flip flop on domestic partner benefits that he insisted during his campaign for Attorney General were legal, is the latest abuse of his office… Candidate Van Hollen promised that domestic partner protections were legal. Candidate Van Hollen promised he’d defend the state of Wisconsin. Attorney General Van Hollen has broken both of those promises," One Wisconsin Now said.

The state's high court returns to session in September, and four of the seven judges must agree to hear the case.

Oh, and remember when I said that the state should be sued? Well, it's being challenged at least.

The Supreme Court is also set to hear a challenge to the marriage amendment from Bill McConkey, a Door County resident whose daughter is gay, and who has argued that the amendment was improperly put to voters.

More than 80 Organizations Endorse National Equality March; Event's Budget Posted

Organizations United Together (OUT), a federation of local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied organizations dedicated to achieving equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Floridians, have signed on to the National Equality March with an official endorsement.

OUT joins a growing list of organizations that have already officially endorsed the event.

In more news, the organizers for the National Equality March have released the event's official budget as it stands now in continued efforts for full transparency.

National Equality March Budget as of 08.21.09(2)

CNN VIDEO: Michelangelo Signorile and Log Cabin Republican Charles Moran Discusses Obama's Inconsistent Stance on LGBT Rights

Log Cabin Republican spokesman Charles Moran and Michelangelo Signorile discussed Obama's inconsistent stance on LGBT rights on CNN today with anchor Don Lemon.