Friday, September 4, 2009

Finally, Some Time Off!

Hello UTF Readers,

After working around the clock for months and months, my partner and I are finally able to get away for the holiday weekend. I will periodically blog (if an internet connection allows), but it won't be as frequent as usual.

However, I will return full speed ahead next Thursday, September 10.

Have a great Labor Day Weekend!

NY Governor Paterson Intends to Resubmit Marriage Equality Bill to State Legislature

Both New York Governor David Paterson and openly gay state Sen. Tom Duane expect a vote on the state's marriage equality bill by the end of September.

The bill has faced major obstacles since being introduced earlier this year. After passing the state Assembly, the Senate experienced a power coup which played out past several emergency special sessions in an effort to organize the senators in order to get pressing state work accomplished. Unfortunately, the marriage equality bill was pushed aside.

Now with New York's budget woes forcing the Senate to convene another special session, the governor intends to yet again put the marriage equality bill back on the agenda.

In an interview with the Advocate, Paterson said, "I am anticipating a special session and I am anticipating this is one of the issues that we will address."

"Normally I wouldn't do it this way,” he said regarding adding the marriage equality bill to a special session agenda. “But I felt that the whole fight over the coup denied the people of New York resolution on a number of issues that were very controversial and had been discussed and advocated for. I think that we owe the public a proper disposition on those pieces of legislation, and one of those was marriage equality."

Sen. Duane told the Washington Blade that he doesn't expect the bill to be on the agenda when they first convene but that a vote will occur by the end of September.

Duane said he hopes supporters of same-sex marriage will be "popping up the advocacy" to encourage senators to vote for the bill, adding that he strongly believes it will pass if lawmakers are allowed to vote their conscience.

"I remain optimistic that it'll pass this year and it'll pass with bipartisan support," he said.

Defense of Marriage Act Repeal Bill to Circulate U.S. House in Weeks

Politico reports that U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler, who announced in July he would be working on a partial repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), will be ready to circulate his bill to his colleagues to garner support in a matter of weeks, putting the Obama Administration on the spot. Politico believes it will garner dozens of co-sponsors.

At the time he announced his intention to work on repealing the 1996 DOMA, Nadler told the Bay Area Reporter that the repeal would only extend to marriage and not civil unions and domestic partnerships, meaning that only those legally married will receive federal benefits.

Also, the bill looks to only repeal Section 3 of DOMA, which restricts the government from recognizing any marriages other than heterosexual. Section 2 will most likely remain, which allows states to decide whether or not to legalize marriage equality within its borders. (Correction: Section numbers were reversed earlier. Repeal would pertain to Section 3 of DOMA, restricting federal recognition.)

Nadler confirmed there would be a "certainty provision." This would ensure that any same-sex couple who moved from a state that recognizes their marriage to one that does not that the federal government would still extend federal benefits to that marriage.

With the Obama Administration constantly using double-speak when approaching DOMA, it will be interesting to see if the president will live up to his promises to support a congressional repeal of DOMA.

This time, Obama will not be able to eloquently talk his way out of this situation - he'll either support it or he won't. With so much riding on his presidency right now - health care reform, two wars to end, the economy - he needs as much political equity that he can get his hands on. I want to believe that he's a man of his word. We'll find out.

Rachel Maddow: "Gay Marriage Is a 'Defense of Marriage Act.'"

Yesterday on her show, Rachel Maddow points out that after five years of marriage equality, Massachusetts' divorce rate has dropped to pre-1940 levels, retaining the lowest divorce rate in the nation.

The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Endorses National Equality March

In a prepared statement, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, one of the largest organizations focused on LGBT grassroots efforts, announced that they are officially endorsing the National Equality March set for October 10th & 11th.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a leader in building grassroots lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) political power, endorses the National Equality March, which will be held in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 10-11. Thousands of people from across the country will march and rally in front of the U.S. Capitol demanding equal protection under the law for LGBT people and their families in all 50 states. At the march, the Task Force will engage new activists, support fair-minded clergy and other people of faith, and mobilize volunteer activists to return home engaged and energized.

"For the past 30 years, LGBT people and our allies have come together in Washington to be inspired, to engage in political action, and to go home geared up to create change. The National Equality March will bring together those of us who have never marched, those who want to renew their passion for action, and those who demand their voices be heard. When we mobilize for LGBT equality, for racial and economic justice, for a transformed society, and to make our love and lives visible, the Task Force is there. The Task Force will be there at the march to support the voices of new activists, LGBT people and our allies who push and push for the end to hatred, discrimination and unjust laws," says National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey.

As part of its commitment to support march participants in fighting for local, state and federal change, the Task Force will:
  • Utilize technology to connect people to concrete actions they can take on the local, state and national levels.
  • Lend its faith organizing expertise in helping to plan an interfaith worship service.
  • Work to connect state equality organizations and community centers with march participants the Task Force identifies from their states so they can further engage them to be active at home.
  • Engage march participants in ballot campaigns under way in Maine, Washington state and Kalamazoo, Mich.
  • Engage and support new activists in honing their talents and grassroots skills after the weekend of the march.
Consistent with the march goal of seeking equality in all 50 states, the Task Force will maintain its longstanding commitment to provide organizers, expertise and money for key ballot measure fights under way in Maine, Washington state and Kalamazoo, Mich. The Task Force will reach out to march participants from these states to channel their energy to create change back home.

March attendees who want to further develop their skills and strategize with other activists will be encouraged to attend the National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change just a few months later in Dallas, Texas.

"The Task Force is excited to support a new wave of activists and advocates. Whether you come to D.C. to march or stay at home to create change in your city, town, school or place of worship, the Task Force has the tools and know-how to help. Let's march in Washington and step it up at home," says Carey.
Find out more about the march at

Thursday, September 3, 2009

State Assembly Approves Law Clarifying Rights of Same-Sex Couples Married Outside of California

A press release from Equality California:

The State Assembly passed the Marriage Recognition and Family Protection Act, SB 54, today in a 44 to 27 vote. The bill, introduced by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by Equality California (EQCA), clarifies the rights of same-sex couples married outside of California.

The Marriage Recognition and Family Protection Act underscores that same-sex couples married before the passage of Proposition 8 are entitled to full recognition as married spouses in California, regardless of whether they married in California or out of state. That rule is consistent with existing law, including the California Supreme Court's prior holding in In re Marriage Cases that California cannot treat marriages differently based on whether they were performed in state or out of state.

The bill also confirms that same-sex couples married outside of California after November 5, 2008, must be given all of the rights, protections and responsibilities of spouses under California law, with the sole exception of the designation of "marriage."

"We are thrilled that the Assembly has passed this vital bill, which provides much needed clarity for same-sex couples married out of state who deserve to know where their families stand,” said Geoff Kors, Executive Director for Equality California. "However, restoring the freedom to marry is the only way to ensure that all Californians are treated with dignity and fairness.”

Although Proposition 8 prevents California from designating same-sex couples who marry in another jurisdiction on or after November 5, 2008, as "married," the Court's decision in Strauss v. Horton requires the state to give those couples all of the substantive protections of marriage.

“When California offered marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2008, spouses who were already married in another state or country were prohibited from re-marrying in California,” said Senator Leno. “Now those couples and their families are in limbo because their rights and protections under law are not clear. This legislation ensures that same-sex couples are protected by existing California law that recognizes all marriages equally, regardless of where they are performed.”

SB 54 will next proceed to the State Senate for a vote to concur in amendments made in the Assembly. It will then head to the Governor’s desk.

To find out more information about EQCA's legislation, visit

VIDEO: An Amazing PSA from Marriage Equality Ireland

See the American version produced about five years ago. I personally like the Irish one more. You? Maybe it's the accent . . .

DADT Not a Priority for Congress - Not Looking Good for 2010 Either

It takes a lot to get me upset lately - I'm so used to reading tons of bulls*** from wingnuts and vapid rhetoric from conservatives. But this story from the Politico achieved in riling me up.

Politico reports that Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin prefers a "go-slow" strategy to repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) because the Senate is swamped and the lead sponsor, Sen. Ted Kennedy, has died. Plus, there's no Republican co-sponsors. (Shocking!) On top of that, President Obama isn't pushing for action, so why should they work at it?

“We have a very heavy, busy agenda and a few months left to do it,” Durbin told Politico. “So it may not be now, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be soon.”

Openly gay Rep. Barney Frank, a lead opponent of DADT in the House, believes a repeal has better chances next year, but others don't share his view because Congress faces elections in 2010, and they don't want to piss off their conservative supporters.

Other members of Congress are deferring to the Pentagon, waiting to hear back on a drawn out internal review of the policy.

So I'm pissed.

First, I'm appalled that they use Kennedy's death as an excuse for not getting any work on a repeal done. Kennedy, who was a leading LGBT advocate and did amazing work, had been out of commission for almost a year! They knew full well that if any work was to be done, they would have to do it themselves. But instead, they point to a man who can't defend himself to excuse their incompetence.

Second, they don't want to piss off their conservative supporters?! A recent and widely read Gallup Poll showed that a majority of Americans support repealing DADT. Even more telling, a majority of weekly church goers support repealing DADT!

Politico reports, "Rea Carey, executive director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said with the 2010 midterm elections drawing nearer, lawmakers shouldn’t shy away from the battle because when public officials stand up for people in a country who are affected by discrimination, it tends to benefit them.'

"But she added: 'Elected officials always look towards the elections; we feel that is all the more critical to get this done in Congress soon.'"

So the only conclusion I can reach is that members of Congress are more concerned about an imaginary fear of pissing conservative constituents off by repealing DADT (while we're fighting two wars) in their hopes of keeping their jobs instead of doing what is right. But in this case, doing what is right is supported by a majority. So where's the logic?

Yet this is nothing new. We're used to being promised a lot by Congress only for those promises to be broken with illogical and empty excuses. We're also used to broken promises because many in Congress cower to the conservative base. We are a minority after all.

Some say there's always 2011. But nope. That's when Obama will be in reelection mode. And if he's not willing to push for DADT's repeal now, he'll definitely not be willing then.

But I want to leave on a positive note. Sen. Karen Gillibrand plans to have the first public hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee on DADT this fall. We must stay vigilant and keep on top of our representatives, especially during the hearings, urging them to repeal the discriminatory policy. A hearing can make all the difference in the world.

Washington State Poll Indicates Referendum 71 Faces Uphill Battle; Supporters Adamant Against LGBT Rights

Though Washington's Secretary of State certified Referendum 71 for November's ballot, its fate is not quite decided yet. A judge agreed with Washington Families Standing Together that many signatures should have been found invalid, but couldn't rule on whether or not Referendum 71 should be withheld due to being outside her purview. A decision in another court will be made soon.

However, a poll released Wednesday by the University of Washington reveals that even if Referendum 71 were to be voted on, it faces an uphill battle. A vote to approve is a vote to approve the "everything but marriage" domestic partnership law; a "NO" vote is to nullify it.

The poll shows that 66% either support same-sex marriage (36.7%) or full domestic partnerships (29.3%), while only 21.7% of those surveyed think there should be no legal recognition of same sex relationships. Since the referendum only deals with domestic partnerships, it is believed that those who support marriage equality will vote to approve Referendum 71.

Surprisingly, even a 53% majority of Republicans support rights for same-sex couples. Not so shocking, most support comes from Democrats at 86%. (See full poll at bottom of the post.)

The authors of the poll do note that this research was completed in a campaign-free environment. Once the debate heats up over the next few weeks, the numbers are almost guaranteed to change.

Though this new poll doesn't look good for those who oppose any rights for LGBT couples, they're still very adamant in their positions.

Since the state public disclosure commission ruled that Referendum 71 donors couldn't keep their names private, The Stranger's "Slog" decided to call up a few and ask, "Why do you hate me?" I don't necessarily agree with the question choice, but the resulting answers were interesting.

Though some answers range from not being educated on what Referendum 71 is really about to the typical religious belief motivation, one 84-year-old man thinks gays are "are major incubators of a lot of the bacteria."
Paul Henry

Contribution to R-71: $200

Paul Henry, an 84-year-old Christian in Colville, believes gay people are dirty, violent sodomites. Our crusade to achieve rights on parity with marriage is "a direct challenge to the survivability of society," he says. Why does he hate gay people so much? "I don't hate 'em. Actually, they are the ones overturning police cars. When Harvey Milk was shot, the gay people in San Francisco just went crazy. They smashed in store windows and turned over cars. They tried to light fires," he says. "They are the ones doing the violence. They aren't getting beat up. If you want to look at haters, [the gays] are the haters, not the Christians." He adds, "All Referendum 71 is trying to do is defend ourselves against their political attack. Society doesn't need to give anything to them just because they demand it. It is not a civil-rights issue; it is a health issue." So does he think gay people are gross? "I would say even more than gross. I think they are major incubators of a lot of the bacteria. It is common for homosexuals to have hundreds of different sexual experiences with people—they do fisting, they do water sports, and on and on. There are bacteria that are called 'gay-related syndrome' or something, but it is not healthy. And by using lots of antibiotics against them, the antibiotics are no longer usable because they don't work.
Unfortunately, Paul Henry represents the type of people we'll never be able to reach. Hopefully, the 66% who do support recognition of same-sex couples will come out and vote to approve Referendum 71.

Washington State Poll on Recognition of Same-Sex Couples

VIDEO: Radio Host Michelangelo Signorile Grills NOM's Brian Brown in Interview

Michelangelo Signorile on his radio show challenged the National Organization for Marriage's Executive Director Brian Brown on a number of issues about his organization's efforts to keep marriage equality off the law books.

In the interview, Signorile attempts to get an answer out of Brown about why he thinks that interracial marriage should not have been put up to a public vote (which, if this had happened, a majority of Americans would have banned it) and why he believes marriage equality for gays and lesbians should be.

Brown answers that some issues should be voted on and others left to the courts and legislature. He never explains why and how it should be decided.

Signorile also questions Brown about NOM's tax returns and the suspicious "funneling" of money to another organization headed by Brown. Signorile pressures Brown to answer how he can believe that NOM is a secular organization when it's quite clear Brown and Maggie Gallagher are motivated by their religious beliefs.

Hear the interview in its entirety on "The Gist" website.

For me, it's very frustrating to listen to Brown. He refuses to admit that he's motivated by his religious beliefs, though he's delusional to think he can convince anyone that he's not (even the brown nosing of the Washington Post couldn't cover that up). I have more respect for people when they're honest about what they believe and stand up for it, but Brown won't.

Since he won't admit that it's religious, then what is it? Does he want us to believe it boils down to a simple case of homophobia (not that religious belief and homophobia are mutually exclusive, but they don't always go hand-in-hand either)?

Brown doesn't do himself any justice in this interview. Signorile doesn't give him any outs nor does he allow him to rest on rhetoric and vapid talking points, and it's quite obvious Brown wasn't prepared. Prepared to cover his tracks, that is.

First Official NO on 1/Protect Maine Equality Ads Hit the Airwaves - Help Keep Them on the Air!

Today, the first official ads from the NO on 1/Protect Maine Equality campaign hit Maine's airwaves.

From campaign manager Jesse Connolly: "One tells the story of Sam Putnam of Portland, who plays high school football and baseball, and is the pride and joy of his mother, Jennifer and her partner, Michelle. For Sam, it's pretty basic -- this is his family and he wants them to be valued and treated equally in Maine."

"Our second spot introduces Bill Whitten of Yarmouth, a former college football player and U.S. Marine. Bill has two daughters -- one gay and one straight. For Bill, it's simple -- he wants both his girls treated fairly and equally, and that includes marrying the person they love."

Help keep Sam's story on the air!

Help keep Bill's story on the air!

No matter where you live, you can help protect Maine's marriage equality law. Sign up and find out how!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

VIDEO: Vermont Residents Question Marriage Equality Protestors from Westboro Baptist Church

On Tuesday, the first day that marriage equality was legal in Vermont, extreme wingnuts from Westboro Baptist Church trudged their way up to the state to protest. Local Vermont residents questioned their philosophy.

Read the accompanying article at Burlington Free Press.

It's Official: Maine's Secretary of State Certifies People's Veto Referendum on Marriage Equality Law

Maine's Secretary of State Matt Dunlap certified the People's Veto referendum on the new marriage equality law. The laws fate now rests in the hands of Maine's voters.

"Pursuant to Article IV, Part Third, Section 17 of the Maine Constitution, citizens who disagree with an action of the Legislature in non-emergency legislation have until 90 days after the adjournment of the Legislature to submit a petition signed by registered Maine voters to require that the law be placed before the voters for an up or down vote," said a statement on the Secretary's site. The so-called “People's Veto” effort needed to gather 55,087 signatures of registered Maine voters by September 11th in order to place a stay on the effectiveness of the law and force a vote. In late July the organizers of the effort submitted petition forms containing nearly 100,000 signatures."

The statement goes on to state, "...the Secretary of State's determination finds that 60,391 of the submitted signatures are valid; this surpasses the required number of 55,087 by 5,304 signatures."

Governor John Baldacci, a supporter of marriage equality, signed the order officially setting November 3rd as the date for the statewide referendum.

The NO on 1/Protect Maine Equality campaign, which is fighting to keep marriage equality legal in the state, issued a response from campaign manager Jesse Connolly.
There's no surprise here. Everyone knew marriage equality would be challenged by a referendum and that's why our allies began having conversations with Mainers three years ago. We now have nearly 80,000 Mainers who have pledged their support for equality.

This was a quarter-of-a-million dollar signature effort by a Michigan firm, and it highlights the stark differences in our campaigns. Their's is a cynical, pay-for-every signature approach that doesn't reflect the homegrown values of our state.

By contrast, we have put our trust in the common sense and fair mindedness of our friends, neighbors and co-workers. And that's why we believe voters will reject Question 1 because here in Maine, we believe everyone should be allowed to live their lives and be treated equally under the law.
Get involved! Protect marriage equality in Maine! This is ground zero for the marriage equality struggle. A loss following Proposition 8 could set the movement back years while a win could be a historic. A win will be the first voter approved marriage equality law in history!

Be a part of history.

No matter where you live, there are opportunities to get involved.
Go to the NO on 1/Protect Maine Equality website - donate and volunteer!

Catholic Church Steps in to Fight Marriage Equality in Washington D.C.

In a press release issued Wednesday, the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. announced it sent a letter to over 300 priests urging their support for the "Marriage Initiative 2009" which would put the issue of a marriage equality ban up to the District's residents.
“A ballot initiative will give voters in the District of Columbia a voice on this critical issue. Earlier this year, the City Council pushed through legal recognition of same-sex marriages from other states without even giving their constituents an opportunity to have input,” said Ronald Jackson, executive director of the DC Catholic Conference.

“It is ironic that at the same time the city is asking for voting representation in the U.S. Congress, its leaders are denying residents the opportunity to participate in the democratic process for an issue with widespread implications for children and families,” he added.

“One challenge we see today is a lack of understanding by many people about what marriage is,” said Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl. “Marriage simply recognizes a relationship that is fundamental to nature: the complementarity of man and woman. That relationship is not a creation of church or civil law. However, governments and faith groups recognize marriage as between a man and woman because the exclusive, mutual and lifelong gift of a husband and wife to each other is the most stable and secure foundation to create and nurture children.”
Just yesterday, Bishop Harry Jackson announced his intention to keep fighting marriage equality in the nation's capitol by joining with NOM to submit the "Marriage Initiative 2009" which would define marriage as one man and one woman.

Joe Sudbay interviewed Michael Crawford who co-chairs D.C. for Marriage and asked him about the constant fight over marriage in the District and how you can get involved.

Judge Rejects Challenge to Referendum 71, Case to Move to Another Court

Washington Families Standing Together's challenge to anti-LGBT Referendum 71 was rejected by a judge today.

"A King County Superior Court judge said Wednesday she had serious concerns that thousands of invalid signatures may have been accepted for Referendum 71, but rejected an attempt to block a public vote on expanded same-sex domestic partnership benefits in Washington state. Judge Julie Spector issued her ruling just as Secretary of State Sam Reed certified the measure for the November ballot in Olympia. Spector said challenges to a referendum must be filed in Thurston County Superior Court after certification - and supporters of the 'everything but marriage' law still had that option for trying to get R-71 off the ballot. The group that brought the original lawsuit - Washington Families Standing Together - said it would go to court in Thurston County to try to block R-71."

Judge Spector stated that WAFST was correct that unsigned/fraudulent petitions should be discarded, petition signers should be registered at the time of signing because not all were (36,000 signatures are in question, enough to disqualify Referendum 71), but the question of whether or not the Secretary of State has the right to knowingly accept such signatures was outside the judge's purview.

The answer to this question will be decided in Thurston County Court during the 5-day challenge window built-in after certification of a ballot in initiative.

Here is the judge's full ruling.

Referendum 71

Working Together for Equality: The Interim Organizational Structure & Signature Gathering Meeting for 2010 Campaign

Guest Post: Jane Wishon is a straight mother-of-three who has been married 33 years. She actively campaigned against Prop 8 and has started a cause for straight allies on Facebook. Jane also volunteers for AIDS Project LA, and twitters @janewishon

The California LGBT and Ally community has now held 3 statewide meetings in the past 5 weeks and, as they say, practice makes perfect. Last Saturday’s gathering in San Francisco brought activists from 2010, 2012, and undecided groups together in respectful dialogue and coalition building.

The day started, before we even arrived at the meeting venue, with an email about the surprising op-ed in that day’s Sacramento Bee. The co-founders of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club (a prominent 2012 proponent) called for a coordinated strategy with those who are driving towards a 2010 proposition to repeal Prop 8. Could it be that the LGBT Community was coming together with a common goal of equality?

Several of the attendees in San Francisco had previously stated their preference for a later poll date, yet there they were at a meeting with the stated purpose of creating structure for signature gathering for 2010. Molly McKay [of Marriage Equality USA] stood at the podium and gave a stirring speech about the importance of coalition-building and keeping all our options open.

After the total chaos of the July Leadership Summit in San Bernardino, the anti-equality forces crowed and celebrated. The National Organization for Marriage and Focus on the Family sent their members congratulatory emails filled with examples of our infighting and claiming it as proof that they will win the battle to exclude LGBT people from equal marriage rights. What a difference 5 weeks makes!

Because of this glimmer of cooperation, I believe that the day was already a success before the activists began to work on the stated goals:
  1. Elect a group of individuals to oversee the formation of an Interim Administrative Group (IAG) that will be charged with creating a Recipient Committee.
  2. Hear proposals, discuss, and reach consensus on a structure for a signature gathering effort to restore marriage equality; officers would be elected to the positions created at later meeting(s).
What a bonus that real progress was made; real decisions were reached!

The meeting began with a brief explanation of the agenda by Robin McGehee (who did a fantastic job of facilitating the day) and rolled into a conversation with the second nationally renowned political consultant to address the LGBT community in recent weeks.

Ace Smith is a veteran campaign strategist based in San Francisco. He helped win Hillary Clinton's Primary campaign 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. One activist confided to me that Smith is one of the top five political consultants in the state.

Smith took the time to explain campaigns to the grassroots activists. Like Steve Hildebrand three weeks before, Smith told the crowd that this is a civil rights issue, so traditional wisdom does not apply. Smith also agreed with Hildebrand’s statements that there is no reason to wait – that this is a winnable battle for 2010. Citing Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s campaigns as examples of times when conventional wisdom counseled “wait,” yet elections were won, Smith reminded us that there is no crystal ball to foretell the outcome of an election.

Hildebrand had emphasized the need to get a campaign structure in order. Smith opined that there is a need for a two-pronged campaign structure that empowers strong leadership while enabling the grassroots. He emphasized the need for the energy and enthusiasm of grassroots activism. “This is a civil rights movement. You can’t script it. You have to let people go. They have to be able to organize freely. Capturing lightning in a bottle, it either happens or it doesn’t, you have to let it happen. It’s what you’re seeking to achieve, but you don’t do it by planning a typical campaign.”

That said, there also must be an executive committee that is nimble and able to act quickly, as in responding to new tactics by the opposition.

For me, one of the most remarkable statements Smith made was when he was asked for advice about what to do when the opposition runs ads that make false claims about gay marriage being taught in school. Smith replied that it is important for the campaign to act quickly to tell the public that those are lies. He reemphasized the importance of being frank with the public that they are being lied to because the public does not like being lied to and manipulated. Smith cited examples of similar campaign practices he had countered in other elections.

Taking Ace Smith’s advice, the assembled activists heard and discussed presentations of five potential organizational models. By the end of the day, an event occurred that I had despaired of ever seeing in the California LGBT community: consensus! A clear indicator that things have changed!

The activists chose the Davis Plan, so named because it builds on ideas created in Davis, CA while activists there watched the live stream of the August 9 meeting in Los Angeles. Linda Waite of GSAFE in Davis collaborated with John Patterson of RENWL in Los Angeles to flesh out those ideas and create the plan that calls for 10 regions in the state to elect representatives to a leadership body. (See video of August 9 meeting)

Those representatives will be joined by representatives elected by diversity caucuses and those appointed by the top LGBT organizations in the state. That combined body will elect an executive body that will then hire or appoint specialists as needed. This structure has the potential to morph into a leadership structure for the campaign. The framers of this structure were asked to fine-tune the plan in collaboration with the authors of the other plans.

Acknowledging the need for leadership while the positions in the Davis Plan are populated, activists self-nominated for an Interim Administrative Group (IAG). This group will serve as interim leadership going into the signature gathering. The activists also empowered the IAG to add to their own number should it determine that specific skills are needed.

The new IAG is nicely diverse. Discrepancies in geographic representation will be addressed this week by the newly elected administrative group:
  • Kelechi Anyanwu (San Jose)
  • Lester Aponte (LA)
  • Aaron Bloom (LA)
  • John Cleary (LA)
  • John Henning (LA)
  • Misha Houser (Orange County)
  • Zakiya Khabir (San Diego)
  • Lisa Kove (San Diego)
  • Jordan Krueger (LA)
  • Chaz Lowe (Sacramento)
  • Jane Wishon (LA)
Next steps: The Davis Plan will be refined and published. Regional meetings will take place to elect representatives. The IAG will begin the hard work to create a Recipient Committee for the signature gathering. Watch this space for updates on how you can help to restore marriage equality to California.

Iowa Rejects NOM's Candidate in Special Election for State House Representative

Iowa's Jefferson County Supervisor Stephen Burgmeier, the GOP candidate backed by the National Organization for Marriage with $86,080 in funds, lost Tuesday's special election for an empty seat in the state's House by 107 votes to Democratic candidate Curt Hanson.

NOM's involvement in the race caused the Iowa Elections and Campaign Disclosure Board to send a warning to the organization as well as a formal complaint filed against them by One Iowa and Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund and Ethics.

This was a closely watched race because many viewed it as a litmus test to see how the Iowans felt about the state's recent legalization of marriage equality. Burgmeier was an outspoken opponent of the Iowa Supreme Court's decision allowing same-sex marriage.

However, the Des Moines Register reports, "Campaign reports filed five days before Tuesday's election show that Burgmeier and Hanson had raised nearly $313,000 in cash and in-kind contributions. That total doesn't include money raised in the last days of the election or the $86,080 spent on television ads on behalf of Burgmeier by the National Organization for Marriage in Washington, D.C. Both candidates support allowing a constitutional vote on whether Iowa should ban same-sex marriage." (emphasis mine)

Unite the Fight reader Jay Johnson put it well in a comment on an earlier post, "So, while I am glad that NOM did not succeed in electing their candidate, the results of this race may not be much comfort for those of us who support marriage equality."

We'll just have to keep vigilant. For continual updates, stay tuned to Unite the Fight, and for Iowa specifically, sign up for One Iowa's updates.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Support for National Equality March Balloons With 140 Endorsements and Counting!

Andy Towle at Towleroad released an exclusive list of 140 endorsements for the National Equality March provided to him by the organization coordinating the event, Equality Across America.

The march, which seeks equal protection in all matters governed by law in all 50 states, was initially met with mixed reactions from across the LGBT population, but it appears the tide has turned as more information about the march has been released, including it being a kick-off to Equality Across America's efforts to organize all 435 Congressional Districts across the country.

Some of the endorsements come from the entertainment industry, activists and LGBT leaders as well as elected officials, ranging from Diane Abbitt, Torie Osborn, Judy Shepard, Charlize Theron, Bruce Cohen, Judith Light, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), State Senator Tom Duane (D-NY), Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell (D-NY), Michelangelo Signorile, Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend, Bil Browning of Bilerico and Andy Towle himself.

Opponents of Marriage Equality Won't Give Up on Keeping It Out of D.C.

Maryland's Bishop Harry Jackson just won't give up.

In May, the D.C. city council voted to recognize same-sex unions performed in other states, and though he and his supporters Stand 4 Marriage Coalition tirelessly worked to thwart this progress by demanding a public referendum, D.C.'s Board of Elections denied Jackson's request citing it would violate the city's human rights act. A district judge had the final say, agreeing with the board.

Washington D.C. council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) is expected to file a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the District itself. Of course, Jackson won't have this and has preemptively moved to keep Catania's bill from passing.

Tuesday morning Jackson proposed a new initiative urging the Board to allow a public referendum to determine whether to legalize same-sex marriage in the District.

"Defining marriage between a man and a woman as the only valid recognized marriage in the District," reads the first line of the initiative.

The Washington Post reports, "Peter Rosenstein, president of the Campaign for All D.C. Families, believes that Jackson won't prevail in his efforts: 'It is our belief that once again Bishop Jackson will find that the laws of D.C. protect minorities from discrimination of the sort that he and his followers would like to inflict. I hope that when this initiative is ruled out of order that the bishop will then return to Maryland and leave the people of the District alone so that they may continue to celebrate the diversity that has made our city great.'"

Seriously, Jackson is like a gnat that won't go away. Yesterday, a new interview with the bishop was posted. In it, he implores voters in other states to pressure Congress to put the kibosh on any efforts to bring marriage equality to the District. Not surprising. Since he himself is not a resident of D.C., why not?

Transcript via Pam's House Blend:
"Let me share with you, one of the unique dynamics of DC that makes your prayer, your involvement, your writing your Congressman so very important: Currently, every law that is passed in DC has got to be approved by the Congress. In other words, DC does not really have 'home rule.' Once they pass a law, that law has 30 days in which Congress, in its legislative sessions can decide that the city should not take the measure that they have taken. So, right now, we have the opportunity to block same-sex marriage reciprocity. We have an opportunity to block the rise of an overt same-sex marriage law by having your Congressman say, 'Not on my watch.' And tell them, the people must decide... We can turn this thing around by signatures for a referendum. And we can say yes to marriage, no to same-sex reciprocity, no to the land becoming a modern Sodom and Gomorrah, because you've reached out and responded to your Congressman.... What happens in DC, doesn't stay in DC."

Find out how you can get involved in the capital at DC for Marriage.

Formal Complaint Filed Against National Organization for Marriage for Violating Iowa Election Laws

NOTE: Last week, the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board sent the National Organization for Marriage a sharp warning for their involvement in Iowa elections, the outcomes of which can directly affect the state's legalization of marriage equality. On Monday, One Iowa and the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund and Ethics filed an official complaint. Following is their press release with the actual complaint at the bottom of the post.

A formal complaint detailing election violations by the Washington DC-based National Organization for Marriage (NOM) was filed this afternoon [August 31] with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund and One Iowa signed the complaint that details NOM’s clear violation of Iowa campaign finance law in their Iowa House District 90 campaign.

“NOM’s last minute, and desperate campaign directly violates Iowa law and is right out of their deceitful playbook,” said Carolyn Jenison, Executive Director of One Iowa. “NOM has a history of funneling secret money to fund divisive political campaigns across the country with little regard for laws allowing voters to know who is bankrolling those campaigns.”

On August 20, 2009, NOM reported making an independent expenditure of $86,060 to benefit Stephen Burgmeier, a candidate in tomorrow’s Iowa House District 90 special election. The complaint alleges the expenditure violates Iowa election laws requiring disclosure of political contributors. Similar complaints have been filed against NOM in California and Maine.

“We reject the use of divisive fear-based appeals to influence Iowa elections and believe transparency is vital to a healthy democratic process,” said Connie Ryan Terrell, Executive Director of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund.

“If NOM wants to play ball in Iowa, they must play by our rules,” said Brad Clark, One Iowa Campaign Director. “Stephen Burgmeier hasn’t been able to stand on his own, so wealthy out-of-state extremists have been called in at the last minute to stack the deck in his favor.”

The complaint comes on the heels of last Friday’s letter from the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board warning that NOM’s attempts to shield their political contributors could run afoul of Iowa election laws.

“Election laws are necessary to protect public confidence in our democratic system,” said Sharon Malheiro, Des Moines attorney. “When outsiders try to pervert the justice system and work around the election laws of our state, our public officials must call them out and hold them accountable.”

One Iowa NOM Complaint

Meet the First Gay Couple to Marry in Vermont!

Bill Slimback and Bob Sullivan waited 17 years to get married. But after Vermont's marriage equality law took effect early this morning at midnight, they couldn't wait any longer to tie the knot.

Literally. At 12:01am, Bill and Bob said "I Do."

“It feels wonderful,” said Slimback, 38, an out-of-work Teamster who is taking Sullivan’s last name as his own. “It’s a day I’ve been long waiting for, and a day I truly honestly thought would never come.”

The AP reports that the couple "dressed in suits, saying their vows under a large wall-mounted moose head, the two Whitehall, N.Y., men promised their love, exchanged rings and held hands during a modest 17-minute ceremony. Moose Meadow Lodge co-owner Greg Trulson, who’s also a Justice of the Peace, presided."

“We’ve waited a long time to do this - basically, our whole lives,” Slimback said Monday. “We’ve been waiting for a chance to actually solidify it,” he said. He and Sullivan said they never wanted to obtain a civil union because they believe that’s a kind of second-class recognition.

Congratulations to the Sullivans!

Monday, August 31, 2009

CONGRATULATIONS VERMONT! Marriage Equality Kicks In At Midnight

Sometimes it gets depressing writing this blog. And I get readers telling me it can be depressing reading it. Why? Because it's either news from the opposition attempting to take us down, or it's about more work we need to accomplish in order to gain or protect the rights we should already have.

But this post is different. I get to report:


Congratulations to all of you in Vermont!

Back in April, the state legislature made history by not only passing a marriage equality bill, being the first state to legalize marriage equality without being ordered to by a court, but they also conquered the governor's veto of the bill by garnering enough votes to overturn it.

Reports have stated that many couples are not rushing to the altar, but given that Vermont was the first to enact civil unions almost ten years ago, many couples may not feel the need to rush but wait until their anniversary rolls around. On top of that, it's been five months since the passage of the marriage equality bill and the fervor for an immediate wedding has past, as well as Vermont's wedding season, which is in the summer.

This, in my opinion, just undermines the opposition's arguments that marriage equality will destroy the institution of marriage and ruin heterosexual unions - we're not a massive "homosexual contingent" flooding the clerk offices to flaunt our love lives. We take getting married seriously and don't rush the altar at the first chance we get.

And if we do, WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO! The 18,000 couples who got married in California took no time to tie the knot when it was legal. They deserved it. And those of us who can't now because of Prop 8 - we deserve it too!

As do those in Vermont. And they're definitely celebrating.


The 30-member Vermont Gay Tourism Association is hosting "Small State, Big Heart" marriage equality wedding reception and dance party Tuesday night at The Essex resort in Essex, offering hors d'oeuvres, wedding cake and DJ dancing for $34 per person.

Vermont-based Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream is sweetly celebrating by renaming their "Chubby Hubby" flavor "Hubby Hubby" for the month.

Vermont Freedom to Marry
is hosting county booths throughout the state to thank and celebrate with fellow Vermonters over the new marriage equality law set to go into effect on September 1st. (H/T Queers United)

Upcoming opportunities:

* Aug. 29-Sep. 7 Champlain Valley Fair (Essex Junction)

* September 4-13 Vermont State Fair (Rutland)

* September 17-20 Tunbridge

For more information contact:
Sheryl Rapee-Adams, Field Director (802-353-7286 /

BREAKING NEWS: Anti-LGBT Referendum 71 Qualifies for Washington State November Ballot

Washington's Secretary of State's office is reporting that Referendum 71, the initiative to overturn the state's new same-sex inclusive domestic partnership law or the "everything but marriage" law, has qualified for the November ballot.

Officials says that sponsors of Referendum 71 had 121,486 valid petition signatures, which is enough to put the law up to a public vote.

"The numbers still are unofficial and not final as checkers do one final check of hundreds of previously rejected signatures of people who weren’t initially found in the voter registration records," the Secretary's site states. "That should extend the margin a bit, but the final margin could be in the range of 1,000."

A secondary check of rejected signatures was not complete, so the number could increase.

ACTION! In order to keep the "everything but marriage law", one must vote to APPROVE Referendum 71. Donate NOW to the Approve Referendum 71 campaign. Early money is vital!!

National Marriage Boycott: Marriage Is Not a Right Until All Can Marry - Help Us Make This Happen

Contributing post by Kenzie Seal, CFO for the National Marriage Boycott.

In the wake of the passage of Proposition 8 in California last November, myself and a number of other Stanford activists founded the National Marriage Boycott (NMB)—and are saying no to marriage altogether.

The premise is simple: until everyone in the United States who wants to get married can get married, marriage is not a right—it is a privilege founded in discrimination. And we want nothing to do with it.

By signing NMB’s online pledge, members vow not to marry until the Defense of Marriage Act—which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions as marriages and denies same-sex couples more than 1,000 federal rights—is repealed. By also wearing an Equality Ring on their left ring finger, boycotters have the opportunity to visibly demonstrate their support for the LGBTQ community, while also engaging in the conversations which will change the hearts and minds of our opponents in this civil rights battle.

NMB is a student-driven social movement focused on both raising awareness about and support for LGBTQ rights, while also putting pressure on lawmakers by highlighting the widespread support for equality amongst the people of the United States. Since its founding at Stanford University, NMB has spread to more than 20 different schools in more than 10 different states—and our goal for the year is to expand our presence to schools in all 50 states as quickly as possible. But don't get me wrong, this movement is not focused exclusively on students; NMB is inclusive, and we encourage people of all ages from all backgrounds—LGBTQ and allied, married and unmarried—to join the fight and take a stand.

And to win this fight, we need your help! NMB is in the final days of a month-long entrepreneurship
competition for $10,000 in seed funding from—and to win, WE NEED YOU TO VOTE.

As I write this, with only 26 hours left, we are just one vote from first place. Please, please, be that vote.

The thirty seconds it takes you to register and cast your vote could make all the difference—and will, without a doubt, affect how quickly we can take the fight for full LGBTQ rights to the national level.

Let’s make it sooner, rather than later.


To find out more about the National Marriage Boycott go to Click here to sign the pledge and here to get your Equality Ring.

National Organization for Marriage's 2007 Tax Return Leaked

Calls for the National Organization for Marriage's tax documents have gone unheeded by the anti-marriage equality group, despite the fact that law demands they, being a non-profit organization, keep their records public.

Justin McClachlan somehow got his hands on their 2007 tax return and posted it Sunday. He's just learned that this is an amended tax return, which raises more questions about the original. But here is the amended return below.

National Organization for Marriage

The document is pretty straight forward, but some questions have risen. McClachlan writes:
NOM says it paid Common Sense America $166,000 in the section where it has to list its top five contractors paid more than $50,000. But on a more detailed schedule, it said it paid $189,000 for a "consultant." That difference -- $23,000 -- could have gone to another contractor that NOM wouldn't have to list. I just wonder why they say "consultant" instead of "consultants" on the sheet if that total includes two different contractors. They do breakdown the amount they paid their graphic design firm on a separate line.
It didn't taken long for the questions to turn towards Common Sense America and who they are. Turns out it's a company ran by no other than NOM's own Executive Director Brian Brown.

No one really knows who Common Sense America is. Very little information is given on their website. But I have the same questions as McClachlan:
. . . [is NOM] giving lucrative contracts to organizations connected to its executive director, what the state of Common Sense America's finances are (especially without the NOM contract) and whether any self-dealing is going on. Bottom line, does Common Sense American pay Brown a salary?
I'm sure Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate will have a field day with this.

Media Matters Points Out NOM's Irrationality, Something the Washington Post Failed to Do

In what is now the infamous Washington Post article on the National Organization for Marriage's Brian Brown, the piece described the executive director as being "nice" and opposing marriage equality with "sanity."

However, nowhere in the article are LGBT organizations and their leaders quoted to give the description of NOM some context. Nor did reporter Monica Hesse do any digging into NOM's past and present actions and rhetoric. If she did, she didn't report it. Instead, what she wrote was a one-sided piece on a man obsessed on keeping gays from being married, passing him off as Santa Claus for the right-wing. It's a sad example of bad reporting.

Jamison Foser at Media Matters happily picked up Hesse' slack and pointed out all the "insane" and "irrational" actions and rants of NOM and its board members.

Here's one example of what Foser found, particularly on board member Orson Scott Card.
"If America becomes a place where the laws of the nation declare that marriage no longer exists -- which is what the Massachusetts decision actually does -- then our allegiance to America will become zero. We will transfer our allegiance to a society that does protect marriage.
And I don't mean that civilized Americans will move. I mean that they'll simply stop regarding the authority of the government as having any legitimacy."
I highly recommend you read first the Washington Post brown nose piece and then Foser's "What the WaPo's National Organization for Marriage profile left out."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cell Phone Pic of Huge Fire Here in S. California - Will Gays Be Blamed Again?

This is a random post, but I had to put up this picture I took of the major fire eating huge swaths of acres just outside Los Angeles in Angeles National Park, threatening thousands of homes.

My partner and I were headed towards the 101 and saw this huge plume of smoke and I snapped this picture with my old-school cell phone. Then I quipped, "Do you think we gays will be blamed for this, too?" After all, Los Angeles is a hot bed of iniquity.

If we truly had the power to indirectly wield such destruction with our "sin," (aka the tornado that destroyed the gay-loving Lutheran Church, Hurricane Katrina) you'd think we'd have our rights by now. LOL.

C'mon Pat Robertson, where's the blame? We want our rights.