Saturday, November 21, 2009

D.C. Officials Seek Faulty Compromise With Catholic Charities Over Marriage Equality

The Washington Post reports that some of the D.C. Council members and Del. Eleanor Homes Norton are looking for a compromise with the Archdiocese of Washington to find a way to avoid ending the Catholic Charities in the District while at the same time have legal same-sex marriage. Archbishop Wuerl threatened to close the public services if marriage equality was legalized in the capital.

D.C. officials believe a way can be found for Catholic Charities to continue operating under their current contracts with the District while at the same time have their gay employees be treated equally as their straight counterparts if they were to get married.

"The rights of [gay] partners cannot be any different from similar situated couples, but with that said, if other jurisdictions have found a way to accommodate Catholic Charities, that would be very much be desired," said Norton, who wants to avoid Congressional intervention.

While Norton has been doing her best to avoid Congress from intervening (and we really don't want that - lately, it doesn't appear many in Congress has a spine to stand up to the Catholic Church - Stupack Amendment anyone?), marriage equality champions Council members David Catania and Phil Mendelson have written directly to the Archbishop of Washington. I obtained a copy of the letter and will post below.

D.C. Council Members Letter to Archbishop

Susan Gibbs, spokesperson for the Catholic Church, told the Washington Post that the church was pleased to see the council members "finally responding" to their concerns, but that it may not be enough to alleviate the Church's fears of having to end their contracts and shut down public services.

I myself would be sad if the Church felt the need to close these services because they do in fact help many homeless and poor people get by day-to-day. However, I am not satisfied with the proposal given by council members because the solution they offer has to do with domestic partnerships and not necessarily with marriage (though I applaud the effort). And in this case particularly, you will be yet again relegating same-sex couples to a lesser status, but you would also have to do this to employed straight couples. Not very good.

On top of this, the fact that's really itching at the back of my brain is that the Catholic Church has declared full on war with marriage equality throughout the nation.

Back in August I reported on the Church's plan to put aside $2 million to fight marriage equality nationwide, even letting several parishes in Maine close rather than to give up this fight.

Yet this same Church cries foul when they're held to the same standards as any other business receiving public funds. They say they shouldn't be forced to follow discrimination laws because of their beliefs, and if they choose not to receive public funds anymore so they can continue to discriminate, then they'll be forced to close because they won't have enough money to function.

I say, Why not dip into the marriage war chest? Function as a private institution. Instead of using the $2 million to fight fellow citizens' rights, why not use it to do the good work you're already doing and let people live their lives as they see fit?

I'd have more respect for the Church if they did this than if they acknowledged my relationship in a compromised form. Don't want to acknowledge a gay employees' marriage? Don't hire gay employees! As a religious institution, they're exempt (in many circumstances) and able to do so.

As long as they're not receiving government funds.

Ah, but there's the rub. It's about the money.

Gibbs, the church spokesperson, seems to agree with me about the domestic partnership angle of the council members' proposal. She said that Archbishop Wuerl was reviewing the council members' letter, but church staffers wonder how the council can equate domestic partnership in San Francisco with same-sex marriage. See, even the church knows the two categories are not equal. She noted that the District has a domestic partnership law but that the Church is not covered by it.

And the dance continues.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Extreme Right Wing Group Denied Intervention in Federal Challenge to Prop 8

Remember the big brouhaha when the major LGBT legal organizations filed to intervene as plaintiffs in the federal challenge against Prop 8 because they wanted a say in how the Olson/Boies power team ran the case, but then were subsequently denied?

Well, the Prop 8 proponents pointed to that incident and quipped that we couldn't get our act together and surmised it was a sign of ineffective leadership. (That was them talkin', not me.)

But what's this? Do I see the same thing happening on their side? Why yes I do.

The Campaign for California Families (CCF) is the rival to the Yes on 8 folks, but they're even more extreme in their beliefs, not only believing that same-sex marriage should be illegal but also any sort of recognition of gay relationships whatsoever.

CCF attempted to intervene on Strauss vs. Horton, which the Yes on 8 folks opposed, and they were denied. Then on August 19 they tried to intervene on Perry vs. Schwarzenneger (aka Prop 8 case), but Judge Walker denied their motion. They appealed to the 9th Circuit Court and appeared in a hearing earlier this month.

The Recorder reported
that the panel's judges appeared unsympathetic to CCF's Attorney Staver's attempt to identify CCF's particular interest as a proposed Perry party. Staver argued "that the official Prop 8 forces weren't adequately litigating the case and had stipulated away far too many facts" about gays and lesbians.

"As an alleged result, if Prop. 8 were upheld on narrow grounds, Staver claimed that it may be easier to show that gays and lesbians are a 'suspect class' - that they are a minority deserving heightened constitutional scrutiny when they seek constitutional protections," reported Proposition 8 and the Right to Marry.

Let's just say the Yes on 8 folks didn't like this very much because they do in fact intend to argue all the points that CCF are concerned will be ignored, including whether or not sexual orientation is immutable.

Thursday, the 9th Circuit Court ruled, and it declared that CCF does not have a right to intervene. So it will simply be the Yes on 8 folks.

Judge Margaret McKeown wrote, "It is apparent to us that the ultimate objective of the campaign and the proponents is identical—defending the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and the principle that the traditional definition of marriage is the union of a man and a woman."

McKeown added, "Any differences are rooted in style and degree, not the ultimate bottom line."

The full order is below.

9th Circuit Court Ruling Against CCF

So all I have to say is that people in glass houses shouldn't throw shit.

VIDEO: Jon Stewart Issues "Gaywatch" and Pro-Wrestler Mick Foley Vows to Protect Kid Standing Up for LGBT Rights

Jon Stewart's becoming my hero. Well, neck 'n neck with that "right-winger" Stephen Colbert.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Gaywatch - Peter Vadala & William Phillips
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Former Washington Blade Staff Launches D.C. Agenda

It takes a lot to impress me, but I must say, I am today. The former staff of the unexpectedly defunct Washington Blade has come roaring back within less than a week.

On Monday, the venerable Washington Blade was unceremoniously closed when its parent company filed for bankruptcy. Employees were notified with a note taped to the locked office door.

Not to be deterred, the staff met, organized and planned. Before the end of the week was up, they launched D.C. Agenda which went live Friday.

So today, the roles have been reversed and the reporters have become the story. In a press release:
After Monday’s shuttering, 17 former employees vowed to not miss this Friday’s production of Washington DC’s LGBTQ news weekly. Today they delivered on that promise. At 9:30 AM this morning the publication that will replace the Washington Blade – DC Agenda – hit the streets. As demonstrated in the first issue, the new publication provides critical coverage of local and national LGBT issues along with much needed community news.

“The power and effectiveness of the Washington Blade did not die with the name,” said DC Agenda Publisher Lynne Brown, also former Publisher of the Washington Blade and employee of that publication for over 23 years. “That strength actually came from the spirit and intensity of those who wrote the stories and reached out to the community. It’s those same people who are the backbone of this new venture, a group that is the true definition of grit and resilience.”

“It’s been a tough week, but we have been buoyed by the outpouring of support from our colleagues, our community, people all over the city and even beyond DC,” said DC Agenda Editor Kevin Naff. “The DC Agenda represents former Blade employees’ commitment to carry on the important mission and work of the Blade,” said Naff. “We expect this effort to grow and evolve and to eventually include a larger and more diverse group of voices.”

The 17 former Blade staff members, who also celebrated that publication’s 40th anniversary last month, hand-distributed the first edition of DC Agenda on Friday November 20th, 2009 at 10:00 AM EST.

“We thank all those who have taken the risk of advertising in our new venture. We also would like to invite readers to visit our new news website at and our temporary support website at” said Brown. “We are thrilled with what we achieved this week. This early iteration of our new newspaper is modest but…we did it! And we look forward to doing it again next week.” concluded Brown.
Check out the website at

Christian Leaders Present Manifesto Against Marriage Equality in Desperate Attempt for Political Influence

So do you remember that hefty statement that's being prepared by U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference which will condemn same-sex marriage? Well, the conservative evangelicals saw this and decided they wanted something similar for themselves.

More than 150 Christian leaders, most of them conservative evangelicals with a smattering of traditionalist Roman Catholic bishops, issued a joint 4,7000-word declaration Friday called “The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience." It reaffirms their opposition to abortion and marriage equality and pledges to protect religious freedoms, referencing Martin Luther King Jr.'s "A Letter from a Birmingham Jail" as a call to civil disobedience.

Signatories include 15 Roman Catholic bishops, including New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl; Focus on the Family founder James Dobson; National Association of Evangelicals president Leith Anderson; seminary leaders, professors and pastors.

“We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence,” it says.

Even more, “We will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other antilife act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent.”

But you see, this is exactly what they want. Though it's far from the truth that they'll be forced to do any of these things (hence, the separation of church and state the protection of religious freedom), they want their followers to the believe the end times are nigh, which encourages drastic actions and behavior. (Remember the Bush years? He led them into what they were hoping was their Armageddon - it just ended up being the trap that is the Iraq War.)

Craig von Buseck of the Christian Broadcasting Network (click at your own risk) compares the Manhattan Declaration to the Declaration of Independence, claiming just like the colonialists fighting the English, they have been pushed far enough by the "anti-family" and "anti-religious" movement and their religious freedoms are threatened to the point of necessary action.

"Today, Bible-believing Christians find themselves in an eerily similar situation as the activist Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of the U.S. Federal Government move swiftly to deny religious liberties, and impose a radical anti-family, anti-Christian agenda upon the people of America," says von Buseck.

"Christian leaders today have arisen to echo the words of the colonial patriots, 'You have pushed us far enough. We will be pushed no further.'"

Ah, but see, these Christians are themselves guilty of breaking the vows of marriage and committing a multitude of other sins. Some of them have even had "relations" with members of the same sex. But they have a way around that, writing in the manifesto:

"We confess with sadness that Christians and our institutions have too often scandalously failed to uphold the institution of marriage and to model for the world the true meaning of marriage. Insofar as we have too easily embraced the culture of divorce and remained silent about social practices that undermine the dignity of marriage we repent, and call upon all Christians to do the same."

So they confessed, they're absolved and are now free to strip the rights of others away in the name of their faith.

Oh, and they also rely on the old adage that allowing same-sex marriage will allow legalized polygamy and incest.

"We understand that many of our fellow citizens, including some Christians, believe that the historic definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a denial of equality or civil rights . . . the assumption that the legal status of one set of marriage relationships affects no other would not only argue for same sex partnerships; it could be asserted with equal validity for polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships. Should these, as a matter of equality or civil rights, be recognized as lawful marriages, and would they have no effects on other relationships? No. The truth is that marriage is not something abstract or neutral that the law may legitimately define and re-define to please those who are powerful and influential."

This does make sense. It really does. My not having a choice about my sexual orientation, something that the American Psychological Association confirms that I cannot change, but my conscious decision to be with only one person in a monogamous relationship is equivalent to a man or woman making the conscious choice to have more than one partner - They can't control themselves! They MUST have more than one spouse! They were born that way! So therefor must be legally recognized!

As for incest - c'mon, really? I do feel awful for those who have been abused in such a way or have fallen for a family member or are the shunned offspring of such a union, but comparing my relationship to these damaging circumstances is offensive.

But I'm not saying anything new here. And neither are they. All they're doing is trying to rally their troops and recapture the glory of their Bush years. We all know well they don't like it when other opinions are voiced as loudly as theirs and are actually considered!

The New York Times says, "They want to signal to the Obama administration and to Congress that they are still a formidable force that will not compromise on abortion, stem-cell research or gay marriage. They hope to influence current debates over health care reform, the same-sex marriage bill in Washington, D.C., and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation."

"They say they also want to speak to younger Christians who have become engaged in issues like climate change and global poverty, and who are more accepting of homosexuality than their elders," the Times continues. "They say they want to remind them that abortion, homosexuality and religious freedom are still paramount issues."

Which is ironic. Because they believe God gave us the Earth to take care of, Bush their hero is from an oil family, oil and the burning of oil causes global warming, global warming is effectively destroying the planet and could ruin the very world God bequeathed to us, but priorities people! DON'T LET THE GAYS MARRY OR WE'LL BECOME EXTINCT!

But I know full well not all Christians, Catholic and Protestant, feel this way. Many support marriage equality, encourage health care reform and believe that President Obama has our nation's best interests at heart. These I view as true Christians, who love their neighbor as themselves. These are true people of faith.

These manifesto Christians are political mongers desperate to stay relevant and to keep their political power. And all I have to say to them - "Oops, your hypocrisy is showing."

Manhattan Declaration

VIDEO: Equality California to Air Ad Featuring Same-Sex Couple During Miss California Pageant

From a press release:

San Francisco – Equality California (EQCA) will air an ad about the freedom to marry, featuring Pasadena couple Frances and Cynthia with their daughter Mary Kate during the broadcast of the MISS CALIFORNIA USA pageant on November 22.

“We truly appreciate MISS CALIFORNIA USA offering us the opportunity to share the story of this loving California family and how being denied the freedom to marry has hurt them,” said Geoff Kors, executive director for Equality California. “By sharing their story, we hope to shed light on the damage and pain that same-sex couples and their children experience when they are prevented from entering into a civil marriage.”

EQCA previously invited former MISS CALIFORNIA USA Carrie Prejean to meet with leaders from the organization as well as with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students and a family headed by a same-sex couple to start a dialogue about who LGBT people are and the harm that is caused by denying LGBT community members equality. Prejean, however, did not respond.

“The MISS CALIFORNIA USA Organization does not endorse either side of the issue but believes in fair play, so we have donated a 30-second spot to Equality California and offered Carrie Prejean an opportunity to pre-tape a brief message,” said Keith Lewis, Executive Director of MISS CALIFORNIA USA and MISS CALIFORNIA TEEN USA.

Prejean declined the offer.

The ad will air Sunday, November 22, on the CW and MY networks during the MISS CALIFORNIA USA pageant. Check local listings for details.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Defenders of Prop 8 Throw Tantrum Regarding Handing Over Internal Campaign Documents


The day before elections, Judge Walker, who is presiding over the federal challenge to Prop 8, held a hearing over a dispute concerning the proponents of Prop 8 and their unwillingness to hand over certain ordered internal campaign communications regarding messaging to the plaintiffs.

These documents are vital to the plaintiffs in their effort to prove that those responsible for Prop 8 are not concerned about the welfare of the state, traditional marriage or the weak argument of protecting procreation, but that they acted out of animus toward the LGBT population.

On November 11, Judge Walker ordered they hand over the documents, stating that they were not protected from disclosure.

Well, it gets better. They still haven't handed over the documents. According to California attorney Rick Xiao at blog Proposition 8 and the Right to Marry:
Today Judge Walker dropped the hammer on Prop. 8 proponents and ordered immediate production of internal communications concerning their campaign strategies and messages to voters. Among other things, Judge Walker admonished Prop. 8 proponents that his previous discovery orders, while being appealed to the Ninth Circuit, remain in effect because the appellate court has not issued a stay. Thus, Prop. 8 proponents risk contempt of the court if they continue to withhold production. According to today’s order, Prop. 8 proponents are ordered to produce additional responsive documents on a rolling basis to conclude not later than the close of fact discovery on November 30, 2009.
Here is the copy of the order, an order he's had to issue THREE TIMES:

Walker's Order Compelling Production in Perry v. Schwarzenegger Filed 11-19-09

It really makes you wonder what's in those documents and what it is they're trying to hide at the risk of being thrown in jail for contempt.

This January trial is going to be good.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders to Testify in Proposition 8 Trial

Two years ago, Republican San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders changed his mind when it came to marriage equality. Tearfully, he held a press conference and announced his intentions to sign a City Council resolution directing the City Attorney to file a court brief in support of same sex marriage. A year later, Sanders won re-election.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera made it known today that Mayor Sanders will testify in the first marriage trial ever - the federal challenge to Proposition 8 helmed by the Olson/Boies team.

Herrera said Mayor Sanders readily agreed. Which is very encouraging. The mayor suffered scrutiny and backlash for abandoning his former position. The fact that he's ready to take an oath and testify in trial shows the courage of his convictions.

Trial is set to begin January 11.

Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act Advances in House Committee

From a press release:

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin lauded an historic vote in a House committee that moves the nation a step closer to equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today passed the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act (H.R. 2517), authored by Congresswoman Baldwin (D-WI). Under the legislation, same-sex domestic partners of federal employees living together in a committed relationship would be eligible for health benefits, long-term care, Family and Medical Leave, and federal retirement benefits, among others. The domestic partners of federal employees would also be subject to the same responsibilities that apply to the spouses of federal employees, such as anti-nepotism rules and financial disclosure requirements.

“Today’s actions mark another significant step in our march toward LGBT equality,” said Congresswoman Baldwin, Co-Chair of the House LGBT Equality Caucus. “Our movement is gaining momentum around the country and Congress is following the will of the people. Today is a day to celebrate yet another milestone and recognize anew that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’”

The bill now moves to the full House for consideration. In a ceremony at the White House in June, President Obama voiced his strong support for the measure.

Two Court Victories For LGBT Couples


Los Angeles Times blog is reporting that on Wednesday a federal judge ordered the federal government to compensate a married gay couple who have been denied spousal benefits.

"U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt deemed the denial of healthcare and other benefits to the spouse of federal public defender Brad Levenson to be a violation of the Constitution's guarantee of due process and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which is prohibited by California state law," says the Los Angeles Times.

Brad Levenson and Tony Spears were married July 12, 2008 during the time marriage equality was legal in California.

Back in February, Judge Reinhardt had ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which bars gay federal employees' spouses benefits, is unconstitutional.

In his ruling, Reinhardt wrote:
"The denial of federal benefits to same-sex spouses cannot be justified simply by a distaste for or disapproval of same-sex marriage or a desire to deprive same-sex spouses benefits available to other spouses in order to discourage exercising a legal right afforded them by the state."
Wednesday's order doesn't give Levenson and Spears spousal benefits, but it does order the government to give compensation. The couple had calculated how much more they would have to spend without the benefits, and it wound up being thousands of dollars.

"The judge's order is expected to resolve the injustice Reinhardt has cited in previous orders in Levenson's case. But it also recognizes the status quo of federal government rejection of gay marriage under the Defense of Marriage Act," says the Los Angeles Times. 'Several other challenges by those denied federal benefits, like filing joint tax returns, are making their way slowly through the federal courts."

New York

Back in April, New York's high court agreed to hear anti-LGBT Alliance Defense Fund lawsuit against the state, challenging its recognition of same-sex marriages performed outside its borders and granting benefits to these couples.

Today, however, the court rejected ADF's challenge 4-3 on the narrow basis of benefits, not on whether or not the legislature should legalize marriage equality. The court also noted that under the state's constitution, same-sex marriage isn't legal but it doesn't address recognizing legally performed same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

"The effect of the majority's rationale in affirming these orders will be to permit an unworkable pattern of conflicting executive and administrative directives ... (at the) individual discretion of each agency head," Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick warned in an otherwise concurring opinion.

"We ought to avoid the confusion that would arise from a same-sex couple considered legally married by one agency for one purpose, but not married by another agency for a different purpose," the judge wrote.

With Thursday's court decision, legally married same-sex couples will be entitled to public employee health insurance coverage and certain other benefits provided to heterosexual spouses.

Read the court's ruling.

Poll Shows More New Jersey Residents Support Marriage Equality Than Oppose

UPDATE: Advocate: NJ Senators Weigh Marriage Priority

A new poll released today shows that New Jersey residents support marriage equality more than they oppose it. By a 46% - 42 % margin, New Jerseyans favor legalizing same-sex marriage with 12% still unsure. The marriage question was asked after Election Day. The poll has a +/-3.3% margin of error.

This next quote is key! "The survey also shows that if the state Legislature passes a bill legalizing gay marriage, 52 percent would accept the decision, while 40 percent would support a constitutional amendment banning the practice."

On Monday I reported that state Sen. Paul Sarlo mentioned that the state's marriage bill may not get out of his committee so that the full senate could vote on it. Currently, there is a time crunch. Pro-marriage equality Gov. Jon Cozine was voted out of office earlier this month and will be replace by Chris Christie who adamantly opposes same-sex marriage.

Many fear that the defeat in Maine gave politicians cold feet, but this poll hopefully will thaw them out.

“New Jerseyans are more supportive of gay marriage than opposed to it, and more importantly, a majority would accept a legislative decision legalizing same-sex marriages,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While this tests opinion outside the intensity of a campaign to ban gay marriage, as occurred in California, there is more of a ‘live and let live’ attitude in New Jersey than in many other states that have dealt with this issue.”

ACTION: Find out how you can help at Garden State Equality.

RELATED: VIDEO: Amazing New Marriage Equality Ads Launched in New Jersey

Proposition 8 2010 Repeal Supporters, Not Swayed by Criticism, Explain Strategy Behind the Five Initiatives Submitted

UPDATE 11/19 8:45am PST: San Diegans kick off Prop 8 repeal signature drive

Original posted 11/18/09:

For a year now, the debate on when to go back to the ballot to restore marriage equality to California and repeal Proposition 8 has raged not only amongst the Golden State's LGBT population and its allies but also nationwide.

After the devastating defeat in Maine, the fundamentalist pundits claimed that it was a sign Americans were not ready for legalized same-sex marriage, despite the many advances in Iowa and New England. Unfortunately, contrary to what the politicians say, legislators in both New York and New Jersey appear to have taken a cue from what happened in Maine and are dragging their heels on voting for proposed marriage equality legislation in their respective states.

Currently, the District of Columbia shines as the one bright spot in the nation with its marriage equality bill predicted to pass before the end of the year, despite the Archdiocese of Washington threatening to end Catholic charities if marriage equality is legalized in the jurisdiction.

Amongst these developments, Love Honor Cherish (LHC), the California based LGBT grassroots group leading the charge for a 2010 Proposition 8 repeal, announced Monday the launch of the signature gathering campaign for its ballot initiative. Alongside the announcement, it kicked off the social site and online campaign hub, Sign For Equality.

" today launched a groundbreaking effort to gather signatures to repeal Proposition 8 and restore equal marriage rights for same-sex couples marking the first time that social networking technology has been used to qualify a California initiative for the ballot," said the group's press release Monday.

On the same day, California Secretary of State issued a statement that five ballot initiatives had been submitted and approved for signature gathering that caused some confusion.

CA SoS Statement on Five Marriage Equality Ballot Initiatives

John Henning, co-founder of LHC, confirmed with Unite the Fight (UTF) that five versions of repeal language were submitted to the Secretary.

"The reason we submitted five back in September was because of ongoing discussions about which five were most appealing to voters," Henning said. "There were some that voters responded to better."

At the time the language was submitted, Courage Campaign was in the middle of conducting research that LHC hoped would give guidance on which version was the best.

"The research that was underway at the time did inform the five ways the language was written, but we didn’t have any conclusive results on which of the five versions was the best. So we made that decision based on our own good judgment," Henning said.

Henning explained that all the language is very similar and was vetted by very prominent lawyers in the marriage movement, along with other leaders and Equality California (EQCA), the state's largest LGBT advocacy group.

Marc Solomon, Marriage Director for EQCA, confirmed this back in October with UTF. "It was mainly Geoff," he said, referring to Geoff Kors, EQCA's Executive Director. "He’s a Stanford educated lawyer and has much more legal expertise than I do."

Version 5 or 09-0042 ended up being the final language behind which the signature gathering campaign was launched. Henning said that the statewide organizing group Restore Equality 2010 (RE 2010) was involved in the decision making process.

"The final decision was made about a week before they were approved," Henning informed. "We allowed for plenty of time to think about it and [RE 2010]'s Interim Administrative Group (IAG) to consider the matter and give advice. We waited to choose because we wanted the input from everybody we could possibly have."

Henning said that the executive committee of LHC was strongly in favor of version 5 and that the IAG voted unanimously for it.

The full language reads:
This amendment would amend an existing section of the California Constitution. Existing language proposed to be deleted is printed in strikeout type. Language proposed to be added is printed in underlined type.

Section 1. To protect religious freedom, no court shall interpret this measure to require any priest, minister, pastor, rabbi, or other person authorized to perform marriages by any religious denomination, church, or other non-profit religious institution to perform any marriage in violation of his or her religious beliefs. The refusal to perform a marriage under this provision shall not be the basis for lawsuit or liability, and shall not affect the tax-exempt status of any religious denomination, church or other religious institution.

Section 2. To provide for fairness in the government’s issuance of marriage licenses, Section 7.5 of Article I of the California Constitution is hereby amended to read as follows: Sec. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Marriage is between only two persons and shall not be restricted on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.
In an email blast sent out Monday, RE 2010 gave a list of actions for supporters of the signature gathering campaign, including donating to reach their goal of $10,000 to cover the cost of the petition drive.

“We set a goal of $10,000 between now and December 1 for a variety reasons," said Jane Wishon, who is part of RE 2010's IAG. "We need money to start the process, update our website and logo, and provide resources for signature gatherers all over the state so that can be out gathering signatures rather than worrying about raising the money needed.”

“At the same time, we need to prove to the larger donors in the community that we’re legitimate, we’re for real and that we can do this,” she added. Monday's email stated they had succeeded in raising 20% of their goal. "I think today we’re at 25% or over $2,500."

LHC will act as the clearinghouse for the signatures that are turned in and will safeguard those submitted either online or mailed to their PO Box that has been set up to receive large amounts of mail.

The Blueprint for Equality, LHC's strategy on a 2010 victory released in July, states that 5,500 volunteers will be needed over the course of 150 days to gather the one million signatures required to qualify for the ballot. 5,000 will each spend one day gathering 100 signatures per volunteer, another 500 "super-volunteers" will spend 10 days gathering the same amount each day.

"What we are looking for is a combination of hardcore volunteers" and others who will give one day said Henning. "The ten days over 150 days is one full day every two weeks for the volunteer. To me it’s a commitment, but it’s not an enormous commitment. We’re looking for 500 people throughout the state to give us that commitment."

"Many of these people we won’t actually ever meet because they’ll be inspired to do it through the website or send them in through the mail," Henning added. "On top of that, they’ll be many people who will be sending just 10 signatures. They’ll have friends and family sign and then send them in."

Gathering 100 signatures in a day is challenge, but Henning doesn't doubt that they'll qualify for the ballot. "I'm extremely confident. I wouldn’t be spending my own time if I didn’t think this will be getting on the ballot."

But LHC and RE 2010 have faced many naysayers, some going as far as urging people to decline to sign the petition. They fear that going to the ballot this soon after Prop 8 will create a backlash against the marriage movement. Others have pointed out that polling has shown no shift in opinion in California on the issue of same-sex marriage, and after the defeat in Maine, believe it is unwise to move forward.

"Sadly, there’s a lot of defeatism in our community," Henning responds. "Some of it comes from the pain of losing Prop 8. You have to have faith that things are going to be better. We can’t just wallow in defeat and fear. People are capable of changing their minds. I know there are people who think we can’t win and they’re always be people who think we can’t win. But there are many people who do."

Henning, whose grandfather is from Maine, has spent every summer of his life in Pine Tree state, claims that Maine wasn't a factor in their decision to move forward. "The defeat in Maine was always possible," he said. "Maine is a relatively rural state. It’s not nearly as diverse of a state as California. Not many people know gay people in Maine. I was amazed that it even got far enough for people to vote."

"What happens in a state that is 3,000 miles away and is 1/30 of the size of California doesn’t really affect what happens in California," he added.

Others resistant to going back in 2010 accuse the groups leading the charge of steamrolling and wonder why LHC should be the ones to heading it up.

"Our group has heart and we represent a part of the pure grassroots in the state," Henning said. "We are not a staffed organization. We are not controlled by big donors. We are doing this because we think it’s the right thing to do. There is no agenda. I think people should look to that, that we have consistently pushed for this with no other agenda."

Henning paused for a moment, then added, "Restore Equality 2010 is another group that has taken a leadership position because these other staffed groups have chosen not to. It was never our intention to be the leader of the 2010 charge, and we’re not going to sit down because a large group that claims to be in charge of the movement has decided not to play ball."

EQCA has stated that if the language qualifies for the 2010 ballot, then they will throw their weight behind the campaign to give the best chances of a victory.

"We’re not going to abandon the effort once the initiative qualifies," Henning remarked. "We’re going to be a part of it. We hope that Equality California will be part of it. They said they will be. I hope we do it all together. We know that a lot of people in the LGBT community want this."

Images by Phillip Minton.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Kentucky May Face Ballot Initiative to Legalize Marriage Equality

This press release was issued today from the Kentucky Equality Federation.

Kentucky Equality Federation applauds legislation pre-filed by Representative Mary Lou Marzian (BR 93) to place the issue of same-sex marriage or civil unions back in the hands of Kentucky citizens.

Earlier this year, Kentucky Equality Federation and Marriage Equality Kentucky began collecting signatures to present to lawmakers to repeal the law by giving voters another opportunity to vote on the issue. The "Marriage Declaration," started in July 2009.

Currently, the Commonwealth will not recognize any type of same-sex union. Marriage, domestic partnerships, and civil unions are all illegal in Kentucky (even if performed in other countries or states).

"We are very pleased with Representative Marzain's pre-filed bill," stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. "Currently, same-sex couples are basically 'second-class' citizens even though we pay the same taxes as everyone else; same-sex couples currently have absolutely no rights whatsoever and the Kentucky Constitution doesn't mention having a lower class of people. If this passes both the Kentucky House and Senate and voters ratify it, lawmakers would then be able to legislate domestic-partnerships, or civil unions, such as the new domestic partnership law in the state of Washington."

Legislation was also filed this year to repeal Michigan’s Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Palmer continued, "We could certainly reach a compromise with domestic partnerships or civil unions. Being able to file joint income-tax returns, having hospital visitation rights, making medical decisions for your partner, spousal privilege, the right to inherit property, and many other benefits are the very foundation of any union. Same-sex couples are not asking for special treatment, we simple want to be treated equal; we love, honor, and cherish our partners the same as heterosexual couples."

"I realize some will turn this into a religious debate, but we have separate of church and state; the Kentucky Constitution clearly states 'absolute and arbitrary power over the lives, liberty and property of freemen exists nowhere in a republic, not even in the largest majority,' and that is exactly what Section 223A of the Constitution has done. The Constitution also states 'the civil rights, privileges or capacities of no person shall be taken away, or in anywise diminished or enlarged, on account of his belief or disbelief of any religious tenet, dogma or teaching.'"

D.C. Marriage Equality Opponents File Lawsuit in an Attempt to Force Prop-8 Style Ballot Measure

Marriage equality opponents Bishop Harry Jackson and conservative group Alliance Defense Fund have filed a lawsuit against the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics who ruled Tuesday that a Prop 8-style initiative called the "Marriage Initiative of 2009", which would have defined marriage as between one man and one women for the District, could not proceed.

“The people of D.C. have a right to vote on the definition of marriage,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Austin R. Nimocks in their press release. “The D.C. Charter guarantees the people the right to vote, and the council cannot amend the charter for any reason, much less to deny citizens the right to vote. ADF will defend the right of the residents of our nation’s capitol to participate in a legitimate democratic process in the district.”

They're claiming that they are defending the rights of voters. Hmm . . . defending the rights of some to take away the rights of others. Brilliant logic!

In July, Bishop Jackson attempted to get an initiative started to thwart the District's bill to recognize legal same-sex marriage performed outside its borders. Both the board and DC Superior Court Judge Retchin ruled against them, basing their decision on the District's Human Rights Act which bars discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Today the Washington Post released a profile on Bishop Jackson, in which he admits that he always knew that the battle of the new bill to legalize marriage equality within D.C. itself would head to the Superior Court. "The Lord is in all this," the bishop claims. "All over the country, it's evident that the strategy of the radical gay movement is to work the courts and legislatures. It's gonna be a knock-down, drag-out legal situation."

This should raise some red flags. Back in July, when the bishop and fellow opponents lost their case in D.C.'s Superior Court, they opted out of appealing to the D.C. Court of Appeals. Yet it seems clear that they intend to this time and this could be biggest hurdle facing the District's marriage bill.

Back in 1995, it was this court that ruled in Dean vs. the District of Columbia against granting a gay couple a marriage license. Yet Superior Court Judge Retchin stated in her July ruling, "The Court in Dean did not consider whether the government could refuse to recognize the legal right of persons to remain married solely because of their sexual orientation. In fact, the Court in Dean could not have addressed this issue because when Dean was decided in 1995, no state had legalized same-sex marriage."

Hopefully the D.C. Court of Appeals agrees.

Further into the Washington Post piece, Bishop Jackson reiterates the illogical conclusions that the high crime and divorce rates in the African American community, which he claims undermines traditional family values, is due largely in part by abortions and gay marriages.

"I don't know of anybody black who says, 'I hate gay people.' We're more accepting generally. But you overlap that -- homosexuality and gay marriage -- with broken families, and we don't know how to put it back together."

OK. So my desire to marry my fiance is going to destroy family after family? My desire to have a family of my own is going to rip apart other families in D.C. and other parts of the country because . . . well, he doesn't really say. I understand that many men in the African American community are on the down-low, which sadly has caused many problems, including broken families and the spread of HIV. But this problem is completely separate from out gay couples wanting to make a lifetime, legally recognized commitment to their relationship. The bishop continues with some shoddy spinning by quipping that redefining marriage redefines family, which will send the black culture into a free fall.

But what the bishop ignores is the fact that same-sex couples have existed for thousands of years, and they have had families this entire time. Where's the destruction of society? Just because the LGBT civil rights movement has made the country more aware of their existence, doesn't mean they suddenly appeared out of nowhere and are a new, impending threat to what he calls "traditional values."

And if I remember correctly, we're not the ones that redefined marriage in the law books of 31 states as "between one man and one woman." Before, this distinction wasn't made, which is why same-sex couples demanded marriage certificates and why the courts ordered they be given. It took anti-LGBT forces to redefine the legal, civil definition of marriage, to actively bar LGBT citizens from marrying.

Just saying.

New Report Shows That Gay Priests Not More Likely to Molest Than Straight Counterparts

In September the Vatican tried to shift the blame of the pedophilia problem plaguing its priests on gays. The Guardian reported, "In a defiant and provocative statement, issued following a meeting of the UN human rights council in Geneva, the Holy See said the majority of Catholic clergy who committed such acts were not paedophiles but homosexuals attracted to sex with adolescent males."

However, the AP reports that a preliminary study commissioned by the the U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops has found this statement to be false and that gay priests are no more likely to molest children than their straight counterparts.
"What we are suggesting is that the idea of sexual identity be separated from the problem of sexual abuse," said Margaret Smith of John Jay College, in a speech to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "At this point, we do not find a connection between homosexual identity and the increased likelihood of subsequent abuse from the data that we have right now."


At the meeting Tuesday, Bishop Edward Braxton, of the Diocese of Belleville, Ill., asked the researchers whether their study indicated that homosexuality should be considered when evaluating a candidate for the priesthood. In 2005, the Vatican issued a policy statement that men with "deep-seated" attraction to other men should be barred from the priesthood.

Smith said: "If that exclusion were based on the fact that that person would be more probable than any other candidate to abuse, we do not find that at this time."
The AP also reports that experts on sex offenders reject any link between sexual orientation and committing abuse and that one should approached incidents by examining the offender and the victims they had available to them.

The final report won't be finished until the end of next year. But so far, it does indicate that the rate of abuse has declined steadily since the 1980s and that the peak was in the 1960s and 1970s. Cases arising today usually deal with incidents that occurred decades ago. Nearly 14,000 molestation claims have been filed against Catholic clergy since 1950 and abuse-related costs paid out by the church have reached a minimum $2.3 billion in the same period.

Though I do have a lot of issues with the Catholic leadership, it is a positive sign that they're looking into this problem within their ranks. However, the study is obviously not giving them the results they were hoping for. The true test comes after the report is finished and how the Vatican reacts to continue to address this serious problem. Maybe now they can stop trying to shift the blame and address the issue.

VIDEO: CNN Reports on Dispute Between Catholic Church and DC Over Marriage Equality

Recently, the Archdiocese of Washington threatened to end all of its charitable work in the District of Columbia if marriage equality is passed. Father David O'Connell, President of the Catholic University America, appeared on CNN to address the issue.

A few choice quotes from Father O'Connell:

"The archbishop of Washington and the staff of the office of the archdiocese of Washington has indicated as late as yesterday that it has no intention to stop serving the needs of the people of the archdiocese of Washington, especially the poorest of the poor."

"[Marriage equality in D.C.] will force us or put us into a situation where we may be at legal risk because of our own teachings and the beliefs that we experience and express that do not allow us to engage in some of the activities that are supported or promoted in the legislation."

"[The Church] will do its best to continue as usual. The legislation puts our relationship with the District of Columbia at risk, and that's the issue. It's not that we want to do this, that we need to do this, that we have to do this. We can't represent something that goes against our core beliefs, and this is an issue that is part of our core beliefs."

The last sentence is a head scratcher. It sounds like a bit of subtle backtracking but not really. In other words, he says they don't want or have to do this. So why do it?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

VIDEO: Dolly Parton Declares Her Support for Marriage Equality

Joy Behar refers to Parton's religious background and asks whether or not she supports marriage equality.

The singer joked: “I always say, ‘Sure, why can’t they get married? They should suffer like the rest of us do."

Recently, mega-pastor from Texas, Joel Osteen, recently appeared on The View, another show Behar co-hosts. The evangelical declared that gays were "not God's best work."

Behar asked Parton her thoughts on what Osteen said to which she replied she did not usually discuss the issue in that much depth but added: "I think God made us who we are and how we are and I don't think that if he was a religious person, that he would be judging people."

D.C. Board of Elections Rules Against Public Vote on Marriage Rights

Just as they did back in June, D.C. Board of Elections ruled against marriage equality opponents and denied their request for a Proposition 8-style ballot initiative that would have restricted marriage between one man and one woman in an attempt to undo the D.C. City Council's marriage equality bill.

In June Bishop Harry Jackson and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) went to the board to request an initiative on the bill that allowed the District to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed outside its borders. This was their attempt to thwart the bill by having a public vote. They were ruled against. They appealed to DC Superior Court but the judge also ruled against them, saying such an initiative would violate the District's Human Rights Act which bars discrimination based on sexual orientation.

D.C.'s marriage equality recognition bill passed.

The same day public testimony was heard by the D.C. City Council on the marriage bill on October 26, Jackson and NOM again testified in front of the board, requesting an initiative on the bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the capital, again hoping that the public would vote against it.

The Human Rights Act was also the reasoning behind the board's decision today, saying that denying same-sex couples the rights and benefits afforded to married couples simply because of their orientation is discrimination.
The District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics today released a memorandum opinion on the “Marriage Initiative of 2009”, which would establish that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in the District of Columbia.” A public hearing on the proposed initiative was held on October 26, 2009.

Under current law, the District recognizes as valid same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. The Board concludes that that Marriage Initiative of 2009 would, if passed, strip same-sex couples who have entered into such marriages of rights afforded to them by that recognition. Accordingly, the Board orders in its memorandum that the Initiative be received but not accepted under D.C. Code section 1-1001.16(b)(2), which prohibits the Board from accepting an initiative that authorizes discrimination prohibited under the District of Columbia Human Rights Act.

“We have considered all of the testimony presented to the Board and understand the desire to place this question on the ballot,” said Board Chairman Errol R. Arthur. “However, the laws of the District of Columbia preclude us from allowing this initiative to move forward.”
It's a shame that this stripping of rights by a tyrannical majority rule continues throughout the rest of the country.

D.C. City Council will hold a preliminary vote on the marriage bill on December 1 with a final vote before the end of the year. It is expected to pass as 10 out of the 13 council members are co-sponsors.

The last hurdle before final passage is the U.S. Congress, which will have 30 Congressional days to intervene. Though they did not interfere with the recognition bill, it may not be so easy this time with the Democrats experiencing more and more pressure from the Catholic Church (health care anyone?) who has threatened to end all charitable work in the District if marriage equality passes.

Rev. Cedric Harmon, a D.C. resident and a representative of D.C. Clergy United for Marriage Equality, said in response to today's decision, "It is shameful when religious leaders fail to uphold the Christian teachings of our faith by trying to institutionalize a second-class citizenship on our neighbors. People of faith have worked for generations to achieve social justice for all people — regardless of race, creed, class, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. We serve our entire flock, and there is no justification under God that we should discriminate against any of God’s children."

GLAD Requests Summary Judgment On Lawsuit Against DOMA, Countering DOJ's Motion to Dismiss Case

Back in March, GLAD filed a lawsuit against Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which restricts the federal government from recognizing any marriages other than heterosexual. Section 2 of DOMA, not at issue in this lawsuit, allows states to establish public policies about what marriages they will and will not respect. The GLAD case was filed as Gil vs. the Office of Personnel Management.

On September 18, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit asking the courts to throw the case out arguing that DOMA must stand using "rational basis review," or the lowest level of judiciary scrutiny on the case.

America Blog reported, "All the government must do is prove a 'rational basis' for the legislation meaning 'a legislative policy must be upheld so long as there is any reason- ably conceivable set of facts that could provide a rational basis for it, including ones that Congress itself did not advance or consider. DOMA satisfies this standard.'"

I wrote at the time:
I find it striking that the Department of Justice (DOJ) used the rational basis argument given that recently, the proponents of Proposition 8 just filed a motion for summary judgment to avoid going to trial on the federal case against the initiative. One of their arguments rest on the rational basis argument (which relies heavily on past rulings and tradition), stating that gays and lesbians are not warranted heightened scrutiny (which requires evaluation of found facts and witness testimony to determine if a law harms or helps state interest) - a stark disagreement with the California Supreme Court ruling in the marriage cases which classified gays and lesbians as suspect, putting us in the same category as race and gender among others.
Today, GLAD has responded to the DOJ by filing for a summary judgment itself. This is the same tactic used by the defendants of Prop 8 to avoid going to trial. However, on this case, this works for us.

GLAD wants the judge to issue a ruling in its favor based on law without trial. However, unlike the defendants of Prop 8 and the DOJ who do not want heightened scrutiny, GLAD does because it reveals more of the discriminatory motivations behind DOMA, thus proving there is no rational basis for it and the government should not uphold it.

No federal court has reviewed sexual orientation with heightened scrutiny. If the court agrees and reviews before the Prop 8 trial in January, it will be the first to do so.

Following is GLAD's press release (PDF):
GLAD Forcefully Responds to U.S. Motion to Dismiss DOMA Lawsuit; Seeks Final Ruling in Favor of Plaintiff Couples

Stepping up its litigation challenging Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) today filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts both an opposition to the federal government's motion to dismiss Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, and a motion for summary judgment seeking a final ruling on the law in favor of the plaintiffs.

"Both sides agree that our plaintiffs have taken on the commitments of marriage, played by the rules, paid into the system, and been denied benefits because of DOMA," says GLAD Legal Director Gary Buseck.

"Now we're asking the court to say once and for all that the federal government must end its blatant double standard of providing rights and protections to all married couples except gay and lesbian married couples."

"While the government has rightly abandoned the reasons Congress relied on in passing DOMA in 1996, it now seeks to dismiss our case by arguing that DOMA "maintains the status quo," says Mary L. Bonauto, GLAD Civil Rights Project Director.

"The reality is that DOMA itself radically changed the status quo by which the federal government recognized and accepted state determinations of who is married. There is no valid excuse for the federal discrimination imposed by DOMA and this can be resolved now and without a trial."

GLAD argues that under Equal Protection guarantees, there is no justification for splitting married people into two classes: those who are "married" under federal law and those whose marriages do not exist for any federal purposes. "We believe that DOMA should receive 'heightened scrutiny' from the District Court for many reasons, including because it deliberately targets gay men and lesbians," said Bonauto.

More specifically, GLAD argues that
  • DOMA represents an unprecedented intrusion of the federal government into the states’ traditional roles in determining the marital status of its citizens.
  • By prohibiting married same-sex couples from accessing the safety net, the federal government provides for all other married couples, DOMA Section 3 unfairly burdens their ability to protect and care for their families.
  • By targeting gay men and lesbians, DOMA discriminates explicitly on the basis of sexual orientation. GLAD argues that any discrimination based upon a person’s sexual orientation should be viewed with suspicion by the court.
America Blog was available for a press conference call with GLAD that I was unable to make. They report, "Several reporters asked whether this case could ultimately end up in the Supreme Court. If it does, according to the GLAD lawyers, the ruling would impact only those states that allow same-sex marriage and would determine whether the federal government would have to respect those marriages. If the judge does find DOMA unconstitutional, it's expected that the Obama administration would appeal that ruling."

The following are PDF downloads:
Here you will find plaintiff and expert affidavits supporting GLAD's arguments. The submission of these testimonies will be permissible under heightened scrutiny.

MUST SEE VIDEO: Colbert Skewers Catholic Church on Marriage Equality and Funeral . . . Rights

Remember how the Catholic Church decided to throw the poor and homeless under the bus in an attempt to stop marriage equality from happening in D.C.? And how Rhode Island's Catholic Governor vetoed a bill that would allow domestic partners to make funeral arrangements for each other?

Well, Catholic-raised Colbert has a few choice . . . words on the matter.

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