Saturday, December 12, 2009

MUST SEE VIDEO: Comedian Margaret Cho Discusses A Bunch of LGBT Issues With Joy Behar

New Jersey Assembly Committee Could Take Up Marriage Bill January 4

After a tumultuous week for New Jersey's marriage equality bill (not being heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee, then finally being heard, and then squeaking out of the committee for a full Senate vote, then the vote being canceled so that the Assembly can take it on, then the Assembly saying it doesn't know if it'll take up the marriage bill), a bit of good news has come out of Trenton today.

(See prior posts on New Jersey marriage equality bill)

The Star-Ledger is reporting that the Assembly Judiciary Committee could add the marriage bill to its schedule shortly after the holidays.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), said the earliest it would appear in the Assembly Judiciary committee is Jan. 4, which would give the issue "a rest until after the Christmas holiday."

"It's their desire to have it the first week in January," he said.

But Gusciora said "anything was subject to change" in Trenton, acknowledging a plan to put the bill to a full vote in the Senate was scrapped earlier this week when there were not enough votes to pass it.

Assembly Judiciary Committee chair Linda Greenstein could not confirm the date for the hearing.

"At this time nothing has been scheduled," said Derek Roseman, a spokesman for Assembly Democrats.
The full Assembly is scheduled to have two voting sessions that same week.

Though nothing is official, it's good that they're considering a "when" and not an "if."

Supporters of the bill need to have it pass both houses before Gov. Jon Corzine leaves office January 19 to receive is guaranteed signature because his replacement, Chris Christie, doesn't care for LGBT rights at all.

It's Official. Prop 8 Proponents Will Not Hand Over Internal Documents to Olson/Boies

Well, it's official. The Ninth Circuit Court has reversed Judge Walker's orders of discovery and ruled that such an order, demanding that the Yes on Prop 8 campaign hand over internal communications, violated the First Amendment protections of freedom of association.

An excerpt:
Proposition 8 amended the California Constitution to provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Two same-sex couples filed this action in the district court alleging that Proposition 8 violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The official proponents of Proposition 8 (“Proponents”) intervened to defend the suit. Plaintiffs served a request for production of documents on Proponents, seeking, among other things, production of Proponents’ internal campaign communications relating to campaign strategy and advertising. Proponents objected to disclosure of the documents as barred by the First Amendment. In two orders, the district court rejected Proponents’ claim of First Amendment privilege. Proponents appealed both orders. We granted Proponents’ motion for stay pending appeal.

We have the authority to hear these appeals either under the collateral order doctrine or through the exercise of our mandamus jurisdiction. We reverse. The freedom to associate with others for the common advancement of political beliefs and ideas lies at the heart of the First Amendment. Where, as here, discovery would have the practical effect of discouraging the exercise of First Amendment associational rights, the party seeking discovery must demonstrate a need for the information sufficiently compelling to outweigh the impact on those rights.
The full order.

Ninth Circuit Court Ruling on Prop 8 Discovery

Earlier, I spoke with Yusef Robb, spokesperson for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group behind the Olson/Boies team, when it looked like the court would not rule in our favor. "Regardless of these discovery matters, we have prepared a powerful case to demonstrate the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8," he told me.

I also reported on a separate case that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on earlier this week which could have touched on the Ninth Circuit Court's decision and their jurisdiction on this matter. In the excerpt above, the panel of judges claim they do have jurisdiction as an appeals court and that they would also use writ of mandamus if necessary, which is a mandate "issued by a superior court to compel a lower court or a government officer to perform mandatory or purely ministerial duties correctly."

In other words, Judge Walker must follow the reversal of his order.

This quick ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court will allow the first ever marriage trial to stay on schedule which will begin January 11.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Senate Hearing On The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act Scheduled

Originally posted at Lez Get Real. Thanks Paula!

S. 1102, The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Dec. 16th, to consider amendments to the bill before voting to pass it on to the Senate floor for full debate. Lieberman is Chairman of that committee.

The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (DPBO) would provide the same family benefits to lesbian and gay federal civilian employees as are already provided to employees with different-sex spouses. To receive benefits, employees would have to submit an affidavit of eligibility for benefits with the Office of Personnel Management, certifying that the employee and domestic partner meet necessary criteria, as provided in the Act.

Last month the House Oversight and Government Relations Committee voted 23-12 to send its version of the DPBO Act, H.R. 2517, sponsored by Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) to the House floor for a vote.

In a ceremony at the White House in June, President Obama voiced his support for the measure.

Fifty-nine percent of Fortune 500 companies currently provide domestic partner benefits to their employees. In addition, 22 states, the District of Columbia, and over 150 local governments make benefits available to public employees and their same-sex partners. DPBO would bring employment practices in the federal government in line with those local governments and companies.

The Sanctity of Marriage

Easily Disgusted? Then You May Gross Out Over Marriage Equality

Don't blame me for the headline. Blame science. Or those with low disgust thresholds.

According to two recent studies, those who easily gross out, such as finding that they accidentally took a sip out of a stranger's drink or find an unflushed toilet, lean toward conservative ideologies on marriage equality and abortion. In one 181 participants of the study were asked how they would react to certain unpleasant situations and then asked about their political leanings.

Reports USA Today:
"The more sensitive to disgust you are, the more you might react intuitively negative to sexual or other bodily behaviors that might be seen as unusual or immoral," says Yoel Inbar of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Because disgust is a reaction to perceived impurity, he says, it might inform conservative values such as opposing homosexuality, gay marriage and abortion.
Wow. Just wow.

I don't really care to dig deep into the psychological reasons why these right wingers consciously or unconsciously equate the LGBT population with unflushed toilets, or to put it nicely like Yoel Inbar, "impurity", but it illuminates how they perceive the LGBT people and why we face such steep opposition.

The underlying factor here is their ignorance of the LGBT population, and unfortunately, much of the time it's self-enforced. They don't want to get to know us or change their perception of us. Which is why it's such hard work to change hearts and minds in favor of our rights. One conversation at a time.

Some minds we'll never change and I have accepted that. So maybe I'll just go to the National Organization for Marriage's bathroom and forget to flush.

New Jersey Assembly Has No Date Set For Marriage Equality Bill Hearing

The clock is ticking before pro-LGBT Gov. Jon Corzine of New Jersey leaves office January 19, and still the state's marriage equality bill seems no closer to reaching his desk for his guaranteed signature.

Earlier this week, after passing the Senate Judiciary Committee, sponsors pulled the bill from Thursday's schedule before being voted on by the full Senate when it became clear they did not have the 21 votes needed for passage. However, they said they wanted the Assembly Judiciary Committee to have its chance to hear testimony and to vote themselves on the legislation.

New Jersey's Star-Ledger did a survey of the Senators and found that 13 supported the bill, 18 opposed and 9 were undecided or chose not to indicate their position.

"I can’t in any way, shape or form guarantee them [Assembly members] that it will pass at this point," said Senate President Dick Codey, who was handicapping the bill’s chances of passage in the Senate if it wins approval in the Assembly, reports North Jersey.
[Garden State Equality] also was embarrassed by a series of pro-gay-marriage rallies at legislators’ homes and work sites, and in the case of Republican Minority Leader Thomas H. Kean Jr., showing up at his 11-year-old daughter’s piano recital Tuesday.

Several senators bristled at the tactics, saying that the group had gate-crashed into the lawmakers’ privacy zones.

"Would you want them on your property?" replied Sen. Shirley Turner, a Mercer County Democrat who was not expected to vote for the bill. She said the incident only "further entrenched" her opposition.

[Steven] Goldstein issued an apology to Kean that was posted on political Web sites, saying he was "sickened" by the protest, and that he did not authorize it.
The Star-Ledger also reports that the Assembly Judiciary Committee has no hearing date scheduled. Though rules allow Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, a supporter of the bill, to schedule a hearing as early as Monday, he said, "But I must emphasize that no hearing has been scheduled and that I am continuing to discuss this issue with our caucus to gauge whether there is enough support for it."

ACTION: Go to Garden State Equality to find out how you can get involved!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

POLL: Majority of Catholics in New Jersey Support Marriage Equality

Despite the ongoing efforts of the Catholic Church's leadership in New Jersey, a new poll released today finds that a majority of the Garden State's Catholics support marriage equality. 48% support, while 40% oppose and 12% are undecided. This is big news given that 37% of New Jersey is Catholic.

The breakdown of the poll is rather interesting but not surprising. Those who indicated they were Catholic and attended mass at least once a week, 54% opposed while 37% favored; if they attended once a month, 35% opposed while 46% favored.

"As with several social issues, many Catholics support a more liberal public policy than does the Church itself," said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. "Given that Catholics comprise the largest religious group in the state, this makes a difference in overall support for gay marriage in New Jersey, especially since a majority of Protestants — many of whom are Evangelicals — oppose the bill."

Evangelical or "born-again" Protestants opposed marriage equality by a margin of 55% to 35%, with 11% undecided.

Another religious group with an encouraging majority. Jewish respondents supported 56% to 40% with 4% undecided.

Least shocking, those not affiliated with any religion support marriage equality 85% to 10% with 5% undecided.

The poll of 903 New Jersey adults was fielded November 6-10 and has a margin of error of 3.3 percent.

Recently, the sponsors of the state's marriage equality bill requested that the Senate delay its vote so that the Assembly could hold its own public hearing and vote in its Judiciary Committee.

I would like to bet that this poll will grab the legislature's attention. Despite what the bill's sponsors may say, it's rather obvious the votes are not solidified in either chamber of the state's legislature. Now with the vote delayed, hopefully they'll have time to review the poll that indicates that some of the bill's biggest objectors, who belong to people of faith groups and in particular the influential Catholics, are a minority within their own demographic.

ACTION: Go to Garden State Equality to find out how you can get involved!

ACTION: Openly Gay John A. Perez Faces Unusual Hurdles to His Historical Appointment of CA Assembly Speaker

UPDATE: John A. Perez has been unanimously selected as California Assembly Speaker!

Original post 12/8/09

Recently, I posted Karen Ocamb's reporting on openly gay John A. Perez's historical appointment to California's House Speaker. Equality California has issued an action alert indicating that he's facing unusual hurdles to his appointment, and it could possibly have to do with his sexual orientation. The following is a statement from EQCA's Executive Director Geoff Kors (emphasis mine):
“Equality California hails the historic opportunity for Assemblymember John A. Pérez to become the state’s next Assembly Speaker. With California as well as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community facing significant challenges, including the decimation of HIV/AIDS services by the governor, this possibility fills our community with great hope. As the first LGBT Speaker in our state, Assemblymember Pérez would serve as an incredible role model to LGBT youth and for every community member who has faced obstacles simply because of who they are.

In his first year in the Assembly, he has demonstrated unique leadership skills, and we have the utmost confidence in his ability to bring both Californians and the members of the Assembly together to tackle the challenges ahead.

Although the selection of a speaker is usually an internal matter, this year the race has become public in a way never seen before. Historically, once more than half of the Assembly members from the majority party, in this case the Democrats, announce their support for a candidate, the entire caucus typically coalesces behind that candidate. A vote for Speaker is then held, but this time the process has differed.

We hope that this isn’t about sexual orientation, but it is always a concern when the rules seem to be applied differently to a member of our community.

Equality California is proud to stand with Assemblymember Pérez as this crucial vote approaches, and we hope his colleagues in the Assembly will seize this opportunity for California.”
Click here to go to EQCA's online action to help Perez.

The Looming Question, "Is Marriage Equality Still Inevitable?"

The question of whether or not marriage equality is inevitable has been raging on the internet from both sides of the issue in light of recent setbacks in Maine and New York. It's a natural question to raise, especially if you've been fighting the good fight, making historical advancements and suddenly face what appears to be a gargantuan brick wall.

I myself have sat back and read what people are saying, but with the topic ongoing, I figured I would jump in. Or at least thread together the conversation.

In 2009 alone, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine passed marriage equality either in the court or in legislation. Connecticut beat them all in 2008. And D.C. is hot on their trails to pass marriage equality before the end of the year. But then Maine, one of the most secular states in the Union, overturned the marriage law, and the New York Senate cowered in fear of losing their jobs and went back on their word and voted our civil rights down.

Two days after the New York Senate betrayal, pollster Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight asked, "Is there a backlash against marriage equality?" Shortly before Maine's vote, Silver predicted that marriage equality would prevail in the state, so he went back to the drawing board to find out what actually is going on. His conclusion: no backlash.

Silver points out that Maine's Question 1 in particular was the first ballot initiative on marriage equality that did not affect the state's constitution - it was simply a veto. This is more popular with voters than an actual amendment to the constitution because it feels less permanent, perhaps. Same goes for a federal amendment. Not very popular, Silver states.

Comparing numbers, Silver says though a majority oppose banning marriage equality through the federal constitution, they still oppose marriage equality itself.

"What that means is that there's a 'swing vote' of about 10 percent of the electorate that is not yet ready to allow gay marriage, but is also not willing to ban it (at least not Constitutionally)," Silver says. "This is enough to tip the national balance on the question of gay marriage. And it may have tipped the balance in Maine."

He concludes, "...I don't think there is any evidence of a national backlash against gay marriage. It should be borne in mind that gay marriage is still opposed by a small majority or large plurality of Americans. But there's not really any evidence that the numbers are getting worse; instead, they appear to be v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y getting better."

So if there is not backlash per se, does that mean marriage equality is inevitable? Stagnant? Or is the popular belief that the future generation of voters will bring the victory for civil rights for LGBT citizens actually true?

Ben Smith at Politico reports that it most likely is. He refers to May's Gallup Poll which found that 18 to 29 year olds favor same-sex marriage by a margin of 59% to 37%, while people 65 and over oppose it by an even wider margin.

Yet he reports that conservatives believe the same-sex marriage issue could follow down the same path as abortion, where they claim the pro-life stance has chipped away at reproductive rights. And as the younger generation gets older and start having families, their views on marriage equality could change, conservatives claim.

“The question is how important will that issue be to them, and how engaged will they be to make sure the laws of their states and the nation change,” Republican pollster Kellyann Conway told Ben.

Democratic pollster Diane Feldman countered, "There’s a lot of things that go along with support for same-sex marriage – attitudes such as awareness that people are born gay." Young voters’ "underlying attitudes about gay people and gay rights are very different” from older voters.

Here's the golden nugget that Ben shares.
“It’s only a matter of time,” said a prominent Republican pollster, who declined to be named for stating a view that runs contrary to those of many of his clients. “Once the dam bursts, which is going to happen, it’s a process that won’t be stopped.”

And that sense of a building flood is part of the reason that the recent setbacks have prompted no serious evaluation of the goals of the gay rights movement, and no discussion of backing off a totemic issue – though one which some gay leaders, like Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), have long argued should be postponed for more practical fights. If anything, the energy and money of the gay rights movement are directed toward more energetic, more confrontational tactics; civil disobedience, Mixner suggested, will become more common in 2010.

“The fact of the matter is that in little more than a year we have multiplied the number of state with freedom to marry by six,” said Evan Wolfson, the founder the group Freedom to Marry, referring to the District of Columbia and five other states. “That’s a good year,” he said.
But don't think that hasn't swayed the opposition.

Our friend Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage had a few things to say in response to Ben's story.

"Ben graciously included a quote from me saying gay marriage is not inevitable, but mentioned none of the reasons I gave him, much less the ones I thought up in the car after the cell phone died," she complains. But luckily for her, she had time to think up more reasons why she believes marriage rights for LGBT citizens is not inevitable.

I won't vouch for her logic, but here are her 8 reasons in italics:
  1. Nothing is inevitable.
  2. Young people are not as unanimous as most people think.
  3. The argument from despair is bait and switch. (She claims we tout that marriage equality is inevitable because we're losing.)
  4. Progressives are often wrong about the future.
  5. Demography could be destiny. (Here's a laugh. She urges traditionalists to have more children. The implication here is that they'll be raised with anti-LGBT views and therefore hinder future LGBT advancement. Does she not realize that having more children also increases the LGBT population - even better, in traditionalists households?)
  6. Change is inevitable. (The young folks will become old folks and then the younger folks won't think pro-marriage equality is "cool" because that's what the old folks think. Huh? Also, she says we may give up. Wishful thinking, Mags.)
  7. Newsflash: 18-year-olds can be wrong. (No kidding. But they know bullshit when they see it, too.)
  8. New York's highest court was right. (She refers to Hernandez v. Robles and quotes the ruling in which the judges refuse to guess what future generations will believe.)
Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend wrote in response, "Is she serious? Is this any kind of reality-based plan -- to encourage Duggar-like spermination to save marriage? Ha! Unfortunately, while Maggie may think homos are made, not born, all this over-procreating is only going to do is increase the odds that every fundie family will raise a fag- or dyke-in-waiting, eventually coming out and giving these moms and pops the need for a fainting couch on National Coming Out Day."

Jeremy Hooper at Good As You, who is always on top of these wingnuts, issued a point-by-point response. A highlight:
It's also pretty interesting that Maggie would even turn to this little snippet from Hernandez, considering her cited chunk contains this line:

We do not predict what people will think generations from now, but we believe the present generation should have a chance to decide the issue through its elected representatives.

That's right: Decided through the elected representatives, not through "the people" via a direct referendum. Even this court, as part of a really bad ruling, recognized that if this nation is going to have the chance to weigh in on a matter like this, then this voice is to come through the representatives that Americans send to office. The human rights decision is not to come via the extremely hurtful campaigns that Maggie forcefully backed in both CA and ME!

So my thoughts.

First, on Mags. If this is the best that Maggie can come up with, then I rest comfortably in my belief that marriage equality isn't only inevitable but assured. I even hesitated to post her illogical rambling in fear of lowering my blog's intellectual equity, but one must deal with one's opposition, no matter how stupid they are.

Second, I don't believe we're facing a marriage equality backlash but a setback. The road to equality is never going to be "downhill from here." Our victories this past year are stunning and extremely encouraging, but the trek ahead will always be uphill. We will always face opposition. We will always face misinformation and voters who have been lied to. We will always face politicians thinking of their jobs and their asses first instead of their moral duty to protect the civil rights of their constituents. That's how it's always going to be. Victory will come at the apex of our journey, and think of the stunning view we will have from up there!

Third, I do in fact truly believe that full marriage equality nationwide on a state and federal level is inevitable. Humanity's movement toward human rights has never moved backwards collectively. We definitely have had some major hiccups. Even now in Uganda, where they are attempting to pass a bill targeting gays (at one point, punishment for being gay would have been execution), some believe that not all human rights are right. But these are blips in the larger scale of human history.

Marriage equality exists today, right now, in a handful of states, and if history is any indicator, it will spread. Naturally, we want it to happen today. Who doesn't? But in a generation of instant gratification, fostered by On Demand entertainment and immediate information provided through the internet and mobile phones, the long trek toward full equality seems unbearable, and the amount of work to reach the finish line near unconscionable.

It seems wrong. It almost appears we have to wait. But it's not about waiting. It's about the work. The hard work is the engine that creates the inevitable trajectory. Something is only inevitable when the work is being done to make it happen. Otherwise the inevitable becomes only a "possibility." And that implies doubt.

Don't let our recent setbacks get you down. Use them as a rallying cry. Let them motivate you. Let them be a reminder of the work that needs to be done. Don't let the inevitable become only a possibility.

No Action on DOMA Repeal Until 2013

CORRECTION: No real action until 2013! "...lawmakers ... could take up legislation to repeal DOMA — known as the Respect for Marriage Act — at the end of the two-year session starting in 2011."

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler introduced the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) in September, and if it passes, it will effectively repeal the heinous 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a piece of knee-jerk legislation from Congress fearing that the near success of marriage equality in Hawaii at the time would spread through the nation like some plague.

Don't get me started.

However, up to this point, we haven't had much of a time line for RMA. Last month, Nadler spokesperson John Doty said, "I think there’s three or four gay rights bills that are cued up. The Respect for Marriage Act is a little bit further down that list. It hasn’t been talked about as long or debated as long … as the other bills."

Rep. Barney Frank agreed. "...marriage is the toughest of these issues. That’s why I do not see any chance of any success on marriage in the Congress this year. Neither does anyone else, by the way, no matter what people pretend to make people feel better. But that’s why we’re focusing on these other issues."

Today, the DC Agenda has posted its interview with Nadler and he talks timing. Nadler says a DOMA repeal won't happen in this Congress and instead he will focus on building support for the issue and then take it up in 2011 after elections, and maybe then not until the end of that term. In the meantime, they will focus on other pro-LGBT legislation taking precedence, such as ENDA and DADT repeal, which they hope to accomplish by the end of 2010.

“The Respect for Marriage Act is a bill that we can’t pass right now; we know we can’t pass it right now,” he said. Currently, it has 105 co-sponsors.

Nadler told the DC Agenda that he believes support will grow, and despite not showing too much enthusiasm to the public, he says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been quietly encouraging her colleagues to sign on a co-sponsors.

As for Rep. Frank: “We have a disagreement on the strategy on this obviously, as we had a disagreement on the strategy over the non-inclusive ENDA last [Congress] where we no longer have that disagreement,” he said. “And, I presume, in the end, we will not have a disagreement on this.”
Even with Democrats potentially in danger, Nadler said he didn’t think lawmakers would avoid LGBT issues next year to reduce a perceived risk of alienating voters before the election.

“I think we’re going to face most of these issues this Congress, mostly next year,” he said. “I’m assuming that the gay community is going to keep the pressure on. I mean, don’t go to sleep because I said it as that. If the gay community keeps the pressure on, then I think that, yes, we’ll probably face most of these issues.
Don't worry, Rep. Nadler. We aren't going anywhere.

Who Are Those Darn Same-Sex Couples, Anyway?

Unfortunately, every time we go to the ballot over marriage equality, we lose (except for Arizona, but then they turned around and "corrected" that in no time flat). The theory goes that it's easy for voters to vote against us because they don't know us - we're a faceless group, and voting against our rights has no consequences for them.

But we are here. We exist. We live. We work. We commute. We pick up our kids from school. We go grocery shopping and cook. We go to church or synagogue. We go to the movies. We go to school. But where exactly do we do this? And who exactly are those "couples"?

Culling information from the Williams Institute study, Same-Sex Spouses and Unmarried Partners in the American Community Survey, 2008, the Economist has created a map of the country indicating where exactly same-sex couples live. (Notice that this represents couples, not singles.)

"Those states where gay marriage is legal or where same-sex partnerships are recognised have a higher proportion of same-sex couples than the national average of 4.7," says the Economist. 'The District of Columbia is home to most gay households with over 14 for every 1,000."

Embedded below is the Williams Institute's full survey. A few interesting points:
  • One in four same-sex couples designated each other as spouses (roughly 150,000 couples); those who did not differed from those who did (those who did were more likely female or more likely raising children)
  • Same-sex couples were identified in every state, more in states with some form of legal recognition for these couples.
  • Same-sex and different-sex spouses shared many characteristics, such as education, income, and home ownership, but differ on child rearing and employment

Same-Sex Couples and Unmarried Partners in the American Community Survey

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

AUDIO: National Organization for Marriage Expands Legal Challenge Against Maine

Now they believe they should be exempt from having to disclose their financial sources in candidate races, not just initiative campaigns. Who do these people think they are?

For full text of this report, click here.

In my opinion, they're just digging themselves into a bigger hole. Recently, I reported that they're facing a possible IRS probe. They have also subpoenaed Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate, who has been responsible for getting Maine and California to investigate the organization, in an effort for him to hand over all documents he has against them in their counter lawsuit against these states.

It's only a matter of time, folks.

New Jersey Senate to Delay Marriage Equality Vote

The Star-Ledger is reporting that Thursday's vote on marriage equality in the New Jersey senate will be delayed. The bill's two main sponsors, Sens. Ray Lesniak (D-Union) and Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) say that instead, the Assembly Judiciary Committee will take up the bill in preparation for a full vote in the lower house.

Lesniak believes that both houses of the state legislature will still vote on it before pro-marriage equality Gov. Jon Corzine leaves office on January 19. He also said that the delay is not because they don't have the votes but because they want to the Assembly to engage in the issue and to hear testimony from both sides of the issue just like the Senate Judiciary Committee did on Monday. He believes this is only fair.

Star Ledger reports that senators have been deluged with phone calls from in and out of state but opponents and supports of marriage equality.

"Most of us have spent the last week, even just alone in our district offices fielding questions and speaking to folks, advocates and detractors of the gay marriage bill about this issue," said Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May), who said he will vote against the bill.

"But 99 percent of our attention should be turned towards creating a state government that works, figuring how in God's name we're going be able to balance the budget next year."

ACTION: Go to Garden State Equality to find out how you can get involved!

Prop 8 Challengers Olson/Boies File Trial Brief Defining Argument and Witnesses to Be Called Into Trial

Lots to report on regarding the federal challenge to Prop 8.

First, the power team that is Ted Olson and David Boies have field their trial brief in advance of the last pre-trial hearing that is scheduled for December 16. In the brief, the outline how the intend to argue that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional and that the government has no rational claim in keeping it on the law books.

Second, they have filed their witness list which they may or may not call to testify in trial. Depends on how it all goes.

Third, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling yesterday on a different case may affect the Ninth Circuit Court's decision on whether or not Prop 8 proponents must hand over internal campaign communications.

That's the summary. And now the breakdown.

The trial brief reiterates the argument that we have heard from Olson/Boies before that Prop 8 violates the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as well as section 1983, which secures rights, privileges and immunities of all U.S. citizens.

Here's the full brief (tip: read table of contents and introduction):

Plaintiff's Trial Brief Challenging Prop 8

The witness list is very interesting. Naturally, the plaintiffs, two gay couples, that suffer undue harm under Prop 8 will be called to testify about the challenges and discrimination that they face.

Remember, no marriage case has ever gone to trial, and to prove that Prop 8 caused massive damage, the plaintiffs must also prove the massive harm done by discrimination solely based on sexual orientation, which Prop 8 does, and therefore proves that state has no "compelling interest" in the resolution.

More witnesses to testify on the harm of Prop 8 as well as the damage of discrimination based solely on sexual orientation: Ryan Kendall, who was subjected to "conversion therapy"; Williams Institute’s Dr. Lee Badgett, "a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst . . . will testify about the private harms and public costs caused by Prop. 8, differences between marriage and domestic partnership, and the impact of same-sex marriage on the marriages of different-sex couples"; San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, who tearfully expressed his support for his lesbian daughter and for marriage equality in a press conference (see video), announcing he will not vetoing the cities participation in an amicus brief supporting same-sex marriage, shocking many of his conservative supporters; and more.

Including them, Olson/Boies intend to call those who know about the "genesis, strategy and execution of the Yes on 8 campaign: Frank Schubert, the mastermind behind and campaign manager of both the Prop 8 campaign and Question 1 in Maine; Andrew Pugno, counsel for the Yes on 8 crowd; Jeff Flint, also campaign manager of Yes on 8; James Garlow,Senior Pastor of Skyline Wesleyan, who was actively involved in the campaign; Miles McPherson, pastor at the Rock Church and who coached Miss California Carrie Prejean; Dr. Kenneth Miller, who became a "TV star" by appearing in the Prop 8 commercials; Ron Prentice, chairman of Yes on 8 campaign.

Prop 8 Challenge Plaintiff's Witness List

Recently, I reported that the Ninth Circuit Court would likely rule in favor of the proponents of Prop 8 and overturn Judge Walker's order that they hand over internal campaign documents to the plaintiffs.

However, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday may change this. According to Proposition and the Right to Marry, the Ninth Circuit Court has a lot to consider. "Among other issues, the 9th Circuit panel considered two separate questions about whether it has jurisdiction to hear the appeal brought by Prop. proponents. Can the panel review an immediate, pre-trial appeal of discovery orders based on proponents' claims of First Amendment privilege, or must proponents wait until entry of a final judgment to make their appeal? Does the First Amendment claim present exceptional circumstances warranting a writ of mandamus by the panel, when ordinarily proponents could not pursue appellate review of the discovery orders until entry of a final judgment?"

Parenthetical Greg
touches on the Supreme Court ruling and how this may affect the Ninth Circuit Court:
The panel will now (presumably) have to deal with today's Supreme Court decision in Mohawk Industries v. Carpenter. The court considered and rejected the contention that the attorney client privilege was appropriate for a collateral-order appeal.

The panel hearing the Perry appeal mentioned that this case was dangling over their heads (metaphorically, of course).

Even if they accept that Mohawk should govern (ruling out the appeal), the Ninth Circuit could issue a writ of mandamus in the alternative.

Either way, the panel may end up revisiting their opinion at this point.

The Ninth Circuit Court is expected to rule soon.

New Jersey Native Bruce Springsteen Speaks Out for Marriage Equality; Success of Marriage Bill Called Into Question

With his state's senate scheduled to vote on the New Jersey marriage equality bill Thursday, one of the most well-known names to come out of the Garden State, Bruce Springsteen, has spoken up in favor of civil rights for LGBT citizens.

On his website, "The Boss" wrote:
Like many of you who live in New Jersey, I've been following the progress of the marriage-equality legislation currently being considered in Trenton. I've long believed in and have always spoken out for the rights of same sex couples and fully agree with Governor Corzine when he writes that, "The marriage-equality issue should be recognized for what it truly is -- a civil rights issue that must be approved to assure that every citizen is treated equally under the law." I couldn't agree more with that statement and urge those who support equal treatment for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to let their voices be heard now.
The New Jersey marriage equality bill is on thin ice. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Two days before the New Jersey Senate was scheduled to consider a bill to allow same-sex marriage, some area legislators were reticent yesterday to reveal how they would vote.

Dana Redd (D., Camden), who will resign her Senate seat next month to become mayor of Camden, has decided but isn't telling, she said at a Camden City Council meeting last night.

James Beach (D., Camden) hadn't made up his mind, an aide said. And Stephen Sweeney and Fred Madden (both D., Gloucester) did not respond to repeated calls seeking their positions on the issue.

The bill, known officially as the Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act, squeaked through the Judiciary Committee in a 7-6 vote Monday after nine hours of testimony and debate. The Senate will consider it tomorrow.

"It's an uphill fight, but there is a chance for victory," said sponsor Loretta Weinberg (D., Bergen).


No matter what the outcome, tomorrow's vote on the proposal will have national implications, Dworkin said.

"Each side will take what it can from victory or defeat and mobilize based on it," he said. "It just pushes everyone to the next battleground."
We already know that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has been swamping the state with radio ads and more, urging for the senate to vote against the bill and encouraging anti-LGBT citizens to call for a public referendum. Garden State Equality has had their own ads airing.

On Tuesday, NOM issued a statement (see it on their website if you wish), telling the senate not to "mess with marriage" and claiming that they have spent $600,000 in the Garden State fighting LGBT rights.

Maggie Gallagher says, "New Jersey voters and politicians have given a great deal to Garden State Equality in the last few years, including full civil unions. Steven Goldstein has boasted that New Jersey is one of the best states for gay rights in the country, thanks to his organization's efforts. Why are they insisting on the right to redefine marriage, whether or not the people of New Jersey like it?"

ACTION: Go to Garden State Equality to find out how you can get involved!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Christian Affirmation Declaration Responds to the Anti-LGBT Manhattan Declaration

Back in November, more than 150 Christian leaders, including Protestant and Catholic, signed the Manhattan Declaration, condemning marriage equality and LGBT rights. (I had a few words to say about that.)

Thankfully, not all Christians, LGBT and non-LGBT, agree with such bigotry. They have gathered and written a response titled The Affirmation Declaration (full document). An excerpt:
We take heart in the knowledge that Christ has been where so many in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (GLBTI) community are. He has gone through the pain of rejection—particularly, the pain of being rejected by the very ones who should have been a wellspring of living water. We are thankful that the God of all comfort has been a keeping power to countless GLBTI Christians, who could, at many times, turn to no one but Him for love, affirmation, and support. We proclaim that He has been enough; but we also unwaveringly declare that He has more in mind for His children than spiritual and emotional isolation—that He desires all of His body of believers to be in fellowship one with the other.

We assert that the pain brought upon our GLBTI brethren in the name of God is not an expression of love. It is not love to bring shame and self-loathing upon people. It is not love to tell parents not to accept their gay children because their affirmation will supposedly make their children not want to change. It certainly is not love to teach the damnable heresy that GLBTI people cannot be saved or go to Heaven until they have been delivered from their natural orientation.

We also call attention to the horrible spiritual effect that antigay theology has had on the secular world. We are deeply troubled by the number of people who have been made to despise Christianity because of the oppressive and tyrannical acts of our Christian brethren. However well intentioned they may believe themselves to be, they continue to short-circuit the gospel of Jesus Christ by imposing their religious beliefs upon the general population. Whether homosexuality is sinful or not, opposing same-sex marriage is not only counterproductive to evangelistic ministry, but it is diametrically opposed to the concept of religious freedom—something that the proponents of the Manhattan Declaration claim to cherish. It appears that what they, instead, champion is their freedom to impose their religious beliefs on others. We reject this hypocritical opposition to same-sex marriage, and stand for true religious liberty in the United States of America and the world.


Finally, we assert that no godly end is served by the cruel treatment of GLBTI people. While we are certain that some among our opponents are bigots and cannot be changed or reasoned with, we humbly challenge those who sincerely disagree with homosexuality for theological reasons to reexamine this most serious issue. For the love of Christ, and the GLBTI population that He so dearly loves, give this issue the due diligence that it is deserving of. Expose yourselves to the other point of view and see, if perchance, Scripture actually does not say what you always believed it to say. If you engage in such an effort sincerely, and emerge with your existing beliefs affirmed, we will bid you Godspeed and pray that Christian fellowship can be maintained while we agree to disagree.
To those who wrote and have signed this declaration - thank you! This is true Christian love if I've ever witnessed it. Though I myself am not a Christian by definition (I do not believe that there's only one path to God while Christians believe Jesus is the one truth path), I respect the core principles of the religion. I was raised in a Christian household. This show of support and love gives me a lot of encouragement that true Christians still exist, and I hope your actions will show the LGBT population that not all are crazy wingnuts.

So far, 405 people have signed the declaration. If you are a person of faith, you can sign by going here.

National Organization for Marriage Faces IRS Probe

Press release from Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate:

WASHINGTON, DC – Right on the heels of last week’s vote on gay marriage in the New York State Senate, Maggie Gallagher’s National Organization for Marriage could well be facing its 3rd investigation into its 2 year old operation.

In an IRS letter recently received by Ben Katzenberg on behalf of Californians Against Hate (letter below or CLICK HERE), Sunita Lough, Director, EO Examinations said, “Thank you for the information you submitted regarding the National Organization for Marriage PAC New York. The Internal Revenue Service has an ongoing examination program to ensure that exempt organizations comply with the applicable provisions of the Internal Revenue Code…. Internal Revenue Code section 6103 protects the privacy of tax returns and tax return information of all taxpayers. Therefore, we cannot disclose the status of any investigation.”

NOM is already the subject of investigations in California and Maine. Both complaints were filed by Fred Karger, founder of Californians Against Hate. The California investigation (Case #08/735) is in its 2nd year. That investigation covers the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) and NOM for not reporting in-kind expenditures on behalf of the Yes on Prop 8 campaign.

The Maine investigation began when that state’s Ethics Commission voted on October 1, 2009 to investigate NOM for not filing as a PAC in the recent election there to ban same-sex marriage. NOM should have filed as a PAC when it raised $5,000. It raised well over $1.8 million, and still refused to file as required under Maine elevation law.

“In Maine they refused to release the names of their donors, even after Federal Judge D. Brock Hornby and Maine State Attorney General Janet Mills ordered them to,” said Karger. This type of blatant disregard for the law is inconceivable. NOM is not above the law.”

“Soon Maggie Gallagher and her sidekick, Brian Brown (NOM executive director) are going to get caught.”

“NOM has spent nearly $20 million around the country in the past 2 years in at least 11 states, but apparently does not believe in following either state or federal laws.”

“Additionally, no one has yet to see any federal reporting by NOM of its National Organization for Marriage Educational Fund. This is their 501(c)3 charitable organization. There is no telling how many more millions of dollars they have raised and spent through this entity. It was formed in 2008, and their filings should have been available to the public well before now. We have requested this information from the IRS and have not received it as of today.”

“NOM’s 501(c)4 finally released its required 990 tax filings for 2007 and 2008 over one year late, and only after repeated requests were filed with the IRS by our organization and several other media outlets.”

“The Congress of the Untied States should launch an official investigation of the National Organization for Marriage at once,” concluded Karger.

NOM is believed to be a front group for the Mormon Church. See our web site for details.

Karger has been subpoenaed by the Yes on 8 campaign and NOM in an effort to get him to surrender all his documentation against them so they can argue their case in the lawsuit brought by the Proposition 8 campaign against California's election officials.

Karger has had to get legal representation but it will cost a lot of money, money he does not have. For the first time ever, he's asking for support and has launched $5 per person, the cost of a latte (plus tip) could help him cover his lawyer's fees.

Obama Administration Defies Judge's Orders on Federal Benefits; Update on Federal LGBT Rights Bills

In late November, a judge ordered Obama's administration to enroll a lesbian federal employee's partner into their health benefits program. With 30 days to comply sprinting by, it appears they won't act on the order.

The administration already has a long history of defending anti-LGBT laws it says are discriminatory but must protect because their "job description" tells them so. However, openly gay Director of the Office of Personnel Management John Berry, who ironically is going along with the administration and told Blue Cross/Blue Shield to not extend the benefits to his fellow gay citizen, says he nor Obama have the authority to follow the judge's order. Huh? He spoke at the International Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference Saturday.

I guess they're simply hoping that Rep. Tammy Baldwin's Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligation Act succeeds so that they won't have to take responsibility for anything. That's a rather cowardly strategy in my opinion. And I would bet that the legislation won't pass by the time the 30 days are up. So what is the administration going to say then?

Actually, unless a miracle happens (calling Mr. Chip), I know it won't pass by then. Baldwin recently said that the bill will be voted on in early 2010. Though that's great news, it's not so great news for the administration who's defying a judge's orders.

But here's some actual good news. Openly gay Reps. Baldwin and Jared Polis, "said they are also confident that the House will include in the annual military spending bill next year a provision to repeal the law that bans gays from serving in the U.S. military. All the measures face a harder time in the Senate following the death of longtime ally Sen. Edward Kennedy, but Baldwin and Polis said they remained optimistic Senate leaders would."

“I’m hopeful we will see those three pieces of legislation make it all the way, or damn close,” said Baldwin, referring to the Domestic Partnership Benefits, DADT and ENDA.
Office of Personnel Management director John Berry, the Obama administration’s highest ranking gay appointee, told the conference that the president strongly supports the trio of gay rights measures.

Including transgender workers as part of the legislation to ban job discrimination and lifting the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gay service members may especially meet opposition in Congress, Berry said. But he said that with a Democrat in the White House and Democratic majorities controlling the House and the Senate, victories were “within our grasp.”
I hope they're right. There's been a lot of anger recently about ENDA stalling in congress.

Everyone keeps saying, "Wait for 2010." Though I applaud Baldwin and Polis, their Democratic colleagues better come through on their promises, because with the Don't Ask Don't Give campaign growing momentum, and the recent betrayal in the New York state senate by the Democrats there, they better be doing everything they can to get these pieces of legislation through, or they just may find LGBT citizens supporting their primary opponents.

Oh wait, the LGBT already have begun doing just that in New York. This "bloodbath" is at the state level for now. Don't think it won't go federal.

VIDEO: New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Marriage Bill 7-6

From Blue Jersey, who blogged the public hearing live.
The New Jersey State Senate Judiciary Committee approved the marriage equality bill by a vote of 7-6, with amendments. Two Democrats voted no, while one Republican, Bill Baroni, voted yes. A vote on final passage in the full Senate is expected to be held on Thursday.
Also, thanks to Blue Jersey, I have how each senator voted:
NO - Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen): Chairman, opponent of marriage equality. Doesn't have a law degree.
NO - John Girgenti (D-Passaic): Vice Chairman
YES - Nia Gill (D-Essex): Black Senator from Montclair, a diverse college town with a large gay population. Strong supporter of marriage equality
YES - Ray Lesniak (D-Union): Sharp, articulate lawmaker who led the fight to abolish the death penalty in New Jersey. Strong supporter of marriage equality.
YES - Nick Scutari (D-Union): a supporter of marriage equality.
YES - Bob Smith (D-Middlesex): a supporter of marriage equality. Smith represents a liberal district in Central NJ which includes New Brunswick and Piscataway.
YES - Brian Stack (D-Hudson): a supporter of marriage equality. Stack is also mayor of Union City, and an powerful Hudson County political boss.
YES - Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen): the sponsor of the bill and a progressive stalwart in the legislature.
YES - Bill Baroni (R-Mercer): very smart, well-liked Republican, and a supporter of marriage equality
NO - Christopher Bateman (R-Somerset)
NO - Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth): a wild card, and an up-and-comer in the Republican party.
NO - Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen): probably the most outspoken opponent on the committee. A dentist by trade; has no law degree.
NO - Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth): former R party chair, probably an opponent.
Supporter Gov. Jon Corzine, who has pledged to sign a marriage bill if it reaches his but will be replaced by anti-gay Republican Chris Christie in January, said in response:
I commend the Senate Judiciary Committee for allowing a thorough, open discussion on the proposed marriage equality law and approving the bill for action by the full Senate. This is an action that is long overdue. For far too long, a large segment of our population has been denied the fundamental rights and protections of a civil liberty that is granted to all Americans.

Throughout the history of our nation, New Jerseyans have been among the first to champion the fundamental rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - from the fight for independence to the civil rights movement. By moving forward with marriage equality, today we have taken a significant step toward adding yet another chapter.

I am confident that through this process, the marriage equality issue will be recognized for what it truly is - a civil rights issue that must be approved to assure that every citizen is treated equally under the law.

Senate committee hears emotional testimony on same-sex marriage bill

Senate judiciary committee vote to approve same-sex marriage bill

First image: Matt Rainey/The Star-Ledger. See his slide show of hearing.

David Badash of The New Civil Rights Movement has more audio of testimony.

Monday, December 7, 2009

ACTION ALERT! Today New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee Votes on Marriage Equality

UPDATE: The debate has begun and you can listen live here and stay updated with Blue Jersey's live blogging.

If you live in New Jersey, call the following senators who are on the Senate Judiciary Committee. They vote today on the state's marriage equality bill beginning at 1pm EST. The bill will go to the full senate on Thursday.

Sen. Paul Sarlo (Chair): (201) 804-8118
Sen. John Girgenti (Vice-Chair): (973) 427-1229
Sen. Bill Baroni: (609) 631-9988
Sen. Christopher Bateman: (908) 526-3600
Sen. Jennifer Beck: (732) 933-1591
Sen. Gerard Cardinale: (201) 567-2324
Sen. Nia Gill: (973) 509-0388
Sen. Joseph Kyrillos: (732) 671-3206
Sen. Raymond Lesnick: (908) 624-0880
Sen. Nicholas Scutari: (908) 587-0404
Sen. Bob Smith: (732) 752-0770
Sen. Brian Stack: (201) 861-5091
Sen. Loretta Weinberg: (201) 928-0100

Go to Garden State Equality to get more action alerts!

Supporters for marriage equality rallied
in state's capital of Trenton and New Jersey's Star-Ledger hopes their cause succeeds.
Senators are busy calculating the politics on this, and some will base their vote on that. They admit that in private.

Our hope, though, is that senators take the long view this week and ask themselves how they will feel 25 years from now, when gay marriage will likely be a fact of life. Which side were they on?

Supporters of this cause can take some comfort, no matter what happens this week. Gays have come a long way in New Jersey.
(H/T Good As You)

VIDEO: NY Sen. George Maziarz Cannot Constitutionally Explain His Anti-Gay Vote to Lesbian Constituent

New York state Sen. George Maziarz is confronted by his lesbian and married constituent Anne Tischer back in November at a town hall. She refers to his anti-gay record and asks how he will vote on the marriage equality bill that at the time was coming up to the senate. He was unable to give any constitutional explanation.

What is so striking about this exchange is that Sen. Maziarz fails to address anything that Anne brings up, simply falling back on a message point (if you can call it that) of "one man, one woman." As a senator who gave an oath to create constitutional legislation, can he not do his job and explain how he's come to his conclusion other than relying on discriminatory view points and religion?

Even more disheartening is the applause that breaks when he states his position. These people, who see Anne and her wife sitting right in front of them after hearing their story, who see a face of the suffering of inequality - not a faceless group of people who is easy to vote against at the ballot box - and they still applaud denying them rights? And yet they say it's not hate.

The only thing that gives me comfort is knowing that these people will be harshly judged by history, just as the segregationists and anti-suffrage movement is today.

(H/T Freedom to Marry)