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“Indeed, Let the People Vote!” — A Contrarian Manifesto.

A guest post from JPM on a very interesting topic. Opinions expressed reflect those of the author alone -Adam

By jpmassar (aka JPM on P8TT)

No one should vote on other people’s rights. That’s why we have a Constitution, a Bill of Rights and the 14th amendment, judicial review of legislation, and a federal amendment process that demands a supermajority of both Congress and the States to change our basic governing document.

But the Constitution of the United States, and the ‘fundamental rights’ the Supreme Court has said are ours inherently, have never yet been interpreted to preclude the denial of these rights to LGBT American citizens.

And the fact of the matter is, as homophobic organizations delight in telling, LGBT rights have been voted on by the people of the United States at least thirty one times, and every time said people have done so said rights have gone down to defeat.

Partly as a result of these votes, and partly out of the strong belief that people should not as a matter of moral principle be voting on the rights of others, LGBT organizations, many individual LGBTs, and many allies have taken a strong stand against putting marriage equality on the ballot — fighting the fight if left no other choice (e.g., in California in 2008 and in Maine in 2009), but otherwise eschewing such votes.

The opponents of equality don’t care what tactics they use. If a ballot initiative is the best tactic, they’ll go with that. If intimidating legislators is what’s called for, they’re happy to do that too. If recalling judges will send a chilling message, well, go for it. And if spreading lies and inciting unfounded fears via advertising will get the job done, they have no problem with that either.

Is it the case that for the proponents of equality to forgo the tactic of referendums where winnable is simply handing the opposition a victory by default?

It is time to have a debate about this. Join me on the flip.

(more…)

May 9, 2011 at 12:00 pm 5 comments

An odd choice, but an ultimately worthy spokesperson for equality

By Adam Bink

Perusing through my morning reading, which included catching up on last night’s NBA and hockey action (the Red Wings stayed alive, and the Lakers got smashed, and unfortunately took it in bad form), I came across this (note the third bullet under NHL HEADLINES):

For those of you who aren’t hockey fans, Sean Avery of the NY Rangers was actually voted Most Hated Player in the league (I still harbor grudges against him for his behavior in the 2oo7 Eastern Conference Semifinals against by Sabres), so it’s odd to see him trotted out with this video:

At least, that was my general opinion when I saw the video for the first time last night. But seeing this on ESPN.com — and perhaps it’s being played on SportsCenter this morning as I type — just strikes such a chord. The audience reach is so tremendous. A quick Google search tells me it’s also up at Yahoo! Sports, Bleacherreport, NYTimes, and Forbes.com. So while I think there are probably some fans who may actually be more likely to oppose same-sex marriage just to piss off Sean Avery, just having people watch the video and think about the issue, I think, is tremendous enough to outweigh the costs.

There are, as of this post, 476 comments on the ESPN news item, some of them as follows:

adam_harrison_nashvegas (5/7/2011 at 4:55 PM)

Constitutional rights exist to protect the rights of life. So underlying, yes, constitutional rights have something to do with biology. But more importantly, constitutional rights have to do with morals. The “rights” you speak of are God-given, the only objective rights that logically can exist. And that’s really the greater argument against homosexuality, and gay marriage as well. Homosexuality is not just detrimental to life on a biological level, it is much more harmful on a moral level. It redefines what a word (marriage) means and is. It’d be akin to me legalizing heroin by rewording it to “bread” or “water”. We’ll just call this thing something it’s not to not discriminate against the heroin users. Don’t you see how ridiculous and wrong that is? Gay marriage is a lie. It’s a contradiction in terms. It’s immoral. It’s unnatural. And it’s harmful to society. No, I don’t support “gay marriage”. Considering it doesn’t and can’t truly exist, I can’t defend its’ constitutional rights.

On the other hand, there are also some comments such as this:

spride (5/8/2011 at 5:33 PM)

I’ve always hated Avery as a hockey player (How could you not?) But I have much more respect for him today than I did yesterday. Maybe it will help other professional athletes cross the stupid machismo line and support equality as well.

I wrote:

Adam Bink (5/9/2011 at 7:27 AM)
Good for Sean. I am a gay man and diehard hockey fan who wants nothing more than what my peers have: the freedom to marry the person I love and am committed to supporting. Civil unions cannot provide the federal rights nor preserve dignity when one day my niece asks me why I’m not married like her mommy and daddy if I love my partner just the same.
You can leave a comment on the piece here. People actually do read them, as there is an debate in the comments over morals the nature of homosexuality and all that.

May 9, 2011 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

A Mother’s Day gift of marriage

By Adam Bink

A well-done op-ed published in today’s NY Daily News (h/t Towleroad):

For Mother’s Day, I want marriage equality: Give my son and his partner the right to marry

It was quite a Mother’s Day gift. At long last, just as his older brother, Michael, had years earlier, my younger son, Jonathan, had found “the one.” From the moment he enthusiastically introduced my husband and me to the new person in his life, I knew this was it. For months after, I witnessed their relationship blossom – watched as his eyes lit up, listened as his “I’s” gave way to “We’s.” And like any mother, I was elated to see my son so in love and so happy.

After all, since Jonathan had never been a bar-frequenter, it had been my gentle coaxing that had convinced him that the best way to meet people in a new town was through community service. I was right.

With my encouragement, Jonathan eventually joined a volunteer group for active gay singles. Soon after, he met Eric.

Fast-forward 11 years. Jonathan and Eric are as much devoted to each other as ever.

They have a wonderful life together, complete with a lovely suburban home and an adorable dog. In 2001, they launched their own volunteer group, which, over the years, has become one of the nation’s largest service organizations for LGBT volunteers. They’re as devoted to their community as they are to their relationship, and I could not be more proud.

It’s a joy and a relief that both of my sons have entered that special, slightly mysterious realm that spouses share. That deep, abiding love and commitment. That bedrock knowledge that even if everyone else does not, that one person will remain true to the end. The simple pleasure of sleeping better at night, warm and snug in the knowledge that you are not alone in this world.

Every mother wants that for her children, to know that even when we parents are long gone, they will still be loved with every bit of fervor that we’ve loved them with from the moment they were born. It is a human condition, at the most basic level.

[…]

Michael’s marriage to Teri was a given and politics never entered the equation — of course they could marry! They were in love and had chosen each other, till death do them part. Jonathan’s relationship, on the other hand, requires a lot of explanation and even more paperwork. He is denied the rights and protections civil marriage provides.

Even children understand that this is unfair. Michael and Teri’s two sons, both years away from voting age, have written to their state senators for help – they want to see Uncle Jonathan and Uncle Eric get married, here in our home state of New York and in front of their friends and family. And so do I.

Because what matters — the only thing that matters — is love. And that is universal. It’s time that marriage was universal, too.

This Mother’s Day, I don’t want another scarf. I don’t want any flowers. My dear son can’t give me the gift I want now — he’s done all he can do. Who would have thought that the best gift this mother could ever receive would come from the New York Legislature?

It’s time to pass marriage equality legislation. I’ve got a wedding to plan.

Blumenthal is a mother from Syosset, L. I..

Any Mother’s Day thoughts or plans for you all? Anyone talking to their mom about marriage or equality?

May 8, 2011 at 10:29 am 20 comments

Anti-gay groups eye higher spending through next year

By Adam Bink

Journalist Andy Birkey has a lengthy, well-done piece about the spending:

Anti-gay rights groups around the country will see a cash infusion over the next two years through a plan called “Ignite an Enduring Cultural Transformation.” And the groups are remaining mum about who is responsible.

The campaign, which largely targets states where Republicans won control of legislatures or governorships, has garnered the support of Republican political superstars such as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Jon Kyl (Ariz.), and Rep. Trent Franks (Ariz.). The groups intend to pass anti-gay marriage amendments, curtail abortion rights and, in at least one case, ban “transgender bathrooms.”

Family policy councils — a creation of Focus on the Family in the 1980s — have launched the Ignite plan in 15 states. Each family policy council has a three-prong plan to achieve their legislative goals over the next two years: lobbying for legislation, mobilizing pastors and social conservatives and supporting candidates that have backed their initiatives. Each group has used a stock brochure containing nearly identical wording to explain their plan and to solicit funds. In many cases, an Ignite plan was launched with an anonymous matching-grant donor.

Requests for information from many of the policy councils were denied, and Focus on the Family told The American Independent that they have no involvement, declining to offer information on any organization that might back the plan.

Focus on the Family says that while the groups are “fully associated” with FoF, they “are independent entities with no corporate or financial relationship to each other or to Focus on the Family.”

While Form 990s — revenue and expense documents that nonprofits file with the IRS — don’t provide detailed information on political organizing expenditures, The American Independent has provided each group’s average yearly revenues for comparison to their two-year spending under the Ignite plan.

Already, the groups are seeing success in their respective states.

The South Dakota Family Policy Council is spending $72,600 in the next two years as part of the Ignite campaign (PDF), specifically to pass legislation that would force women seeking an abortion to speak to counselors at religious-based crisis pregnancy centers.

SDFPC lobbied heavily for the bill in the media, testified before the South Dakota legislature and organized a pastor’s day at the state Capitol in Pierre in February to advocate for the bill. It passed the legislature and was signed into law in late-March.

The SDFPC is also pushing legislation that would ban surrogate mothers, but thus far the bill has yet to get out of committee. The group lists “Defeat Equality-SD’s radical gay-rights legislation,” as a goal of the Ignite campaign.

All told, SDFPC plans to spend $72,600 under the campaign, a small chunk of the average $304,000 the group took in as normal operating revenue each year over the last 5 years.

SDFPC did not return a request for information about the campaign.

Anti-gay marriage amendments on the ballot in 2012

In several states — such as Indiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and West Virginia — Ignite plans seems to be targeted at getting anti-gay marriage amendments passed.

The Family Policy Council of West Virginia (FPCWV) plans to spend $168,000 through 2012  (it’s average yearly budget is $132,000) during its two-year Ignite campaign to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions, and also to defeat laws that would prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians.

In West Virginia, both houses of the legislature are overwhelmingly held by Democrats, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is a Democrat. The planned anti-gay marriage amendment there was voted down in the House of Delegates in February, even though many of the Democrats in the state oppose gay marriage.

There’s also a good deal more information about planned 2012 constitutional amendments out in the states.

A lot of people who contribute to Courage Campaign to fund our work tell me its because the right-wingers always have more money. Independent studies have shown, on a net level, that’s actually true. And it may actually get worse.

May 7, 2011 at 9:13 am 38 comments

Good news: Deportation hearing for Josh and Henry postponed

By Adam Bink

Just now, the immigration judge in the case of Josh and Henry, a couple set to be torn apart by the Administration under DOMA, decided to grant the couple’s request to adjourn the case given the news yesterday afternoon of Attorney General Holder’s intervention in a similar case. The case is adjourned until December. Not a permanent and lasting success, but very good news that gives the Administration time to, in their attorney’s words, find ways to allow same-sex couples in legal partnerships to stay under DOMA, as well as grants more time for the couple to be together.

GetEqual is live-tweeting from the courtroom, and reported that the judge acknowledged Holder’s decision and that the definition of marriage is ambiguous.

I have no doubt that the noise we have made around this case, including today’s rally and generating tens of thousands of signatures to Sec. Napolitano and getting the couple on TV, has helped lead to today.

As Henry said:

Great job to everyone involved including those of you who signed to Sec. Napolitano and shared the news of the rally. Onward to more permanent success.

Update: Some comments from Lavi Soloway, the couple’s attorney, on what transpired. Good stuff.

Speaking with Soloway, their attorney in this matter, after the hearing, he tells Metro Weekly the immigration judge adjourned the deportation proceedings, which will place the matter back on the “master calendar,” which is more of a status conference and, more importantly for Velandia and Vandiver, removes the “immediate threat” of deportation.

“The judge said at the outset that he wanted to deal with the question of whether the case should be adjourned before we discussed anything else,” he says. “Despite the fact that he had earlier twice denied our motions for continuance. At this time, he essentially reversed himself.”

Of the reasons, Soloway says, “The first reason that he granted an adjournment was that the I-130 petition filed by Josh for Henry was still pending and he felt that it was appropriate to let the U.S. CIS to adjudicate that petition, and that it would be inappropriate to move forward until that happened.”

The second reason the judge cited, Soloway says, was Holder’s May 5 decision to vacate a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals related to the application of Paul Wilson Dorman, in which the BIA had applied Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act to his pending case.

“He also cited the potential that he saw from the Matter of Dorman decision yesterday, which he reviewed it in court and discussed it,” Soloways says. “He cited the potential that the government might be looking at a different way of approaching the definition of marriage for immigration purposes, and so, it was appropriate to adjourn in light of that decision to vacate.”

Once “the judge explained his reasoning,” Soloway says, “The government attorney said, ‘On behalf of the Department of Homeland Security’ that they were in agreement that that was the appropriate way to move forward.”

Of the Metro Weekly Poliglot report on Holder’s May 5 decision, Soloway notes, “I came into the court and the judge handed me Matter of Dorman, and attached to it, with a staple was [Metro Weekly‘s] article xeroxed for everyone to see, from yesterday. The judge said, ‘I’d like to make this part of the record.'”

Update 2: A wonderfully produced video of what happened yesterday (h/t Kathleen):

May 6, 2011 at 11:49 am 50 comments

Other Prop 8 briefs this week

By Adam Bink

A few briefs this week submitted that I haven’t had a chance to cover:

From the Pacific Justice Institute on behalf of Rev. Joshua Beckley, arguing over the issue of standing:

View this document on Scribd

Judicial Watch, over the same issue:

View this document on Scribd

And a great brief submitted by Equality California, NCLR, and Lambda Legal, which can be found here (PDF):

2011-05-02 EQCA, NCLR, Lambda Legal Amicus Brief

May 6, 2011 at 11:11 am 19 comments

Attorney General Holder steps into immigration case of bi-national same-sex couple

By Adam Bink

Some big news today from the Attorney General’s office regarding the forced separation of same-sex couples:

Attorney General Eric Holder today filed a very rare decision, vacating a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals related to the application of Paul Wilson Dorman, in which the BIA applied Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act to a pending case.

Holder’s decision:

In the exercise of my review authority under that regulation, and upon consideration of the record in this case, I direct that the order of the Board be vacated and that this matter be remanded to the Board to make such findings as may be necessary to determine whether and how the constitutionality of DOMA is presented in this case, including, but not limited to: 1) whether respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union qualifies him to be considered a “spouse” under New Jersey law; 2) whether, absent the requirements of DOMA, respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union would qualify him to be considered a “spouse” under the Immigration and Nationality Act; 3) what, if any, impact the timing of respondent’s civil union should have on his request for that discretionary relief; and 4) whether, if he had a “qualifying relative,” the respondent would be able to satisfy the exceptional and unusual hardship requirement for cancellation of removal.

Dorman entered a civil union in New Jersey with his male partner.

I got off the phone with Lavi Soloway, the attorney for Henry and Josh, who are set to face the final deportation hearing tomorrow. Lavi said:

What this shows is the executive branch has the necessary authority to protect bi-national couples from being torn apart, but its willing to do that, and so it’s looking for ways. What we’re looking for is a moratorium. This is not that. This is the Attorney General looking into one case and seeing what can be done, which can be applauded. What we need to do is explore that… what this does is showing the executive branch wants to find a solution to this problem. This development could be a sign that the Obama administration is looking for a way to protect gay and lesbian bi-national couples who are currently barred from the regular marriage-based immigration process by the Defense of Marriage Act.

This is proof that the pressure has an impact.

If you’re in the NYC/northern NJ area, please consider joining a hundred supporters of theirs for a rally outside the courthouse before the hearing tomorrow, along with nine organizations including Courage Campaign. Details:

WHERE:
Department of Homeland Security
Newark Immigration Court
Peter Rodino Federal Building
970 Broad Street
Newark, NJ
WHEN:  FRIDAY MAY 6 at 11 a.m.

RSVP on Facebook.

May 5, 2011 at 6:23 pm 52 comments

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