Posts filed under ‘DOMA Repeal’

Should we Push for Marriage or Compromise on Civil Unions? May 9th Marriage News Watch

By Matt Baume

Disagreement over marriage versus civil unions could drive Rhode Island’s LGBT activists against each other. Meanwhile, an unknown source is funneling millions of dollars to anti-gay groups in fifteen states. We’ll talk about Target’s role in Minnesota’s proposed double-ban on marriage, and share some good news from Brazil, Scotland, and Taiwan.

The fight for marriage grew even more heated this week in Rhode Island with the introduction of a civil unions bill. One week earlier, sponsors of a marriage bill decided to pull their legislation due to what they felt was a lack of votes. But now, this civil unions compromise, introduced by Representative Peter Petrarca, is coming under fire from groups like Marriage Equality Rhode Island and Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders.

GLAD criticized House Speaker Gordon Fox for giving up on the marriage bill, and Rhode Island Marriage Equality began formulating plans to vote out anti-marriage legislators in 2012. That’s likely to include Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed, a Democrat who opposes marriage.

But in order for that effort to be successful, Marriage Equality Rhode Island still needs the House to vote on marriage to determine out who exactly needs to be voted out. Marriage bill sponsor Arthur Handy may be able to force a House vote by attaching an amendment to the civil unions bill, which would also endanger its chances of passage.

Meanwhile, around the country, we’re starting to see a mysterious surge in spending on anti-gay campaigns through a program called Ignite an Enduring Cultural Transformation. The cash is flowing to Family Research Councils in 15 states, which have created 3-year plans to oppose marriage, as well as anti-discrimination and abortion legislation.

The source of the money is unclear, but it adds up to millions more than has been spent in past years. It includes anti-gay initiatives in Idaho, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Arizona, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kansas, Louisiana, Florida, Indiana, and Massachusetts.

The biggest spending is in Virginia, where an anti-gay group is getting $1.2 million; New Jersey, which is getting $1.3 million; Pennsylvania with $1.5 million, and Minnesota, with $4.7 million.

Pennsylvania and Minnesota are of particular importance, because they’re both facing Constitutional amendments to ban marriage. Pennsylvania’s was introduced this week by Republican Representative Daryl Metcalfe. Minnesota’s, which would duplicate a ban that already exists, has been working its way through the legislature for several weeks.

That’s thanks, in part, to Target. You’ll remember several months ago when it came to light that the retailer was pouring huge amounts of cash into the campaigns of anti-gay candidates. And now two of those politicians, Representatives Doug Magnus and Kurt Zellers, are likely to play a role in passing Minnesota’s double marriage ban. To this day, Target still won’t pledge to stop funneling money to anti-gay politicians.

But there’s some good news in Illinois, where civil unions will begin on June 2nd. Lawmakers and LGBT couples will mark the occasion with a ceremony at 10am at Wrigley Square, where Governor Pat Quinn will oversee the civil unioning of thirty couples. Click over here to watch our interview with Phil Reese about exactly how Illinois activists were able to make civil unions a reality.

And in New York, both sides continue to lay foundations for an upcoming marriage fight. Bill Clinton released a statement this week endorsing marriage, which is better late than never, and Chelsea was photographed phonebanking for our side.

Also this week, a coalition of civil rights groups released a very soft TV commercial for marriage, and are gearing up for a day of lobbying on May 9th in Albany.

But anti-gay groups are pushing back hard. They’ve pledged to spend $1 million to unseat any Republican who supports marriage, and they’re planning an anti-marriage rally on May 15th. The same day as New York’s annual AIDS Walk.

There was also big news this week in immigration, with Attorney General Eric Holder taking the extraordinary move of personally intervening to stop the deportation of Paul Wilson Dorman. The Board of Immigration Appeals had previously ruled that Dorman should be deported, despite having a civil union with an American citizen.

In his ruling, Holder ordered the BIA to re-examine whether couples with civil unions can be considered spouses, and whether their finding would have been different in the absence of DOMA. While it’s unclear how this changes the playing field, it’s a sign that Holder could be exploring legal justifications for ending the long-standing practice of deporting gay spouses.

And the move had immediate ramifications for Henry and Josh, the bi-national couple in New Jersey who faced a deportation hearing on Friday. At that hearing, the judge decided to put Henry’s removal on hold for another six months, due to the uncertainty around DOMA’s application. Courage Campaign’s joint petition with AllOut.org is here.

Click here to watch our interview with Josh about how he and Henry met, and what it would mean if the government ordered them to be separated.

Let’s take a quick look at some other major headlines this week. At the GOP debate in South Carolina, nobody had anything nice to say about LGBTs, with Ron Paul expressing support for DOMA because, he says, it protects states. It’s great that Ron Paul is more concerned about the welfare of the state than of the people who actually live in it.

Representative Pete Stark introduced the “Every Child Deserves a Family Act,” which seeks to end adoption bias. Despite 100,000 children awaiting adoptive families in this country and 2 million LGBT adults willing to adopt, one third of adoption agencies reject parents simply because they’re gay. Stark’s law would divert adoption funding to states that practice inclusive adoptions, and could save the country $3 to $6 billion.

And one the many legal cases against DOMA could move forward on Monday with a judge potentially setting a schedule for arguments in Windsor versus United States, in which Edie Windsor was charged a $350,000 gay death tax when her spouse of 44 years passed away.

Turning to international news, the Supreme Federal Court in the heavily Catholic country of Brazil voted in favor of civil unions this week by a margin 10-0, joining Argentina and Uruguay in offering protections to same-sex couples.

The Scottish National Party won a majority in Parliament, and is expected to open talks on marriage equality.

And Taiwan is moving ahead with plans to implement age-appropriate lessons in elementary schools about LGBT issues.

Those are the headlines, join us over at MarriageNewsWatch.com for more on all of these stories and more. Remember to check us out at Facebook.com/MarriageNewsWatch and follow mnwatch on Twitter. Click here to subscribe to us on YouTube, and over to the right to get caught up on previous episodes, including last week’s news about the turmoil on DOMA’s legal defense team and more background on the fight for immigration equality.

We’ll see you next week.

May 9, 2011 at 9:00 am 6 comments

Sen. Sherrod Brown to support DOMA repeal; 1 of 2 former House members to vote against DOMA

By Adam Bink

Today, we got word, confirmed by Senate sources, that Sen. Sherrod Brown will co-sponsor Sen. Feinstein’s legislation, the “Respect for Marriage Act”, to repeal DOMA. A longtime supporter of LGBT equality, Sen. Brown is one of two Senators who voted against DOMA while serving in the House of Representatives in 1996, the other being Sen. Bernie Sanders (and one of just eight Senators serving currently who voted against DOMA in 1996).

Sen. Brown’s decision brings the number of co-sponsors to 22, plus the support of Sen. Klobuchar, who confirmed to the Washington Blade that she will support repeal.

The list of co-sponsors is now as follows:

Sen. Akaka (HI)

Sen. Blumenthal (D-CT)

Sen. Boxer (D-CA)

Sen. Brown (D-OH)

Sen. Cantwell (D-WA)

Sen. Coons (D-DE)

Sen. Durbin (D-IL)

Sen. Franken (D-MN)

Sen. Gillibrand (D-NY)

Sen. Harkin (D-IA)

Sen. Inouye (D-HI)

Sen. Kerry (D-MA)

Sen. Kohl (D-WI)

Sen. Lautenberg (D-NJ)

Sen. Leahy (D-VT)

Sen. Merkley (D-OR)

Sen. Murray (D-WA)

Sen. Schumer (D-NY)

Sen. Shaheen (D-NH)

Sen. Udall (D-CO)

Sen. Whitehouse (D-RI)

Sen. Wyden (D-OR)

May 5, 2011 at 12:48 pm 43 comments

Video: New Mexico activists and Cleve Jones deliver 1,000 Repeal DOMA messages to Sens. Bingaman and Udall

By Adam Bink

As Cleve wrote earlier, on Monday afternoon, he took an impromptu trip (he was in town for the New Mexico AIDS Walk) to Sens. Bingaman and Udall with a New Mexico lesbian couple to deliver these messages. We posted the video here.

We’ll be checking in with their offices, and rest assured they will hear from New Mexicans again and again until they support equality.

More from The Advocate.

May 4, 2011 at 5:11 pm 7 comments

Me, DOMA, and New Mexico

By Cleve Jones

I’m at the airport right now, waiting for my flight home after 3 days in Albuquerque.  Yesterday morning, with the help of some Courage Campaign volunteers from New Mexico, we delivered petitions signed by over 1,000 New Mexicans to the offices of Senators Udall and Bingaman.

Me with Noreen Richards and Bernadette Koh

One thing I thought was interesting about these petitions was that they weren’t just signatures.  Each signature was accompanied by a short note to the Senators, which tended to echo common sentiments.  These folks had voted for them in the past and viewed them as supportive of Sen. Feinstein’s legislation to repeal DOMA, and were really expecting the Senators to sign on.

Each note also included the zip code of the person who sent it.  So, the Senators’ staff could easily see that with very little time, we had provided them with letters from 1,000 people who live, work, pay taxes and vote in the state of New Mexico.

Earlier in the weekend, on Saturday, I had spoken at the Albequerque AIDS Walk.  Later that night, at the biggest and most popular LGBT nightclub in town, over 1,000 flyers were handed out to urge people to make telephone calls to the Senators’ offices.

In short, with a little time on the ground and concerted effort, we were able to show the Senators that many of their constituents have very strong support for the repeal of DOMA in New Mexico. This is just a start to what may be a longer journey, but New Mexicans are prepared to take their concerns to their Senators — and to the ballot box.

May 3, 2011 at 9:00 am 25 comments

Cleve Jones and LGBT New Mexicans deliver DOMA repeal signatures to Sens. Bingaman and Udall

Update: The Advocate covers the New Mexico delivery and our DOMA campaign.

By Adam Bink

I wrote last week about partnership with ProgressNow New Mexico and Democracy for New Mexico to bring Sens. Bingaman and Udall onboard to support DOMA repeal. We are working one by one to demonstrate to Senators how important it is for them to support equality for same-sex couples.

Yesterday, Cleve Jones went into the Senators’ Albuquerque offices with local LGBT activists to deliver 1,000 messages from New Mexicans to the Senators. Many had voted for, volunteered for, or contributed to their election and would like the same support back. I’ll post video of the delivery later.

Below is a joint release and a link where you can view the messages of New Mexicans asking for equality for them or their friends, family and colleagues.

Courage Campaign

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  May 2, 2011

JOINT RELEASE: LEADING NEW MEXICO PROGRESSIVE GROUPS URGE SENS. BINGAMAN AND UDALL TO SUPPORT DOMA REPEAL

Renowned activist Cleve Jones joins New Mexican families to deliver messages

Albuquerque: Earlier today, renowned LGBT activist Cleve Jones, founder of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, joined New Mexican same-sex couples and activists to deliver over 1,000 messages to the offices of Sens. Bingaman and Udall, demanding that they support Sen. Feinstein’s legislation to repeal the “Defense of Marriage Act”, or DOMA. The messages were gathered jointly by the 700,000 member Courage Campaign, in partnership with its sister organization ProgressNow New Mexico (both are part of the ProgressNow Action Network) and Democracy for New Mexico, a popular state political blog.

“Thousands of LGBT people and straight allies supported Sens. Bingaman and Udall in their political campaigns,” Courage Founder and Chair Rick Jacobs said. “It’s time for both senators to end second class citizenship for gay and lesbian couples who serve in our military, teach our kids, nurse us back to health and live next door, but are barred from Social Security benefits, visas for legally married bi-national couples, survivor benefits in the military and paying their fair share in taxes.”

On April 27, Mary Ellen Broderick and Barb Wold, a lesbian couple living in Albuquerque for the past 18 years and publishers of the Democracy for New Mexico blog, wrote to the three organizations’ members and readers in the state, alerting them that Sens. Bingaman and Udall are not co-sponsors of Sen. Feinstein’s legislation. The legislation, titled the “Respect for Marriage Act”, would repeal DOMA and allow legally married same-sex couples, no matter where they reside, to have access to the over 1,000 federal benefits currently denied to committed same-sex couples. Members and readers were also asked to leave personal messages for the two Senators if they voted, volunteered for, or contributed to their election in the past.

The messages, which were hand-delivered to the two Senate offices today, can be viewed at: http://www.couragecampaign.org/DOMA_NM_Signatures

In March, Courage Campaign joined with Sen. Feinstein and Rep. Nadler to introduce the “Respect for Marriage Act,” legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Both members of Congress penned e-mails to Courage Campaign’s 700,000 members asking them to join the campaign. As of this release, over 53,000 individuals have signed up for the long-term campaign, including volunteer state captains in 30 states. In addition, Courage Campaign successfully targeted and picked up the votes of Sens. Klobuchar (D-MN) and Kohl (D-WI), giving equality advocates the 10 votes they need to pass repeal through the Senate Judiciary Committee. The legislation now has 22 co-sponsors.

Cleve Jones, Senior Advisor to the Courage Campaign, a protégé of Harvey Milk’s as well as founder of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and the force behind the 2009 National Equality March, was in New Mexico to participate in the New Mexico AIDS Walk when told of the Senators’ position. He quickly rearranged his schedule to join New Mexico activists to deliver the messages and tell Sens. Bingaman and Udall that now is the time to support only one class of citizenship in our nation.

“We need full federal equality in all 50 states, and repealing DOMA is a cornerstone of that goal,” noted Cleve Jones. “Sens. Bingaman and Udall must join the right side of history by demanding equality for their constituents.”

“We moved to New Mexico 18 years ago because we knew its residents and representatives were fair-minded people,” said Mary Ellen and Barb. “We voted for, volunteered for, donated to, and blogged for Sens. Bingaman and Udall for years. Now we’d like the same support back.”

# # #

Courage Campaign is a multi-issue online organizing network that empowers more than 700,000 grassroots and netroots supporters to work for progressive change and full equality in California and across the country. Last year, the Courage Campaign tracked NOM’s “One Man One Woman Summer Marriage Tour” at www.nomtourtracker.com. Through a one-of-a-kind online tool called Testimony: Take A Stand, the Courage Campaign is chronicling the sights, sounds and stories of LGBT families and all who wage a daily struggle against discrimination across America. For more information about Testimony, please visit, http://www.couragecampaign.org/testimony.

ProgressNow New Mexico is a nonprofit advocacy organization specializing in effective earned media campaigns and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values. Its grassroots efforts are aimed at bringing people together to have a strong voice that creates progress in New Mexico. As a leading multi-issue advocacy organization, ProgressNow New Mexico works directly with the public on progressive actions. This includes holding public officials accountable, training and organizing activists to change their communities, and using cutting-edge online communications tools to support progressive causes.

The Democracy for New Mexico blog has served as an information clearing house for the progressive grassroots since 2004. We seek to provide political news, opinions and information that will help ordinary citizens become informed and active participants in our democracy rather than passive bystanders. Our main goal is to empower people to speak truth to power and advocate actively for progressive change.

May 3, 2011 at 6:00 am 12 comments

NYC rally to stop the deportations under DOMA

Update: The rally date may be moved. Stay tuned.

Update 2: The date has been changed to Thursday at 5 PM.

By Adam Bink

The last few weeks we’ve been watching the case of Henry and Josh, a couple set to be torn apart under DOMA even though the Administration refuses to defend the law in court and Sec. Napolitano has the power to stop the deportations. Here’s Henry and Josh on MSNBC late last week:

Tomorrow afternoon On Thursday, May 5th, Courage Campaign will join Henry, Josh, and a number of other pro-LGBT organizations to rally at the Newark federal building in support of stopping their separation and that of the 36,000 other same-sex bi-national couples set to be torn apart. We will unite to respectfully ask that Sec. Napolitano exercise her power to keep families together. Henry and Josh are from New Jersey.

Henry’s final deportation hearing is set for this Friday, so this is it. Last night the President remarked “But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place. ”

That struggle continues.

If you can attend, please RSVP on Facebook here. You can also share the event with friends in the NYC metro area!

RALLY: Stop Deporting LGBT Spouses
Time: Tuesday, May 3, 3:00pm – 5:00pm Thursday, May 5, 5:00pm – 7:00pm
Location: Department of Homeland Security/Newark Immigration Court – Peter Rodino Federal Building
970 Broad Street
Newark, New Jersey
Sponsored/supported by: All Out, Courage Campaign, GetEQUAL, Garden State Equality, Immigration Equality, Marriage Equality USA, Out4Immigration, the Princeton Equality Project, and Stop The Deportations.

May 2, 2011 at 9:00 am 13 comments

Irrational Prop 8 Demands Get Their Day in Court

Congrats to Matt on the new website and name for the show, but same great content -Adam

By Matt Baume

What really prompted a prominent law firm to give up its defense of DOMA, and lose a key lawyer in the process? The date’s been set for a showdown over the secret Prop 8 trial tapes, and over Judge Walker’s personal life. Rhode Island legislators give up on marriage in favor of civil unions, and New York keeps ratcheting up the pressure with a massive lobbying effort slated for next week.

There was a surprise twist to the Defense of Marriage Act this week. The law firm King & Spalding had initially signed on to defend the anti-gay law, but then abruptly ended their representation on Monday. Paul Clement, the lawyer in the case, responded by resigning from King & Spalding so that he could continue DOMA’s defense with another firm.

So, why did King & Spalding drop the case? They said that it just wasn’t vetted properly, but there’s a lot of speculation that they were heavily pressured by clients and colleagues to get out of the business of hurting gay families.

Now, a few people — including Attorney General Eric Holder — have come to Paul Clement’s defense, saying that our legal system has a duty to secure representation for even the most unpopular clients, because defending unpopular clients is necessary for protecting larger fundamental freedoms.

For example, if we want to protect the freedom of expression, that includes defending racist or violent speech, because there’s a larger freedom at stake.

But that’s not really the case here. What’s the larger freedom at stake with DOMA? There isn’t one. DOMA limits freedoms. Standing up for a cause can be noble. But not if your cause is denying health care, deporting husbands and wives, and forcing widows out of their homes.

There’s simply no justification for Paul Clement’s continued defense of this harmful law, which has even been renounced by the people who wrote it.

The good news is that more Senators have signed on to DOMA’s repeal, and we now have the 10 votes needed to pass it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The next step is to pressure Patrick Leahy, the committee chair, to hold hearings on the Respect for Marriage Act. So Vermonters, you know what to do: go to leahy.senate.gov and tell him it’s time to hold hearings on the Respect for Marriage Act.

In the mean time, we can all mark our calendars for June 13. That’s going to be a big day in the Prop 8 case, as we’ll be hearing arguments on two separate controversial issues.

The first is whether the public should be allowed to see videotapes of the Prop 8 trial from last year. The answer, obviously, is yes, because we do not live in a country that makes a habit of holding secret trials. But the anti-marriage folks don’t want anyone to see how badly they lost, so they’re making the public jump through all these hoops in order to see our own justice system at work.

The second question is even more unbelievable. They’re saying that Judge Walker’s ruling on marriage should be thrown out because he might want to get married someday. Not that he said he would get married, not that he tried once before, just might. Hypothetically. Maybe. Or not. Who knows?

If that sounds crazy to you, you’re not alone. Just about every legal analyst in the country is shocked that they’re trying to make an issue out of Judge Walker’s marital plans.

It just doesn’t make sense — not even to their own people. Here’s what Maggie Gallagher had to say a few months ago about whether it was relevant that Judge Walker was rumored to have a partner.

MAGGIE GALLAGHER: First of all, it’s relevant. It could be relevant. It’s not irrelevant. If he had upheld Prop 8, I think it would be even more relevant. I don’t believe that it’s totally irrelevant. I’m not sure it is relevant, in the sense that I do know a small number of people who supported Prop 8 who were gay. So it’s not necessarily relevant.

Maybe they’ll get their story straight by June.

There was a big disappointment in Rhode Island this week, with House Speaker Gordon Fox deciding that they didn’t have enough votes to pass a marriage law this year. As a result, they’ll be introducing a civil unions bill on Tuesday of this week.

It’s a big letdown, especially since polls in Rhode Island showed that voters supported the marriage bill and nobody’s satisfied with the civil unions compromise. Civil rights groups say that it doesn’t go far enough, while the Catholic Diocese said this week that it doesn’t want gay families to have any protections.

Things are even worse in Minnesota, where lawmakers are moving towards implementing a second marriage on top of an already existing prohibition. The proposed constitutional amendment passed the Senate Judiciary 8 to 4 on party lines, and is expected to pass the House and Senate later this year, which would put it before voters in 2012.

There’s a bit more cause for optimism in New York, where marriage currently has 26 of the 32 votes needed to pass the Senate. Several lawmakers have yet to take a stand, including Democrats Joe Addabbo and Shirley Huntley of Queens, and Republicans James Alesi of Fairport, Greg Ball of Brewster, and Joseph Griffo of Utica. Empire State Pride Agenda will hold a lobbying day for marriage in Albany on May 9, but a week later NOM and its allies will hold an anti-marriage rally on May 15.

Meanwhile, Equality Ohio founder Lynne Bowman will serve as interim Executive Director of Equality Maryland while that organization searches for a permanent leader. Morgan Meneses-Sheets was abruptly fired last week after a disappointing legislative session. Her replacement will be expected to revive attempts to pass marriage and anti-discrimination laws in 2012.

And Poland announced this week that the country would soon allow its citizens living abroad to get married, although Poland itself still wouldn’t recognize those marriages.

Those are the headlines. Visit MarriageNewsWatch.com for more on all of these stories, and head over to Facebook.com/MarriageNewsWatch and click “Like” to get news alerts and headlines right on your wall. Click over here to subscribe to weekly updates, or over to the right to watch some of our previous episodes, such as our interview with Josh Vandiver about how DOMA could separate him from his husband, and our interview with Friendfactor’s Brian Elliot about moving New York legislators closer to marriage.

We’ll see you next week.

May 2, 2011 at 6:27 am 30 comments

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