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Archives – March, 2011

Jim Jordan, the newest waste of space Congressman

By Adam Bink

Wow. We still aren’t past this?

After the Supreme Court declined a request to hear a lawsuit intending to allow a voter referendum on Washington DC’s same-sex marriage law in January, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) — chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) — told The Hill that he will push for a vote to establish a referendum to overturn the law. Now, Congressional Quarterly is reporting that Jordan is drafting the proposal and expects “to draw strong support from House Republicans”:

He and other conservatives say they are weighing how best to promote the vote as an example of Republicans fulfilling a campaign promise. The GOP’s 2010 Pledge to America vowed that a Republican majority would “honor families, traditional marriage, life and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values.” [...]

But several lawmakers said Boehner has resisted making a similar commitment to press measures in opposition to gay marriage.

The Speaker skirted demands from conservatives earlier this month for a vote on a proposal to instruct House lawyers to defend a provision in the 1996 Defense of Marriage (PL 104-199) that directs the government to recognize marriages only between men and women.

The level of Republican support is difficult to gauge as the GOP leadership attempts to keep the focus on the economy and remains weary of weighing in too heavily on LGBT issues. In this case, not only does a majority of Americans now supports same-sex marriage, but a Congressional intervention into the D.C. law undermines conservatives’ efforts to present their campaign as a local effort to give DC residents the right to vote on the issue. Any additional focus on anti-LGBT issues could also bolster the presidential candidacies of Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) and Rick Santorum, who would face the steepest road in a general election.

It’s been through the City Council, the Mayor, court challenge after court challenge. It won’t go anywhere and it’s not a long-term campaign that will succeed. Waste, waste, waste.

55 Comments March 31, 2011

Remembering Andrew Wilfahrt

By Adam Bink

This morning, Courage Campaign and OutServe released a new video from the parents of US Army Corporal Andrew Wilfahrt, a gay soldier killed in combat last month in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.

The video is part of our new project, Testimony: Take a Stand, the first-ever fully searchable hub of LGBT stories.

Tomorrow will be 100 days since President Obama signed repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. Repeal has yet to be certified.

Please share the video with family, friends and colleagues. We need to spread this story so people know that we are still waiting for servicemembers like Andrew to be able to serve openly.

29 Comments March 31, 2011

Around and about

By Adam Bink

A very busy first day back (on the job organizing at Courage), so light posting today. We’re hard at work with an allied organization on a just heartbreaking video around “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” I’ll be posting here tomorrow. It’s really something.

A few items of note:

  • The Indiana Senate overwhelmingly approved a ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions. It must pass the legislature again in the next session.
  • At the same time, the Washington State Senate passed legislation to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages, and recognize those married as domestic partners in the state. Gov. Gregoire pledged to sign the bill.
  • Congressional House Republicans are going your taxpayer money to waste time bashing repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in a Friday hearing.
  • I am so freaking excited for a Glee episode cover of “Born This Way”. Every time I listen to the song I smile and feel proud of who I am.
  • I am glad Rep. Frank will wait for more co-sponsors before re-introducing ENDA, but the way today’s news went down came across as “I’m having trouble finding people to support the bill”. I almost rather no one said anything at all about the bill until it’s, well, ready. It’s not a criticism of anyone in particular, just a frustration.
  • Ultimately positive, but not really big news on green card applications for bi-national couples. DOMA remains in effect.
  • For those of you interested in coming or already coming, I’m speaking on at the Social Learning Summit, a conference on the intersection of social media, education and advocacy, on Sunday at 2 PM at American University in DC. The panel is “A Social Bill of Rights: Civil Rights and Social Media” and I’ll be talking about P8TT in part. Register and details here.

What else is up?

35 Comments March 30, 2011

DOMA Doubts Rescue Couples from Deportation: This Week in Prop 8 for March 28, 2011

Matt’s usual Monday feature didn’t go up while I was away, so here it is. -Adam

By Matt Baume

Sex sells when it comes to marriage equality, with a male modeling agency lending its talents to a new fundraising campaign. A reprieve for a woman facing deportation proves just how important marriage can be. Meanwhile, more voters than ever support the freedom to marry, so why aren’t politicians listening?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cnslU_sxd8&w=640&h=390]

Sexy torsos! A group of male models are showing their support for marriage equality by signing their names to a Shepard Fairy poster which will then be auctioned to support the grassroots organization FAIR.

It’s a lovely poster, and it’s very nice that the Nous Model Management company is supporting this project. But I gotta say, the primary appeal of these men is probably not their signatures. You have to wonder if maybe they could’ve raised more money and awareness by auctioning off pictures of themselves.

I mean, the only reason I’m even talking about this is so I can flash shirtless men on screen at the top of the show. There’s nothing better than sex for getting people interested in a cause.

But either way, it’s very nice that they’re doing this, and hopefully we’ll see more things like this that feature people of color, women, diverse body types, the disabled … something representative of our entire community.

Turning to Prop 8 news, this week the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals turned down a request to lift the stay that prevents gay couples from getting married right now. Even though Prop 8 has been already found unconstitutional, it’s still in place while the anti-gay industry appeals.

That’s hurting gay couples right now who need access to marriage. And even though we can demonstrate the harm of that keeping Prop 8 in place causes, the court wants to play it safe until all the appeals are done.

So, why is access to marriage so important? We got a great answer to that question this week when a judge in New York halted the deportation of woman because she was able to get married.

For more information about that case, let’s talk to her attorney, Lavi Soloway.

MATT: So I’m talking today with Lavi Soloway. He has great news this week for bi-national couples. So, Lavi, tell me a little about Monica and Christina.

LAVI: Well, Monica came from Argentina about 10 years ago. And in the process of getting together in their relationship, they decided to move in together. And Christina at the time was finishing her studies up at college in Buffalo, and Monica and Christina went up on a bus to go get the last of her things to move them down to New York City.

And while they were on the bus, it stopped in Rochester, New York, and the border patrol got on the bus, asked everybody for their papers, and found that Monica was in the United States without legal status and took her away. And Monica was detained in a detention facility in New Jersey for three months, and eventually released and then placed into deportation proceedings.

MATT: And what does that look like, what happens when somebody’s in deportation proceedings?

LAVI: Well, of course deportation proceedings are somewhat of a euphemism, because there’s not a lot of proceeding. You go to court, you appear before a judge, and a judge determines whether you have any right to stay in the United States. And unfortunately for Monica, as for many of the foreign spouses and partners of gay and lesbian Americans, she didn’t have any kind of Visa status, and she didn’t have any kind of legal avenue to stay in the United States.

But she was married to a U.S. citizen. And she did want to assert her right to stay in the United States on the basis of that marriage.

MATT: So, fast-forwarding to their day in court, what were you arguing and what made things different this time?

LAVI: Well, what we argued this week in court was that the judge and the attorney representing the Department of Homeland Security should take note of the changing landscape of the Defense of Marriage Act. And what does that mean specifically? It means that they should take note of the fact first that the President and the Attorney General announced that they would no longer defend the defense of marriage act on February 23, and that they found the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. But also that Congress, both the House and the Senate, were moving now to repeal it. And that legislation had been introduced.

And then of course, that previously, this summer, a federal district court judge had ruled the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional. And that taken together, all three branches were essentially working on the demise of the Defense of Marriage Act, that it would be premature to deport the spouse of a lesbian American citizen, while that was happening, when the Defense of Marriage Act was the only obstacle standing between them and a green card.

MATT: And how did they respond? How did the court respond?

LAVI: Well, of course we were very very pleased that both the judge and the government attorney were very open to this argument. And agreed to adjourn the proceedings and to allow Christina and Monica to pursue a marriage-based immigration case to its conclusion.

MATT: What do you put that down to? Why were they so receptive to this argument?

LAVI: Well, I think that in part it’s the conversation that we’re having in the United States outside of the courtroom. I think that in part it’s the polling data and the momentum of public opinion that really no longer sees gay and lesbian couples who are married as deserving of discrimination. And really there’s a lack of an argument to the other side.

And the other part of it is that the personal narrative of Christina and Monica wanting to be together and living together as spouses and being lawfully married under the laws of the state of Connecticut in this case, that’s a very powerful narrative, and when you look at them and you see their life together and you see in the paperwork they’ve provided all the evidence of a bona fide marriage, it’s hard to say to them, “you know what, sorry, we have to deport your spouse.”

So I think it’s a combination of the things going on outside the courtroom, and it’s the courage and the determination and ultimately the personal story of that couple that persuades both the judge and the government attorney to do the right thing.

MATT: So what are the next few months going to look like for this couple?

LAVI: Well we have some more filings. Now that we’ve been given this opportunity we’re going to file some more paperwork in support of the marriage case. And we’re going to keep track of the marriage case and see how the immigration service handles it. In any marriage case, usually it’s a heterosexual couple, but in any marriage case it’s typically a process that takes six to twelve months, so we have a ways to go, and we hope that ultimately their case will be approved and that Monica will get her green card on the basis of the marriage and the two will no longer have to go to immigration court.

MATT: Well, we’ll cross our fingers and hope for the best. Lavi Soloway is an immigration attorney and founder of Immigration Equality and Stop the Deportations. Lavi, thanks so much for speaking with us.

LAVI: Thanks, Matt.

Now, keep in mind that these legal proceedings are going to take months to years.

But there were some encouraging signs this week on DOMA repeal. We’re now just one vote shy of passing repeal in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Getting it passed there is going to be a big first step, and it’ll build momentum for full passage in the Senate.

Of course, the National Organization for Marriage is pushing back with all kinds of lies about DOMA. We put out a video last week that debunks all their crazy claims. You can click over here to watch it. And if you haven’t contacted your members of Congress yet to tell them why we need DOMA overturned, there’s never been a better time.

That’s because new polls show that a majority of Americans want DOMA repealed. It’s a big shift in public opinion, and smart politicians are listening.

This week in Colorado, the Colorado Senate passed a Civil Unions bill by a pretty large margin — 23 to 12, which included some Republicans voting for the bill. Now it goes to the House, where there should be enough votes to pass it, but other Republicans may try to kill the bill with procedural tricks.

And we’re losing ground in Indiana. Even though the state already bans gay couples from marrying, Republicans want to add a second ban in case the first one is found unconstitutional. That’s already passed the House, it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. And it’s likely to pass the full Senate sometime soon. Then it goes to voters. And there’s some room for hope there. A new poll this week shows Indiana voters oppose the bill.

But of course, polls have wrongly shown us winning in the past.

And last, there’s good news coming out of Europe. Lichtenstein’s Parliament unanimously approved a limited form of civil unions called “partnerschaftsgesetz.” In England, where they’ve long had civil unions, Home Secretary Theresa May promised to move forward on full marriage equality. And civil unions are coming to a tiny island off the British coast called The Isle of Man. That’s a big deal, because the Isle of Man is relatively rural and conservative, and not at all what the name “Isle of Man” might lead you to hope.

Speaking of which, here are those torsos again, not really for any reason, just ta-da.

Now click over here to catch our previous episodes, and click over here to subscribe. And if you’ve already done that, then head over house.gov and senate.gov to tell your tell your elected officials that a majority of Americans support DOMA repeal.

See you next week.

25 Comments March 30, 2011

Back in action

By Adam Bink

Morning, all. This morning I’m taking the reins back here at Prop8TrialTracker after a break because of my grandpa’s passing.

The first thing I want to say is thank you to everyone who posted a kind condolence note in the comments last week. I read every single one and while I lose a member of my family, it is nice to know there is another family here that is thinking about me, especially those who have gone through similar situations. As Rick posed in the comments:

The P8TT community never ceases to amaze me. You are warm, caring and decent. That’s the model that NOM refuses to see. We are a community, not just of LGBT people, not just of “straight allies,” but of people who care about each other. Community built our nation and continues to make it strong. The responses here to Adam’s post make that abundantly clear.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Second, I always find it refreshing to get outside DC and go to Western New York and see lots of family and family friends who aren’t into LGBT rights or politics or don’t even think about any of it. I saw the power of the story take hold. I told nearly everyone I talked to about Ed and Derence and the feature Los Angeles Times piece on Monday, and person after person just looked aghast. Even those who I knew weren’t all the way there on marriage equality. Some even asked me to send it to them. That’s the power of the personal story — moving people’s hearts. There are people who still have a long way to go, but finding and moving stories like Ed’s and Derence’s has an effect. You see it when you meet people who haven’t thought about this stuff in a long time, but when a close personal friend tells them something moving and heartbreaking, it means something.

The more of that we do, the more we will make progress. I see it firsthand. So I’m happy to be back and continue this work together. Let’s do it.

16 Comments March 30, 2011

LA Times: With same-sex marriage on hold, elderly and ailing couples face a lengthy appeals process

Did you see this terrific feature-length LA Times article about Courage Campaign members Ed Watson and Derence Kernek? You’ve likely seen the video filmed by Courage Campaign staff about why it is so important that Ed and Derence be allowed to marry in California — before it’s too late. Read their powerful story here, then share it with your friends. -Andy w/ Courage

With same-sex marriage on hold, elderly and ailing couples face a lengthy appeals process

Judges last week extended a stay on same-sex marriage until higher courts rule on Prop. 8. Derence Kernek and Ed Watson hope that process will move faster than the advance of Watson’s Alzheimer’s disease. by Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times, March 27, 2011

Photo credit: Glenn Koenig, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Palm Springs — Derence Kernek and Ed Watson live together each day in fear that they won’t be able to pledge “till death do us part” before it’s too late.

Watson, 78, is in rapidly failing health, afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

A federal appeals court ruled last week that same-sex marriage will remain on hold in California until a judge’s ruling striking down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional makes its way through the higher courts — reviews expected to take a year or more.

“We don’t have the money to travel to a state where it’s legal,” said Kernek, 80, observing dejectedly that the travel would probably be too grueling for his partner of 40 years. “Besides, we wanted to do it in California, where our friends are, where we live. Now I don’t think we’ll be able to, not while Ed can still remember.”

The ticking clock on Watson’s awareness was one of a chronicle of arguments presented to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in an unsuccessful bid to convey the urgency of letting same-sex marriage resume during the protracted appeals process.

A 9th Circuit panel made up of Judges Stephen Reinhardt, Michael Daly Hawkins and N. Randy Smith denied the request Wednesday without explanation.

Proposition 8 proponents had argued that the voter initiative’s restriction of marriage to one man and one woman should remain in place pending the appeal. They said the stay was necessary to avert social chaos if, as they insist is likely, the courts decide that the voters of California had the right to outlaw same-sex marriage.

The Aug. 4 ruling by U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker in San Francisco striking down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional buoyed hopes across the national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities that their rights to marry and raise families would eventually earn full legal recognition.

But for some, including Kernek and Watson, “eventually” could come too late.

In response to an online appeal by the Hollywood-based Courage Campaign for testimony to back the legal challenge of Proposition 8 and other gay-rights litigation, more than 3,000 couples came forward with their stories about why they believe marriage can’t wait.

“Life is not eternal — sometimes it is tragically short — and courts should not act as if it were otherwise,” said Chad Griffin, board president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights and a key strategist in the legal campaign to scuttle Proposition 8.

The anecdotes of fatal illness and faltering minds were intended to put human faces on gay- and lesbian-rights advocates’ arguments that continuing to prohibit same-sex marriage after Walker’s ruling inflicts irreparable harm on many.

The Proposition 8 opponents argued that Walker’s ruling recognized marriage as a fundamental right for all Americans, and their veteran lawyers, David Boies and Theodore B. Olson, cited case law dictating that a court should suspend a judge’s ruling only when the party seeking that stay shows that it is likely to win on appeal and be irreparably harmed in the meantime.

“Each day plaintiffs, and gay men and lesbians like them, are denied the right to marry — denied the full blessings of citizenship — is a day that never can be returned to them,” two same-sex couples who brought the successful lawsuit against Proposition 8 argued in their motion.

Those who will be harmed, Courage Campaign chairman Rick Jacobs argued in an accompanying letter to the court, are couples like Kernek and Watson and San Diego residents Jerry Peterson and Bob Smith, both in their 70s and longing to marry before the end of an appeals process that could outlive them. Shane Mayer and John Quintana, 28-year-olds from San Francisco, want to marry while Mayer’s cancer-stricken father can still take part, the friend-of-the-court letter testified.

Andrew Pugno, a lawyer for Proposition 8 backers, hailed the panel’s ruling as “a victory for Proposition 8 supporters and the initiative process as a whole.”

In his appeals court filings, Pugno had argued that the same-sex couples’ claim of urgency “rings hollow.” He pointed out that they waited six months after the initiative passed to bring their lawsuit and failed to challenge the stay when the 9th Circuit first decided last fall to keep the ban in place while the appeal was being expedited.

Pugno’s opponents say they didn’t make an issue of the stay when Walker imposed it or when the 9th Circuit agreed it should remain in place because the appeals court said the case would be fast-tracked, Jacobs said. But when the 9th Circuit on Jan. 4 asked the California Supreme Court to decide whether the Proposition 8 architects have the legal right to appeal Walker’s ruling, it became clear that the process would drag on until the end of this year, if not longer, Jacobs said.

That outlook is dispiriting for Kernek and Watson, who don’t like to contemplate their prospects for surviving the appeals process intact.

“I can’t even say how many times I’ve had to call 911 when he falls or gets into a position where I can’t lift him,” Kernek says of his partner.

The two retired to this gay-friendly desert oasis five years ago, after their eclectic college pursuits — horticulture, social work and engineering — took them from the Bay Area to Kansas City, then an Oregon farm that was their home and livelihood for a decade.

They registered as domestic partners when they arrived in California, and after the state legalized same-sex marriage three years ago, they thought they could make the ultimate commitment to each other when the time was right. The passage of Proposition 8 in November 2008 shocked them, as did Watson’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s a few months later.

Kernek is more confused than bitter about the legal obstacles preventing them from taking vows before Watson’s memory recedes to a point of no return.

“Why is it important to anybody else who you are devoted to?” Kernek asks. “I just don’t see how who I love hurts anybody else’s marriage.”

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

Photo credit: Glenn Koenig, Los Angeles Times

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34 Comments March 29, 2011

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