U.S. To Recognize Same-Sex Marriage In 6 New States

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government is recognizing gay marriage in six more states and extending federal benefits to those couples, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Saturday.

Gay marriage recently became legal in Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The government's announcement follows the U.S. Supreme Court's decision earlier this month to decline to hear appeals from five states that sought to keep their marriage bans in place. It brings the total number of states with federal recognition of gay marriage to 32, plus the District of Columbia.

Couples married in these states will qualify for a range of federal benefits, including Social Security and veterans' benefits.

"With each new state where same-sex marriages are legally recognized, our nation moves closer to achieving full equality for all Americans," Holder said.

The attorney general said the government is working "as quickly as possible" to make sure same-sex married couples in these states receive the "fullest array of benefits" that federal law allows.

The Justice Department also has determined that it can legally recognize gay marriages performed this summer in Indiana and Wisconsin after federal courts declared marriage bans in the states unconstitutional. Subsequent developments created confusion about the status of those unions, but Holder said the U.S. government will recognize the marriages.


Best Tweets: What Women Said On Twitter This Week

This week was quite productive for the ladies of Twitter. Not only did Twitter user Mmmkay? do laundry, she achieved the impossible: "Just finished the laundry with no missing socks. // *adds magician to resume*." Yep, that's definitely magic.

Abbi Crutchfield killed two birds with one stone this week when she bought a pumpkin to celebrate Halloween: "Carrying a pumpkin home from the grocery store counts as exercise during the fall." Seasonal enthusiasm and cardiovascular exercise? This woman is a hero.

For more great tweets from women, scroll through the list below. Then visit our Funniest Tweets From Women page for our past collections.


Attorney General: Federal government will recognize marriage equality in six more states

Today, U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, announced that the federal government will recognize the marriages of same-sex couples performed in six states that recently enacted marriage equality. These six states are Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming.

This announcement means that couples living in those states are eligible for federal protections and responsibilities that come with marriage equality, including filing joint taxes, taxation on employee benefits, and continued health coverage.

Additionally, the Attorney General announced that the Department of Justice has determined that it can legally recognize the marriages of same-sex couples performed this past June in Wisconsin and Indiana. Those marriages, which occurred immediately following federal court rulings overturning the states' bans on marriage equality, were previously called into question.

“Everyone should be able to marry the person they love. It’s just that simple,” said GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “Today, the Attorney General sided with fairness and respect for countless couples, who simply want to provide their families with the protections that only marriage can afford. But as legal victories continue to sweep the nation, we must redouble our work to boost public acceptance, which is beginning to lag behind the rapid pace of policy.”​

The announcement comes after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear cases related to marriage equality earlier this month. An additional ruling in the ninth circuit court of appeals also struck down marriage bans across the American west. These two actions brought the number of states with marriage equality from 19 to 32, with that number expected to grow.

October 25, 2014

Roberta Kaplan, DOMA Attorney, Discusses Challenging Mississippi Gay Marriage Ban

Attorney Roberta Kaplan, who represented Edie Windsor in the landmark case, United States v. Windsor, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, filed suit this week in federal court in Jackson to overturn Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage on behalf of two lesbian couples: Rebecca "Becky" Bickett and Andrea Sanders of Harrison County; and Jocelynn "Jose" Pritchett and Carla Webb of Jackson, who married in Maine in 2013. Kaplan noted that Mississippi has the highest percentage of gay couples with children, and that was one of the reasons why she thought it was an important case to take.

”They said, 'We need rights. We need to have our families protected the way other families are,'” she told me in an interview on SiriusXM Progress. “I agreed with them. I agreed it was the right time and we put a case together pretty quickly.”

The case has been fast-tracked by U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves, an appointee of President Obama, who scheduled a hearing for November 12. The LGBT rights group Campaign for Southern Equality is also a plaintiff, and the plaintiffs are also represented by Mississippi attorney Robert McDuff of McDuff & Byrd, based in Jackson.

“We asked the court to kind of, on a very expedited schedule, decide that our clients were right and give them the right to marry at the very beginning of the case,” Kaplan explained. “And I have to say, writing the brief — I’m a bit of legal geek, so writing briefs for me is fun, which, already, I admit, is somewhat strange — but writing this brief was one of the best experiences of my life. [That’s] because the entire case just quotes case after post-Windsor case, just making the argument over and over and over again for why we’re right. Normally in a brief you have to analogize to other situations as to why you’re right. Here, we didn’t have to analogize. We have 40-plus decisions already deciding exactly the same thing.”

Kaplan also weighed in on the U.S. Supreme Court’s momentous decision nearly three weeks ago -- what she called its "non-decision decision" -- to let several circuit court decisions stand, bringing marriage equality to many more states but obviously not stepping in to rule on marriage equality for all 50 states as some had hoped and expected. She referred to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s statements of a few weeks before, in which Ginsburg said the court would likely wait until a circuit court ruled against gay marriage before it stepped in. The remarks seemed to reflect the take-it-slow approach Ginsburg has telegraphed on the issue in the past.

"Along with [the late Justice] Thurgood Marshall, Justice Ginsburg was one of the greatest strategic litigators of our country’s history,” Kaplan said.“When [Justice Ginsburg] says, ‘You know, you guys should take your victories, and let it happen,’ you know, call me crazy. But I listen very carefully to Justice Ginsburg, and I tend to take her advice.”


The Children’s Hour': Was It Good For The Gays?

If you’re going to make a movie about queer people, you’re likely going to get a divisive response. Does it reinforce negative stereotypes? Does it provide an accurate cross-section of the diverse LGBT community? How many think pieces will it incite? In this regular column, we’ll look at depictions of queers in cinema and ask, Was It Good For The Gays? Today, a look at William Wyler’s adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s play, The Children’s Hour.

People Who Identify As Genderqueer Share Photos For #WhatGenderqueerLooksLike

Though queer people are gaining more and more visibility in mainstream media and society, that doesn't mean that the images we're presented with are always accurate or representative of who we really are and how we live our lives. And sometimes we're still disappointingly absent, especially when it comes to certain subsections of our community.

Case in point: The dearth of images that authentically capture what it means to be genderqueer, which is defined by the UC Berkeley Gender Equity Resource Center as:
"A person whose gender identity is neither man nor woman, is between or beyond genders, or is some combination of genders. This identity is usually related to or in reaction to the social construction of gender, gender stereotypes and the gender binary system. Some genderqueer people identify under the transgender umbrella while others do not."

But fear not! Thanks to the hashtag #WhatGenderqueerLooksLike, we're hoping to help change all that. Feast your eyes on the beautiful folks who offered up a shot of themselves and if you want to be part of this stunning group, tweet your own photo using #WhatGenderqueerLooksLike.

Also be sure to check out our other features, #WhatButchLooksLike and #WhatBiLooksLike, #WhatFemmeLooksLike, #WhatTransLooksLike, #WhatABearLooksLike and #WhatATwinkLooksLike.

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Gay Activists Charged For Kissing At Anti-Gay Protest

Two Italian gay rights activists have been charged with a public order offense for kissing at a protest in Perugia, Italy.

Irish news outlet The Journal reports that the men were among six LGBT activists to be charged for disturbing the peace as they expressed dissent for a March 29 protest of the Sentinelle in Piedi (Standing Sentries), a group that opposes the legalization of same-sex marriage.

The activists were notified of their charges on Oct. 7 and stand accused of calling Standing Sentries members "fascists" and "bigots," according to a police report obtained by various media outlets. Four of the six activists are also accused of holding an unlawful demonstration.

The police report states that when two of the male activists were asked to leave, they engaged in “a long and passionate kiss on the mouth … in front of many families with children and teenagers, many of them minors, leaving passersby disgusted at such a display.”

The video below, posted by Perugia-based LGBT organization Omphalos Arcigay Arcilesbica, apparently shows the couple kissing during the Sentries' March protest. (Around the 0:50 mark.)

Human Rights Watch has demanded that the public prosecutor drop the charges.

“The charges would be laughable if they didn’t reflect exactly the anti-gay sentiment the activists are fighting against," Judith Sunderland, senior Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement released Thursday.

Though the Italian government has made no moves to legalize same-sex marriage, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is pushing to authorize civil partnerships and stepchild adoption for gay couples.

But there's still a long way to go.

Gianluca Buonanno, mayor of the the small town of Borgosesia, recently told Italian newspaper La Repubblica: "I don't like two people of the same sex making public displays of affection. It's a question of respect. And I'm convinced that it's also morally harmful for children."

Two Ministers Claim They Could Face 180 Years In Jail For Refusing To Do Gay Weddings

Less than two weeks after a federal appeals court struck down Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage, two ministers in the northwestern Idaho city of Coeur d’Alene have filed a lawsuit claiming they could face up to 180 years in jail for refusing to perform a same-sex wedding.

The lawsuit, filed Oct. 17 in federal trial court by the conservative Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, stoked long-held fears among opponents of marriage equality.

“The day liberals promised would never come is already here,” Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council warned in a press release announcing the lawsuit, which was brought on behalf of Donald and Evelyn Knapp, two ordained ministers who own the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel.

Mike Huckabee, former presidential candidate and Southern Baptist minister, weighed in on Facebook: “Remember when same-sex marriage activists used to claim that it would never infringe on other people’s religious beliefs? Well, that was a lie.”

The governor of Idaho declared the ministers' case to be grounds for asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to rehear the case on the state ban. “One of the key arguments against the Idaho Constitution’s defense of traditional marriage has been that redefining it to include same-sex couples would not harm anyone. But the Hitching Post example shows the fallacy of that position,” Gov. Butch Otter (R) said in a statement.

There is one major problem with all this outrage, according to city officials in Coeur d’Alene: The owners of the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel do not face arrest or fines or any other penalty for refusing to marry same-sex couples.

The lawsuit argues that Coeur d’Alene’s non-discrimination ordinance -- which was passed last year and bars businesses and public accommodations from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity -- will “unconstitutionally” force the Knapps to either “violate their religious convictions and ministerial vows” by performing same-sex weddings or face jail time and fines. According to the suit, the city has “privately and publicly threatened to apply” the ordinance to the Hitching Post.

However, according to city officials and the lawsuit itself, the Hitching Post filed papers with the Idaho Secretary of State identifying itself as a religious corporation on Oct. 6, the day before the 9th Circuit struck down Idaho’s ban. The city’s ordinance explicitly states that religious corporations are exempt from the law.

The lawsuit came as a surprise to city officials, who described conversations with the Knapps up until last week as “cordial.”

“We have never threatened them. We have never sent them a letter warning them. There was no ‘we’re going to throw you in jail’ kind of stuff. So we were mildly surprised, well, totally surprised by the lawsuit,” City Attorney Mike Gridley told The Huffington Post.

Moreover, while the lawsuit claims that the Knapps have already turned away multiple same-sex couples, Gridley said that the city had received no complaints about the Hitching Post and had no idea who these couples might be.

How did the Knapps come up with that jaw-dropping figure of 180 years? According to the lawsuit, the city ordinance sets forth fines up to $1,000 and jail time up to 180 days for every day of a violation. The Knapps' complaint reasons that they "risk going to jail for 180 years and being fined $365,000" if they refuse to marry one couple for one year.

Is that a real possibility? Gridley laughed. “That's not correct. Again,” he said.

“I want to make clear," said Gridley, "that the Hitching Post, or any other minister that I’m aware of, is not subject to our ordinance."

The Knapps declined to comment on the case.

The lawsuit did not come as a surprise to gay rights advocates and legal experts, who see this case as the latest in a string of lawsuits and proposed laws intended to exempt Christians opposed to same-sex marriage from participating in any way in same-sex weddings. Over the last several years, lawsuits concerning bakers, photographers, florists and owners of wedding venues who declined to serve same-sex couples have played out in the courts. Overwhelmingly, judges have sided with the same-sex couples.

The Hitching Post case stands out, however -- not only because it is the first of these cases to involve ordained clergy, but also because no complaint has been filed against the Knapps, and because their business already appears to be exempt from the non-discrimination ordinance in Coeur d’Alene.

“I think there are a lot of people in this country who have anxiety about what marriage equality is going to mean for them, and there’s a widespread misperception that changes to the marriage laws or discrimination laws are going to mean faith leaders are forced to perform weddings they don’t want to perform,” said Amanda Goad, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. “I think the Alliance Defending Freedom may be playing to those anxieties, but it’s very much not the case,” she said.

Goad served as lead counsel for a couple who filed charges against a Denver bakery owner who refused to sell them a wedding cake. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission sided with the couple in May; the bakery owner announced he would no longer sell wedding cakes to anyone.

Goad described the Hitching Post case as part of a “much bigger Plan B” driven by the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom and other conservative Christian legal and advocacy groups. “Plan A was resisting marriage equality, a fight that resisters have lost in Idaho and appear to be losing everywhere,” she said. “Those people are trying to narrow the scope of equality to give businesses a broader excuse to use religion to discriminate.”

Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, agreed that the case is critical to his group’s broader mission.

“I think it’s of extreme importance,” he told The Huffington Post. “We’ve been warning all along that these sexual orientation non-discrimination laws would be used in this exact way. We’ve got bakers, florists, photographers and now ordained ministers being threatened with jail times, fines and attorney fees that will put them out of business simply because of how they want to follow their faith. If they’re unwilling to celebrate and promote same-sex marriage because it contradicts their beliefs, they’ll lose their livelihoods. The government shouldn’t force them to choose.”

Tedesco argued that Coeur d’Alene has been inconsistent with its message about whether the Hitching Post is exempt from the non-discrimination ordinance. However, he acknowledged, the city does now appear to agree that the Hitching Post is exempt. “That, of course, resulted from the massive public outcry from our complaint,” he said.

The Hitching Post has certainly been inconsistent in how much its owners' religious faith has restricted its business practices. As blogger Jeremy Hooper revealed this week, the wedding chapel very recently altered its website to limit its service to "traditional Christian" ceremonies. But that was not always true -- at least according to the website.

The Hitching Post first made news in May, after a federal judge initially struck down Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage, when the Spokane Spokesman-Review quoted Donald Knapp saying, “I cannot in good conscience perform same-sex marriages.” But the chapel's website said it would perform civil ceremonies and "wedding ceremonies of other faiths," in addition to religious ceremonies for Christian couples. At the time, the Hitching Post had also not yet filed for status as a religious corporation.

This change has fanned the flames of critics' claims that the lawsuit was trumped up to appeal to the worst fears of same-sex marriage opponents.

“They’re trying to build up a credible narrative, because it's not going to be credible at all if the narrative is, 'We agreed to serve everyone until the law changed and included gay people, and now we don’t like that,'” said Kara Loewentheil, a research fellow at Columbia Law School's Center for Gender and Sexuality Law who specializes in religious freedom issues. “That's not going to play well.”

Coeur d’Alene officials said they have been caught off guard by the flood of messages they’ve received about the small chapel just three buildings down from city hall. As of Thursday, according to city spokesman Keith Erickson, there were around 33,000 emails and 400 phone calls.

“I think a lot of people are fired up over information that is not accurate, and once they hear more accurate information, then they go, ‘Oh, okay,’” Gridley said.

Liberal, Well-Meaning Mom Blows It When Her Son Comes Out — But Then She Feels Blessed

On the first night of Hanukkah a few years back, I returned home from work to find my son Alec by the stove, flipping potato pancakes. "I wanted to make latkas," my high-school senior announced. As the family sat down to eat, Alec walked to the table slowly, carrying a lopsided mound of the greasy treats. "I've been waiting till everyone was home to say something," he explained, rubbing his eye uncomfortably. After a pause he said, "I'm gay."

No one uttered a word. Another three or four or maybe 10 very long seconds passed in silence. My breath stopped, and my body started to tremble. It felt like my insides might explode. I wanted to say something, but words failed me. Then I got mad at myself.

This wasn't a complete surprise. Over the years I'd suspected at times, but I'd hoped it wasn't the case. Alec doesn't look the part, I'd thought. Broad-shouldered and toned, with sun-bleached hair, he'd competed in Junior Lifeguards, played water polo and dated girls. Yet, on second though, he was gentle and reserved, certainly not an alpha male. As a young boy he'd gravitated toward female friends, and in high school he'd seemed bored with his romantic interests. Once, asked if he'd enjoyed a date, he'd replied, "It was tedious." Most telling was the fact that, during the six months before he came out, two of his closest friends had come out themselves. Each time he'd shared this news with me, I'd asked how he felt about it, providing an inroad for him to declare his sexuality. "Weird," he'd replied, closing the door on any further discussion. Secretly I'd been relieved: Maybe he is straight, I'd thought.

Why me? I thought now. Couldn't someone else's son be gay? I'd gladly help them learn to cope with it. My eyes filled with tears as I imagined how others might react. I thought about my friends, even close ones, gossiping behind my back. "That's OK," they'd say while patting my shoulder with a sense of pleased superiority. Or they might try to comfort me, but I didn't want comfort. Alec wasn't sick or impaired; he was gay. I hoped that my friends wouldn't feel sorry for me, even though I felt sorry for myself.

I also didn't want to give up my daydreams about Alec's future wife. I had developed a real relationship with her. My mind enjoyed circling through the possibilities: Jewish with brown curls, Asian with long hair, probably not blond. Would she be an M.D., an engineer, an artist? I was just getting to know her. I hated to say goodbye.

Why him? I thought. Alec was the ultimate people pleaser. He'd do anything to make others happy. During the toddler years of "me" and "mine," he'd give away his toy anytime someone wanted it. Throughout his childhood, my husband and I had continually pushed him toward competitive team sports, thinking they would help him develop more conventionally masculine traits. He'd been a reluctant athlete, but no matter how much he'd hated the rough play or squirmed around the pack of aggressive boys, Alec had never complained and had even excelled, probably to please us. Now I cringed inside thinking how hard it would be for him to live a life condemned by so many. What a cruel challenge fate had presented him.

Is this my fault? I wondered. Alec and I had always had an easy bond. Had I done him a disservice by being so close? Sigmund Freud would surely blame me for disrupting the resolution of the Oedipus complex. My parents would likely point fingers too, chiding, "Susan, we told you to toughen him up." Alec's non-aggressive nature had unsettled his grandparents. I'd wanted scream, "Let him be who he is!" But now I knew I wouldn't tell my parents about this new development for a long time. When that day arrived, would they continue to love their gay grandson?

I had always strived to be the type of mom who completely accepts her kids, and I'd struggled through a Ph.D. in psychology in order to learn how. Wounded by my parents' statement that I was a mediocre athlete, I'd vowed that I would always find something positive to say about my children's performance. I'd learned to stick closely to politically correct vocabulary and removed the word "stupid" from my lexicon. When cultural-sensitivity training had come into vogue, I'd eaten up the concept, rushing to every seminar, joining each committee. "Tolerance" and "acceptance" were my mantras. I served on the diversity council at our neighborhood school and on the LGBT committee at work, and I'd posted a "No on 8" sign in front of my house.

So here was the ultimate test. Was I the real deal? At this crucial mom moment, probably the most important one of my life, my mind had shut down, and I'd lost my voice. I'd expected to perform much better. This had been a D-minus at best.

My husband finally broke the silence. "That's OK, honey," he said. "We love you for you. It doesn't matter to us."

His words slowly registered through my dark and draggy thoughts. Hey, I was supposed to say that, not him! I thought. Fathers are the ones who typically botch these things with "No, that can't be!" or "Maybe it's a phase?" or even "You just haven't met the right girl yet"! My husband hadn't even suspected that our son might be gay, yet he'd nailed it. By comparison, I'd dropped to an F.

"Yes, we love you and always will," I finally stammered. "Thank you for sharing this with us."

Was this all I could give my son at such an important time?! These empty words disappointed me. They were the kind of things you say when you don't know what to say. Even a Hallmark greeting card would have been more personal than this.

I desperately wanted to pick Alec up, like when he was younger, and hold him. Unfortunately, he weighed 140 pounds and tended to stiffen when touched. I just couldn't locate the adult equivalent of wiping away his tears. I searched but simply couldn't find the following simple words -- what I should have said: "I'm so glad that you told us this, and that you are true to yourself. You are so brave, Alec, and I'm proud of you. Let's celebrate this important moment."

My husband once again broke the silence. "I think it's time to light the Hanukkah candles!" he said.

Determined to do something right, I quickly retrieved two brightly colored candles from a kitchen cabinet and placed them in the Yemenite menorah, its silver patterns dense and interconnected. We formed a tight circle, our arms intertwined, as we recited the Hanukkah blessings. The beauty and familiarity of the prayers helped calm me down and provided reassurance that, as a family, we would move forward together.

Afterwards we sang the Shehecheyanu, a blessing recited on the first night of a Jewish holiday or when something important happens for the first time: "Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who gave us life, sustained us and brought us to this moment." I'd recited this prayer more than a hundred times over the course of my life, but that night it shook me awake. It dawned on me that even though the evening had been messy, imperfect and full of failed expectations, it was still holy and blessed. It was as if something Godlike had brought us to this moment in our lives and given its blessing. Then it finally hit me: Yes, this is something to celebrate.

I rushed over to Alec. We were both crying. "I know how hard this is for you, and I'm sorry that you have to see me struggling too," I said. "I'll get through this, and so will you, sweetheart. I love you so much."

He smiled. Then we embraced each other and continued hugging for a very long time.

Why Every Vote Counts

What do a dairy farmer, the New York State Senate and LGBT equality have in common?

The answer: 18 votes.

Two years ago, Cecilia Tkaczyk was running for office in the 46th Senate District in the Capital Region of New York. At the time, she was relatively unknown as a political leader in a district that had been rezoned specifically to secure a Republican seat. The odds were against CeCe.

Groups like the Pride Agenda and others that were advocating for equality in New York -- whether for LGBT rights, women's rights, the environment, education or any number of other issues -- wanted to see CeCe win and put our power behind her to try to turn the polls in her favor.


After a lot of sweat and tears, knocking on doors and making phone calls, it all came down to Election Day. Despite the forecasts and all that the opponent had done to seize the votes, in the end CeCe was victorious, though the margin was incredibly close -- so close, in fact, that the winner wasn't declared until Jan. 18! She won by just 18 votes!

It's that time of year when you'll see memes and signs and commercials that try to beat it into you that your vote matters, that every vote counts. It's easy to feel disenfranchised from that banter and from your role in government more generally. It often feels like what you, as one individual, say or do doesn't actually have an impact on the big picture.

The truth is, though, that you do have the power to influence change in government, and, in fact, we need each and every individual citizen to realize that and to speak up on behalf of those issues that are meaningful to you. You might be one of the 18 people who decide not to vote, and that decision could make the difference between electing a pro-LGBT senator or one who doesn't support our issues. Every vote counts on the floor of the Senate, and losing that one vote could mean the difference between passing laws that further equal rights and being left high and dry as second-class citizens.

At the Pride Agenda, we've been busy vetting all the candidates running for office in New York and supporting those who commit to furthering LGBT equality and justice. To support our get-out-the-vote efforts (and have some fun) we launched an "#OUTtheVote" campaign to encourage LGBT New Yorkers and allies to show us why they will vote on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Remember, we elect the officials who represent us. We have the power to keep them in office or show our voting power and elect someone who will stand up for us, and we have a responsibility to exercise our democratic right to vote.

Tell us why you'll #OUTtheVote on Election Day, and join me at the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 4!