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Marriage lawsuits filed in three more states

Sandra Newson, Denise Hueso, Miami, Florida, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality

Sandra Newson and Denise Hueso of Miami are among the eight same-sex couples who are seeking legal recognition of their out-of-state marriages in Florida. (Photo courtesy of the ACLU of Florida)

Same-sex couples in three additional states this week have filed lawsuits seeking marriage rights.

Lambda Legal on Thursday filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Arizona on behalf of seven same-sex couples and two surviving spouses who are challenging the Grand Canyon State’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The same group on March 10 filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on behalf of three gay couples seeking the ability to tie the knot in the Hoosier State.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Florida on Thursday also filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of eight same-sex couples seeking state recognition of their marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions. SAVE, a Miami-based LGBT advocacy group, is a plaintiff in the case.

Sandra Newsom of Miami, who married her partner of nearly 17 years, Denise Hueso, in Massachusetts in 2009, is among those who spoke at a Miami Beach press conference.

“When we moved back to Florida we knew we would be sacrificing some of the rights that we’d enjoyed when we lived in Massachusetts,” said Newsom. “Most families don’t have to choose between being in the place they call home and having equal treatment under the law, and they shouldn’t have to. If Florida would recognize our marriage, we wouldn’t have to either.”

Nelda Majors and Karen Bailey of Scottsdale, Ariz., who have been together for more than 55 years, are the lead plaintiffs in the Arizona case.

“We’re a committed, loving family, have raised two amazing girls together, have seen each other through thick and thin, in sickness and in health,” said Majors. “After five decades together, we want to celebrate and affirm our deep love for each other as other couples do, before our friends and family, through marriage.”

18 states and D.C. have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver next month is scheduled to hold oral arguments in two cases challenging the constitutionality of state constitutional amendments that ban same-sex marriage in Oklahoma and Utah. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., in May is slated to hear a case that challenges Virginia’s gay nuptials ban.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in the coming months is expected to hear oral arguments in a challenge to Nevada’s same-sex marriage ban. A federal appeals court in New Orleans will likely hear a similar case that challenges Texas’ gay nuptials prohibition after U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia last month ruled the state’s same-sex marriage ban violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clauses.

A federal judge on Feb. 27 ordered Kentucky to begin recognizing same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.

The Southern Poverty Law Center last month filed a lawsuit against Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban on behalf of a gay widower who lost his spouse less than three months after they exchanged vows in Massachusetts in 2011. Same-sex couples in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Missouri, Oregon and other states have also filed lawsuits seeking marriage rights after the U.S. Supreme Court last June struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last month announced the Justice Department will now recognize same-sex marriages in civil and criminal cases and extend full benefits to gay spouses of police offices and other public safety personnel – even in states that have yet to allow nuptials for gays and lesbians. Holder a few weeks later said state attorneys general do not have to defend same-sex marriage bans.

“I believe we must be suspicious of legal classifications based solely on sexual orientation,” he said during a Feb. 26 speech during the winter meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General in D.C. “We must endeavor – in all of our efforts – to uphold and advance the values that once led our forebears to declare unequivocally that all are created equal and entitled to equal opportunity.”

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) last month introduced a bill that would prohibit the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in states where gays and lesbians cannot tie the knot.

13
Mar
2014

Hispanic Bar Assocation pulls conference from Arizona; JPMorgan, AmEx, Rick Scott condemn anti-gay law

And even GoDaddy, a notoriously Republican company, came out in opposition to SB1062 today.

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26
Feb
2014

A reality check from Uganda

Yoweri Museveni, Uganda, gay news, Washington Blade

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a bill that imposes harsh sentences on LGBT Ugandans. (Photo by the U.K. Department for International Development; courtesy Wikimedia Commons).

Our movement for full equality for LGBT people continues to gain momentum. We’ve seen tremendous strides in terms of marriage equality (a total of 17 states now grant the freedom to marry) and most recently with the increased visibility of black LGBT public figures. But Uganda’s current crisis and the close call in Arizona remind us that we must remain vigilant—that despite the many trails being blazed, we are still very much in the heat of the battle and all is not won yet.

Basketball star Jason Collins recently made history as the first openly gay male player in a major sports league when he joined the Brooklyn Nets. Earlier this year, Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts spoke about her longtime girlfriend for the first time on national television. Trans legends-in-the-making Laverne Cox, breakout actress of the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black, hate crime survivor CeCe McDonald, and New York Times bestselling author Janet Mock are leading the national conversation around transgender equality.

On the policy front, a U.S. district judge ruled that Texas’ ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional. The Maryland State Senate recently passed the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, a bill that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity, which now heads to the House. And Washington, D.C. now requires insurance companies to provide health coverage to trans residents, including gender reassignment surgery.

Paints a pretty picture of progress, doesn’t it? Well, look a little closer.

Just this month alone, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a bill that imposes harsh sentences on LGBT Ugandans; Arizona passed then vetoed a piece of legislation that would have made it legal for business owners to discriminate against LGBT customers; and the 2014 Olympics brought to light the persecution of our Russian brothers and sisters. This all happened in February, the shortest month of the year. Even worse, it happened on our watch.

Under Ugandan’s anti-gay law, anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts will be sentenced to life in prison. President Museveni has cited “science” and other unfounded claims to justify this atrocious injustice against our black LGBT family overseas. Not only is it imperative that the U.S. Department of State expedite the asylum process for all Ugandans affected by this oppressive and inhumane law, it is critical that the U.S. take responsibility for and address its ties to homophobia in African countries. The truth is that when the radical right started losing ground on American soil, they invested their anti-LGBT tactics elsewhere and capitalized on a painful legacy of colonialism and white supremacy.

Addressing what is happening in Uganda goes deeper than threatening to pull U.S. foreign aid. Furthermore, our national response to what is happening in the East African nation and in countries like Nigeria speaks to our complacency and lack of urgency around matters that are literally life and death for black and brown LGBT bodies.

After Arizona’s legislature passed the controversial SB 1062, some Ugandans pointed out our hypocrisy. Everyone from local advocates to President Obama condemned the Ugandan bill, but we could barely get our own affairs together stateside. The biggest irony was the hundreds of activists that rallied and urged Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the Arizona legislation. Where were the crowds for our Ugandan brothers and sisters who will be trying to seek asylum?

It’s time we truly treat a threat to injustice anywhere with the gravity it deserves. It’s time we recognize that progress takes full partnership. Despite of our recent advancements, we still need all hands on deck, especially when it’s the lives of black LGBT people at stake—because chances are the level of outrage and action will be utterly delayed, if present.

National campaigns launched around the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, speaking against the country’s ban on so-called “LGBT propaganda.” And rightfully so. There are laws that limit adoption by same-sex couples and Russian President Vladimir Putin has equated LGBT people to pedophiles. But where was the mass mobilization when a Ugandan tabloid printed a list of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandans with their photographs—a “witch hunt” reminiscent of the 2010 paper that ran both photos and addresses with the heinous headline “Hang Them?” Where was the global outcry?

That is why here at the National Black Justice Coalition, we are revising our institutional policy to take a stand internationally. We have begun turning directly to advocates abroad and asking what is the international support that they need. Going forward, increasing acceptance and respect for black LGBT people in every corner of the globe will guide the organization’s agenda as we continue to build a safer and more inclusive nation and world.

Our movement has certainly come a long way but we have so much further to go. Uganda is our reality check. And it doesn’t get realer than that.

Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks serves as executive director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition, a national civil rights organization dedicated to empowering black LGBT people. For more information, visit nbjc.org.

19
Mar
2014

Arizona gay marriage ban challenged

Jan Brewer, Republican Party, Arizona, gay news, Washington Blade

Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.) (Photo by Gage Skidmore; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

PHOENIX—Four gay couples on Jan. 6 filed a federal class-action lawsuit that seeks to overturn Arizona’s same-sex marriage ban.

“We are asking for relief on behalf of all married and unmarried same-sex couples in Arizona,” attorney Shawn Aiken told the Arizona Republic. “Now is the time to take up this issue.”

The lawsuit names Gov. Jan Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne as defendants.

Arizona voters in 2008 approved a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The U.S. Supreme Court in June declined to hear Brewer’s appeal that asked the justices to allow her to ban state employees from receiving benefits for same-sex partners.

Neighboring New Mexico is among the 18 states and D.C. that have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 6 issued a stay on same-sex marriages in Utah pending the outcome of an appeal of U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby’s decision last month that struck down the Beehive State’s constitutional amendment that bans gay nuptials.

08
Jan
2014

BREAKING: Arizona governor vetoes ‘turn away the gay’ bill

Jan Brewer, Republican Party, Arizona, gay news, Washington Blade

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (Photo by Gage Skidmore; courtesy Wikimedia Commons).

Following a firestorm of opposition from LGBT advocates, Republican leaders and business leaders, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced on Wednesday she vetoed a controversial bill that would have allowed individuals to refuse to serve prospective customers on religious grounds.

“After weighing all of the arguments, I have vetoed Senate bill 1062 moments ago,” Brewer told reporters.

Critics said the measure would have enabled businesses to individuals to refuse services to LGBT people out of religious concerns.

Brewer said she vetoed the legislation after taking “the necessary time to make the right decision,” touting her record protecting religious freedoms in the state.

“Senate bill 1062 does not address a specific or pressing concern related to religious liberty in Arizona,” Brewer said. “I have not heard one example in Arizona where business owner religious liberty has been violated. The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences.”

Noting that she had called for a responsible budget and a child protections when speaking before the legislature last month, Brewer chided lawmakers for making SB 2016 “the first policy bill to cross my desk.”

“To supporters of this legislation, I want you to know that I understand long-held norms about marriage and family are being challenged as never before,” Brewer said. “Our society is undergoing many dramatic changes. However, I sincerely belief that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve.”

Following her announcement, Brewer posted a picture of her vetoing SB 1062 via her Twitter account.

 

The announcement made Brewer strange bed fellows with LGBT advocates, who praised her for rejecting the legislation.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said Brewer “spared her state” from a law that would have enabled discrimination.

“The bipartisan outpouring of opposition to this bill is all the proof you need that this country isn’t turning backwards,” Griffin said. “Gov. Brewer did the right thing in stopping this assault on businesses and the LGBT community and we call on her and the legislature — and governors and legislators in other states — to resist any attempt to give license to discrimination.”

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, commended Brewer for vetoing the legislation.

“We thank Gov. Brewer for her decision to veto this outrageous measure — a law that if enacted would be bad for Arizona people and the Arizona economy,” Carey said. “In doing so, she has stopped a bill that both cynically uses religion as a smokescreen to justify discrimination and insults people of faith who feel that discrimination is morally wrong. This decision sends a clear message that extremism is totally unacceptable to people of all political persuasions.”

Erin Ogletree, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Arizona, said the veto is a watershed moment that “signaling that Arizonans and all people of goodwill” don’t support discrimination.

“It is also a loud wake-up call to the Republican Party,” Ogletree said. “We do best when we champion the freedom and rights of all individuals. It is time to refocus on being the party of limited, competent, and accountable governing that welcomes everyone.”

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Apple and the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee are among the myriad of organizations and businesses that called upon Brewer to veto Senate Bill 1072. U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also urged the Arizona governor not to sign the measure.

Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council, nonetheless expressed disappointment that Brewer vetoed the bill, saying she “yielded to the cultural bullies.”

“This measure should have been a political no-brainer and only went down because people either chose to ignore the plain language of the bill or refused to read it altogether,” Perkins said. “Apparently, they’re graduates of the Pelosi School of Policy, where they dispose of bills before they find out what’s in them.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday the legislation sounds “pretty intolerant,” but the White House never issued a full-throated opposition to the bill. No LGBT advocates called on Obama to speak out against the legislation as some said his opposition could have in fact influenced Brewer to sign the bill into law.

As the Washington Blade previously reported, the Arizona bill is part of a national trend of movement on state bills aimed at expanding the exercise to religion to allow discrimination against LGBT people. Other bills are pending in Mississippi and Kansas and others has been defeated in Maine and South Dakota.

Michael K. Lavers contributed to this report.

27
Feb
2014

Gay dads adopt 14 kids (video)

"All of our kids have two parents that love them. Most of their friends don't."

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26
Jan
2014

Arizona governor Brewer vetoes controversial anti-gay law, Ohio pulls similar bill after Brewer’s veto

And Mississippi has now scaled back its "religious freedom" bill to ensure it doesn't repeat Arizona's mistake.

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27
Feb
2014

Schock and Sinema take a selfie

Aaron Schock, Republican Party, United States House of Representatives, Illinois, gay news, Washington Blade, Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona, Democratic Party, bisexual, anti-gay

Anti-gay Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) walks along looking at his phone just before the State of the Union Address as bisexual Rep. Kyrsten Sinema digs through her bag. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Aaron Schock, Republican Party, United States House of Representatives, Illinois, gay news, Washington Blade, Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona, Democratic Party, bisexual, anti-gay
Schock spots Sinema and stops to say hello. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Aaron Schock, Republican Party, United States House of Representatives, Illinois, gay news, Washington Blade, Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona, Democratic Party, bisexual, anti-gay

Sinema and Schock engage someone else in conversation. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Aaron Schock, Republican Party, United States House of Representatives, Illinois, gay news, Washington Blade

Schock looks up. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Aaron Schock, Republican Party, United States House of Representatives, Illinois, gay news, Washington Blade, Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona, Democratic Party, bisexual, anti-gay

Shock sits on Sinema‘s lap. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Aaron Schock, Republican Party, United States House of Representatives, Illinois, gay news, Washington Blade, Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona, Democratic Party, bisexual, anti-gay

Sinema grabs her phone. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Aaron Schock, Republican Party, United States House of Representatives, Illinois, gay news, Washington Blade, Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona, Democratic Party, bisexual, anti-gay

Schock takes Sinema‘s phone and holds it out as the two pose for a selfie. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Aaron Schock, Republican Party, United States House of Representatives, Illinois, gay news, Washington Blade, Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona, Democratic Party, bisexual, anti-gay

Sinema and Schock admire their photo together. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

 

29
Jan
2014

Following the victory in Arizona, a brief look at 2,000 years of gay history

With the defeat of Arizona's "religious freedom" bill, it's time to reflect on the past and future of LGBT rights.

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27
Feb
2014

Arizona passes “Citizens United”-type law protecting corporations’ “religious beliefs”

New law could put every state and local law, even court decisions, at risk from "religious discrimination" claims.

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21
Feb
2014