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2013 in photography

2013 was a banner year for the LGBT community. Here are the top Washington Blade photos of the year. (Washington Blade photos by Blake Bergen, Tyler Grigsby, Michael Key, Kevin Majoros, Damien Salas, Lee Whitman and Jon Wooten) buyphoto 

03
Jan
2014

Beau Biden to not seek re-election

Beau Biden, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, HB 75, marriage equality

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden on Thursday announced he will not seek re-election in 2014 in order to run for governor.

“Over the past few months, as I’ve been planning to run for re-election, I have also been giving a great deal of thought to running for governor in 2016,” said Biden in a statement his office released. “What started as a thought – a very persistent thought – has now become a course of action that I wish to pursue.”

“After careful consideration, I have concluded that it is not right to ask for your support in 2014, knowing that my focus would be divided between doing my job as attorney general while at the same time running as a candidate for governor,” he added.

Biden, who took office in 2007, backed a bill last year that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples in Delaware. He attended a gay Wilmington couple’s wedding that took place last July on the first day same-sex couples could legally marry in the state.

Biden joined 14 state attorneys general who filed two amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court ahead of last March’s oral arguments in cases that challenged the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.

“I know that momentum is on our side on this,” Biden told the Washington Blade during a March 2013 interview.

Biden also backed a transgender rights measure that Gov. Jack Markell signed into law last June.

“We are grateful for the support and leadership that Attorney General Biden has provided with respect to matters of LGBT equality during his time as attorney general for the great state of Delaware,” Equality Delaware Foundation President Mark Purpura told the Blade after Biden made his announcement. “In Delaware, we feel blessed to have the strong support of many of our elected officials, including Attorney General Biden.”

Biden would succeed Markell if elected.

17
Apr
2014

Gay couples: Delaware marriage law brings recognition, equality

Rehoboth Beach, Flair!, Chris Beagle, Eric Engelhart, gay news, Washington Blade

Rehoboth Beach residents Chris Beagle and Eric Engelhart, owners of event planning company Flair!, on the beach last September following their civil union. (Photo courtesy of the couple)

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del.—Rehoboth Beach realtor Chris Beagle, his partner of more than 23 years, Eric Engelhart, and a handful of friends spent a portion of their weekend placing white flowers, pictures and other personal mementos in the CAMP Rehoboth event space ahead of a ceremony on Monday during which they will convert their civil union into a marriage. They only left the LGBT community center on Sunday afternoon once the large blue cut outs of the first letters of Beagle and Engelhart’s first names used during the two men’s 2012 civil union ceremony were perfectly illuminated on the wall.

“It’s the end of a journey; it’s the culmination,” Beagle, who also co-owns a wedding planning company with Engelhart, told the Washington Blade. “It’s the end of a journey. It’s the culmination. It’s what we need to do to complete this process of legal recognition.”

Beagle and Engelhart are among the first gay and lesbian couples who will take advantage of Delaware’s same-sex marriage law that takes effect on Monday.

State Sen. Karen Peterson (D-Stanton,) who came out in May during the debate over the same-sex marriage bill that Gov. Jack Markell signed into law, and her partner, Vikki Bandy, will become the first legally married gay couple in Delaware when they convert their civil union into a marriage at the New Castle County Clerk of the Peace’s office in Wilmington.

“We have been together for almost 25 years, and I never thought we would live to see the day when we could be married in our home state,” Peterson told the Blade last week.

The Sussex County Clerk of the Peace in Georgetown will begin to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples at 8 a.m. on Monday, with doors opening at 7 a.m. The Kent County Clerk of the Peace in Dover will open at 8 a.m.

Sussex County Clerk of the Peace John Brady, who is gay, will officiate Beagle and Engelhart’s ceremony at CAMP Rehoboth at 10 a.m. Joseph Daigle, II, and Daniel Cole will become the first same-sex couple who had not previously entered into a civil union to tie the knot in Delaware when they exchange vows in Wilmington later on Monday.

No other same-sex weddings will take place in Delaware on Monday because the state did not waive the 24-hour waiting period for any other gay or lesbian couples.

Marriage to bring lesbian couple ‘credibility’

Sherry Berman and Deb Hamilton of Lewes, who have been together for 24 years, will exchange vows on the beach on Friday while their family is in the area for July 4.

“What it means is that there’s more credibility for us as a couple,” Berman told the Blade on Sunday afternoon, noting many retirees who live in their neighborhood told her that they had never known a gay couple before they met her and her soon-to-be-spouse. “We put our pants on the same way you do.”

Delaware on Monday will join 10 other states and D.C. in which same-sex couples can legally marry.

Gays and lesbians in Rhode Island and Minnesota will be able to legally tie the knot as of August 1.

Same-sex couples in California on June 28 began to once again exchange vows after the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted its stay on gay nuptials in the state in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling two days earlier that struck down Proposition 8. The justices on June 26 also released their decision that found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

“It really is magnifying the importance of tomorrow,” Beagle said.

Berman told the Blade her partner’s brother called them after the Supreme Court issued their DOMA and Prop 8 rulings and said he would attend their wedding. She also noted how she feels Delaware has changed since Hamilton grew-up in Sussex County in which Lewes and Rehoboth Beach are located.

“She knows how awful, how not accepting, non-diverse it’s been,” Berman said. “So for a state like Delaware to recognize [same-sex marriage] is really important in the scheme of the entire country.”

Rehoboth Beach resident Bob Hoffer, whose 2012 marriage to Max Dick in New York City will become legally recognized in Delaware on Monday, described the state’s gay nuptials law taking effect as “wonderful.”

“We’re first-class citizens now as everyone,” Hoffer told the Blade as he helped Beagle and Engelhart decorate for their wedding at CAMP Rehoboth. “We’re not hurting anyone and heterosexual marriage is still going to continue. It’s just giving everyone the same rights.”

Gay couples remain undaunted by opponents, protests

Even though an Equality Delaware poll earlier this year showed 54 percent of the state’s voters support marriage rights for same-sex couples, those opposed to the issue continue to speak out.

The Delaware Family Policy Council said in a statement after the Supreme Court issued its DOMA and Prop 8 rulings that it “will continue to advance the truth about marriage between a man and a woman and why it matters for children, civil society and limited government.”

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church are scheduled to protest outside various locations in Wilmington and Dover on Monday.

“Give it time,” Berman said, referring to same-sex marriage opponents. “Learn to like us; learn to know who we are. Listen to us. We’re not out to hurt you or to cause you any harm.”

Beagle said he respects both the Constitution and freedom of speech, but noted both the state of Delaware and he Supreme Court have spoken on the issue of marriage.

“What I would say to those people (who oppose same-sex marriage) is it’s now your turn to respect those decisions that have been made,” he said.

Deb Hamilton, Sherry Berman, marriage, Gay News, Washington Blade

Deb Hamilton and Sherry Berman of Lewes, Del. (Photo courtesy Sherry Berman)

01
Jul
2013

Businesses look to cash in on Del. marriage law

Rehoboth Beach, Flair!, Chris Beagle, Eric Engelhart, gay news, Washington Blade

Rehoboth Beach residents Chris Beagle and Eric Engelhart, owners of event planning company Flair!, on the beach last September following their civil union. (Photo courtesy of the couple)

Rehoboth Beach business owners are preparing for an expected increase in wedding-related business once Delaware’s same-sex marriage law takes effect on July 1.

CAMP Rehoboth Executive Director Steve Elkins told the Washington Blade his organization’s wedding space is already booked into next year. He also noted the latest issue of CAMP Rehoboth’s newsletter has full-page ads from local jewelers that “are all about wedding rings.”

“People are looking for the opportunities,” Elkins said.

Chris Beagle, a Realtor who co-owns the event planning company Flair! with his partner of more than 23 years, Eric Engelhart, noted he saw an increase in inquiries from gay and lesbian couples in the months after Delaware’s civil unions bill took effect in January 2012. He told the Blade he expects the same interest in weddings once the state’s same-sex marriage law takes effect.

“I suspect we will see more in the next few months,” Beagle said. “I’m certain there is a segment of the population that feels more strongly about marriage than a civil union.”

Gov. Jack Markell on May 7 signed his state’s same-sex marriage bill into law after the state Senate approved it by a 12-9 vote margin.

Gays and lesbians can currently marry in neighboring Maryland and eight other states and in D.C.

Same-sex marriage laws in Minnesota and Rhode Island will take effect on Aug. 1 after Govs. Mark Dayton and Lincoln Chafee signed their respective state’s bills into law. The Illinois House of Representatives in the coming weeks is expected to consider a measure that would allow nuptials for gays and lesbians in the Land of Lincoln.

Same-sex marriage opponents continue to highlight several cases of business owners who have faced lawsuits because they refused to provide services to same-sex couples who seek to tie the knot. These include Barronelle Stutzman, a Richland, Wash., florist whom state Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued last month after she would not sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding.

The Alliance Defending Freedom continues to represent Elaine Huguenin, a New Mexico photographer against whom a lesbian couple filed a complaint with the state’s Human Rights Commission after she refused to photograph their commitment ceremony based on what she described as her religious beliefs. The Arizona-based organization also defended owners of the Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville, Vt., whom two New York women sued after they refused to host their wedding reception.

The innkeepers last August paid $10,000 to the Vermont Human Rights Commission and placed $20,000 in a charitable trust to settle the couple’s lawsuit.

The Williams Institute said after Markell signed his state’s same-sex marriage bill into law that nuptials for gays and lesbians could generate an additional $7 million for Delaware’s economy. It added same-sex marriage could generate an estimated 36 jobs in the state.

“Those states that have approved same-sex marriage are already seeing positive economic benefits,” Williams Institute Research Director M.V. Lee Badgett said. “As Delaware becomes the 11th state to extend marriage to same-sex couples, they will begin to see the economic benefits that other states are experiencing.”

Carol Everhart, president of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce, said she has not seen an increase in wedding-related inquiries since Markell signed the same-sex marriage bill, but stressed it is “possible.”

Beagle noted the growing momentum in support of nuptials for gays and lesbians across the country has become increasingly difficult for wedding-related businesses to ignore.

“Three states have passed it in 10 days,” he said. “I think forward-thinking businesses are seeing it as an opportunity.”

16
May
2013

Delaware Senate approves transgender rights bill

Jack Markell, Equality Delaware, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, HB 75, marriage equality

Gov. Jack Markell supports a bill that would add gender identity to Delaware’s anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Delaware Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would add gender identity and expression to the state’s anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws.

The 11-7 vote came after lawmakers debated the measure that Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington) introduced late last month. Senate Bill 97 would specifically ban anti-transgender discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations and works contracting and insurance.

Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere) and state Sens. Catherine Cloutier (R-Heatherbrooke,) Bethany Hall-Long (D-Middletown,) Robert Marshall (D-Wilmington,) David McBride (D-Hawk’s Nest,) Harris McDowell III (D-Wilmington,) Karen Peterson (D-Stanton,) Nicole Poore (D-New Castle,) David Sokola (D-Newark) and Bryan Townsend (D-Newark) voted for SB 97.

Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson (R-Milford) and state Sens. Colin Bonini (R-Dover,) Bruce Ennis (D-Smyrna,) Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View,) David Lawson (R-Marydel,) Ernesto Lopez (R-Lewes) and Robert Venables, Sr., (D-Laurel) voted against the measure. State Sens. Brian Bushweller (D-Dover) and Senate Majority Whip Gregory Lavelle (R-Sharpley) abstained, while Sen. Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown) was absent.

“This bill lets people know that Delaware will welcome you and that, in keeping with our highest ideals as Americans, we will not tolerate discrimination or violence against a person based on their race, color, religion, sexual orientation or now based on their perceived gender,” Henry said after the vote.

Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman also welcomed SB 97’s passage.

“We are so proud of the 11 senators who voted today to make Delaware a fair and welcoming place for transgender Delawareans,” she told the Washington Blade.

WDDE reported Delaware Family Policy Council President Nicole Theis was among those who testified against SB 97 during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday. The public radio station said Theis, who also testified against the same-sex marriage bill that Gov. Jack Markell signed into law last month, told lawmakers the measure would allow criminals to go into bathrooms and locker rooms.

“There’s nothing in this legislation that would prevent a predator who wants to express themselves as a female from having access to all of those public accommodations,” Theis said.

Bonini also accused Deputy Attorney General Patricia Dailey Lewis of lying during her testimony in support of SB 97 after she responded to his hypothetical question about whether he would be arrested if he walked into a TGIFridays bathroom wearing a dress and a wig. Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, who presides over the Senate, and other senators challenged the Dover Republican for interrupting Lewis.

Sixteen states and D.C. have trans-inclusive anti-discrimination laws. Thirteen of those states and the nation’s capital have also added gender identity and expression to their hate crimes statutes.

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Padilla García last month signed a bill that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in the U.S. commonwealth. The New York Assembly last month once again approved a measure – the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act – that would add trans-specific protections to the state’s non-discrimination and hate crimes laws.

The University of Delaware has also added gender identity and expression to its anti-discrimination policies.

Attorney General Beau Biden and Markell have both publicly backed SB 97.

“We’re very focused in Delaware on making sure the law does not discriminate,” Markell said in a press release. “We’re a very welcoming state and we want people who want to build a good life here.”

The House Administration Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on SB 97 on June 12.

Goodman told the Blade she remains optimistic it has enough votes to pass in the House.

“We are confident that our House will pass the bill, and Gov. Markell is ready to sign it,” she said.

07
Jun
2013

Delaware House committee approves transgender rights bill

Jack Markell, Equality Delaware, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, HB 75, marriage equality

Gov. Jack Markell supports a bill that would add gender identity to Delaware’s anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Delaware House committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would add gender identity and expression to the state’s anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws.

The House Administration Committee passed Senate Bill 97 by a 4-1 vote margin. The full House is expected to vote on the proposal next week.

“Transgender Delawareans are not afforded basic legal protections from discrimination and violence that every person deserves,” Gov. Jack Markell said in an op-ed the Huffington Post published on Tuesday. “Under our state’s laws, it is currently legal to fire someone, deny them housing, or throw them out of a restaurant simply because they are transgender. This is simply not the Delaware way and it is time our laws reflect our values.”

Sixteen states and D.C. have trans-inclusive anti-discrimination laws. Thirteen of those states and the nation’s capital have also added gender identity and expression to their hate crimes statutes.

12
Jun
2013

Delaware House schedules vote on transgender rights bill

Lisa Goodman, Equality Delaware, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, HB 75, marriage equality

Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Delaware House on Tuesday is scheduled to vote on a bill that would add gender identity and expression to the state’s anti-discrimination and hate crimes law.

The House Administration Committee on Wednesday approved Senate Bill 97 by a 4-1 vote margin.

The measure passed in the Delaware Senate last week.

Sixteen states and D.C. include gender identity and expression in their anti-discrimination laws. Thirteen of those states and the nation’s capital have also enacted trans-inclusive hate crimes statutes.

“We are very pleased that the bill is out of committee with a bi-partisan vote,” Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman told the Washington Blade after the House committee vote. “On to the House floor, where we look forward to passage.”

Gov. Jack Markell said he would sign SB 97 into law if lawmakers approve it.

14
Jun
2013

Delaware House approves transgender rights bill

Gay News, Washington Blade, Delaware

Rep. Bryon Short (D-Claymont) speaks in support of Senate Bill 97 in Dover, Del. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas.)

DOVER, Del.—The Delaware House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill that would add gender identity and expression to the state’s anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws.

The 24-17 vote came less than a week after Senate Bill 97 passed out of the House Administration Committee.

State Reps. Michael Barbieri (D-Newark,) Paul Baumbach (D-Newark,) Andria Bennett (D-Dover,) Stephanie Bolden (D-Wilmington,) Gerald Brady (D-Wilmington,) Debra Heffernan (D-Brandywine Hundred,) Earl Jaques, Jr., (D-Glasgow,) James Johnson (D-Holloway Terrace,) Quinton Johnson (D-Middletown,) Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington,) John Kowalko, Jr., (D-Newark,) Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear), Michael Mulrooney (D-Pennwood,) Edward Osienski (D-Beecher’s Lot,) Charles Potter, Jr. (D-Wilmington,) Mike Ramone (R-Middle Run Valley,) Darryl Scott (D-Dover,) Bryan Short (D-Brandywine Hundred,) Melanie George Smith (D-Bear,) John Viola (D-Newark,) Rebecca Walker (D-Townsend,) Dennis Williams (D-Talleyville,) Kimberly Williams (D-Klair Estates) and House Speaker Peter Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) voted for the bill. State Reps. John Atkins (D-Millsboro,) Donald Blakey (R-Dover,) Ruth Briggs King (R-Georgetown,) William Carson (D-Smyrna,) Timothy Dukes (R-Laurel,) Ronald Gray (R-Selbyville,) Deborah Hudson (R-Fairthorne,) Harvey Kenton (R-Millsboro,) Joseph Miro (R-Pike Creek Valley,) John Mitchell, Jr., (D-Wilmington,) William Outten (R-Harrington,) W. Charles Paradee (D-Dover,) Harold Peterman (R-Milford,) Stephen Smyk (R-Milton,) Jeffrey Spiegelman (R-Dover,) David Wilson (R-Bridgeville) and House Minority Leader Daniel Short (R-Milford) opposed SB 97.

The Delaware Senate earlier this month approved the measure.

“This bill to me is about fairness and equality,” Bolden said.

Daniel Short called Delaware Family Policy Council President Nicole Theis to speak against SB 97 during the debate that lasted more than two hours.

“The bottom line is a concern about my rights,” Theis said. “I don’t want to go into a locker room with my small children and not have any rights.”

Briggs King suggested the passage of SB 97 could prompt lawmakers to seek protections for those who are struggling with obesity. She further said her Sussex County constituents have described the measure as one that reflects “a special interest and special concerns.”

“This bill is not about those things that we know they are born with,” Briggs King said. “It’s more about subjective and discerning preferences, feelings and choices.”

Gay News, Washington Blade, Delaware, transgender

Delaware Family Policy Council President Nicole Theis (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

Ramone challenged Theis over her reference to man going into a women’s locker room during her testimony against SB 97.

“Transgenders, naturally, just want to be accepted,” Ramone said. “They just want to fit in. They just don’t want to be discriminated against. I believe in this bill because of that.”

Sixteen states and D.C. have trans-inclusive anti-discrimination laws. Thirteen of those states and the nation’s capital have also added gender identity and expression to their hate crimes statutes.

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Padilla García last month signed a bill into law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in the U.S. commonwealth. The New York Assembly last month once again approved a measure – the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act – that would add trans-specific protections to the state’s non-discrimination and hate crimes laws.

Bryon Short, who sponsored SB 97 in the House, introduced an amendment approved before the vote that clarifies the definition of gender identity. It also seeks to ensure a person cannot claim a gender identity that is not their own to access a locker room or other sex-segregated facility.

“We heard from opponents of this bill that they did not oppose providing transgender people the same protections that are afforded to other Delawareans based on race, age, sex, religion or ethnicity. Their concerns involved the ‘public accommodations’ part of the bill,” Bryon Short said. “We listened to the concerns raised by constituents, took their comments seriously and crafted an amendment to address them.”

He added he feels the amendment actually “strengthened the protections” contained within SB 97.

“This amendment addresses the major concern that was raised last week and provides transgender people with the long overdue protections they deserve so they don’t have to live in fear of discrimination.”

The Delaware Senate will need to approve the amended bill before Gov. Jack Markell signs it into law.

18
Jun
2013

AU graduate credited with securing passage of Del. transgender rights bill

Sarah McBride, Victory Fund, gay news, Washington Blade

Sarah McBride (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The transgender woman who advocates credit with securing passage of Delaware’s transgender rights bill told the Washington Blade on Monday she simply did the right thing.

“My mother and I went down (to Dover) and talked about what it means to be transgender, why for us this bill is necessary, why for the community this bill is necessary,” Sarah McBride said.

McBride, a Wilmington, Del., resident who was the student body president at American University from 2011-2012, came out as trans last May in an op-ed she wrote for the D.C. school’s student newspaper. She had been involved with Equality Delaware for several years, and joined the LGBT advocacy group’s Board of Directors after she came out.

McBride and her mother six months ago began meeting with Dover lawmakers in support of Senate Bill 97 that added gender identity and expression to Delaware’s anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws.

She told the Blade they “certainly fielded our fair share of questions about bathrooms and locker rooms and ‘unintended consequences’ of this bill.” McBride said the questions she and her mother received from legislators did not come as a surprise in spite of their personal nature.

“The vast majority of legislators and the vast majority of questions were completely respectful and were either friendly questions or were hard questions that just needed to be answered,” she said. “At minimum constituents would be asking those questions and they needed answers.”

McBride testified in support of SB 97 three times in the Delaware Senate and House. She also appeared in an Equality Delaware video in support of the bill.

She said she “briefly” met Delaware Family Policy Council President Nicole Theis, who repeatedly spoke against the bill.

McBride noted a woman who opposed SB 97 threatened “to hurt me if she saw me in the bathroom” after she testified in support of the measure in the House.

“I feel bad for them that they feel the need to put other people down,” she said. “I don’t take it personally. I think the vast majority of comments that people make that aren’t positive comments are out of ignorance and not out of hatred.”

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell last Wednesday signed SB 97 into law after the Senate approved a slightly amended version of the bill that passed in the House by a 24-17 vote margin.

The governor described McBride, who worked on his 2008 election campaign and was his personal aide when she interned for him after he took office, as an “intelligent and talented Delawarean” before he signed SB 97 into law.

“She courageously stood before the General Assembly to describe her personal struggles with gender identity and communicate her desire to return home after her college graduation without fear,” Markell said. “Her tireless advocacy for passage of this legislation has made a real difference for all transgender people in Delaware.”

Victory Fund President Chuck Wolfe also applauded McBride, who also interned for his organization.

“Congratulations to the many advocates and lawmakers who fought for this important victory,” he said after Markell signed SB 97 into law. ”Among them was our former intern, Sarah McBride, whose family stood with her as she bravely came out as trans and asked her state for full equality under law. I’m so proud of Sarah and her parents.”

McBride, who graduated from American University last month, described the governor’s comments as “an incredible honor.”

She acknowledged trans advocates were angry over the anti-discrimination bill that Markell signed into law in 2009 that included sexual orientation, but not gender identity and expression. McBride added, however, SB 97 proves “our government is an ally” for trans Delawareans.

“It says that our state and our community is finally a safe and secure place for us to live, to visit, to raise a family,” she said. “It gives hope to — I hope — a lot of people, both transgender people who are out and also people who are struggling with their gender identity, that they know that Delaware is a welcoming place for them and for all people.”

Equality Delaware, Senate Bill 97, transgender rights, gay news, Washington Blade

Sarah McBride and other Equality Delaware members celebrate the final passage of Senate Bill 97 on June 19 (Photo courtesy of Equality Delaware)

25
Jun
2013

Supreme celebrations after court tosses DOMA, Prop 8

Proposition 8, Defense of Marriage Act, gay news, Washington Blade, gay news

Activists on Monday held signs and a flag in front of the Supreme Court in hopes of a decision on the Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act cases. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Marriage equality supporters who gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday erupted into cheers as they learned the justices had found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

“I’m thrilled,” D.C. resident Justyn Hintze, who is originally from Florida, told the Washington Blade outside the court. “I think that it’s about time and that sexual freedom and same-sex marriage is a human right.”

D.C. resident Amanda Klinger and her fiancée, Caroline Hunt, held a sign that read “our wedding just got 1138 times more equal” as they anticipated the Supreme Court ruling on cases that challenged the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA that defined marriage as between a man and a woman in federal law and California’s Proposition 8. Rev. Rob Apgar-Taylor of Grace United Church of Christ and Veritas United Church of Christ in Hagerstown and Frederick, Md., who married his husband in Massachusetts in 2004, told the Blade before the justices issued their DOMA ruling that he hoped they would be “bold” in their ruling.

“God is about justice, compassion and love,” he said.

Larry Blanchard of Palm Springs, Calif., who married his husband in October 2008, recalled a person could lose their certification in the security complex in which he worked for simply knowing a gay person.

He told the Blade he feels “times have really changed in all those years.”

“This is wonderful,” Blanchard said. “People are finally treated equally.”

Charles Butler of GetEQUAL and former board chair of Equality Maryland, had been waiting outside the court since 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“I’m just here to see history,” he said. “Even just as a spectator to be a part of it, it’s a really big time.”

Dani Dennenberg of Portland, Ore., held a sign that read, “two moms make a right” as she and two others waited to enter the Supreme Court. “We decided to come down and to be part of this historic moment. [We are] really hoping our country moves in the right direction.”

LGBT rights advocates around the country also applauded the DOMA decision.

“Since 2006, Virginia has had a constitutional amendment that prohibits the legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples,” Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish noted. “While we continue working to lift the ban on marriage here at home, we can celebrate today’s decision from the Supreme Court, affirming that all loving and committed couples deserve equal respect and treatment.”

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, who last month signed his state’s same-sex marriage law that takes effect on Monday, described the DOMA decision and ruling that struck down California’s Proposition 8 based on standing as “a victory for civil rights and another landmark moment in our country’s never-ending quest to be a more perfect union.”

“The decisions affirm that we can only live up to the values of freedom and justice for all when everyone is treated equally under our laws. I’m proud that we have celebrated this principle in our state with the passage of marriage equality.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the Supreme Court reaffirmed “equal justice under law.”

“Today, the Supreme Court bent the arc of history once again toward justice,” she said. “The court placed itself on the right side of history by discarding Section 3 of the defenseless Defense of Marriage Act and by allowing marriage equality for all families in California.”

Same-sex marriage opponents were quick to criticize the DOMA and Prop 8 rulings.

“In a miscarriage of justice the US Supreme Court has refused to consider the decision of a single federal court judge to overturn the perfectly legal action of over 7 million California voters who passed Proposition 8 defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” said National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown. “The Supreme Court’s holding that proponents of an initiative had no legal right to appeal ignores California law and rewards corrupt politicians for abandoning their duty to defend traditional marriage laws.”

“Today, the U.S. Supreme Court has lost its legitimacy as an arbiter of the Constitution and the rule of law,” Liberty Counsel Chair Mat Staver added. “Today is the death of the Court’s legacy, because the decision in the Federal Defense of Marriage Act case defies logic and is a pure invention of a handful of Justices.”

Even as same-sex marriage advocates continue to celebrate the Supreme Court’s landmark rulings on DOMA and Prop 8, GetEQUAL Co-Director Heather Cronk said in a statement she feels there is still work to be done to achieve what she described as full equality for LGBT Americans.

“Our work is far from over — not simply in our struggle for marriage equality in all 50 states, but also in employment, immigration, housing, credit, public accommodations, and so many other ways,” she said. “Today we celebrate, but we are getting right back to work.”

26
Jun
2013