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Mozillagate grows

Firefox parent-company Mozilla has hired a new CEO who donated $1,000 to the anti-gay Prop 8 in California.

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27
Mar
2014

Daughter of lawyer who defended anti-gay Prop 8 comes out, getting married

Lawyer Charles Cooper is helping his gay daughter plan her wedding, says his views on marriage are now "evolving."

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17
Apr
2014

The Defense of the History of (Gay) Marriage

A new book has the "definitive account" of the gay marriage battle over the last 5 years. And gets it all wrong.

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21
Apr
2014

Spencer Perry continues moms’ tradition of activism

Spencer Perry, Proposition 8, George Washington University, gay news, Washington Blade

Spencer Perry is a student at George Washington University and the son of Prop 8′s plaintiffs. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Spencer Perry takes after his parents.

The 19-year-old son of the lesbian plaintiff couple in the case against California’s Proposition 8 is straight, but as a freshman at George Washington University, he’s taken leadership roles in the school’s gay-straight alliance and LGBT graduate program.

In an interview with the Washington Blade at GWU’s Duques Hall, Spencer says he would pursue LGBT activism even if his parents — Kris Perry and Sandy Stier — weren’t plaintiffs in the case that restored marriage equality to California, because of his experience in youth government programs during his adolescence.

“Sometimes I got the opportunity to travel across the country and meet others with different views on LGBT rights,” Perry says. “More often than not, I found myself even just in conversations casually, advocating for my parents and advocating for the family that we have and families just like theirs. I really felt proud of myself doing that. It was a good feeling and I wanted to keep pursuing it.”

After growing up in Berkeley, Calif., which he calls a “bubble” in terms of support for LGBT people, Spencer enrolled at GWU, where he double majors in political science and economics. Shortly after enrolling, he was elected freshman representative for Allied in Pride and was appointed as a board member of GWU’s LGBT Health Graduate Certificate Program.

He moved to D.C., where he lives on campus at Thurston Hall, at the same time his parents relocated to the area after Kris Perry accepted a job as executive director of the First Five Years Fund, a non-profit that seeks early childhood education for disadvantaged children.

Spencer says his focus at Allied in Pride is getting the culture at GWU “to be more embracing of LGBT individuals” on campus.

The next big task? Preparing for the second annual amateur drag show set for Feb. 13 called “Allied in Greek” — a collaboration between the Allied in Pride and Greek life in which members of GWU’s fraternities and sororities dress up in drag. The goal for the event, which will take place at 7 p.m. at Lisner Auditorium, is to show support for fellow LGBT students and benefit The Trevor Project, which seeks to help LGBT youth considering suicide.

Nick Gumas, who’s gay and president of Allied in Pride, praised Perry.

“Spencer has been an important part of Allied in Pride since he joined at the start of last semester,” Gumas says. “He always brings his creativity and positive energy to all of our meetings and events. It has been an absolute pleasure getting to know Spencer and I know he is going to continue to do great things in the future.”

Spencer knows firsthand the feeling of having the rights of his family taken from him. On Election Day in 2008 — the same day that President Obama was elected to office — voters in California approved Prop 8, rescinding the marriage rights that gay couples already enjoyed in the state.

“Anyone will tell you who lived in California and is part of the LGBT community, that was a very embarrassing moment because No. 1, we elected a phenomenal president, the first black president, which was a terrific feeling to be part of that, but at the same time, Proposition 8 was passed, too,” he says.

The day the California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8, Kris Perry and Stier — along with Los Angeles couple Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo — filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to overturn Prop 8. They were represented by the legal dream team of Ted Olson and David Boies, who were hired by the then newly formed American Foundation for Equal Rights.

The lawsuit wasn’t filed before Kris Perry, his birth mother, and Stier, who became his stepmother after a previous relationship Kris Perry had with another woman, asked their four children, including Spencer and his twin brother Elliott, whether it was OK.

“I remember one day after school right before dinner around that time, Kris and Sandy sat us down,” Spencer says. “They said, ‘Listen, we’ve been approached by this group called AFER and they’re interested in pursuing a lawsuit to overturn Proposition 8 as unconstitutional. We’re very interested, but we want to make a collective decision as a family. So they asked us if Elliott and I would be OK with that.”

It didn’t take much to convince Spencer to be willing to come on board.

“Elliott and I jumped at the opportunity,” he says.

At first, Spencer says his parents “did their darndest to keep us kind of protected” from the public interest surrounding the case. But as the case proceeded through the district court, to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and to the Supreme Court, and Spencer grew older and more interested in public affairs, he was able to speak out and talked to media outlets.

“I really did enjoy it,” Spencer says. “Not to be someone who’s devoted to attention, but it really was a good feeling to voice my opinion and to make sure people understand there are kids who have gay parents all across America.”

In addition to speaking at various news conferences, Spencer gave interviews to the San Francisco Chronicle, People magazine, the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, among others

One of the views against same-sex marriage that Spencer had to address — and one that he was living proof to counter — was the often-used argument that children of same-sex parents don’t fare as well as those raised by their opposite-sex biological parents.

“I’ve heard the argument a million and one times, but if anything, my gut reaction is that it’s kind of hurtful to hear that because my parents love each other, I’m worse off for it,” Spencer says. “I can’t tell you how loving and proud, and just absolutely supportive, my parents are of me. And how much better I am for them being my parents.”

After years of litigation, the case ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court, where justices ruled 5-4 that proponents of Prop 8 had no standing to defend the lawsuit, leaving in place a U.S. District Court decision from Judge Vaughn Walker that overturned the amendment on the grounds that it violated the equal protection rights of gay couples in the state.

But before that momentous decision, the justices scheduled oral arguments on March 26 to hear both sides in the case. Although Spencer wasn’t initially expecting to attend that day, an AFER board member was kind enough to give seats to allow him and Elliott to attend.

Spencer found himself sweating and uncomfortable as he observed Olson, anti-gay attorney Charles Cooper and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli makes their arguments before the justices, but for reasons other than the historic nature of the occasion.

“I caught food poisoning the night before,” Spencer says. “I never had food poisoning before, so I didn’t know what was happening, but I was just clenching the arms in my chair and sweating a little bit. I thought it was just nerves or something.”

Still, Spencer says he was inspired by what he saw, especially the comments from U.S. Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.

“It was absolutely fantastic, especially listening to Justice Kennedy, it really touched my heart when he spoke about the kids who were involved in these cases, the children who belong to these families and feel disenfranchised by their government,” Spencer says.

Decision day came on June 28. This time Spencer wasn’t in D.C. — even though his parents were there to celebrate along with Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin on the steps of the Supreme Court — and instead was in North Carolina with other students involved in the debate team.

“The entire period when I was doing that, I was checking my phone, checking my Twitter, Instagram, everything I could get my hands on, every media outlet if it was going to happen,” Spencer says.

Despite the ups and downs as the case went through the courts, Spencer says the experience as a whole was positive and brought him closer to his family.

“Looking back on it, I feel immensely proud of my moms,” Spencer says. ”I never felt closer to them than when I saw Kris and Sandy testifying in front of a federal judge. Even now, I still feel proud to know that they changed the lives of so many people for the better.”

Peter Rosenstein, a gay Democratic activist and friend of Spencer’s, calls him “a great kid” and says the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in terms of the pursuit of activism shared by his parents.

“I enjoyed his response when I was first introduced to him and asked if he was gay or straight,” Rosenstein says. “He said, ‘straight, my mom’s didn’t rub off on me’ to which I responded my parents didn’t rub off on me either. I think his being at GW will be great for the school and great for all the kids that meet him.”

What should the national LGBT movement focus on next? Spencer says it should be winning state battles on marriage equality throughout the country, so when the issue returns to the Supreme Court, justices will make a favorable ruling for gay couples throughout the country.

“There’s going to be political ideology in any ruling, and there’s going to be influence in public opinion, but I think the way that public opinion has absolutely shifted in the past four years in support of marriage equality and LGBT rights, it really does speak to the fact that there’s an opportunity for a national precedent on marriage equality in the Supreme Court,” Spencer says.

05
Feb
2014

Mozilla / Firefox hires anti-gay “Prop 8″ supporter as new CEO

Brendan Eich donated $1,000 to the Proposition 8 campaign that successfully repealed gay marriage in California.

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26
Mar
2014

BREAKING: SUPREME COURT STRIKES DOWN DOMA, PROP 8

Proposition 8, Prop 8, DOMA, Defense of Marriage Act, Supreme Court, gay rights, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Activists 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)

On Tuesday the Supreme Court struck down two key anti-gay laws: a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act preventing the Federal Government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal, and California’s voter-approved Proposition 8, which ended same-sex marriage rights in that state.

In a 5-4 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, writing the opinion striking down a key provision in DOMA in the case of Windsor v. the United States, calling the law a “deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment,” According to SCOTUSblog.com.

“DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled ot recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty,” the decision reads.

The move could open the door to federal recognition of legally married same-sex couples who have wed in states where such nuptials are legal. Immigration rights experts hope the decision also means that American citizens will be able to sponsor their same-sex spouses for citizenship, something currently against the law.

The second gay marriage decision of the day struck down California’s Proposition 8 based on standing, vacating the 9th Circuit Court’s opinion, and upholding the U.S. District Court of California’s ruling, authored by Vaughn Walker.

“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to,” read the majority opinion in Hollingsworth v. Perry authored by Chief Justice John Roberts. “We decline to do so for the first time here.”

In the Hollingsworth opinion, Roberts was joined by Justices Scalia, Ginsberg, Breyer and Kagan.

Justices Scalia was joined by Justice Thomas in his dissent to the Windsor decision, with Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito both writing his own dissent, agreeing with Thomas in part.

In his dissent in Windsor, Scalia questions the level of scrutiny the majority applied to the law, where Alito’s dissent revolves around the question of standing, according to legal experts.

This story is developing, come back to the Blade for more throughout the day.

26
Jun
2013

Watch members of Congress’ LGBT Equality Caucus react to Supreme Court rulings

Watch as members of the LGBT Caucus in the U.S. Congress react to today’s Supreme Court rulings.

Representatives Polis, Cicilline, Malone and more share their feelings immediately after marriage decisions come down.

26
Jun
2013

HISTORIC: Supreme Court strikes down DOMA, Prop 8

Supreme Court, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, Proposition 8, Hollingsworth vs. Perry, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay marriage advocates rallying at the Supreme Court earlier this year during oral arguments for two major cases. The court struck down two anti-gay laws today, opening the door for expanded rights for same-sex couples in many jurisdictions. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In a historic development, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down two decisions on Wednesday that advanced marriage rights for gay couples and will almost certainly reshape the national debate on the issue.

In one 5-4 ruling, the court determined that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional because it violates due process and equal protection for same-sex couples under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That decision means the U.S. government must begin recognizing same-sex marriages for a broad range of benefits, including those related to federal taxes and immigration law.

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion and was joined by Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Kennedy said. “By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

The dissenting justices were Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. In his opinion, Roberts says Congress acted constitutionally in passing DOMA and took issue with the authority the court granted itself in overturning the anti-gay statute.

In another 5-4 decision, the court determined anti-gay forces don’t have standing to defend California’s Proposition 8. That decision leaves in place a district court injunction that prohibits the state of California from enforcing its ban on same-sex marriage. Gay couples will be able to marry in the state once the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lift its stay.

Roberts wrote the majority opinion for the court and was joined by Scalia, Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan. Kennedy wrote the dissenting opinion and was joined by Thomas, Alito and Sotomayor.

“The Article III requirement that a party invoking the jurisdiction of a federal court seek relief for a personal, particularized injury serves vital interests going to the role of the Judiciary in our system of separated powers,” Roberts writes. “States cannot alter that role simply by issuing to private parties who otherwise lack standing a ticket to the federal courthouse.”

The court’s ruling in the case against Prop 8, known as Hollingsworth v. Perry, is specific only to California — meaning the justices didn’t grant the expansive ruling that supporters of marriage equality had sought to bring marriage equality to all 50 states.

Shortly after HRC President Chad Griffin walked out of the court with plaintiffs in the marriage cases, he received a call from President Obama who was aboard Air Force One. Obama congratulated Griffin for the victories as reporters and onlookers watched.

The decisions were handed down 10 years to the day that the Supreme Court announced its landmark decision in the 2003 case of Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state sodomy laws throughout the country.

The challenge to DOMA, known as United States v. Windsor, was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and others in 2011 on behalf of lesbian New York widow Edith Windsor. Upon the death of her spouse Thea Spyer in 2009, Windsor had to pay the U.S. government $363,000 in estate taxes because of DOMA — a penalty that she wouldn’t have faced if she were married to a woman.

The decision striking down DOMA affirms the initial rulings against the federal anti-gay law last year by U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones and the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Obama administration helped in securing the ruling against DOMA. After it stopped defending DOMA in 2011, the U.S. Justice Department began filing briefs against the law and sent attorneys to litigate against it during oral arguments. U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued against DOMA before the Supreme Court, saying the law doesn’t hold up under the standard heightened scrutiny, or a greater assumption it’s unconstitutional.

But the Supreme Court didn’t get to the issue of heightened scrutiny in the DOMA case because it found the law was unconstitutional under the less stringent standard of rational basis review.

The case against Prop 8 was filed by the California-based American Foundation for Equal Rights in 2009 on behalf of two plaintiff couples — a lesbian couple, Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, and a gay male couple, Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo — who were unable to marry because of the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

The attorneys representing them were Theodore Olson, a former U.S. solicitor general during the Bush administration, and David Boies, a so-called “dream team” of attorneys who represented opposite sides in the 2000 case Bush v. Gore.

Because the state officials — California Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris — refused to defend Prop 8 in court, anti-gay groups that put Prop 8 on the ballot in 2008 such as ProtectMarriage.com took up the responsibility of defending the measure. The California Supreme Court certified the groups had standing under state law and the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed they had standing.

But the high court determined that these groups — even though attorney Charles Cooper spoke on behalf on them in oral arguments — don’t have standing because they lack any legal injury in the wake of the lower court’s determination that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.

The Obama administration had also assisted in efforts to secure a ruling against California’s Proposition 8. The Justice Department filed a friend-of-the-court brief in February saying the ban was unconstitutional and Verrilli argued in court against Prop 8, suggesting all eight states with domestic partnerships should be required to grant marriage rights to gay couples.

The issue of standing also came up in the DOMA case for two reasons. One, the court had questioned whether the U.S. Justice Department could have appealed the district court ruling to the Second Circuit because the initial ruling against DOMA was what the Obama administration wanted. Two, the court questioned whether the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, a five-member Republican-majority panel within the U.S. House, had standing to take up defense of DOMA in the administration’s stead.

But the court determined an active controversy remains in the case because the U.S. government still hasn’t refunded Windsor the $363,000 she paid in estate taxes. Once the court determined it has jurisdiction based on the Obama administration’s appeal of the lawsuit, it didn’t get to the issue of whether BLAG has standing.

In his ruling, Kennedy writes the continuation of litigation in the absence of a federal ruling on DOMA would cause uncertainty.

“[T]he costs, uncertainties, and alleged harm and injuries likely would continue for a time measured in years before the issue is resolved,” Kennedy writes in the ruling. “In these unusual and urgent circumstances, the very term ‘prudential’ counsels that it is a proper exercise of the Court’s responsibility to take jurisdiction.”

26
Jun
2013

Victory, vindication and tears

For those of us old enough to remember the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act — and then-President Bill Clinton’s craven boasting about it in Christian radio ads during the 1996 campaign — this week brought vindication, a victory unimaginable just a few years ago and more than a few tears of joy.

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court declared that DOMA “is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy added to his considerable pro-gay legacy penning the majority opinion joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer.

In it, Kennedy issues a bold, broad ruling and gets at the heart of the matter: the indignity that DOMA visited upon our relationships.

He writes, “DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

It’s a refreshing and honest take on the impact of DOMA, which has stigmatized gay and lesbian couples for 17 years and done real harm to our families. Kennedy’s opinion at long last recognizes this basic fact. The stories of DOMA’s impact on our community have formed the basis for literally hundreds of Blade stories over the years. Many of those stories involve serious life-changing consequences as in survivors like the courageous Edith Windsor facing financial ruin after the death of a partner. But those dark days are over. Kennedy touches on the broad reach of the decision in his opinion.

“By its great reach, DOMA touches many aspects of married and family life, from the mundane to the profound. It prevents same-sex married couples from obtaining government healthcare benefits they would otherwise receive. It deprives them of the Bankruptcy Code’s special protections for domestic-support obligations. It forces them to follow a complicated procedure to file their state and federal taxes jointly.

“DOMA also brings financial harm to children of same-sex couples. It raises the cost of health care for families by taxing health benefits provided by employers to their workers’ same-sex spouses. And it denies or reduces benefits allowed to families upon the loss of a spouse and parent, benefits that are an integral part of family security.”

Kennedy rightly points out that the only reason DOMA came about was anti-gay animus.

“The history of DOMA’s enactment and its own text demonstrate that interference with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages, a dignity conferred by the States in the exercise of their sovereign power, was more than an incidental effect of the federal statute. It was its essence.”

More vindication for the scores of activists, lawyers, politicians, journalists, bloggers and everyday Americans who’ve been fighting this most odious of laws for nearly two decades.

In Justice Antonin Scalia’s overwrought and predictably curmudgeonly dissent, he fears judicial overreach.

“It is an assertion of judicial supremacy over the people’s Representatives in Congress and the Executive. It envisions a Supreme Court standing (or rather enthroned) at the apex of government, empowered to decide all constitutional questions, always and everywhere ‘primary’ in its role.”

He goes on to say the question of same-sex marriage “should be resolved primarily at the state level.”

That is now an open question, as same-sex couples in California rejoin the growing group of now 13 states and D.C. that have enacted marriage equality. Will a gay couple in Texas sue the government for marriage rights? Has Kennedy set the stage for a Loving v. Virginia-type showdown for the gay community?

Tantalizing questions for the future. For now, it’s time to celebrate a victory nearly 20 years in the making.

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at knaff@washblade.com.

27
Jun
2013

Gay couples can marry immediately in California

Proposition 8, Supreme Court, DOMA, Gay Marriage, Gay News, Washington Blade

Gay couples like the Prop 8 plaintiffs will finally be able to marry in California (Blade file photo by Michael Key).

Gay couples can begin to marry immediately in California thanks to the last procedural hurdle being overcome in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down to California Proposition 8.

On Friday, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lift its stay on the injunction against the enforcement of Prop 8 that was put in place by U.S. District Vaughn Walker.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin praised the development in a statement from San Francisco prior to the city’s Pride celebration.

“After four and a half long and painful years, justice for committed gay and lesbian couples has finally been delivered,” Griffin said. “In California, a time of struggle and indignity are over, and love, justice and freedom begin anew. And now, no election, no judge – no one – can take this basic right away. At long last, marriage has finally returned to the most populous state in the nation.”

Griffin said the news is welcome relief to the gay plaintiff couples in the lawsuit that he helped to initiate to put an end to Prop 8 in addition to the many thousands of same-sex couples in California.

“Kris Perry and Sandy Stier’s twin sons were just starting high school when their moms’ right to marry was taken away, now, as they prepare to start college, they will finally see their family recognized in the eyes of their state and their country,” Griffin said. “Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, now free to marry, can finally plan the family they’ve always wanted. Thousands upon thousands of lives are about to change for the better, for good. And young LGBT people across the Golden State will can today look forward to a future where they are truly and fully equal.”

The American Federation for Equal Rights, which was responsible for the lawsuit, said in statement the plaintiff couples would be the first to marry in California in the aftermath of Prop 8. Perry and Stier are set to marry in San Francisco while Katami and Zarrillo are set to marry in Los Angeles. California Attorney General Kamala Harris said via Twitter she’d officiate over the ceremony in San Francisco.

Griffin concluded, “Today is a day of profound celebration, but tomorrow – and every day from here on out – we will fight until joy, dignity, and full equality in all its forms reach each and every corner of this vast country.”

UPDATE: At 4:45 pm, Harris married Perry and Stier in San Francisco City Hall, saying, “Today, we witness not only the joining of Kristen and Sandy, but the realization of their dream: marriage. They have waited, hoped and fought for this moment. Today, their wait is finally over.”

28
Jun
2013