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AFER paid law firms more than $6.4 million in Prop 8 case

Proposition 8, Supreme Court, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

The plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 case at the Supreme Court emerge victorious with lawyer David Boies, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin and American Foundation for Equal Rights Executive Director Adam Umhoefer. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The American Foundation for Equal Rights between 2009 and 2013 paid more than $6.4 million to two law firms that successfully argued against California’s Proposition 8.

Tax filings indicate former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson’s law firm – Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP – received $1,691,714 from AFER for “legal and ancillary legal expenses” between April 23, 2009, and March 31, 2010. The organization paid the law firm $958,655 between April 1, 2010, and March 31, 2011, and another $2,758,352 between April 1, 2011, through March 31, 2012.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP received $537,939 from AFER between April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013. The organization also paid David Boies’ law firm – Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP – $468,089 for “legal and ancillary legal expenses” between April 1, 2010, through March 31, 2011.

These expenses include payments to expert witnesses who testified against Prop 8, travel and living expenses for lawyers who lived in San Francisco for a month during a three-week trial over which now retired U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker presided in 2010. Additional costs include the use of LexisNexis and other online research databases and photo copying documents.

Prop 8 supporters raised nearly $40 million in support of the same-sex marriage ban that California voters approved in 2008.

Walker in August 2010 struck down the gay nuptials prohibition.

A three-judge panel on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in February 2012 upheld the ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court last June struck down Prop 8.

AFER’s 2013 tax filings were not available.

“AFER’s case resulted in the return of marriage equality in California for a fraction of the cost of a ballot measure,” AFER Executive Director Adam Umhoefer told the Washington Blade on Tuesday.

Tax filings also indicate AFER raised $14,900,467 between April 23, 2009, and March 31, 2013, that Umhoefer told the Blade includes a “large amount” of contributions from Republican donors. He added his organization estimates the Prop 8 case also generated millions of dollars in earned media coverage for which it did not have to pay.

“Our donors feel very strongly about return on investment,” said Umhoefer.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP did not return the Blade’s request for comment.

AFER, alongside Olson and Boies, is representing two same-sex couples – Tim Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk and Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Chesterfield – who are challenging Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen last month struck down the commonwealth’s gay nuptials ban that Attorney General Mark Herring in January announced he would not defend. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., in May is scheduled to hold oral arguments in the AFER case and a second lawsuit Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union filed last summer on behalf of Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester and Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton that has been certified as a class action.

American Foundation for Equal Rights, AFER, Adam Umhoefer, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

AFER Executive Director Adam Umhoefer (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Lambda Legal and the ACLU continue to work the case pro bono.

AFER and co-counsel in the Bostic case initially questioned why the two groups petitioned the court to join their lawsuit.

Umhoefer told the Blade his organization’s costs in the Bostic case will be “significantly lower” than the amount of money it spent to challenge Prop 8 because the lawsuit against Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban has worked its way through the courts much faster. He said he expects the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will issue its ruling sometime this summer – roughly a year after Bostic and London filed their lawsuit.

20
Mar
2014

Mozilla announces Cliven Bundy as new CEO

"While Bundy supports slavery, he has given no indication of any intent to enslave Mozilla's Negroes."

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24
Apr
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

U.S. groups file briefs in Colombia marriage case

Colombia Diversa, Mauricio Albarracín Caballero, gay news, Washington Blade

Colombia Diversa Executive Director Mauricio Albarracín Caballero. (Photo by Andrés de la Cuadra)

Two U.S. legal groups on Thursday filed briefs with Colombia’s high court that urge it to recognize two same-sex couples’ right to marry.

The New York City Bar Association cites last year’s U.S. Supreme Court rulings that struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 in a brief filed with the country’s Constitutional Court on behalf of Luis Felipe Rodríguez Rodas and Edward Soto of Cali and Julio Albeyro Cantor Borbón and William Alberto Castro of Bogotá who challenged Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez Maldonado’s efforts to nullify their unions. It also notes that no federal court has ruled in support of state gay nuptials bans since the landmark decisions.

“The evolution of the cases that challenge legislation against marriage in the United States have made the great weight of scientific, legal and historic authority that is in favor of allowing same-sex marriages clear,” writes Hunter T. Carter. “The cases also demonstrate that the arguments against marriage between people of the same sex are easy to refute. And that they are often based on refuted science, animus or religious beliefs that should not be taken into account in the determination of public policy.”

The brief the Impact Litigation Project at American University Washington College of Law in D.C. filed with the Constitutional Court also cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s DOMA and Prop 8 rulings. It additionally refers to marriage decisions in Massachusetts, South Africa, Brazil and Spain that upheld the “human dignity” of same-sex couples.

“Marriage provides dignity to married couples, dignity that unmarried couples cannot access,” reads the brief. “This reasoning is even more clear when the decision appeals to the humiliation that children of same-sex couples whose marriages are not recognized suffer.”

The Constitutional Court in 2011 ruled same-sex couples could legally register their relationships in two years if Colombian lawmakers did not pass a bill that would extend to them the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage.

The Colombian Senate last April overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have allowed gays and lesbians to tie the knot.

A handful of same-sex couples have exchanged vows in the country since the Constitutional Court’s deadline passed last June. Ordóñez has petitioned the tribunal to overturn rulings that allowed them to marry.

Rodríguez and Soto last June applied for a marriage license in Cali, but a notary rejected it on the grounds he did not have the authority to allow same-sex couples to marry. A judge subsequently ruled in favor of the men, but Ordóñez challenged the decision.

A Bogotá judge last July married Cantor and Castro after a court in the Colombian capital granted them a marriage license. Ordóñez two months later petitioned the Constitutional Court to block the union.

Cantor and Castro and Rodríguez and Soto specifically referenced the Constitutional Court’s 2011 ruling in their petitions that urge it to recognize their right to marry.

The Constitutional Court on April 1 announced it would consider couples’ cases.

It specifically asked government agencies to state whether they allow same-sex couples to marry or prevent them from doing so. The Constitutional Court also said it would accept amicus briefs and other submissions.

“The role of the constitution is to not force people to confirm to the wishes of the majority,” says the Impact Litigation Project in its brief. “Precisely, one of the roles of the constitution is to protect people from the wishes of their own majorities when they have resulted in the discrimination of minorities.”

Mauricio Albarracín Caballero, executive director of Colombia Diversa, a Colombian LGBT advocacy group, told the Washington Blade on Thursday the DOMA decision is a “very important point of reference” for the Constitutional Court.

“[It] can learn a lot from the Windsor case,” he said.

Neighboring Brazil is among the more than dozen countries that have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The Mexican Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in favor of 39 people who challenged the constitutionality of a Oaxacan law that bans gay marriage. The same tribunal in 2012 ruled in favor of three same-sex couples who separately sought legal recourse — known as an “amparo” in the Mexican judicial system — that would allow them to marry in the state.

Gays and lesbians have been able to marry in Mexico City since 2010. Same-sex couples have also exchanged vows in Jalisco, Coloma, Chihuahua, Quintana Roo and other Mexican states as the issue gains additional traction in the country.

Chilean lawmakers continue to consider a bill that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. President Michelle Bachelet last year publicly backed marriage rights for gays and lesbians during her presidential campaign.

Lawmakers in neighboring Perú on Tuesday are scheduled to consider a civil unions bill.

Carter — whose husband is Colombian — testified before the Colombian Senate last year in support of the same-sex marriage bill that lawmakers struck down.

He noted in the brief he filed with the Constitutional Court on behalf of the New York City Bar Association that 64 percent of the population of North and South America live in jurisdictions that have extended marriage and other forms of legal recognition to same-sex couples. They include Canada, Uruguay, Argentina and 18 U.S. states and D.C.

“I’m a family member, a neighbor, and an investor; I’m a stakeholder,” Carter told the Blade. “Today we were able to present from the most auspicious and authoritative bar association in the United States a thorough review of the very considered legal judgment in U.S. courts, in every corner of the country from local to national, that marriage discrimination does not stand up to scrutiny as supported anything other than myths and harmful stereotypes.”

25
Apr
2014

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

Prop 8 plaintiff speaks at Education Dept. Pride event

Kris Perry, Arne Duncan, gay news, Washington Blade

Proposition 8 plaintiff Kris Perry spoke Thursday with U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan played the role of talk show host on Thursday when he interviewed famed Proposition 8 plaintiff Kris Perry on the dual topics of LGBT equality and early childhood education.

The interview took place before an audience of about 150 people assembled at the department’s headquarters in Southwest Washington as part of an LGBT Pride Month event sponsored by the department’s LGBT employees group.

“This is a really meaningful day,” Duncan told the Blade after the event. “We try to do whatever we can just to celebrate the wealth of talent and the wealth of diversity we have here,” he said in referring to the department’s employees.

Perry became a nationally recognized figure as the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, a ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in the state.

Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Prop 8 last year Perry and her partner of more than 10 years, Sandy Stier, married in their home state, with LGBT activists joining them and their four sons in celebrating the victory.

Although the spotlight on Perry has focused on her marriage equality efforts her career has long involved advocacy for early childhood education programs. She currently serves as executive director of the First Five Years Fund, a national advocacy organization that lobbies for federal funding for early childhood education programs.

In response to a question from Duncan at Thursday’s Pride event, Perry pointed to what she sees as similarities in the impact of marriage equality and early childhood education programs on the lives of children.

“There are so many similarities in terms of why high-quality early education is the same as kids feeling like they have a family that is equal,” she said. “When you are told by your government that your family isn’t equal it changes your self-image, your self-esteem and it creates a ceiling for you that is very hard to push through,” Perry said.

“When you aren’t allowed to get a high-quality early education a similar ceiling is placed on top of you,” she said. “It is very hard to reach your full potential. It’s very hard to compete … And I really believe that family diversity and the early education opportunity – you create opportunities or you take them away,” she said.

“And those are life-changing, life-altering decisions that we make in the society that limit potential.”

After asking Perry several questions, Duncan opened the discussion to questions from the audience of mostly DOE employees. The questions were divided almost equally between LGBT equality issues and education issues, including early childhood education.

06
Jun
2014

Was the gay community right to target Mozilla’s Brendan Eich?

I think Eich and Mozilla got what they deserved, but I do sometimes worry about empowering the (our) crazies.

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04
Apr
2014

Behind the ‘8’ ball

joyous documentary, gay news, Washington Blade

The Prop 8 couples at the Supreme Court. (Photo courtesy HBO)

Happily, HBO’s joyous documentary “The Case Against 8” is already out of date. A title near the end of the movie mentions the number of states with marriage equality, but the count doesn’t include Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. Will the producers keep updating the title or will they leave it in place as a historic marker?

“The Cast Against 8” is finishing a local run that ends Thursday (June 19) at Washington’s West End Cinema after a June 9 D.C. premiere, but it debuts Monday night on HBO to mark the one-year anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court rulings on DOMA and Prop 8. 

At its core, “The Case Against 8” is the story of three amazing pairs: the two couples who were selected to actually file the lawsuit against Proposition 8 and the two lawyers who argued the case. Proposition 8 was the controversial ballot referendum and amendment to the California state constitution that eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry, overturning an earlier court decision that allowed gay marriages. With equal appeals to the emotion and intellect, the documentary masterfully captures the five-year legal battle with incredible behind-the scenes footage of the plaintiffs and their legal team at work.

The case starts with a casual conversation over a Hollywood lunch. Chad Griffin is meeting with fellow board members from the American Foundation for Equal Rights to discuss their response to Prop 8. Someone mentions that Ted Olson, the very high-profile very conservative right-wing lawyer, is a supporter of same-sex marriage. A shocked Griffin quickly sets up a meeting with Olson. Griffin is delighted when Olson signs on, but surprised by Olson’s choice of co-counsel: David Boies, his opponent in the historic 2000 Bush v. Gore battle. The two had become close friends despite their bitter rivalry and agree to join forces to overturn the discriminatory amendment.

The legal team then faces its most important and difficult decision: choosing the couples who will become plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging Proposition 8. Two couples survive the intense vetting process: Kris Perry and Sandy Stier of Berkeley and Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami of Burbank. With the principal players in place, the battles begin, both in the courtroom and in the court of public opinion.

Documentary filmmakers Ben Cotner and Ryan White had extraordinary access to the proceedings and skillfully capture the human and legal drama of the unfolding court cases. It’s fascinating to watch Olson and Boies lead a squadron of lawyers in developing their case. Cotner and White tell the complicated story with admirable clarity, but more importantly, they capture the intellectual passion of two brilliant minds at work.

But, like Olson and Boies, Cotner and White realize that the plaintiffs are the heart of the story. As Olson tells the foursome, “You are the case. Everything else is just evidence.” The two couples turn out to be their own best advocates. They simply and eloquently explain why the right to marry is so important to them. Perry and Stier had their 2004 marriage declared invalid; Zarrillo and Katami are waiting to have children until their relationship has full legal and social recognition. In their testimony and in their interviews with the filmmakers, these brave pioneers share the intimate details of their lives, including the threatening messages left by the haters. By the time the film closes with their respective ceremonies (each couple madly rushing to their nearest city hall with a filmmaker and lawyer in tow), there will not be a dry eye in the house.

Unfortunately, Cotner and White did not have access to the defenders of Proposition 8, but they still create interesting thumbnail sketches of the opposition. They are also denied footage from the Supreme Court hearings in San Francisco and D.C. since television cameras are banned in both chambers, but they use a surprisingly effective method to work around this obstacle. The participants simply read their testimony from printed transcripts. This is a powerful and moving technique, especially when Sandy Stier puts on her reading glasses to relive the moment. They also effectively create drama by showing the preparation for the trial, including Olson being grilled by his colleagues as he readies for his Supreme Court appearance.

 

18
Jun
2014

GOP’s Shapiro: It’s ok for Holocaust-denier to head major US company; IRS leaked Prop 8 donor info

Ben Shapiro believes, however, that employers "do" have the right to fire gay people - just not anti-gay people.

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04
Apr
2014

A son’s case for marriage equality

Sandy Stier, Kris Perry, David Boies, Chad Griffin, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Proposition 8, Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, Prop 8, California, Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade

Prop 8 plaintiffs Sandy Stier and Kris Perry addressed onlookers after a historic ruling at the U.S. Supreme Court. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The first time anyone asked me if I was disadvantaged to be raised by lesbian moms was in the first grade. A friend from my class asked what my mom and dad did for a living, and when I told him I had two moms, he told me that I wasn’t normal, that we were different.

Growing up, friends would ask questions like, “who cooks?” or, “who works?” trying to fit our puzzle piece where we just couldn’t. To me, my family was different because I had three parents; a step mom and two other moms; a twin and two step brothers; the fact that my parents were gay never made me think of them as different, until those outside my family made a point of it.

It wasn’t until my freshman year in high school that I finally saw how my family was “different.”

Elliott and I woke up early on Jan. 11, 2010, and put on our only suits. We shuffled into the back of Kris and Sandy’s SUV and the four of us drove across the Bay Bridge to a Victorian home in San Francisco. There, we met with Chad Griffin, president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, Paul Katami, and Jeff Zarrillo (who with my moms would be the plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 case). The five of them stepped outside to meet the press, and it was Jeff who said, “We’re all Americans who simply want to get married like everybody else.”

In minutes, Elliott and I were on our way to the Federal District Courthouse. We were led through the back while our moms and a battalion of lawyers weaved their way between picket lines. It seemed that in no time Judge Walker was banging his gavel and the trial began.

One of our lawyers, David Boies, called Jeff and then Paul. The opposing lawyer, Charles Cooper, cross-examined Paul, and then, Ted Olson, our other lawyer, asked Kris to take the stand.

After a few questions, Ted asked Kris what it felt like to be discriminated against. It was the first time I had ever heard any of my moms describe what it was like to face prejudice. She told Ted about growing up in the Central Valley of California and hiding who she was. She told him how she was teased and mocked as she grew up and how that blanket of constant hate had lowered the quality of her life. She also said she had never allowed herself to be truly happy and how she didn’t want any kid to know what that felt like.

Looking around as Kris joined us again on the bench, I could see my brother, Sandy, and our friends in tears.

I had finally found my answer: Families like mine are no different than anyone else’s. We share the same love. We’re only different in that we felt the brunt of living under discriminatory laws.

When a family like mine is denied equal protection under the law, when society tells us that because you are a minority, you don’t get the rights of the majority, it hurts. It validates hate against that minority. It teaches kids in states with same-sex marriage bans that your family isn’t worthy of protection.

Perry v. Hollingsworth was appealed again and again until it reached the Supreme Court.  My first trip to D.C. was much like that drive to San Francisco three years earlier. Elliott and I woke up early to stand in line outside the courthouse. We walked behind our parents to sit behind Ted Olson and David Boies. In the midst of Charles Cooper’s oral argument, Justice Kennedy asked, “Forty thousand children in California … that live with same-sex parents, and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case, don’t you think?” Cooper responded saying there was no evidence that children, my brothers and I, would benefit from Kris and Sandy being married.

Today the same question is being asked in court cases across the country that challenge state bans on marriage equality and like Perry v. Hollingsworth have the potential to bring the battle of universal marriage equality to the Supreme Court.

Four months after the Supreme Court oral arguments, the court lifted the ban on same-sex marriages in California and I got to know exactly what that benefit is. Take it from a son –I’ve never felt prouder or more patriotic than when my moms were legally married one year ago on June 28. Every son and daughter in every state should have the right to feel that way.

Spencer M. Perry is the son of Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, plaintiffs in the Perry v. Hollingsworth case that overturned California’s ban on same-sex marriage. He studies economics and public policy at George Washington University.

Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Spencer Perry, gay news, Washington Blade

From left, Kris Perry, Spencer Perry and Sandy Stier (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

 

25
Jun
2014