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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

Mexican Supreme Court rules on gay partner benefits

Supreme Court, Mexico, gay news, Washington Blade

Mexican Supreme Court (Photo by Thelmadatter; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The Mexican Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled the same-sex spouses of those who receive benefits under the country’s social security system must receive the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts.

El Economista, a Mexican newspaper, reported the justices in a 3-2 ruling said the Mexican Social Security Institute – Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social in Spanish – must extend the same benefits that married heterosexual couples receive to gays and lesbians who have either tied the knot or entered into civil unions.

José Alberto Gómez Barroso, who married his partner in Mexico City in 2012, sought legal recourse through the Mexican judicial system after officials denied his request to add his spouse as a beneficiary under the country’s social security system. A lower court last year dismissed Gómez’s case after he passed away.

“The court’s ruling without a doubt is cause for celebration,” Alex Alí Méndez Díaz, a lawyer who filed lawsuits in 2011 and 2012 on behalf of three same-sex couples who tried to apply for marriage licenses in Oaxaca, told the Washington Blade. “The Supreme Court has been at the forefront of taking up decisions in relation to the rights of the LGBT community in Mexico.”

The ruling comes against the backdrop of the movement in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples in Mexico that continues to gain momentum.

The Mexican Supreme Court last February ruled the Oaxacan law that bans same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. States must also recognize gay nuptials that have taken place in Mexico City since the Mexican capital’s same-sex marriage law took effect in 2010.

A lesbian couple last month exchanged vows in Guadalajara in Jalisco. Gays and lesbians have also married in Colima, Chihuahua and in Quintana Roo and Yucatán on the Yucatán Peninsula on which the resort city of Cancún is located.

Same-sex couples in Baja California del Norte in which Tijuana is located and other states have sought marriage rights through the Mexican legal system. Coahuila currently extends property and inheritance rights and other limited legal protections to gays and lesbians.

“Since the legalization of same-sex marriage in Mexico City, the Mexican Social Security Institute has been one of the toughest organizations to lobby, one of the most stubborn institutions when it comes to amending their rules and giving equal treatment to its affiliates who have same-sex couples,” Enrique Torre Molina, an LGBT rights advocate and blogger in Mexico City, told the Blade on Thursday as he discussed the Mexican Social Security Institute ruling. “This is another step towards equality for gay and lesbian couples.”

Méndez stressed gay and lesbian Mexicans continue to suffer discrimination as long as they are unable to secure marriage rights.

“The court responded within the extent of its authority, but the result is insufficient,” he told the Blade. “The respect of human rights should be the general rule and its violation is an exception that must be addressed.”

31
Jan
2014

Jewish groups to talk marriage

DC Gay Wedding Directory, jewish

(Photo by Bigstock)

The Keshet Parent & Family Connection (KPFC) and JQ Baltimore will partner on March 2 to present a panel discussion exploring the process and experience of same-sex weddings and marriages in the Jewish tradition. Beth El Congregation, 8101 Park Heights Ave., will host the event from 1-3 p.m. The panel consists of same-sex married couples, parents of same-sex married couples and clergy who have performed same-sex weddings.

“For many in Maryland, Question 6 was just something that they voted on at the polls,” said Mindy Dickler, co-founder of JQ Baltimore and mentor for Keshet PFC. “This program will put names and faces to Jewish members of our community for whom this historic vote has made a world of difference.”

For more information, visit jqbaltimore.org.

24
Feb
2014

Beyer a longtime LGBT rights supporter

Don Beyer, gay news, Washington Blade, Virginia

Don Beyer (Photo public domain)

The following was submitted as a letter to the editor in response to “Beyer changed position on same-sex marriage” (news, March 19).

 

I was surprised to see the Blade single out Don Beyer as someone who has changed his position on gay marriage since 1997. Let’s be honest – a vast number of Americans have changed their position on gay marriage since 1997, and that is something that should be applauded, not criticized.

The truth is, like many of our friends and family, coworkers and neighbors, Don has evolved on this issue. In fact, Don evolved long before many of our current Democratic leaders. In 2003, Don endorsed Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in a primary in which Dean and no other candidate was in favor of gay marriage.

In 2006, when several Virginia Democrats joined Republicans in their crusade to ban gay marriage in the Commonwealth, Don personally contributed significantly to the effort opposing the Defense of Marriage Act referendum in Virginia. In doing so, he bucked many in his own party and even the majority of Virginia voters.  Don came to the conclusion that it was the right thing to do well before many others, including many in the Democratic Party.

When my partner and I decided to start our own family in 2002, Don and his wife were among the first of our friends, gay or straight, to offer to help us. They have been unwavering advocates in the community for our family, which now includes two children, and we believe Don’s experience and perspective will be critical to addressing the unique issues we face going forward.

President Obama, Vice President Biden, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and nearly every Democratic elected official in Virginia has progressed on this issue, and ultimately, that’s what matters.

From prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and elsewhere, to supporting the inclusion of sexual orientation-based crimes in hate crime statutes, Don has been a strong advocate for LGBT rights. To try to paint him as anything otherwise is disingenuous and misleading; it also does a disservice to the people of Virginia.

I realize that in a crowded Democratic primary field we look for points of differentiation among the candidates. This isn’t one of them. —Mark C. Lowham

26
Mar
2014

Cartoon: Big shoes to fill

Jo Becker, Chad Griffin, Rosa Parks, marriage equality, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, civil rights, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade cartoon by Ranslem)

22
Apr
2014

Fla. attorney general: Same-sex marriage would ‘harm’ state

Pam Bondi, Florida, gay news, Washington Blade

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (Photo public domain)

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi earlier this month argued in court documents that the recognition of same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions would “irreparably harm” her state.

“An injunction would irreparably harm the state of Florida,” she wrote in a 34-page motion she filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee on May 12 that seeks the dismissal of a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed in March on behalf of eight same-sex couples who are seeking recognition of their out-of-state marriages. “Plaintiffs seek to enjoin a duly enacted constitutional amendment and statutory law. Enjoining democratically enacted legislation harms state officials by restraining them from implementing the will of the people that they represent.”

Florida voters in 2008 approved a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Gov. Rick Scott, who is among the other state officials named as defendants in the lawsuit, earlier this year reiterated his support of the marriage amendment. Both he and Bondi — a twice-divorced Republican — are seeking re-election this year.

Bondi argues there has been a “clear and essential connection between marriage and responsible procreation and childrearing.”

“The promotion of family continuity and stability is a legitimate state interest,” she said.

“Florida’s marriage laws, then, have a close, direct and rational relationship to society’s legitimate interest in increasing the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by the mothers and fathers who produced them in stable and enduring family units,” adds Bondi.

Bondi says “disrupting” the state’s “existing marriage laws would impose significant public harm.”

“Florida’s discriminatory laws cause serious harm to real families across the state,” said Daniel Tilley of the ACLU of Florida as the Associated Press reported. “Despite the state’s assertion that the harms to same-sex married couples aren’t significant enough to warrant relief, the families living every day being treated like legal strangers by their home state know better.”

Equality Florida, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, urged Bondi to reconsider her position.

“A defense of the indefensible only squanders our state’s resources and delays justice for hundreds of thousands of Florida families,” said the group.

Tony Lima, executive director of Safeguarding American Values for Everyone (SAVE,) a South Florida LGBT advocacy group, echoed Equality Florida.

“As the voice of South Florida’s LGBT community, we at SAVE know this issue affects many loving, committed same-sex couples married elsewhere but currently living in Florida,” he said. “Attorney General Bondi should know that what truly causes public harm is discriminatory rhetoric that divides Floridians instead of uniting them.”

The case is among the dozens of federal marriage lawsuits that have been filed since the U.S. Supreme Court last June struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Gays and lesbians in 19 states and D.C. are currently able to marry. Illinois’ same-sex marriage law takes effect on Sunday.

More than a dozen federal and state judges have ruled in favor of marriage rights for same-sex couples since the DOMA decision.

30
May
2014

Judge hears Fla. marriage lawsuit

Catherina Pareto, Karla Arguello, Florida, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello are among six same-sex couples challenging Florida’s gay marriage ban in state court. (Photo courtesy of Erik Olvera/National Center for Lesbian Rights)

A Miami judge on Wednesday heard oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by six same-sex couples who are seeking marriage rights in Florida.

The Miami Herald reported that Jeffrey Michael Cohen and Sylvia Walbolt, who represent the plaintiffs, asked Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel during the two-hour hearing to strike down the state’s gay nuptials ban and allow same-sex couples to receive marriage licenses. Assistant Florida Attorney General Adam Tanenbaum defended the state’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Mat Staver, chair of the Liberty Counsel, also defended Florida’s marriage amendment on behalf of Florida Family Action, the Florida Democratic League and People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality.

“The future of civilized society depends on protecting permanence and exclusivity in family structure,” said Staver. “The people of Florida could rationally find that the risks to family stability posed by redefining marriage to include same-sex couples are not a price they are willing to pay.”

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and Equality Florida, which is a plaintiff in the case, filed the lawsuit in January. The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida in March filed a separate lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee on behalf of eight same-sex couples who are legally married in other jurisdictions.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running against incumbent Gov. Rick Scott as a Democrat, last week filed an amicus brief with the state circuit court that asks it to overturn Florida’s gay nuptials ban. The former Republican while in office backed the marriage amendment that voters approved in 2008.

Attorney General Pam Bondi in May argued in court documents her office filed in the federal lawsuit that the recognition of same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions would “irreparably harm” Florida.

Same-sex couples can legally marry in 20 states and D.C.

More than 20 federal and state courts have ruled in support of marriage rights for gays and lesbians since the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013 struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver last week struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban. A federal judge on Tuesday ruled Kentucky’s gay nuptials prohibition is unconstitutional.

The issue of marriage rights for same-sex couples is widely expected to go before the U.S. Supreme Court next year.

“We are optimistic that the judge will rule in favor of equality and fairness, as judges across the country have, and strike down this ban,” said Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith after Zabel heard oral arguments. “The tide has turned, and the day is coming when anti-gay marriage laws will meet the same fate as laws banning interracial marriage that limited my parents’ options.”

03
Jul
2014

BREAKING: Federal judge strikes down Oklahoma same-sex marriage ban

Oklahoma, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by Babymestizo; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A federal judge on Tuesday ruled Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Terence C. Kern of the Northern District of Oklahoma said the state constitutional amendment that says marriage “shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman” violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin and Susan Barton and Gay Phillips challenged the ban shortly after Oklahoma voters approved it in 2004.

Tulsa County Court Clerk Sally Howe Smith and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

“Judge Kern has come to the conclusion that so many have before him – that the fundamental equality of lesbian and gay couples is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. “With last year’s historic victories at the Supreme Court guiding the way, it is clear that we are on a path to full and equal citizenship for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.”

Kern stayed his ruling pending an appeal.

“We are disappointed in the ruling,” said Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris. “We will need to review the decision and talk with our client, Tulsa County Court Clerk Sally Howe Smith, about appeal options.”

Gov. Mary Fallin said the “people of Oklahoma have spoken on this issue,” noting her state’s marriage amendment passed in 2004 with 75 percent support.

“I support the right of Oklahoma’s voters to govern themselves on this and other policy matters,” said Fallin in a statement. “I am disappointed in the judge’s ruling and troubled that the will of the people has once again been ignored by the federal government.”

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt described Kern’s ruling as “a troubling decision.”

“As the Supreme Court recently noted in the Windsor case, it is up to the states to decide how to define marriage, not the federal government,” said Pruitt in a statement.

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

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month blocked any future gay nuptials from taking place in Utah pending the outcome of an appeal of U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby’s Dec. 20 ruling that struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Jan. 8 said his state would not recognize same-sex marriages performed during this period pending the outcome of his administration’s appeal of Shelby’s ruling.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder two days later announced the federal government will recognize the aforementioned unions. Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler and his counterparts in Maine and Washington subsequently announced their states will follow suit.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said during a Gertrude Stein Democratic Club on Monday the nation’s capital should also recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah. He said he would consult with D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan on the issue.

“Equality is not just for the coasts anymore,” said Griffin. “Today’s news from Oklahoma shows that time has come for fairness and dignity to reach every American in all 50 states.”

National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown on Tuesday renewed his call for a federal constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman.

“The decision by U.S District Court Judge Terence Kern in Oklahoma is the latest in a string of examples of the dangers posed to state marriage laws when the avenue of debate is the federal court system,” he said in a statement. “We need firm legislative action to protect the rights of the states and their citizens to make their own determinations regarding the definition of marriage without interference from federal appointees either in the courts or within the executive branch.”

Pruitt conceded the U.S. Supreme Court will likely consider the constitutionality of state same-sex marriage bans. He noted Utah’s gay nuptial case is before the same federal appellate court is identical to that on which Kern ruled.

“The issue most likely will end up at the U.S. Supreme Court and the outcome will dictate whether Oklahoma’s constitutional provision will be upheld,” said Pruitt.

14
Jan
2014

Mormons make case for Utah, Okla. marriage bans

The Mormon Church filed a brief before the Tenth Circuit in opposition to same-sex marriage (photo from wikimedia by Joe Ravi).

The Mormon Church filed a brief before the Tenth Circuit in opposition to same-sex marriage. (Photo from wikimedia by Joe Ravi)

The Mormon Church joined other major Christian groups on Monday in filing a legal brief supporting bans on same-sex marriage in Utah and Oklahoma, although they rely on a study that authors say shouldn’t be used as evidence against same-sex marriage.

The 53-page document urges the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold bans on same-sex marriage on the argument that children are better off when raised by opposite-sex parents.

“Every child has a father and a mother,” the brief states. “Procreation within a stable male-female marriage gives a child a uniquely full human context that accounts for both the child’s biology and the deeper intentions and commitments of the child’s parents. The male-female ideal in marriage and parenting provides children security and other irreplaceable benefits.”

To bolster this argument, the brief on page 24 relies on a 2002 study from the D.C.-based non-profit Child Trends, titled “Marriage from a Child’s Perspective: How Does Family Structure Affect Children and What Can We Do About It?” The study makes no explicit reference to same-sex marriage.

But anti-gay groups have cited this study before in separate briefs filed before the Supreme Court last year in favor of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act — much to the objection of its authors who say their research says nothing about same-sex marriage.

Frank Walter, a spokesperson for Child Trends, reiterated that objection Tuesday in an email to the Washington Blade.

“Child Trends has been diligent in noting that it is inaccurate to make conclusions about the well-being of children being raised in same-sex households based on our study on heterosexual households,” Walter said. “As noted, this was not part of the study. In fact, we made this case in parliamentary hearings on this issue in Ireland when we were alerted that our information was being misrepresented.”

The study was also cited in the legal brief that the state of Utah filed last week before the Tenth Circuit in favor of its ban on same-sex marriage. The research also comes up in at least one other friend-of-the-court brief that was signed by social scientists and Mark Regenrus, who produced a discredited study against same-sex parenting.

Major psychological and family groups have disputed the notion that gay parents aren’t as fit as straight parents in raising children. Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out in support of same-sex marriage.

Walter encouraged experts on the issue to research the issue of same-sex parenting because of the prevalence of LGBT families.

“We do not have data on children in same-sex families but hope research will be done in this area given the significant number of gay and lesbian families raising children,” Walter said.

The brief was filed in two separate cases related to same-sex marriage: one is the case filed against Utah’s ban, known as Kitchen v. Herbert, the other is the case filed against Oklahoma’s ban, known as Bishop v. Smith.

In addition to the LDS Church, other groups listed on the filing are the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; National Association of Evangelicals; the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; and Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

The LDS Church is joining others in filing the brief despite an earlier media report from local Salt Lake City affiliate FOX 13 saying the church wouldn’t issue a filing in the case. The church didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on why it was participating in filing despite this report.

Additionally, the brief cautions the court against striking down marriage bans on the basis that they adhere to the traditional concerns of morality, suggesting they should be upheld on the basis of freedom of religion.

“It follows that subjecting marriage laws and amendments to unusual constitutional scrutiny because they coincide with traditional morality would also raise grave First Amendment concerns,” the brief states. “Though differing religious groups may align on different sides of the marriage issue, judges cannot pronounce the religious beliefs of one set of voters progressive and another ignorant or hateful.”

The brief is along the lines of similar filings that the Mormon Church and other religious groups submitted before the U.S. Supreme Court last year when California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act were before the court.

But there’s a key difference: even though the earlier filing included other groups, the only law firm in that document was the Salt Lake City-based Kirton & McConkie, which handles legal matters for the LDS church. Now, Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has joined that firm in signing the document before the Tenth Circuit.

Furthermore, the brief disputes the assertion often made by LGBT advocates (and courts) that bans on same-sex marriage were motivated out of animus toward LGBT people — a key consideration in determining the measures are unconstitutional.

“The accusation is false and offensive,” the brief states. “It is intended to suppress rational dialogue and democratic conversation, to win by insult and intimidation rather than by reason, experience, and fact. In truth, we support the husband-wife definition of marriage because we believe it is right and good for children, families, and society.”

John Gustav-Wrathall, senior vice president of the LGBT Mormon group Affirmation, said he concurs with the view the church isn’t motivated by animus in its opposition to same-sex marriage.

“There may be animus within the Mormon population, just as there is in the population at large,” Gustav-Wrathall said. “Some of that animus may fuel fervor for political activism against same-sex marriage. But generally we’ve seen tremendous progress in the understanding of LGBT people and of same-sex relationships in the church within recent years.”

The Mormon Church has been a key opponent of same-sex marriage after taking a lead role in passing Prop 8 in 2008. Although the church, with a few exceptions, largely stayed out the ballot fights in 2012, it was vocal against the legalization of same-sex marriage in Hawaii and has participated in legal cases to defend bans on same-sex marriage.

11
Feb
2014

Carson: Gay people ‘don’t get to redefine marriage’

Ben Carson says gay people "don't get redefine marriage" at CPAC (Screenshot via YouTube).

Ben Carson says gay people “don’t get redefine marriage” at CPAC (Screenshot via YouTube).

A rising Republican star doubled-down Saturday on his opposition to same-sex marriage, saying gay people “don’t get to redefine marriage.”

Ben Carson, a conservative commentator and former neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins University, made the comments on stage during the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference.

“Of course gay people should have the same rights as everyone else,” Carson said. “But they don’t get extra rights, they don’t get to redefine marriage.”

Carson has a history of making inflammatory statements against gay people. Last year, he gave up his speaking role at a commencement ceremony for Johns Hopkins under pressure following controversial remarks he made on Fox News comparing gay people to advocates for bestiality and pedophilia.

On stage at CPAC, Carson denied he ever made such a comparison and said reporting on his televised remarks was a fabrication of the media, although he said to applause he still believes “marriage is between a man and a woman.”

“Of course they’re not the same thing,” Carson continued. “Anybody who believes that is a dummy, but anybody who believes somebody who says that somebody said that is a dummy, that’s the problem.”

Carson made the controversial remarks last year when speaking to conservative commentator Sean Hannity about restricting marriage to unions betweens one man and one woman.

“It’s a well-established fundamental pillar of society,” Carson said. “And no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association,) be they people who believe in bestiality — it doesn’t matter what they are. They don’t get to change the definition.”

Carson makes some of the extensive comments against same-sex marriage during an iteration of CPAC where Republican elected officials shied away from LGBT issues and conflict emerged among the conservative speakers on marriage equality.

Watch the video of Carson here (via Right Wing Watch):

08
Mar
2014