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A look ahead at an intriguing 2013

As we welcome the New Year we can be sure that there will be a Supreme Court decision on our right to marry. We know the justices agreed to hear two cases: one on DOMA Section 3 and the other on California’s Proposition 8. Everyone and their uncle will be dissecting these cases and trying to predict an outcome. Lawyers will be giving us every possible scenario on each of them until the day the decision is rendered, which will most likely be the last possible day in June.

As a layman I see the court upholding the right to marry in California and overturning Section 3 of DOMA, with both decisions based on states’ rights. This seems to be the simplest thing for them to do if they are not prepared to take the final step and decide that under the 14th Amendment, same-sex marriages are protected by the Constitution. Of course, hope springs eternal that they will agree to invalidate all those obscene state constitutional amendments claiming that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

Setting aside the jokes made after Colorado and Washington State legalized marijuana and people said they now understood the Bible where it says, “if man lies down with man they must be stoned,” the reality is that these anti-marriage equality amendments were passed because people wouldn’t acknowledge the fact that marriage in the United States is a civil right, not a religious one. It is granted in a license by the state and the decision to follow that up with a religious ceremony is a personal one. I am not convinced the court is willing to tell all those people they are wrong just yet. That feeling is heightened when listening to Ruth Bader Ginsburg say she thinks the court may have ruled on Roe v. Wade before the country was ready for it. But then it is nearly impossible to predict what the court will do, as we saw in the decision on the Affordable Care Act.

Congress should be able to move on some social legislation in 2013 — possibly a fair and equitable immigration bill and maybe with Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) in the Senate even ENDA can move if we put enough pressure on the Congress. Surely in the first quarter of 2013 we can put enough pressure on the president to sign an executive order banning discrimination in federal contracting.

There will be more than enough happening in 2013 to keep us all talking and debating. Anyone in Dupont Circle should feel free to stop by the Java House coffee shop on 17th and ‘Q’ Street any morning to partake in a conversation/debate. Patrons there have fun anticipating the possible Hillary Clinton run in 2016 and analyze everything she does or says from a new haircut to talk of buying a new house to where she will accept speaking engagements to see how it might play into a candidacy. Speculation on what President Obama will do after his second term began even before the term has begun. Topics of conversation will surely include continued fascination with Michelle Obama’s wardrobe and guessing games over new Cabinet members, ambassadors and high-level appointments in the White House. Since your opinion is as valid as anyone else’s sitting at the table, feel free to join in the fun.

The more serious issues that will play out in 2013 include what happens in Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Israel and to the Palestinian people. How many more people will lose their lives as these fights continue? Most agree that 2013 will not see the end of the turmoil in any of those places but we can and must pray that our leaders will find equitable solutions that will allow people to live in peace.

As we rejoice at the swearing in of the new Congress, especially members like Sen. Baldwin, and bid adieu to others like Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) we must all remain vigilant and active if we are to advance the causes we believe in. As the president is sworn in to his second term we must continue to pressure him to stay strong in moving a progressive agenda forward as we stand strong at his side and pressure the members of Congress to do the same.

2013 could become one of the most exciting political years in a long time. We will surely be able to claim some victories if each and every one of us remains involved and continues to speak out for what we believe.


Senate GOP urges Supreme Court to uphold DOMA

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(from left) Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are among the Republicans urging the Supreme Court to uphold DOMA (Photos public domain)

Senate Republicans are arguing the Defense of Marriage Act should be upheld as constitutional because withholding federal benefits from gay couples discourages states from legalizing same-sex marriage.

The 30-page friend-of-the-court brief, filed before the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 29, argues that Section 3 of DOMA promotes the restriction of marriage to one man, one man while by “removing an incentive” to change state law.

“The prospect of obtaining numerous federal benefits for same-sex couples could be a tremendous weapon in the arsenal of those who would seek to gain recognition of same-sex marriage at the state level,” the brief states. “It would be particularly tempting for courts to recognize same-sex marriage in order to award federal benefits to sympathetic plaintiffs.”

The brief was filed in the case of Windsor v. United States on behalf of 10 Senate Republicans: Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

Grassley’s participation in the brief is notable because the state he represents in the U.S. Senate, Iowa, is among the nine where same-sex marriage is legal. Also of note are the scant 10 signatures on the brief, which falls short of even one-fourth of the 45 members of the Senate GOP caucus.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said the brief’s argument that DOMA should be upheld to discourage efforts to legalize same-sex marriage at the state level demonstrates how “arguments made by our opponents get more tortured with every passing day.”

“This is a great example of how far down the rabbit hole they have to go to find justifications for discrimination,” Sainz said. “In essence, the senators are arguing that committed and loving gay and lesbian couples want to get married just for the benefits. Not only is it a ridiculous argument, it’s an affront to our humanity and any reasonable American would see it as such.”

The brief has three main arguments for why DOMA should be upheld: 1) DOMA didn’t change federal law, but reaffirmed the existing definition of marriage; 2) DOMA promotes a government interest in ensuring uniformity in existing law on marriage; and 3) DOMA ensures federal benefits won’t be used to “undermine traditional marriage” at the state level.

Additionally, the brief notes that one of the friends of the court, Hatch, was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time DOMA was signed into law and received assurances from the Justice Department the measure would be constitutional. The Obama administration has since said the law violates the U.S. Constitution, and won’t defend the law in court.

“If the Department believed that there was an inadequate federal interest to justify DOMA, the time to speak was in 1996, when Congress gave careful consideration to the need for DOMA,” the brief states. “Rather than urging the courts to give appropriate deference to an Act of Congress, as befits its proper role in our system of government, the Department now groundlessly impugns the motives of the overwhelming bipartisan majority that supported DOMA.”

The brief also disputes the notion that Congress passed DOMA in 1996 out of animus of the basis of the bipartisan support the measure enjoyed at the time, including from then-President Bill Clinton, who signed the measure into law. Clinton has since called for repeal of DOMA.

“The fact that DOMA passed both houses of Congress with overwhelming support across the political spectrum, and was signed by into law by President Clinton, further undercuts any attempt to characterize it as the result of unconstitutional ‘animus,’” the brief states. “Many DOMA supporters were on record as opposing discrimination against gays and lesbians.”

The attorney who signed the brief is Michael Stern, an attorney based in Fairfax, Va., who’s contributed to Republican political campaigns.

[h/t] Equality on Trial


Activists criticize new AP policy on couples

AP, Associated Press, gay news, Washington Blade

The Associated Press Building in New York City (Photo by Alterego via wikimedia commons)

WASHINGTON – Advocates continue to criticize the Associated Press for a memo it released on Tuesday that said journalists should use the words “husband” and “wife” to describe same-sex couples only if they have used them or in quotes attributed to them.

The memo said the news agency “generally” uses “couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.”

The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association referenced the U.S. Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia court decision in a blog post about the AP memo. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and gay blogger John Aravosis also criticized the news agency.

“It isn’t the Associated Press’ job to overrule the courts and legislatures in nine American states, and numerous foreign countries,” Aravosis wrote on his blog. “Last time I checked, it’s states that determine who is legally married in America, not the Associated Press.”


Video: Highlights of Prop 8 Amicus Briefs

Matt Baume’s Marriage New Watch dives deep into the briefs filed in the Supreme Court case against California’s Prop 8 Constitutional amendment barring that state from extending marriage rights to same-sex couples.


Kate Clinton Video Blog: Thank Evan

Kate gives a shout out to Freedom To Marry’s Evan Wolfson in the wake of Supreme Court hearings regarding California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.


Year in review: DOMA, Prop 8 challenges advance in the courts

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The Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Supreme Court set the stage this year for what might be the demise of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act when it agreed to take up litigation challenging the anti-gay measures.

On Dec. 7, justices agreed to take up Hollingsworth v. Perry, the lawsuit seeking to overturn Prop 8, and Windsor v. United States, a lawsuit filed by 83-year-old New York lesbian Edith Windsor seeking to overturn DOMA.

Ted Olson, one of the co-counsels representing plaintiffs, expressed optimism following the announcement that justices would rule against the California’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which was approved by voters in 2008.

“We have an exhaustive record on which to build this case, and it will be an education for the American people,” Olson said. “We are very confident the outcome of this case will be to support the rights of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”

The case comes to the Supreme Court after the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in February ruled against Prop 8. Had the Supreme Court declined to accept the case, the ruling would have stood and marriage equality would have been restored to California.

The DOMA case comes to the Supreme Court after numerous lower courts determined the anti-gay law was unconstitutional. The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals became the first appellate court ever to strike down the law and was followed by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. This year alone, four federal district courts also ruled against DOMA.