Take HRC Survey and Tell Congress to Repeal DOMA

August 4, 2009

The Human Rights Campaign is conducting a short survey of those who are affected, or who know someone who is affected, by the Defense of Marriage Act, signed by former President Clinton in 1996. The survey does not take long and includes the ability to share your story and opinions on the act, which the HRC will then share with lawmakers.

It is important that we urge Congress and President Obama to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Despite the fact that same-sex marriage is now legal in six states, these couples continue to be discriminated against under federal law. Their states have taken the step of allowing LGBT couples to legally marry, yet they still lack the rights that heterosexual couples take for granted, such as Social Security survivors’ benefits, putting a spouse on a health care plan without tax penalties, the ability to take family and medical leave to care for a spouse, etc.

Federal law must catch up with the reality of our lives. Please, take a minute now to fill out this survey and tell your lawmakers what you think.


DOMA Enters the Sotomayor Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings

July 16, 2009

Certainly, it was to be expected. With the Defense of Marriage Act one of the more high-profile and controversial matters the Supreme Court might be enlisted to rule on, it’s no surprise that DOMA entered Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, via a question from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) yesterday. Metro Weekly offers a transcript and video of the exchange.

As Hillary Sorin noted in her San Francisco Chronicle politics blog last week, the cracks in DOMA are widening, in part due to Massachusetts’s bold decision to sue the United States over DOMA. Whether or not this will expose DOMA as unconstitutional remains to be seen, but a number of legal and political observers in the media, including Wall Street Journal Law Blog and Politico’s Ben Smith, are taking notice and are intrigued by the possibilities. Those on both side of the issue seem aware of the possibility that a confirmed Justice Sotomayor might be one of nine people with a critical role in determining DOMA’s fate in the not-so-distant future.


Domestic Partner Benefits: A Critical Part of Our Fight

June 19, 2009

You may have run across yesterday’s news accounts, such as this one in the Washington Post, about President Obama’s decision to award some domestic partner benefits to federal employees. You also may have read accounts, such as this Reuters release of a Politico story, that detail continued criticisms of Obama for not doing more to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

Here in Texas, we’ve been working on this issue with a coalition of state university workers who want to secure domestic partner benefits for university employees. The term accurately describing what we’re seeking is “competitive insurance benefits.” In other words, if we don’t secure the same sorts of insurance benefits that more progressive university systems have arrived at, we risk losing talented LGBT members of university faculties and staffs to schools in other states.

President Obama, to be fair, is attempting to address the concerns that LGBT federal employees. Because health care is tied so closely to employment in our current system, LGBT workers with families to support must factor in employers’ views on health care for domestic partners when looking for work or deciding to stay with a particular employer. Married couples don’t have to take those same sort of factors into account, because federal law protects them. Under the current system — a system with includes the Defense of Marriage Act and its limitations on same-sex partners, even those who are legally married in the handful of states currently allowing and recognizing those marriages — there is a separate and unequal system in place that ultimately impacts many families. Certainly, that double standard is as unacceptable as any other form of discrimination — be it based on gender, race, or sexual orientation.


An Editorial Worth Reading

June 16, 2009

From today’s New York Times, an excellent editorial (alerted to us from Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry), with disheartening news about how President Obama may actually be working against the LGBT equality movement.

It’s heartening to see supportive editorials from the likes of the New York Times’ editorial board, as we work in our continued efforts to secure basic rights for our LGBT friends, neighbors, and family members. This year has brought with it a remarkable set of victories and setbacks around the issue of same-sex marriage, leading us to believe that we are in a milestone year for this particular issue. The more attention called to the issue, the more likely we are to ask the fundamental questions at the heart of this debate.

As our founder Anne Wynne wrote last month, in response to the California Supreme Court upholding Proposition 8:

“I know a number of the couples who were married in California last year. They weren’t getting married as a way to subvert or mock marriage – they were getting married for the very reasons my husband and I got married. They wanted to declare their love and commitment to one another, whether in the presence of just an officiant or in front of family and friends. They were thinking about being parents, and gaining the legal rights and provisions that will help them be more effective parents. They were thinking about taking care of one another as a family.

Preventing same-sex couples from marrying doesn’t prevent these couples from raising children, forming family bonds, or from relying on each other’s emotional as well as financial support. Instead, measures like Proposition 8 merely create obstacles for a growing number of families.”

Unfortunately, the Defense of Marriage Act is ultimately creating the same sorts of obstacles. The issues raised in this editorial should be of concern to anyone who put faith in President Obama to champion necessary changes in laws pertaining to same-sex marriage.


Defense of Marriage Act to Be Overturned? and More Recent News on Gay Marriage

February 6, 2009

There’s exciting news on the Defense of Marriage Act — and the possibility of it being overturned — we wanted to make sure you were aware.

There’s a good story here and the original brief here, both in the Los Angeles Times, details yesterday’s potentially landmark decision. From the lead of today’s article:

“Brad Levenson and Tony Sears spent Thursday fielding congratulatory calls from gay rights supporters around the nation for their success in getting a federal judge to call into question the legality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this week that Sears — who married Levenson, a deputy federal public defender, last July — is entitled to the same spousal benefits that heterosexual couples employed by the department receive.”

Though the ruling is not final, it potentially paves the way for the 1996 rule to be struck down in federal court for not meeting the Constitutionality test.

We’ve also run across a couple of other interesting updates on anti-gay marriage legislation over the last couple of weeks we wanted to share.

First, in California, Proposition 8 is awaiting a March 5 hearing in the California Supreme Court, to determine whether or not the recently-passed ban on gay marriage is constitutional. This Los Angeles Times story gives a good overview as to what might happen in the hearing, as well as what might happen to the couples who were married during the period in which LGBT couples were legally allowed to marry.

One of our favorite reporters, the Associated Press’s Lisa Leff, wrote this story, noting that if Proposition 8 is upheld, a proposition to overturn it could be voted on in California as early as 2010. While some gay rights advocates are concerned that its defeat could be seen as further reinforcement for LGBT discrimination, others feel that it should be put to the voters again, to allow Californians to stand up for LGBT equality.

And in Ohio, where anti-gay marriage legislation has been in effect since 2004, one church, as detailed in this story, has decided not to sign marriage licenses for straight couples until gay marriage is legal in the state, joining a growing number of churches making the same civil rights stand.

We believe that 2009 is going to be a crucial year in the fight for LGBT equality. Now more than ever, it’s important for straight allies to speak up for LGBT equality. While the continuing court debate on DOMA and the upcoming hearing on Proposition 8 will help us gauge where the courts are on discriminatory legislation, it’s up to us to help the nation gauge the importance of achieving LGBT equality, starting with this fundamental right to marry.


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