Respect for Marriage Act — An Announcement Whose Time Has Come

September 16, 2009

There’s very exciting news on the marriage equality front! Yesterday, a group of Congressmen and Congresswomen announced the launch of the Respect for Marriage Act — a piece of legislation that would overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, and take a significant step in acheiving marriage equality.

In a press release issued by Freedom to Marry, bill co-sponsor Jerry Nadler (D-NY) is quoted as saying, “When DOMA was passed in 1996, its full harm may not have been apparent to all Members of Congress because same-sex couples were not yet able to marry. It was a so-called ‘defense’ against a hypothetical harm. This made it easy for our opponents to demonize gay and lesbian families.

By repealing the outmoded Defense of Marriage Act, and replacing it with the Respect for Marriage Act, we’ll begin to honor and support all couples who pledge to honor and support one another as they work to raise families, hold jobs, and contribute to their communities.

The proposed legislation is an opportunity to re-engage in the fight for marriage equality, as it opens the door to public discourse on marriage equality, and builds upon the momentum we’ve been gaining with same-sex marriage triumphs throughout the year.

If you’d like more info on the bill, the Freedom to Marry site has an excellent page, including a link to the HRC’s Repeal DOMA page, which will allow you to send a message to President Obama and your Congressional representatives.

Please spread the word: We have a great opportunity to make progress toward equality in marriage.

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Taking It to School: Atticus Circle Annnounces Shirts for College Supporters of LGBT Equality

August 17, 2009

We’re proud to announce a new campaign today for the fall semester, involving college students who want to make a difference in the ongoing campaign for LGBT equality. The Fine By Me T-shirt campaign, as this release details, is ramping up for the Fall 2009 semester by making the “Gay? Fine By Me” and “Gay Marriage? Fine By Me” shirts available for bulk purchase.

Since its inception, the Fine By Me project — now part of Atticus Circle’s overall mission of education on LGBT issues — has been inspiring conversations about LGBT rights and the need for LGBT equality. We’re hoping for dialogues to be created in two key areas — the recent momentum toward same-sex marriage from a number of states, and the re-energized discussion around LGBT individuals in the military, and the potential repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.

If you (or a college activist you know) wants to know more about coordinating a shirt campaign on a specific campus, go to the Fine by Me website for more info.


Kudos to a Senator and an Author

July 31, 2009

Two recent quotes caught our attention — one, from Senator Christopher Dodd, and one, from author Nora Roberts — that we thought should get your attention as well.

In an editorial published last month in the Meridien Record-Journal, Dodd talked about his evolving position on gay marriage. While formerly supporting a distinction between civil union and marriage, he now supports gay marriage, based on a better understanding of the legal protections necessary for all Americans. In the editorial, he stated:

“My young daughters are growing up in a different reality than I did. Our family knows many same-sex couples – our neighbors in Connecticut, members of my staff, parents of their schoolmates. Some are now married because the Connecticut Supreme Court and our state legislature have made same-sex marriage legal in our state.

But to my daughters, these couples are married simply because they love each other and want to build a life together. That’s what we’ve taught them. The things that make those families different from their own pale in comparison to the commitments that bind those couples together.

And, really, that’s what marriage should be. It’s about rights and responsibilities and, most of all, love.

I believe that, when my daughters grow up, barriers to marriage equality for same-sex couples will seem as archaic, and as unfair, as the laws we once had against inter-racial marriage.

And I want them to know that, even if he was a little late, their dad came down on the right side of history.”

Author Nora Roberts, in a statement of support for gay marriage for Equality Maryland, created a simple and elegant articulation of the essence of the pro-gay marriage position:

“Love is a gift. Marriage is a celebration of and commitment to that gift — a promise between two people. The right to legally marry should never be denied based on the gender of those who love, but instead honored, respected and protected for all.”

These statements are affirmations from two of the millions of people across the country who support LGBT rights — but the statements are particularly powerful and inspirational, and we’re lucky to have supporters like Sen. Dodd and Ms. Roberts within our ranks.


How We Celebrated the Stonewall 40th: Our Day At Cornerstone Church

June 29, 2009

We’re pleased to report that our first Sundays of Solidarity action, in partnership with our friends at Soulforce, was a success!  Yesterday, a delegation of our straight and LGBTQ supporters attended Cornerstone Church in San Antonio — one of the largest single congregations in Texas — and embarked on a series of necessary conversations between our delegation and Cornerstone members.

While the delegation meet with Cornerstone members, Jeff Lutes (Soulforce’s Executive Director) and Jodie Eldridge (Atticus Circle’s Executive Director) met privately with Rev. John Hagee and some of his family members.  The goal of the meeting was to reach a place of new understanding and to help churches, like Cornerstone, to understand the real consequences of their anti-gay rhetoric and how it affects the LGBT community.

Pastor John Hagee agreed to explore the possibility of ongoing conversations with us beyond the one initiated yesterday. Based on reports from our delegation members, we connected with Cornerstone members in the true spirit of Sundays of Solidarity. We looked for common ground while letting them know why LGBT equality is so important to us.

Coverage from the event included this San Antonio Express-News article, looking at both parties’ views on how the conversations went; this WOAI-AM article, which called the meeting “historic,” and this Austin American-Statesman article from Saturday, previewing the meeting.

While we’re anxious to see how today’s meeting between President Obama and LGBT leaders go, and as we continue to monitor legislative and judicial developments around same-sex marriage rights and other fundamental rights, we’re hopeful that the example we set Sunday will help everyone realize the conversations that are possible and necessary around LGBT rights.


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.


Same-Sex Marriage Map

June 3, 2009

Another reason to love NPR: an excellent state-by-state map covering same-sex marriage rights, bans, and current legislation or court cases which may change the status in that state.