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USA, New Mexico: Analysis of the Supreme Court’s Refusal To Take Up Photographer’s Case

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

US Supreme CourtYesterday, the US Supreme Court turned away the case of a NM photographer who refused to take photos at a gay couple’s wedding.

Ian Millhiser at Think Progress has some insights:

If anything can be read into the Court’s decision not to hear the Elane Photography case, however, it is probably that the Court’s conservative wing was unwilling to take this bet. The Court’s four more liberal members had no reason to disturb the New Mexico Supreme Court’s decision — they probably agree with it — and the four most conservative justices may have decided to give this case a miss because they were worried that Kennedy would join the liberals if forced to decide Elane Photography… While Elane Photography is technically a free speech case and not a religious liberty case, it also presents the question of whether a religious business owner can ignore a business regulation. So if Kennedy was unwilling to decide Hobby Lobby in a way that would allow religious objections to trump anti-discrimination law, it is likely that he would have had the same concern in Elane Photography. That may have been enough to convince his fellow conservatives to avoid Elane Photography.

Lisa Keen at Keen News agrees:

The photographer had claimed that she had religious beliefs that compelled her to refuse accommodations to the lesbian couple, and the case was viewed as one of many disputes heading to the U.S. high court that pitted religious beliefs against non-discrimination laws. But the case was never pitched as a free exercise case and that may be why the Supreme Court didn’t take it, said Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Jenny Pizer. Tobias Wolff, an attorney helping represent the lesbian couple, said, “No court in the United States has ever found that a business selling commercial services to the general public has a First Amendment right to turn away customers on a discriminatory basis.”

When the case began, the was no marriage equality in the state. Now, as it ends with a whimper, New Mexico has embraced the right of gays and lesbians to marry. Now we await the court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case, which could have profound effects on the religious liberty vs. gay rights arguments in the US.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in New Mexico.

USA: Medicare Now Open to Married Same Sex Couples

Friday, April 4th, 2014

MedicareOne more step in the implementation of last year’s DOMA ruling.

The Advocate reports:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has updated Medicare rules so that couples in same-sex marriages can apply for benefits covering hospital stays and physician care. The new rules “help to clarify” the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision last year striking down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act and therefore allowing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages. HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius said today in a press release.

One more step forward for married same sex couples. The arc of the moral universe is bending quickly now.

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USA: Americans Like Gays More Than Evangelicals

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

titleA new poll shows gays have higher favorable ratings and lower unfavorables with the American public.

Towleroad.com reports:

A new bipartisan study commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign and Americans for Marriage Equality found that 53 percent of Americans view gay people favorably, while only 42 percent of Americans view Evangelical Christians favorably. Gays do better on the other end of the spectrum as well, with just 18 percent of respondents viewing gays unfavorably compared to 28 percent for Evangelical Christians.

The survey of 1000 likely 2016 voters was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and TargetPoint Consulting. Among the survey’s other main findings: There has been a huge shift toward social equality, with favorability ratings for “gay and lesbian” people increasing and the number of people who knows a gay or lesbian person reaching 75 percent. Even in football, the crucible of American culture, voters (79%-16%) judge a player by his ability, not his orientation.

Amazing – I grew up always being the unpopular kid – the skinny one – the gay one. And now I find out we’re all the popular kids. How cool is that?

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We Haven’t Won Yet

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

Gay WeddingIt’s fast becoming conventional wisdom: The culture war skirmish over same-sex marriage (SSM) is over, with the pro-SSM side having decisively won. Ever since people started noticing that folks in my generation were overwhelmingly supportive of same-sex couples having the right to wed, this line of analysis has been on the rise. But with the Supreme Court’s laudable decision last year to gut the Defense of Marriage Act, what was once just one common viewpoint among many others has now become the conclusion that anyone who knows anything must inevitably reach. The gay rights movement has won; all that’s left is to work out the details for the celebratory parade.

Like much conventional wisdom, there’s something to this. No one can doubt the sea change American culture is experiencing when it comes to LBGTQ people. But as is also often the case with conventional wisdom, this gay rights triumphalism is too simplistic, too pat. To put it simply, the gay rights movement is indeed winning — but it’s too soon to declare Mission Accomplished just yet.

Here’s an example of what I mean when I gripe about triumphalism: In a perplexingly wrongheaded article for the Atlantic this week, reporter Molly Ball tried to argue that, as the piece’s title puts it, “Republicans Are Driving the Momentum for Gay Marriage.” While I couldn’t begin to tell you what it means to “drive” the “momentum” of something, I can with great confidence report that Ball’s evidence is meager and at times even self-contradictory.

Authored By Elias Isquith – See the Full Story at Salon

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USA, Michigan: Holder Says Federal Government Will Recognize State’s New Marriages

Friday, March 28th, 2014

US Attorney General Eric HolderUS Attorney General Eric Holder just released a statement saying the US Government would recognize the 300+ weddinge performed last Saturday in Michigan.

Joe.My.God reports:

Just in via White House press release: “I have determined that the same-sex marriages performed last Saturday in Michigan will be recognized by the federal government. These families will be eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages. The Governor of Michigan has made clear that the marriages that took place on Saturday were lawful and valid when entered into, although Michigan will not extend state rights and benefits tied to these marriages pending further legal proceedings.

These couples now have their full legal Federal rights. Governor Snyder, the ball’s back in your court.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Michigan.

Cartoonist Mark Fiore Calls Out Anti Gay US Preachers

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Scott Lively - Mark FioreCartoonist Mark Fiore just released a video calling out the anti-gay preachers who went to Uganda to preach hate, and now are shocked, SHOCKED at the anti gay law there.

Joe.My.God reports:

Since Uganda’s anti-gay law was signed recently, it’s been amusing (and maddening) to watch various religious right characters scurry for cover. When nobody was watching, the holier-than-thou set have been visiting Uganda preaching their extreme anti-gay views. Now that people are appalled at Uganda’s life-in-prison-for-homosexuals law, the “evangelical” right-wing preachers are laying low or rewriting history.

How fantastic to see these pompous hate-mongers get skewered.

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Meet Transgender Soldier Jacob Eleazer

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Jacob EleazerJacob Eleazer, a 28-year-old TAC (Teach, Assess, Council) officer, learned he was up for promotion this December. For seven years, he’d been an exemplary soldier, rising to the rank of first lieutenant, and now on his way to captain. But there was a problem. Within the confines of his military training center, in western Kentucky, Eleazer still went by his birth name, which was female.

Outside his Army base, Eleazer lived as a man, one of 15,450 military personnel who consider themselves transgender, according to a recently released study, but don’t dare come out to their fellow soldiers and risk jeopardizing their careers. “My colleagues just assumed I was a really butch lesbian,” says Eleazer, who has broad shoulders, close-cropped hair and a jutting chin.

Like Chelsea Manning, the former Army private who gave classified documents to WikiLeaks when she was known as Bradley Manning, Eleazer hadn’t identified with his gender since puberty. Yet he believed that undergoing any kind of anatomical change was unrealistic–too many complications–and so for years he lived as a lesbian. But in 2011 he decided he couldn’t abide the dissonance any longer. He soon came out to his friends and family, who were supportive, and for the last two years, he has lived as Jacob. But he only recently resolved to surgically modify his gender.

Authored By Mike Spies – See the Full Story at Vocativ

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USA: Marriage Equality Support Up Among Black Protestants

Monday, March 17th, 2014

titleBut not among white evangelicals.

Pew has the details:

The long-standing tension between religious beliefs and the idea of same-sex marriage has been a key factor at play behind recently proposed bills in several states, most visibly in Arizona, aimed at protecting business owners who have religious objections to same-sex marriage. At the same time, however, new Pew Research Center data from 2014 show that just within the past year, growing shares of some Christian groups favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. The sharpest change has occurred among black Protestants, only 32% of whom favored same-sex marriage in our aggregated 2013 polling. A survey we conducted last month found that figure has now risen to 43%. There also has been an uptick in support for same-sex marriage among white mainline Protestants (from 55% in 2013 to 62% this year). Debates are ongoing within some mainline churches about whether to conduct same-sex marriages.

Eventually even white evangelicals will come along, as the younger generation grows up.

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A Black President, Gay Marriage, or Legalized Marijuana?

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Gay WeddingI don’t do politics in this column.

For two good reasons: First, Lat asked me to write about life as an in-house lawyer or, at a minimum, an in-house lawyer’s perception of outside firms. If I wrote about politics, I’d be way off the mark. Second, I work at the world’s leading insurance broker for law firms. If I wrote about politics — no matter which side I took — I’d offend half my readers. Some of those offended readers would complain to their brokers, and I’d soon have a phalanx of brokers with pitchforks storming my office door.

But I’m throwing caution (and Lat’s instructions about topicality) to the wind today, and I’m posing a question that struck me recently: Set your mind back to 1983, the year in which I graduated from law school. Suppose, in 1983, someone posed this question to you:

Look into the future. When will each of these events occur? (1) We’ll elect an African-American President of the United States; (2) states will begin legalizing gay marriage; and (3) states will begin legalizing the use of marijuana. Which will occur first, second, and third, and in what years?

In 1983, my crystal ball would have been terribly cloudy.

Authored By Mark Herrmann – See the Full Story at Above the Law

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USA: This Map Explains Where We Are With Marriage Equality

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Buzzfeed is out with a great new map which shows the status of marriage equality by US Circuit Court district.

Buzzfeed Marriage Equality Map

Buzzfeed reports:

Advocates expect the Supreme Court to decide a case addressing same-sex couples’ marriage rights in the next few years. But to get there, cases have to be heard by lower courts first. With a rush of court filings since the Supreme Court ruled this past June striking down the Defense of Marriage Act’s ban on federal recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages, lawyers and organizations have been racing and fighting to get a marriage case back to the high court. Trial court decisions started coming down on Dec. 20, 2013, and they haven’t stopped since. Here’s where things stand as of March 12 with cases that have reached a trial court decision and could eventually reach the Supreme Court.

Marriage Equality’s own Ned Flaherty has his own list of pending lawsuits here. he also recaps past lawsuits.

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