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Lambda Legal Sues Veterans Affairs Over Marriage Recognition

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Department of Veteran's Affairs logoLambda Legal has brought a new lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs seeking to force the agency to recognize same sex marriages in all 50 states.

The Washington Blade reports:

Lambda Legal, along with Morrison and Foerster LLP, filed the lawsuit on Monday on behalf of the LGBT military group known as the American Military Partner Association. The defendant in the lawsuit, which was filed before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, is Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert MacDonald. The litigation alleges the Obama administration’s decision to withhold certain spousal benefits to married same-sex couples in states without marriage equality runs afoul of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision against the Defense of Marriage Act. “Having weathered the federal government’s past, longstanding discrimination against them, lesbian and gay veterans and their families find themselves once again deprived of equal rights and earned benefits by the government they served and the nation for which they sacrificed,” the complaint says.

One more piece of the Federal benefits puzzle…

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Republicans Should Pray The Supreme Court Legalizes Gay Marriage

Monday, August 18th, 2014

GOProudOne of the most widely discussed issues on the political right is the danger supposedly posed by judicial “activism,” when judges are said to substitute their personal preferences for the clear intent of the law and the Constitution. The Supreme Court in particular has been a target of those who oppose judicial overreach.

Overlooked by these critics, however, is the fact that many of the Supreme Court decisions the right loves to hate (from Roe v Wade to Lawrence v Texas) have actually expanded individual rights and limited government power, making them entirely consistent with the presumption of liberty found in the Constitution.

The latest issue to spark outrage on the right is gay marriage. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, for example, railed against it at a rally for traditional marriage this past spring in Washington, D.C. “Judicial supremacy is a curse upon this great Republic,” he screamed, calling last year’s Supreme Court rulings in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8 cases the “greatest heresy of our time.” In the DOMA case, the court overturned that part of DOMA that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman for the purpose of awarding federal benefits and legal privileges.

By David Lampo – Full Story at Daily Caller

USA: New Marriage Equality Poll Pegs Support at 54%

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

titleA new poll from the Marist Institute shows support at 54% overall, while support form those 18-29 is at 75%.

LGBT Weekly reports:

The sea change in attitudes is being propelled by two major forces, the poll found. First, people aged 18-29 overwhelmingly favor same-sex marriage. Second, the ranks of Americans who say they know someone who’s gay has skyrocketed over the last decade and a half. And those who know someone who’s gay are almost twice as likely to support same-sex marriage, the survey found.

According to the poll: Adults now support same-sex marriage by 54-38 percent. For more than a decade, only about a third of Americans supported the idea, ranging from 27 percent in 1996, as measured by the Pew Research Center, to 35 percent in 2009. Support has increased steadily since then, however. In 2011, a plurality supported same-sex marriage for the first time. And in 2013, a majority of adults said for the first time that they favored it.

Gay Star News flags another part of the poll:

…the ranks of Americans who say they know someone who’s gay has skyrocketed over the last decade and a half… Of the over 1,035 adults interviewed via telephone for the poll, those 18-29 were overwhelmingly in favor of gay marriage, the number who actually know a gay person has surpassed 70%, and those who know someone gay are almost twice as likely to support same-sex marriage.

It’s much harder to sanction discrimination against someone that you know than when he’s a perfect stranger.

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Half of Hispanics Back Marriage Equality

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

titleA new poll shows that 50% of Hispanics now support marriage equality in the US.

CBS News reports:

Hispanics are more in step with a majority of Americans on the issue of same sex marriage. More Hispanics think same-sex marriage should be legal (50 percent) than not legal (44 percent). Fifty-four percent of non-Hispanics think it should be legal, compared to 39 percent who say it shouldn’t be. As is the case with the public overall, younger Hispanics are more likely than those who are older to support same-sex marriage. Among Hispanics, views on these issues differ depending on whether they were born in this country, or immigrated here from somewhere else. Those born in the U.S. are more supportive of abortion rights and same-sex marriage. On the health care law, Hispanics born outside the U.S. are more likely to approve of it, while those born here are more divided.

An earlier study showed that Asians in San Francisco who were born there were also much more supportive of marriage equality and the LGBT community than recent immigrants.

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Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg: Court Won’t Duck Marriage Equality Issue

Friday, August 1st, 2014

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgSupreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg indicated yesterday that the Court is ready to tackle marriage equality head-on.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

The 81-year-old Ginsburg said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday that she expects a same-sex marriage case to be heard and decided by June 2016, and possibly a year earlier. Attitudes have changed swiftly in favor of same-sex marriage, which is now legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia, Ginsburg said in her wood-paneled office on the court’s main floor. She predicted that the justices would not delay ruling as they did on interracial marriage bans, which were not formally struck down until 1967. “I think the court will not do what they did in the old days when they continually ducked the issue of miscegenation,” Ginsburg said. “If a case is properly before the court, they will take it.”

In the past, Ginsburg has publicly worried about the Supreme Court getting too far ahead of public opinion, so this is a refreshing change. She also officiated the wedding of a same sex couple last year.

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USA: Nine Former Ex-Gay Leaders Join Campaign to Ban Conversion Therapy

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Gay RightsA group of former ex-gay leaders is joining NCLR to fight to ban the practice in the US.

Pink News reports:

Nine former leaders of the ‘ex-gay’ movement have published an open letter in support of the #BornPerfect campaign of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), which aims to ban ‘conversation therapy’ across the US within five years. The letter was signed by: Brad Allen, Michael Bussee and Yvette Cantu Schneider, formerly of Exodus International; Jeremy Marks, founder of Exodus Europe and Courage UK; Bill Prickett, founder of Coming Back; Tim Rymel and John J. Smid, formerly of Love in Action; Catherine Chapman, formerly of the Portland Fellowship; and Darlene Bogie, founder of Paraklete Ministries. “Together we represent more than half a century of experience, so few people are more knowledgeable about the ineffectiveness and harm of conversion therapy,” the letter reads in part.

Wow – the whole ex-gay thing is just falling to pieces.

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National LGBT Groups Drop ENDA Support

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

New Human Rights Campaign President Ready to Wade Into More Marriage Equality FightsIt started yesterday with an announcement from NGLTF.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

Six of the nation’s leading LGBT rights advocacy groups on Tuesday announced they were withdrawing their support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), fearing that broad religious exemptions included in the current bill could compel private companies to cite objections similar to those that prevailed in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week.

The withdrawal was first announced earlier Tuesday by The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and by mid-afternoon the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and the Transgender Law Center issued a joint statement that they would no longer support the current version of ENDA because it provides “religiously affiliated organizations … a blank check to engage in workplace discrimination against LGBT people.”

The issue has been simmering for awhile, but the Hobby Lobby decision last week brought it to a boil.

Towleroad.com reports from the NGLTF press release:

“The morning after the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, we all woke up in a changed and intensified landscape of broad religious exemptions being used as an excuse to discriminate. We are deeply concerned that ENDA’s broad exemption will be used as a similar license to discriminate across the country. We are concerned that these types of legal loopholes could negatively impact other issues affecting LGBT people and their families including marriage, access to HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention and access to other reproductive health services. As one of the lead advocates on this bill for 20 years, we do not take this move lightly but we do take it unequivocally – we now oppose this version of ENDA because of its too-broad religious exemption. We cannot be complicit in writing such exemptions into federal law.”

The lone hold-out? HRC.

Pink News reports:

Despite the shift, the Human Rights Campaign – which tackled anti-gay discrimination – has maintained support for the bill. Human Rights Campaign Vice President Fred Sainz said yesterday: “HRC supports ENDA because it will provide essential workplace protections to millions of LGBT people.”

Is HRC hanging on because it has spent years and years failing to get this thing passed, and now fears seeing the whole thing go down in flames?

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Transgender Rights Update 7/2/14

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Transgender FlagWe had a number of transgender rights stories come across the wires today – enjoy!

USA: President Obama says he will sign an executive order to ban workplace discrimination against federal employees based on their gender identity. full story

USA: At the same time, Labor Department Secretary Ton Perez announced that non-discrimination protections will be extended to transgender employees.full story

USA, California: A new law that took effect yesterday will make it easier for transgender Californians to change their name and gender on state documents. full story

USA, Texas: A transgender woman in Austin was turned away from a lingerie store. full story

USA: Marriage Equality Trumps Religious Objections, Poll Finds

Friday, June 27th, 2014

titleA new poll finds that a majority of Americans think marriage equality should trump “religious freedom”, at least when it comes to health care and businesses.

The Gazette Extra reports:

A solid majority of Americans now supports equal treatment for same-sex couples despite religious objections, according to the State of the First Amendment survey released this week by the First Amendment Center. Sixty-one percent of respondents agree that the government should require religiously affiliated groups that receive government funding to provide health care benefits to same-sex partners of employees–even when the religious group opposes same-sex marriage. And 54 percent of the public agree that a business providing wedding services to the public should be required to serve same-sex couples, even if the business owner objects to gay marriage on religious grounds.

When it’s about commerce, LGBT rights (just like African American rights and women’s rights) should trump someone’s religious objections.

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An Historic Marriage Equality Anniversary

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Rainbow Supreme Court

Today is the one year anniversary of the Windsor and Prop 8 decisions from the US Supreme Court, as well as the 11 year anniversary of the Lawrence v. Texas case.

And they were all very close calls, a fact that’s easy to forget now, looking back.

Keen News Service reports:

Kennedy’s words in both Lawrence and Windsor have been repeated in numerous court decisions since. And the powerful influence of words and decisions has almost obscured the fact that they were narrow victories.

In Lawrence, Kennedy wrote for just five of the six justices who considered sodomy laws to be unconstitutional; while Justice Sandra Day O’Connor provided a sixth vote in concurrence with the judgment, she did not join Kennedy’s opinion to the extent that it overruled the 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick (which had upheld state sodomy laws). O’Connor said she would simply strike Texas’ law on equal protection grounds. (“Moral disapproval of this group, like a bare desire to harm the group, is an interest that is insufficient to satisfy rational basis review under the Equal Protection Clause.”)

In Windsor, Kennedy wrote for just five justices. One of those five, Elena Kagan, had been on the bench for only two and a half years and apparently had to recuse herself from a similar DOMA challenge that had reached the high court sooner because she likely discussed it while serving as Solicitor General. If the court had taken that first case, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, the court likely would have rendered a tie vote and DOMA would still be in effect in most states.

Over at Time, Stuart Armstrong II looks at the impact the DOMA ruling had on LGBT finances:

The Supreme Court’s ruling last year on the Defense of Marriage Act has had a momentous impact on financial planning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender couples. But the momentous impact has little to do with the case at issue. The focus of the landmark case, United States v. Windsor, was an estate tax issue. Given that it takes millions of dollars in assets to trigger federal estate taxes, hardly any Americans are subject to them. Yet the decision allowing for federal recognition of same-sex marriages has a major influence on the day-to-day financial lives of LGBT couples — not just the high-net-worth ones — affecting everything from income taxes to Social Security benefits.

And James Esseks at The Advocate looks at Windsor’s other effects:

…with a year’s hindsight, it’s clear that Windsor signaled more than just the end of DOMA, it also propelled us on an accelerated journey toward the freedom to marry nationwide.

In just the last year, Windsor has helped create incredible momentum for the freedom to marry:

- We’ve won six new marriage states since June 2013, bringing us to 19 states plus Washington, D.C., where gay couples can marry.

- Now 44 percent of the country lives in a freedom-to-marry state, up from 18 percent just a year ago.

- Polls show a clear majority nationwide supports marriage for same-sex couples.

- We’ve won 21 court rulings for marriage since Windsor, including two just yesterday (one from a federal appeals court covering Utah and another from a federal trial court in Indiana), and we’ve lost an incredible record on a “culture war” issue in the courts.

- There are now over 80 marriage equality cases pending in state and federal courts across the country, including in every state that doesn’t allow same-sex couples to marry and in seven federal appeals courts.

So happy birthday, US vs. Windsor – and we hope we’ll have a lot more to celebrate when you turn two.

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