Archive | February, 2011

CA Sen. Dianne Feinstein to Introduce DOMA Repeal Bill

23 Feb

Hours after today’s announcement that Obama’s Dept of Justice would no longer be defending the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, California Senator Dianne Feinstein announced plans to introduce a bill that would repeal DOMA once and for all.

“My own belief is that when two people love each other and enter the contract of marriage, the federal government should honor that,” she said. “I opposed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. It was the wrong law then; it is the wrong law now, and it should be repealed.”

This could potentially move things forward with respect to states currently recognizing equality for all citizens. There are currently several cases in the courts where equality states are representing citizens who are not equally represented by the federal government. While same-sex couples legally married in one of the five states which currently recognize marriage equality (or the District of Columbia) benefit from state privileges, there are still more than 1100 federal rights and responsibilities denied same-sex couples because of DOMA.

This effort would mirror previous efforts by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY), Rep. Tammy Baldwin (WI) and Rep. Jared Polis (CO) who, in 2009, introduced the Respect for Marriage Act (which had 91 original co-sponsors in 2009).

While the repeal of a discriminatory policy such as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, (which banned openly gay and lesbian servicemembers) benefited from widespread popular support, the pursuit of a repeal of DOMA takes a larger leap of faith for political leaders. Let’s hope other legislators join Feinstein in her progressive move in the interest of equality.

BREAKING: Obama’s Dept. of Justice Will No Longer Defend DOMA

23 Feb

Big News, Folks!

While in the past, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) under the direction of President Obama, has defended the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the DoJ has announced it will no longer defend the unconstitutional law.

Freedom to Marry’s Evan Wolfson had this to say about the breaking news:

“Freedom to Marry applauds the President and the Attorney General for acknowledging that sexual orientation discrimination has no place in American life and must be presumed unconstitutional, recognizing that discriminatory laws like so-called DOMA must be looked at with skeptical eyes, not rubber stamped.

“The Administration today acknowledges that there is no legitimate reason for this discrimination and therefore it cannot be defended under the Constitution.  This a momentous step forward toward Freedom to Marry’s goal of ending federal marriage discrimination and fully protecting all loving and committed couples.”

Following is the press release from the Department of Justice:

STATEMENT OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL ON LITIGATION INVOLVING THE DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT

WASHINGTON – The Attorney General made the following statement today about the Department’s course of action in two lawsuits, Pedersen v. OPM and Windsor v. United States, challenging Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage for federal purposes as only between a man and a woman:

In the two years since this Administration took office, the Department of Justice has defended Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act on several occasions in federal court.  Each of those cases evaluating Section 3 was considered in jurisdictions in which binding circuit court precedents hold that laws singling out people based on sexual orientation, as DOMA does, are constitutional if there is a rational basis for their enactment.  While the President opposes DOMA and believes it should be repealed, the Department has defended it in court because we were able to advance reasonable arguments under that rational basis standard.

Section 3 of DOMA has now been challenged in the Second Circuit, however, which has no established or binding standard for how laws concerning sexual orientation should be treated.  In these cases, the Administration faces for the first time the question of whether laws regarding sexual orientation are subject to the more permissive standard of review or whether a more rigorous standard, under which laws targeting minority groups with a history of discrimination are viewed with suspicion by the courts, should apply.

After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny.  The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional.  Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases.  I fully concur with the President’s determination.

Consequently, the Department will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA as applied to same-sex married couples in the two cases filed in the Second Circuit.  We will, however, remain parties to the cases and continue to represent the interests of the United States throughout the litigation.  I have informed Members of Congress of this decision, so Members who wish to defend the statute may pursue that option.  The Department will also work closely with the courts to ensure that Congress has a full and fair opportunity to participate in pending litigation.

Furthermore, pursuant to the President’s instructions, and upon further notification to Congress, I will instruct Department attorneys to advise courts in other pending DOMA litigation of the President’s and my conclusions that a heightened standard should apply, that Section 3 is unconstitutional under that standard and that the Department will cease defense of Section 3.

The Department has a longstanding practice of defending the constitutionality of duly-enacted statutes if reasonable arguments can be made in their defense.  At the same time, the Department in the past has declined to defend statutes despite the availability of professionally responsible arguments, in part because – as here – the Department does not consider every such argument to be a “reasonable” one.  Moreover, the Department has declined to defend a statute in cases, like this one, where the President has concluded that the statute is unconstitutional.

Much of the legal landscape has changed in the 15 years since Congress passed DOMA.  The Supreme Court has ruled that laws criminalizing homosexual conduct are unconstitutional.  Congress has repealed the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.  Several lower courts have ruled DOMA itself to be unconstitutional.  Section 3 of DOMA will continue to remain in effect unless Congress repeals it or there is a final judicial finding that strikes it down, and the President has informed me that the Executive Branch will continue to enforce the law.  But while both the wisdom and the legality of Section 3 of DOMA will continue to be the subject of both extensive litigation and public debate, this Administration will no longer assert its constitutionality in court.

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It May Soon Be Illegal to Say ‘Gay’ in TN Schools

23 Feb

It would seem Tennessee is trying to pass a bill which would dictate that elementary and middle school students would be denied any discussion of sexuality (outside of heterosexuality). And many people would argue that sexuality isn’t something that is on the radar of a young kid either way. But that’s simply not true.

A few years ago, I came across this incredible video by Brian McNaught. Brian has been nicknamed the “Godfather of gay sensitivity training” and has been at this for quite some time. He debated homophobe hero, Anita Bryant and has spent his life educating people on what it is like to be gay. And the video at the end of this article hit home with me.

Brian talks a crowd of predominantly heterosexual men and women through what it would be like to live in a world that was the opposite of their sexual orientation. He asks them to close their eyes and imagine a world where they felt one way and everything in society told them there was something wrong with them. And it made me recall my own childhood and all those nervous moments I had – from first recognizing my crush on He-Man to the first time I snuck into the Glad Day Gay Bookstore in Boston – frantically looking over my shoulder the whole time. It made me remember quietly sneaking into the video store across the street from my house and renting every video I could find that might possibly have a gay theme – hiding them under my jacket when I covertly walked in the house. And it made me remember my first kiss – feeling frightened and ashamed as opposed to having that raised leg fireworks moment I should have had.

All the fear and shame started at an early age. When my kindergarten teacher could have read King & King alongside Cinderella, that was the first moment when I could have been told there was nothing wrong with me. I know we are sometimes reluctant to fight for early childhood education when it comes to introducing sexuality, but what we don’t often acknowledge is that love is an idea which we start learning about from the moment we open our eyes. While the details of what part goes where is a discussion that should come a little later in life, the notion of couples and families of all different shapes and sizes should and must be introduced as soon as it can be. This is the only way we can prevent that shame which envelops the early life of so many LGBT individuals.

This bill in Tennessee and all those like it, must be fought – as hard and steadfastly as we are fighting for marriage equality and employment non-discrimination. It is vital that our children are being raised in a fashion where they are not afraid of who they are, where they don’t need to look over their shoulder simply because of who they are attracted to. It’s a silly notion and as a people, we should be beyond it.

Please take a look at the video below and please share it with everyone you know, gay or straight and encourage them to share it with others who may not understand what it’s like to grow up gay or lesbian in this country. And when you’re done, make a contribution to the Tennessee Equality Project to help them fight this bill. And in the meantime, go buy a copy of King and King or And Tango Makes Three and send it to your elementary school library and make sure your school knows who it came from.

Priscilla Pledges that “It Gets Better” in New PSA

21 Feb

After our chat last week about Broadway’s upcoming musical, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and their lack of any boys in dresses in their ad campaign, we’re happy to share the cast’s It Gets Better message.

Priscilla cast members Will Swenson, Nick Adams and Tony Sheldon for It Gets Better

According to the New York Times, The marketing team for “Priscilla” proposed the idea of the public service announcement to CBS and the It Gets Better Project, which writer Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller began last year amid a spate of suicides by gay students who had faced bullying or harassment at school.

While actors and crew members in many Broadway shows have appeared in videos for the project, the “Priscilla” segment is the first public service announcement for It Gets Better, Mr. Savage said in a statement.

“We’ve been honored and humbled by the theater community’s commitment to standing up for tolerance and lending their voices to this vital cause,” he said. “The show ‘Priscilla’ could not be a better fit, thematically, with the message of the It Gets Better Project.”

The video leads you to the Priscilla website where you can sign up with It Gets Better and take the It Gets Better Pledge:

Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are. I pledge to spread this message to my friends, family and neighbors. I’ll speak up against hate and intolerance whenever I see it, at school and at work. I’ll provide hope for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and other bullied teens by letting them know that “It Gets Better.”

Last week we posted about some concerns over the current marketing campaign which has failed to prominently feature any of the men in drag that the show is about. Instead, the campaign has put up billboards, sent out mailers and put out commercials, primarily focusing on “the Muses,” a kind of Greek Chorus/Narrator for the show – which is made up of three beautiful young women. There has been chatter about the possibility that the producers may be a little shy about featuring the men in the ad campaign roll-out.

TAE was happily assured that PQD would be doing additional work and partnering with the It Gets Better Project, The Trevor Project and GLSEN on other events as well. It’s excellent to see people not only telling kids that it gets better, but taking positive actions to make it better as well.

UPDATE: Westboro Baptist Church Gets “Bitchslapped” by Anonymous

21 Feb

photo by Sean Carlson, TalkAboutEquality.com

As we’ve discussed here in the past and as most people in America are frightfully aware, the Westboro Baptist Church “hates fags.”

Last week, there were reports that the group, Anonymous was threatening to take down Westboro Baptist Church’s websites and online presence. Anonymous is most notorious for having taken down the credit card company sites during the Wikileaks scandals, and for their “Project Chanology” attacking actor Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology. The letter that was publicized last week read:

The time for us to be idle spectators in your inhumane treatment of fellow Man has reached its apex, and we shall now be moved to action. Thus, we give you a warning: Cease & desist your protest campaign in the year 2011, return to your homes in Kansas, & close your public Web sites.

Should you ignore this warning, you will meet with the vicious retaliatory arm of ANONYMOUS: We will target your public Websites, and the propaganda & detestable doctrine that you promote will be eradicated; the damage incurred will be irreversible, and neither your institution nor your congregation will ever be able to fully recover. It is in your best interest to comply now, while the option to do so is still being offered, because we will not relent until you cease the conduction & promotion of all your bigoted operations & doctrines.

Then of course, the WBC replied in kind on their site:

Now comes the fun part…apparently in a play for attention (which WBC is also known for), they made this whole feud up. The actual Anonymous group posted a letter denying participation in this entire scheme. Thanks to Mediaite for spreading the truth!

We know that YOU in fact posted the Open Letter supposedly from Anonymous.

We know that you thrive on attention.

We know that you are short of money.

We know that this is a trap.

We know how you work. You don’t give a flying fart about what your God thinks. But you know that putting God and Fag in a sentence together is guaranteed to make someone angry. You push it. You really push it. But you stay within the law. And then when some poor fool snaps, you sue them for infringing upon your rights.

Some of Anonymous thinks you’re the worlds greatest Trolls. This is bollocks. You’re in it for the money.

No doubt some of us will fall for it. But know this: most of us don’t give a damn. You are shamelessly riding on the /b/andwagon after Anonymous’ recent mass media coverage in order to get more publicity and more idiots to sue.

UPDATE********************

Aparently, Anonymous has decided to “bitchslap” the Westboro Baptist Church by taking down their site. It’s actually been down a few days now, but this morning, this was what could be seen on their site, courtesy of Joe My God:

Should Anti-Discrimination Laws Go Both Ways?

21 Feb

We’ve seen the fights over anti-discrimination around the world, and recently, we’ve been winning – as can be seen by the court battles in the UK. We saw the lawsuit which pitted partners Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy against Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who ran a “Christian” Bed & Breakfast and therefore refused to allow the gay couple to share a bed. They claimed that their faith did not allow them to let unmarried couples share the same bed. The “Christian” couple is appealing the case, despite the fact that an unmarried heterosexual couple has come forward claiming that the Bulls never even inquired about their marriage status, making this a clear case of homophobic (and not religious) discrimination.

Now, also out of the UK is the question of discrimination in the other direction. Around the world, there are several “gay-only” businesses, from the UK to Palm Springs to bars in New York – there are many cases of straight people not being allowed into gay establishments. While in the UK, there have been no registered complaints of “straight discrimination,” the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is to investigate whether gay-only hotels breach similar laws.

This is a truly double-edged sword. While there are hundreds of gay establishments, there’s also an enormous lack of straight people fighting to get into gay-only establishments. But it happens. A few months ago, a woman approached me at a gay bar in the West Village in NYC, who claimed to have been denied entry into Marie’s Crisis – a piano bar where people belt showtunes, en-masse, at the top of their lungs for the entire evening. While again, I don’t know of a plethora of straight people fighting to get in – it should of course be open to anyone who wants to enter…or should it be?

There are two arguments here – the first – in the interest of true equality – is that anyone who wants to enter any establishment, should be free to do so – this goes for gay bars/straight people as much as it should go for Curves and Lucille Roberts gyms when it comes to gender discrimination.

The second argument is that allowing straight people into gay-only establishments is damaging to the “gay culture.” On top of that – after generations of discrimination, many LGBT people feel inhibited when around the straight community in a way they shouldn’t be made to feel while in a safe environment like a gym, spa or resort.

So, please comment – how do you feel about the fact that gay-only establishments should be made to integrate entirely the same way we are asking anti-gay establishments to allow gay clientele?

White Castle Takes Reservations for All of Us

18 Feb

A quick little lesson on how sometimes, people listen and sometimes, people make changes for the better.

John Todd saw a Valentine’s Day ad for White Castle which read: “Call now to reserve your table at White Castle and your place in her heart.”  Not quite sure where one can find a White Castle that takes reservations, but I digress. Being the self-respecting gay man he is, John sent an email to White Castle as he felt the ad discriminated against gay men. “The original ad insisted that it was for at least one woman involved in the relationship.  It was great for two lesbian women but it didn’t include two gay men,” he said.

Within 24 hours of shooting an email with his concerns, a supervisor at White Castle responded to let John know that they changed the ad to read: “Call now to reserve your table at White Castle and your place in their heart,” making it gender neutral.

This just goes to show you that standing up for ourselves – even in the simplest ways, can bring about change. Great work, John – keep it up!

h/t – The Vital Voice

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