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Exclusive: Avenue Q’s Rod & Ricky – The Full Wedding Video!

26 Jul

Having discovered that there is only one video of Rod and Ricky’s wedding out there – (and that video is only of a pre-ceremony rehearsal), we realized we had to post this video of the entire ceremony!

Kate Monster, Ricky and Rod (Photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

As we posted here earlier, two cast members from the Broadway (and now off-Broadway) hit, Avenue Q were married on Monday outside the NY City Clerk’s office. We posted some photos here yesterday and there are some incredible pics over at BroadwayWorld.com as well.

Please check out our video of the entire event, followed by some beautiful coverage by the Family Equality Council of the special day.

 

PHOTOS: DOMA Repeal’s First Senate Hearings

20 Jul

photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com

This morning, i had the distinct honor of joining the Family Equality Council at the very first Senate hearings on the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was signed into law in 1996. This was my first time attending a Senate hearing and I wanted to walk you through what happened and my impressions along the way.

There was a long line of people waiting to get in to the hearing room, but luckily, we had reserved seats and were able to head in first. Looking around the room as it filled up was a who’s who in the LGBT rights movement – Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign, Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry, Rea Carey from the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and many other important names and faces in our movement.

Seated in the first row, in front of us were representatives from those who oppose equality for LGBT people. Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family, Austin Nimmocks of the Alliance Defense Fund and Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Chairman Leahy (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

Chairman Leahy quickly called the hearings to order and the first panel spoke to their experiences with DOMA. The panel was made up of House members primarily speaking about their constituents. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights legend – made several references to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as the comparisons between the Black Civil Rights movement and the LGBT Civil Rights movement today. he referred to DOMA as a “stain on our democracy.” He wrapped up by saying “These are our brothers and sisters, we cannot turn our back on them; we must join hands and work to create a more perfect union.

Over the course of the rest of the testimonies, I found myself listening more intently to the reasoning of those who stand against equality than those telling our stories. I think this is just because I’ve heard a lot of our stories in person (and even told a few), but to hear bigots spread lies in front of the US Senate was an experience I will never forget.

Rep. Steve King (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

Rep. Steve King, the only anti-gay member of the first panel reiterated statements we’ve heard before. He spoke of the number of states where anti-gay referendums were passed, where the rights of a minority were voted on by the majority. He said that marriage equality would “demean” the institution of marriage. Also stated that same sex marriage would eventually lead to marriage between family members. And he wrapped things up by saying no court has ever found DOMA to be unconstitutional – he apparently never heard of the 14 times it has been in court and has been found to be unconstitutional.

The next panel featured non-members of Congress and was the first to tell first-person accounts of how DOMA has negatively affected our families. The primary focus of testimony from our side was on healthcare and tax law – many cited that same-sex married partners are frequently left out of hospital visitation protection and that the federal tax laws do not protect legally married same-sex couple and their families.

Tom Minnery, Focus on the Family (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery complained about traditional marriage being destroyed. He kept referring to “mountains of evidence” that state children are better off with opposite-sex parents. I can’t help but note that while we tell our stories about how we are hurt by this bigoted law, during the entire hearing, no one mentioned how straight families are hurt by gays getting married. Minnery went on to complain about 8th graders who were “forced” to deal with the fact that gay people exist.

Now comes the good part. The members of Senate are now allowed to question members of the panel. The first question came from Chairman Leahy. He asked Minnery to answer a simple question. After Minnery’s claims that children are far better off with opposite-sex parents and that his most important reason for being there was to protect children, Leahy asked if children of same-sex parents are better off for not receiving the same benefits that children of opposite-sex parents? He needed to explain the question 4 times before Minnery finally agreed that DOMA is indeed hurting children of same-sex parents.

Sen. Al Franken (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

Following that, Al Franken asked for a specific example from Minnery’s “mountains of evidence” claiming that children of opposite-sex parents are better off than those of same-sex parents…in Minnery’s written testimony, he cited a study by the Department of Health and Human Services. Franken pulled out the study and let’s just say my favorite sentence of the day was – “I….checked the study out.” and instead of paraphrasing the whole thing here, please watch – and please keep in mind that ti’s fairly verboten for the audience to laugh, applaud, etc during these hearings:

 

So there was that.

Ed Whelan, who believes polyamory is a "project of the Left" (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

The next panel came in, which featured the aforementioned Solmonese,  Wolfson, Nimmocks and Whelan. The information that came out during these testimonies were for the most part, things we have heard before from both sides…and then came Ed Whelan. This was the only time all morning where there was an audible laugh from the audience at the testimony of a panelist. His full testimony (which does not include random quips he made like the one I’m about to reference) can be found here. After referring to the terms polyamory or polygamy at least nine times in five minutes, he then referred to polyamory as “a current project of the Left.” Because ya know…multiple partners are never mentioned in the Bible or the Book of Mormon…we just made it up. I think it was Dan Savage actually who invented it (apologies for the snark, it was just a bit much to listen to).

Another interesting thing to note from Whelan’s testimony is that he claimed heterosexual taxpayers would be forced to “subsidize” same-sex marriages because of having equal protection under tax law. It astounds me that he doesn’t seem to see the irony that LGBT folk have been subsidizing heterosexual marriages since the government first got in the business of giving tax credits to married couples.

New York’s Sen. Chuck Schumer wrapped things up with a strongly-worded statement in support of the Respect for Marriage Act.

Sen. Charles Schumer (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

In closing, I’m very excited to attend another hearing like this. To see this at work and to see bigots called-out for their lies for the whole nation to see was empowering to say the least. I should also note that there were only two anti-gay Senators in attendance at this hearing – Sens. Grassley and Hatch (who didn’t say a word at the hearing). There were eight pro-equality Senators (Chairman Leahy, Sens. Feinstein, Franken, Schumer, Whitehouse, Klobuchar, Coons and Blumenthal) in attendance with one of our biggest champions (Sen Kirsten Gillibrand) sitting in the audience. If this was really so important to their constituents, don’t you think more Republicans would have shown up?

Enjoy some photos from today and thanks for following @TalkEquality on Twitter!

For an excellent blow-by-blow account of today’s hearing, check out Adam Bink’s Prop8TrialTracker.


HRC's Joe Solmonese (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

 

A family in support of DOMA repeal (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

 

Sen. Chris Coons (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

 

Sen. Durbin (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

Sen. Chuck Grassley (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

Sen. Feinstein (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

 

Rep. Nadler (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

 

BREAKING: Obama endorses Respect for Marriage Act to repeal DOMA

19 Jul

The so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is on its last legs. The legislation, signed into law in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, has caused the breakup of hundreds of LGBT families across the country. Bi-national couples have faced deportation over DOMA, Federal courts have stripped legally married couples of their rights over DOMA and due to 14 recent federal court challenges, DOMA is crumbling.

The Respect for Marriage Act, the act that would repeal DOMA goes into Senate Judiciary Committee hearings tomorrow, and now that I live ten blocks from the Capitol, I’m very excited to be attending. I’ll be reporting on the happenings via twitter if you follow us @TalkEquality.

The exciting news today, via Adam Bink at Prop8TrialTracker with the Courage Campaign is that President Barack Obama has endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act. Adam outlines why this move is so historic:

“Why is this a big deal? Because the White House rarely, if ever, endorses legislation that hasn’t passed a house of Congress… and this one hasn’t even passed committee yet. It underscores the urgency of this issue, and it also generates huge momentum to our efforts to bring more Senators on board. How many pro-LGBT Senators are going to let President Obama be ahead of them on this?”

Obama campaigned on the idea that DOMA should be repealed, but his support for the repeal over the course of his term has been less-than lukewarm. His Department of Justice on several occasions defended the unconstitutional law. The first time it went to court during his presidency, the DoJ’s brief on the case offensively compared lesbian and gay relationships to incest and pedophilia. The LGBT community lashed back and since that time, Obama’s administration has done a 180 on the issue and has ended it’s defense of the homophobic law.

The fight over DOMA is going to be long and costly. House Republicans needlessly voted last week to re-affirm DOMA as the law of the land (a symbolic show of support they decided to spend time on instead of working to stop the economy from going into free-fall).

Brian Brown EXPOSED in Covert Gay Activist Operation (sort of)

8 Jul

Brian Brown at DCA (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

So, I’m on my way to Fort Wayne, Indiana for an anime convention (for those who don’t know, I do voices for Pokemon, Yu Gi Oh! and a bunch of other animated things)…anyway…I’m going through the line at security and I recognize the man in front of me as Brian Brown, the President of the hate group, The National Organization for Marriage. Strangely, I thought he was taller. I also was surprised to see he was a smoker (Marlboro Lights). He almost forgot his plane ticket and passport on the conveyor belt, and like a good gay person, I handed it to him.

After that, we both happened to be in need of a place to charge our phones. I sat down at a small table and he stood at the phone charging station. How surprised was I when he picked up his phone, dialed and said “Hello Senator…” I went into stealth mode and immediately began transcribing.

It didn’t become clear until his next call that he was talking to Senator Ruben Diaz. He was begging Diaz to show up to a rally. Apparently Diaz was grilling him about who was going to be there and Brian told him that Archbishop Timothy Dolan would not be in attendance. Apparently, that’s when Diaz said he wasn’t going to come and Brian got noticeably upset. He started to raise his voice and told Diaz that his constituents were still very upset about the vote and he really needed to be there. The call ended. According to Jeremy hooper at GoodAsYou.org (the resident expert on all things NOM), This call more than likely had to do with the July 24th NY Family Research Foundation event. This is of course, the same day that New York plans to start recognizing marriage equality with the first marriage licenses handed out to same-sex partners.

Brian then called someone (presumably Maggie Gallagher) and mentioned he’d just spoken to Diaz and he wasn’t coming to the rally. he said he wasn’t worried though about the Hispanic turnout because “they love this stuff.” He turned his back a few times and became inaudible, but he did mention the recent Foxx Amendment to the Defense Bill regarding DOMA and said he’d picked up “16 Democrats.” He said he needed to “make a big deal about it today and on Monday.” He told whoever was on the phone that they should talk to Tom McClusky because he knows the most about it.

Then came the interesting part for me. He said he needed to talk to Justin about who to hire with regards to a “New York International” organization. He has a meeting planned with the Christian Institute of Scotland and then said he didn’t “have much faith in the Mexican group.” Again, Jeremy Hooper recognized that Thomas Peters (NOM staffer) has been tweeting about some of NOM’s “exciting new plans.” This could very well have to do with that.

I’m not sure if there’s any actual news here, other than the fact that NOM is planning some International work involving the Christian Institute of Scotland and that he doesn’t really care for the Mexican group. He certainly didn’t mind categorically assuming that Hispanic people love hating gay people. Jeremy Hooper also agreed that Brian Brown was much shorter than he expected.

19 Anti-Gay House Democrats You Should Watch Out For

8 Jul

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)

Yesterday, under the leadership of Rep. Virginia Foxx (you know, the one who called Matthew Shepard’s murder a “hoax” in front of his mother), the House of Representatives needlessly spent time re-affirming the fact that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was the law of the land. It was equivalent to re-affirming the fact that Snooki is a celebrity. Even though it’s horrible, saying it out loud doesn’t make it more or less true.

DOMA has now been found unconstitutional in 14 courtrooms. It has lost every battle it has come up against in recent years because it denies equal rights to LGBT citizens. Yesterday’s vote was a case of the GOP grandstanding and trying to show that they have some power, despite Obama’s wanting to see it overturned.

But what I found most interesting is that technically, the vote was bipartisan. There were 19 Democrats that voted along with the lockstep Republicans to announce that they are still bigots and that their constituents do not deserve equal treatment under the law.

Now, personally I know that Republicans are a lot worse generally on LGBT issues than Democrats, but it’s also really important that we don’t automatically and blindly trust someone just because they are a Democrat. If you are represented by one of these elected officials, please make a call to their office and demand an explanation as to why they would so boldly and uselessly re-affirm their prejudiced and bigoted views. Let them know that they do not have your support in the next election and that you will fight for a primary opponent next time around. We can’t let Democrats off just because they are Democrats. Here you go – visit this link to find out who your representative is and how to contact them. Here are the Democrats who voted to “re-affirm” DOMA:

Jason Altmire (D-​Pa.), John Barrow (D-​Ga.), Sanford Bishop (D-​Ga.), Dan Boren (D-​Okla.), Ben Chandler (D-​Ky.), Jerry Costello (D-​Ill.), Mark Critz (D-​Pa.), Henry Cuellar (D-​Texas), Joe Donnelly (D-​Ind.), Gene Green (D-​Texas), Tim Holden (D-​Pa.), Larry Kissell (D-N.C.), Dan Lipinski (D-​Ill.), Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), James Matheson (D-​Utah), Collin Peterson (D-​Minn.), Nich Rahall (D-W.V.), Mike Ross (D-​Ark.) and Heath Shuler (D-N.C.).

Deportation Proceedings Dismissed in Same-Sex Marriage Immigration Case

30 Jun

Josh Vandiver (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

With marriage equality now a reality in New York, our next step is securing more state victories while at the same time – overturning the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). As we discussed here recently, there have been several challenges to the constitutionality of DOMA, including now 14 federal court cases finding the law to be unconstitutional.

Another battle which is loosening the Jenga pieces under this bigoted piece of legislation is the fight for immigration rights by bi-national couples. One such case that we’ve covered is that of Henry Valendia and Josh Vandiver, a legally married couple residing in New Jersey. Under DOMA, Valendia, a Venezuelan national, was denied legal residency.

Last month, AG Holder vacated a decision made by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). He followed up with four questions to the board:

In the exercise of my review authority under that regulation, and upon consideration of the record in this case, I direct that the order of the Board be vacated and that this matter be remanded to the Board to make such findings as may be necessary to determine whether and how the constitutionality of DOMA is presented in this case, including, but not limited to: 1) whether respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union qualifies him to be considered a “spouse” under New Jersey law; 2) whether, absent the requirements of DOMA, respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union would qualify him to be considered a “spouse” under the Immigration and Nationality Act; 3) what, if any, impact the timing of respondent’s civil union should have on his request for that discretionary relief; and 4) whether, if he had a “qualifying relative,” the respondent would be able to satisfy the exceptional and unusual hardship requirement for cancellation of removal.

While there is no news as to any answers received by AG Holder, some incredible news came to the Valencia-Vandiver family yesterday in the form of a dismissal by Jane H. Minichiello, the chief counsel at the Newark office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and arm of the Homeland Security Department. The judge granted the motion to close the case on June 13th and the couple’s lawyer, Lavi Soloway received official copy of the order yesterday. While the decision was confirmed, no further information on future similar immigration cases was given.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Valendia said: “I can start breathing now after so many months of fighting. I was holding my breath for fear of any moment being sent away.” he continued by saying the decision was a “big step forward” but did not address the continued problem of whether federal recognition of marriage equality would become a reality. “The fight isn’t over.” Valendia said.

Congratulations to the Valendia-Vandiver family and thank you for the work you’ve done in advancing equality.

Evan Wolfson, Founder and President of Freedom to Marry also commented on the government’s decision to dismiss these proceedings:

“Freedom to Marry applauds the U.S. government for bringing anend to this deportation process, which threatened to cruelly separate a couple who, like so many others, fell in love, made a lifetime commitment to one another, and got married – but because they are gay, were denied the normal family immigration protections afforded other married couples.  While this exercise of sound government discretion is most welcome, Josh and Henry, along with so many other families, should not be vulnerable to the unfair treatment or uncertainty caused by federal marriage discrimination against same-sex couples.  It is time for Congress to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and end the hardship and unfairness that burden the lives of loving and committed couples.”

NY Marriage Equality: How Did We Get There? A Photo Retrospective

26 Jun

I moved from New York to Washington DC three weeks ago to be with my boyfriend. It’s hard not to still consider New York City home after nearly 13 years living there, but after last night – my struggle to move on became even more difficult. For the past several years, I’ve proudly fought alongside some incredible activists, lobbyists, politicians and allies in the struggle for equality. And last night in New York, we finally won.

I thought of writing a diatribe about how much we have to learn from this victory – how for one of the first times in our movement’s history, we worked together to accomplish something. I could be heavy-handed and speak endlessly at the incredible work done by this partnership of several organizations all working towards the same thing. I could even go so far as to reflect on the fact that even though we have this beautiful victory at long last, that there are still 1,138 rights not afforded to legally married gay and lesbian couples and that we MUST focus on equality on the federal level. But instead, I decided to post some photos.

For the past 3+ years, I’ve discovered a love for photography and in my own way, I’ve been documenting some of the movement from my perspective as a New Yorker. So please enjoy these photos which reflect some of my favorite moments and people involved in the recent part of our struggle for equality. Please note: there are photos here from swanky cocktail parties, from pride marches, from rallies, protests, political speeches, phone banks and even a living room or two. New York Marriage Equality happened because of ALL of it, not some.

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All photos copyright Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com

The First Openly-Gay Congressman

9 May

This Thursday would have been the 74th birthday of the first openly-gay federal politician. Congressman Gerry Studds of Massachusetts was my Congressman growing up and I can proudly say that both my mother and my aunt took a major part in getting Gerry elected.

When he was first elected in 1972, he was not out of the closet. It wasn’t until a scandal outed Gerry, that he admitted publicly to being gay. Gerry was censured by Congress for having a sexual relationship with 17 year-old page Dean Hara. He fought to avoid a hearing so as to avoid outing young Hara. But instead of abandoning his post, like many outed politicians do, Gerry was re-elected six more times, until he retired in 1997 after serving the country for 25 years. He fought for many issues, including environmental and maritime issues, same-sex marriage, AIDS funding, and civil rights, particularly for gays and lesbians.

Following his retirement, Gerry continued to lobby for the fishing industry – one of the primary industries of his constituents in Massachusetts.

Gerry Studds and his husband Dean Hara

Gerry defended himself regarding the scandal by saying that he was in a consensual relationship with the the young man. In 2004, one week after Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, my aunt got a call from Gerry inviting her to his wedding. Gerry was marrying his partner of 25+ years, Dean Hara. Two years later, Gerry passed away following a pulmonary embolism. Due to the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, Dean was not eligible to receive the pension provided to surviving spouses of former members of Congress.

UPDATE: Is DOMA Sinking? AG Holder Vacates Gay Deportation Case

5 May

While Organizations like ALL OUT and GetEQUAL are pushing to stop tomorrow’s deportation of Henry Valendia, thus tearing him away from his legal marriage with Joshua Vandiver, it seems Attorney General Eric Holder is taking further steps to discredit the ant-gay Defense of Marriage Act.

According to Chris Geidner at Metroweekly, AG Holder has vacated a decision made by a Board of Immigration Appeals decision.

Holder writes:

“Pursuant to my authority set forth in 8 C.F.R. § 1003.1(h)(1)(i), I order that the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“Board”) in this case applying Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), 1 U.S.C. § 7, be vacated, and that this matter be referred to me for review.”

Geidner continues:

Saying the attorney general “has taken [an] extraordinary step” with the decision, attorney Eric Berndt — the supervising attorney for the National Asylum Partnership on Sexual Minorities at the National Immigrant Justice Center — told Metro Weekly, “It adds some heft to our requests for prosecutorial discretion in individual cases in which the foreign partner” of a same-sex bi-national couple is seeking a green card because of his or her citizen same-sex partner.

Holder goes on to state four questions that he directs the BIA to consider:

In the exercise of my review authority under that regulation, and upon consideration of the record in this case, I direct that the order of the Board be vacated and that this matter be remanded to the Board to make such findings as may be necessary to determine whether and how the constitutionality of DOMA is presented in this case, including, but not limited to: 1) whether respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union qualifies him to be considered a “spouse” under New Jersey law; 2) whether, absent the requirements of DOMA, respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union would qualify him to be considered a “spouse” under the Immigration and Nationality Act; 3) what, if any, impact the timing of respondent’s civil union should have on his request for that discretionary relief; and 4) whether, if he had a “qualifying relative,” the respondent would be able to satisfy the exceptional and unusual hardship requirement for cancellation of removal.

This could be extraordinary news, considering Holder’s specific questions. It’s apparent from his requests to the BIA that state’s rights may be violated by DOMA, considering his mention of “New Jersey law.” Let us hope this is good news for Joshua and Henry (who is set for deportation tomorrow).

There is a rally scheduled for tomorrow in Newark from 11-12am – Department of Homeland Security/Newark Immigration Court – Peter Rodino Federal Building, 970 Broad Street, Newark, NJ. Please attend if you can and also please visit ALL OUT’s Petition to help stop this cruel punishment for a couple whose only crime was getting married.

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

According to Metroweekly’s Chris Geidner:

Attorney Lavi Soloway tells Metro Weekly that Henry Velandia’s deportation proceedings have been adjourned, in part, because of Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to vacate the Board of Immigration Appeals decision in another case involving a same-sex couple on Thursday. Moreover, Soloway says, “The government attorney agreed to adjourn the case.”

This is excellent news and proves that when we rally and get people to join together around something, we can win. Please keep this in mind and kep working hard when we ware called to action. We CAN make a difference!

Photos From a Big Gay Wedding

2 May

This weekend, it was my great honor to attend the wedding of our friends Jonathan Howard and Gregory Jones.

You might remember Jonathan and Gregory as the 2nd place winners in last year’s Crate & Barrel Ultimate Wedding contest. Not only did they enter the contest, but they sacrificed greatly to use their new-found celebrity status to expand the conversation on equality. Their work to promote our rights has been unending and I’m certain it will continue to be.

I’ve happily gotten to know Jonathan and Gregory over the past year and am personally looking forward to seeing them more after my move to DC in June and one thing I can say is that they are one of the most loving couples I’ve ever met. They compliment each other in wonderful and indescribable ways. They belong together and there’s no questioning it.

The wedding, held at a stunningly beautiful vineyard in Virginia (after being legally married in Washington D.C.), was filled with friends and family that could not have been happier than to see these two men together. The support, love and genuine emotion was unlike anything I’ve experienced at a wedding before. I’ve been to well over twenty weddings, but never one where the people being married had fought tooth and nail for the simple right to do so.

I was happy to share this day with so many friends who continue to work for our equality and it’s a day I won’t soon forget. Here are some photos from this extraordinary day. Congrats Jonathan & Gregory. We love you and we thank you.

You can see more at Equality Photography.

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