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Fox News’ Van Susteren Defends Married Binational Gay Couple

11 Aug

Bradford Wells and his husband Anthony John Makk (photo by Noah Berger, Special to the SF Chronicle)

We posted the other day about the tragic story of Bradford Wells and Anthony John Makk, a binational couple being split up by our federal government. Makk, an Australian citizen has been with his American husband for 19 years. This week, the Obama administration made the decision to deport Makk who was legally married to Wells in Massachusetts in 2004.

In addition to being legally married, Makk is Wells’ primary caregiver through his AIDS treatment. Their heartbreaking story is making the rounds on the internet and was featured on CNN:

http://youtu.be/tgPV8pw05nk

And in this storytelling and sharing of the couple’s life, minds and hearts are being changed. Coming from an unlikely source, Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren took to her blog defending the couple in a post titled: “THIS IS CONFUSING: PRESIDENT OBAMA SENDING MIXED SIGNALS TO GAY AMERICANS”

One other personal, not legal, observation…these two men have been together 19 years….do you have any idea how many phoney applications are made by heterosexual foreigners who come to the USA, find a spouse (sometimes money is exchanged), marrying, getting a green card and then divorcing? It is a racket. We sure don’t try and stop those fraudulent relationships/marriages with any vigor. These two men, whether you are for or against, gay marriage, have been together 19 years (and yes, paying taxes!)

Of course the blog post is just a veiled attempt to attack President Obama and vilify him to the LGBT community, but the substance of it is clearly in support of protecting our rights. Minds can change so long as we continue to talk about equality.

UPDATE: After a little research, it seems Greta is talking out both sides of her mouth (which would be an accomplishment as she usually only uses one side). Greta invited John Boehner onto her show back in March to discuss Obama’s decision to stop defending DOMA in court. In the interview, she clearly sides with Boehner and claims that Boehner (in defending DOMA) is “doing the job that the Executive branch won’t do.” So this is just another case of someone using the LGBT rights movement as a political football. Either she believes that this couple should not be separated or she believes that DOMA should be the law of the land. Talk about mixed messages…

US Gov’t Rips Man Away From AIDS-afflicted Spouse

9 Aug

Bradford Wells and his husband Anthony John Makk (photo by Noah Berger, Special to the SF Chronicle)

After some legal wins in the cases of bi-national gay and lesbian couples, this devastating story comes out of San Francisco.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on Bradford Wells, a U.S. citizen, and Anthony John Makk, a citizen of Australia. The two were legally married in Massachusetts seven years ago and have lived together 19 years, primarily in San Fran’s Castro District.

On July 26th, the Obama administration made the decision to rip the couple apart and send Makk out of the country, citing the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. Makk must leave the country by August 25th.

What makes this story even more heartbreaking and cruel is that Wells is suffering from AIDS and his husband is his primary caregiver. Wells told the SF Chronicle:

“I’m married just like any other married person in this country,” Wells said. “At this point, the government can come in and take my husband and deport him. It’s infuriating. It’s upsetting. I have no power, no right to keep my husband in this country. I love this country, I live here, I pay taxes and I have no right to share my home with the person I married.”

As we reported here at the end of June, the deportation case of Henry Valendia was dismissed following a series of questions asked by Attorney General Holder regarding another deportation case. Those questions were the reason Holder vacated an earlier decision to separate a family by deportation.

Unfortunately, the judge in the case of the Wells-Makk family did not see the Obama administration’s decision to no longer defend DOMA as reason enough to stop this injustice. Please read the entire heartbreaking story at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Would You Let Your Kids Play With Kids of Gay & Lesbian Parents?

2 Aug

photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com

After posting a story regarding the census reports from the St. Louis area, finding that many gay and lesbian couples were raising children there, STLToday has posed the question: “Would you allow your kids to play with the kids of gay couples?”

As we’ve seen in recent stories like that of a Colorado Catholic School, or a Catholic School in Hingham, MA, children of LGBT parents are often discriminated against. So the questioned posed by the St. Louis publication is not that far a leap.

And while most readers of this blog are either LGBT themselves or allies to the LGBT community, it’s questions like this which shed light on the bigotry and hatred we face on a daily basis. You’ll find most of the comments already posted at STLToday find the very question to be offensive.

Brad Wolf commented:

“I will not allow my children to play with children of bigots because bigotry is actually a learned trait.”

Donna Savage wrote:

“why not let them play together. homosex— is not contagious.”

And Cynthia Prior added:

“I have seen first hand that many people are afraid to let there children spend the night or hang out at the home of my grandson. I’m not sure why I just know there has been an affect. Perhaps they are not sure of what there children might be exposed to or they don’t know how to explain the difference in the parents.”

While the context of Cynthia’s post was not described, and we’re not sure if her grandson is gay or if his parents are a same-sex couple, it’s clear that whether people find the question offensive or not, it’s a legitimate question that should be addressed. One commenter even mentioned that since comments could not be made anonymously, those who are homophobic are less likely to respond truthfully. Could this be true?

How interesting to see moments like this, or like the National Organization for Marriage trying to hide the names of their major donors for fear they might be seen as the bigots they are? Those who discriminate against LGBT people are afraid of receiving threats, as Anti-Gay Senator Chuck Grassley said in the recent Senate DOMA hearings. He claimed one of his potential witnesses was afraid to testify because she feared for her and her family’s safety. I know very few LGBT people who have not felt threatened at some point – and with good cause considering the violence and murder that has been a part of our everyday lives for generations.

So…would you let your kids play with kids of gay and lesbian parents? And if you’re offended by the question, ask yourself why.

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.

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