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Hours to Stop “Kill the Gays” Bill November 21, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT, Uganda.
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Uganda’s infamous “Kill the Gays” bill is back. If it passes, this horrific law would allow the death penalty for lesbian and gay Ugandans. It could pass at any moment.

President Museveni once promised to veto this heinous bill. But Uganda’s politicians are desperate to pass the bill and they’re pressuring Museveni to give in. The Speaker of the Parliament is actually calling it a “Christmas gift” to Uganda!

Last May, millions of us stood up with activists from across Uganda to stop this very same law – and it worked.  Now we have to do it again.  We need to take action and share this far and wide.  We need every voice to build a massive outcry that the media and world leaders can’t ignore.  The pressure could be enough to stop this bill in its tracks:

www.allout.org/uganda

According to our partners, the bill is now up for debate and can be voted on at any moment.  As Ugandan politicians work to finalize the the text of the bill, one thing is clear – if passed, it will force lesbian, gay, bi and trans Ugandans into the shadows.  Despite global opposition, some politicians in Uganda refuse to give up the bill and one is even calling for a new regional law, that would send every gay person in Africa to jail – for life.

If this bill passes in Uganda, it wouldn’t just mean tragedy for gay and lesbian Ugandans – it could set off a domino effect across the continent. Will you add your name and ask your friends to sign with you now?

www.allout.org/uganda

These politicians are using homophobia to distract Ugandans and the world from the very real problems they’re supposed to be addressing at home, from corruption to freedom of the media. They’re playing political games with people’s very lives and lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans Ugandans will pay a steep price if they win.

With millions of us together, we helped knocked this bill off course once before. Our friends in Uganda need to know we still have their backs. Sign now and then ask your friends to get on board there’s no time to lose!

www.allout.org/uganda

This global movement for the simple right to live and love freely is unstoppable. But, as this hateful bill shows, there are still many hurdles in the historic battle for human rights and full equality. This is one of those milestone moments, and by raising your voice you are making a huge difference.

Thanks for going All Out.

Best, Andre, Hayley, Jeremy, Sara and the rest of the All Out team.

 

SOURCES:

Uganda’s anti-gay bill to be passed by end of year www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/official-ugandas-anti-gay-bill-to-be-passed-by-end-of-year-despite-criticism-abroad/2012/11/12/a4f5d3b8-2cb4-11e2-b631-2aad9d9c73ac_story

Uganda’s President to block “Kill the Gays” Bill www.76crimes.com/2012/06/18/uganda-president-ill-block-kill-the-gays-bill

Ugandan Parliament Speaker pushes for “Kill the Gays” bill www.thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/10/31/1117031/ugandan-parliament-speaker-pushes-for-kill-the-gays-bill

Ugandan lawmaker calls for all homosexuals to be jailed for life www.gaystarnews.com/article/uganda-lawmaker-calls-all-african-gay-people-be-jailed-life111012

Why I Can’t Celebrate the End of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell October 8, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in LGBT, Peace, War.
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Published on Saturday, October 8, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

  by  Gary Lehring

Many are applauding the repeal of DADT as an advance for gay and lesbian civil rights. And while any advance in civil rights is difficult to oppose, I am troubled by the celebration and fanfare that has accompanied the repeal of this policy. After eighteen years of such a costly and repugnant policy, why do I not rejoice at this step forward in legal protections for LGB individuals? Why can’t I celebrate the end of DADT as an advance in civil rights?

Part of my reticence to celebrate comes from the current news coverage that suggests that the repeal of DADT is the final victory of a monolithic LGBT community that has been fighting for inclusion in the military for decades. But the gay community has never been uniform in its support for military inclusion. Eighteen years ago Clinton’s decision to lift a ban on homosexuality in the military was met with reservation from many quarters of the LGBT communities who opposed the creeping militarization o f our lives and communities . This reticence and resistance from within our communities is missing from this celebration of civil rights. While “inside the beltway” activists honor and defend as a civil right every individual’s decision to serve their country through military service, are LGBT communities obligated to support such a corrupt, misogynistic, and homophobic institution? Have we forgotten the Pentagon’s plan in 1994 to develop a “gay bomb” that would release female pheromones on the battlefield, thereby triggering uncontrollable lust among enemy combatants on the battlefield, rendering this newly created gay enemy unable to fight? Such adolescent misunderstandings of masculinity, sexuality, and human nature should be enough to make LGBT communities question if the military is really an institution worth joining.

What might a progressive and/or a radical LGBT community response to the repeal of DADT look like today? We might begin by acknowledging that while ending this ban will make it easier for LGB people in the military to stay there, and easier for others to join, there are larger political implications to this inclusion. This civil rights victory entitles LGB persons to serve as “the mercenaries of a military industrial complex” as Barbara Smith said. These “mercenaries” have succeeded in killing more than 110,000 civilian non combatants in Iraq, and more than 10,000 civilian noncombatants in Afghanistan. Is this truly progress, and if so for whom? Our military leaders claim that the creation of a stable democratic society is the goal in these countries. Nonetheless the Pentagon was slow to condemn anti-gay honor killings in Iraq and seems not to think that rampant violence directed at sexual minorities is incompatible with a democratic society. Should progressive LGBT communities not also be globally engaged ones? Should civil rights victories here manipulate us into abandoning our moral courage and outrage at homophobia and sexual violence abroad ? When Abu Ghraib revealed homosexual rape to be part of the military’s humiliation of prisoners, I wondered if that could have happened if an LGBT service member had been present. Yet, today, I fear that misplaced patriotism, jingoism, demonization of the enemy– all well worn practices of the United States Military–will create camaraderie among queer and straight soldiers long before it would help gay servicemen and women see their own connection to sexually subjugated enemy combatants.

A truly radical LGBT response would go further still. We might be working to dismantle the military industrial complex and shift those billions of dollars to help the very economically distressed communities and individuals that military recruiters target to make their monthly enlistment quotas– sites which will now include LGBT community centers. Deploying promises of a steady income, high tech training, college grants, and upward social mobility, the US Military targets the highest risk populations in our society for recruitment. Suspect under normal conditions, during a prolonged recession this strategy is simply dishonest and exploitive. It seems even more exploitative when one realizes that all of these promised benefits have become comparatively less generous and less effective in recent decades.

A radical LGBT community movement might also demand that the savings from the repeal of DADT be directed toward those LGBT community centers that are now targeted for recruitment: a kind of queer combination of a Peace dividend and reparations to a community for historically egregious official discrimination. With more than 13,000 GLBT service members fired under DADT and an average investment in their training priced at $52000 per service member, a queer dividend of $383 million invested at the community level over the next 18 years could help address the many forms that LGBT discrimination takes today.

But of course no such dividend will be forthcoming. In the current budget debate as the military insists that any cuts to its budget will cripple its readiness, we should remember that this $383 million was money the military squandered upholding a discriminatory policy. Surely, this is a painless budget cut that all taxpayers can applaud. Unfortunately, like the Cold War “Peace dividend,” the end of this war on LGBT people by the US military will bring no advantage to these communities nor to American taxpayers. The military will simply find another unneeded weapons system in which to invest, another politically connected Halliburton to which to funnel taxpayer dollars.

Although it is tempting to see any advance of civil rights as a good thing, I cannot celebrate the repeal of DADT. If the goal is the advance of LGBT civil rights, many areas exist where national leadership and congressional action would make a more significant impact on the lives of beltway activists, progressive GLBTs and Radical queers all. National laws making it illegal to discriminate against LGBT people in housing, in adoption, in civil unions, in immigration or in the workplace would have far reaching consequences for many. A law that ends discrimination in the workplace could bring truly progressive change to greater numbers of people in the United States and might also have been applied to the military as one of the country’s largest employers. When finally the Employment Non Discrimination Act, or some future incarnation of it, passes and becomes the law of the United States, I will celebrate. Until then, consider me “Section 8,” but the military is no place for queers.

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Gary Lehring

Gary Lehring, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Government and Gender Studies at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. He is the author of Officially Gay: The Political Construction of Sexuality by the US Military.

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President Obama Betrays the Gay Community June 18, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Human Rights, LGBT.
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Published on Thursday, June 18, 2009 by Salon.com

We supported you. Time to live up to your promises

by John Aravosis

  Team Obama keeps telling lesbian and gay Americans like me to be patient. If we just wait a little longer, administration officials whisper to us lovingly (and out of earshot of the media), after the White House finishes with healthcare reform and getting the troops out of Iraq, your time will come. In the meantime, cheer up — we put a gay band in the inaugural parade!

Everyone loves a parade, but we don’t like being betrayed. And while gay and lesbian Americans were initially willing to cut our new president some slack, the president’s now-clear reticence to follow through on even one of his many campaign promises to the gay community has put the Democratic Party on the precipice of an ugly and very public divorce with this once-solid constituency.

During the presidential primaries, then-candidate Obama promoted himself as the biggest defender of gay rights since Harvey Milk. He would be a “fierce advocate” for our rights, he promised, and he even out-gayed Hillary Clinton: telling gay and lesbian voters that while she was for a partial repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), he’d get rid of the whole damn thing.

And there was much rejoicing.

Then, not so much.

About a year before the November election, primary challenger Obama invited Donnie McClurkin, a homophobic gospel singer who claims to have been “cured” of his own homosexuality, to lead a series of concerts in the South in order to woo the black vote. The gays were not amused, but candidate Obama held firm. The gays forgave the Big O until a year later, when then-President-elect Obama chose evangelical preacher (and well-known homophobe) Rick Warren to give the inaugural prayer. Again, the gays expressed their ire, Obama wouldn’t budge, and his advisors continued to whisper sweet nothings in our ears about how glorious the future would be once Dear Leader was finally in office.

But a funny thing happened on the way to equality. Rather than clouds opening up and angels descending from on high, Barack Obama became president and things never got better for the gays. In fact, they got decidedly worse.

On taking office, Obama immediately announced that he was doing away with the Clinton-era concept of special assistants who served as liaisons to various communities like gays and Latinos. He then went ahead and appointed special liaisons to some of those communities anyway, but never to the gays. Around the same time, the White House Web site, once detailing half a page of presidential promises to the gay community, overnight saw those pledges shortened to three simple sentences. Gone were five of the eight previous commitments, including the promises to repeal both Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and DOMA. Adding to a growing sense of angst, senior White House officials kept telling the media that they weren’t sure when, if ever, the president would follow through on his promises to the gay community. Then there were the Cabinet appointees. Three Latino nominees but nary a gay in sight. And finally, last week our president had his Department of Justice file a brief in defense of DOMA, a law he had once called “abhorrent.” In that brief, filed on the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia (which outlawed bans on interracial marriage), our own interracial Harvey Milk, not lacking a sense of historical irony, compared our love to incest and pedophilia.

Shit, meet fan.

Tonight, President Fierce will try to make amends by signing either a memorandum, a directive or an executive order, directing some federal agencies, but not others, to provide some benefits, but not others, to some gay federal employees, but not others, at some undisclosed time in the future. (And the benefits may reportedly go away when Obama leaves office.)

First problem, federal agencies already have the right to provide these benefits to gay employees — and several, including at least one DOD agency, do. Second problem, the administration can’t tell us exactly which benefits they’re talking about and for which employees. That’s because this was all hastily thrown together after the incestuous and pedophilic gays nearly brought down a Democratic National Committee gay pride fundraiser scheduled for next week. A gay blogger got hold of the event’s guest list and published it, and once D.C.’s gay paper, the Washington Blade, announced that it would be staking out the entrance to the event with camera and video, the $1,000 a head attendees started dropping like flies.

In other words, the only reason we’re getting anything: The gay ATM ran dry.

Don’t get me wrong. Some federal employees getting some benefits at some future point is definitely something. But it’s not an answer to why this president directed his Department of Justice to defend a law he previously opposed when he didn’t have to. It doesn’t explain why the DOMA brief linked a key Democratic constituency to pedophilia and incest. Or why this president has already overseen the discharge of 253 gay service members, and has refused to issue a stop-loss order ceasing those discharges. Or why he won’t lift a finger to push Congress to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

The president would like us to believe that he’s awfully busy being president, and if we only wait a little while longer, we’ll get our rights. Of course, the president isn’t too busy to stab the community in the back by continuing the military discharges, defending DOMA, and comparing us to pedophiles. (On Wednesday, White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs was given a chance to repudiate the DOMA brief’s language about incest and pedophilia and would not.)

When, Mr. President, will be a good time to set my people free? When will the leader of the free world get a breather, a presidential timeout as it were? (And I thought this was the administration that could walk and chew gum at the same time.) Are we really to believe that 2010, a congressional election year, will be any more timely than today? Or 2011, the beginning of the presidential primaries? Or 2012, with a congressional and presidential election? There is quite literally no time like the present.

The real problem is that Team Obama is stuck in 1993. Perhaps some advisor has convinced our once-fierce advocate that gay rights is the third rail of presidential politics. Just look at what happened to President Clinton 16 years ago when he tried to help the gays, the insider is likely warning.

But 2009 is not 1993. Sixty-seven percent of Americans now favor granting same-sex couples the right to marry or join in civil unions. Sixty-nine percent support letting openly gay men and lesbian women serve in our military, including a majority of Republicans (58 percent), conservatives (58 percent), and even churchgoers (60 percent). And an overwhelming number of Americans have long since supported passing legislation banning job discrimination against gays.

The controversy is in President Obama’s mind — at least it was until it became real and moved to the Democratic Party’s pocketbook.

What can the president do to avoid outright rupture with the gay community? He needs to start fulfilling his campaign promises — even one would be a nice start. He needs to stop the discharges, and stop the Falwellian legal briefs in support of a policy he opposes. He needs to push — really push — for legislation banning job discrimination, repealing DOMA, and lifting Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Many of us were willing to cut our new president some slack. Not anymore.

© 2009 Salon.com

John Aravosis is a longtime gay rights advocate and the editor of AMERICAblog.com.

Where’s the Equal Justice for Gays? May 30, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT.
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GAYMARRIAGE-CALIFORNIA/COURTAs President Obama attended a fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton, activists rallied outside the hotel, speaking out against Proposition 8 and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. (Photo: Reuters)

28 May 2009

by: Joan Vennochi  |  Visit article original @ The Boston Globe

   President Obama had much to say about the glass ceiling he is smashing on behalf of Hispanics and nothing to say about the glass ceiling the California Supreme Court is reimposing on gays.

    On Tuesday, Obama announced that he would nominate Sonia Sotomayor, a federal appeals judge in New York, to the Supreme Court. In nominating the daughter of Puerto Rican parents to become the nation’s first Hispanic justice, Obama said that when she “ascends those marble steps to assume her seat on the highest court of the land, America will have taken another important step towards realizing the idea that is etched above its entrance: equal justice under the law.”

    Those are stirring words, and ironic ones, too, given the day’s other momentous judicial news: The California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, last year’s ballot initiative prohibiting same-sex marriage.

Asked about that ruling, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said he had not spoken to Obama about it, and added, “The issues involved are ones that, ah, you know where the president stands.”

    On gay rights, as with other controversial issues, Obama stands where it’s politically smart to stand. He finds the political sweet spot that placates the left and doesn’t alienate the middle.

    Obama supports civil unions, not same-sex marriage, a position he embraced as a national candidate. Earlier this year, the political website politico.com produced a questionnaire Obama filled out in 1996 for a Chicago gay and lesbian newspaper. “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages,” Obama wrote in a typed, signed statement.

    In what is becoming a pattern, his thinking evolved to a less-liberal stance. As president, Obama has been less than eager to take up a campaign pledge to grant equal federal rights for gay couples; or to reconsider the military’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy. As Andrew Sullivan, a prominent blogger and gay rights advocate, recently wrote: “I have a sickeningly familiar feeling in my stomach and the feeling deepens with every interaction with the Obama team on these issues. They want them to go away. They want us to go away.”

    A year ago, the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples enjoyed the same right to marry as opposite-sex couples. The decision led to Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman and eventually won 52 percent of the vote last November. With this week’s ruling, gay marriage advocates pledge to put the issue before California voters yet again.

    In Massachusetts, the first state to recognize a legal right to same-sex marriage and the state that stopped a gay marriage referendum from going to the ballot, there is also disappointment with Obama.

    Representative Carl M. Sciortino Jr. of Somerville, who went to California to work against Proposition 8, said, “What was frustrating at the time was that Candidate Obama never showed up in California and said, ‘That’s an outrage … it goes too far.'” Now, said Sciortino, “I do hope for and want to see our national leaders being more aggressive in saying discrimination is wrong and the Constitution should not be used to discriminate.”

    By upholding Proposition 8 in a 6-to-1 ruling, the California Supreme Court did Obama a favor – for now. Just as Obama was nominating a Supreme Court nominee whose detractors are trying to frame her as a liberal activist, California’s highest court declared ‘that our role is limited to interpreting and applying the principles and rules embodied in the California Constitution, setting aside our own personal beliefs and values.”

    The Wall Street Journal editorial board celebrated “that sigh of judicial restraint.” Imagine if a majority of justices instead shared the view of the lone dissenter, Justice Carlos R. Moreno, who wrote, “The rule the majority crafts today not only allows same-sex couples to be stripped of the right to marry … it places at risk the state constitutional rights of all disfavored minorities.”

    That’s a stirring call for equal justice under the law – what Obama said he believes in with Sotomayor at his side.

Obama Needs to End Silence on Biggest Civil Rights Move of Our Time May 10, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Human Rights, LGBT.
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obama%20and%20rick%20warren“Dances with Bigots”

(Roger’s note: more Obama broken campaign promises)

Steve Clemons

www.opednews.com, May 10, 2009

Barack Obama has appointed a hyperactive director of faith-based initiatives, Josh DuBois, and sees little problem continuing the blurring of church and state that George W. Bush and Bill Clinton initiated in their terms. I remain very uncomfortable with evangelicals and other preachers — many of whom have narrow and bigoted views of America’s 21st century civil rights challenges.

That said, I realize that faith-based initiatives are here and part of the scene. I get it.

But there needs to be equal time for some of the victims of this cozy relationship between the oval office and anti-gay religious adherents.

Same sex marriages are now a real part of the scene too — something allowed in the enormous state of California for a short time until the day that Barack Obama himself was elected nationally and won the California vote.

Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, and Iowa are the five leading states that endorse and provide for same sex marriages. New York and Washington DC (at least for 30 days) recognize these marriages. And New Hampshire is likely to be the sixth state to provide for same sex marriages.

Eventually, California will be back in the same sex marriage column.

This is happening as the weeks unfold — and President Barack Obama has said NOTHING.

Yesterday, White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs had an exchange with ABC’s Jake Tapper:

“No, I think the president’s position on same-sex marriage is — has been talked about and discussed,” Gibbs curtly replied.”He opposes same-sex marriage?” Tapper asked.

“He supports civil unions,” Gibbs said, not really answering the question.

Obama is basically ducking the issue for the time being — voting the proverbial “present” without indicating support or opposition as he basks in Oval Office power — present, there, watching — but doing nothing.

For him, it’s a states rights issue — not a civil rights issue at the federal level.

I can’t quite believe that our first African-American President is sitting this one out — but I do get the politics of it, to a point. What I don’t get is his withdrawal from other key gay community issues.

What is directly in Obama’s purview — as not only a federal issue but one directly linked to the office he holds — is the “don’t ask, don’t tell” order regarding discrimination against gays in the US military. Obama promised during his campaign to end this hypocrisy that leads to the expulsion of a full brigade a year from the armed services. Those thrown out are qualified men and women who are replaced in part by those needing criminal file “moral waivers.”

In fact, Aaron Belkin points out that Obama is about to preside as Commander-in-Chief over his national security bureacracy’s first firing of a gay Arab linguist.

Obama’s position of total silence on this fast and historic expansion of gay marriage rights could be offset if he finally asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to conduct a new impact study of what gays in the military (and they are in the military if anyone cared to look — in very, very large numbers) would do to “morale.”

General Colin Powell has said that it is time to review this issue — and is keeping his powder dry until such a review by the Joint Chiefs is done. Former Senator Sam Nunn — who fired two of his own personal national security policy staff in the 1990s for being gay — has also said that “times have changed” and that it is time to review the policy.

And yet… what did President Obama do?

As John Aravosis recently shared, Obama’s transparent presidency significantly weakend the Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell commitment and policy position from the White House website.

This is unacceptable. I don’t like but do understand the internal debate inside the White House on the issue of “civil union” vs. “marriages”. Obama’s view is now behind the times as many states leap frog forward into the 21st century in a way that Obama is not doing.

But there is no excuse at all — none — for allowing the bigotry and harassment of gays and lesbians in the armed forces to stand. Gays populate the armed services now.

Obama’s silence is disturbing and wrong. While he may not be able for political reasons to move on marriages, to do nothing on the military front — which is in his portfolio — deserves serious criticism.

http://www.TheWashingtonNote.com

Steven Clemons is a Senior Fellow and Director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, where he previously served as Executive Vice President. He is also publisher of the popular political blog, more…)

Gay marriage in the Heartland April 15, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in California, Human Rights.
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Iowa Rally 

AP Photo/Steve Pope

Shannon Morgan of Minnesota, left, Riane Menardi of Wyoming, and Brittnany Swanson, also of Minnesota, rally in support of the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, on April 3 in Des Moines, Iowa.

 

By Jodi Mardesich

www.salon.com, April 15, 2009

How same-sex unions triumphed in Iowa, and what other states can learn from the victory.

April 15, 2009 | Iowa is known for its sweeping cornfields and pigs, fed by those vast amounts of corn. The landlocked state in the heartland isn’t exactly recognized as cutting edge or socially progressive, though its presidential caucuses do tend to predict the outcome of presidential races, as they did most recently with the selection of Barack Obama.

But with its Supreme Court decision in Varnum v. Brien, making it the third state to legalize same-sex marriage, Iowa is shedding its image as cornfed conservative. After the decision was announced April 3, about 1,000 people rallied in Western Gateway Park in Des Moines to celebrate, and Iowans showed their personality by toting signs, like “Corn Fed and Ready to Wed,” and even nodding to the coast: “This One’s for You, California.”

California, which at one time seemed destined to be the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, meanwhile awaits a decision from its Supreme Court on the validity of Proposition 8. The controversial ballot initiative, passed by a narrow margin in November, outlawed same-sex marriage, which had just been legalized via a California Supreme Court decision the previous May.

In fact, in the space of five days this month, the number of states where gays and lesbians can legally wed doubled, when Vermont and Iowa joined trendsetters Massachusetts and Connecticut. Vermont’s approval of same-sex marriage on April 7 was not surprising. After all, Vermont pioneered civil unions in the U.S. in 2000.

Vermonters have had nine years to observe that allowing gays and lesbians to enter into legally binding partnerships did not herald the end of the world. Fire and brimstone didn’t rain down on the land, plagues didn’t smite their iconic maple trees and most important of all, children in these nontraditional families were just as well-adjusted as their peers with straight parents.

The paths to legalizing same-sex marriage are quite different in Iowa, Vermont and California. Iowa, like Massachusetts in 2004 and Connecticut in 2008, relied on Supreme Court decisions to change the law. Vermont’s law, on the other hand, was voted in by the state Senate and House of Representatives, promptly vetoed by Gov. Jim Douglas, and then overridden by the Vermont Legislature. At first glance, the Iowa Supreme Court’s vote may appear surprising, especially to the-world-revolves-around-me Californians, but Iowa has an impressive history of pioneering civil rights legislation.

Iowa abolished slavery in 1839, 26 years before the passage of the 13th amendment in 1865. Iowa disallowed separate but equal racial segregation in schools in 1868, 85 years before the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of education outlawed it nationally. And in 1873, Iowa again protected racial minorities, extending anti-discrimination to public accommodations, 91 years before the U.S. Supreme Court. Iowa was also the first state to allow women to practice law. “I think Iowa’s tradition played a big role in the victory,” said Camilla Taylor, lead counsel for Lambda Legal, which represented the couples seeking to marry in Iowa.

It’s a good thing that laws aren’t always left to the people. In Iowa, if the amendment had been put to a popular vote, as it was in California, it probably would not have passed. According to a University of Iowa Hawkeye telephone poll just before the Iowa Supreme Court vote, 26.2 percent of respondents said they supported gay marriage, and 27.9 percent opposed marriage but supported civil unions, while 36.7 percent opposed both. However, the younger voters were more accepting. Talk about a generational divide — among voters under 30, 60 percent supported gay marriage, and 75 percent supported formal recognition of gay relationships.

California’s position on marriage equality has lobbed back and forth. It has been defined through popular vote (2000’s Proposition 22, which defined marriage as a contract between a man and a woman), a maverick decision (San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom’s short-lived permission in 2004 for gays and lesbians to marry) and a Supreme Court decision annulling those marriages. And that was just the beginning; in 2008, a Supreme Court decision reversed Proposition 22 and allowed same-sex marriages again. Then came another popular vote — Proposition 8, which reversed the Supreme Court ruling and left about 18,000 couples who wed between May and November of last year to wonder if their marriages are valid.

Despite California’s reputation as freethinking and liberal — it was the first state to recognize domestic partnerships in 1999 — it has its own conservative heartland, the Central Valley, and Republican enclaves like Orange County that tarnish that reputation. Public opinion is divided — some polls show the majority opposing same-sex marriage, while others show the opposite. But polls in Iowa, California and Vermont show that among the younger voters, the majority favor marriage equality. All three states have this in common: They have a history of being on the forefront of civil liberties legislation.

California was the first state to dismantle anti-miscegenation laws in 1948 with Perez v. Sharp, 19 years before the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed it in Loving v. Virginia — a very unpopular ruling at the time. The first Gallup poll on the subject, ten years after California’s landmark decision, revealed an astonishing 94 percent of Americans still opposed interracial marriage. Even ten years later, after the federal decision, 72 percent opposed it, according to Marriage Equality USA. Vermont never enacted anti-miscegenation laws, and was the first to abolish slavery.

The decision in Loving v. Virginia relied on the concept of equal protection found in the U.S. Constitution and that of all 50 states. It calls marriage one of the “basic civil rights of man,” and states that “to deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law.”

Supporters of same-sex marriage believe it is a civil rights issue, and hope that the courts will enforce existing laws. “It’s not that we need a new constitution,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry. “We just need a renewed commitment. Properly enforced, the existing equal protection would require equality.” So what worked in Iowa and Vermont? Activists and legislators made the issue personal, taking a cue from Harvey Milk, who advocated that people tell their stories.

One Iowa, an organization formed in 2006, just after Lambda Legal filed Varnum v. Brien, began holding forums across the state, in big cities and small towns, bringing together same-sex couples, legal scholars and people of faith to talk about the importance of marriage equality. Justin Uebelhor, communications director for One Iowa, said the group recognized the need to build support for marriage equality.

“We needed those folks to contact their elected officials,” he said, which they did, both before and after the vote. Lambda attorneys used a new strategy when they filed the case in Iowa: They included children of the couples as plaintiffs. They also called psychologists. “We took a lot of care in making as complete a record as possible of the social science of gay and lesbian parenting,” Taylor said. In light of the New York court’s 2006 decision against same-sex marriage that relied in part on “intuition” that children would be better off with a mother and a father (how many families lack one of those?), Lambda included statements from child development and other experts to make the case that children of gay and lesbian parents are just as well-adjusted as children of heterosexual parents.

This strategy to make things personal appears to be helping. The National Organization for Marriage launched a $1.5 million advertising campaign that included broadcasting the fear-mongering “The Gathering Storm,” which claims that same-sex marriage will infringe the rights of straight people. The video, denounced by gay rights activists, is intended to encourage Iowans to pass a law to dismantle the ruling.

When the embarrassing audition tapes showed up on YouTube, revealing that the people talking about their fear of the darkness were actors, NOM requested the video’s removal. To undo the Supreme Court’s ruling, Iowans would have to amend their constitution. So far, Iowans have not persuaded legislators to introduce a bill to negate same-sex marriage in the state. In order to change the state constitution, the Legislature must vote on the issue in two separate years. It appears unlikely that the current Legislature, which is about to end its 2008-2009 session, will vote on it, meaning that it could be changed by 2012 at the earliest.

Vermont activists, including an organization called Vermont Freedom to Marry, took a similar approach. “We had frank discussions with people: I am gay and I am your neighbor and I am your farmer and I want the same rights that you have,” said Jason Lorber, an openly gay state representative from Burlington. “In California, I don’t think those discussions took place.” California has a population of 38 million. Vermont, at 600,000, is smaller than San Francisco.

Now, attention is turning back to California, where the state Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling by early June on whether Proposition 8 is valid. The California constitution can be changed in two ways: through amendments and revisions. The amendment process is designed for ordinary changes, and can be done through the Legislature or through a signature collection that leads to a vote of the people. “California has an unusually low threshold for changing the constitution,” Wolfson said.

The California Supreme Court is currently deciding whether Proposition 8 was simply an amendment or a revision that should have gone through a more rigorous process. “It’s hard to imagine anyone considering the idea of equal protection a mere amendment,” Wolfson says. “Writing out the rights of a minority is a revision.” And if it was a revision, it’s invalid, Lambda’s Taylor said. “We firmly believe it is a revision — it redraws equal protection to permit the exclusion of some people from the guarantee of equality based on a simple majority vote.” Yet in a hearing March 6, it appeared that some Supreme Court justices were hesitant to go against the will of the people. Their decision is expected by early June.

Adding to the momentum, this Thursday, New York’s Gov. David Paterson plans to introduce legislation to legalize same-sex marriages in the state.  “We’ve got New Hampshire coming up for vote, New York and New Jersey. We’ve got momentum on our side, and we’ve got time on our side,” Lorber said. “When you talk to youth, they just don’t even get what the controversy is all about.”

Iowa’s choices in recent presidential caucuses have made it a bellwether of sorts in presidential races — hence the saying, “As Iowa goes, so goes the nation.” The Iowa decision is important precisely because it’s in the heartland, Taylor said. “It highlights for the nation that marriage equality across the country is inevitable. It’s simply a matter of time and we still have some years to struggle, but we’ve turned the corner as a nation.”

Bayard Rustin: Thoughts from Charles Merrill on Tax Revolt March 17, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Uncategorized.
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“I agree all citizens should pay their taxes if they are treated as equals and receive all of the benefits and privileges allowed as U.S. heterosexual citizens. For those of us not allowed 100% of the rights and benefits due to E.N.D.A., D.O.M.A., D.A.D.T., objection to the war, etc., we should protest the unfair discrimination dictated by the majority. If we really believe in our cause we will risk going to prison, otherwise the cause is not worth fighting for. Why should we help pay for Faith Based programs of Southern Baptists and other evangelical groups that discriminate against us and refuse to hire us?

I am a great admirer of the unsung hero Civil Rights leader Bayard Rustin the main brain in back of the Civil Rights movement. He was a War Tax Resister and Quaker which means he protested war as he saw the injustice against humanity, The 60’s Civil Rights movement was stimulated by economic struggles and withholding taxes were not a strategy but a bus boycott was.

Rustin travelled to India and studied Gandhi’s non violent resistance and salt tax protests to free India. Would Bayard Rustin be a tax protestor today for LGBT equal rights? Absolutely. Not everyone can go this protest route and keep their jobs or non-profit tax exemptions, but those self-employed and retirees who can, should. Rustin’s biography is here. Talk about a hero, his story made into a film would make Milk look weak in comparison. Because he was gay and belonged to the communist party briefly, Black faith based Civil Rights groups keep his name hushed.”

His bio, my hero: Bayard Rustin

from a comment on The Bilerico Project by Charles Merrill

ENDA Times: LGBT Groups, Echoing the Civil Rights Era, Approach Churches March 8, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Religion.
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The Human Rights Campaign, while lobbying for the passage of a comprehensive federal nondiscrimination bill, is hoping to “reclaim the moral ground” from the religious right by targeting churches with its new curriculum.
I don’t care what you say. You were born a man and you’ll always be a man, no matter what you do!”Those words were yelled at my friend Jenny, a male-to-female transgender person, by a coworker when it was announced that “Jim” would now be known as “Jenny.”

“My boss didn’t do anything,” Jenny remembered. In fact, it was the beginning of what Jenny called the “psychological war” launched against her by her coworkers—one that escalated to the point of police officers patrolling the office to deter threats of violence against her.

“The first day I came in as Jenny, I was terrified,” she said. She didn’t know exactly what to expect, but the attacks were subtle, and humiliating: being called by her old name or “sir,” being “assigned” a unisex bathroom by her boss. She had turned down the company’s offer of a personal bodyguard, knowing it would only make things worse.

The company had hoped to avoid dealing with Jenny. They offered to buy her out or transfer her to another office, all to avoid the flak they knew was coming. She refused. Now, two years later, Jenny says some people still give her trouble, but overall most coworkers are using her legal name, and she recently received a glowing evaluation from her boss, along with a raise.

Jenny is luckier than many transgender people in the workplace. Her company is large enough to have a policy that prohibits discrimination against her, though there remains no federal law that prohibits companies from discrimination against transgender people.

In April 2007, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was introduced to Congress, including a provision to protect transgender people. By September, that provision was stripped from the bill to make it more palatable to members of Congress concerned that including transgender people wouldn’t play with their constituents back home. That bill, which came to be known as the “non-inclusive” ENDA, passed the House two months later, though it failed to pass the Senate.

After languishing during 2008, a new transgender-inclusive version of ENDA is expected to be introduced into Congress within the next few weeks, according to Harry Knox, director of the Religion and Faith Program for the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay rights organization in the country. Advocacy for the bill, which has not yet been introduced into the current Congress, is already beginning, according to Knox. The first test for the LGBT community before ENDA will be to find enough support to pass the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act—which was stripped out of a Department of Defense bill in the last Congress. Knox expects the hate crimes bill to come up for a vote before ENDA and if support for the hate crimes is strong, the road to ENDA may not be as difficult.

“No one should assume that it will be easy to get those votes on the hate crimes bill because we had an easy election cycle,” Knox said. “Many of the new Democrats who were elected come from conservative districts, so there is a great deal of work to do to get a strong showing for that bill. This is no time to rest on our laurels or make assumptions about the new Congress. We have to bring the full court press on both pieces of legislation.”

For the HRC, the passage of an inclusive ENDA bill is paramount if they are to regain the trust of many in the LGBT community. HRC became something of a pariah after they supported the “non-inclusive” version, which sparked accusations that they were willing to sacrifice the rights of transgender people in the name of political expediency. Even today, there are some LGBT people and organizations that won’t trust HRC or contribute to them for their perceived “betrayal” of transgender Americans. Sharon Groves, the Deputy Director of HRC’s Religion and Faith Program, calls the flap over ENDA the Human Rights Campaign’s “ordination.”

“We came to realize that no matter how people fall on HRC’s decision, the one place we have common understanding is that more educational work is needed. And it needs to happen at the local level so that it would not be such a hard sell to members of Congress when ENDA comes up again,” she said.

In that spirit, HRC has released a new curriculum on transgender issues aimed at faith communities. Gender Identity and Our Faith Communities: A Congregational Guide for Transgender Advocacy is a three-hour course that incorporates the personal stories of transgender people and their families with educational material to help people understand the legitimacy of gender identity issues.

The curriculum is available for any congregation, but it was specifically designed to be distributed to congregations in 40 congressional districts across the nation where representatives may have supported a “non-inclusive” ENDA, but would have voted against a version that included transgender people. Already, 33 of the districts targeted by the HRC have scheduled sessions. Knox hopes all 40 will eventually use the curriculum.

“This curriculum gives people a better understanding of what’s behind gender identity,” Groves explained. “It’s not an issue of choice, but is essentially who they are as people. Among transgender people—like lesbian, gay, and bisexual people—many have known their identity since childhood, and do not feel that they are in the appropriate gender. We need to understand what’s behind gender identity and understand their legitimate claims.”

Groves said they specifically targeted churches for the curriculum to tap a lobbying resource rarely used by progressives: people of faith.

“If we can have people of faith speak on transgender issues from their faith perspective, it’s a very powerful argument. It takes us away from the juggernaut that the religious right always seems to be able to claim that religion is antagonistic to LGBT people. If we can reclaim the moral ground, that’s very powerful.”

HRC is encouraging congregations that use the curriculum to invite their member of Congress to attend. If they can’t get their representative to show, though, Groves said they hope pastors of the churches using the curriculum will attend HRC’s Clergy Call to Action in May and lobby their representative personally. 

“So much of our work is about empowering ordinary people of faith and religious leaders to speak out on justice. Civil rights movement showed the power of the pulpit to shape public policy. Want to empower religious leaders to be a voice for change,” she said.

Getting an inclusive ENDA will be an uphill battle, even with a newly-minted Democratic majority in Congress and a fully supportive president in the Oval Office. While the recent Harris survey commissioned by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) shows that 51 percent of those polled support laws outlawing discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, only 41 percent of the very politically vocal group of evangelical Christians approve of such laws. Among mainline Christians, however, the support for measures like an “inclusive” ENDA are 57 percent. The HRC is hoping its curriculum will help that majority find its voice and be willing to work to educate members of Congress on the importance of including transgender people in employment protections. Jenny understands the importance of those protections.

“If corporate had not signed off on my transition plan, I would have been fired. I have a job because they had a nondiscrimination policy.”

That’s the message Congress—and the new president—needs to hear, especially from people of faith.

Can California gays make it legal? March 5, 2009

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lesbian-marriage1AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez     Helen Zia, right, and Lia Shigemura are married by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera at City Hall in San Francisco on June 17, 2008.

Attorney Dennis Herrera explains why he’s confident he can convince the Golden State to send Proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage, packing.

By Tracy Clark-Flory, www.salon.com, March 5, 2009

March 5, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO — It’s time to pop the big question: Will California marry gay couples? That’s the proposal the state Supreme Court will consider on Thursday, when arguments begin against Proposition 8, the recently passed measure that outlawed same-sex marriage, just months after it was legalized.

No one’s done more to spur the court to say “I do” than San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera. The 46-year-old doesn’t exactly have the “it” factor of the city’s celebrity mayor, Gavin Newsom, who kicked off the city’s wedding spree five years ago. But Herrera, with his blunt features and everyday mannerisms, is a bit like the wizard behind the curtain, pulling the legal levers to keep this political show going.

When San Francisco was ordered in 2004 to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Herrera immediately hit back with a historic lawsuit against the state. In the years since, he’s led the charge of a legal battle that seemed to be won in May 2008 when the state Supreme Court decided to overturn the ban on gay marriage. But then Proposition 8 made it to the November ballot and passed with 52 percent of the vote. Herrera, among many others, brought a suit against the measure, arguing that it shouldn’t have made it to the ballot in the first place.

He recently spoke with Salon in his stately office overlooking City Hall’s front steps, which have hosted thousands of same-sex newlyweds, about the significance of this high-court decision.

What are the key arguments that will be made in the legal challenge to Proposition 8?

Well, for us, it’s really quite simple. We’re saying that the process for putting Prop. 8 on the ballot was fundamentally flawed; the proper procedure was not a constitutional “amendment” but a constitutional “revision.” For the electorate to change the nature of the equal protections clause of the California Constitution, it would require a constitutional revision. That means that you need a two-thirds vote of the Legislature before you can even put it on the ballot — that’s not what happened in November. Prop. 8 was instead treated as a constitutional amendment and brought directly to the voters.

Prop. 8 also drastically altered the structure of state government; it stopped the courts from applying the equal protection clause of the California Constitution to a protected class of citizens, those being gay folks.

How is it even up for debate whether Proposition 8 should have required a constitutional revision, when the Supreme Court ruled in May that marriage is a fundamental right?

There isn’t a heck of a lot of case law on what constitutes a revision versus an amendment in California. But, because there is a fundamental right at issue that involves a protected class of citizens, we’re saying you can’t make these changes through the amendment process.

What is the strongest argument Proposition 8 backers have against you?

There isn’t a lot of jurisprudence in this area. What they have been saying all along is, “Oh, well, this goes against the will of the voters.” That’s a politically attractive argument, but it ignores that we have a representative democracy, not a direct democracy. The courts are empowered to make determinations about who’s entitled to constitutional protections and, sometimes, they are called upon to ensure that the minority is free from the tyranny of the majority.

If the court doesn’t strike down Proposition 8, should we worry that any minority right could be taken away by a simple majority of voters?

Yes, it’s a distinct possibility. If the courts aren’t allowed to be the arbiters of what equal protection under the law means, what do our constitutional guarantees mean? In that case, any politically disfavored group in the future — women or other minority groups — could have their rights taken away by an adroit and effective political campaign. I don’t think that was what was envisioned when we created our constitution in California.

What would a loss in this case mean for the 18,000 couples who married during the four months gay marriage was legal in the state?

The court will most likely render an opinion on that. It’s our position that there’s no language in Prop. 8 that says it was retroactive, so those marriages are valid.

What did you think about the racially charged finger-pointing after the measure passed?

Obviously, I was disappointed that it passed and I know there has been finger-pointing at a variety of groups, but I like to look at how far we’ve come. Tremendous strides have been made both legally and politically, in terms of educating folks about the issue of marriage equality. That was reflected in the fact that the vote on Prop. 8 was so close.

Do you think the popularity of the film “Milk,” and its recent Oscar wins, has changed public opinion about gay marriage?

Real-life examples educate people. The progress that’s been made over this last decade has largely been thanks to introducing people to individuals that they know, in their family or their neighborhood, who are gay and just want the opportunity to be in a recognized relationship with the person that they love.

The legal back-and-forth over gay marriage has spanned five years now. Will it ever end?

With respect to this case, we’ve only made state law claims — so, what the Supreme Court says here will be the definitive word. That’s not to speak to what happens in other jurisdictions across the country or any federal claims that are raised.

Some might say that, as a straight Catholic, you’re a somewhat unlikely advocate for same-sex marriage. How is it that you’ve become such a dogged defender of gay rights?

Oh, I just think it comes down to my being a believer in equality. The extension of that is ensuring equality for a whole class of citizens that have been denied it for much too long. If you’re a lawyer who believes in the rule of law and civil rights, I don’t see how you can respond any other way.

I was probably involved in this issue before I even realized it. The year before we directly dealt with the issue of marriage equality, my office led the charge to extend the title of spouse to same sex couples with respect to property tax reassessments after the death of a domestic partner. That was the issue right there and we didn’t even realize it at the time.

Has being an outsider to the gay community helped your mission?

It might be that seeing gay marriage defended by a straight married man led some straight people to look at the issue more closely. If that’s true, I’m happy to have served that purpose.

Mayor Newsom was criticized for so radically tackling the issue the way he did in 2004. Could he have taken a better approach?

I’m not going to criticize his approach. It certainly got people focused on the issue and has been complementary to what I’ve done on the legal side; they were mutually reinforcing.

On that note, hours after San Francisco was forced to stop issuing marriage licenses, you filed a lawsuit against the state — but your job certainly didn’t require you to. Why did you decide to keep fighting this legal battle?

Because I knew that it was the only way we were going to get the issue dealt with. We had the lawsuit ready, because I knew the court wasn’t going to get to the heart of the issue. We were already involved in it; if you go to battle, you better be prepared to take the fight to its logical conclusion.

Did you have any idea that the battle would go on for so long, though?

Did I think we’d be sitting here five years later? Probably not. But the wheels of justice sometimes grind slowly.

Can you predict an outcome in this case?

I never do that. But I’m confident that we have a very strong argument. When you look at the concept of constitutional protections and what the courts have traditionally been empowered to do, I don’t see how you can come up with any other decision than in our favor.

What’s your next move if the court doesn’t strike down Proposition 8?

I don’t know at this point. We’ll review our options, consult with our partners who have been involved in this legal battle alongside us for the past five years, and then we’ll make the decision that we have to make. But I’m confident that justice is on our side and that we’ll have this dealt with once and for all.

Gay couples hold vigils urging justices to end Prop. 8 March 5, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in California, Human Rights.
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gay-couple-vigil-laLuis Sinco / Los Angeles Times    Proposition 8 protesters take part in a candlelight march in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday as the California Supreme Court prepares to hear legal arguments against the ballot measure banning same-sex marriage.

Jessica Garrison
March 5, 2009 , L.A. Times

As opponents stage events across the state, backers prepare for today’s state Supreme Court hearing on November ballot measure banning same-sex marriage.
As rain fell and the song “Fidelity” blasted through the sound system, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa presided Wednesday night over the “recommitment ceremonies” of half a dozen gay couples who married during the five-month period that such weddings were legal in California.

It was one of dozens of vigils held across California hours before the state Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the legal challenges to Proposition 8, the November ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage.

Many of the 200 or so people who attended Los Angeles’ vigil said they did not expect their demonstration to influence the justices who will decide whether Proposition 8 is valid.

But they did want to send a public message, “to put a face on the issue,” as Kate Kuykendall put it. Kuykendall, 32, of El Segundo, wore a white wedding dress. She and her wife, Tori, 32, are featured in a video set to the Regina Spektor song “Fidelity,” which has become the gay marriage anthem.

Events were held Wednesday night in cities and towns across California, from San Francisco to San Diego, as well as in Florida and Arizona — a sign that the political struggle will continue if the court rules against them, activists said.

As Proposition 8 opponents held vigils, backers of the measure sent an e-mail asking supporters to “keep our attorneys Ken Starr and Andrew Pugno . . . in your prayers tomorrow as they represent the majority of California who support traditional marriage. Pray also for wisdom for the justices of the court to show respect for the people’s decision to enact Proposition 8.”

The ruling is due in 90 days.

jessica.garrison@latimes.com

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