Do DOMA Reactions Reveal Challenges of Tentative Progress?

So, President Obama comes out last week and says the DOJ will no longer defend DOMA in court (as so many of us have been asking him to do for two years) and the right wing goes CRAZY.

Possible presidential candidate Herman Cain called it a “breach of presidential duty bordering on treason.”

Newt Gingrich has called for Obama to be impeached.

Speaker Boehner expects the House GOPers will step in to defend it.

And plenty of folks all over the right are lying that the President is no longer enforcing DOMA, which he quite notably is.

All of this got me thinking about the very gradual approach—the long haul—toward LGBT equality. In the scheme of the movement, this DOMA decision was not that big. It was two years overdue. It doesn’t undo the damage done by the anti-LGBT DOMA briefs. It doesn’t even necessarily expedite federal recognition of same-sex couples.

If anything, the call for heightened scrutiny is a much bigger deal, but no one’s talking about that.

But this one little decision has spurred a deluge from the right. Treason? Impeachment? Loss of all credibility? All the big guns for just this one little policy change.

Where are our big guns? Continue reading “Do DOMA Reactions Reveal Challenges of Tentative Progress?” »

To Praise or Not To Praise Obama for the DOMA Decision?

[Updated: Joe Mirabella has an interesting take on this matter. Take a read.]

Obviously, yesterday’s announcement that the Department of Justice will no longer defend (Section 3 of) the Defense of Marriage Act is a good thing, as was making the case that sexual orientation deserves heightened scrutiny.

But this question has to be asked: Why now?

Why did we have to endure two years of the defense of DOMA? Why did we have to endure comparisons to incest and child rape?

It’s important to remember that yesterday’s decision was a change in policy. That I noticed, it did not include an apology for the previous policy.

Likewise, the Department of Justice is going to continue to defend Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this week. Even though training has already begun to implement repeal, the Log Cabin Republicans’ case is proceeding since repeal is still months from certification. What arguments will the Department of Justice use to defend the constitutionality of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell if, at the same time, it’s suggesting heightened scrutiny for DOMA?

I want to give President Obama credit for this change, I really do. But he still opposes same-sex marriage! That’s kind of a problem.

He could have done it for political reasons. It wins him some favor from the left and puts it to the right to deal with. Many have already noted the irony and hypocrisy of Speaker Boehner’s response. Given that his first order of business as Speaker of the House was to address a controversial social issue (defunding Planned Parenthood), it’s absurd that he would complain that the President is doing the same. If he or other Congressional Republicans tried to intervene in the defense of DOMA, it would be all the more obvious how disingenuous they are about their intentions.

So, I don’t know. I don’t have some grand point to make. There are a lot of folks who complain about people like me for always putting down the President and not giving credit where credit’s due. But if my rights are just being used as a political strategy and my equality isn’t really being favored, I guess I just feel like I have to call that out.

Am I a sourpuss for being skeptical?

Obama “Evolves” a Bit and Other Tidbits on Marriage Equality

Hey ZFb readers. I’m still feeling pretty miserable today, but there’s lots of interesting news. Today is not the day you’ll read in-depth reports on ZFb, but I don’t want you to think I’m ignoring these important happenings.

1. President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have indicated today that the Department of Justice will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, adding that sexual orientation should be given heightened scrutiny. It’s not entirely clear yet exactly what impact this will have on the cases already proceeding. For an understanding of why they’re only not defending Section 3 of DOMA, read Adam Serwer’s post.

Of course, conservatives are up in arms, including NOM, Matt Barber, and Peter LaBarbera. Joe Jervis points out that the homocons have not yet responded.

On a related note, Senator Dianne Feinstein announced in response that she will introduce legislation to finally repeal DOMA.

2. Meanwhile, in California, the American Foundation for Equal Rights has demanded that the U.S. Court of Appeals lift the stay on Judge Walker’s decision and allow same-sex marriage to resume in California. The recent decision by the California Supreme Court to take on the question of standing adds excessive delays to the process. Said Ted Olson:

We are respectfully asking the Court to lift its stay on marriage for gay and lesbian couples because it has become apparent that the legal process is taking considerably longer than could reasonably have been anticipated. It’s important to remember that the stay was originally ordered with the understanding that the Ninth Circuit would rule swiftly on the case before it. Now that the issue of the Proponents’ standing to appeal has been referred for analysis by the California Supreme Court, substantial additional, indefinite and unanticipated delays lie ahead. It’s unreasonable and decidedly unjust to expect California’s gay and lesbian couples to put their lives on hold and suffer daily discrimination as second class citizens while their U.S. District Court victory is debated further.

3. In Maryland there is movement forward on marriage equality, as the Maryland Senate voted favorably for a second (of three) on a bill for marriage equality.

4. However, in Iowa, conservatives are tapping into every last resort to try to limit same-sex marriage there. The latest scheme is to try to use a provision in the Iowa Constitution that skips judicial review in order to prohibit county recorders from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Apparently, banning same-sex marriage is more important to some Republicans than checks and balances.

5. A marriage amendment bill has been filed in North Carolina, and Pam Spaulding says, “Game on.” Like Bil Browning is doing in Indiana, Pam is ready to expose the hypocrites by publicizing divorcees, adulterers, closet-cases, and financial benefactors among the proponents of this anti-gay bill. If you have any insights, pass them along to Pam.

6. BONUS: Before the day is over, the governor of Hawaii will sign civil unions into law!

Maryland, Hawaii, DOMA… an important day of steps forward.

Creating an Atheist-Inclusive Creating Change and LGBT Movement

[It might be helpful to read some previous posts that set the context for this one. Last year, I wrote about how religious I felt Creating Change to be. In November, I built upon that post, arguing that nonbelievers have become a marginalized community within the LGBT movement. And then, before attending this year’s Creating Change, I noted how prevalent religious themes would again be and the fact that the atheist caucus I’d proposed would be the only space that affirmed nonbelievers.]

The opening plenary of Creating Change 2011 bridged the main conference with its subconference, Practice Spirit, Do Justice. Entitled “Hard work for our common good,” the panel featured four religious leaders with prepared statements: Bishop Yvette Flunder (City of Refuge/UCC), Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson (MCC), Rabbi Joshua Lesser, and Faisal Alam, a Muslim leader.

And while I was prepared for many faith-centric messages, I was not prepared for how erased and marginalized I would feel on the very first day of the conference. Most of the 25 who joined the atheist caucus the following evening expressed similar concerns, as did many CC veterans who could not attend but followed along on Twitter.

As an obvious start, the opening panel did not feature a Humanist, Unitarian, or nonbeliever who could speak for the experiences of those who do not identify with faith. Arguably, plenty of other worldviews also went unrepresented as well. But the language that was used, particularly by Rev. Wilson and Bishop Flunder, not so subtly erased nonbelievers from the LGBT community and movement. And while atheists and agnostics were acknowledged a time or two, we were not represented nor affirmed by the supposedly interfaith panel. Continue reading “Creating an Atheist-Inclusive Creating Change and LGBT Movement” »

Indiana Conservatives Gloat Messages of Anti-Gay Tyranny

In case you get your I-states mixed up, Iowa has same-sex marriage, Illinois just got civil unions, and Indiana has nothing of the sort. Indiana is where they call themselves “Hoosiers,” which means “people from Indiana.” In Indiana, same-sex marriage is already banned AND the Indiana Supreme Court has already ruled that the ban is constitutional. And with a Republican legislature, there’s really no hope in sight.

For some reason, though, the legislature has found it necessary to go a step further, just to really rub LGBT faces in the discrimination already faced. On Tuesday, the Indiana House passed a marriage discrimination amendment with a bipartisan vote of 70-26, with many Democrats defecting to support the bill. The state equality group has very little influence; the only support for LGBT Hoosiers comes from a few public universities who don’t see too far past their campus borders.

Fed up with the incessant abuse taking place in his home state, Bil Browning has committed to using The Bilerico Project to bring the heat on Indiana legislators. I am all too happy to lend my support for Queersiers (a word I just made up, but one I hope catches on) by doing what I do best: responding to the insidious rhetoric of the religious right. Continue reading “Indiana Conservatives Gloat Messages of Anti-Gay Tyranny” »

NOM’s Excuse for Research Methodology

As readers may know, Maryland has a lot of momentum toward legalizing marriage equality.

The National Organization for Marriage is set on preventing that and dissipating that momentum however they can.

Today, they released a poll saying that Marylanders OPPOSE marriage equality 54-37, a poll that doesn’t jive with a poll conducted just a month ago that found Marylanders SUPPORT marriage equality 51-44.

NOM claims that the January poll was biased because it asked its question using the phrase “giving them the same legal rights as heterosexual married couples in areas such as tax exemptions, inheritance and pension coverage.” By couching the language in “giving rights” to gay couples, Dr. Gary Lawrence says that it biases the poll toward support.

So how does NOM ask a balanced question?

As far as you personally are concerned, should marriage be between a man and a woman, or should it also be available to same-sex couples?

Funny how their talking point comes first… yeah, there’s no bias there. It’s also perfectly balanced to demonstrate the proponents’ side.

Just ignore this. Nothing of value to see here. Certainly no integrity.

Central Pennsylvanians Show Valentines Love for Marriage Equality

The afternoon started with a simple but depressing act of direct action. Two same-sex couples entered the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg, PA to request an application for a marriage license.

The woman working in the Register of Wills gave the couples a curt rejection, stating simply that Pennsylvania does not allow same-sex couples to apply for marriage. When asked if she would someday be able to offer an application, she dispassionately replied, “If that was the law.”

An hour later, the couples and their supporters joined up with the Unitarian Universalist Pennsylvania Legislative Advocacy Network for their annual Valentine’s Day marriage equality rally.

Flanking all four corners of the busy intersection of Front St. and Market St. in downtown Harrisburg, a crowd of 40 braved harsh winds to spread a message of love and support. Many of the passers-by, stuck in rush hour traffic, cheered, shouted their support through their car windows, and started chain reactions of raucous honking.

Though the rally is held annually, several participants commented that they had  never received so much enthusiastic support.

Others who passed by were not as enthused by the signs calling marriage a civil right and a union based on love and commitment. One driver confused the ralliers by honking and then offering his middle finger. Another woman made a cross with her fingers as if anyone who supported marriage equality was a vampire. (She had apparently not considered that the rally was occurring outside in the daylight.)

Still, despite detractors, the rally was a rousing outreach effort for marriage equality in Pennsylvania, complementing the steps taken by state legislators earlier in the day to achieve legal recognition for same-sex couples. Continue reading “Central Pennsylvanians Show Valentines Love for Marriage Equality” »

PA Legislators Kickoff LGBT Freedom Week Supporting Same-Sex Couples

Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach (D) held his annual marriage equality press conference this afternoon in the Capitol Rotunda, proclaiming that there are no rational arguments against full equality for same-sex couples.

Joined by several other state senators and representatives, Sen. Leach introduced Senate Bill 461, the Marriage Equality Act. He pointed out “a few years from now, we’ll wonder what all the fuss is.” Still, the bill faces an uphill battle as Pennsylvania recently elected a majority of Republicans to both its legislative bodies as well as a Republican governor.

State Representative Mark Cohen (D) was also on hand to introduce a bill in the House that would allow for civil unions, a bill for which he has 41 cosponsors. It’s his goal to have civil unions in Pennsylvania by the end of 2012.

In his remarks, Cohen acknowledged that “civil unions are not marriage” and “do not have the social significance of marriage and probably never will.” They do, however, provide important benefits to same-sex couples that are not currently available. According to a 2009 Muhlenberg College poll, 61% of Pennsylvanians support civil unions.

Others were on hand to offer their support for both initiatives. Ted Martin, Executive Director of Equality Pennsylvania, took time to point out the devastating reality for LGBT Pennsylvanians:

At a time when it is perfectly legal in more than three quarters of the state to fire, evict, and deny public accommodations to an LGBT person or simply dismiss their relationship as nothing official EVERYWHERE in the Commonwealth, we need to have honest discussions on how we treat real people in the 21st Century.

Martin went on to point out that St. Valentine, today’s namesake, was a martyr, and “too many LGBT people have already experienced the harshest of circumstances.”

Rev. Pastor Larry Hawkins of Harrisburg’s St. Michael’s Lutheran Church also spoke out, imploring people of faith to support people these efforts:

Religion is at its best when it stands by those who have been marginalized. … I urge people of faith to be at our religious best and stand for marriage equality.

Flanked by LGBT families and allies, Sen. Jim Ferlo, Sen. Larry Farnese, Rep. Dan Frankel, Rep. Pam DeLissio, and Rep. Eugene DePasquale all added their support for the proposed bills.

Sen. Farnese echoed Martin’s concerns about the importance of protections in employment and public safety for LGBT people.

Sen. Ferlo said, “The time has come to see love between two people.”

Rep. DePasquale demanded, “Which side of history do you want to be on?”

Unfortunately, proponents of LGBT equality may soon find themselves playing defense as Republicans push for an amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution that would prohibit any legal recognition for same-sex couples. Rep. Frankel called the proposal “radical” and ‘wrong.”

Wrapping up the press conference, Sen. Leach reminded those in attendance that “”We’ll be here every year until we have marriage equality in Pennsylvania.”

Click here to see the full LGBT Freedom Week schedule.

NGLTF’s Apparently “Extremist” Vision, According to AFTAH

My new Twitter “buddy,” Peter LaBarbera, brought some folks to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change conference last week. He represents, of course, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, an organization that condemns homosexuality and supports ex-gay therapy, incredibly harmful positions that completely contradict decades of psychological and sociological research.

Naturally, Peter and his group were quite put off with some of what they found at Creating Change (which apparently was sponsored by Chili’s? I didn’t realize, but I’ll remember next time I chance to eat there). As my twitter exchange with Peter continues and he prepares to report on more detail about what he and his spies “discovered,” I thought I’d offer an initial response to the complaints he has filed about the conference. Continue reading “NGLTF’s Apparently “Extremist” Vision, According to AFTAH” »

Most Catholics Support Marriage Equality… They Should Act Like It

The Gay Liberation Network protested Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral yesterday for Cardinal Francis George’s “overdrive” efforts to oppose civil unions in Illinois.

GLN’s Bob Schwartz pointed out that 60 percent of Catholics now support marriage equality (multiple polls add to the evidence of this majority view), and that the real problem is in the hierarchy. Surely groups like Catholics for Equality are helping move that message within the Church community.

Of course, that doesn’t change the power of the voices of Cardinals, Bishops, and Popes who speak on behalf of all Catholics. Their voices carry and often successfully paint the Zeitgeist in ways that very much oppose those survey results. If so many Catholics do support marriage equality, then they should speak up and denounce the anti-LGBT expressions of their Church leaders.

More importantly, are all these pro-marriage equality Catholics ready to put their money where their mouths are? How many of them continue to tithe the Church, enabling its continued campaign against queer liberation? If 60% of Catholics suddenly stopped giving to the Church, it would be crippling!

I don’t really see that happening. Catholicism is not a democracy, so it doesn’t get credit for poll results. Only when all these supposed Catholic allies can turn their support into real action do they deserve any credit.

If you’re a Catholic who supports marriage equality, good for you! If you’re still putting money in the offering basket each week, thanks but no thanks. All those hundreds of thousands of dollars the Church spends on anti-LGBT campaigns come from good pro-LGBT Catholics like you.