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Saturday, July 9, 2011

David Blaine ?

Homosexuality permitted in 113 countries, illegal in 76

By  Sabir Shah -

LAHORE: Fully recognised as a reality by 113 countries of the world that have legalised and decriminalised homosexuality over the years, the concept of same-sex union is still illegal in 76 nations and punishable by death in five countries - Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Yemen and Sudan.

The Muslim countries where homosexuality is legal include Mali, Jordan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Azerbaijan etc.

As a large number of Pakistanis, including the religious clerics and parliamentarians, are infuriated over the June 26, 2011 gay, lesbians and transgender pride celebration ceremony that was hosted by the US Embassy in Islamabad, less than a month after President Obama had proclaimed equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity in his May 31, 2011 speech, chances are bright that criticism against America may gain momentum in coming days provided the Pakistani media highlights the issue.

A curious peek into the concept of homosexuality and facts consequently collected from numerous United Nations documents and the most recent survey report of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Inter-sex Association (ILGA) reveal that people are also put to death for their sexual orientation in Southern Somalia and about 12 Nigerian states. It formerly carried the death penalty in Afghanistan under the Taliban rule and in Iraq under a 2001 decree by Saddam Hussein.

With reference to Sudan, anybody found guilty of committing sodomy for the third time in this country is stoned to death or gets life imprisonment, but the punishment for the first and second time same-sex activity is a jail term of up to five years, accompanied by 100 lashes.

Iran is perhaps the only nation to execute the largest number of its citizens for homosexuality. Since the Islamic revolution, the Iranian government has executed more than 4,000 people charged with homosexual acts.

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Inter-sex Association, which was founded in 1978 with a mission to achieve equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and inter-sex people in every corner of the globe, has 700 member organizations in 110 countries today.

The hectic efforts of ILGA bore fruit when on December 18, 2008 the United Nations General Assembly finally recognized the rights of gay and lesbian people, through support from 66 countries.

It goes without saying that since the end of 19th century, voices have been raised throughout the West for recognition of the queer people and various movements have since been advocating equal rights for the homosexuals, including their rights to marriages, adoption of children, employment and equal access to healthcare etc.

With the signatures of the United States in 2009, the aforementioned UN declaration had enjoyed the support of 67 countries till two years ago and the document was signed by every European and Western nation.

An opposing statement, however, was put forward by 57 Muslim nations. This year, no less than 85 countries at the UN Human Rights Council have condemned the persecution on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The most common terms for homosexual people are lesbian for women and gay for men, though gay is also used to refer generally to both homosexual men and women.

According to the ILGA, homosexuality is legal in the following 113 countries:

Germany (1968), Greece (1951), Canada (1969), United States (2003), Australia, Hungary (1962), Iceland (1940), Ireland (1993), Italy (1890), Kosovo (1994), Latvia (1992), Liechtenstein (1989), Lithuania (1993), Luxembourg (1795), Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde (2004), Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Ivory Coast, Congo, Equatorial Guinea (1931), Gabon, Guinea-Bissau (1993), Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa (1998), Cambodia, China (1997), East Timor (1975), India (2009), Indonesia, Israel (1988), Japan (1882), Jordan (1951), Kazakhstan (1998), Kyrgyzstan (1998), Laos, Mongolia (1987), Nepal (2007), North Korea, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan (1896), Tajikistan (1998), Thailand (1957), Turkey (1858), Vietnam, West Bank in the Palestinian Authority, Albania (1995), Andorra, Armenia (2003), Austria (1971), Azerbaijan (2000), Belgium (1795), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1998), Bulgaria (1968), Croatia (1977), Cyprus (1998), Czech Republic (1962), Denmark (1933), Estonia (1992), Finland (1971), France (1791), Georgia (2000), Macedonia (1996), Malta (1973), Moldova (1995), Monaco (1793), Montenegro (1977), the Netherlands (1811), Norway (1972), Poland (1932), Portugal (1983), Romania (1996), Russia (1993), San Marino (1865), Serbia (1994), Slovakia (1962), Slovenia (1977), Spain (1979), Sweden (1944), Switzerland (1942), Ukraine (1991), United Kingdom, Vatican City (1929), Argentina (1887), Bahamas (1991), Bolivia, Brazil (1831), Costa Rica (1971), Chile (1999), Colombia (1981), Cuba (1979), Dominican Republic, Ecuador (1997), El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras (1899), Mexico (1872), Nicaragua (2008), Panama (2008), Paraguay (1880), Peru (1836), Suriname (1869), Uruguay (1934), Venezuela as well as the Dutch associates Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles, Fiji (2010), Marshall Islands (2005), Micronesia, New Zealand (1986), Vanuatu, the New Zealand associates of Niue (2007), and Tokelau (2007).

While countries such as South Africa, Iceland, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Argentina and Canada etc also allow same-sex couples to tie a marital knots, the likes of South Africa, Israel, Andorra, Norway, Spain, Sweden, UK, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, US, Mexico, Australia and Iceland etc also let same-sex couples to adopt children.

Homosexuality is illegal in the following 76 countries: Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Comoros, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania (death penalty), Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria (death penalty in some states), Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan (death penalty), Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Burma, Iran (death penalty), Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia (death penalty), Singapore, Sri Lanka, Syria, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Yemen (death penalty), Gaza Strip in the Palestinian Authority, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and the New Zealand associate of Cook Islands.

Extensive research conducted by The News International also shows that in India, the Delhi High Court had declared Homosexuality legal on July 2, 2009, while the United States had formally permitted same sex activities among consenting adults in 2003.

To be continued

US military begins taking applications from gay recruits Pentagon orders halt to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' enforcement after court ruling

The Defense Department said Friday it would start accepting applications from gay military recruits after a federal appeals court ordered it to stop enforcing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
In a memo to the secretaries of the military branches, Clifford L. Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, directed them to comply with the court injunction immediately.
"It remains the policy of the Department of Defense not to ask service members or applicants about their sexual orientation, to treat all members with dignity and respect, and to ensure maintenance of good order and discipline," the memorandum read in part. "Further, because the injunction is once again in effect, the department will process applications for enlistment or appointment without regard to sexual orientation."
The Pentagon has also ordered a halt to all separations of gay troops, according to the Army Times.
The order came two days after a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ordered the U.S. government to immediately cease enforcing the law barring openly gay men and women from serving in the armed forces. The appeals court noted that Congress repealed the policy in December and that the Pentagon is preparing to certify that it is ready to welcome gay military personnel.
Court order on gay military ban (PDF) It remains unclear whether the Pentagon will appeal Wednesday's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, though an appeal seems unlikely since the Obama administration already is committed to repealing the rule.
Gay rights advocates said without an appeal, the government now is barred from discharging gay or lesbian service members anywhere in the world.
Meanwhile, defense officials will continue to prepare for the law’s formal repeal, which will be 60 days after the defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs “certify” that it will not adversely impact military readiness, the Army Times reported.
The Department of Defense issued a 1982 policy stating that homosexuality was incompatible with military service. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was introduced as a compromise measure in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, who campaigned on the promise to allow all citizens to serve in the military regardless of sexual orientation.

Michele Bachmann & Rick Santorum Sign 'The Marriage Vow'

Republican presidential contenders Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum have lined up behind a new pledge focused on social issues put forth by Bob Vander Plaats, a former candidate for governor who now reigns as a conservative kingmaker in the Hawkeye State. Vander Plaats heads the Iowa-based Family Leader, a conservative group. Signing "The Marriage Vow -- A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and Family" is a requirement for earning the organization's endorsement. Standing behind the pledge entails supporting a "federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which protects the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman." Among other things, it also means backing a ban on pornography.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Religious Leader Shoots 4 Year Old Boy To Death Because He Might Be Gay

Jadon Higganbothan

Prosecutors laid out the case Friday against a Durham man charged with killing a 4-year-old boy and 28-year-old-woman, saying he led a “religious” group of women and children who called him “Lord” and feared him.
Peter Lucas Moses, 27, faces first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Jadon Higganbothan, 4, and Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy, 28. Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty against him. Defense attorneys didn't speak in his behalf at a court hearing Friday.
Prosecutors said Moses killed Jadon because he thought the child was gay and McKoy after he learned she couldn't have children and wanted to leave the group.

Prosecutors said the case came to police's attention in February when a young woman escaped from a house at 2109 Pear Tree Lane house, where she had lived with McKoy, Jadon, eight other children and three women charged in connection with the two slayings – Jadon's mother, Vania Rae Sisk, 25, Lavada Quinzetta Harris, 40, and Larhonda Renee Smith, 40.
The woman, whose identity wasn't released, told police that two people had died at the house, Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline said. Court records have revealed that Durham police had a confidential informant in the case.
The women counted themselves as Moses' "wives or common-law wives," Cline said.
"The arrangement was the women would periodically occupy the master suite with" Moses, Cline said, adding that she wouldn't go so far as to say the group was a cult.
Living with them, all in one were room, were Sisk's four children and Lavada Harris' five children, prosecutors said. Moses is the father of all the children, except for Jadon.

Witness told police of child's death

Moses feared that Jadon might be gay because his father had left Sisk, and Moses told her to "get rid" of the child, prosecutors said.
"In the religious belief of that organization, homosexuality was frowned on," Cline said.
Sometime in October 2010, Smith told Moses that Jadon had hit another child's bottom, and Moses became angry and started walking around the house with a gun that belonged to Sisk, prosecutors said.
"He starts screaming, 'I told you to get rid of him!'" and told Sisk, "'How am I going to do this?'" Cline recalled the witness' account.
Moses ordered two of the women to set up computers and speakers in the garage, prosecutors said they were told by the witness. They said he started playing music with the Lord's Prayer in Hebrew, took Jadon in the garage and shut the door, and the women then heard a gunshot.

Prosecutors said the witness told them that the women helped clean up the body of Jadon, who had been shot in the head, and put it in a suitcase in Moses' master suite. He later told them to get the body out because it was beginning to smell, prosecutors said.
The other children, who have been placed in foster homes by Social Services, have told authorities they feared that Moses would do to them "what he did to Jadon," Cline said. "The children are fearful of Pete Moses Jr."

Prosecutors: McKoy killed after beating

Moses killed McKoy in a similar manner on Dec. 21 or 22, 2010, prosecutors said.
Family members said that Moses encouraged McKoy, whom he had known as a teenager, to join him and that after she left, they didn't hear from her again.
McKoy found that she couldn't have children and wrote dairy entries begging "Lord" not to kill her, prosecutors said.
On the day she died, prosecutors said, McKoy ran to a neighbor's house and asked to use a cell phone to call her mother in Washington, D.C. The neighbor said she didn't call police because she thought that it was a group home and that McKoy might be mentally disturbed.
Prosecutors said the neighbor told them that the other women came out of the house, and Moses struggled with McKoy and dragged her back inside.
Moses beat her throughout most of the day, with the women joining in at least once, and tried to strangle her with an extension cord, according to the witness.
The witness described how McKoy begged for her life, but Sisk got the gun Moses used to kill Jadon and took it to the bathroom, prosecutors said. The women told Moses "you cannot let her go" and said they feared him going to jail, Cline said.
They turned on the same music in the bathroom and took McKoy in there, prosecutors said. Sisk shot McKoy several times, killing her, they said.
The group threw a party a few days later, prosecutors recalled the witness saying, and Moses showed McKoy's body to several relatives, including his mother Sheilda Evelyn Harris, 56, his brother P. Leonard Moses, 21, and his sister, Sheila Falisha Moses, 20.
McKoy's body was also kept in the house for some time, taped up inside black garbage bags placed in a garbage bin, prosecutors said the witness told them.
Later, Jadon and McKoy's bodies were buried in the backyard of a house at 2622 Ashe St., where Moses' mother lived until early this year, prosecutors said. Plumbers led police to discover the remains in June.
Prosecutors said that police found .22-caliber shell casings and a projectile and blood in the garage and master bathroom of the Pear Tree Lane home. They also found a .22-caliber gun on the roof of a Colorado townhouse, where the group moved in February, prosecutors said.

Women face charges linked to deaths

Sisk, Lavada Harris and Smith face first-degree murder charges in McKoy's death and as accessories in Jadon's death. Police said two of the women are pregnant.
Sheilda Harris, P. Leonard Moses and Sheila Moses are also charged as accessories in McKoy's death.
Sheila Moses and Sheilda Harris were granted a $500,000 secured bond at Friday's court hearing.
Defense attorney Mani Dexter said that prosecutor's case against Sheila Moses is based on one person's word and that she's trying to get custody of her children back from Social Services.
Prosecutors said that police went to the Pear Tree Lane house in February but found nothing suspicious. They went again when they received word that McKoy's family had reported her missing in D.C. in December.
Then, the women denied that Moses lived there, but officers found him hiding in a bathroom cabinet, prosecutors said.
Cline said the suspects told contradictory stories about what happened to McKoy: One woman said she didn't know what happened, another said that McKoy planned to move in but didn't, and Moses said that McKoy got mad about money and left.
Sisk did not acknowledge having a 4-year-old child named Jadon, and police only verified his existence because of Social Services reports, Cline said. The children were homeschooled.
McKoy's mother, Yvonne McKoy, said Friday that she is still numb and can't believe her daughter is gone.
“I’m just grateful to God that justice has been served and God is going to do what God is going to do," Yvonne McKoy said.

Lambda Legal Files Marriage Lawsuit in New Jersey

Lambda Legal filed a marriage equality lawsuit in New Jersey on behalf of 7 same-sex couples and their children, as well as Garden State Equality. Deputy Legal Director Hayley Gorenberg spoke at the press conference. For more information about the case, visit!

Pentagon suspends DADT in wake of court ruling

By Andrew Tilghman -

The Pentagon has ordered a halt to all separations of gay troops under “don’t ask, don’t tell” and will begin accepting applications from prospective recruits who identify themselves as homosexuals.
The moratorium issued Friday came after a ruling Wednesday by a federal appeals court in California ordering the Defense Department to immediately stop enforcing the law. The court said the law is unconstitutional because it treats gay Americans differently under the law.
Meanwhile, defense officials will continue to prepare for the law’s formal repeal, which Congress approved in December. The law will be formally repealed 60 days after the defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs “certify” that it will not adversely impact military readiness.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he expected certification to occur in late July or early August.
It remains unclear whether the Pentagon will seek to appeal Wednesday’s court ruling, which would have to go to the Supreme Court, Pentagon spokesman Marine Col. David Lapan said Friday.
Troops are currently undergoing training programs to clarify the law and ensure a smooth transition to its repeal. Most of that training is expected to be completed by this summer, yet there is no requirement that 100 percent of the force must be trained prior to repeal, Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said.
In October, the Pentagon raised the bar for separation of gay troops by requiring the civilian service secretaries and the Pentagon’s top lawyer to approve any separation. Since then, four troops have been separated under the law.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

eNews: Victory in NY & WI | NJ Marriage | Transgender Health Care

Lambda Legal.
July 2011: Why We Need Marriage Equality in New Jersey

Kevin Cathcart.
In Brief
by Kevin Cathcart
Executive Director
Lambda Legal
On October 10, 2010, Daniel Weiss got a phone call no one wants to get. His civil union partner, John Grant, with whom he lived in Asbury Park, New Jersey, had been hit by a car in New York City. John was at Bellevue Hospital and was hemorrhaging in his brain.
Read more »
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Q: If I test positive for HIV, will I be deported? Can my HIV be grounds for getting political asylum in the U.S.? Does a positive result mean my test provider will give my name to the government?
Read the answers »
Watch Our Videos

Meet John & Danny, plaintiffs in our New Jersey marriage equality lawsuit. Watch their video, then send them a note of support!
Lambda Legal in the News
Executive Director Kevin Cathcart celebrates the eighth anniversary of Lawrence v. Texas, Lambda Legal's landmark Supreme Court victory, in the Huffington Post: "Lawrence was a watershed moment that continues to generate other watershed moments."
Read more media coverage in Lambda Legal's In the News.
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Top Stories
Lambda Legal Sues for Marriage Equality in NJ
Back in court on behalf of Garden State Equality, 7 same-sex couples and their families.
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New York Celebrates Equality
Lambda Legal applauds legislative victory that doubles the number of people living in states with marriage equality. Read more and download our FAQ.
Questions About Marriage in NY and NJ?
We've got answers! Listen to our teleconference with Lambda Legal's Hayley Gorenberg and Susan Sommer.
Lambda Legal Sues State of Oregon
Suit to defend health care rights of state employee who is transgender.
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Justice Dept. Delivers Powerful Critique of DOMA
Brief in Lambda Legal's case argues so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.
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Victory in Wisconsin!
Court upholds domestic partner registry.
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Protecting the Rights of LGBT Immigrants
Lambda Legal letter to Homeland Security details abuse in immigration facilities.
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Lambda Legal Is Proud…
Northeastern University School of Law welcomed Lambda Legal Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project Staff Attorney Flor Bermudez as a Daynard Distinguished Visiting Fellow.
Will You "LIKE" Us for $10,000?
As part of a special 10,000 Actions for $10,000 Challenge, now through September 5, Lambda Legal will receive $1 for every new person who "likes" us on Facebook or follows us on Twitter.
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Professor Ardel Thomas On Teaching LGBT History

The Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful Education Act, or SB 48, amends the state Education Code to require that schools teach about LGBT people's role in -- and contributions to -- the economic, political, and social development of California and the U.S.

Pinksixty THURSDAY 07 JULY 2011

Immigration judges have ruled that a lesbian from Jamaica can stay in the UK because she risks persecution in her homeland. The woman, who cannot be identified, was originally refused residency by the Home Office.

The building of San Diego's gay bookstore, Obelisk, was declared off-limits yesterday after a fire heavily damaged the structure's second and third stories. The store won't be reopening until the building is repaired.

A gang of youths from the Netherlands who harassed a gay couple until they fled their home in Utrecht will not face prosecution. A local court rejected the couple's request that the Public Prosecutor's Office charge the teens.

A close friend of Hollywood actor George Clooney has denied that the star is gay. The actor recently split from his latest girlfriend, but businessman Manuele Malenotti insists it wasn't a smokescreen.

Finally, Lady Gaga has denied using the gay community's struggle as a tactic to sell records. The star -- whose real name is Stefani Germanotta -- told Advocate magazine that the claim was 'ridiculous'.

Michele Bachmann & Homophobia

Ed talks with Michelle Goldberg (The Daily Beast) & Mike Rogers (Raw Story).

Appeals court suspends enforcement of 'don't ask, don't tell' policy

People rally to support the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" policy in Boston in December.
People rally to support the repeal of "don't ask, 
don't tell" policy in Boston in December.
By Bill Mears -

Washington (CNN) -- A federal appeals court Wednesday issued an order blocking the U.S. military from enforcing its "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays and lesbians serving in the military. U.S. officials have been moving ahead with dismantling the policy but had objected to having the courts force the government to officially repeal it at this time.
At issue in the complex legal fight is whether "don't ask, don't tell" can remain in effect -- even in name only -- while the legal fight over its constitutionality is being fought in the federal courts. Judges have been at odds over the enforcement issue for months.
The case puts the Obama administration in an unusual position of supporting a repeal, but at the same time filing court motions to prevent it from happening faster than planned. Military officials suggest the policy compliance changes eliminating "don't ask, don't tell" could be finished in a few weeks.
In a brief order Wednesday, the 9th U.S. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals echoed that, saying, "the process of repealing (the policy) is well underway, and the preponderance of the armed forces are expected to have been trained by mid-summer" on abiding by the new guidelines.
"The circumstances and balance of hardships have changed," said the three-judge panel, concluding that as a result, "don't ask, don't tell" cannot remain in place.
The Justice Department can now go back to the Supreme Court to try and have the enforcement order suspended for a second time. The justices last fall upheld an earlier order keeping the policy in place.
The San Francisco-based appeals court also announced it would hear oral arguments in the issue in late August.
A gay rights group -- the Log Cabin Republicans-- had sued over the 18-year-old ban on openly gay and lesbian members from service in the U.S. armed forces. In September, U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips declared the military's ban to be unconstitutional.
The Congress has since passed legislation signed by President Obama to gradually eliminate "don't ask, don't tell," but Pentagon officials had refused to issue a timeline on when that policy change would be completed.
It is an issue Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who took over the post this month, will now have to confront.
If the policy is fully in place, and any current investigations of gay and lesbian service members are suspended, the legal appeals might quickly become moot. But the Log Cabin Republicans have vowed to continue the legal fight until then.
The group called the court order "exciting news."
The ruling "removes all uncertainty -- American service members are no longer under threat of discharge as the repeal implementation process goes forward," said R. Clarke Cooper, the group's executive director. "As a captain in the United States Army Reserve, I have observed the reactions of my colleagues to the Department of Defense's move toward open service, and can say with complete confidence that our military is ready, willing and able to take this step. Log Cabin Republicans are proud of our role in ending this unconstitutional and un-American policy once and for all."
Obama had said he long wanted to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," and had reached an agreement with then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the previous chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on a process that included a military review of how to make a successful transition to openly gay and lesbian soldiers serving.
The three men would then have to certify the repeal.
Gay rights groups say the policy -- even as it is being discarded -- violates the due process and First Amendment rights of military members. In their appeals, the Log Cabin Republicans said allowing the policy to remain in effect pending appeal would be unacceptable and would cause "irreparable harm."
The government presented "no evidence to support a finding that open service by gay and lesbian individuals harmed the military's interests, and ... both civilian and military leaders admitted that DADT actually impairs military interests," the appeal claimed.
"Deference to military judgment here tips the scales against a stay, rather than in favor of one," it said.
But the Obama administration, supported by Pentagon officials, argued that suspending the policy and forcing the military to immediately change course while the case is being appealed would cause problems during a time of war.
"The military should not be required to suddenly and immediately restructure a major personnel policy that has been in place for years, particularly during a time when the nation is involved in combat operations overseas," said the government in a prior legal brief.
Pentagon spokesman Dave Lapan said the military "will of course comply with orders of the court, and are taking immediately steps to inform the field of this order."
He added, "In the meantime, implementation of the DADT repeal voted by the Congress and signed in to law by the President last December is proceeding smoothly, is well underway, and certification is just weeks away."
Gates last fall raised the level at which gay and lesbian troops can be discharged under "don't ask, don't tell" by ordering that it only be done by the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
In a memo written to the heads of all the military services, Gates said his action was taken in direct response to the legal uncertainty surrounding "don't ask, don't tell" law.
There have been four voluntary discharges -- all from the Air Force -- in connection with "don't ask, don't tell" since October, according to the Pentagon.

Rachel Maddow - Ninth Circuit Court Bars DADT Enforcement

Rachel gets reaction from Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach (US Air Force Fighter Pilot).

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Deportation Of Same-Sex Partner Dropped

Federal officials stop process to deport Henry Velandia who is married to U.S. citizen Josh Vandiver.

BREAKING: Court Bars DADT Enforcement


Just hours ago, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals passed down a decision barring enforcement of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), reinstating Judge Virginia Phillips's injunction from October 2010. According to the order, DADT cannot be enforced unless the federal government appeals and is granted a stay of the order from either the Ninth Circuit or the Supreme Court.
SLDN welcomes this positive step forward, and we encourage the Defense Department not to seek an appeal of the ruling. But all of this confusion over the enforcement of DADT could have been ended months ago -- with certification, in the process laid out in the repeal legislation passed last year.

Make no mistake: DADT is still the law of the land, as long as certification and the subsequent 60-day period have not taken place. If the government appeals this ruling and is successful, service members could be discharged once again. We have urged DoD not to appeal and to get on with certification within days, not weeks. Only with certification and subsequent repeal of the DADT statute will we see a solid, final end to this discriminatory policy.

SLDN applauds our allies at the Log Cabin Republicans for their work on this case, and we will continue to work with allied organizations as we remain on guard for attacks on LGBT equality in the military. Read our blog post from this morning about new threats in the House, and learn how you can get involved in this ongoing fight.

Every day, we march closer and closer toward certification and repeal. Thank you for your persistence, your dedication, and your ongoing support.

Thank you,
Aubrey signature

Aubrey Sarvis
Army veteran and SLDN Executive Director

Lee Hall: 'I will fight this'

Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall has spent the past year working on an epic opera starring 300 school children. Now his backers have pulled out, in a bitter row over a character's sexuality.

Lee Hall
Staggered … Lee Hall.

For the past year I have been working on the libretto for my next project, a community opera in Bridlington by composer Harvey Brough, commissioned by Opera North. The opera, which was due to premiere on 15 July, takes place over a day on the beach. All human life is there: kids on a school trip, grannies with sandwiches, dog lovers, holiday makers, even a landscape painter. It is Benjamin Britten's Albert Herring meets Death in Venice, drawn by Donald McGill. The narrative revolves around a single father who, having been made redundant, is forced to take a holiday at home instead of in Ibiza. However, he is completely unable to have a quiet day beside the sea as he is assailed by schoolchildren on a biology field trip, local yobs – and the entire Bridlington Amateur Dramatics Society, who are rehearsing the Bridlington Pageant. There is high drama: at one point, his son is swept out to sea. Essentially, though, it's a comedy about tolerance and inclusiveness. Rehearsals have been under way for six months. Nearly 400 people of all ages are involved. I am a huge believer in drama's capacity to change lives, and this has been a rich, rewarding and exciting project for all involved. However, two weeks ago I received the worrying news that the main primary school involved was threatening to pull nearly 300 children from the production. They had problems with the libretto, and requested a list of changes. "Pee-pee" and the use of "stupid" as an insult were objected to. The composer and I worked with the school and Opera North to reach a version that would work for everyone. But by last week, we had reached an impasse. The opera's main character is a gay, retired painter, and in one scene he is the victim of taunting. At the school's request, I agreed to tone down the violence of the language in this scene, but not the character's straightforward defence of his sexuality. Word came back from Opera North that, unless I removed the lines "I'm queer" and "I prefer a lad to a lass", the whole project was in jeopardy. (It was by now far too late to replace 300 schoolchildren.) The request seemed to come from an entirely different era. I thought there must be some mistake, and that Opera North would support me by finding a way around this completely outdated hysteria. I was amazed when they accepted the school's position. I was repeatedly asked to excise these references to the adult character being gay. I have spent years working in theatres and schools, and had never come across such an extraordinary situation. It seemed the school believed this particular scene threw up issues that were age-inappropriate – even though no children were involved in this part of the libretto: it was purely an exchange between adult performers. I urged Opera North to open a dialogue with the children's parents, being entirely open about all the issues. Having written Billy Elliot, which currently has productions all over the world featuring a gay, cross-dressing prepubescent, as well as scores of kids swearing and doing things they "shouldn't" on stage, I was convinced that any disquiet in the parent body could be easily remedied. Parents, particularly working-class ones, are very open and sensitive. And, to be quite honest, sexuality has never really been an issue that has caused much consternation. Opera North did not want to pursue a dialogue: either I cut these gay references or the project would collapse. I then offered to pay for Stonewall's education department, who work with 180 local authorities, to give workshops to the kids and parents, so any issues raised in the opera could be given a proper context. This was rejected by the local authority. On Saturday, I was told by email that the school has withdrawn and that Opera North are no longer able to maintain the project. Ironically, the opera was due to be performed the same weekend as this year's gala of the enormously successful Billy Elliot Youth Theatre Project. Last year, I persuaded Working Title films (who adapted Billy Elliot) to fund a nationwide project whereby youth theatres from all over the country put on productions of the musical. A gala was held in the Victoria Palace theatre in London, where the best of the regional performers came to share their work. It was overwhelming, with hundreds of kids singing passionately about politics, sexuality and the finer points of industrial conflict; Working Title immediately committed to doing it again. A scandal in the making That a commercial theatre producer is willing to support such work, when publicly funded bodies are trying to censor a community venture on the theme of tolerance, is deeply confusing to someone brought up in the heady atmosphere of 1970s theatre-in-education. For me, the whole point of this kind of theatre is to challenge expectations and to invite discussion about issues that are more often swept under the carpet. Theatre can be a brilliant, democratic tool for exploring issues in a way that everyone can understand. Most importantly, the very act of theatre, especially in a community play, is one where we are all included, whatever our abilities or differences; this is why I continue to be committed to this kind of work. What I find bizarre is the insistence that no one – not the school, not Opera North, not the local education authority – is being homophobic. Instead, we have the strange position that, because the children are of primary-school age, these lines are too difficult and confusing for them. It feels to me that, because I was unwilling to remove these lines, the opera's chance of taking place has vanished. The whole project has cost well over £100,000, and has involved hundreds of people and thousands of hours of writing, composing and rehearsing. That a play about tolerance, community and civic values could founder over this seems unbelievable. Strangely, Opera North's original brief to me was to think about the work of Britten, a lover of the British coast. Even the most cursory look at Britten's Peter Grimes, Death in Venice and A Midsummer Night's Dream show us that gay characters are no stranger to British opera. But British culture has moved a long way from the repressive homophobia which we all took for granted. Kids, especially, now grow up in a culture where gay people are celebrated in a way that was unthinkable just a few decades ago. I am fighting to keep the opera on. It will be a scandal if it is not performed – not just because of the public money wasted, but because ignorance and timidity will have won the day. No one involved will countenance the idea that there could be homophobia at play. The argument is that everyone is just worried about other people's sensitivities. It amounts to the same thing. Effectively, I feel I am not being allowed to represent a gay person. The idea that being gay is something inappropriate for a child to witness is unsupportable – as if gay people weren't fathers or mothers or sisters or brothers. That an opera company or a school could make this mistake seems extraordinary. I feel I have no option other than to try to open up the debate.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It Gets Better

By David Remnick -

In the summer of 1963, six years before the uprisings at the Stonewall Inn, a writer named Randy Lloyd published a startling cover story in ONE, the first American magazine about homosexuals and politics. The article was headlined “LET’S PUSH HOMOPHILE MARRIAGE.” Among New York’s gay cognoscenti, marriage between two men or two women was not completely unknown—the historian George Chauncey writes of “elaborate” same-sex weddings in storefront churches in Harlem as early as the nineteen-twenties—but these were underground, unsanctioned ceremonies. They affirmed a relationship to a small circle, but did not assert the legal and moral equality of the participants.
Lloyd declared that he was dissatisfied with the single life. “There are many homophiles who, like me, find the homophile married life so much more preferable, ethically superior, enjoyable, exciting, less responsibility-ridden,” he wrote in his wry essay. “The truth is, many of us married homophiles regard our way of life as much, much superior and, as a consequence, mainly stick to ourselves and look down our noses at the trouble-causing, time-wasting, money-scattering, frantically promiscuous, bar-cruising, tearoom peeping, street crotch-watching, bathhouse-towel-twitching, and movie house-nervous-knee single set.”
Lloyd was not writing about legal marriage; that was scarcely imaginable to anyone. In a half-facetious voice, he was trying to provoke an argument among his gay readership. Especially in those days, the idea of marriage—monogamous, conventional, and bourgeois—was not an aspiration universally held among gay men and lesbians. Far from it. Within a few years, many lesbian feminists, for instance, had begun to see conventional marriage as a patriarchal prison. Why pursue it as part of an agenda of liberation?
But, as the movement developed, the assertion of equality came to be as essential as the protection of difference. Preachers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson made homophobia a tenet of the Republican Party’s powerful right wing. Amid the AIDS epidemic, countless gay men discovered that they had no rights concerning their loved ones when it came to medical decisions, estates, burials, and health insurance. Lesbian couples discovered the legal vulnerability of their families when they had children together. The option of marriage, particularly as the legal and cultural locus of family rights, became an increasingly central concern of the gay-rights movement.
On the tense night of June 24th this year, the New York State Senate, that redoubt of corruption and double-dealing, roused itself to become a center of conscience. Legislators, including a decisive handful of Republicans from the Hudson Valley, Rochester, and Buffalo, voted to legalize what was once nearly unthinkable, even to Randy Lloyd. The loudest celebrations that night were on the streets and in the bars of Greenwich Village, but this was a moment for exultation far beyond Sheridan Square. The decision to legalize single-sex marriage in the State of New York, coupled with news of a new Gallup poll showing that more than half of Americans favor gay marriage, seemed sure to lead to a wider legal acceptance.
The gay-rights movement has, in many respects, mirrored the black freedom movement, but in hyper-speed. In the mid-nineties, not a single state allowed for civil unions or domestic-partnership registries. The political calculus of same-sex marriage was such that a Democratic President, Bill Clinton, buckled noiselessly to the demands of Congress, signing the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which forbids federal recognition of such marriages and sharply limits the significance of state legislation.
As in the drama of civil rights, advances have been regularly attended by backlash. In 2003, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that same-sex couples were entitled to the benefits of marriage. This galvanized a movement already under way to limit marriage to a man and a woman; ultimately, twenty-nine states sought to head off more such rulings by passing constitutional amendments barring gay marriage, and twelve others passed restrictive legislation. In Iowa last year, conservatives waged a successful campaign to unseat three judges precisely because they had ruled in favor of marriage equality.
Indeed, many in the Republican Party, particularly its evangelical base, still believe that the issue is a winner for them. They may not think so for much longer. The Gallup Poll shows that seventy per cent of people between eighteen and thirty-four years old favor gay marriage. The tide of history and public opinion has turned decisively.
Just as the civil-rights movement had many kinds of heroes—radical agitators and mainstream institution builders—the drama of marriage rights has found a perhaps unlikely star in Andrew Cuomo. During the gubernatorial campaign last year, Cuomo was widely thought to possess a measure of self-regard even greater than that of his predecessor Eliot Spitzer. Yet Cuomo soon proved that he had the maturity and the horse sense to learn from Spitzer’s missteps; he began his term in January not with stentorian declarations of war but, rather, by identifying crucial goals and then employing time-honored political means to achieve them—intelligently, methodically, and successfully. There was nothing majestic about this process. Cuomo used the standard levers of political pressure more than moral suasion. His was a victory for progressivism through ultra-traditional means.
At the moment, the legal situation in California is in a lull, and it may be a while before the Supreme Court is required to pass judgment on the Defense of Marriage Act. But many advocates for same-sex marriage, including the liberal-conservative tandem of David Boies and Theodore Olson, see cause for hope. In the 2003 case of Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court extended privacy rights to gay men and lesbians; a majority of justices held that an earlier, contrary decision, Bowers v. Hardwick (1986), “demeans the lives of homosexual persons.” Antonin Scalia, in his dissent, warned darkly that the next outrage to come would be gay marriage.
The author of the Lawrence opinion was Justice Anthony Kennedy. Boies and Olson are cautiously optimistic that if a well-conceived case on gay marriage reached the court Kennedy would join the four liberal justices, Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor. We can hope that President Obama, for his part, will not wait for such a moment to tell us where his own “evolving” views on the issue have led him.
The struggle for marriage equality doesn’t require that everyone subscribe to a new norm; cynicism about marriage is as old as the institution itself, and skeptics, both gay and straight, will never be in short supply. Still, the advances made since the days of Randy Lloyd’s “homophile marriage” provocation have been remarkable, even thrilling. The struggle for marriage equality is about more than the definition of marriage; it’s about the definition of justice. 

A tribute to Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt, a gay servicemember

The story of Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt, a gay servicemember who died in the closet in Afghanistan, months after President Obama signed repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Pinksixty TUESDAY 05 JULY 2011

India's Health Minister has claimed homosexuality is an unnatural "disease" from the West, drawing outrage from activists across the world. The comments come just one year after India made the first step in decriminalising gay sex.

FIFA has publicly criticised Nigeria's female coach for excluding lesbians from the team. FIFA's head of women's competitions said they would remind Eucharia Uche of the organisation's policy on fairness and equality - a code she must adhere to.

A recent poll claims that British Muslims are more likely to be proud of gay rights than secular Britons. The research was conducted by YouGov for a forthcoming study about Conservative attitudes to race and ethnicity.

Prolific lesbian activist Jean Harris has died in her native California home aged 66. The influential campaigner was found dead at her Palm Springs home by her partner, Denise Penn.

Finally, lesbian MSP Ruth Davidson is hotly tipped as the next leader of the Scottish Conservatives. The former BBC journalist is being urged by senior figures in Westminster to stand as a candidate.

The big hole in the Rhode Island civil unions law

By Nan Hunter -

Time will tell whether the new Rhode Island civil unions law was worth it. Its structure is much like that of other state civil union laws, with one major exception: it contains a dangerously broad exemption for institutions and individuals to refuse on religious grounds to recognize the validity of a couple's legal relationship. 
The key text (emphasis added):
15-3.1-5. Conscience and religious organizations protected. – (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, no religious or denominational organization, organization operated for charitable or educational purpose which is supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization, and no individual employed by any of the foregoing organizations, while acting in the scope of that employment, shall be required:
(1) To provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for a  purpose related to the solemnization, certification, or celebration of any civil union; or (2) To solemnize or certify any civil union; or (3) To treat as valid any civil union; if such providing, solemnizing, certifying, or treating as valid would cause such organizations or individuals to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.
Other state laws, like New York's new marriage statute, provide an opt-out on religious grounds from events related to the solemnization or celebration of a same-sex relationship. In Rhode Island, religiously-affiliated organizations and their employees are exempt from recognizing that the couple has any legal status.  This could affect medical care, social services, employment and a range of other transactions. (Religiously-affiliated hospitals, however, will still be bound by the new HHS rules for hospitals receiving Medicare that concern issues such as partner visitation.)
If this exemption is still in place in three years or so, I hope someone does a study of whether and how religious entities in the state utilized it and what the impact would be if this language were to be more widely adopted, as I'm sure its proponents will seek.

For more from Nan visit Hunter for Justice.

Gay marriage is conformist but it is also a human right

By Peter Tatchell -

I may disagree with marriage, but I will fight for your right to do it

The ban on same-sex marriage is discriminatory. Gay and straight couples must be free to choose the same legal bonds

By Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner  

The Guardian -

New York’s legalisation of gay marriage is symptomatic of a global trend. From South Africa to Canada, Argentina, Portugal and beyond, same-sex marriage is becoming a fact of life and law.

Marriage equality is now the focus of many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) campaigns worldwide. It is fast becoming the litmus test in the battle for equality.

How ironic. At the very moment that heterosexual couples are deserting marriage in droves, lesbian and gay couples are rushing to embrace it.

Straight partners are falling out of love with matrimony. Provisional statistics for England and Wales show that the number of marriages in 2009 was the lowest since  they were first calculated  in 1862.

Far from weakening or undermining marriage, as homophobes claim, many same-sex couples seem hell-bent on shoring up an institution that is, for many heterosexuals, failing, discredited and irrelevant.

While the push for same-sex marriage is an issue of equality, which I support, it also signifies the rising conservatism of the LGBT community and a loss of radical vision. It reeks of assimilationism and conformism with the straight status quo.

As we celebrate Gay Pride in London this Saturday, with calls for marriage equality, the sceptical, questioning attitudes of the early lesbian and gay liberation pioneers will be almost entirely absent.

Marriage has a long history of sexism and patriarchy; being originally devised to ensure the male sexual control of women and the inheritance of property through the male line, from father to son. Even the language of marriage is misogynistic. An alternative meaning for the word husband is ‘to manage’, which sums up the relationship between men and women in many marriages, past and present. Traditionally, the father of the bride gives away his daughter to her husband-to-be, symbolising the passing of women from one man to another. For all these reasons, I am not a great fan of marriage.

Indeed, I have proposed a new, more egalitarian and flexible system of relationship recognition and rights – what I have called a Civil Commitment Pact (CCP).

Under this CCP system, which seeks to recognise all relationships of mutual care and commitment, an individual could nominate any ‘significant other’ person in their life as their next of kin and beneficiary. In the case of a couple, they would be able to select from a menu of rights and responsibilities to create a CCP that is tailor-made to their particular circumstances and needs; thereby accommodating the wide range and diversity of modern relationships.

Speaking personally, I would not want to get married. I agree with the feminist critique. However, as a human rights campaigner, I strongly and actively defend the right of others to marry, if they wish.

Moreover, the ban on same-sex marriage is homophobic discrimination. All discrimination is wrong and should be opposed. Since marriage exists, it ought to be open to everyone.

For these reasons, despite my reservations about the institution of marriage, I am coordinating the Equal Love campaign - – which seeks to end sexual orientation discrimination in both civil marriage and civil partnership law. It is a simple issue: equality for all.

Under current UK legislation, gay couples are banned from civil marriages and heterosexual couples are banned from civil partnerships. The homophobia of the ban on same-sex civil marriages is compounded by the heterophobia of the ban on opposite-sex civil partnerships. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Arbitrarily excluding straight couples from civil partnerships is just as reprehensible as denying gay partners access to civil marriage.

Imagine the outcry if the government banned black couples from getting married and offered them civil partnerships instead. Most people would condemn separate laws for black and white people as racism and apartheid, like the legislation that once existed in South Africa.

Well, in Britain today, black couples are not banned from marriage but gay couples are. Legally, this is a form of sexual apartheid – one law for gay couples and another law for heterosexual partners. In a democratic society, we should all be equal before the law.

To challenge this discrimination, eight British couples - four gay and four heterosexual - filed a joint legal application to the European Court of Human Rights on 2 February, seeking to overturn the twin bans on gay civil marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships.

We are confident that the European Court will eventually rule in our favour. But we’d much prefer the government to bring forward legislation of its own free will, to put right an obvious inequality.

The British people are ready for change, with a clear majority in favour of allowing same-sex partners to marry. A Populus poll for the Times newspaper in June 2009 found that 61% of the public believe that: “Gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just to have civil partnerships.” Only 33% disagreed.

The deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and London Mayor Boris Johnson back marriage equality, as do the leaders of Labour and the Greens, respectively Ed Miliband and Caroline Lucas. Only David Cameron is holding out against same-sex marriage rights. What is he afraid of?

DOJ comes out swinging against DOMA

Lisa Keen -

The Department of Justice on July 1 recommended a federal appeals court in California dismiss a motion promoted by the House of Representatives to dismiss a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The argument came Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management, a case filed by Lambda Legal Defense in which the DOJ initially tried to dismiss the case itself.
Williams Institute Legal Director Jenny Pizer, a former Lambda attorney, noted that, “while this step is fully consistent with the position taken back in February, it was not at all assumed that the Administration would participate actively in the pending DOMA cases.”
Attorney General Eric Holder, on February 23, sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, alerting him that the administration considers Section 3 of DOMA to be unconstitutional. Section 3 states that the federal government will not, for any federal purposes, recognize any same-sex marriage. Holder’s letter said the administration would not defend it beyond the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. (The First Circuit, noted Holder, has said that laws treating people differently on the basis of sexual orientation should be examined using the lowest level of judicial scrutiny—rational basis—under which almost any reason can pass muster.)
Holder’s letter said the administration believes laws disfavoring persons based on sexual orientation should have to pass the most stringent judicial review—heightened scrutiny. And it said the administration would argue so in two cases challenging DOMA in the 2nd Circuit.
The Golinski case is in the 9th Circuit. And though the DOJ acknowledges that the 9th Circuit, like the First, has previously held that rational basis review is appropriate for sexual orientation, “we respectfully submit that this decision no longer withstands scrutiny.”
To justify its argument, the DOJ notes that, in 2003 with Lawrence v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws prohibiting private consensual sex between same-sex partners. And it says “gay and lesbian individuals” fit the bill as a long-oppressed minority—or suspect class. It has been frequently targeted by discrimination, it is a class with limited political power, and it is a class defined by an immutable trait that bears no relationship to the individuals’ ability to contribute to and participate in society.
The brief argues that there is no justification for DOMA’s treating same-sex couples differently and that the record surrounding the law “evidences the kind of animus and stereotype-based type thinking that the Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against.”
“The Obama Administration is putting very welcome additional flesh on the important bones of Attorney General Holder’s February letter to John Boehner explaining why the Administration won’t defend DOMA any longer.”
Signing the July 1 DOJ brief were Michael Hertz, a deputy assistant attorney general; Melinda Haag, a U.S. attorney; and Arthur Goldberg, assistant branch director.
Pizer said the Hertz brief “gives a detailed and immensely persuasive examination of why antigay laws should be subjected to rigorous constitutional review, including with a very substantial documenting of the systematic mistreatment of gay people by government, the religious and other legally improper reasons for that mistreatment, and further reinforcement of the point that the needs of children are served by equal treatment of all married parents, rather than federal discrimination against some of them.”
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said the brief “represents real leadership from the Obama administration and further hastens the day in which we will leave this odious law in the dustbin of history.”
The brief, which typically takes weeks, if not months, to complete, was filed as President Obama was coming under increasing pressure from the LGBT community and the media to speak out in favor of same-sex marriages and marriage equality laws.
In Golinski v. OPM, an employee of the 9th Circuit federal appeals court, is suing to obtain health coverage for her spouse. The federal court provides such benefits to the spouses of straight employees and was prepared to offer them to Golinski. But the Office of Personnel Management, headed by openly gay appointee John Berry, instructed the court’s insurance company, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, to deny the claim, citing DOMA.
DOMA, enacted in 1996, prohibits any federal entity from recognizing a marriage license granted to a same-sex couple.
In March, a federal district court judge granted the DOJ’s initial request that Golinski’s lawsuit be dismissed, agreeing that OPM had a duty to enforce DOMA that trumped the 9th Circuit’s agreement to provide benefits to Golinski.
Lambda has filed an amended complaint and the DOJ brief was submitted to that pending litigation in the U.S. District Court for Northern California. The House’s Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) has filed a motion to intervene in the Golinski case to defend DOMA.

Cross torn from 'gay-dar' billboard

Gay-dar billboard

SIGN OF THE TIMES: Vandals have ripped a cross from a controversial billboard outside St Matthew in the City Church in what is said to be a deliberate act of sabotage.
Whoever stole central Auckland's "gay-dar" is in for some disappointing news. A new one should be re-appearing any minute now.
On Saturday someone ripped a cross from the billboard outside St Matthew in the City.
The church's latest billboard depicts a "gay-dar" showing a spectrum from gay to straight. The cross acted as a gauge.
The church is known for stirring debate and hopes the sign will highlight discrimination in the Anglican Church against members of the gay and lesbian community.
A caption at the bottom of the billboard states: "As used by the Anglican Church to assess potential priests."
New Zealand Anglican bishops refuse to consider any candidate for ordination who is gay or lesbian and in a committed relationship.
St Matthew's is running an online petition asking the Anglican Church to stop this practice.
Church vicar Glynn Cardy said there was no way of telling if the missing gauge was an act of vandalism or the actions of a drunk who thought it was a fun thing to do.
He said the billboard has generated several phone calls and emails - both positive and negative.
The negative "tend to be quoting pieces of scripture of the dictionary" while the positive were "thank you" and "well done".
Cardy said he'd also heard from a scientist who said the billboard highlighted discrimination on the basis of genetics.
"I thought that was a very interesting take."
Bishop Philip Richardson of Taranaki said until the Anglican Church can agree whether homosexuality is a consequence of "wilful human sinfulness" or an "expression of God-given diversity", sexual orientation would continue to be a deciding factor in determining potential priests.
But Priest Associate of St Matthew's the Reverend Clay Nelson says he is amazed that with all the information and science available in this modern age that the church can still argue sexual orientation is a matter of wilfulness.

Monday, July 4, 2011

More Perfect Unions (NYT editorial)


In 44 states, the future of gay marriage still depends on legislatures, governors and voters — and eventually, perhaps, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. But in New York, as in five states before it, gay marriage’s future is in the hands of gay couples themselves. 

Over the decades ahead, their choices will gradually transform gay marriage from an idea into a culture: they’ll determine the social expectations associated with gay wedlock, the gay marriage and divorce rates, the differences and similarities between gay and lesbian unions, the way marriage interacts with gay parenting, and much more besides.
They’ll also help determine gay marriage’s impact on the broader culture of matrimony in America.
One possibility is that gay marriage will end up being a force for marital conservatism, among gays and straights alike. In this vision, the norms of heterosexual marriage will be the template for homosexual wedlock. Once equipped with marriage’s “entitlements and entanglements,” Jonathan Rauch predicted in his book “Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America,” “same-sex relationships will continue to move toward both durability and exclusivity.” At the same time, the example of gay couples taking vows will strengthen “marriage’s status as the gold standard for committed relationships.”
At the other end of the spectrum from Rauch’s gay conservatism are the liberationists, who hope that gay marriage will help knock marriage off its cultural pedestal altogether. To liberationists, a gay rights movement that ends up reaffirming a “gold standard” for relationships will have failed in its deeper mission — which Columbia law professor Katherine M. Franke recently summarized in a Times Op-Ed article as the quest for “greater freedom than can be found in the one-size-fits-all rules of marriage.”
That’s the kind of argument that makes social conservatives worry about polygamy (and worse). But liberationism has been gradually marginalized in the gay community over the last two decades, and gay conservatism seems to have largely carried the day. The desire to be included in an existing institution has proved stronger than the desire to eliminate every institutional constraint.
Still, there’s a third vision that’s worth pondering — neither conservative nor liberationist, but a little bit of both. This vision embraces the institution of marriage, rather than seeking to overthrow it. But it also hints that the example of same-sex unions might partially transform marriage from within, creating greater institutional flexibility — particularly sexual flexibility — for straight and gay spouses alike.
This idea is most prominently associated with Dan Savage, the prolific author, activist and sex columnist who was profiled in Sunday’s Times Magazine. Savage is strongly pro-marriage, but he thinks the institution is weighed down by unrealistic cultural expectations about monogamy. Better, he suggests, to define marriage simply as a pact of mutual love and care, and leave all the other rules to be negotiated depending on the couple.
In “The Commitment,” his memoir about wedding his longtime boyfriend, Savage described the way his own union has successfully made room for occasional infidelity. “Far from undermining the stable home we’ve built for our child,” he writes, “the controlled way in which we manage our desire for outside sexual contact has made our home more stable.”
The trouble is that straight culture already experimented with exactly this kind of model, with disastrous results.
Forty years ago, Savage’s perspective temporarily took upper-middle-class America by storm. In the mid-1970s, only 51 percent of well-educated Americans agreed that adultery was always wrong. But far from being strengthened by this outbreak of realism, their marriages went on to dissolve in record numbers.
This trend eventually reversed itself. Heterosexual marriage has had a tough few decades, but its one success story is the declining divorce rate among the upper middle class. This decline, tellingly, has gone hand in hand with steadily rising disapproval of adultery.
There’s a lesson here. Institutions tend to be strongest when they make significant moral demands, and weaker when they pre-emptively accommodate themselves to human nature.
Critics of gay marriage see this as one of the great dangers in severing the link between marriage and the two realities — gender difference and procreation — that it originally evolved to address. A successful marital culture depends not only on a general ideal of love and commitment, but on specific promises, exclusions and taboos. And the less specific and more inclusive an institution becomes, the more likely people are to approach it casually, if they enter it at all.
In courts and now legislatures, this has been a losing argument. But as gay New Yorkers ponder what they want their marriages to mean, they should consider one of its implications: The hardest promises to keep are often the ones that keep people together.

Gay soldiers beaten in possible hate crime

A new (limited) line in the sand for Equal Protection analysis

By Nan Hunter -

The United States Department of Justice is now on record before the federal courts as supporting heightened scrutiny for sexual orientation classifications, at least in civilian contexts, and as seeking the invalidation of laws that bar legal recognition of same-sex marriages.  In In re Golinski, the Department filed In its first merits brief since Attorney General Holder issued a letter announcing that DoJ would no longer defend the constitutionality of DoMA. Although the brief does not go as far as I have stated in the first sentence, it is unlikely that a distinction could be drawn that would not extend its position to all civil law and to recognition of a marriage that was validly performed under state law.
The brief tracks the analysis of the Holder letter, but, because of the litigation context, it ratchets up the analysis from an explanation of why DoMA is too flawed to be defended to an argument that DoMA is unconstitutional and should be stricken. It's a subtle difference, but it gives the brief considerably more rhetorical firepower than the letter. Reading it drove home the point to me that this endorsement of heightened scrutiny is what the federal government will bring to every sexual orientation analysis for at least the next two, and hopefully six, years.
As the Veep would say, this is a big f**king deal. And although a Republican administration could and likely would reverse this position, that step would be seen as an extreme position. Boring as it might sound, the gay equality argument really has now become the new normal.
There is a but in this welcome development, though, and it's a big one. The DoJ argument is contingent on the court adopting a higher standard of review (DoJ takes no position on strict v. intermediate scrutiny - see fn. 13) than the rational basis standard. And rational basis is the standard that most courts have used to assess sexual orientation classifications (with differing results). DoJ essentially concedes that DoMA is constitutional under rational basis review. Footnote 14, page 18 reads (emphasis added):
Though the government believes that heightened scrutiny is the appropriate standard of review for Section 3 of DOMA, if this Court holds that rational basis is the appropriate standard, as the government has previously stated, a reasonable argument for the constitutionality of DOMA Section 3 can be made under that permissive standard.
 This dance-on-the-edge-of-concession language allows the Administration not to have to explicitly retract the arguments it made prior to the Holder letter, when it asserted that rational basis was the correct standard and that DoMA was constitutional.
 Golinski now has joined Gill v. OPM as a case to watch: the District Court has before it a brief filed by lawyers hired by House Republicans arguing that DoMA should be judged under the rational basis standard and upheld; the brief filed by the United States arguing that "Section 3 of DOMA fails heightened scrutiny;" and plaintiff's brief, arguing that DoMA is unconstitutional under either standard.

for more from Nan visit Hunter for Justice.

Rodney Croome on the history of freedom to marry in Australia

By Rodney Croome -

‘True and good citizens’

On Friday 13 August 2004, in an unusually emotional debate punctuated by tears and rage, the Australian Senate passed a Howard government amendment to the Marriage Act 1961, defining matrimony as the exclusive union between one man and one woman for life.
That had been the definition ascribed to marriage by the courts for over a century, one that lawmakers felt too obvious to declare in statute. But in 2003, Canadian provinces, starting with Ontario, began solemnising same-sex marriages. Because there is no residency requirement for marriage in Canada, a stream of Australian same-sex couples flowed across the Pacific to wed, only to have their marital rights stripped the moment they walked back through Australian Customs.
At the beginning of 2004, two such couples sought a ruling from the Federal Court on whether Australia’s relatively liberal laws on foreign marriages extended to the recognition of their Canadian unions.
The court was never allowed to decide. Liberal senator Guy Barnett petitioned the prime minister to ‘protect marriage’ from being ‘demeaned and degraded’. The petition was successful, not least because 2004 was an election year in both Australia and the United States, and the politicisation of ‘gay marriage’ welded wealthy and highly disciplined evangelical churches in marginal electorates to the conservative cause.
The government’s marriage amendment – declaring matrimony to be exclusively hetero-sexual, and limiting the powers of the courts to recognise overseas same-sex unions – was raced through parliament, prioritised over government anti-terror legislation. For good measure, the prime minister addressed a rowdy meeting in the Great Hall of Parliament House in defence of ‘traditional marriage’, during which homosexuals were condemned as ‘moral terrorists’. In her address to that anti-gay audience, shadow attorney-general Nicola Roxon declared Labor’s support for entrenching discrimination against gay relationships. She was given a standing ovation.1
The events of 2004 defined the debate on same-sex marriage. The major parties continue to heed anti-gay lobbyists and the mega-churches they purport to represent. Supporters of reform continue to make the case that equality and anti-discrimination are the primary principles at stake. The far more intense American debate on same-sex marriage inevitably influences and overshadows its Australian equivalent.
But there is another way of understanding the ban on same-sex marriage that puts the issue in a longer-term and thoroughly Australian context.
The Marriage Amendment Act 2004 didn’t only entrench discrimination. It was also an assault on the freedom of Australian citizens to marry the person of their choice. When we see the ban on same-sex marriage as a negation of the freedom to marry, it takes its place in a long list of similar restrictions imposed on Australians for over two hundred years. These restrictions clearly breached the human dignity of those concerned. But they had something more in common. They were imposed as part of great, flawed visions to reshape Australian society. Defiance of restrictions on the freedom to marry, and the eventual removal of these restrictions, has been pivotal in overturning the repressive ideologies imposed on ordinary Australians. Indeed, freedom to marry has helped define and propel some of the greatest emancipatory movements in our history, transforming not just the lives of those denied this freedom but the society eventually convinced to grant it.
‘She only married to be free’
For fifty years after 1788, the government decided who, how and when most Australians married. Convicts applied to the colonial government for permission to wed. In the eyes of the law, they had forfeited control over their own lives and were no longer full citizens. But, more than this, control over marriage was used by convict authorities for particular policy ends.
Australia’s first viceroy, Arthur Phillip, was one of the last of the eighteenth-century administrators who believed public policy could buttress the agrarian class system that industrialism was overwhelming. His vision of transforming British felons into a native Australian yeomanry hinged on rewarding male convicts who married by giving them free time and small parcels of land.2
Later governors like Darling and Arthur embraced those changes that Phillip hoped to halt. They sought to inculcate their charges with values of the new industrial middle class: hard work, self-control and a strictly gendered division of labour. The definition of a good husband shifted from ‘physically capable’ to ‘skilled and sober’, that of a wife from ‘chaste and virtuous’ to ‘useful and industrious’.3 Convicts who conformed were encouraged to marry. Those who resisted were forbidden to do so.4
To achieve their goals, Australia’s colonial authorities more closely regulated working-class marriages than ever before. In Australia – far more so than in Britain – the traditional roles played by extended family, established local communities and clergy in negotiating marriage were now assumed by the state.5
For the colonial authorities, romantic love, religious duty, personal financial security or the legitimisation of sex and children were not valid reasons for granting permission to marry. Pregnancy was rarely accepted as the basis for the marriage application of a female convict, although some women seeking permission proffered it as one.6 The imposition of political and ideological goals took precedence.
One constant of convict marriage policy was that the authorities considered matrimony the best way to control female convicts. But not all convict women saw it this way. Some used marriage to escape particular employers, others to find some level of financial independence.7 Many used wedlock to escape the convict system altogether, sometimes with the collusion of their male partner.8 Intent on exercising the freedom from convict discipline that marriage bestowed, Mary Furner explained, ‘I am kept in bondage … (until I marry); I shall then be enabled to become in a manner of speaking a free subject.’9 Penelope Burke was more succinct, stating to the authorities that she ‘only married to be free’.10 According to witnesses to the Bigge Commission into the efficacy of transportation, Burke was not alone. ‘Female convicts often married only to alter their civil status,’ Bigge reported, giving this his conditional approval as the lesser of two evils.11 Indeed, the more overbearingly marriage was regulated, the more opportunities it seemed to offer for the rarest commodity in convict Australia: personal autonomy.
For campaigners against convict transportation, freedom to marry was also important in their struggle against governmental intervention and for personal liberty. Modelling themselves on the American anti-slavery movement, they maintained that a society’s prosperity and stability depended on the right to make contracts – political, commercial and matrimonial – free of compulsion. At the rhetorical edge of this emancipatory theory was the fear and loathing anti-transportationists whipped up against homosexuality in Australia’s gaols. Free of official oversight and regulation, it was argued, men and women would follow their natural inclinations into happy, fruitful wedlock and away from sexual vice.
The principle of freedom to marry thus helped propel the anti-transportationists to victory, albeit on the back of homophobia. Colonial governments stepped back from their strict day-to-day supervision of marriage, as they did from the grand penological experiments to which control of marriage had been crucial.
Within marriage itself, tyranny took much longer to overturn. While the convict system had provided opportunities for some women to improve their legal status by marrying, married women were still not legally equal to their husbands. In the twentieth century, married women had to fight, again mostly with the authorities, to remove restrictions over abortion, contraception and divorce. For women seeking to improve their legal and social status, reform of laws about marriage and married life meant pushing back state intrusion, assuming greater control over their lives, asserting their equal citizenship and obtaining some degree of self-determination, freedom and choice.
But there was also another group of Australians for whom the right to marry freely was central to their subjugation, to their freedom and to their demands for respect.