Tag Archives: DOMA

Reaching A Critical Mass

28 Apr

As goes New York, so goes the nation?

Advocates for marriage equality suffered a devastating defeat in 2009, when efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in New York fell eight votes short in the Senate after receiving strong support in the state’s Assembly.

Many may recall Senator Diane Savino’s powerful and heart wrenching testimony in defense of gay marriage prior to the bill’s defeat, stating for all to hear that “we have nothing to fear from love and commitment.”

“If there’s anybody threatening the sanctity of marriage,” Savino said, “it comes from those who have the privilege and the right, and we have abused it for decades.”

A renewed fight to grant marriage equality has resurfaced in New York, stronger than ever. And this time, it may have larger ramifications for the country and the world.

“A win in New York will provide significant momentum for the movement nationally and, quite frankly, internationally,” says Brian Ellner of the Human Rights Campaign. “New York is very significant.”

Why has the landscape changed so drastically in less than two years?

This time, it’s personal.

The true-life stories of decent men and women who have suffered first-hand the inequality of being denied the right to marry the person they love has struck a chord with citizens both in New York and across the country, resulting in many to switch sides.

“That debate has been replicated hundreds and thousands of times over the Internet, emails and coffee klatches and over glasses of wine in New York’s suburbs that has rapidly changed – at an accelerated pace – public opinion.” says Bruce Gyrory, a political science professor at the University of Albany.

Even populations traditionally seen as reliably conservative, such as Catholics, have seen rising support for marriage equality.

Support for marriage has dramatically increased in New York, reaching as high as 58% in a recent poll. “I think at the point you cross 60 percent and approach 2:1 levels of support, the opposition loses its critical mass,” says Gyory.

And as overwhelming support among younger generations continues to make its mark, the realization that this fight is close to a tipping point has begun to dawn.

Law firm King & Spalding, who signed on defend the now defenseless DOMA on behalf of House Republicans, dropped a bomb earlier this week when it abruptly withdrew from the case. Reports of internal conflict and “mayhem” were rampant. “Management was divided, people were threatening to quit,” said one source.

Prior to King & Spalding’s exit, the response from the LGBT community had been strong and forceful. And while DOMA has already recruited fresh defenders in the wake of its latest setback, don’t expect public support to be on their side anymore.

In its latest episode, “Glee” reached new heights of fabulous when its cast belted out Lady Gaga’s gay pride anthem “Born This Way.” It depicted a high school coming together in a defining moment of unity.

Having already called the show a “disgusting gay teen sex romp”, Dan Gainor, a conservative media critic, was less than pleased, panning the show’s creator Ryan Murphy and calling the episode his “latest depraved initiative to promote his gay agenda.”

“This is clearly Ryay Murphy’s vision of what growing up should be, not most of America’s. It’s a high school most parents would not want to send their kids to.”

Hate to break it to you, Mr. Gainor, but you’re dead wrong. Your words have lost their power to persuade. Your hateful rhetoric no longer has a place in a country that is turning increasingly towards love and fairness.

You’re history.

More and More Support Equality

18 Mar

Spring is in the air! The grass is getting greener, the birds are chirping, trees are coming back to life and flowers are blooming! There’s something else in the air, too. Something new. What is that?

Oh yeah, it’s the majority of Americans who now support marriage equality.

For the first time in a decade of polling by ABC News and The Washington Post, 53% of Americans today support same-sex marriage. That’s up from 32% in 2004, and represents a noteworthy milestone in the struggle for equality.

Matt Yglesias from Think Progress observes:

“People under 40 are for equality, those over 50 are generally against, with the fortysomething’s closely aligned. As I said yesterday, this is one of the issues the right will have to moderate on to improve its disastrous standing with younger voters. But I think the main practical impact here is that now any federal judges with pro-equality convictions can rest assured that pro-equality decisions will be acceptable to public opinion and not lead you to get immediately abandoned by every elected official in sight. And by 2016, the kind of equivocation on the subject that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton engaged in will clearly be unacceptable to an equality-minded Democratic primary electorate.”

This news comes after word that some top Democrats have been whispering in Obama’s ear that the GOP may be ready to support increased gay rights.

Following a successful rejection of DADT last December, Democrats earlier this week stepped up their efforts to repeal DOMA with the Respect for Marriage Act. Though passage is unlikely, as more and more Americans come to oppose DOMA and support equality, the political cost for supporting the LGBT community now appears substantially less hostile.

Additionally, Barbara Boxer and Anthony Weiner have introduced the Equal Access to COBRA Act in their respective chambers, which if successful would provide more government benefits for same-sex partners. “All of our families deserve equal access to health insurance. This bill would help ensure that domestic partners and their families will be able to keep their health coverage if their partner loses their job,” Boxer said.

As more and more lawmakers begin listening to the voices of the American people, many are attempting to re-frame the gay marriage argument to spark new conversations and broaden support:

“Gay and lesbian couples may seem different from straight couples, but we all share similar values — like the importance of family and helping out our neighbors; worries — like making ends meet or the possibility of losing a job; and hopes and dreams — like finding that special someone to grow old with, and standing in front of friends and family to make a lifetime commitment.”

Gone are the days when gay men and women were ignored and brushed aside. More Americans than ever before are behind us, and with this historic moment in time comes greater responsibility. Now, more than ever, we must remain organized and focused with our sights set on an America that recognizes its gay population not as a minority subculture, but as equals.

Is the Generational Divide Growing or Narrowing?

15 Mar

James Richardson, who served as the Republican National Committee’s online communication manager during the 2008 election cycle, has a new job to add to his growing resume. Mississippi Governor and likely-presidential candidate Haley Barbour has recruited Richardson to serve as a communications advisor for his Political Action Committee.

Richardson, who has blogged for the right-leaning Red State blog and whose influence inside GOP has been well-regarded, is also a new-breed a political activists who tout the much-talked about generational divide in regards to gay rights.

Richardson once wrote an article on his blog titled ‘Two Daddies?”, a post in defense of gay adoption and marriage that has since been removed by Richards following his recent employment with Barbour but can still be found using Google’s Cache Pages. In it, Richardson asks, “Is the fight to preserve the traditional American family one to, as its proponents maintain, protect children, or is it means by which to silence the “radical gay agenda” in the United States through institutionalized shame?” He goes on to write,

“My support for gay adoption will surely be met with hostility and, no doubt, charges of party defection by many of my colleagues, but the Republican Party is at a defining crossroads. Now is not the time for an echo chamber. And homosexual demagoguery is not the answer to the Party’s woes, particularly when gay men and women represent the only demographic in which John McCain bested President Bush (27% to 19% based on exit polling).

…gay-hostile rhetoric no longer resonates in suburban areas with soccer moms, many of whom have gay friends or family members, and plays even worse with young voters, 61% of whom voted against stripping gay couples of the right to marry.

To my dissenters, let me be clear: I am not advocating a liberal brand of judicial activism. I maintain that judicial resolution to these matters, adoption and marriage in particularly, typically leads to protracted and bitter legal battles, but, what is perhaps equally as distressing is our collective failure as a Party and movement to hold a candid discussion on the emerging role of gays in society at large – not as outcastes, but as equals.”

This kind of conversation isn’t particularly new or alarming. Even younger conservatives are more open to expanding gay rights than their older counterparts, yet it’s this very growing demographic that continues to work for a close-minded generation staunchly opposed to gay rights. Top campaign advisors for John McCain and George W. Bush have gone on the record to support equality only after leaving their posts, encouraging their party to become more open and accepting. But for an older generation that continues to be stuck in the past, their primary concern appears to be related more towards leaving behind a legacy of bigotry rather than becoming part of a growing, inevitable trend.

A similar paradigm shift exists on the left, as President Obama continues to feel growing pressure from within his own party and staff to endorse marriage equality, an issue that Obama has flirted with but has yet to throw his support behind.

“I’d like to see the president and Attorney General Holder announce that they will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act and to agree with the judge’s findings in the Massachusetts court case,” said Steve Hildebrand, who served openly as Obama’s deputy campaign chairmen during the election. He made these remarks in July 2010 during an interview with The Advocate following an LGBT event where he publicly urged attendees, “Don’t hate Obama.”

“This is a guy who isn’t going to do things exactly the way you want him to do, but know that his heart is in the right place. He has his priorities, they’re in line with our priorities and he’s going to do them at his pace.

That at the end of this four-year period, and ideally an additional four years, I don’t think the gay community will be disappointed with the progress that we made under this president.

I think it’s very important that we keep pressure on the president, the White House, and the Administration, and on elected officials across the spectrum but to understand that President Obama is an incredibly important and good friend to the gay community in this country. He’s not our enemy, we shouldn’t treat him as if he were; we should keep our on eyes on who our real enemies are.”

As for the GOP, James Richardson sums up his message with this cautious warning: “Times are changing, and if the GOP isn’t willing to change with them, they can at least have a discussion on the matter. Silence is not golden.”

Sources:
For Younger Class Of Political Operatives, Gay Rights Issues Often Pit Them Against Their Candidates
Two Daddies?
Hildebrand to Obama: Don’t Defend DOMA

GOP: The Party of Wasteful Spending

10 Mar

Seeing how concerned the GOP has been in recent months about “reigning in spending”, “reducing the size of government”, and “putting Americans back to work”, it should come to the surprise of nobody that House Republicans will now divert precious time and resources to defend a currently defenseless DOMA.

President Obama and the Department of Justice last week determined that the Defense of Marriage Act was “unconstitutional”. Speaker Boehner on Wednesday said, “this action by the House will ensure that this law’s constitutionality is decided by the courts, rather than by the president unilaterally.”

That’s right, your tax dollars will now be used to help ensure your continued status as a second-class citizen. Cheers!

Why should we expect anything less? Republicans who proudly wave the banner of “small government” are more than willing to champion big government so long as it helps proscribe your behavior in the bedroom.

So, where are your tax dollars going? As House leadership continues to slash federal funding for public institutions such as NPR, Planned Parenthood, and the National Endowment for the Arts, the GOP is more than happy to throw your well-earned money toward reactionary political theater.

Mr. Boehner, where are the jobs?

Source:
House GOP moves to defend DOMA

The Times They Are A-Changin’

5 Mar

With coffee in hand, you turn on the news one morning to discover that the country you live in has resoundingly rejected your right to marry the person you love. It is a stunning coast-to-coast victory for anti-gay proponents, and a crippling defeat for equality and human decency.

The hangover of the 2004 election wasn’t limited to voters’ approval of George W. Bush’s two wars and failed economic policies, the GOP also pulled off a successful mobilizing campaign that saw eleven states approve constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Utah, and Oregon (yes, Oregon) all successfully coded discrimination into their state constitutions.

In 2006, following a sea of support in favor of Democrats in Congress, another seven states voted to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and my state of Virginia (also my first time in the voting booth) voted to oppress and deny the rights of friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors.

In the wake of 2004’s massacre, a 47% majority favored a federal ban on same-sex marriage and only 33% of Americans polled in a national Newsweek survey supported marriage rights. The anti-gay propaganda machine was in full force, capitalizing on existing homophobia and mobilizing a powerful army of gay rights opponents.

Fast-forward seven years. In a national survey released by Pew earlier this week, 45% of Americans support marriage equality for gay citizens, up from 42% in 2010 and 37% in 2009. Opposition remains at 46% (the narrowest margin in Pew history), down from 48% in 2010 and 54% in 2009. 51% of independents support marriage equality, up drastically from 37% in 2009. Broken down by geographic regions, the northeast and western United States remain decidedly more progressive than midwest and southern locations. Bolstered by these remarkable and undeniable trends, support for marriage equality is expected to eclipse opposition for the very first time within the year.

“The trends here show that opposition to gay marriage is becoming a less and less acceptable position through the public more generally. It is not merely the young who are shifting views. While individual states are certain to vary widely in the balance of public opinion, the national shift is so striking and so regular that it is hard to imagine this issue will remain in doubt for much longer,” writes Pollster.com co-developor Charles Franklin. “As a majority emerges in support of gay marriage, the political issue will be state by state repeal of the various “defense of marriage” amendments and referenda that passed in 2004-2006.”

Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa, New Jersey, Illinois, Hawaii, and the Distrcit of Columbia today recognize either gay marriage or civil unions, and a number of states are currently in the middle of legislative processes to legalize equality (Maryland in particular is one house vote and one governor’s signature away from legalizing marriage). Numbers genius Nate Silver estimates that ten more states will join the party by 2013, and a new report from the Human Rights Campaign lists seventeen states where gay marriage has majority support, compared to zero states in 2004. Conservative figures including Cindy McCain, former first daughter Barbara Bush, and Dick Cheney have come out in support of marriage equality, too.

Barring a sweeping Supreme Court decision before then, 2012 may very well be the year when voters for the very first time come out strong in support of equality. Eight years after millions of Americans voted to strip their fellow citizens of basic human rights, voices of reason have spread like wildfire. This trend is unmistakable and it is unlikely to fade. It’s a new dawn in America, and blue skies are ahead.

“I think it’s clear that something like same-sex marriage – indeed, almost exactly what we would envision by that – is going to become normalized, legalized, and recognized in the culture. It’s time for Christians to start thinking about how we’re going to deal with that,” – Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

♥ =

Sources:
Fewer Are Angry at Government, But Discontent Remains High
Support for Gay Marriage Continues to Increase
Conservative gay marriage opponents irrelevant

Clarity in the Midst of Noise

25 Feb

Following Obama’s historic shift on DOMA earlier this week, signaling a profound opportunity on the horizon, the gay rights movement has entered into a new era. And while the future may appear bright, make no mistake: the road ahead will be a challenge. But I for one am proud and excited to be living in such important and changing times. The struggle is as emboldening as it is frustrating, but brighter days are undoubtedly ahead.

I have been particularly moved by the role new media has played in changing the hearts and minds of many. The tragic effects of bullying have been witnessed across the country in acts of senseless and heartbreaking violence. The Trevor Project and NOH8 campaigns have lovingly opened their arms in support of those struggling with sexuality and thoughts of suicide. Their YouTube campaigns have attracted public figures from President Obama to Cindy McCain, all spreading a common message of love and hope.

CJ was a talented and popular athlete when he became the victim of relentless bullying. Despite being brought to the school’s attention, no action was taken against those harassing CJ, ultimately forcing him to move schools. Not one to give up easily, CJ persisted and fought until those accountable were held responsible. His story is encouraging and offers a happy ending we don’t often hear about.

The stories of Tyler Clementi are tragic and make little sense. We hear it in politicians who speak of the “abnormality” and “perversion” of homosexuality and in the religious leaders who condemn love from the pulpit. It is in the very rhetoric that demonizes and fuels bigotry. The night is always darkest before the dawn, and the rise of social media has given the silent a voice and moment of clarity in the midst of noise and aimless debate. The stories of those who have lived to see a better day are a beacon of promise, and no amount of blind ignorance can extinguish that.

Be proud, be compassionate, stand strong, keep pushing on, and laugh often.

Obama: DOMA is Unconstitutional

23 Feb

Following the institutional discrimination that Congress enacted under the Clinton administration in the 1990s, George W. Bush landed a consecutive and debilitating blow against the LGBT community during his 8 long, painful years in office, halting any hopes of progress and equality.

Barack Obama, whose campaign cornered the ‘change’ market, offered a ray of hope. Despite Obama’s “evolving” stance on gay marriage and accusations that he has dragged his feet in regards to a community who helped elect him President, real progress has been made. It may not have happened overnight, and there have been plenty of roadblocks along the way. Yet the momentum has irreversibly shifted. Under Obama, hospital visitation rights have been extended to same sex couples, his administration has appointed a record number of LGBT White House staffers, and in December, against all odds and in the eleventh hour, the Senate finally repealed the appalling Don’t Ask Don’t Tell legislation. The media blitz that resulted from this momentous occasion was followed by a celebratory signing ceremony, where an emotional Obama noted, “this is a good day.” He went on to praise the LGBT community, saying “it is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed.”

Though further LGBT progress was left in doubt after Republicans took control of the House in November elections, President Obama and his administration today said they will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act banning the federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Attorney General Eric Holder, whose Department of Justice has defended the legislation during its 15-year lifespan, wrote in a letter to Speaker Boehner that “after careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a heightened standard of scrutiny. The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional… I concur in this determination.”

Holder goes on to say, “while sexual orientation carries no visible badge, a growing scientific consensus accepts that sexual orientation is a characteristic that is immutable… it is undoubtedly unfair to require sexual orientation to be hidden from view to avoid discrimination.

Finally, there is a growing acknowledgment that sexual orientation “bears no relation to ability to perform or contribute to society. Recent evolutions in legislation… and in social science regarding sexual orientation all make clear that sexual orientation is not a characteristic that generally bears on legitimate policy objectives.”

The Defense of Marriage Act will remain law “unless and until Congress repeals Section 3 or the judicial branch renders a definitive verdict against the law’s constitutionality… This is the rare case where the proper course is to forgo the defense of this statute.

…The Supreme Court has ruled that laws criminalizing homosexual conduct are unconstitutional.”

The law has lost its biggest defender in court, and the clock is ticking. This is a historic shift, and it now stands as the most profound gay rights victory under the Obama administration. By deeming the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional, the President of the United States has laid the groundwork for all discrimination based on sexual orientation to one day fall (sooner rather than later, we hope).

“Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is a good day.

Read Eric Holder’s full letter here.

Related articles:
Fighting Prop 8: Lawyers Ask Court To Lift Stay On Gay Marriage Ban
Gay Rights Advocates Celebrate Obama’s DOMA Turnaround
Obama makes historic shift on gay rights