Posts Tagged ‘Freedom to Marry’

Marriage equality advocates hail Prop 8 court ruling

Posted on: February 8th, 2012 by Todd Heywood 1 Comment

While opponents of marriage equality were expressing outrage Tuesday over the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that California’s Proposition 8 — which eliminated marriage for same-sex couples — was unconstitutional, marriage equality supporters across the country exhibited excitement and joy over the decision.

Going forward, the 2-1 decision could be appealed to the full 9th Circuit Appeals Court, or it could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Though the Prop 8 ruling was too narrow to address the broader issue of same-sex marriage, it could have an impact on states that have already passed or are likely to pass marriage equality legislation and are then threatened with a ballot measure to overturn the law.

Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told The American Independent that the ruling set a precedent for states that extend the right to marry to gay and lesbian couples: They can’t turn around and take that right away.

“Before California, no state has ever taken away the existing right to marry,” he said. “The fact that they did it was so overtly discriminatory.”

Both Maryland and Washington state are anticipated to pass marriage equality legislation this year (in Washington a same-sex marriage bill has advanced in both chambers), but in both cases, there would be opportunity for anti-gay groups to launch a voter referendum to overturn the legislation. Last year, Maryland Del. Emmett C. Burns, Jr. (D-Baltimore told The American Independent that he and other religious leaders had already begun discussing a voter referendum campaign – before this year’s legislation had even been introduced. In Maryland the voter referendum process is particularly easy: Only 3 percent of the votes cast for governor in the preceding gubernatorial election are needed to get a referendum on the ballot.

“[The ruling] may neutralize the threat of a right being taken away,” Minter said. “It’s very easy for voters to put a measure on the ballot and subject it to a popular vote, but this is a terrible threat to the equality of gay people. This hangs over our heads in a very looming way.

“There is damage caused by having human rights put up for a vote,” he continued. “It’s very traumatizing even for people who don’t want to get married.”

Other groups in support of marriage equality hailed the decision.

Evan Wolfson from Freedom to Marry issued this statement:

Today’s powerful court ruling striking down the infamous Prop 8 affirms basic American values and helps tear down a discriminatory barrier to marriage that benefits no one while making it harder for people to take care of their loved ones. The Ninth Circuit rightly held that a state simply may not take a group of people and shove them outside the law, least of all when it comes to something as important as the commitment and security of marriage. We salute the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which brought this challenge to Prop 8.

This monumental appellate decision restores California to the growing list of states and countries that have ended exclusion from marriage, and will further accelerate the surging nationwide majority for marriage. As this and other important challenges to marriage discrimination move through the courts around the country, Freedom to Marry calls on all Americans to join us in ensuring that together we make as strong a case in the court of public opinion as our legal advocates are making in the courts of law. By growing the majority for marriage, winning more states, and tackling federal discrimination – Freedom to Marry’s ‘Roadmap to Victory’ – we maximize our chances of winning when one case or another finally reaches the U.S. Supreme Court.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese issued the following media statement:

We thank the courageous plaintiff couples, the American Foundation for Equal Rights, and attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies for their years of work leading to today’s decision. This is not the end of the road, for this case or for the larger struggle for marriage equality. We must all continue our work – in courthouses and statehouses, in church pews and living rooms – until equality is reality for LGBT people and our families everywhere.

Meanwhile, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey had this to say about the ruling:

The court’s ruling affirms what millions of people all across the country already know — loving, committed same-sex couples and their families should be able to share in the celebration and responsibilities of marriage. People from every background and every circumstance get this; they understand because being able to marry the one you love and care for your family are shared values that strike at the very core of who we are as a people. Denying loving couples and their families something so fundamental is to deny our common humanity. Congratulations to the plaintiffs and their families. This is a great day for them, for all Californians, and for all Americans.

Other national groups that issued statements on the ruling include the Service Members Legal Defense Network, and The Family Equality Council.

In Michigan, the American Civil Liberties Union called the ruling a “Valentine’s Day gift,” in a blog.

In a departure from praising the ruling, the American Family Association of Michigan, through its president (and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate) Gary Glenn, issued a statement attacking the ruling.

The ruling by the most overturned, left-wing appeals court in America was boringly predictable. Arrogant as it is, it no longer carries any shock value that two activist elitist federal judges presumed themselves more intelligent and enlightened than the millions of California voters who voted to constitutionally protect one-man, one-woman marriage from being radically redefined.

Still, it’s just a pit stop on the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Once there, not only California’s but Michigan’s and twenty-eight other states’ Marriage Protection Amendments will be on the line, all approved by voters with an average 68 percent voting in favor.

Hopefully, Justice Scalia will be proven wrong when he predicted in Lawrence v. Texas a decade ago that the Supreme Court was laying the groundwork to declare a Constitutional “right” to so-called homosexual “marriage” in all 50 states, followed by polygamy and whatever follows that once the definition of marriage is opened up to the demands of the latest special interest group’s public pressure tactics. Hopefully, at least five members of the U.S. Supreme Court will show more judicial restraint and more respect for the overwhelming will of the people evidenced in statewide ballot votes in Michigan and California and 28 other states.

The only certain way to protect and preserve one-man, one-woman marriage anywhere in America will be for Congress to use its Constitutional authority to declare that federal judges no longer have jurisdiction to rule on issues involving the definition of marriage, or for Congress and 37 state legislatures to approve a Marriage Protection Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Finally, Equality Michigan Executive Director Denise Brogan-Kator issued this statement on the ruling, addressing issues beyond marriage that are particularly important to LGBT Americans:

We look forward to continued movement toward the day when all people enjoy the fundamental freedom to marry. Unfortunately, gay residents of Michigan are still denied the opportunity to marry the person they love. It’s one of the many ways that our state has failed our gay and transgender residents. It’s still legal to fire an employee or evict someone from their home because of sexual orientation or gender identity, and thousands of gay and transgender Michiganders struggle to achieve basic economic security for themselves and their families.

Contributed reporting by Sofia Resnick

Photo: New Yorkers celebrate the law legalizing gay marriage in June 2011 (source: Flickr/Zach Roberts).  

LGBT activists in Colorado applaud Prop 8 court ruling

Posted on: February 7th, 2012 by The American Independent 1 Comment

Today the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals announced it is upholding an earlier court ruling that California’s Proposition 8 voter-passed ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The decision sets the stage for another appeal, likely to the U.S. Supreme Court, and drew applause from gay-rights advocates buoyed by another clear legal victory. Openly gay Colorado Congressman Jared Polis declared the ruling a win for American notions of justice and equality. (more…)

National Organization for Marriage’s 2010 financial records raise questions

Posted on: December 12th, 2011 by Sofia Resnick No Comments

National for Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown speaks to a crowd during NOM’s 2010 Summer for Marriage Tour, July 27, 2010 (Photo: Flickr/Lost Albatross).

In 2010, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a tax-exempt nonprofit trying to thwart the legalization of same-sex marriage throughout the U.S., reported the highest individual donations it has received since its inception in 2007, according to NOM’s most recent income disclosures to the Internal Revenue Service, recently obtained by The American Independent. Per NOM’s numbers, just two individuals contributed more than $6 million to the organization’s political arm – accounting for about two-thirds of NOM’s 2010 revenue, while single donations below $5,000 covered only 8 percent of reported revenue. (more…)

Christian Family Coalition attacks Ros-Lehtinen for marriage equality support

Posted on: October 5th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

Add the Christian Family Coalition to the list of organizations attacking Miami GOP Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for her decision to support the Respect for Marriage Act.

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NOM goes after GOP’s Ros-Lehtinen for supporting repeal of DOMA

Posted on: September 28th, 2011 by Sofia Resnick No Comments

In its latest appeal for donations, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is calling on supporters to fund a new campaign that targets U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) for her recent decision to co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  (more…)

Ros-Lehtinen is first Republican to endorse DOMA repeal

Posted on: September 23rd, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R- Miami, has become the first member of the GOP to co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

Respect for Marriage was filed by Rep. Jerald Nadler, D-N.Y., and has 124 co-sponors, until now all Democrats.

The Miami Herald reports today that Freedom to Marry and the Log Cabin Republicans announced Ros-Lehtinen’s support for the bill. According to the Herald:

Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen said, “I’m pleased to join the Log Cabin Republicans in our fight for marriage equality. I co-sponsored the repeal of DOMA because I firmly believe that equality is enshrined in our constitution and in our great democracy.”

Ros-Lehtinen is also a member of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, created last week ”to examine methods by which the United States can maintain global leadership in the response to the epidemic in the U.S. and around the world.” Ros-Lehtinen, the only Florida Republican in the HIV/AIDS Caucus, joins all of Florida’s congressional Democrats: Corrine Brown, Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson.

Florida has some of the highest rates of HIV and AIDS reported cases in the United States and currently has the longest AIDS Drug Assistance Program waiting list in the country.

The AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (known as ADAP) provide medications for the treatment of HIV and AIDS for people who cannot afford to pay because they are unemployed, uninsured or underinsured. It has been in a funding crisis since last year.

The National Alliance of States and Territorial AIDS Directors’ latest ADAP Watch (.pdf) indicates that, as of Thursday, at least 8,800 people in 10 states were on AIDS Drug Assistance Program waiting list. With almost 4,100 people, Florida has 47 percent of the people on a Drug Assistance Program waiting list in the U.S.

Florida’s Bureau of HIV/AIDS reported that through 2010, the total number of people living with HIV and AIDS in the state increased to about 98,000. The report also shows that HIV incidence was by far highest among black men who have sex with men. The state Department of Health defines HIV incidence as the “number or proportion of new HIV infections within a specific population during a defined time period”

In 2008, Florida ranked third among states in the number of reported AIDS cases and third among 38 states that reported HIV cases.

Across the nation, state Republicans increasingly backing gay rights

Posted on: June 16th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

In New York state, the legislature is poised to pass same-sex marriage and would become the third state to do so legislatively, following Vermont and New Hampshire. Republican donors are backing the effort, and its up to GOP legislators to pass the bill; several Republicans have come out in support, though the vote remains close. Nationally, Republican support for gay marriage has been on the rise, made clear this year as various states grapple with efforts to ban gay marriage while others move to legalize it. In several states, GOP leaders’ votes made the difference on key LGBT equality measures.

In Iowa, former state Sen. Jeff Angelo launched Iowa Republicans for Freedom, a campaign for conservatives and Republicans that support same-sex marriage. Angelo was a leader in attempts to ban gay marriage in Iowa when he was in the Iowa Senate, but has done an about-face on the issue.

“If you’re going to have meaningful relationships with friends or families that are gay and you love them and they’re part of your church and your neighborhood and where you work, you begin to see how hurtful the rhetoric is in this debate towards them,” Angelo said at a press conference in early June. “It becomes harder and harder to convince yourself to say, ‘I love you, but I don’t like the lifestyle you’ve chosen’ and not understand that that’s hurtful.”

The group’s mission statement says that civil marriage should be afforded to same-sex couples while religious institutions should not be forced to compromise their doctrines.

Iowa Republicans for Freedom supports individual liberty for same-sex couples seeking civil marriage recognition from our government,” the group says. “Religious organizations have, and should continue to have, the freedom to choose how they define marriage within their congregations, but we believe the government should not deny the freedom of civil marriage to any couple based on gender.”

Iowa allows same-sex couples to marry, but efforts continue in the state to roll back gay marriage.

In Minnesota, religious conservatives were successful in passing an anti-gay amendment onto the 2012 ballot, but their efforts were met with opposition from some Republicans.Republican Rep. John Kriesel, an Iraq War vet who was injured in the line of duty, became an outspoken opponent of the amendment.

“If this was 5, 6 years ago, I probably would have voted ‘yes.’ ‘Cause I didn’t think about it. I just thought about my family. I thought about what affects my wife and kids and nothing else,” Kriesel told fellow legislators. “Everything changed. I went to Iraq. I was in an incident. I nearly died. I remember laying there, looking down and seeing my legs mangled, and pretty much guaranteeing that I was done. I was a done deal. I thought that was where my life was going to end.

“It woke me up. It changed me,” Kriesel added. “Because of that, it’s made me think about this issue. And say, ‘You know what, what would I do without my wife?’ She makes me happy. Life is hard. We’re in a really tough time in our history. Happiness is so, so hard to find for people. So they find it, they find someone that makes them happy, and we want to take that person away. We want to say, ‘Oh no, you can be together, you can love that person, but you can’t marry them. You can’t marry them. That’s wrong.’”

Three other Republican legislators bucked the party and voted against the amendment in late-May.

While Minnesota ultimately passed the amendment onto the ballot, Wyoming Republicans were instrumental in defeating a proposed amendment in that state. Wyoming’s Legislature is one of the most Republican in the nation; the Senate has 26 Republicans and just 4 Democrats.

Republican state Sen. Cale Case testified at the Wyoming Legislature, saying, “Gays and lesbians live and work among us. They’re also soldiers in the military. They’ve been here and talked about their service in Iraq and now you’re going to deny them the benefits [of marriage of civil unions].”

He continued, “When you go home, you’re going to look people in the eye. You’re going to tell them you made them into second-class citizens today if you pass this. You can’t do that. We’re the Equality State.”

The effort to put the measure on the ballot failed by a vote of 16 to 14

Sean Eldridge, political director for Freedom to Marry, said these examples demonstrate that the issue isn’t confined to one party.

“I think we are clearly seeing a trend,” he told The American Independent. “Equality is not a Democratic value or a Republican value. It’s become an American value.”

He pointed to the current debate in New York state where several Republicans have changed their mind on the issue, and those legislators’ votes could decide the issue. The Senate needs 32 votes to pass the bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the Empire State, and because Sens. James Alesi and Roy McDonald announced they would vote for the bill, it’s just one vote shy of that 32-vote threshold. Several other Republicans are still undecided.

“We are seeing strong Republican support in New York,” Eldridge said, citing GOP activists, donors and former Republication National Committee chair Ken Mehlman throwing their support behind the gay marriage push. “New York is a really strong example and that bipartisan work is crucial.”

Support among Republicans for same-sex marriage seems to rise mainly from the state level; Eldridge noted that a bill to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act has not gotten any support from congressional Republicans.

“I think there are Republicans we can get in the long run,” he said. “There’s still work to be done, there are still elements within the Republican Party that are not in support.”

But the momentum within the party is with the side of equality.

He added, “We are at a real tipping point.”

IA: Gay-rights group to counter National Organization for Marriage rallies

Posted on: June 24th, 2010 by The American Independent No Comments

Freedom to Marry, a New York-based LGBT-rights organization, plans to hold rallies across the country to counter those planned by anti-gay marriage group National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

Earlier this week, NOM announced it would hold rallies in 22 cities this summer — including Des Moines and Sioux City — with the goal of building public opposition to same-sex marriage. Wednesday, Freedom to Marry announced that it would also hold rallies in those cities with the hope of “spreading the word across the country about the importance of ending exclusion from marriage.”

“As part of Freedom to Marry’s Summer for Marriage, we are working with our supporters, as well as local and state partners, to plan rallies and other events wherever NOM is planning to push discrimination and distort the truth about gay couples and their families,” the group said in an e-mail to the media. “In 17 states and the District of Columbia, we will share our stories and demonstrate how the denial of marriage harms same-sex couples and their families, while helping no one.”

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in Iowa since the Iowa Supreme Court ruled the state’s Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in April 2009. Since then, NOM has been active in Iowa politics –  donating nearly $100,000 to the failed attempt to elect a Republican in Iowa House District 90, launching a series of robocalls featuring the voice of U.S. Rep Steve King, and targeting 33 members of the Iowa House with an e-mail campaign in a failed attempt to convince them to allow a vote on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/JBrazito)