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182 posts from February 2011

February 28, 2011

Capehart: What's with African American opposition to gay marriage in Maryland?

Jonathan Capehart writes:

Now that the Maryland state Senate has passed a marriage equality bill, the action shifts to the House of Delegates where support for and against the measure is almost evenly split. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, African American churches and lawmakers are figuring prominently in the opposition. And they are doing so with outdated and backward arguments that put them in the role of latter-day George Wallaces blocking the doors of marriage to committed gay and lesbian couples.

Read the whole thing. Then notice the level of viciousness in many of the comments below Capehart's article.

Boehner: Congress will probably defend DOMA

Edge reports.

Update: Business Week provides good background on the Windsor case and what led President Obama and Attorney General Holder to change DOJ's position on DOMA.

Almeida: President Obama Strengthens ENDA by Rejecting DOMA

Tico Almeida writes at Bilerico:

Some advocates within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community have presented a false choice between advocating for marriage equality and the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would outlaw workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The truth is that the steps we take toward one goal also bring us closer to the other goal. Equality begets equality.

In fact, this week's much-celebrated announcement by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in the litigation challenging the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will likely bolster efforts to secure equal rights both in civil marriage and in employment. Because of President Obama's still-evolving position on marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples, we are one step closer to a federal ENDA statute that can survive an attack by conservatives who will surely challenge that statute's constitutionality in federal court sometime shortly after we have enacted ENDA into law.

For starters, the Obama Administration deserves credit for refusing to defend the constitutionality of the clearly discriminatory Section 3 of DOMA. According to Yale Law School professor Jack Balkin, the Obama Administration's new position likely increases the chances that at least some portions of DOMA will be struck down by the federal courts, including eventually the U.S. Supreme Court. Professor Balkin is right, and I would add that the legal briefs submitted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in the DOMA cases will also increase the long-term chances that LGBT victims of workplace discrimination and harassment will one day have the opportunity to hold accountable their discriminatory employers in federal court.

Pastor calls for a gay awakening in approach to LGBT

Check this out.

How the GLLU Made Nice With Some DC Activists

Gllu A.M. Bowen publishes the latest entry in a series at The New Gay on the history of the LGBT community's relationship with the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit of D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department.

Chapman: States should be allowed to disagree on gay marriage

Steve Chapman has this commentary in the Washington Examiner:

President Obama has been denounced by Republicans for asserting federal power at the expense of state sovereignty. But last week, he was denounced by Republicans for ... not asserting federal power at the expense of state sovereignty.

It happened after the Justice Department announced it would not litigate to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The president thinks one section of the law is unconstitutional -- a section that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

In practice, that means married homosexuals lack all sorts of privileges extended to married heterosexuals. They may not file their federal taxes jointly, claim various tax breaks, collect Social Security survivor benefits if their partners die, or take advantage of spousal benefits granted to military personnel and veterans.

Ozzie and Harry may be lawfully wedded in Iowa, but to the federal government they are the legal equivalent of Colin Powell and Charlie Sheen: holding nothing in common.

Obama would like to change that. If DOMA were to be struck down, the federal government would no longer insist that some marriages transacted under state laws are valid and some are not. It would tell states: You decide who can get married, and we'll abide by your judgment.

(Hat tip: Mitch Wood)

Using PrEP as a Prevention Tool for MSM

This just in from the DC Center:

On February 26th the Centers for Disease Control organized a meeting in Boston, the theme of which was "Moving forward with PrEP implementation".Meeting participants included researchers involved in the original iPrEX study and other ongoing HIV prevention studies, health care providers caring for men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM), state and local health department program directors, MSM community advocates, policy experts, and federal officials. A full article discussing the details of this meeting can be viewed by clicking here.

The U.S. Public Health Service is currently at work on guidelines for PrEP use among MSM. In the meantime, CDC has released interim guidance, as well as a fact sheet on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV Prevention (PDF).

DCTC Urges Mayor to Make the Right Choice for DOC Director

This just in from our friends in the DC Trans Coalition:


For Immediate Release
February 28, 2011
Contact: Rhodes Perry
(202) 403-7000 / Rhodes.perry@gmail.com

DCTC Urges Mayor to Make the Right Choice for DOC Director

GROUP CONCERNED WITH DOC’s Current Implementation of Trans Housing Policy


WASHINGTON, DC – On Monday, February 28th, the DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) sent a letter to Mayor Vincent Gray urging him to make the right choice for Director of the Department of Corrections (DOC). This issue is especially important to the group given their concerns about the DOC’s implementation of the “Gender Classification and Housing” program statement issued on February 20, 2009, and revised in July 2010[1]. This new housing policy was created with the DCTC’s guidance in response to a 2008 Office of Inspector’s General’s report alerting Mayor Adrian Fenty of the DOC’s failure to appropriately house transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming (trans) inmates, violating the DC Human Rights Act.[2]

“Last year we submitted testimony before the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary documenting Director Devon Brown’s recalcitrance in working with us to ensure appropriate implementation of the transgender classification and housing policy, which is designed to appropriately house trans inmates,” said Sadie-Ryanne Vashti, a DCTC organizer. “While we were successful in developing a new housing policy for trans inmates, we have strong concerns with how it is actually being implemented,” said Vashti.

As the Mayor continues his search for a new DOC Director, the group requests that he consider the following recommendations when evaluating possible candidates:

  • Community Accountability. Develop new oversight procedures that hold the DOC accountable to the public due to Director Brown’s failure to publicly address the concerns raised by trans advocates about the implementation of the new housing policy.

  • Honest Transparency. Provide all DOC information necessary for community advocates and Council Members to fully evaluate the policy’s implementation to date and to engage in dialogue with the DOC and the Attorney General on making any necessary improvements.

  • Enhanced Data Collection. Develop new data collection efforts to conclusively track the number of trans individuals who go through DOC’s intake procedures.

  • IG Investigation. Request the DC Inspector General to investigate the extent to which DOC is abiding by its transgender classification and housing policy.

  • Budget Request. Request budget resources and outline plans to implement and evaluate the transgender classification and housing policy. While this may seem like an unusual request, we are now convinced that unless the Council forces the DOC to act transparently and in good faith, it will be impossible to hold DOC accountable for its actions.

“Throughout our time working with Director Brown, we experienced several unfortunate situations when he and the executive branch more generally were openly belligerent regarding our concerns,” said Vashti. “Since we have no faith whatsoever that the interim director charged with implementing the transgender classification and housing policy has the skills and abilities to do so, we are eager to see a sign from Mayor Gray that rights based on gender identity and expression will be protected and aggressively enforced within the District’s jails,” said Vashti.

The group would like to see an appointee who has demonstrated leadership and creative problem solving skills when trying to meet the needs of vulnerable jail populations. Given the tremendous history of officially sanctioned oppression of trans people within correctional facilities, it is essential that the new appointee be someone with whom they can work in a professional and responsive manner. The group is confident that significant progress can be made to advance justice for trans people in the coming years, and they look to Mayor Gray to demonstrate sound leadership by appointing a new DOC Director sensitive to the needs of trans communities living in DC.

# # #


The DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) is a volunteer, grassroots community-based organization dedicated to fighting for human rights, dignity, and equal access for transsexual, transgender and gender-diverse people in the District of Columbia.

[1] Department of Corrections Program Statement 4020.3B re: Gender Classification and Housing. http://doc.dc.gov/doc/frames.asp?doc=/doc/lib/doc/program_statements/4000/PS_4020_3B_GenderClassificationandHousing070810.pdf

[2] Management Alert Report - Department of Corrections and Office of Human Rights - DOC Policy on Inmate Gender Identification May Violate District Regulations, 04/04/2008 http://oig.dc.gov/news/view2.asp?url=release08/MAR_standard_distribution_letter_transgender.pdf&mode=release&archived=0&month=00000&agency=29

More false reporting by right wing on Obama DOMA decision

Joe.My.God. shares the latest example of the anti-gay right's false reporting on last week's decision by the Obama Administration not to defend Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. This time it's Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council who falsely claims that Obama has said he won't enforce DOMA. Now Tony, you know that's not true. There you go again, violating the commandment against bearing false witness, just like your friend Maggie Gallagher.

And for the Right Wing Hysteria Watch, here's a fun quote from possible 2012 GOP presidential contender Hermain Cain:

I think it is a breach of presidential duty bordering on treason. The oath of office by the president says that he will protect, observe, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, which means all of its subsequent laws. The fact that he says that he has asked the Department of Justice not to enforce it, to me, is a breach duty as President of the United States.

Go back and read it, Mr. Cain. The AG specifically stated that DOMA will continue to be enforced. You are lying, Mr. Cain, and as Joe Jervis observed, you are making the baby Jesus cry.

DCRA to Enforce Human Rights Act Bathroom Policy

Bathroomaccessproject1 This just in from The DC Center:

DC Consumer and Regulatory Affairs announced that effective February 24th they will not require businesses that have single stall bathrooms to make those bathrooms gender-specific.

This addresses a long-standing conflict between the DC Municipal Regulations (which requires single stall bathrooms to be gender specific) and the Human Rights Law (which rquires single stall bathrooms to be gender neutral)

The DC Center has filed over 60 complaints with the Office of Human Rights against businesses that were non-compliant with the Human Rights Law. Many of these businesses had recently been inspected by DC Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and instructed to have gender-specific bathrooms.

DCRA has stated they will for the time being not enforce the Municipal Regulations and anticipate a pending amendment to the Municipal Regulations to bring them in allignment with the Human Rights Law.

To read the full statement from DCRA, follow the link below: http://tinyurl.com/bathroomaccess.

If you notice a business in DC that is non-compliant with the Human Rights Law which requires single stall bathrooms to be gender-neutral, please e-mail bathroomaccess@thedccenter.org

(Hat tip: David Mariner)

On Allen West keynoting DC GOP dinner

I missed it last week, but Tim Craig quoted my blog post from Feb. 22 on the DC GOP recruiting right-wing Republican House freshman Allen West as the keynoter for its March 31 Lincoln-Douglass Dinner. Notice the lack of any D.C. Republicans refuting my comments, particularly At-Large Special Election candidate Patrick Mara, who is a good deal more liberal than West. West will help them sell tickets and get publicity, as Craig notes. But votes? Fuggedaboudit.

Christian Broadcasters Urged to Fight 'Gay is the New Black' Agenda

More "gay vs. black" nonsense. I think the expression "gay is the new black" is asinine, but I don't know anyone who uses it, nor have I seen any LGBT advocacy based on it. The radical right loves knocking down straw men.

(Hat tip: Cathy Renna)

Cee Lo and Gwyneth in "Forget You"

This live performance of "Forget You" (the cleaned-up version) by Cee Lo Green and Gwyneth Paltrow at the Grammys two weeks ago had more energy than the entire Oscar broadcast last night. I love the sequins-and-feathers-and-Muppets visual theme.

(Hat tip: Beth Corbin)

Concerns over passage of marriage equality bill in MD house

Rod 2.0 reports that Maryland's marriage equality bill is not out of the woods. Opposition by the Catholic Church and resistance from African American and conservative Democratic delegates could derail the bill, which could receive a vote in the Maryland House next week.

Gay Panic Fading

Viewimage_story My column this week looks at the shifting political ground on marriage, and includes my debate with an anti-gay pastor in Maryland:

I never believed that Barack Obama was really opposed to marriage equality. It wasn’t just that he had previously endorsed it and was completely comfortable with gay people. It was implausible that a man who had taught constitutional law, who was surely well versed in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, would deny equal protection to gay people based on his personal religious convictions. So I assumed that was a politically motivated excuse. The task for pragmatic activists is not to condemn such political calculations but to change them.

The President’s decision last week to apply heightened scrutiny in cases involving anti-gay discrimination, and specifically not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in the Second Circuit Windsor and Pedersen cases, suggests he has calculated that "gay marriage" (to use a problematic, segregating expression) has ceased to be a political no-fly zone. What White House press secretary Jay Carney termed the President’s personal "grappling with the issue" is now largely irrelevant. As Dale Carpenter writes at The Volokh Conspiracy, the Department of Justice analysis means Obama "has said with deeds what he has not quite yet said with words."

The shifting political ground was evident in Maryland, where Democratic State Senator James Brochin was so appalled by the "hate and venom" from opponents of the marriage equality bill that he switched and voted in favor.

Brochin is not alone. Gay Panic is losing its potency. Most Republican presidential aspirants were either subdued or silent in response to the DOJ decision. Even Newt Gingrich walked back his initial angry comments about a constitutional crisis and impeachment. The anti-gay doom-crying looks increasingly silly and desperate.

Read the whole thing here.

Update: Lisa Keen has a good article on last week's DOJ DOMA letter.

Update 2: R. Albert Mohler, Jr. writes in The Christian Post, "How Did this Happen? Why Same-Sex Marriage Makes Sense to So Many"

Update 3: And here we go with the polygamy argument, courtesy the Washington Examiner.

February 27, 2011

Video: Eddie Long Begins "Late Night Men's Prayer Meetings"

Eddie Long is at it again. Rod 2.0 reports:

Bishop Eddie Long says that men do not have to be members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, but they must be prepared to stay after midnight and "bring an offering worthy of the Lord."

Mm hm.

Only for New York

Three-time Academy Award winner Woody Allen's only appearance at the Oscars came in 2002 — six months after 9/11 — when he was asked to introduce a short film paying tribute to New York City as a film location. He demonstrated here that decades of directing had not dimmed his stand-up comedic gifts.

February 26, 2011

Newt breathes fire over Obama & DOMA, then issues 'clarification'

Newt_Gingrich_cMichael_Key Chris Johnson reports at the Blade on former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's rant against President Obama for refusing to defend Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act:

“I believe the House Republicans next week should pass a resolution instructing the president to enforce the law and to obey his own constitutional oath,” Gingrich said, “and they should say if he fails to do so that they will zero out [defund] the office of attorney general and take other steps as necessary until the president agrees to do his job.”

Asked by Newsmax TV directly whether President Obama could be subject to articles of impeachment, Gingrich said, “Clearly it is a dereliction of duty and a violation of his constitutional oath and is something that cannot be allowed to stand.” ...

Gingrich reportedly said Obama campaign[ed] in favor of DOMA and is “breaking his word to the American people.” Gingrich’s assertion is incorrect. Obama called for full repeal of DOMA during the 2008 presidential campaign....

A Gingrich spokesperson reportedly clarified after the interview that the former House speaker doesn’t believe the country is currently in a constitutional crisis and said Gingrich isn’t calling for the direct impeachment of the president.

Newt's quick “clarification” is telling. He is a political arsonist yet he can’t stand by his inflammatory words for one news cycle. He attacks the President over DOMA yet cannot get his facts right about Obama’s position on it either in 2008 (he called for full DOMA repeal) or now (he says he will continue to enforce Section 3, just not defend it). Newt may think the facts don’t matter, and maybe they wouldn’t if more people were as hysterical on this subject. But Newt has stirred one mob too many. He is a nasty opportunist whose credibility is long since shot, in contrast to Obama who maintains his cool and pleasant demeanor while defending people from discrimination and rallying his base. A friend suggested last night that Obama is goading the radical right to lure them way out on a rickety limb, and I think that's right.

(Blade photo by Michael Key)

February 25, 2011

Chris Geidner, asking the tough questions for you

Geidner

Chris Geidner of Metro Weekly was in the White House briefing room today, and tweets:

Me: Did Obama tell DOJ that #DADT is unconstitutional in light of Wednesday's letter? @PressSec: "Not that I know of, no."

(Photo courtesy txvoodoo via Twitter)

Breaking News From the Onion News Network

Marauding Gay Hordes Drag Thousands Of Helpless Citizens From Marriages After Obama Drops Defense Of Marriage Act

WASHINGTON—Reports continue to pour in from around the nation today of helpless Americans being forcibly taken from their marital unions after President Obama dropped the Defense of Marriage Act earlier this week, leaving the institution completely vulnerable to roving bands of homosexuals. "It was just awful—they smashed through our living room window, one of them said 'I've had my eye on you, Roger,...'

continue reading

Same-sex marriage waning as conservative issue?

Michael D. Shear and Sheryl Gay Stolberg write in NYT:

President Obama’s decision to abandon his legal support for the Defense of Marriage Act has generated only mild rebukes from the Republicans hoping to succeed him in 2012, evidence of a shifting political climate in which social issues are being crowded out by economic concerns....

In his first two years in office, Mr. Obama drew criticism from gay rights advocates who thought he was dragging his feet on their issues. Those same advocates see the shift as evidence that with an eye on the 2012 campaign, the president has calculated that the benefits of responding to his base outweigh the risks of upsetting conservatives who wouldn’t be voting for him anyway.

Among them is John Aravosis, the founder of Americablog.com, who in a 2009 blog post called the administration’s first legal brief in a Defense of Marriage Act case “despicable” and “homophobic.” Mr. Aravosis said on Thursday he is “much happier” with Mr. Obama, adding: “I think the gay community got to him. I’m not convinced we got to his heart, but I think we got to his political head.”

AP has an analysis here, and quotes former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee as saying that Obama's latest move on DOMA says, “I don’t answer to the voters.”

It is useful to have Mr. Huckabee, a possible 2012 presidential candidate and current Fox News talent, on record as stating that the Department of Justice should follow public opinion polls rather than the Constitution. But speaking of polls, they are trending in a much gay-friendlier direction than the Huckster and his fellow right-wingers acknowledge. How many times have they pointed out that 31 states have had ballot measures on gay marriage, and gay people lost every time?

What the 'wingers fail to mention is that the margin of victory in those initiatives has been shrinking. Nate Silver of Five Thirty-Eight analyzed the gay-marriage-ban initiatives two years ago and developed a model to predict when the voters in various states would vote against a gay marriage ban. The last projected holdout is Mississippi, which Silver's model predicts will be ready to defeat an anti-gay ballot measure in 2024.

Update: Equality Matters posts this item on the signs of desperation from anti-gay activists.

Marriage debate continues in Maryland

The Maryland House Judiciary Committee has been debating the marriage equality bill this afternoon. Openly gay Delegate Heather Mizeur from Takoma Park talked about what marriage means to her and her spouse Deborah, and what marriage licenses mean for LGBT families. Live tweets here. Equality Maryland's website is here. (Their latest tweet as I write this: "@NOMtweets, pls spend your millions of $$$ on divorce, on domestic abuse, on encouraging adoption or foster care." Amen.)

This morning, Sean Eldridge of Freedom to Marry debated Brian Brown of NOM. Watch it here.

Sign HRC's petition to Congress: Do not allow defense of DOMA

The Human Rights Campaign has launched a petition effort to urge members of Congress not to support efforts to have Congress intervene in defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court. Click here to read about it and sign the petition.

Feb. 25, 7 pm - Rosendall discusses gay rights on public radio WEAA 88.9 FM

Join me at 7:00 pm this evening for a discussion of civil rights and gay rights at Morgan State University's public radio station WEAA, 88.9 FM. The program is called "Listen Up!" with host Justin Jones Fosu, on which I previously appeared in September 2009. We will be joined by representatives from the ACLU and NAACP.

Catch the live-streaming audio here.

February 24, 2011

Marriage victory in Maryland senate

MD marriage activists

Yusef Najafi of Metro Weekly reports the great news. Congrats to the people of Maryland.

(Photo courtesy Yusef Najafi)

Geidner: The Next Test: Log Cabin Republicans v. United States

Chris Geidner at Metro Weekly examines the implications of DOJ's decision yesterday on Log Cabin's lawsuit over DADT.

Huckabee: Same-sex marriage to blame for deadbeat dads

MikeHuckabee TPM reports that former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, in slamming the Obama administration's decision not to defend Section 3 of DOMA, has fingered same-sex couples for the problem of heterosexual fathers failing to support their families. I am sorry, but I have no martyr complex despite the best efforts by the nuns at St. Catherine Laboure Elementary School to instill one in me. I am therefore not interested in serving as a scapegoat for the problems in heterosexual people's marriages.

The opposition to the civil marriage rights of same-sex couples is becoming increasingly desperate and unwittingly comical. The only scenario that would make Huckabee's line of reasoning even plausible is one in which a closeted gay man marries heterosexually to conform to the expectations of his family, community, and possibly his employer, and subsequently leaves wife and children for another man. The trouble is, Huckabee's homophobia is the best way of ensuring that more gay people will try to be what they are not. But that miserable scenario doesn't even apply to most of us. To the extent that straight women are worried about other men stealing their husbands, allow me to point out first that their husbands are not passive objects sitting on market shelves; and second that keeping gay men unmarried and thereby tacitly encouraging them to remain on the prowl may not be the most rational response to the women's fears.

"All are welcome" - Gov. Abercrombie signs Hawaiian civil unions bill

Hawaiian Governor Neil Abercrombie invokes Hawaiian culture as he signs that state's civil unions bill.

Obama FY 2012 budget includes modest HIV/AIDS funding increase

The Black AIDS Institute reports:

Despite last week's troubling news that the newly elected House Republican leadership was committed to slashing billions in federal spending—including HIV/AIDS funding—there was some good news. President Obama’s proposed FY 2012 budget drew some praise from AIDS advocates for its modest funding increases to federal AIDS programs during a time when the White House and Congress are under growing pressure to cut spending.

Included in the FY 2012 budget, the White House also released detailed operational plans to implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) , the nation's first dedicated road map to fighting the epidemic, released in July 2010. (Last fall Black AIDS Weekly analyzed the NHAS' potential impact on Black America. Read parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 of our report.)

The NHAS operational plans "represent an amazing advance forward,” says A. Cornelius Baker, a member of the Presidential Advisory Council HIV/AIDS (PACHA) and the senior communications consultant at AED Center on AIDS & Community Health. "For decades we've wanted the federal agencies to better coordinate and make their plans public on the HIV epidemic."

(Hat tip: Rod 2.0)

Fox's Napolitano backs Obama on DOMA decision

Well here's something you don't see every day on Fox News. (Of course, plenty of others on that network are making up for it.)

BTW, Napolitano is wrong on the interstate implications of DOJ's decision, because it states that Section 3 of DOMA — which defines marriage for federal purposes as one-man-one-woman — violates the Equal Protection clause of the Fifth Amendment; it does not refer to the rest of DOMA, whose text is here.

Black Gay History Month

(Hat tip: Joe.My.God.)

"Enthusiastic unqualified praise"

Glenn Greenwald of Salon talks to Lawrence O'Donnell on the DOJ decision not to defend Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage for federal purposes as being between a man and a woman. Greenwald gives President Obama "enthusiastic unqualified praise." I agree.

April 8 - Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce awards dinner

The Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce will hold its 21st annual awards dinner at the Park Hyatt Washington on Friday, April 8.

Yusef Najafi reports on this year's honorees. Transgender activist Dr. Dana Beyer will receive the Community Advocate award. Marriott International and Randy Grffin will be honored as Corporate Allies. Brent Minor of Team DC is Volunteer of the Year. Kim Rosenberg and Meghann Novinskie of Mixology are Emerging Entrepreneurs. Attorney Glen Ackerman will be honored as Business Leader. Shakespeare Theatre Company artistic director Michael Kahn will be honored for Business Excellence. Congrats to them all. Click on the CAGLCC link above for ticket information.

The implications of DOJ refusing to defend Section 3 of DOMA

Gay rights activists are duly celebrating yesterday's decision by the Department of Justice not to defend Section 3 of DOMA. Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement is very good news. So what are its implications? New York Law School Professor Art Leonard's analysis is here.

Widener University Law Professor John Culhane notes that the opportunity for DOJ to call for heightened scrutiny here stems from the fact that the cases involved are in the Second Circuit, which unlike the First is not bound to a rational basis scrutiny. Culhane writes:

Holder’s letter reiterates that the DOJ had been making only a narrow argument in defense of DOMA, and only in one particular court.

The federal district court of Massachusetts, where the first two cases were brought, sits within the First Circuit. The court of appeals for that circuit had precedent, binding on the lower courts, that discriminations based on sexual orientation were to be evaluated only to see whether they had a rational basis – a very deferential standard that generally results in finding that the law under challenge is constitutional.

And the DOJ had argued in two Massachusetts cases that under this binding standard of review, DOMA was “rational enough.” Congress could sensibly have concluded that the status quo on marriage should be maintained at the federal level while states sorted out these complex legal and cultural issues.

But now two new cases have been filed in courts within the Second Circuit (in New York and Connecticut, specifically). The Second Circuit, unlike the first, has no “binding precedent” commanding that sexual orientation discrimination be judged by a rational basis test. Therefore, the DOJ undertook its own evaluation of whether rational basis should apply – and found that it should not. DOMA should instead be evaluated under a more searching “heightened scrutiny” standard, under which the law…fails. So DOMA is therefore no longer defensible.

Some of the credit for yesterday's DOJ decision goes to all the gay people who have been working with the Administration from the outside and the inside.

Professor Culhane makes a prediction that I agree with, that Obama will come out in favor of marriage equality before the 2012 election. Not only would it be incoherent to continue opposing marriage equality after claiming that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional (except I suppose on federalist grounds); politically it would make no sense. Having stuck it to the anti-gay right, he might as well take the next step and get credit for leadership on the issue. He has already said he is constantly evolving on the issue. The day he announces his full support for equality for our families will be a great day, indeed.

AFA's news site has this story on the prospects for DOMA now getting a better defense.

Gov. Walker falls for prank call

AP reports on the prank call in which Ian Murphy from Buffalo Beast posed as Billionaire David Koch and tricked Scott Walker into blabbing his political strategy:

On a prank call that quickly spread across the Internet, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was duped into discussing his strategy to cripple public employee unions, joking he would use a baseball bat in his office to go after political opponents.

Walker gamely told reporters Wednesday that he wasn't going to let a prank call distract him. But it's not just embarrassing, it's revealing; and it's another dent in his armor, as his poll numbers slide.

February 23, 2011

Maryland Marriage Equality Takes Another Step Forward

The Washington Blade reports that has moved a little closer.

The Maryland State Senate on Wednesday voted 25 to 22 to give preliminary approval to SB 116, The Religious Freedom & Civil Marriage Protection Act indicating the historic marriage equality measure is likely to pass in a final Senate vote expected on Thursday or Friday.

Read the full article at the Blade.  Several amendments to weaken the bill were rejected.

February 26 - GLOV Planning Retreat

GLOV is planning a retreat for this Saturday; it is from 10AM-2PM , Feb. 26 at the DC Center 1318 U St NW (lunch will be provided). This meeting is to plan the next year. All are welcome! RSVP to aj@glovdc.org and include dietary restrictions.

Here is your chance to support this critical effort in keeping the LGBT community safe.  Your ideas and energy can make GLOV a continuing success.

DOJ stops defending DOMA Section 3

Chris Geidner reports in Metro Weekly:

The Department of Justice has announced that it believes courts should apply heightened scrutiny to laws that classify people based on sexual orientation – particularly the Defense of Marriage Act. In a letter sent on Feb. 23 to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Attorney General Eric Holder writes that, because of this decision, the department will no longer defend Section 3 of DOMA, which defines ''marriage'' and ''spouse'' as referring only to opposite-sex marriages.

The issue was raised, Holder explained in a statement released along with the letter, because Section 3 of DOMA has been challenged in the [U.S. Court of Appeals for the] Second Circuit, ''which has no established or binding standard for how laws concerning sexual orientation should be treated.'' Under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment – applied to the federal government through the Fifth Amendment – all laws that classify people into groups receive a level of scrutiny: rational basis, which is the lowest form of scrutiny; heightened scrutiny; or strict scrutiny....

The cases in question – both filed on Nov. 9, 2010 – were brought by the ACLU in New York and the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders in Connecticut. The Justice Department's deadlines for responding to the ACLU case, Windsor v. United States, and the GLAD case, Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management, were approaching in coming weeks....

In his letter to [House Speaker John] Boehner, Holder details the four factors laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court for application of heightened scrutiny and writes that the president, given Holder's recommendation, concluded that ''[e]ach of these factors counsels in favor of being suspicious of classifications based on sexual orientation.''

This is a big deal and very good news. The letter to the Speaker is required by law in cases where the government refuses to defend a statute on grounds it is unconstitutional. DOJ's determination that it cannot defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA in these cases will carry over into other cases involving discrimination against gay people as a class, including Log Cabin's case against Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Our opponents, needless to say, will cry bloody murder.

Update: If the AG's action is "extra-constitutional," as Maggie Gallagher says in the video linked immediately above, why is there a statutory procedure in place for the administration to notify Congress of the decision not to defend a statute which it deems unconstitutional? It's lucky for us that there is more to the Constitution than is dreamt of in Maggie's philosophy.

Update 2: I just re-watched Maggie Gallagher’s fulminations on Fox, in which she and Megyn Kelly competed to see who could mischaracterize the AG’s announcement the most. They said he was refusing to enforce the law—when the announcement specifically said the administration would continue to enforce it, just not defend it. Maggie said the decision was extra-constitutional, despite the fact that AG Holder followed the procedure prescribed in the law for notifying Congress of a decision not to defend a law on constitutional grounds. (This complaint was ironic given NOM’s claims that Obama and Holder were deliberately doing a lousy job of defending DOMA; Maggie conceded this when she said the administration’s action would help in a backhanded way by opening the door for a more vigorous defense.) Maggie said the AG had called for strict scrutiny, when in fact he calls for the intermediate "heightened" scrutiny. They talked as if Congress stepping in would repudiate Obama’s desire that DOMA not be defended, when Holder’s statement explicitly refers to facilitating congressional intervention in the cases if Congress wishes. That’s a lot of falsehoods to cram into one brief interview.

February 22, 2011

Chicago: Rahm wins 40 wards, Gery Chico wins 10, Braun wins 0

Rahm_and Barack Congratulations to Chicago Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel. His outright majority of 55 percent means there will be no runoff election. Former schools president Gery Chico won 24 percent of the vote. Former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun and City Clerk Miguel del Valle won 9 percent each. Of the city's 50 wards, Emanuel won 40, Chico won 10, the others none.

One salutary result was that African American voters looked past the appeals for racial solidarity to see the flawed candidate that Ms. Braun was. It is one thing to vote for a "favorite son" or -daughter; it is quite another to demand that people overlook someone's undistinguished senatorial term and base their vote solely on race. Braun is no Harold Washington. As the Sun-Times notes, Rep. Danny Davis's race-based appeals fell on deaf ears as voters across the spectrum focused on the two candidates they viewed as most capable. This is surely good news.

Emanuel's close association with America's first African American president, himself a Chicagoan, was not lost on many people. Emanuel's profane, tough-guy rep appears to have helped rather than hurt him. By contrast, Davis's earlier demand that former president Bill Clinton keep his opinions on the race to himself showed a tone-deafness that must warm the heart of any prospective challenger for Davis's U.S. House seat.

Another salutary result would be if Chicago's race-mongers would learn a lesson that was taught by Obama himself in overcoming racial controversies during the 2008 campaign: talk to people like adults.

The Lord saith, Don't do this!

Antigay-tattoo

Bil Browning shares this photo with the comment:

While Leviticus 18:22 condemns homosexuality as an abomination, Leviticus 19:28 forbids tattoos.