A GOP source told The Huffington Post that, during a closed-door meeting of the House Republican Conference, lawmakers gave a green light to including language in the 113th Congress rules package that authorizes the House legal team, known as the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), to keep paying outside counsel to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. The proposed House rules package also states that BLAG ‘speaks for the House’ in its defense of DOMA.House Republicans Tie Federal Gay Marriage Ban To House Rules(via kileyrae)
The Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to take on two challenges to anti-gay marriage laws has attracted widespread attention. But equally remarkable is the fact that neither of the governments whose laws are in question are even willing to stand behind those laws. It is as if we held a Super Bowl and one team failed to show up. The Obama administration has declined to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law signed by Bill Clinton that denies federal pension, health, and survivor benefits to same-sex married couples; and the governor and attorney general of California have declined to defend Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that passed in state elections in 2008 and amended California’s constitution to limit marriage to a union of a man and woman. In both cases—United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry—surrogates are standing in to defend the laws in their stead. We have moved from “the crime not fit to be named” to the laws not fit to be defended. It once was considered shameful to be a homosexual; today it is shameful to be anti-gay. In an important sense, the gay rights advocates have already won.
But don’t be fooled; the one-sided appearance of the cases does not mean that a Supreme Court victory for proponents of same-sex marriage is assured. The constitutional arguments in favor of marriage equality are very strong: laws recognizing marriage only for opposite-sex couples discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and no one has been able to marshal any rational justification for denying equal treatment. But the Roberts Court is a profoundly conservative institution; the limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples has deep cultural and religious roots; and a decision declaring that limitation unconstitutional could have wide-ranging repercussions. Despite unprecedented progress toward marriage equality in the past decade, forty-one states still do not recognize gay marriage. Is the Supreme Court ready to require every state—including such states as Louisiana and Mississippi, where Christian and social conservatives have wide influence —to do so? And if it did uphold such a requirement, how would the states react? Constitutional doctrine gives a clear legal footing to gay marriage, but political realities may intrude.
While both cases challenge laws that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman on grounds that they violate the principle of equal protection, there are important differences between the two. United States v. Windsor concerns one provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which denies benefits under more than 1,000 federal laws to same-sex couples married in states that recognize same-sex marriage. Congress has long deferred to the states to define and determine who is validly married, because family law is typically the province of the states. But in 1996, when the Hawaii Supreme Court was on the verge of ruling that its state constitution required equal recognition of same-sex marriage, Congress panicked and enacted DOMA, a preemptive strike against any such developments. Several lower courts have declared the DOMA provision unconstitutional, finding that the law is discriminatory and that Congress had no good reason to deny to same-sex couples the benefits it extends to opposite-sex couples.
The law under review in Hollingsworth v. Perry is Proposition 8, a referendum adopted by California voters in 2008 in response to a California Supreme Court decision that declared the state’s failure to recognize same-sex marriage unconstitutional under California’s constitution. The voters effectively reversed that decision by amending the state’s constitution to limit marriage to unions between a man and a woman. But when the unlikely legal team of David Boies and Ted Olson, who faced off against each other in Bush v. Gore, joined forces to challenge Proposition 8, the federal courts declared it unconstitutional under the US Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. As in the DOMA case, the courts ruled that California had discriminated against same-sex couples without legal justification.
At bottom, the issue in both cases is whether governments have a legitimate reason to deny to same-sex couples the recognition, status, and benefits that they afford to opposite-sex couples who marry. Almost every court to examine that question in the past decade, including federal courts in New York, Massachusetts, and California, and state supreme courts in Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and California, has concluded that they do not. [continue]
Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler says he will call for a citywide election on a measure that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, following a successful petition drive to place the issue on the ballot.
Beutler said Thursday that the petition organizers sent a message of intolerance from Nebraska’s second-largest city, but he will honor the citizens’ right to vote.
Well, at least we’ll finally know what fairness means to a majority of citizens in Lincoln, Nebraska.
But we all know already, don’t we?
This vote will tell us that a majority of people think that discrimination against gays and lesbians isn’t a problem.
In other words, once we have this vote, “fairness” is going to mean unfairness.
“There’s no denying that this is a significant event that moves the nation closer to equality for millions of people who have long been denied it in countless damaging ways. That’s an important, and positive, step no matter what else is true about Obama and no matter what else he has done.”
[Barack Obama’s] record on LGBT equality has not been perfect, but it is one area where he has been quite impressive. He engineered the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. His Justice Department is refusing to defend the constitutionality of DOMA in court, a very unusual step. He has ushered in a series of important federal spousal benefits for gay employees of the federal government. And now, for the first time, the office of the American President is officially supporting a policy that a mere decade ago was deemed truly radical: same-sex marriage. Those are real achievements. And, as virtuallyall polls reflect – underscored by last night’s landslide defeat for marriage equality in North Carolina — they carry genuine political risk. He deserves credit for his actions in this civil rights realm.
It’s worth making two additional points about this. First, the pressure continuously applied on Obama by some gay groups, most gay activists, and (especially) rich gay funders undoubtedly played a significant role in all of these successes. As David Sirota explained today, this demonstrates why it is so vital to always apply critical pressure even to politicians one likes and supports, and conversely, it demonstrates why it is so foolish and irresponsible to devote oneself with uncritical, blind adoration to a politician, whether in an election year or any other time (unconditional allegiance is the surest way to render one’s beliefs and agenda irrelevant). When someone who wields political power does something you dislike or disagree with, it’s incumbent upon you to object, criticize, and demand a different course. Those who refuse to do so are abdicating the most basic duty of citizenship and rendering themselves impotent.
It may very well be true that Obama took this step not out of any genuine conviction, but because he perceives that high levels of enthusiasm among the Democratic base generally and gay donors specifically are necessary for his re-election, or because Biden’s comments forced his hand, or any number of other tactical reasons. I don’t know what his secret motives are, but even if they could be discerned, I think it’s irrelevant.
When it comes to assessing a politician, what matters, at least to me, are actions, not motives. If they do the wrong thing, they should be criticized regardless of motive; conversely, if they do the right thing, they should be credited. I’ve had zero tolerance over the last three years for people who pop up to justify all the horrible things Obama has done by claiming that he is forced to do them out of political necessity or in cowardly deference to public opinion; that’s because horrible acts don’t become less horrible because they’re prompted by some rational, self-interested political motive rather than conviction. That’s equally true of positive acts: they don’t become less commendable because they were the by-product of political pressure or self-preservation; when a politician takes the right course of action, as Obama did today, credit is merited, regardless of motive.
It should go without saying that none of this mitigates the many horrendous things Obama has done in other areas, nor does it mean he deserves re-election. But just as it’s intellectually corrupted to refuse to criticize him when he deserves it, the same is true of refusing to credit him when he deserves it. Today, he deserves credit. LGBT equality is one area — and it’s an important area for millions of Americans — where he has conducted himself commendably and deserves praise. That was true before today, but even more so now. [++]
Congratulations, North Carolina. You have become the 33rd state to write discrimination into your constitution, ensuring that gay men and lesbian women cannot enter into this esteemed institution you call marriage. You have guaranteed that two men or two women cannot protect their relationship with the force of secular law. You have ensured that two men or two women cannot protect their children by forming a contract between themselves and their government designating each other as the guardian of the children they are raising together. Congratulations, North Carolina. Welcome to the 16th century.Killing Love in North Carolina
I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.BREAKING: Obama Embraces Marriage Equality | ThinkProgress
There’s no denying that Obama and his advisers have a very good overall record on gay rights. But on this issue, and on gay marriage — two hugely important topics to the gay community — there’s too little clarity and too much of a whiff of excuse-making and political calculation. Obama is trapped in a difficult dynamic that is in some ways the product of having done the right thing in other areas involving gay rights. Because of his real accomplishments in those areas, gay advocates are fully convinced he really believes in full equality for gay and lesbian Americans — and only grow angrier and more impatient when he hedges or equivocates on key issues. I can see why White House advisers would find this dynamic frustrating, but the simple truth is that it isn’t going away until he stops doing it.Stop playing it cute on gay rights | Greg Sargent
The Obama administration on Wednesday decided not to move forward with an executive order prohibiting workplace discrimination among federal contractors that is a top priority for the LGBT community.
“While it is not our usual practice to discuss Executive Orders that may or may not be under consideration, we do not expect that an Executive Order on LGBT non-discrimination for federal contractors will be issued at this time,” a senior administration official told The Huffington Post. “We support legislation that has been introduced and we will continue to work with congressional sponsors to build support for it.”
The decision is a blow to LGBT activists who had huddled with administration officials at the White House earlier in the day to discuss the status of the executive order. That meeting featured White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett along with officials from the Human Rights Campaign, Center for American Progress, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and other groups.
“The argument that the definition of marriage should remain the same for the definition’s sake is a circular argument, not a rational justification,” Judge Jeffery White wrote in his decision. “Simply stating what has always been does not address the reasons for it. The mere fact that prior law, history, tradition, the dictionary and the Bible have defined a term does not give that definition a rational basis, it merely states what has been.”