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“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for June, 2009

Reactions To Obama Administration’s Defense of DOMA

Jim Burroway

June 12th, 2009

Reactions to news that the Obama administration is defending the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” against a constitutional challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court are pouring in fast and furious. We go first to the Human Rights Campaign:

[HRC President Joe Solmonese said,] “Mr. President, you have called DOMA ‘abhorrent’ and pledged to be a fierce advocate for our community.  As we approach the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, it is time for you to use your leadership to translate these principles into meaningful action.”

HRC also has grave concerns about the arguments that the Administration put forth in this case, arguments that simply do not reflect the experiences that LGBT people face or the contributions that they make. The Administration’s brief claims that DOMA is a valid exercise of Congress’s power, is consistent with Equal Protection or Due Process principles, and does not impinge upon rights that are recognized as fundamental.  The brief further claims that DOMA is a “neutral” federal position on same-sex marriages, and permits the states to determine on their own whether to recognize same-sex marriages. The most alarming argument, grounded neither in fact nor in law, reads as follows:

[DOMA amounts to] a cautious policy of federal neutrality towards a new form of marriage. DOMA maintains federal policies that have long sought to promote the traditional and uniformly-recognized form of marriage, recognizes the right of each State to expand the traditional definition if it so chooses, but declines to obligate federal taxpayers in other States to subsidize a form of marriage that their own states do not recognize.

“Same-sex couples and their families are not seeking subsidies,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.  “We pay taxes equally, contribute to our communities equally, support each other equally, pay equally into Social Security, and participate equally in our democracy.  Equal protection is not a handout.  It is our right as citizens,” he said.

From Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund:

“DOMA is and has always been an immoral attack on same-sex couples, our families and our fundamental humanity. This law has only served to discriminate against Americans and belittle our nation’s heralded values embracing freedom, fairness and justice. The Task Force Action Fund demands President Obama and Congress immediately repeal this hateful law, which has left a moral scar on our nation and its worthy pursuit of equal justice for all.

“Unfortunately, the malicious and outrageous arguments and language used in the Department of Justice’s marriage brief is only serving to inflame and malign the humanity of same-sex couples and our families. This is unacceptable.

“This ugly chapter in our nation’s history must come to an end now with the repeal of DOMA.”

From Executive Director Geoff Kors of Equality California:

We are outraged the Obama Administration filed a brief defending the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act — a law Obama promised to repeal when running for President. It is unacceptable that he is defending DOMA instead of supporting its repeal as unconstitutional. And the justification that Congress has the right to deny one minority equal benefits as a way to save money is truly offensive. We not only call on President Obama to order the Justice Department to file a supplemental brief reversing its position and instead urging the repeal of DOMA, but we also demand the president demonstrates that he is the ‘fierce’ advocate he once claimed to be by publicly calling for the end to all discrimination against LGBT Americans — including the immediate repeal of this law so same-sex couples legally married in their home state receive the same federal benefits and protections as opposite-sex couples

From a broad coalition of advocacy groups (no link yet):

We are very surprised and deeply disappointed in the manner in which the Obama administration has defended the so-called Defense of Marriage Act against Smelt v. United States, a lawsuit brought in federal court in California by a married same-sex couple asking the federal government to treat them equally with respect to federal protections and benefits. The administration is using many of the same flawed legal arguments that the Bush administration used. These arguments rightly have been rejected by several state supreme courts as legally unsound and obviously discriminatory.

We disagree with many of the administration’s arguments, for example that DOMA is a valid exercise of Congress’s power, is consistent with Equal Protection or Due Process principles, and does not impinge upon rights that are recognized as fundamental.

We are also extremely disturbed by a new and nonsensical argument the administration has advanced suggesting that the federal government needs to be “neutral” with regard to its treatment of married same-sex couples in order to ensure that federal tax money collected from across the country not be used to assist same-sex couples duly married by their home states. There is nothing “neutral” about the federal government’s discriminatory denial of fair treatment to married same-sex couples: DOMA wrongly bars the federal government from providing any of the over one thousand federal protections to the many thousands of couples who marry in six states. This notion of “neutrality” ignores the fact that while married same-sex couples pay their full share of income and social security taxes, they are prevented by DOMA from receiving the corresponding same benefits that married heterosexual taxpayers receive. It is the married same-sex couples, not heterosexuals in other parts of the country, who are financially and personally damaged in significant ways by DOMA. For the Obama administration to suggest otherwise simply departs from both mathematical and legal reality.

When President Obama was courting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender voters, he said that he believed that DOMA should be repealed. We ask him to live up to his emphatic campaign promises, to stop making false and damaging legal arguments, and immediately to introduce a bill to repeal DOMA and ensure that every married couple in America has the same access to federal protections.

Signed:
American Civil Liberties Union
Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders
Human Rights Campaign
Lambda Legal
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce

And from PFLAG:

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National expressed deep disappointment and strong opposition to the Department of Justice’s recent arguments regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the dismissal of a lawsuit filed on behalf of a gay couple who married in California.

“Since DOMA’s enactment in 1996, PFLAG has vocally opposed this blatant and malicious law, which enables legal discrimination against our gay and lesbian loved ones and denies them the right to protect their families and receive equal treatment under the law,” said Jody M. Huckaby, executive director of PFLAG. “We are deeply offended by the DOJ’s recent arguments and alarmed by the hurtful language that further denigrates our families and friends.”

“PFLAG continues to urge President Obama to explore options to repeal this immoral and unethical law that leaves our families and friends unprotected and unequal. DOMA hurts our families and friends by denying them more than 1,100 federal benefits legally recognized married couples currently receive from the federal government. When families are hurt, communities are weakened and all of America suffers. In the name of basic equality and fairness, we ask that the Administration fulfill its commitment to advancing equality for LGBT Americans by acting immediately to overturn this law,” Huckaby concluded.

Gay Groups Ask for Leniency in Lawrence King Murder

Jim Burroway

April 15th, 2008

Lawrence KingA coalition of 27 LGBT activist organizations is urging the Ventura County, California District Attorney to charge 14-year old Brandon McInerney, Lawrence King’s murderer, as a juvenile. McInerney shot King, 15, point blank in the head on February 12th at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California. With hate crime enhancements, McInerney faces up to 27 years in prison if he is charged as an adult. But citing an overall “climate of intolerance and fear about sexual orientation and expression,” the coalition feels that prosecuting McInerney as an adult would “compound this tragedy with another wrong.”

The press release, which is not yet available online, reads:

A coalition of 27 groups fighting for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights today is urging Ventura County prosecutors to try 14-year-old Brandon McInerney in juvenile court, and not as an adult. McInerney has been charged as an adult in the February 12 murder of his E.O. Green Middle School classmate, 15-year-old Lawrence King. Students say McInerney targeted King because the victim was openly gay and because he wore women’s jewellery and makeup.

LGBT civil rights organizations, including Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Transgender Law Center, have delivered a short statement to Ventura County District Attorney Gregory D. Totten, calling on him to try McInerney as a juvenile.

“We are saddened and outraged by the murder of junior high school student Lawrence King,” the statement reads. “At the same time, we call on prosecutors not to compound this tragedy with another wrong “we call on them to treat the suspect as a juvenile, not as an adult.

“The facts in this matter seem clear: one boy killed another in a climate of intolerance and fear about sexual orientation and gender expression. The alleged perpetrator, who turned 14 years old less than three weeks before the shooting, should be held accountable for his actions. But we support the principles underlying our juvenile justice system that treat children differently than adults and provide greater hope and opportunity for rehabilitation. In addition, public safety is not served by treating children as adults. According to research released by the Centers for Disease Control in 2006, children transferred to adult court are more likely to re-offend than those committing similar offenses who remain in the juvenile justice system. California law does not require District Attorneys to prosecute 14 year-olds as adults, even in circumstances such as these, and we oppose them doing so. We are issuing this joint statement because we believe so strongly in principles of justice that protect all our young people and know that, even in the face of strong emotions, we should not abandon them. We refuse to let our sense of outrage blind us to the fact that the suspect is only 14 years old.

“Prosecuting the alleged perpetrator as an adult will not bring Lawrence King back nor will it make schools safer for LGBT youth. We must respond to this tragedy by strengthening our resolve to change the climate in schools, eliminate bigotry based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and hold schools responsible for protecting students against discrimination and physical harm.”

The list of signatories include: American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California; American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties; American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California; Ally Action (CA); Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE; national); Community United Against Violence (San Francisco); Different Avenues (DC); Equality California; Gay Straight Alliance Network (CA); Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD); Human Rights Campaign; LAGAI – Queer Insurrection; Lambda Legal; LifeWorks Mentoring (Los Angeles); Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center; National Black Justice Coalition; National Center for Lesbian Rights; National Center for Transgender Equality; National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National; Safe Schools Coalition; San Francisco LGBT Community Center; Sylvia Rivera Law Project (New York); TGI Justice Project (CA); Transgender Law Center; The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (NY); TransYouth Family Allies, Inc.