Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Waiting in Line For the Gay Revolution

Supreme Court Hears Arguments for GLBT Civil Rights 3-26-27

It looked like a Rock Concert.  People staying in line since Sunday to get free tickets today to one of the thirty seats in the public section.where visitors can watch for three to five minutes each before being rotated out. There were rallies with rainbow sherbet clad spectators and “busloads of Reuben Diazs”, as one writer tweeted.  Retired gay bishop of the Episcopalian Church, Gene Robinson,,was there, as was activist Cleve Jones who volunteered with Harvey Milk. The anti-gay rally seemed “subdued, “ according to one tweeter.  But what do you expect with the latest ABC News poll showing that 58% of Americans agree that it’s time for marriage equality?  

This was not another Woodstock, but will go down in history as an important day for GLBT civil rights. The Pros and Cons had come to the steps of The Supreme Court building to express their views on marriage equality which was being argued inside by Ted Olson, for same-sex couples and against Proposition 8; Charles Cooper, for “Yes on 8” and for Proposition 8. For the U.S. and against Proposition 8: Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.

Proposition 8 Argued on March 26, 2013

The official case name is Hollingsworth v. Perry.  The plaintiffs in the original lawsuit are two same-sex couples who seek the right to marry:  Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier of Berkeley and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo of Burbank.  The petitioner is Dennis Hollingsworth, a former state senator from California who helped lead protectmarriage.com.  After losing in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, he brought the appeal.

The issue is whether the voters of California have a right to amend their state constitution to prevent same-sex couples from obtaining marriage licenses the same as heterosexual couples. Other states with similar bans could potentially be affected if a decision is rendered.

The question posed by the Court of nine Justices is whether Proposition 8 violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment that prohibits states from depriving any person of “the equal protection of the laws.” It also considered “standing:” Does the Yes on 8 coalition that campaigned for passage of Proposition 8 have legal standing to appeal the lower court decision, because California-elected officials chose not to appeal?

Today, Verrilli noted the fact that the United States had not addressed in its briefs the issue of standing nor did the federal government have a “formal position” on the issue.  Nonetheless, he believes that the proponents of Prop 8 lack the particularized injury to qualify for Article III standing.

Olson says yes it would be a win if the court decided the proponents didn’t have standing, but also offered that based upon the questions that the justices asked, he has no idea how the court will decide.  Speaking about the opposition, he said “no one really offered a defense.” 

The arguments are done.  So, who won?  A reporter tweeted “SCOTUS won’t uphold or strike down #Prop 8.  Kennedy thinks it’s too soon to rule. #Prop 8 will stay invalidated.”  Another tweeter wrote “ not expected that SCOTUS will make a broad ruling on ss(same-sex) marriage which burdens state legislatures.” Kennedy, sympathetic to gay marriage, is considered a swing vote and wrote the opinion in the 2003 Lawrence vs. Texas striking down sodomy laws ten years ago today.

Reporters (36 journalists) were allowed in the 400 -seat courtroom: 240 for the public, 124 for guests of the justices and members of the Supreme Court bar. Television was barred from the courtroom, but audio tapes and transcripts are available of today’s proceedings as well as the other LGBT civil rights case on March 27rh: United States v. Windsor. Go to http://www.marriageequality.org/Prop 8-DOMA-SCOTUS

March 27th Oral Arguments for U.S. v. Windsor

The Supreme Court will hear tomorrow if the federal government can deny citizens who are legally married to a same-sex partner the same benefits it provides citizens who are married to the opposite sex.  DOMA or Defense of Marriage Act affects over 1,000 federal statutory provisions of the United States Code owing to marital status in determining or receiving benefits, rights, and privileges.

The Court needs to question whether Section 3 of DOMA violates the equal protection of the Fourteenth Amendment that prohibits states from depriving any person of “the equal protection of the laws.”  Also, does the executive branch’s agreement with the Second Circuit decision that DOMA is unconstitutional preclude the Supreme Court from ruling in the case, and whether the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) has standing to defend DOMA in court?

Edith Windsor is the plaintiff.  She is the surviving spouse of Thea Spyer whom she married in 2007 in Canada.  They were a couple for forty years.  Spyer died in 2009 before New York state legalized same-sex marriage.  The U.S. Internal Revenue Service did not recognize the marriage, and rather than allowing Windsor to take the routine marital estate tax deduction, demanded she pay more than $360,000 in estate taxes.

The real defender of DOMA in this case is a legal team hired by the Republican-led House legal office (BLAG) to defend the administration’s obligation to enforce DOMA. Section 3 is the only part of DOMA under contention.  The Windsor lawsuit is one of seven challenges with appeals pending before the Supreme Court against DOMA. Attorneys arguing are: Roberta Kaplan for Windsor and against DOMA; for the U.S. and against DOMA:  Solicitor General Donald Verrilli; for BLAG and for DOMA:  Paul Clement.   


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

God Save The Queen!

Queen Elizabeth Upsets Gay Activists With New “Magna Carter” Charter
I don’t have a lot in common with Queen Elizabeth except we both wear sensible shoes, were raised in the Anglican Church (Episcopal), and come from English stock. I admire her resiliency in a family rife with divorce, affairs, commoners (gasp!) and a grandson who likes to play pool in the buff.

Watershed Moment for Her
This week, Her Majesty the Queen signed the Commonwealth Charter designed to stamp out discrimination against homosexuals and promote ‘empowerment’ of women in a drive to boost human rights.  The document includes affirmations on democracy, human rights, international peace, and security as well as freedom of expression.  Atypical for the Queen, who has reigned since 1952, she signed the charter in public in a live television broadcast.

This was a big deal for the Queen, now 86.  She made a speech that the signatories opposed “all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, color, creed, political belief or other grounds." According to the U.K.’s Daily Mail, the “other grounds” in the charter is intended to refer to sexuality.

The Other Grounds Are Grounds for the Gay Activists to Retort
The Other Grounds”may be intended to refer to sexual orientation, but was left ambiguous as the Queen, a figurehead, is supposed to be apolitical.  Within the Commonwealth, there are more than fifty-four countries, of which forty-one criminalize homosexuality, many are in Africa. 

In her speech, the Queen never used the word “gay” or “lesbian”, but according to U.K. LGBT activist Peter Tatchell, she never used those words, even when she announced government plans for gay law reform in her Queen’s Speeches.

Columnist Patrick Strudwick at The Guardian echoed Tatchell’s sentiments: “Gay people of the Commonwealth deserve more than an inference; they need its head to speak of them and to them, to protect them.”

Not all gay activists are upset that the charter includes no explicit pledge of LGBT equality.  Ben Summerskill, the Executive Director of the British LGBT rights organization, Stonewall UK, remarked that “it would be foolish not to acknowledge this may be a first step towards equality in some Commonwealth countries. We would of course be much happier if the terms would be addressed and discussed openly.  But if addressing them obliquely is a first step, we should be happy about that.” 
This is the first time that the Queen has publicly acknowledged the importance of the six percent of her subjects who are gay.”

I agree with Summerskill.  It’s a beginning.

Let’s Not Behead the Queen
Did Bill Clinton see in 1996 that marriage could be for a same-sex couple?  No, but he has evolved and recently urged the Supreme Court to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.  Did President Obama in his first term come out for gay marriage?  No, he evolved also, but not until 2012.  Maybe, just maybe, Queen Elizabeth II will evolve.   In the interim, let’s not “stare a gift horse in the mouth.”

Saturday, March 9, 2013

DOMA, Prop 8, and Thou

In just a few weeks, March 26th and March 27th respectively, , the Supreme Court will consider two major cases involving same-sex marriage: one addressing federal DOMA  (Defense of Marriage Act), that restricts the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions performed in those states where they are legal, and the other case Proposition 8” in California, that eliminated the right for same-sex couples to marry, to determine if the ban should stand. In the interim, many citizens have sent Amicus or friend-of-the-court briefs to the Supreme Court justices urging them to uphold the freedom to marry for everyone.

 William Jefferson Clinton Takes a Stand  
As ex-president Bill Clinton states in his op-ed  in The Washington Post yesterday, “it was a very different time seventeen years ago, when I signed The Defense of Marriage Act.” There was no gay marriage.

Clinton is now calling on the Supreme Court to overturn DOMA that he considers incompatible with the Constitution. Like the 42nd president of the United States, our current president has evolved. Obama’s administration has filed an amicus brief saying that DOMA is unconstitutional. It denies benefits, causing stress and added expenses to LGBT persons, of more than a thousand federal statutes and programs available to other heterosexual married couples.

Society Has Evolved, Too
Fast forward to 2012, a watershed year: Last November saw a record number of openly gay LGBT officials elected.  Food became a vehicle for sexual politics: corporations like Keebler created a rainbow cookie to show its support of gay rights. Pro-gay marriage poultry lovers boycotted  Chic-fil-A whose president Cathy opposes gay unions. Former Eagle Scouts mailed their merit badges into Boy Scouts of America, Inc. in Texas to protest the BSA’ policy of banning gay scouts and leaders from their organization. The United States Military Academy (West Point) had its first lesbian wedding. This year is gaining momentum as well.

New Study Reflects More Acceptance, But Pockets of Rejection
Freedom to Marry, an organization that promotes establishing a national right same-sex marriage, released findings yesterday which bears out this theory. Their commissioned study testified that since 2009, support for same-sex unions is “accelerating.” In the United States, the majority of voters are in favor of same-sex marriage, with the most support from under-age- thirty voters.

Other surveys and exit polls from last year’s election suggest that opposition to gay marriage, as analyzed by a Democrat and a Republican, is concentrated among certain populations:  older people, white evangelical Christians, and non-college-educated whites.

On High

Let’s hope that the high court has the wisdom to see that their decisions are about our families, our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers who deserve equal rights recognized and respected by our laws.