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Posts tagged "Marriage Equality"

I grew up listening to Jars Of Clay in the 1990′s. They burst onto the scene in 1995 with a hit, “Flood,” that was played quite a lot on mainstream alternative radio, but if you bought their record, you would learn quickly that they were a decidedly Christian band, and have remained so for coming up on twenty years now. That said, regardless of your feelings about religion, being a musician, I always have judged music firstly on the question, “yes, but is it good art?” Jars Of Clay has produced quite a bit of material that, in my humble opinion, is fantastic music. It’s hard to underestimate their impact on Contemporary Christian Music, either. They were at the forefront of a handful of acts that forced the rest of the industry to step up its game, in a big way.

Fast forward to 2014, and frontman Dan Haseltine is on Twitterexpressing support for marriage equality and forcing his followers to have a really hard conversation about why many of them are so unwilling to see their LGBT brothers and sisters as humans:

Contemporary Christian music isn’t a format where one might think to look for vocal supporters of same-sex marriage, but as with anything else times are changing. Dan Haseltine, front-man for the popular Christian band Jars of Clay, yesterday took to his Twitter account in a series of posts supportive of same-sex marriage, posting “Not meaning to stir things up BUT… is there a non-speculative or non ‘slippery slope’ reason why gays shouldn’t marry? I don’t hear one.” He went on to write “I’m trying to make sense of the conservative argument. But it doesn’t hold up to basic scrutiny. Feels akin to women’s suffrage. I just don’t see a negative effect to allowing gay marriage. No societal breakdown, no war on traditional marriage. ?? Anyone?”

Haseltine compares the issue to civil rights struggles in the past, and asserts regarding Biblical arguments against same-sex marriage that “I don’t think scripture ‘clearly’ states much of anything regarding morality.” He goes on to write that “I think the vast interpretation has left room for people to deal inhumanly and unlovingly toward others that don’t fit their guidelines” and that “I don’t particularly care about Scriptures stance on what is ‘wrong.’ I care more about how it says we should treat people.”

Some readers may be surprised at this, but I’m not. Knowing musicians for my entire life, I am well aware that, even among conservative Christian circles, the artists are always ahead of the rest of the pack when it comes to acceptance, tolerance and understanding people different from them. Moreover, the Christian music industry, just like the rest of the music industry, is chock full of gay people.

Regardless, there are lots of gay Christian teens out there whose days might be just a little better today knowing that the lead singer of one of their favorite bands has their back.

Dan, if you’re reading this, you ought to consider making a NALT Christians Project video. It’ll help people.

Since this is a post about music, I would be remiss not to include a music video of some sort. This was always one of my favorite Jars Of Clay songs.

The usual screaming banshees on the religious right (Fischer, Barber, LaBarbera, Harvey, Higgins, Swanson) are going to be very mad and even go as far to demand boycotts of Jars of Clay. Their songs will likely get blacklisted by many CCM stations. 

H/T: Evan Hurst at TruthWinsOut

From the 04.22.2014 edition of FRC’s Washington Watch:

H/T: Brian Tashman at RWW


Almost every week, a new one appears.

At first it made sense. Colorado. Oregon. Wisconsin. But then, wait—Mississippi? Florida? Alabama? Marriage equality lawsuits have been filed now in all but five states in the nation—the final five that remain out of the game are North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Alaska and, yes, Georgia.

In 2004, Georgia voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and woman. But since that time a sea-change has taken place in the nation with polls showing more than 50 percent of the country supporting same-sex marriage.

So the dockets are full with same-sex marriage suits almost everywhere else in the country, and everywhere else in the south, but here—this despite wins in every federal court case since the United States v. Windsor decision last June when a major portion of the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down.

“I’m just as befuddled as everyone else,” says constitutional scholar Anthony Kreis who has done political work for Georgia Equality and HRC-Atlanta. “I don’t think there’s any strong reason why Georgia shouldn’t have a challenge to the marriage amendment.”

Nashville attorney Abby Rubenfeld knows about the challenges of fighting a same-sex marriage suit in the south, but that didn’t stop her from filing. She is the lead attorney on Tanco v. Haslam, the district court case in Tennessee that led the judge to rule last month that three gay couples’ marriages performed out of state are legal. The case is currently under appeal.

“I did not wait for anyone to tell me what they thought about the Sixth Circuit or Tennessee or anything else,” Rubenfeld tells GA Voice. “I thought that the Windsor ruling means all such discriminatory laws and constitutional amendments are unconstitutional, and why should the south be any different?”

“I think that change will come here when we all push it, so I push it in Tennessee,” she continues. “I think our movement is going to win these cases wherever we bring them and the time is now.”

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an enormous amount of movement happening behind the scenes by people and organizations across the country to find a judicial solution to make same-sex marriage a reality in Georgia. And one national organization is closer to filing than you think.

Beth Littrell, senior attorney in the Southern Regional Office of Lambda Legal, says marriage announcement coming "very soon." (photo via Lambda Legal)

Beth Littrell, senior attorney in the Southern Regional Office of Lambda Legal, says marriage lawsuit announcement coming “very soon.” (photo via Lambda Legal)

When filing a same-sex marriage lawsuit, it’s possible to do so with a private attorney, but typically the suit is arranged or at least backed up by a major national organization like Lambda Legal, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center or Freedom To Marry. All four and more have been at work identifying the right situation in which to file in Georgia, but one of them hints about how close they are to filing.

“We have been working to identify the best course of action to bring marriage equality to Georgia,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Beth Littrell tells GA Voice. “We will be announcing the result of that work very soon. I can assure you Georgia won’t be left behind when it comes to marriage equality.”

The primary challenge most often cited by Lambda Legal and others who are looking to file suit is a 2004 decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit based in Atlanta that banned gay adoption in Florida—Lofton v. Secretary of the Department of Children and Family Services.

That ruling was based on now widely discredited evidence that straight couples make better parents than gay ones. The Eleventh Circuit includes Georgia, Florida and Alabama. A Florida district court of appeals later overturned the adoption ban, but the Lofton case and all testimony and findings regarding how fit gay people are to be parents remains on the books in the higher court.

However, doubts remain about the danger posed by the Lofton case.

“I think it’s highly implausible that the circuit court will give that 2004 decision a lot of weight,” Kreis says. “The legal landscape has dramatically shifted in favor of same-sex couples’ rights.”

Kreis points out that the Lofton decision came just six months after Lawrence v. Texas, which made same-sex sexual activity legal across the country, and just a few months before Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage.

“I think [Lofton] was made at a time when the court may not have understood where the trajectory of the law was going. That’s further factored by the Windsor decision last June,” Kreis says. “I understand the caution that some folks have because the Eleventh Circuit is very conservative, but that hasn’t stopped other people from filing suit.”

ACLU of Georgia Executive Director Debbie Seagraves says, “There is no denying that the situation that folks are in right now is unjust. Unfortunately, the law and justice are not always the same thing. What we want to do is get justice through the courts, but we have to do it right.”

Lambda Legal says they are hearing from gay couples throughout Georgia willing to file suit, but that it’s not that simple.

“Having outraged couples willing to be plaintiffs has never been the problem,” Littrell says. “There are lots of folks willing to put themselves out there to help move the ball along and win marriage equality in all states. But the calculus is just a little more complex than, ‘Can you find someone that’s willing to sue?’”

While mostly it’s the merits of the case and past case law that factor into whether to file or not, the experts say there are many other factors at play.

“Certainly compelling narratives are helpful in convincing a court. Longevity in terms of relationship and commitment are helpful. Edie Windsor’s story reflects that,” Littrell says. “But at the same time she had a very identifiable harm which allowed her to sue. You need an identifiable harm and a state official who is causing that harm.”

Technically, anyone could walk into district court right now with their lawyer and file a same-sex marriage lawsuit. But it’s not recommended. The amount of time, money and resources needed to undertake a successful case are large enough, but there’s also an enormous loss of privacy.

“That’s the difficult thing about constitutional litigation is folks just want to live their lives and be left alone,” says Kreis. “But in order to conserve those rights, you have to give up that privacy.”

“Some couples think they want to be the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit and have second thoughts,” Lambda Legal’s Littrell says.

The ACLU of Georgia’s Seagraves points out that in addition to those factors, you have to look at the wording and the scope of the particular marriage ban in place in each particular state.

“If you don’t do that, you run a danger of making bad law and making the next case that someone else brings harder,” Seagraves tells GA Voice.

Lambda Legal’s Littrell concurs, saying, “It could stop the momentum, and we want to keep building on that. That’s a fear—a case brought haphazardly or just based on principle and not thought through.”

That kind of case, by all accounts, could set the fight back by years. But while many disagree on the timing of such a lawsuit, everyone agrees on one thing.

“There will be people that challenge the Georgia law,” Kreis says. “I think that, especially in the legal and academic community, a clear understanding of the Windsor decision is that all these state marriage bans have to fall. It’s just a matter of time.”

Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Source: Freedom to Marry

Source for Article: Patrick Saunders for The GA Voice 


Fighting & WInning Against Proposition 8

On August 19, 2009, Jo Becker of the Times wrote a front-page profile of Ted Olson, the most well-known and highly regarded conservative lawyer in the country, who had filed a federal lawsuit challenging California’s Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to prohibit gay marriage. Olson said that he hoped to take the argument to the Supreme Court, to seek a ruling that the Constitution guaranteed every gay and lesbian the right to marry. What’s more, Olson was joined in the lawsuit by one of the most prominent left-leaning attorneys in the country, David Boies, who had been Olson’s opposing counsel in Bush v. Gore. Boies, like Olson, is straight. Becker quoted Paul Katami, one of the gay plaintiffs in the California case, describing how Olson “put his arm around me and said, ‘We’re going to plan your wedding in a couple of years—this is going to happen.’ ”

I remember reading the story at the time and thinking, “This is clever.” A lot of people who were not in favor of same-sex marriage—or who weren’t even thinking about it, as it was only allowed in five states—might now seriously consider the issue. If two of the best lawyers in America, from opposite sides of the political spectrum, joined forces, and had resources comparable to those that they enjoyed when battling on behalf of corporate clients, it seemed like they had a real chance of convincing the Supreme Court that the Constitution did guarantee a right to marry.

The story was so intriguing to Becker that she covered it, full time, for almost five years, arranging with the plaintiffs and their lawyers to obtain unrestricted access to them during the case, on the condition that she not publish the complete story until after it was over. Her book, “Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality,” will be released on Tuesday. (I was interviewed for the book.)

The book focuses on Chad Griffin, a Los Angeles political consultant, Hollywood fund-raiser, and former staffer in the Clinton White House (where he and I briefly worked together). Soon after the passage of Proposition 8, in November, 2008, the idea of hiring Olson was serendipitously suggested to Griffin by an acquaintance of one of his clients, who happened to drop in on their lunch one day at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Griffin was pained by the success of the anti-gay initiative and, like a good public-relations man, he knew better than to pass up a headline-grabbing idea. Olson, much to Griffin’s surprise, was more than eager to take up a challenge to what he regarded as the violation of a constitutionally guaranteed right to marry. Olson and Griffin decided to enlist a liberal co-counsel, to help convince gay-rights groups that their plan was not a sinister anti-gay scheme. After their first two choices declined, Boies agreed to sign on—Becker suggests that Boies liked the case from the start, in part because “its history-making potential and odd-couple story line was sure to garner huge amounts of press interest.” (The lawyers and their backers were so sure of this that they not only arranged for Becker to have behind-the-scenes access, they also had a documentary film crew and an award-winning photographer chronicle the story.)

Their strategy was simple: draw attention to the issue by featuring these new and unlikely advocates; wrap the cause in the American flag; embrace support from those who had come late to the fight; and orchestrate the whole thing like a political campaign. As we now know, this was, in many ways, a brilliant stroke, politically if not legally. The Proposition 8 lawsuit did not succeed in obtaining the broad Supreme Court ruling that Olson and Griffin had hoped for; the justices decided that their opponents didn’t have standing, and left in place a lower-court ruling overturning California’s ban. That did restore marriage rights to couples in that state; still, if that was all that the court had ruled that summer, it might have been viewed as a disappointment. But it was decided the same day as the Supreme Court’s historic decision in the case brought by Edie Windsor and her lawyer Roberta Kaplan to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Becker reports that Olson and Griffin originally considered fashioning their case as a challenge to DOMA, but did not want to pit themselves against President Obama, whose Department of Justice would have had to defend the law. Still, there is no question that the Proposition 8 case was a major factor in the shift in public opinion that laid the political groundwork for Windsor.

It was the Court’s ruling in Windsor, not the Proposition 8 case, that has become the legal basis for a number of other cases seeking full federal recognition of same-sex marriage rights, which are now working their way through the appeals courts. One or more of these cases—possibly including a new one brought by Olson and Boies—will reach the Supreme Court in a year or two. As Becker describes in considerable detail, the California case and the strategy behind it worried and angered the established gay-rights legal community, which believed that the suit was too aggressive, might precipitate a Supreme Court ruling that could set back the cause, and was liable to upset the long-gestating, incremental legal strategy already under way—not to mention that two straight corporate lawyers, Boies and Olson, would get the credit if it succeeded. Becker reports that Paul Smith, the openly gay lawyer who argued Lawrence v. Texas before the Supreme Court, turned down a request to join the case from Olson and Griffin, because he believed that their approach was too risky. There was more to that than Becker perhaps acknowledges. But the Proposition 8 argument turned out to be insightful: it anticipated a developing shift in American public opinion on this issue, while at the same time helping to accelerate it. And whatever the internal battles, other gay civil-rights groups were at least publicly supportive of it. They helped to lay that groundwork, too.

Becker’s account of the hearings, and her analysis of the complicated legal theories involved in the long appeals process, are excellent. Her writing about the four plaintiffs in the case—the true emotional heroes of this book—is particularly affecting. The book is not, however, a neutral account of what happened: it is an account as seen largely through the eyes of Griffin and Olson. It could be argued that Becker is not sufficiently careful in drawing attention to this distinction, but I think any knowledgeable reader will understand that this is the case. The book is a rather adoring narrative profile of these two men and what they went through in an effort to change history, and perhaps to make their own personal marks on it. Here are a recently “out” and fairly conservative young gay Democrat from Arkansas and a very prominent Republican attorney who symbolized the triumphant conservatism of the Bush years, joining forces to fight for gay equality.

Even before its release, the book has attracted considerable attention: an excerpt appeared in the Times Magazine, detailing Obama’s own struggle to “evolve” on the issue, which I wrote about here. Late in the book, Charles Cooper, the lawyer who argued against Olson and Boies, reveals to Becker that his daughter is a lesbian—and this tidbit was leaked to the press last week to help create more pre-publication buzz. The portrait of Cooper, whom Becker interviewed at length after the case ended, is beautifully nuanced. “My views evolve on issues of this kind the same way as other people’s do, and how I view this down the road may not be the way I view it now, or how I viewed it ten years ago,” Cooper told her. That kind of admission would seem to be the whole point.

For the most part, Becker does not write about participants in the campaign for marriage equality who were not directly involved in bringing the Proposition 8 case, except to highlight their skepticism about what she clearly believes was an excellent legal strategy. Indeed, a reader coming to the story only through this book would miss something important about the roles of Evan Wolfson, whose Harvard Law School thesis formed the basis for the marriage-equality movement and who has continued to be a legal and political leader on the topic; Andrew Sullivan, who gave the movement intellectual heft with his writings on gay marriage in the nineties; and Mary Bonauto, the adored lawyer for the movement who brought the first successful marriage case in Massachusetts, among many others.

Anyone who wants a complete history and overview of the gay-rights movement can read Linda Hirshman’s excellent and comprehensive “Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution,” published in 2012, or, even before that, Dudley Clendinen and Adam Nagourney’s “Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America,” published in 2001, which is still a treasure. But if you are interested in the story of how a Hollywood political consultant and a conservative lawyer joined forces in 2009, in the belief that they could really make a difference, and, no doubt, gain some notoriety for themselves and their cause, helping to dramatically change the way Americans thought of gay people and the way gay people thought of themselves—this book is for you. The real story it tells is how seemingly small moments, occurring by happenstance, when combined with boldness and imagination, can help to change the course of history. There is a moment toward the end of the book when Olson expresses some self-doubt, as he prepares to argue the case before the Supreme Court, but one of his longtime conservative friends tells him, “You’ve already won.”

Richard Socarides is an attorney and longtime gay-rights advocate. He served in the White House during the Clinton Administration and has also been a political strategist. He now oversees public affairs at GLG. Opinions expressed here are only his own. Follow him on Twitter @Socarides.

Photograph of Ted Olson by Amanda Edwards/Getty.

Source: Richard Socarides for The New Yorker


CINCINNATI — Ohio officials must immediately recognize the same-sex marriages of four couples who sued over the state’s gay marriage ban, a federal judge said Wednesday, while staying the broader effects of his ruling to avoid “premature celebration and confusion” in case it’s overturned on appeal.

U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black

U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black

Judge Timothy Black stayed his ruling ordering Ohio to recognize the marriages of gay couples who wed in other states pending appeal in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The appeals process likely will take months.

Had Black not issued the stay, all married gay couples living in Ohio would have been able to immediately begin obtaining the same benefits as any other married couple in the state, including property rights and the right to make some medical decisions for each other.

Black said the stay does not apply to the four couples who filed the February lawsuit that led to the court case, and ordered Ohio to immediately list both spouses in each relationship as parents on their children’s birth certificates.

Liz Wilson and her wife are among those who will have to wait for the appeal to play out.

“It’s frustrating,” said the 44-year-old Cleveland woman, who married her wife in New York last year. “At the end of the day you just want your family to be safe and secure.”

In explaining the stay, Black said that although he doesn’t think the state’s appeal will succeed, there is still a chance the 6th Circuit could overturn his decision.

“The court recognizes that recognition of same-sex marriages is a hotly contested issue in the contemporary legal landscape, and, if (the) appeal is ultimately successful, the absence of a stay … is likely to lead to confusion, potential inequity and high costs,” Black said. “Premature celebration and confusion do not serve anyone’s best interests.”

In a court filing arguing for a stay, attorneys for the state did not contest Black’s stated inclination to allow the four couples to both be listed on their children’s birth certificates.

“We’re happy that the judge agreed to the stay,” said Rob Nichols, Gov. John Kasich’s spokesman. He declined to comment further.

Al Gerhardstein, the Cincinnati civil rights attorney who represents the four couples in the lawsuit and argued against a stay of any kind, said in a statement that “at least for these four couples, the Constitution stands on the side of love.”

“The implementation of same-sex marriage recognition has started and we are all very excited,” he said. “We will try and expedite the appeals process so full marriage recognition for all same-sex couples does not trail too far behind.”

Three of the four couples who filed the lawsuit live in the Cincinnati area. One spouse in each relationship is pregnant and due to give birth this summer. The fourth couple lives in New York City but adopted a child from Ohio.

In Monday’s ruling, Black said the state’s refusal to recognize out-of-state gay marriage is a violation of constitutional rights and “unenforceable in all circumstances.”

“The record before this court … is staggeringly devoid of any legitimate justification for the state’s ongoing arbitrary discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” Black wrote.

Including Black, eight federal judges have issued pro-gay-marriage rulings since the Supreme Court’s decision last June that struck down part of the federal anti-gay marriage law. All but one of those rulings has been stayed pending appeal.

Although Black’s order does not force Ohio to allow gay marriages to be performed in the state, Gerhardstein said he was planning to file a lawsuit in the next couple of weeks seeking such a ruling.

The stay order is here.

The case is Henry v. Wymyslo.

imageMike Huckabee: How can Obama support same-sex marriage and call himself a Christian? (via Raw Story )

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) attacked President Barack Obama on Friday night over his support of same-sex marriage. Mediaite reported that Huckabee was appearing on “The O’Reilly Factor” with substitute host Laura Ingraham when he made…


h/t: Kyle Mantyla at RWW

h/t: Nicholas Riccardi at LGBTQNation

From the 04.03.2014 edition of Truth In Action Ministries’ Vocal Point:

h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW 

h/t: Catherne Thompson at TPM

Good news out of Ohio on marriage equality.


BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner:


The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today that same-sex spouses will be recognized in administering several aspects of the Medicare program, regardless of where the couple lives. CMS works with the Social Security Administration to conduct eligibility determinations and to enroll seniors and individuals with certain disabilities in the program. Social Security updated their own marriage recognition policies earlier this week to streamline the handling of marriage-based claims involving transgender people. The announcement is the latest step implementing the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Social Security will now begin processing Medicare enrollment, requests for Special Enrollment Periods, and requests for reductions in late-enrollment penalties for many same-sex spouses. Eligibility for Medicare Part A and Part B coverage is particularly important for these families, who are disproportionately likely to be uninsured. Medicare Part A coverage is often available without paying a monthly premium, making it important for the many lesbian, gay, and bisexual people who struggle to afford coverage.

CMS’s decision also impacts some people who previously applied for a Special Enrollment Period but were denied eligibility because of DOMA. For some of these couples, Social Security will be able to approve a second request for a Special Enrollment Period, giving more immediate access to Medicare coverage.

For couples in domestic partnerships or civil unions this announcement offers some, but not all of the same opportunities for enrolling in Medicare coverage. Domestic partnerships and civil unions are not recognized for the purposes of Special Enrollment Periods for applicants 65 or older, but for those applicants with disabilities who are under 65, Special Enrollment Periods are available as long as the applicant has coverage through their partner’s current employer.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CMS have been acting to implement the Windsor decision since last year, expanding coverage for many same-sex couples. HHS announced last month that plans sold through Marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act must offer coverage to all same-sex spouses starting in 2015. In September of last year, CMS sent a letter to state Medicaid directors granting discretion to recognize same-sex marriages according to the laws of their state.

Read the full Medicare announcement here.


Same-sex couples legally marry in England, Wales

BBC NewsCouples flocked to town halls during the early hours of Saturday as a law legalizing same-sex marriage took effect in England and Wales.

The law, which was passed last year, was hailed by politicians from both the country’s main parties. Prime Minister David Cameron said he believed the law sent a message that people were equal “whether gay or straight.” 

Scotland also passed a similar law in February but the first same-sex marriages aren’t expected until October. 

Photo: Peter Tatchell (left) was chief witness at Peter McGraith and David Cabreza’s wedding in Islington. (Getty Images)


(via thepoliticalfreakshow)