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Archives – April, 2010

Full Circle

by Brian Leubitz

Way back in 1993, Hawaii started kicking up the first few bits of dust in the same-sex marriage. While I was still in high school, the Supreme Court of the Aloha state ruled that the state should accept same-sex marriages. Before that ruling ever went into effect, however, the state passed an initiative banning same sex marriage. Sound familiar?

Since that time, the state hasn’t really been much of a leader in the fight for full marriage equality. Much of that has to do with the 1993 vote, but years after several other states now have marriage equality that was basically considered some sort of strange joke back then, Hawaii still has no civil unions at all. But that just might change very soon:

In a move that still needs the governor’s signature to become law, the House of Representatives Thursday night approved a measure that has drawn some of the state’s biggest protest rallies.

Republican Gov. Linda Lingle hasn’t said whether she’ll reject it or sign it into law but her office said later that she will carefully review the bill.

The House voted 31-20 in favor of the legislation, which had been stalled but was unexpectedly revived on the last day of this year’s legislative session. The Senate passed it in January.

The measure would grant gay and lesbian couples the same rights and benefits that the state provides to married couples. (AP)

Now, Linda Lingle is a Republican governor in an overwhelmingly Democratic state. By overwhelmingly, I really mean it. Of the 25 Senators, 23 are Democrats. Of the 51 Representatives, 45 are Democratic. That so many Democrats voted against a civil unions bill is a bit disappointing, but at least it was able to pass.

But being that Lingle is a Republican in such a deep blue state, she has had to campaign as being a “different kind” of Republican. Whether she’s different enough to sign a civil unions bill is an open question. That being said, a very solid majority of Americans supports civil unions, and that is true in Hawaii.

We’ll just have to wait and see on this one.

36 Comments April 30, 2010

Justice Scalia Supports the Gays!

by Brian Leubitz

Ok, now that I shocked you into reading this post, let me clarify. Justice Scalia, in oral argument yesterday, grilled attorneys for Protect Marriage Washington who were trying to hide the names of people who had signed the petition to put Washington’s domestic partnership up on the ballot.

For the second time this month, the U.S. Supreme Court’s most conservative member, Justice Antonin Scalia, on Wednesday, April 28 took a surprising position — one that is helpful to gay civil rights.

“The First Amendment,” said Scalia during oral arguments in a case involving the 2008 Washington State referendum on a domestic partnership law, “does not protect you from criticism or even nasty phone calls when you exercise your political rights to legislate, or to take part in the legislative process.” The point was essentially the same as that made by five national gay legal and political groups in their friend-of-the-court brief in the case, Doe v. Reed. (Bay Windows)

First, let me just say this before the world gets too topsy-turvy. Justice Scalia is rather dogmatic. It is just that his dogma happens to coincide with what LGBT issues at this point.

Here’s the background on this case. A group of ant-gay opponents of domestic partnership in Washington placed a measure on the ballot, Ref71. 71 would have eliminated Washington’s domestic parternship program. Apparently, for some, it isn’t really about marriage, it’s about never letting gays and lesbians have any rights with respect to the ones they love whatsoever. The issue in this case is whether the Washington law that allows the names of those who signed the petition to be made available is Constitutional.

Justice Scalia pretty much sums up my thoughts on the issue. You have a right to free speech, but not the right to be free of others criticism based upon the speech. That’s really no way to run a democracy. Democracy requires that, in the political arena, we speak freely, yet speak with without a veil of secrecy. The anti-marriage crowd wants to pelt stones at our community from behind a duck blind.

Perhaps they should just put sheets on, throw on a white hood, and be done with it. That always worked for the racists back in the day.

58 Comments April 29, 2010

FINALLY: Closing Arguments Set for June 16th

By Paul Hogarth

So now we finally have a date for Closing Arguments for the Prop 8 trial — Wednesday, June 16th, or 156 days after the start of the Trial.  By now, we’ve heard the evidence, we know what’s been said, and there’s been a lot of analysis on this site about what it means for the outcome, our movement, and our lives.

But besides setting a date for closing arguments, Judge Walker set a date for the defense counsel to submit their motion to suppress at least part of Dr. Tam’s testimony.  As you recall, Dr. Tam was the right-wing San Francisco minister who believed that his kids will turn gay if marriage equality was allowed to remain.  We’ll find out on May 7th how much of the testimony they want stricken from the record, and what is their basis.  Our side will have until May 10th to then file an objection.

So what happens if Dr. Tam’s testimony is taken out?  Dr. Tam was powerful evidence that Prop 8 was driven by animus and a hatred of homosexuals, which would be enough to strike Prop 8 — even under the more lenient “rational basis” grounds set up in Romer v. Evans (1996.)  But while Dr. Tam’s testimony is damning and it should be kept in, there was a whole lot of other evidence that our side presented.  In fact, when it came time for the defense to produce their “experts,” there wasn’t a whole lot of reason they could provide.

If it’s impossible to dream up a “rational” basis for deny LGBT people the right to marry the person they love, and all the reasons the defense provides is merely a subterfuge for bigotry, Prop 8 must be found unconstitutional.  Dr. Tam’s testimony was the most dramatic and forceful, but our side put on a good case tying other “rationales” for Prop 8 to be simply animus.  In fact, I would argue the strongest witness we had for our side was San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders — who explained how he came to the realization that his so-called “friendly” reasons for opposing gay marriage had merely been based out of irrational discomfort.

62 Comments April 28, 2010

Liveblogging: April 28th Hearing

by Paul Hogarth

I’m here in Judge Vaughn Walker’s federal courtroom in downtown San Francisco for a hearing on the Perry v. Schwarzenegger Prop 8 trial. LGBT POV has some useful background on today’s hearing, which may see Judge Walker finally set a date for closing arguments in the trial.

And here we go!

Steven Bonsey for ACLU
Bassenhau for EQCA
Defense intervenors present (Fennuchio, i believe)
Other lawyers on plaintiff’s side

Judge: in view of yesterday’s communication from No on 8 groups, have they complied with the orders?

A: They were sent overnight, but I haven’t read them yet. They are in my office.

Fennuchio: although the file seems thin based on what they were ordered to file.

Judge: Any explanation?

ACLU: we reviewed thousands of documents, and produced what we were required to do under March 5th order

Judge: how long does defense need to review these docs to say they’ve been in compliance?

Other defense lawyer: how about a week?

Fennuchio: a week would be okay. But EQCA, how many docs did you send us?

EQCA: about 4500

ACLU: also thousands of emails

Judge: let me lay out a schedule. I was thinking about giving defense until May 3 to determine if … Uh, actually both sides should have until Friday 4/30 to conform or deny they have complied. If there’s an allegation there was no compliance, there will be a hearing on May 3 at 10am.

If no allegation, defense have until May 5 to submit a supplement to the evidentiary record, and May 7 for plaintiffs to object to the submission of evidentiary record.

Also schedule motion for reconsideration, but before that … Is what I outlined for No on 8 practical?

Fennuchio: yes, but make it end of the day May 5th … And what about our chance to respond to their objections they fule on May 7?

Judge: ok, May 12 .., at which point, there will be no additional evidence

Judge: I’m hopeful that there will be an agreement that compliance has been made.

Well, can the proponents file their objections by noon on Friday the 30th?

Defense counsels: yes

Judge: I’d like to set a schedule for remainder of case. I am inclined to grant the defense motion for Dr. Tam’s reconsideration, and want their submission by May 6 and have plaintiffs objection by May 10.

Closing arguments set for June 16 at 10am.

All lawyers agree.

Hearing over.

I’ll be posting an analysis of today’s hearing shortly. Stay tuned!

23 Comments April 28, 2010

The Plight of Gay Iraqis

by Brian Leubitz

Yesterday I wrote about the LGBT community in India, and while times aren’t always easy there, they do have it better off than our community in Iraq. With the government still being quite weak, providing protection for minorities isn’t really high up on their list of goals. While times in Iraq are generally quite tough, being gay can be even more dangerous. Last year, US officials acknowledge several murders and other acts of violence:

“In general, we absolutely condemn acts of violence and human rights violations committed against individuals in Iraq because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said.

“This is an issue that we’ve been following very closely since we have been made aware of these allegations, and we are aware of the allegations,” Kelly told reporters when asked about anti-gay violence in Iraq. (Times of India)

Unfortunately, the United States has been extremely slow to accept Iraqi refugees, even those at extreme risk of violence. Meanwhile, Europe has picked up much of that slack. Sweden now has a burgeoning Iraqi population; they deserve a lot of respect and credit for welcoming so many refugees. Of course, there are always problems associated with taking in refugees, and Sweden and the rest of Europe is no exception. A recent Amnesty International report argues that the immigration officials have been particularly harsh towards our community:

According to the report, women, ethnic minorities and gays, or those perceived to be gay, are most likely to be at risk of violence and persecution in the country. More than 100 civilians died in the first week of April. Amnesty accused the UK, along with several other countries, of forcibly returning “scores” of Iraqis to dangerous areas in the country, breaking international rules.

The report said: “Despite the ongoing violence in Iraq, several European governments continue to forcibly return rejected Iraqi asylum-seekers to Iraq. In 2009, the authorities in Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK forcibly returned scores of Iraqis to unsafe parts of Iraq, such as central Iraq, in breach of UNHCR guidelines.”

It recommended that all forcible returns should cease and resume only when the security situation in the country has stabilised. (UK PinkNews)

With a lack of stability, minorities are always at risk. Life was no picnic under Saddam Hussein, to be sure, but the turbulence has been particularly hard on gays and lesbians in Iraq. Governments everywhere (especially the United States) should be doing all that they can to protect all minorities in Iraq, but also welcoming them under international asylum laws. It is our moral duty to the Iraqi people.

43 Comments April 27, 2010

In India, Baby Steps

by Brian Leubitz

Last year, my husband and I took a trip to Rajasthan, in India. For about three weeks in February, we toured the palaces and forts of the region. It was a fascinating learning experience, but it was not without its travails. As a side note if you are thinking of taking a trip to India, I recommend seeing several different parts of the country by using the growing domestic air market.

But, being openly gay in India is still not a common occurrence. When we asked for one bed (yes, we’re sure) we got some very quizzical looks. Everybody was extremely nice, and everything went generally smoothly, but there were some questions you don’t get here.

For example, while we were staying at a somewhat cheesy “desert camp,” we met some friendly Australians. Seeing that the couple seemed to know us, they got an interesting question from the staff. “Are those two brothers, or something weird?”

“They are American,” our new friends responded.

But that being said, it is hard to be openly gay in India. And that’s why the news of a Bollywood film featuring a gay kiss made so much news:

THE posters are ready, as is the film. The only question is whether the Indian public is ready.

Dunno Y … Na Jaane Kyun, a film featuring Bollywood’s first cinematic gay kiss, is scheduled for general release within weeks. Already dubbed India’s answer to Brokeback Mountain, it tells the story of an aspiring model who travels to Mumbai, India’s commercial and film capital, to seek his fortune and enters into a homosexual relationship, in part to further his career. …

Gay activists fear Dunno Y … will provoke a backlash from religious and political conservatives, many of whom opposed what was in effect the recent repeal of colonial-era laws that made homosexuality punishable by up to 10 years in prison as a crime against nature. Promotional posters for Dunno Y … showing two semi-naked young men embracing, did spark controversy last year.

The film’s director, Sanjay Sharma, told the BBC recently that Indian cinemagoers were ”mature enough” to deal with the storyline.(Sydney Morning Herald)

India is, in general, just now coming upon some of the issues that America faced a bunch of years ago. They are just now showing modest heterosexual sex scenes in their movies and kissing is no longer as taboo. Gay Indians, however, are still mostly ignored, with most remaining in the closet. If you’ve seen Bend it Like Beckham, you’ll know what I’m talking about. When the teenage gay character comes out to his friend, she asks him, “But you’re Indian?”

This is not to denigrate the Indian people, rather to point out the changing landscape outside of America. While we have our fights here, there are far more struggles just beginning outside of our own borders. And travel for Americans who are used to a standard of tolerance can sometimes be a jolt. What is your experience with travel?

42 Comments April 26, 2010

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