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Archives – March, 2011

Target Sues Marriage Equality Canvassing Organization

by Brian Leubitz

Last year, Target got into some hot water for donating $150,000 to an organization in support of anti-gay Minnesota candidate for governor Tom Emmer.  Apparently in their continuing effort to remind the LGBT communities to stay away from big box stores, they have followed up this week by singling out an organization, Canvass For A Change (CFAC) that is canvassing San Diego stores to talk about marriage equality.

In a court document, a Target official at the Poway store complained that CFAC volunteers were talking to customers about gay marriage, among other issues, and contended that they had received complaints from some customers who were upset by the topic.

Court documents also show that Target Corp. is worried that the company may be viewed as being for gay marriage if activist groups like CFAC are allowed to speak to their customers. (San Diego Gay and Lesbian News)

Now, the first defense that you will hear from every mainstream outlet is that Target just doesn’t like anybody outside their stores and that, heck, they even booted the Salvation Army.  (By the way, the Salvation Army is pretty anti-LGBT themselves.) Now, what you won’t hear is that they didn’t really boot the Salvation Army out, so much as paid them to go away. They give the Salvation Army a fairly sizable contribution every year.

There are two real issues going on here.  First, it seems that Target is, um, targeting this pro-marriage equality organization in a way that they aren’t for other organizations.  True, they do try to get rid of as many canvassers as they can outside of their stores.  But CFAC director Tres Watson says that the policy is not enforced uniformly at all, with Girl Scouts and veterans organizations tolerated, while CFAC is sued for an immediate injunction.

The other issues is the important nature of the first amendment freedom of speech issues.  Clearly if this were a Main Stree mom and pop store trying to sue an organization from setting up in the middle of the adjacent town square, they would be laughed out of court on first amendment grounds.  After all, we all have the right to speak our peace in that proverbial zone of free speech.   Yet unfortunately, there are few actual town squares left these days.  We just don’t live in an environment anymore where people cluster around the bandstand on Friday evenings.

Instead, we cluster around stores and strip malls, such as Target.  As the attorneys for CFAC have argued,  the strip mall is the new town square.  This is where people gather, and this is where you can speak if you want to get noticed.  This is how we confront issues facing our communities, through talking to each other.  And if we cut off this communication, we risk merely retreating to our own corners and further dividing our nation.

It turns out that the framers had it right on the First Amendment.  Now, of course you have to confront the issue of what if NOM or a similar organization were out there campaigning against equality? What would we say then? Well, for better or worse, organizations should be able to respectfully communicate a message.  Now, if they were to grow offensive or hostile, I think you have opened a different can of worms.

Now, the question for us a nation is how critical we think these First Amendment rights really are. Are they important enough to deal with on the way to stock up on paper towels and sporting goods? Ultimately, that is the question here.  I’m curious to hear what the P8TT community thinks on this issue from a practical standpoint.

130 Comments March 26, 2011

GOP still hasn’t realized that Bryan Fisher’s a liability: Newt Gingrich edition

27 Comments March 26, 2011

Remembering my Grandpa

By Adam Bink

This will be my last post until early next week as I attend funeral services.

I was going to write this post as just an update, but telling funny stories has helped through this, so I’d just like to share as it relates to this community.

Yesterday morning my Grandpa passed away back home in Western New York. He was 100 years old. I already miss him so much it hurts.

I was thinking about generations and coming out. I made a promise not to come out to my Grandpa a long time ago, one which I have kept until the end.

For those of you who know me, you know how fierce an advocate I am. Harvey Milk’s clarion call to come out because we must be visible, lest we be persecuted and die in the closet, guides a part of my dyed-in-the-wool core belief to be open and proud about who we are so LGBT people will be respected.

But I was always okay with being silent to Grandpa. There are two reasons.

One is because of a story. Grandpa also has a granddaughter (my sister) who is married to a man. He also has two more grandchildren (my male and female cousin, who are the same age as my sister and I) who are also married to a woman and a man, respectively. That’s four grandchildren total, three of whom are married. And then there’s me. I’ve been asked by most everyone in my extended family, before they knew I was gay, the usual questions: whether I had a girlfriend, when I’m going to get good and married, if I’m seeing anyone, until my head hurt.

Except Grandpa. I can’t ever remember Grandpa asking me, even after his wife, my late Grandma (who used to ask me) passed away years ago. Maybe I should just chalk it up to modesty, but I always thought, maybe Grandpa just knew, and whatever his personal feelings, he’d just let it be. “It is what it is,” is a phrase he used to say to me, shrugging his shoulders. And I think that was okay.

The second reason is because a few years ago, I was living with my then-boyfriend, an Indonesian immigrant with a difficult name to remember, especially for a man nearing 100 years old. Grandpa had met him a few times and liked him well enough, and knew he was my “roommate”. I remember once my sister called me and told me Grandpa had asked her, “how’s Adam and his partner down in DC?” We both laughed because we didn’t know if it was because Grandpa just couldn’t remember my boyfriend’s difficult-to-remember name, or couldn’t remember if he was my friend or roommate or what. Or the last reason- we knew Grandpa watched a lot of daytime TV, so I said, “hey, maybe Grandpa’s been watching Oprah and knows the polite term for ‘committed long-term same-sex partner’, so he’s putting it to good use!” We laughed and laughed about it.

I don’t know what the real reason was, but I always like to think it was the last reason. So even though I never came out to Grandpa, I like to think he respected who I am as a man. And that’s part of the reason I miss him so much.

This will be my last post through Tuesday morning. Posting will be light from other front-pagers here. As usual, if you would like to submit a guest piece, send it to prop8trial@couragecampaign.org.

49 Comments March 25, 2011

The mantle of family values belongs to those seeking to end DOMA

By Adam Bink

The New York Times ed board does this issue justice:

President Obama came to the right conclusion last month when he decided that the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal spousal benefits to married same-sex couples, is unconstitutional, and ended the government’s defense of the law in pending court cases. But that did not relieve Congress of its duty to renounce the bigotry behind the 1996 law and wipe it off the books.

More than 100 House Democrats, led by Jerrold Nadler of New York, John Conyers of Michigan and Barney Frank of Massachusetts, have introduced a bill calling for a repeal of the act. An identical repeal bill was offered in the Senate by Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Dianne Feinstein of California and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, all Democrats.

Getting the repeal bills through both chambers will not be easy. Republican leaders are continuing to pander and promote intolerance, declaring that they will step in for the administration to defend the act’s denial of equal protection in court either by formally intervening or filing an amicus brief using outside lawyers paid for by taxpayers. Mr. Leahy, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, should schedule a hearing to call in couples to talk about the harm caused by the act to make clear that their marriages are deserving of full respect.

Republicans like to cast themselves as the protectors of “family values.” But that mantle properly belongs to President Obama and the Congressional Democrats committed to ending this atrocious law.

Folks like these:

63 Comments March 25, 2011

Now just one vote shy of DOMA repeal in the Senate Judiciary Committee

By Adam Bink

A few days ago, following when I did a whip count of support for DOMA repeal, I was quoted in a Minnesota Independent piece regarding a post I wrote here titled “We are two votes shy of repealing DOMA in the Senate Judiciary Committee”. Here’s the Minnesota Independent excerpt (bolding mine):

Klobuchar missing from DOMA repeal bill

Bill needs only two votes to pass out of committee

Sen. Amy Klobuchar is one of only two Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee who have not signed on to a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, and that committee is only two votes away from passing the bill out of committee. Klobuchar and Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl are seen as the two key votes on the committee and both have said they haven’t decided which way they will vote when the bill is taken up in the coming weeks.

The bill would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1995 bill signed by President Clinton which bans the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. In February, President Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder evaluated the law, found it likely to be unconstitutional and decided not to defend the law in court challenges. And last Wednesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California introduced a bill to repeal the law.

Minnesota’s Sen. Al Franken, who also sits on the 18-member judiciary committee, is a sponsor of the bill. In order to pass the committee, the bill needs 10 votes, and eight senators on that committee are already sponsors. Eight other members of the committee are Republicans not likely to vote for the bill. That leaves two votes unaccounted for, those of Klobuchar and Kohl.

The Courage Campaign, a proponent of the bill, contacted Klobuchar and Kohl late last week.

“I just got off the phone with the offices of Democratic Sens. Kohl (D-WI) and Klobuchar (D-MN), who are not co-sponsors and told me they have not yet taken a position on the bill itself yet,” wrote Adam Bink, director of online programs for the Courage Campaign. “To my knowledge, no Republicans on the committee have taken a position on this bill, either. So we are two [votes] shy.”

OutFront Minnesota, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy group, responded to the news in a Facebook posting: “Who knew Amy Klobuchar hasn’t taken a position on the repeal of DOMA? It’ll probably come as a surprise to thousands of voters (and donors).”

We’re still waiting for confirmation, but today Andy Birkey, the original author of the piece above, posted an update (bolding mine):

Klobuchar to vote for DOMA repeal

By Andy Birkey | 03.24.11 | 11:12 am

Sen. Amy Klobuchar will support a bill that would repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) when it comes up for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on which Klobuchar serves, state Sen. Scott Dibble has indicated. DOMA currently prevents same-sex couples legally married in five states, Washington, D.C., and one tribal nation from receiving the federal benefits of marriage. President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder decided in February to halt defense of DOMA citing its probable unconstitutionality.

Last week, the Courage Campaign noted that Klobuchar was one of two Democratic senators who hadn’t signed on to the DOMA repeal bill (the other is Wisconsin’s Herb Kohl) and that her office stated that she had not taken a position on the bill. That prompted OutFront Minnesota, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy group, to initiate a campaign urging constituents to call on her to support the repeal.

On Tuesday, state Sen. Dibble of Minneapolis noted that he spoke with Klobuchar’s staff, who indicated she would vote for the measure.

“I have spoken directly with Amy Klobuchar’s State Director,” Dibble wrote on Facebook. “Senator Klobuchar will be voting for the repeal of DOMA in the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

Klobuchar’s press office has not responded to the Minnesota Independent’s request for confirmation.

Success! Now, I’d like to see Sen. Klobuchar join as a co-sponsor, and let’s see what we can do about Sen. Herb Kohl.

If her position is confirmed, this puts us just one vote shy of passage.

If you haven’t done so yet, join our campaign to repeal DOMA, now over 50,000 people and counting.

36 Comments March 24, 2011

Tonite’s Courage Campaign congressional debate… with an openly gay Republican

By Adam Bink

Many of  you know our work on LGBT equality, but probably fewer know that Courage Campaign was originally founded as a multi-issue organization working to bring progressive policies — including equality — to the state of California. As such, we work on budget issues, different propositions on the ballot, and more.

As such, tonight (at 6 PM PST/9 PM EST)  we’ll be hosting a debate among the candidates to replace Jane Harman in a special election in California’s 36th district (Los Angeles area). We’re hosting the debate to make sure progressive voices and questions are represented.

Participating will be:

  • CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen
  • LA City Councilwoman Janice Hahn
  • Two-time former candidate and educator Marcy Winograd
  • Openly gay, two-term Republican Mayor of Redondo Beach, Mike Gin

I think it’s particularly exciting as all of the candidates are LGBT allies, so we can progress to a broader conversation beyond yes/no on issues to talking about who is best to lead on LGBT issues in Congress.

You can submit questions you’d like the candidates to answer (Rick Jacobs will be moderating) via this link:

http://www.couragecampaign.org/CA36Forum

Which is also the place where you can listen to the live-stream of the debate tonight at 6 PM PST/9 PM EST.

You can also follow along and submit questions on Twitter with the hashtag #Courage36.

More from the Los Angeles Times and the Bay Area Reporter. This is an open thread on the CA-36 special election.

6 Comments March 24, 2011

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