April 25, 2011
By Matt Baume
There’s going to be marriage more than ever before, with another survey showing majority support for the freedom to marry. So why are Republicans spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend a law that could tear apart legally married couples like Henry and Josh? There’s promising signs for marriage in New York and Scotland, but a legal setback in Montana is likely to postpone weddings for years. And the internet’s most popular weekly LGBT marriage news video show gets a brand new logo.
You’ve probably noticed that “This Week in Prop 8” is now “Marriage News Watch.” It’s basically the same show, only with a better name, a better website, a better logo, and now I’m standing on the left.
Click here to subscribe to our new YouTube channel, and visit us over at MarriageNewsWatch.com to find our new Facebook page, our Twitter feed, our RSS feed, and our email newsletter.
And there’s also one more change: more guests and contributors. And that’s where you come in. Whatever the name, I produce this show for the LGBT community, because we’re all fighting for marriage equality together. And now the show’s not just FOR the community — it’s also going to be BY the community.
I interview a lot of leaders and newsmakers, and I want to hear from you. If there’s news happening near you — a hearing, a protest, someone hurt by discrimination — get in touch with us so we can share your story.
For example, here’s some photos of the tax day protest in Los Angeles last week. Nothing too fancy — the organizers at GetEQUAL just took a few photos, sent ’em along, and now we all can see what happened and get inspired to take our own actions.
And even if nothing’s happening right now, we still want to have an army of newswatchers on the ground, to be the first to let the community know when something important pops up.
We have eyes and ears all over the world. So let’s get connected. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’ve got a story to tell right now, or if you can sit tight and sound the alarm when news happens near you.
Let’s take a look at news headlines this week — there’s a lot to talk about.
Another survey this week shows national majority support for marriage. This time it’s a CNN poll that puts us ahead by 51 to 47 percent. Now, that’s still a narrow margin, but they didn’t interview people under 35, so the number’s likely higher.
This is the fourth recent survey to show us pulling ahead, but Congressional Republicans are still pursuing regressive anti-gay campaigns.
This past week John Boehner revealed that he’s hired Paul Clement, a lawyer with the firm King & Spalding, to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. Taxpayers are going to pay big for Clement. He typically charges $900 an hour, and although he’s giving Boehner a slight discount, his contract sets aside half a million dollars, just for starters.
That contract also contains a gag order, preventing any King & Spalding employees from advocating for DOMA’s repeal. The firm currently has a rating of 95% from the Human Rights Campaign, but not for long. HRC has launched a campaign to make sure King & Spaulding’s clients, employees, and law schools know that the firm’s raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars by actively harming LGBT gay couples.
For an example of that harm, we don’t have to look any further than Josh Vandiver and Henry Velandia in New Jersey, who Courage Campaign and AllOut have filmed and on who behalf launched an emergency petition to Secretary Napolitano. Now, even though they’re legally married, the Department of Homeland Security is trying to deport Henry back to Venezuela.
This Friday, Immigration and Customs denied a request to terminate removal proceedings. They didn’t have to do that. They have the freedom to put cases like those on hold. And in fact, they do it all the time for straight couples. For example, with the widows of combat veterans.
Henry and Josh aren’t asking the government to recognize their marriage, just to respect it. But time’s running out — they’ll have their final deportation hearing on May 6th. For more information, let’s turn to one of the men at the center of that story.
MATT: We’re talking to Josh Vandiver right now. Josh is facing a deportation of his partner Henry. Josh, I want to get some more details about who you guys are. How did you meet Henry?
JOSH: Well Henry and I met here in Princeton, New Jersey, four and half years ago now. And we sort of hit it off immediately. I hadn’t ever had that experience with anyone else. We went to dinner, I remember sitting across from the dinner table with him and there was a little light between us, and it was lighting up his face and his smile. And I sort of forgot about what he was saying at certain points just because I was enamored with him. And we ended up spending every day with each other after that point and moved in after a few months and it was all happily ever after from that point on.
MATT: Was there a point at which you knew this is the guy that I want to spend the rest of my life with?
JOSH: It was interesting, we never fought, we always just loved being with each other over the months and years that we were together, so within a year or two we started thinking, at least I started seriously thinking, yeah, this is the person that I’d like to marry and spend the rest of my life with.
MATT: How long have you been together?
JOSH: Well four and half years, almost, and then we’ve been married for eight months or so. We married in August of 2010.
MATT: It must be difficult to plan your life together and your careers with this uncertainty about his citizenship hanging over your heads.
JOSH: Yeah, it’s a huge uncertainty. I mean, my future is being determined on May 6th as well. That’s the date when Henry’s judge could say that GHenry is going to be deported shortly thereafter. So I can’t go about building my life with him. We can’t build our life together with that date hanging over us like that. He’s a dancer, a salsa dancer, I’m a graduate student in politics, I want to be a professor someday. So that’s our life, and we want to just go about building it together. That’s why we to get past this threat of deportation which is so amazing that this could something that an American would be facing. Having their spouse deported.
MATT: Now that you’re facing this potential separation, can you imagine how you would say goodbye to Henry if the country made him leave?
JOSH: No. I couldn’t imagine saying goodbye to my spouse. I mean, it would be a minimum of ten years that we would be separated if that were to happen. And I’m determined not to let that happen. Not to let my spouse be deported and separated from me like that. There are so many other couples like us who are facing this kind of situation, with their spouse being ripped away from them. And it’s unnecessary. The executive branch could decide right now to stop these deportations. We understand that the Defense of Marriage Act is the law of the land as the President has said, but there’s nothing that dictates that he has to, and his administration have to actively prosecution the deportations of spouses of American citizens, due to a law that he thinks is unconstitutional.
MATT: So, if people want to help and contribute to this cause of stopping these deportations, what do you recommend, how can people get involved?
JOSH: The most urgent thing is that we all have to work in ways to convince secretary Napolitano and Holder, the Attorney General, to take these steps. We can do that by contacting our congresspeople, our Senators and Congressmen. We have a petition to Napolitano. And urging them to take action, basically. The executive branch. We have a petition you can find thought our Facebook page, Facebook.com/saveourmarriage, and there’s a petition through AllOut.org, which is a major organization that’s helping us as well. And then each of us individually can contact our members of Congress. And ultimately, they need to join the handfull of members of Congress that have already done so in calling on Napolitano to make this decision right away, it’s urgent. This is irreparable harm that I as an American and other Americans will suffer if our spouses are taken away from us while this Defense of Marriage Act is being challenged and its fate determined.
MATT: Yeah. Time’s really of the essence. So hopefully we can get as many people involved as possible. Josh, thank you so much for speaking with us and I really wish you the best of luck with pursuing this.
JOSH: Thank you very much Matt.
You can help Josh and Henry by signing the emergency petition, and by putting pressure on your Congresspeople. Call their offices and ask if they’ve signed the letters to Janet Napolitano, asking to halt deportation proceedings for LGBT couples. If they have, say thanks. If they’re on the fence or if they haven’t, tell them about Henry and Josh.
Meanwhile, while we ratchet up the noise on immigration, marriage might finally happen in New York state. For more on that situation, let’s check in with Cathy Marino-Thomas, Board President of Marriage Equality New York.
MATT: Cathy, it looks like the legislature is going to take up the marriage equality bill soon. Any estimate for when that’s going to happen?
CATHY: Well, we’ve heard anywhere from three weeks to six weeks. So we’re hoping for the three weeks.
MATT: Right. Things didn’t go so smoothly in 2009, what’s going to be different this time around?
CATHY: Well, you know, the governor is a much more politically powerful person than our last governor was. Although he was fabulous. This governor seems to have relationships on both sides of the aisle, that’ll be extremely helpful. He’s from a political family. They’re very well-connected and they do very well on social justice type issues. He has a very good record. He’s putting an awful lot of promise behind this. We are also working … there are much more volunteers on the ground this time. There’s much more concentrated effort. More in the bipartisan way. So I think all in all, I think we’re looking at a really strong momentum here in New York.
MATT: What’s Marriage Equality New York doing to push this forward.
CATHY: We have volunteers out every night, getting letters signed, making flash phone calls on cell phones to Senators’ offices, at train stations and bus depots, in front of supermarkets and in malls. We’re targeting the Senators a little better. We have, oh my God, we are working all over the state this time, we have everywhere from western New York to very high up North, to the city areas and all the boroughs. We’re working with HRC and Empire State Pride Agenda, with GetEQUAL, with Marriage Equality New York. All in coalition together. Freedom to Marry is on board here. We have coordinated press releases going out. We’re just getting it in the news everywhere we can. Queer Rising has been wonderful with some street action around this. As we all know, no social justice issue gets accomplished without a good street action or two. So really, everyone is just putting everything they have into it this time.
MATT: New York already has domestic partnerships, what’s an example of a situation where domestic partnership just isn’t the same, or isn’t good enough as a substitute and people need marriage?
CATHY: Well, domestic partnerships here in New York are really territorial. So we have one domestic partnership that’s only for New York City and the five boroughs. Outside of that, there is no coverage. That will gain you around ten rights. And just for the record it costs a dollar more than a marriage license. Just saying.
MATT: So if people want to get involved and help out, what should they do, where should they go?
CATHY: www.MENY.us for Marriage Equality New York. To get involved with the grassroots effort. That’s the most direct way you can get to us though our direct website, or through Marriage Equality USA as well, there’s a link on that website that also will bring you to us.
MATT: And are there ways for people around the country who may not be in New York to help?
CATHY: Oh yes. You can donate through either Marriage Equality USA or Marriage Equality New York directly. You can do phone calls online much like we’re communicating now. We have systems now where we can set you up with a little list of the right senators to call and you can call them remotely. The letter writing is always good. And through Facebook, also if you know anyone in New York, you can connect them with us through Facebook, on Twitter, through the website, and in all the various additional ways.
MATT: Fantastic. Cathy Marino-Thomas is the Board President of Marriage Equality New York. Cathy, thank you so much for joining us.
CATHY: Thank you and I know we’ll be speaking again through this next few weeks, so thanks Matt.
MATT: All right.
CATHY: Have a good night.
Now for a quick roundup of headlines around the world.
A setback in Montana as a judge rules that he can’t force the legislature to provide marriage equality. The ACLU is likely to appeal that ruling.
After a disappointing legislative session, Equality Maryland’s board has fired executive director Morgan Meneses-Sheets.
Over in Scotland, four out of five major parties support marriage for gay couples. And as Prince William and Kate Middleton gear up for their wedding, protests at Buckingham Palace are pushing the couple to support marriage for British subjects.
That’s the news this week. Thanks for joining us.
Remember, we have all new everything now that we’re Marriage News Watch. Click here to subscribe to our new YouTube channel, and visit us over at MarriageNewsWatch.com to find our new Facebook page, our Twitter feed, our RSS feed, and our email newsletter.
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See you next week.