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Our Rights in Danger on the Ballot

DOMA Repeal DOMA trials Marriage equality Prop 8 trial Videos

By Matt Baume

A victory for DOMA repeal in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but now it faces even greater hurdles in the full Senate. An election night victory in Iowa means marriage is safe, for now; but polling in Minnesota shows cause for alarm. Activists raise the stakes in Washington, Maryland, Oregon, and Maine. And a marriage equality betrayal by the Australian Prime Minister forces a showdown with her own party.

By a 10 to 8 margin, the Respect for Marriage Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. The bill, which would repeal the federal ban on marriage equality, now moves to a hostile Senate. But that’s okay: this is the furthest that DOMA repeal has ever gone, and even if anti-gay legislators hold things up for a little while, we know that in the end, we’ll win.

This latest move on DOMA has links to Proposition 8 in California. Just as with AFER’s case against Prop 8, DOMA’s opponents point out that marriage bans violate the United States Constitution. And the harm to LGBT couples and their families is clear: the law prevents other states and the federal government from recognizing our valid legal marriages.

In advance of this week’s hearing, California governor Jerry Brown sent a letter to Judiciary chair Patrick Leahy, pointing out that 18,000 couples married in California, and “these marriages deserve to be treated the same by the federal government and other states as Californians in other valid marriages.”

And even though LGBT marriages still aren’t afforded full equal protection, their numbers continue to grow around the country. That’s thanks in part to a victory in Iowa this week, with pro-equality Senator Liz Mathis defeating a candidate backed by anti-marriage activists. This was a crucial race because Mathis’ seat was the one vote that could have tipped the Senate against marriage equality, giving our opponents a chance to force a vote on Iowa marriages. So we’re safe, for now.

There’s more good news in Washington, with State Representative Jim Moller revealing that he’ll introduce a marriage equality bill in 2012. This is a big step forward and a pleasant surprise, since previously legislators claimed that they didn’t have enough votes to advance such a bill. According to Moller, dozens of lawmakers now support the measure. We’ll have more on this story next week, but for now, polling is encouraging. Fifty-five percent of voters say they’d support a marriage equality bill, with only 38% opposed.

But there’s reason to worry in Minnesota. Anti-gay activists have placed marriage equality on the ballot next year, and four recent surveys show that voters are falling for the same lies we’ve heard in past elections. Whether it’s “redefining marriage” or “protecting children,” anti-gay forces in Minnesota are up to the same old tricks that passed Proposition 8. There’s nothing we can do to stop the vote at this point. Our rights will be on the ballot in November 2012. The best we can do is have as many conversations as possible between now and then. Because as we’ve seen, those conversations are our secret weapons. Every time we talk about committed, loving LGBT families, we win more support.

And that’s what marriage equality champions are counting on in Maine. This week, Equality Maine volunteers descended on polling stations to gather signatures to overturn that state’s marriage ban. This strategy isn’t without risk, since they’re counting on a popular vote, rather than appealing to Constitutional protections. But the polling for now is in our favor, with 51% of Mainers supporting marriage equality to 42% opposed. But a lot can happen between now and next year.

Elections are unpredictable, and that’s why Basic Rights Oregon decided this week not to return to the ballot in 2012. After extensive outreach, the organization announced that they’re pursuing as strategy of public education rather than an expensive election fight.

And Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard continues to block her own party’s support for marriage equality. Every Labor leader in the country wants the party to endorse marriage equality except Gillard. And this isn’t her only snub of LGBT families. Earlier this year, a lesbian couple won a dinner with Gillard at a charity auction with their bid of $31,000. That was five months ago, and so far the Prime Minister has refused to sit down with the couple.

Those are the headlines, visit us at to connect with the fight for full federal marriage equality. And visit for more on all these stories and more. We’ll see you next week.


  • 1. DaveP  |  November 15, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Regarding Minnesota in 2012, the article states "The best we can do is have as many conversations as possible between now and then. "

    I would suggest that although conversations are important, they may not be the best we can do and they are certainly not the ONLY thing we can do. And in fact, for all of us who are not in Minnesota, having conversations about the vote in Minnesota probably won't change a single vote.

    So I would encourage the marriage equality folks in Minnesota to chime in here and tell all of us non-Minnesotans what you want us to do. How can we help you?

  • 2. Ronnie  |  November 15, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Subscribing & sharing……

    – Two gay swimmers are among oldest Olympic trial qualifiers ever:

    "Two openly gay swimmers have become two of the three oldest swimmers to ever qualify for the U.S. Olympic trials. Two 37-year-olds, Brian Jacobsen (right) from Minnesota and author Jeff Commings have accomplished the incredible, qualifying for the 50-meter freestyle and 100-meter breaststroke respectively."

    – Sean Maher: Family Man
    Actor Sean Maher reveals how he found serenity when fatherhood caused him to open up about his sexual orientation and his family life.:

    – Gay, Muslim groups relieved by changes to bullying bill:

    "Gay and Muslim groups say they are relieved after a Michigan lawmaker agreed to drop a provision in an anti-bullying bill that would have carved out an exemption for religious or moral beliefs."

    &…. – Orthodox Rabbi Marries Gay Couple in Historic Wedding in DC:

    "For the first time in history, Steve Greenberg, an openly-gay American rabbi ordained by the Orthodox movement, has officiated at a same-sex wedding ceremony. On Thursday night at Washington DC’s 'Historic 6th and I Synagogue,' Greenberg stood under the chupah, a traditional Jewish wedding canopy, as newlyweds Yoni Bock and Ron Kaplan tied the knot before some two-hundred guests. Recognizing the unique – and controversial – moment, Greenberg’s voice notably cracked when near the end he stated, 'By the power invested in me by the District of Columbia, I now pronounce you married.'…."

    (me) follow the link to view videos from the ceremony…. Congratulations to the happy couple, congratulations to the Olympic swimmers, continued felicitations & a huge thank you to Sean Maher for courageously sharing your story with us, & a step in the right direction Michigan….. <3…Ronnie

  • 3. truthspew  |  November 15, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    You know, all this "you can marry" and then "now you can't marry" is just building the case of outright discrimination.

    Once this hits the judiciary, with a couple of well placed deaths, we could see nationwide equality within the next 5 years.

  • 4. dsc77  |  November 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    More details about the Maine front: We were looking to get 10,000 signatures on election day but got over 35,000. We got a total of over 100,000 signatures, far more than we need to get the question on the ballot. Of course, they need to be verified, but it's basically a done deal!

    "Let the people vote!" Well, we will. It's risky, but with our TEA governor, a Republican majority in both houses, and an unsympathetic supreme court, this is our best bet for the near future. We really can't just wait around for this to just resolve itself.

    Dave in Maine

  • 5. Gregory in SLC  |  November 16, 2011 at 5:24 am

    sending hope and good Karma to Maine!

  • 6. AnonyGrl  |  November 16, 2011 at 8:49 am

    I saw the picture of Sean Maher with that Advocate article, and he had a big smile on his face, but an even bigger one in his eyes. I've liked him as an actor, but always felt he was too guarded, and a little withdrawn. Even though I don't know him personally, it sure looks like, in that picture, that he really IS a happier man now that he is out.

    I bet that he will be a better actor now too. What a wonderful advertisement for being who you are.

  • 7. AnonyGrl  |  November 16, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    As always, let us know what we non-Maine people can do to help.

  • 8. Prop 8 Trial Tracker &raq&hellip  |  November 21, 2011 at 8:32 am

    […] in the Gill v. OPM trial regarding DOMA and their historical references. Matt Baume did his usual video and text roundup of marriage, DOMA and updates in the Prop 8 […]

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