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Archives – January, 2012

One Colorado Education Fund examines the state of LGBT health in Colorado

More than 1 in 5 LGBT Coloradans has been refused care because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  For transgender individuals, that number spikes to 58 percent.  Forty-one percent of LGBT Coloradans do not feel safe telling their health care providers that they are gay or transgender.

These striking statistics are from a new report called “Invisible: The State of LGBT Health in Colorado,” published by One Colorado Education Fun, the education arm of the LGBT advocacy group One Colorado, along with support from Denver Health.  Derived from a survey of 1,300 LGBT Coloradans, One Colorado’s report seeks to document empirical evidence about the difficulties LGBT individuals face when navigating the state’s health-care system and make recommendations about improving LGBT public health in Colorado.  Among their suggestions: health professionals should collect and publish data on sexual orientation and gender identity, health providers should use inclusive forms and questions that are LGBT-friendly, and LGBT individuals should come out to their providers to encourage openness and communication.

You can read One Colorado’s full report on their website.  Below, Brad Clark, Executive Director of One Colorado, and Jess Woodrum, the organization’s Deputy Director, discuss the release of the “Invisible” report.

5 Comments January 31, 2012

Openly gay NJ Supreme Court nominee would recuse himself from marriage equality decision

By Jacob Combs

Yesterday, while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie used some colorful words with reporters in response to criticisms of his call to put marriage equality up for a referendum, he also shared some interesting news about Bruce Harris, the openly gay man he has nominated to the state’s Supreme Court.  From Bloomberg:

The governor, 49, said today that Harris told him that he has advocated for gay marriage personally and as a politician.

“If confirmed to the court, he would recuse himself from that matter because he did not want there to be the appearance of bias on his part on that issue,” Christie told reporters. “My perspective on that issue was to put it aside because he’s not going to rule on that.”

Timothy Kincaid, at Box Turtle Bulletin, argues that Harris’s decision is the right one, since he is not pledging to recuse himself based solely on his orientation, but rather for his previous political action in support of marriage equality.  Harris wrote an email in 2009 to a group of Republican legislators who opposed marriage equality, using his own experience to persuade them to change their minds.  Here’s the full email, courtesy of Kincaid:

As a Republican elected official and someone who has worked hard (and successfully) to get Republicans elected in Chatham Borough, it disturbs me that same-sex marriage has become a Republican versus Democrat issue (understanding there are some Democrats who do not support same-sex marriage). I was encouraged to see former Governor Christine Whitman’s op-ed piece in the Sunday, November 29, 2009 Star-Ledger supporting same-sex marriage, I hope you read her article and will seriously consider her suggestion.

You have met me and my partner of nearly 30 years, Marc, on more than one occasion at various political gatherings. The New Jersey Supreme court has determined that our relationship is entitled to the equal protection guarantees of the State Constitution. The New jersey Civil Union Review Commission determined that civil unions do not provide the equality the State Constitution mandates.(Please take a few moments and visit which has two short videos that provide sad examples of the failures of the civil union law.)

When I hear someone say that they believe marriage is only between a man and a woman because that’s the way it’s always been, I think of the many “traditions” that deprived people of their civil rights for centuries: prohibitions on interracial marriage, slavery, (which is even provided for in the Bible), segregation, the subservience of women, to name just a few of these “traditions.”

I hope that you consider my request that you re-evaluate your position and, if after viewing the videos, reading Governor Whitman’s letter and thinking again about this issue of civil rights you still oppose same-sex marriage on grounds other than religion I would appreciate it if you you’d explain your position to me. And, if the basis of your opposition is religious, then I suggest that you do what the US Constitution mandates – and that is to maintain a separation between the state and religion.

23 Comments January 31, 2012

Maryland Senate committee to take up marriage equality bill today

By Jacob Combs

Today, Maryland’s Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will take up a marriage equality bill a 1 p.m., with LGBT advocates and religious leaders holding a rally in support of the legislation at 9:30 a.m.

Yesterday, the Washington Post released a poll showing that Marylanders support the legislation 50-44 percent, but many polls in the last few months have shown the margin between the two sides to be very close.  The Post poll showed deep racial divides in the opinion of Maryland Democrats, with support standing at 71-24 percent for whites and 41-53 percent for blacks.  Gov. Martin O’Malley’s religious protections, which go further than those in last year’s failed bill, are in many ways aimed at garnering the support of Democrats in the House who withheld their votes last year based on input from religious members of their constituencies.

In an excellent editorial yesterday, the Baltimore Sun made the case for the bill’s adequate protections of religious liberty:

There may never be a consensus among the state’s religious organizations over whether God intended people of the same sex to love each other and to marry. Those are theological questions best left up to the members of each faith to decide, and this legislation includes clear, explicit protections of their right to do so. But just as the government may not impede the right to the free exercise of religion, no particular religion’s values may be the basis of the law of the land. A democracy requires that all citizens be treated equally and in accordance with the same basic rules of fairness.

I wrote last week about religious leaders in Maryland who are personally opposed to marriage same-sex couples being granted marriage rights, but are supporting O’Malley’s bill and the freedom of gay couples to have the same choice to marry as their straight counterparts.  Maryland’s marriage equality bill passed the Senate last year, so passage looks likely in that chamber this year as well.

UPDATED: If you want to listen in live to the committee hearing today, you can do so here.

15 Comments January 31, 2012

Why Voting on Rights is a Lousy Idea

By Matt Baume

Maine, Washington, and Maryland are all closer than ever to marriage equality, but the Governor of New Jersey thinks that civil rights should be put to a popular vote — whether it’s marriage today, or school desegregation in the 1950s.

There’s a lot to talk about this week, so let’s dive right in.

First, it’s official: Maine’s moving ahead with a citizen-led effort to win back marriage equality. The state has a statutory ban on marriage, but equality organizers have collected more than enough signatures to get a repeal of the anti-gay ban before voters in November of 2012. But keep an eye on the Maine legislature: they have the option to pass a repeal themselves, which would restore marriage equality without the need for a popular vote. Or they could put their own version of the bill on the ballot, splitting votes between two competing measures. Either way, it’s shaping up to be a very busy 2012.

New Jersey’s Senate Judiciary Committee passed a marriage bill this week, but Governor Chris Christie has promised to veto the measure. Christie said that civil rights should be put up for a popular vote. And that includes, he said, African Americans in the 1960s, who would have “been happy for a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South.”

Civil rights leaders have denounced that position. Here’s Newark Mayor Corey Booker.

“Dear God. We should not be putting civil rights issues to a popular vote. To be subject to the sentiments, to the passions of the day. … This is a fundamental bedrock of what our nation stands for.”

Of course, when the United States Supreme Court ended the ban on interracial marriage in 1967, 74% of Americans would have opposed that decision. And it’s been nearly a century since New Jersey put civil rights on the ballot, the last time being a 1915 referendum on allowing women to vote. Voters rejected that measure.

Maryland governor Martin O’Malley introduced a marriage bill this week, with strengthened religious exemptions that closely mirror those of the successful bill in New York. That won an endorsement from the state Bar Association. But a bill in New Hampshire would go much further, creating a nondiscrimination loophole that would allow any person or business to discriminate on any basis. The so-called “conscience” bill would eliminate protection guarantees for any group, gay and straight, male and female.

That’s separate from the other anti-gay New Hampshire bill that would eliminate marriage equality. This week AFER Board Member and former chairman of the Republican National Committee Ken Mehlman, announced that he’d travel to New Hampshire to persuade Republicans that marriage equality is a fundamental freedom and a non-partisan value that all lawmakers should protect.

A hearing on Washington state’s marriage equality bill drew crowds this week, and a Senate Committee voted to pass the measure to the full body. But the final vote may not come right away. As soon as the measure passes, anti-marriage activists can start gathering signatures for a referendum. Lawmakers may therefore wait until the end of the legislative session to pass the law, thereby reducing the amount of time that our opponents will have to try to overturn the measure.

Meanwhile dozens of Washington businesses have endorsed marriage equality, from giants like Starbucks, Nike, and Microsoft to local employers. And a study by the Williams Institute shows that marriage equality would bring $88 million to the state over the next three years.

In Minnesota, an appeals court gave a green light to a lawsuit that challenges that state’s marriage ban. In Dallas, residents are pushing that mayor to join over a hundred others in signing a marriage equality pledge, but he’s proven reluctant so far. New Mexico State Rep David Chavez has introduced a constitutional amendment that would ban marriage in state. A new survey in Texas shows 59% support relationship recognition. In Indiana, they’re considering a bill that would enable lawmakers to study alternatives to marriage. And the Democratic Governor of North Carolina, Bev Purdue,  will not seek a second term. That means there’s likely to be a Democratic Primary in May. And that could boost turnout among voters who oppose the anti-gay constitutional amendment on the ballot. And a North Carolina lesbian couple has been found guilty of trespass for occupying a county office in protest over discriminatory marriage laws. Their punishment: a ten dollar fine, which they’ve promised to appeal.

These municipal sit-ins have been a tactic for a long time, usually centered around Valentine’s Day. Recently I chatted with Cecile Veillard and Michael James Anderson, two San Diego activists who were arrested when they accompanied a gay couple to request a marriage license. Their trial is coming up in March. Visit to watch our full interview about what happened and why they’re not giving up.

And a study out this week shows what we already knew: young people are overwhelmingly in favor of marriage equality. The study from the Higher Education Research Institute shows marriage support at 71%, up from 65% just two years ago.

Those are the headlines, visit us at for more on all these stories and more, and to sign up for breaking news alerts. Visit for more information on the federal fight to overturn Prop 8 and win full federal marriage equality. I’m Matt Baume at the American Foundation for Equal Rights. We’ll see you next week.

9 Comments January 31, 2012

Washington marriage equality updates: bill clears House committee, goes to full Senate on Wednesday

By Jacob Combs

Today, the Washington state House Judiciary Committee approved a proposed marriage equality bill on a party line 7-6 vote.  Republicans offered three amendments to the bill: two allowing further exemptions for religious convictions, and one that would have instated a six-month residency limit (presumably to limit out-of-state couples in jurisdictions without marriage equality from coming to Washington to get married). All three amendments were rejected, as well as an attempt to put the law on the November ballot as a referendum.

Last week, Washington’s marriage equality bill passed the Senate Government Operations, Tribal Relations & Election Committee on another party line vote, 4-3.  It will go on for a full Senate floor vote on Wednesday.  Since 25 senators, enough for it to pass, have already committed their support, the question now becomes how many and which other senators (if any) will vote in favor of the bill to be on the right side of history without having to be the deciding vote to make the measure pass.  No date has been set yet for the full House vote.

If you live in Washington (or somewhere nearby), Washington United for Marriage is looking for your help to fill the state capitol with as many marriage equality supporters as possible for the Senate vote.  You can sign up for more information here.  As always, we’ll have coverage and analysis of what happens in the Washington Senate here on P8TT!

Update (Adam): Sources close to the process tell me opponents are very likely to begin to collect signatures to hold a ballot referendum on the marriage bill in November. 120,557 signatures are required and the deadline to turn them in is June 6. Many of you remember the Referendum 71 campaign in 2009 on certain domestic partnership protections enacted into law; this is similar.

Update 2 (Jacob): I changed the lede of this story to reflect an update from this CBS article, which states that the next stop for the bill in the House is not a floor vote in the full chamber, but rather a fiscal committee.  No hearing date has been set for that committee.  There is a bit of a tactical decision necessary for marriage equality supporters in the timing of the bill’s progression through the legislature.  Opponents have promised they will collect the necessary signatures to put the issue on the ballot in November, but they cannot actually begin collecting signatures until the bill passes.  Because the deadline for turning in the signatures (as Adam stated above) is in June, it could behoove marriage equality advocates in the legislature to pass the bill late in the session, making it more difficult for opponents to organize a successful signature drive.

15 Comments January 30, 2012

Motion for summary judgment, denial of dismissal filed in Dragovich DOMA case

By Jacob Combs

This last month, a new DOMA case in California called Dragovich v. CalPERS moved forward in district court.  The class-action suit, brought by the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) was filed on behalf of three California employees and their same-sex partners, who are ineligible to enter into California’s long-term care plan CalPERS due to DOMA.  The three couples in the case were married in California when gay marriage was legal in 2008.

On January 20, LAS-ELC filed a motion for summary judgment in the Dragovich case, arguing that exclusion of same-sex couples in California from the state’s long-term care program violates their equal protection rights.  Because the classification of the plaintiffs is based on their sexual orientation, LAS-ELC argues that heightened scrutiny should be used by the court in making its decision, but that DOMA is still unconstitutional even when subjected to rational basis scrutiny.  Furthermore, the organization argues that same-sex couples who entered into domestic partnerships in California but did not wed in 2008 are identically excluded from the long-term care program, and have been the victims of the same equal protection infringement.  Later, LAS-ELC added two more plaintiffs to the suit, a couple which had entered into a domestic partnership but not been married.

The district court denied the federal defendants’ request to dismiss the plaintiffs equal protection and due process chalenges, and also last week denied their request to dismiss the claim pertaining to couples in domestic partnerships.  You can read LAS-ELC’s motion for summary judgment below, as well as the orders denying the federal defendants’ requests for dismissals, below.  A hearing in the Dragovich case will take place in Oakland on April 26 at 2:00 pm, with Judge Claudia Wilken presiding.  We’ll have more here at P8TT as this case develops.

LAS-ELC’s Motion for Summary Judgment

Order Denying Motion to Dismiss Constitutional Challenges 

Order Denying Motion to Dismiss Domestic Partnership Claims



24 Comments January 30, 2012

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