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Archives – April, 2012

Pew Research poll shows ever-increasing support for marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

A new poll out from the Pew Research Center shows, once again, that public opinion on the issue of marriage equality continues to progress strongly towards greater acceptance, with 47% of Americans in favor of letting gays and lesbians marry and 43% opposed.

The new Pew numbers are a significant improvement from the last presidential election year: in 2008, more people opposed marriage equality (51%) than supported it (39%).  In the previous election year, 2004, those numbers were even more lop-sided, with 60% against and only 31% for marriage equality.

Digging into the numbers, Pew found for the first time in its survey history that an equal number of respondents (22%) strongly support marriage equality as the number that strongly oppose it.  This is another marked shift from 2008, when twice as many respondents strongly opposed marriage equality than strongly supported it.

As Pew notes, the last eight years have seen a marked and wide-ranging decline in opposition to marriage among all demographic groups.  Independents, who were more likely to oppose than support marriage equality in 2008, are now more likely to support it.  Although Republicans continue to be more strongly against rather than for of marriage, opposition has declined by 10 points since 2004, with strong opposition dropping 14 points.  Opinions amongst African-Americans have also shown a dramatic shift in the last four years: opposition to marriage equality is down from 63% to 49%, while support has increased from 26% to 39%.

In fact, only one demographic surveyed showed little change since the 2004 survey on the issue: white evangelical Protestants, 78% of whom oppose marriage equality, with 56% strongly opposed.

The most remarkable aspect of Pew’s new poll is perhaps the fact that it is so unremarkable, a reminder that attitudes are quickly and dramatically shifting in our favor.  Still, it does demonstrate how important it is to push politicians of all stripes towards favoring equality by demonstrating to them that their constituents favor equal rights over discrimination.  We have a chance to do that this year with the various ballot campaigns in Maryland, Maine, Washington and North Carolina, which will vote in less than two weeks’ time.  Pew’s numbers paint a nation-wide picture of changing opinions.  Now, we need to translate those shifts in attitude into tangible wins.

To explore Pew’s numbers in more detail, check out these excellent interactive graphs on their website.

6 Comments April 26, 2012

DOMA news round-up

By Scottie Thomaston

– Via Kathleen in Quick Hits, audio arguments are available from the DOMA challenge Cozen O’Connor v. Tobits are available here. Jacob covered the case here at P8TT. Thanks to Kathleen for putting this together.

– Also via Kathleen in Quick Hits, an update in McLaughlin v. Panetta, the challenge to DOMA as applied to the military:

Today, the federal defendants’ (“DOJ”) filed a motion asking for an extension of the deadlines to answer the plaintiffs’ complaint and respond to plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment until 21 days after the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals decides the Massachusetts DOMA cases (Massachusetts v. HHS, No. 10-2204, and Gill v. OPM, No. 10-2207).  Plaintiffs consent to the motion.

UPDATE April 22: DOJ’s motion granted.

1:11-cv-11905 Order 4-22-12

13 Comments April 25, 2012

Equality news round-up: More on anti-gay Amendment 1 in North Carolina

By Scottie ThomastonGoal Thermometer

– North Carolina’s Attorney General, Roy Cooper, announced his opposition to Amendment 1 today:

I am writing you today to let you know I am voting against Amendment One in next month’s primary elections on May 8th. I believe it is unclear, unwise and unnecessary. Amending our constitution demands careful deliberation along with precise language – both are missing here. Amendment One’s lack of clarity will also result in a significant amount of litigation on many issues which will be decided by courts for years to come. This should be avoided. Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Attorney General and letting me share my thoughts with you about this issue.

Roy Cooper
Attorney General

He becomes another in a growing list of politicians opposing the amendment, from North Carolina’s Governor Bev Perdue to United States Senator from North Carolina Kay Hagan.

– North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue speaks out (again) against Amendment 1 in new video:

– A new ad was released today on Amendment 1, from someone unaffiliated with the Protect ALL NC Families campaign. It’s a very blunt and moving ad:

– Pam Spaulding has a new ad from supporters of the amendment. It’s a weird ad. Supporters want to enact what they claim the Bible says into state law in the United States. One supporter says that “scripture is clear” on support for the amendment to the state constitution of North Carolina, while another supporter says that laws in Massachusetts and elsewhere stating marriage is between a man and a woman have been overturned by courts, so the state needs an amendment. Of course, the state’s amendment could be overturned by federal courts, so that’s a strange claim. Another supporter says he supports the amendment because “God institutes one man and one woman in the Bible.” I do not know what this means.

– Via Think Progress:

– The Episcopal Church in North Carolina has come out against the discriminatory Amendment One, and the Elon University Student Government Association intends to do the same.

– How would Amendment 1 affect your life?

What you can do to help on Amendment One:Goal Thermometer

1. Contribute to the campaign on ActBlue so they have the resources they need to get our message out.

2. Sign up for a Courageous Conversation about Amendment One with someone you know in NC.

3. Follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

4. Download social media tools and yard signs to show your opposition to Amendment 1.

5. Volunteer to Call for Equality – a GOTV phone banking effort against Amendment 1.

7 Comments April 25, 2012

DOMA: Why arguments in defense of the law don’t work

By Scottie Thomaston

Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) has written an interesting take down of the arguments BLAG is trying to make in defense of the Defense of Marriage Act in court. GLAD is fighting against DOMA in Gill v OPM, which was recently argued at the First Circuit Court of Appeals, and in Pederson v. OPM. We covered the arguments in Gill extensively here, but you can find a summary at The Huffington Post.

GLAD argues that DOMA is unconstitutional violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection implicit in the Fifth Amendment. DOMA treats same-sex married couples differently from opposite-sex married couples with no legitimate basis. One of the arguments BLAG has been fond of using in support of DOMA is that the issue shouldn’t be “constitutionalized”, meaning it should remain a legislative issue rather than one the courts should take on. But it is up to the courts to determine when laws comport with the Constitution’s guarantees: “Telling people to go back to the people that discriminated against them rather than to the courts could be the answer to every constitutional violation, but in our system of checks and balances, courts must say when laws are invalid.

DOMA is legally mandated discrimination against gay people and same-sex couples that is causing harm now. In addition to denying federal marital legal protections and obligations to married same-sex couples, DOMA is de jure discrimination that injures all gay and lesbian people by inviting disrespect by states and private parties.”

Arguing that Congress can indeed define its own terms for federal law (and that any suggestion otherwise is a red herring) GLAD says the issue is that courts must ask “what legitimate and independent federal interest is rationally served by denying respect only to marriages of same-sex couples” and “why… sexual orientation [is] relevant to the federal government given that marital benefits and burdens are allocated based on marital status and nothing more” because restrictive definitions that affect equal protection of the laws need good reasons behind them.

Taking on the claim that “for so long” marriage was between a man and a woman, they note that tradition is not a legitimate basis alone for a law. This matches what the Supreme Court said in cases like and Loving v. Virginia. ‘Tradition’ has historically been used to keep marginalized groups from obtaining the rights and protections guaranteed by the constitution. The government needs a legitimate basis for the law aside from tradition and unrelated to animus against the class of people being targeted with the law. GLAD says: “Rational basis review requires that a classification must bear a rational relationship to an independent and legitimate legislative end. The means (the classification) and ends (the goal) must be separate and distinct to ensure classifications are not drawn for the purpose of disadvantaging the group burdened by a law.

Many of the (invented) justifications for DOMA repeat what DOMA does but not a reason for doing it, or doing it only for married gay people. DOMA’s discrimination is re-labeled as uniformity or consistency, for example, or saving money or administrative ease, but only with respect to gay people’s marriages. Take uniformity: treating all gay people uniformly as unmarried doesn’t explain why only married gay people, among all married people, are treated as unmarried. Doing so also creates disuniformity within the class of married persons. Take the public fisc: Congress could save moneydenying the validity of marriages of redheads, too. But rational review requires a principled basis for recognizing the marriages of some but not others. The same analysis holds.

Other justifications (pause while states debate, act cautiously, maintain the status quo) are only a means to an end but not an end in themselves. Sometimes the government can hold back while some other problem is addressed, but more people marrying exercising their right to marry is neither a problem, nor anything new. DOMA is not cautious – it is a complete ban and unlimited in time. And it upended the status quo at the federal level of deferring to state marital status determinations.

Lastly, the family law justifications about “responsible procreation” and “optimal parenting” don’t rationally relate to DOMA at all. DOMA provides nothing to encourage heterosexuals to marry or have children in a marriage. It only harms same-sex couples who are already married and any children they may have.”

And one important thing about DOMA is the fact that the federal government has always recognized state marriage law even when it disagreed. There was no “DOMA” to protect marriage against interracial married couples. And the federal government has recognized marriages between younger people as well. This makes DOMA distinct from immigration law, according to GLAD, because: “Immigration laws, like many other laws, accept the state’s marital status determination, and then apply additional eligibility criteria. If a person is validly married in a state, but cannot also show that the marriage was bona fide (i.e., not entered into for purposes of securing immigration benefits), then the person is denied immigration benefits.”

The federal government and BLAG who is defending the law need a justification that is not animus based, not tied to tradition, is related to the purpose of the law and explains why similarly situated people should be treated differently in this particular instance. But given the four justifications for DOMA in the Congressional Record: “advanc[ing] the government’s interest in defending and nurturing the institution of traditional, heterosexual marriage”, “advanc[ing] the government’s interest in defending traditional notions of morality”, “advances the government’s interest in protecting state sovereignty and democratic self-governance”, and “advances the government’s interest in preserving scarce government resources”, that task seems quite difficult.

2 Comments April 25, 2012

US Senator Kay Hagan from North Carolina speaks out against anti-gay Amendment 1

By Scottie ThomastonGoal Thermometer

Senator Kay Hagan, United States Senator of North Carolina, has released a video statement coming out forcefully against Amendment 1. Hagan talked about the harms to North Carolina’s families, saying, “I do not believe we should amend our state’s constitution to take away people’s rights… Amendment One harms our resolve to make all people and all families great.” Noting that the focus needs to be on jobs and the economy, she talked about how voters resent seeing their jobs and livelihoods fall victim to these kinds of partisan distractions. And she says the amendment will harm business and job prospects in North Carolina, “We have seen and heard from business leaders from across North Carolina who are worried about our ability to compete with states that are not passing such divisive amendments… In this competitive environment we simply cannot afford to pass Amendment One.”

The news this week for the opposition to the anti-gay Amendment 1 in North Carolina which would make opposite-sex marriage the “only domestic legal union” in the state has been incredibly encouraging. The campaign released its two ads Monday morning, pointing out the unintended consequences the amendment would have on North Carolinians, gay and straight alike. The ads focused on the fact that the amendment could cause families with unmarried parents to lose health insurance for their children, and it could affect domestic violence protections in the state.

Yesterday morning, a new poll showed a six point shift toward opposition of the amendment. It showed that the number of undecided voters is growing, and all the major constituencies are turning toward the opposition. Democrats were evenly split last month, and now they are opposed. African American voters have shifted about ten points from a month ago. Even the youth vote, already strongly opposed to the amendment, is even more opposed. The poll was picked up by media and bloggers and reported on extensively.

Then, yesterday afternoon, the pro-Amendment 1 campaign released its ad. If you like misrepresentations of the Bible as well as the history of North Carolina and marriage and the amendment itself, the ad is perfect. The ad touched on all the well-worn themes the religious right has used against gays for many decades. It’s hard to see how it will excite anyone.

And now today a sitting United States Senator has made a strong statement against this odious and regressive amendment. Early voting is going on now and the election is two weeks away on May 8. The momentum appears to be going one way at this point. Support and enthusiasm for the amendment appears to be starting to collapse. Yesterday’s poll said that while it isn’t a sure thing at this point, “There is some reason to think a huge upset in two weeks is within the realm of possibility.”

What you can do to help on Amendment One:Goal Thermometer

1. Contribute to the campaign on ActBlue so they have the resources they need to get our message out.

2. Sign up for a Courageous Conversation about Amendment One with someone you know in NC.

3. Follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

4. Download social media tools and yard signs to show your opposition to Amendment 1.

5. Volunteer to Call for Equality – a GOTV phone banking effort against Amendment 1.

17 Comments April 25, 2012

California lawmaker introduces bill to protect patients from ex-gay therapy

By Jacob Combs

California state Sen. Ted Lieu, working with the support of Equality California, has introduced a bill in the Calfornia legislature that would require psychotherapists to inform gay patients about the negative affects that “ex-gay therapy” could have on them both physically and mentally and require them to obtain their patients’ consent before engaging into the procedures.  As ThinkProgress notes, the bill would not ban ex-gay therapies outright, but would make it illegal for such therapies to be used on anyone under the age of 18.

Not surprisingly, the bill will likely face staunch opposition on its way to becoming law.  The National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, an ex-gay therapy group, posted a call to action on its website urging members to oppose the bill, which it called “a direct assault on everyone’s freedom” and “a not so subtle attack on religious liberty.”

The ex-gay movement itself, however, is facing some difficult times.  Earlier this month, Robert Spitzer, one of the main figures behind the effort to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness in the 1970s, told the American Prospect that he now wants to retract his controversial 2001 study that “highly motivated” gays and lesbians could change their sexual orientation.  “The findings,” Spitzer said, “can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more.”  The Spitzer study was one of the cornerstones of the ex-gay movement’s attempts at legitimizing its methods; without it, there is very little ground for its advocates to stand on.

Sen. Lieu’s bill would recognize ex-gay therapy for what it really is–a dangerous and un-substantiated psychological technique that has little grounding in scientific fact.  If a patient wants to explore ‘conversion therapy,’ he or she should know the risks.  Even more importantly, such a decision should be based on an individual’s free will, and no child or teenager under 18 should be forced by parents into undergoing the procedure.  California Senate Bill 1172 will be one to watch as it moves through the legislature, and if it passes, it could provide a foundation for providing similar protections in other states.

UPDATE: ThinkProgress reports that the bill passed out of a Senate committee today.

7 Comments April 25, 2012

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