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Archives – October, 2012

Win a post-election vacation and marriage in Washington!

By Jacob CombsGoal Thermometer

With only one week to go until voters head to the polls in Washington to decide the fate of Referendum 74 and equal rights for gay and lesbian couples in the state, we’re at the most important point for fundraising to help the campaign.  It’s all about ground game and get out the vote right now, and every dollar we raise helps us make more phone calls, knock on more doors, and get voters out for equality.  If you donate now, you’ll be entered in a drawing for post-election vacation to one of California’s four most beautiful cities.  Check out Rick’s email about the drawing below:

There’s only a week until Referendum 74, and we’re still short of our fundraising goal to get out the vote. If you make a contribution to send ANOTHER dozen Courage Campaign members to get out the vote in Washington State and expand our call-out-the-vote program, we’ll enter you in a drawing for a post-election vacation weekend: free round-trip airfare to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Barbara or San Diego, and two nights with pro-equality Kimpton Hotels! It’s the perfect way to do your part before the election, and relax afterwards, too.

Here’s what we know:

  • This Friday, over a dozen Courage Campaign volunteers will travel to Seattle for 5 straight days of getting out the vote for Referendum 74 and make Washington the 7th state (plus D.C.) to allow same-sex couples to marry. Hundreds of other Courage members are calling from home.
  • Zach, the campaign manager at Washington United for Marriage, just called to ask if we could send another dozen and add another hundred on the phones. The reason? Last week’s poll showing our side below 50%, leading by just 4 points (49-45%) means we HAVE to have a better get-out-the-vote ground game or we’ll lose.
  • We just gave away an iPad Mini in our drawing on Monday night. But we’re so committed to beating National Organization for Marriage and winning this fight thatwe’re pitching in with another prize to win in Washington so we don’t have a sick feeling in our stomach on November 7th.

Make a contribution to help us get out the vote for marriage. We’ll enter you in our drawing and put every dollar you contribute to work immediately.

Thanks for all you’re doing,

Rick Jacobs

Chair and Founder, Courage Campaign

This is the final stretch, and we’re on the brink of making history by achieving the first popular vote in favor of marriage equality in American history.  Help us make that a reality!

7 Comments October 31, 2012

Marriage equality updates: less than one week until election day!

By Jacob CombsGoal Thermometer

Apologies for our absence–Scottie is dealing with computer issues, while my apartment (located in downtown Manhattan) lost power and water yesterday from Hurricane Sandy.  It’s been a ride for both of us.  I’m now in Brooklyn with power and Internet, and Scottie is on his way back to full operational status.  But we’re less than a week away from the election, and of course the marriage equality news has continued apace, despite the storm.  Here’s a look at some of the big headlines over the last few days:

  • At an Obama campaign event in Sarasota, Florida, Vice President Biden called transgender discrimination the “civil rights issue of our time” after speaking to a woman whose daughter was Miss Trans New England and who asked the vice president if he could help transgender individuals.
  • The New York Times editorial board endorsed the pro-marriage equality ballot measures up for a vote next Tuesday in Washington, Maine and Maryland, and spoke out against Minnesota’s anti-gay marriage amendment.  The Times also wrote, “The freedom to marry is a fundamental right that should not have to be won or defended at the ballot box. In fact, ballot initiatives are a bad way to write or rewrite laws of any kind.”
  • Washington United for Marriage, the pro-equality group campaigning for voters to approve Referendum 74 in Washington, investigated the sudden and inexplicable increase in ‘likes’ for marriage equality opponents on Protect Marriage Washington’s Facebook page, and found that most of those likes had come from Makati, a city in the Phillipines, Chemintz, Germany, Bankgog and Vilnius, in Lithuania.
  • The Los Angeles times reported this morning that Brat Pitt is donating $100,000 to the Human Rights Campaign’s National Marriage Fund.  In an email to HRC’s supporters, Pitt wrote, “It’s unbelievable to me that people’s lives and relationships are literally being voted on in a matter of days.  In Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington, voters will go to the polls to decide if gay and lesbian couples — our friends and neighbors — are worthy of the same protections as everyone else.”
  • All four anti-marriage campaigns in Maine, Washington, Maryland and Minnesota have been running variations on the same ad that feature David and Tania Parker, a couple from Massachusetts who were upset by the fact that their kids learned in schools that same-sex couples were allowed to marry.  Jeremy Hooper rounded up 15 clips of David Parker’s anti-gay advocacy, in which he calls homosexuality a disease and claims that gay people use children to further their own agenda.
  • Mike Signorile found footage of Mitt Romney speaking at a meeting of conservative voters in South Carolina in 2005 about gay parents, a year after Massachusetts legalized marriage equality during his time there as governor.  “Today, same-sex couples are marrying, under the law, in Massachusetts,” Romney said  “Some gays are actually having children born to them. We’ve been asked to remove the phrase ‘mother’ and ‘father’ and replace it with ‘parent A’ and ‘parent B.’ It’s not right on paper. It’s not right in fact. Every child has the right to have a mother and father.
  • A new Baltimore Sun poll showed a substantial weakening in support for Question 6, the pro-marriage equality ballot measure in Maryland, with a statistically insignificant lead of one point for opponents of the measure.  A September poll found the measure leading by a 10-point margin, with 49 percent of voters supporting it and 39 percent opposing it.  Most of that shift came from African-American voters, who supported equal marriage rights in the September poll but opposed it by a 50-42 margin in the October poll.  Some critics of the poll have pointed out that it only asked voters if “same-sex marriage” should be legal or illegal, which does not match the language on the ballot measure.  Question 6 instead refers to “gay and lesbian couples” and includes explicit protections for religious exemptions.
  • In Maine, Brian Arsenault, a straight man being raised by a lesbian couple, recorded one of Mainers United for Marriage’s two final ads in support of Question 1.  The other features Rob Stanton and Amy Bongard, a married couple who express their belief that the term “family values” can include gay and lesbian couples, who should have the right to marry.

With the election so close, and the stakes so high, we’re going to need all the help we can get with the four marriage equality campaigns.  We’re less than $500 away from our goal of $30,000 in Washington state, where Courage will be helping Washington United for Marriage help Referendum 74 to success in the state.  Check out the links below to find out how you can help in Washington.  You can find more information about how to get involved in the other state campaigns for marriage equality here: Mainers United for Marriage, Marylanders for Marriage Equality and Minnesotans United for All Families.

Update (4:50 p.m.): We hit the $30,000 mark!  Let’s keep raising for Washington–the new goal is $32,000.

What you can do to pass marriage equality in Washington:

1. Contribute to the campaign to approve marriage equality in Washington, via ActBlue.

2. Volunteer to make calls to voters in Washington.

3. Sign up to travel to Washington and help get out the vote! Courage Campaign is arranging out-of-state caravans and travel assistance is available.



11 Comments October 31, 2012

Obama, Marriage, & the Election

By Matt Baume

There’s just one week to go until the election. And President Obama has endorsed the freedom to marry in all four of the states that will vote on the issue. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney has endorsed a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality.

In just days, four states will vote on the freedom to marry. Polling is still very close. Visit for ways that you can help all of those campaigns. Meanwhile, President Obama has lent his support to all four races.

In Washington, Obama spokesman Paul Bell said “the President supports a yes vote to approve Referendum 74.”

In Maine, his press secretary says “The president believes same-sex couples should be treated equally and supports Question 1.”

In Maryland, Obama said, “you have a chance to reaffirm that principle [of fairness and equality] in the voting booth in November. It’s the right thing to do.”

And in Minnesota, which will vote on a marriage ban, Obama officials released a statement reading, “the Minnesota ballot initiative … would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples — and that’s why the President does not support it.”

Meanwhile, an advisor to Mitt Romney confirmed this week that the candidate supports a federal constitutional amendment to prohibit the freedom to marry.

Polling in those crucial state races is still close. In Washington, an Elway Poll shows support for Ref 74 dropping under 50 percent. It’s now leading, but just barely, at 49 to 45 percent.

In Minnesota, the proposed marriage ban has 44 percent support to 51 opposed.

And there’s one more state with a vote next week involving the freedom to marry. In Iowa, voters will decide whether to retain one of the Supreme Court justices who struck down the state’s marriage ban.

It was a unanimous decision by a conservative court. But anti-gay activists are pushing to unseat all of the justices. Now Justice David Wiggins is being targeted by groups like NOM.

He needs 50% support to keep his seat, and just as in the other states, it’s going to be close. A Des Moins Register poll shows he has 49% support, with 41% voting to unseat.

There’s still time get involved in Iowa, as well as in Maine, Minnesota, Maryland, and Washington. Visit for resources that you can use to spread the word about these races and contribute to the campaigns.


28 Comments October 29, 2012

Marriage equality: is it a federal issue or a state issue?

By Jacob Combs

Over the weekend, I wrote about President Obama’s Friday interview with MTV, during which he responded to a question about marriage equality with the statement, “I think for us to try to legislate federally into this is probably the wrong way to go.”  As I mentioned in my piece, the President’s words marked no shift in his administration’s policy and matched statements that he had made before on the issue, but I also highlighted an ABC News report which read (incorrectly), “Asked if he would use his second term as a platform to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, the president demurred, saying he viewed it as an issue for the states to decide.”

The title of the post is intentionally misleading: marriage equality, of course, is both a federal and a state issue.  But this fact is often glossed over in the mainstream media’s coverage, leading to confusion (and sometimes contradiction) on things like DOMA, state marriage laws and, of course, federal lawsuits regarding both.  In this post, I will thoroughly lay out which aspects of the marriage equality movement pertain to federal law and which pertain to state law, explaining the consequences that this federal/state split have for marriage equality gains in both the judiciary and the legislature. (more…)

30 Comments October 29, 2012

Breaking: Supreme Court plans to conference Prop 8 case on November 20

By Jacob Combs

The Supreme Court will likely consider the Prop 8 case during its conference on November 20, when the justices will meet to decide which cases they will take up in the coming term.  The case’s materials have been distributed for that conference, and the docket page for the case (now called Hollingsworth v. Perry) has been updated to include the new information.

In addition, the four DOMA cases currently before the Supreme Court (Windsor, Pedersen, Golinski and Massachusetts) have also been scheduled for the conference on November 20, according to their docket pages.

The Court is expected to release an order list on Monday, November 26 that will delineate the cases from the November 20 in which it has granted or denied review.  In addition, the Court could hold off considering the Prop 8 and DOMA cases until later, as it did before when they were scheduled for a conference on September 24.

The votes of four justices are required for the Court to grant review in any specific case.  If the Supreme Court chooses not to rehear the Prop 8 case, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling striking Prop 8 down will stand, returning marriage equality to California.

40 Comments October 29, 2012

Setting the record straight regarding President Obama’s MTV interview on marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

Updated to include a statement from the Obama campaign

Yesterday, in an interview with MTV, President Obama was asked, given his personal support of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, whether or not he would favor a law granting marriage equality nationwide. In his response, the President said:

“First of all, I’ve been very clear about my belief that same-sex couple have to be treated before the eyes of the law the same way as heterosexual couples. I think that’s the right thing to do. It’s based on my personal experience, seeing loving couples who are committed to each other, raising kids and are just outstanding people.  And I was supportive of civil unions, but they taught me, if you’re using different words, if you’re somehow singling them out, they don’t feel true equality.

“But what I’ve also said is, historically, marriages have been defined at the state level. And there’s a conversation going on … there’s some states that are still having the debate. And I think for us to try to legislate federally into this is probably the wrong way to go,” Obama continued. “The courts are going to be examining these issues. I’ve stood up and said I’m opposed to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act … I’ve said that’s wrong, [and] there are a couple of cases that are working their way through the courts, and my expectation is that Defense of Marriage Act will be overturned. But, ultimately, I believe that if we have that conversation at the state level, the evolution that’s taking place in this country will get us to a place where we are going to be recognizing everybody fairly.”

This statement wasn’t particularly newsworthy, since it conformed exactly to Obama’s previous statements on the subject: the President supports the right to marry for same-sex couples, has endorsed state measures that would do so this November, and opposes the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which withholds federal benefits from duly married same-sex couples.

But you wouldn’t know that from reading some of the mainstream coverage of Obama’s comments, including a report by ABC news this Friday, which read:

“During a live interview today inside the White House, President Obama told MTV viewers that when it comes to same-sex marriage, it would be up to future generations of Americans to implement meaningful reform.  Asked if he would use his second term as a platform to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, the president demurred, saying he viewed it as an issue for the states to decide.

“‘For us to try to legislate federally into this area is probably the wrong way to go,’ Obama told MTV presenter Sway Calloway, who asked questions submitted by youth voters.”

What’s surprising here is that such a statement would in fact constitute a major shift in administration policy–that is, were it true. President Obama has endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA and end federal marriage discrimination against same-sex couples married under the laws of the states in which they live. His Justice Department has opposed the law in court since February 2011, arguing that DOMA should be considered under the more skeptical constitutional test known as heightened scrutiny, a similar standard of review to that applied to laws that classify on the basis of sex.

That move has been significant in the progression of several DOMA cases through the federal judiciary, as several district courts and two circuit courts have ruled that the law is unconstitutional.  Most recently, Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs of the Second Circuit (one of the circuit court’s more conservative members), wrote the majority opinion in a case called Windsor v. USA ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional on precisely the heightened scrutiny grounds outlined by the Obama administration.  That opinion is without a doubt one of the most significant marriage equality developments to be handed down by the judiciary, and Obama’s Justice Department just yesterday specifically advocated the Supreme Court to take up Windsor when it considers DOMA in the coming term, as most legal observers expect it to, rather than one of the other three cases currently before the high court.

Marriage equality has not been a major issue in this year’s presidential election, so it seems likely that ABC’s reporting of Obama’s comments on MTV will be pulled under by the tide of other house-race coverage this weekend.  But this significant mischaracterization of President Obama’s words and his administration’s position is extremely important, and worth correcting.  As Tobias Barrington Wolff, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, put it:

“The President has been calling for the repeal of the so-called “Defense of Marriage” Act for years, and he has strongly endorsed legislation in Congress that would get rid of that discriminatory statute.  Repealing DOMA is about ending federal discrimination against married same-sex couples.  It would mean that couples who are already married in Connecticut or California will be treated equally by the federal government.  Eliminating discrimination at the federal level has been, and remains, a priority for the Obama administration.

“What repealing DOMA would not do is require marriage equality at the state level.  Repealing DOMA would not change state law at all.  And that is what MTV asked Mr. Obama: whether Congress should do something completely different and pass a law that would require all the States to recognize marriage equality at the state level.  The President’s answer on that question was exactly correct: Marriage law has traditionally been treated as a state issue.  Under current Supreme Court precedent, Congress would not have the power to pass such a law even if it wanted to.”

President Obama has been a strong supporter of LGBT rights.  His words during the MTV interview are in no way a position of leaving the issue of marriage equality to future generations.  The President has supported action against DOMA and its discriminatory effects both through the legislature and the judiciary, and this week he became the first sitting president in American history to formally endorse ballot measures in Washington, Maine and Maryland that would explicitly establish the freedom to marry for same-sex couples–even in the midst of a close election.  Those were facts before the MTV statement, and they remain the facts after it.

Update (5:20 pm Eastern): Via an article by BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner, the Obama campaign had the following to say regarding the interview:

“‘President Obama has been consistent since early in his administration in his support for repealing DOMA. The President has and continues to support the repeal of DOMA and he endorsed legislation currently pending in Congress that would do just that,’ Obama spokeswoman Clo Ewing told BuzzFeed.”

9 Comments October 27, 2012

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