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Archives – October, 2012

Washington state marriage equality round-up

By Scottie ThomastonGoal Thermometer

– As we reported, the anti-gay campaign in Washington state is out with a new misleading ad, relying on two stories that have been previously debunked, to convince viewers that if the marriage equality law passes they will lose their religious liberties.

– Jacob called attention to some news from Washington:

In Washington, Bill and Melinda Gates announced that they were donating an incredible $500,000 to Washington United for Marriage, the group responsible for the campaign to approve Referendum 74.  That money comes on top of another $100,000 gift that the Gates couple gave to the campaign earlier this year.  Washington United has raised almost $11 million for its campaign, compared to around $2 million for the anti-marriage equality group Preserve Marriage Washington.  New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also announced this week that he would donate $500,000 to marriage equality efforts, splitting the money between the campaigns in Washington, Maine and Minnesota.  (He contributed $250,000 earlier this year to Maryland’s effort.)

A University of Washington poll last week found 54 percent of likely voters in Washington support Referendum 74, with 38 percent opposed and 6 percent undecided. Interestingly, the poll also included a third prediction, based on the respondents’ answers to questions about whether they had lied on the survey or if its questions made them uncomfortable, in order to gauge whether the poll’s numbers were over-representing support. That weighted prediction found a closer split, with 53 percent support and 47 percent opposition. In 2009, when Washington voted on a domestic partnership law, polling showed much greater support for the measure than the eventual margin by which it passed.

– The marriage equality campaign in Washington state is out with a new ad highlighting the fact that civil unions or domestic partnerships don’t provide the safety and stability of a marriage. The ad is here:

The ad says:

Angie: Cynthia and I thought our domestic partnership would guarantee that we would be there for one another.

Cynthia: If God forbid one of us was seriously ill.

Angie: And then our worst nightmare happened. I was in surgery and there were complications.

Cynthia: The nurse refused to tell me what was happening and how serious things had gotten.

Angie: Just because we weren’t married.

Cynthia: Only marriage guarantees that all couples can be there for each other when it really matters.

What you can do to pass marriage equality in Washington:Goal Thermometer

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.

10 Comments October 24, 2012

Marriage equality update: Washington, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota

By Jacob Combs

We’re now less than two weeks away from the most important election for marriage equality in years.  Not surprisingly, that means we’re starting to see opponents of equal marriage rights release scare tactic ads based on untrue assertions.  On the bright side, though, we’re also seeing major donations from prominent individuals coming in on the pro-equality side.  Here’s a look at the latest news from the marriage equality campaigns in Washington, Maryland, Maine and Minnesota.

In Washington, Bill and Melinda Gates announced that they were donating an incredible $500,000 to Washington United for Marriage, the group responsible for the campaign to approve Referendum 74.  That money comes on top of another $100,000 gift that the Gates couple gave to the campaign earlier this year.  Washington United has raised almost $11 million for its campaign, compared to around $2 million for the anti-marriage equality group Preserve Marriage Washington.  New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also announced this week that he would donate $500,000 to marriage equality efforts, splitting the money between the campaigns in Washington, Maine and Minnesota.  (He contributed $250,000 earlier this year to Maryland’s effort.)

A University of Washington poll last week found 54 percent of likely voters in Washington support Referendum 74, with 38 percent opposed and 6 percent undecided.  Interestingly, the poll also included a third prediction, based on the respondents’ answers to questions about whether they had lied on the survey or if its questions made them uncomfortable, in order to gauge whether the poll’s numbers were over-representing support.  That weighted prediction found a closer split, with 53 percent support and 47 percent opposition.  In 2009, when Washington voted on a domestic partnership law, polling showed much greater support for the measure than the eventual margin by which it passed.

In Maryland, two pastors who have been outspoken supporters of marriage equality in the state, Rev. Delman Coates and Rev. Donte Hickman, are planning a rally tomorrow in support of Angela McCaskill, a Galludet University employee who was placed on leave because she signed the petition to put Maryland’s marriage equality law on the ballot.  “Support for Question 6 is about protecting everyone’s rights, gay rights and religious rights” Coates told a reporter from the regional TV channel ABC7. “This is very disconcerting what happened to Dr. McCaskill for merely exercising her freedom of speech.”  The rally is not being organized by Marylanders for Marriage Equality, and is instead intended to highlight Question 6’s protections for religious freedoms.

In Maine, opponents of marriage equality have started releasing ads that rely on the same victimization stories that organizations like NOM have relied on in the past.  One spot features a couple who own an inn in Vermont and refused to allow a lesbian couple to marry there.  The Vermont couple, the ad states, were then sued because of their Christian beliefs and forced to pay $30,000.  It also claims they were forced to stop hosting weddings at their inn.  Left unsaid, of course, is the fact that their $30,000 payment came as part of a settlement in which the couple admitted they had broken the state’s non-discrimiation law.

Another ad features a Canadian sportscaster who says he was fired because he tweeted support for a sports agent who opposed marriage equality, when in fact his anti-gay tweets (plural, not singular) were the culmination of many performance issues that caused his employer to fire him.  Not surprisingly, NOM is out with its own ad in the state as well featuring Don Mendell, a high school counselor who campaigned against marriage equality in 2009 and was then investigated by the state’s licensing board due to concerns that his comments could demonstrate an unwillingness to counsel gay students.  Equality Matters has called the story “highly misleading,” and Mainers United for Marriage has released its own fact check on the spot.

And in Minnesota, the anti-marriage equality group Minnesota for Marriage apologized for a statement intimating that marriage equality supporters’ tactics were similar to those used by Adolf Hitler.  Rev. Brad Brandon, the group’s pastoral outreach director, had said in a Power Point last week that Hitler had suppressed religious freedom and that supporters of equal marriage rights in Minnesota were attempting to do the same.

We’ll be following the four campaigns closely in the next two weeks as we move towards what could be one or several historic wins for marriage equality.

22 Comments October 24, 2012

Debunked: Anti-Gay Ad in Washington

By Matt Baume

A new anti-gay ad just launched in Washington, and it’s a carbon-copy of the same misleading, hurtful messages that they’ve run year after year in other states. But the Prop 8 trial changed things. That trial was like a freedom-to-marry truth commission, where we put all of their misleading claims on the stand and examined them piece by piece. And of course, AFER’s expert legal team demolished all of those arguments.

Let’s take a look at the new Washington ad and break it down.

“Referendum 74 is not about equality. Gays and lesbians already have the same legal rights as married couples.”

No. Domestic partnerships are fundamentally different from marriage. They’re better than no protection at all, but they are also separate and unequal. That’s not an opinion — that’s according to studies from multiple states, as well as the District Court’s findings in the Prop 8 case: “The evidence at trial shows that domestic partnerships exist solely to differentiate same-sex unions from marriages. A domestic partnership is not a marriage.”

Then there’s The New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission, which wrote, “separate categorization established by the Civil Union Act invites and encourages unequal treatment of same-sex couples and their children.” The commission’s report includes a story about a woman who couldn’t get access to her partner in a hospital because the staff didn’t know what a civil union was. And they heard from mental health professionals about the “psychological harm that same-sex couples and their children endure because they are branded with an inferior label.”

And the Vermont Commission of Family Recognition and Protection found “clear, significant differences between the benefits, privileges, and responsibilities attached to a civil union versus a heterosexual marriage.” Among the commission’s witnesses was a woman whose partner was denied health benefits by a CEO who thought a civil union just meant moving in with your a girlfriend.

Then there’s the Supreme Court of California, which wrote, “differential treatment at issue impinges upon a same-sex couple’s fundamental interest in having their family relationship accorded the same respect and dignity enjoyed by an opposite-sex couple.”

And finally, the Supreme Court of Connecticut wrote: “the segregation of heterosexual and homosexual couples into separate institutions constitutes a cognizable harm.”

So no. It’s not the same.

“But marriage is more than a commitment between two adults. It was created for the care and well-being of the next generation.”

According to the last Census, twenty percent of gay and lesbian couples are raising children. And we proved during the Prop 8 trial that marriage discrimination is harmful to their kids.

During the Prop 8 trial, Professor Lee Badgett testified that laws like Prop 8 have “inflicted substantial economic harm on same sex couples and their children.”

And Psychologist Doctor Michael Lamb testified that “for a significant number of these children [raised by gay and lesbian parents], their adjustment would be promoted were their parents able to get married.”

Even one of the Prop 8 proponents’ own witnesses, David Blankenhorn, admitted that the freedom to marry “would extend a wide range of the natural and practical benefits of marriage to many lesbian and gay couples and their children.”

“When laws like 74 have occurred elsewhere, people who disagree faced lawsuits, fines, and punishment.”

Okay, this is a pretty transparent scare tactic. Just use some common sense: obviously, nobody gets punished simply for disagreeing with a law. That’s just ridiculous. The truth is that these are people who did more than disagree. A lot more.

For example, the people pictured at the top left are Jim and Mary O’Reilly. They own a resort in Vermont that refused service to a lesbian couple. Under the Vermont Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act, that’s no different from refusing service on the basis of race, religion, or disability. That’s why they were sued.

In the upper right is Damian Goddard, a newscaster who made anti-gay statements online.

Goddard claims that he was fired because of his tweet, but the news station says it was for “well-documented reasons,” that they won’t reveal since it’s a personnel matter.

In the lower right is Rose Marie Belforti, a town clerk in New York who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. But issuing licenses is her job. She’s a public official, and she wanted free reign to only serve certain citizens, and leave the rest to fend for themselves. Government employees just can’t do that.

Republican San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders put it best during the Prop 8 trial: “if government tolerates discrimination against anyone for any reason, it becomes an excuse for the public to do exactly the same thing.”

And the fourth couple — we don’t actually know who that is. Do you recognize them? Let us know in the comments if you know who they are.

“You can oppose same-sex marriage and not be anti-gay.”

That is grammatically weird, logically weird, and legally wrong. ur opponents oppose the freedom to marry because they say that gay and lesbian couples are inferior to straight couples. That is the definition of anti-gay.

And it cannot be the basis for a law. We’ve been though this already with Prop 8. The District Court ruled in our case, “Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples … Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license.”

So they’re trying the same old tricks that they pulled four years ago with Prop 8. The difference is that this time, we’ve had a trial. We’ve gathered evidence. We’ve proven in court — twice — that banning marriage is unconstitutional. No matter what state you’re in.

 

44 Comments October 23, 2012

With weeks to go before election, anti-gay campaign in Washington is out with new misleading ad

By Scottie ThomastonGoal Thermometer

Unsurprisingly, the anti-gay campaign in Washington state, in its effort to keep Washingtonians from marrying, is out with another misleading ad. Washington United for Marriage has a fact check out. The ads refer to two stories that have been debunked before – one story has even been used in an anti-gay ad in Maine before. Via press release, the campaign to pass marriage equality says:

“Neither of these stories are new,” said WUM campaign manager Zach Silk. “They’ve been used repeatedly here in videos, mailers and Sunday bulletins and putting them up on TV does not make them true. In fact, the Vermont inn story was used in an ad in Maine where there is also a referendum on marriage equality, and the state’s newspapers called it out as false.

“Our opponents are desperate. And so they’re closing out with their old playbook of distortions and lies to scare voters. We’ll put our trust in Washington voters who can see through these cynical political tactics,” said Silk.

In both instances, the ad claims, people faced consequences for suggesting that same-sex marriage is against their religion. As the facts show, both stories are misleading.

With a few weeks to go before the election, we can expect to see more untrue ads like this. The anti-gay campaign will undoubtedly try to scare voters into believing that legal marriage will somehow interfere with their religious liberties or hurt their children.

What you can do to pass marriage equality in Washington:Goal Thermometer

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.

6 Comments October 23, 2012

Breaking: New York’s highest court rejects challenge to marriage equality law

By Jacob Combs

New York’s Court of Appeals, the state’s top court, today announced its refusal to hear a case challenging the state’s marriage equality law, which was passed by the legislature last summer.  From the New York Daily News:

New York’s top court today refused to hear an appeal challenging the state’s gay marriage law.

Without explanation, the Court of Appeals denied a request to appeal by New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, an evangelical group.

“With the Court’s decision, same-sex couples no longer have to worry that their right to marry could be legally challenged in this State,” Gov. Cuomo, who pushed for passage of the law last year, said in a statement. “The freedom to marry in this State is secure for generations to come.”

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms had claimed the state Senate failed to follow proper procedure when it gave final passage last year  to a bill allow same-sex couples to wed. Gov. Cuomo signed the bill into law.

The group argued that the Senate Republican majority violated the state open meetings law by meeting behind closed doors, including with Mayor Bloomberg, to discuss the issue.

A state appellate court in July unanimously reversed a lower court ruling and dismissed the case. Because the decision was unanimous, New Yorkers For Constitutional Freedoms needed permission from the state’s top court to continue its appeal, a request that was denied today.

The high court’s decision is the final word on a state judicial challenge to the law.  Jason McGuire, the executive director of New Yorkers For Constitutional Freedoms, an evangelical group that spearheaded the lawsuit, said the group would now turn its attention to a complaint filed with the state’s Division of Human Rights by a lesbian couple who were told they couldn’t wed at the Liberty Ridge Farm near Albany because the site’s owners, Robert and Cynthia Gifford, object to marriage equality based on their religious beliefs.

Despite the fact that opponents of equal marriage rights in New York continue to attack New York’s marriage law in every way they can, today’s decision by the Court of Appeals is a victory that demonstrates just how desperate those efforts have been.

4 Comments October 23, 2012

Responses to remaining DOMA petitions contain note from DOJ suggesting it will take further action in light of Second Circuit decision in Windsor

By Scottie Thomaston

Updated

Before last week’s Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Windsor v. USA, Edith Windsor’s legal challenge to the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, the case had already been petitioned to the Supreme Court, where Windsor’s lawyers asked the Court to decide her case. The Justice Department then filed its own petition.

In Windsor and another challenge to Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management, responses to the various petitions were due from the parties to the case on Friday.

The Justice Department’s response to the plaintiffs’ petition in Pedersen asks the Court to hold the petition and grant it only if no other challenges to Section 3 of DOMA are appropriate for the Court’s review. However, the petition does have a note related to the recent Second Circuit decision in Windsor v. USA:

On October 18, 2012, the Second Circuit in Windsor issued a decision applying intermediate scrutiny to hold that Section 3 violates equal protection. 2012 WL 4937310. The government plans to take further steps to seek this Court’s review in Windsor in light of that decision.

So it seems that in Windsor, we can expect some action to be taken now that the Second Circuit has ruled. Whether it will be a new petition for review or something else is unclear at this point. The Court only has the petition to review the district court decision right now, before judgment at the court of appeals. That decision lacks relevance now that the appeals court has issued binding precedent in the circuit.

Also in Pedersen, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), defending the law for House Republicans, filed replies in opposition to the Justice Department’s petition and to the plaintiffs’. BLAG makes many of the same arguments it has made throughout the litigation: there are legal standing issues present, and, in the Justice Department’s case, their status as a party is unclear.

In Windsor itself, Edith Windsor’s lawyers’ response to the Justice Department’s petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court agrees with the Justice Department that the case should be reviewed, but Windsor’s lawyers take issue with the “tiered” way in which the Justice Department asked the Court to handle the various petitions in DOMA cases. The Justice Department had asked the Court to consider reviewing Windsor only if none of the other challenges to Section 3 of DOMA are appropriate for the Court’s review. The Justice Department claimed that the unique issues of ‘legal standing’ related to Windsor’s Canadian marriage presented a side issue the Court would have to resolve if it heard the challenge; also, the Justice Department noted that the district court in Windsor applied only rational basis review to strike down Section 3 of DOMA and the Justice Department wants to present the Court with all possible options, including the heightened scrutiny holding that was present in the district court’s opinion in Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management.

Regarding the fact that the district court did not apply heightened scrutiny, Windsor’s lawyers write that the holding “in no way prevents this Court from addressing the heightened scrutiny issue if it concludes that reaching that question is necessary.”

The filing, which was written after the oral argument at the Second Circuit but before a decision was reached, cites the oral argument transcript suggesting that the judges were skeptical that Windsor lacked standing because of her Canadian marriage. The judges were quick to point out that the lower courts in New York had uniformly recognized those marriages as legal at the time. And indeed, in its decision, the Second Circuit decided not to ‘certify’ the question to the New York Court of Appeals because that court had already suggested it was not inclined to decide the issue; the Second Circuit went on to ultimately say (with all three judges concurring on the point) that Windsor did have legal standing to bring the challenge.

Windsor’s lawyers ask the Court to hear the case, and not to delay it as the Justice Department suggested.

The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) also filed their response to the Justice Department’s petition in Windsor. BLAG filed its own petition in Gill after judgment at the First Circuit Court of Appeals, and they continue to push the Court to grant only their petition.

They argue that since there is at least one pending petition after judgment at the court of appeals it would not make sense to go through a series of procedural steps and deal with all sorts of procedural issues just to get the case properly before the Court. They argue that standing presents a hurdle, the parties to the case would have to be properly re-aligned, and the extent of the Justice Department’s involvement would have to be decided on. BLAG continues to believe that the Justice Department is operating as a “de facto amicus” and there is no reason to consider them a real party to the case (the Justice Department wants Section 3 of DOMA ruled unconstitutional, as the plaintiffs do, so BLAG argues that the Justice Department is not an ‘aggrieved’ party. In this particular feud, the Justice Department has countered in other instances by noting that they represent the Executive Branch, who is in charge of enforcing all laws; with a ruling forbidding them to do that, the Justice Department says, they’re sufficiently ‘aggrieved’.)

Because of all these extra issues BLAG suggests would be present, they again ask the Court to deny this petition and grant their Gill petition. (One note: there is a serious question about the Gill case, namely that Justice Kagan has suggested at her confirmation hearings that she may recuse herself from the case. If the Court grants only the Gill petition, and Justice Kagan recuses herself, the outcome of the decision is unclear. If Justice Kennedy were to side with the four more moderate Justices, that would still result in a 4-4 split, affirming the First Circuit’s ruling but not creating any nationwide precedent.)

With a promised move by the Justice Department forthcoming, it seems likely the Supreme Court will have another appeals court decision to consider when it decides later this month or sometime in November whether to take up any challenges to Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.

h/t Kathleen for these filings (more…)

16 Comments October 23, 2012

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