NCLR Urges President Obama to Stop Defending DOMA

January 29, 2010

Today, the Department of Justice once again filed a brief defending the so called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) in Gill v. Office of Personnel Development, a federal lawsuit challenging Section 3 of DOMA, which excludes same-sex couples from all federal benefits and protections given to heterosexual married couples.

A statement from Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights:

“Once again, President Obama and the Department of Justice missed an opportunity to acknowledge that discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people is wrong. The Justice Department is defending a statute motivated by animus, and continues to advance what we believe are insupportable arguments in defense of DOMA. Never before has the federal government refused to provide benefits to legally married couples, and there is no reason for doing so now. DOMA hurts families and serves no legitimate purpose. It is unconscionable that this Administration continues to defend this blatantly discriminatory law.”


On Issue of Gays in Military, Pentagon Will Make Recommendations to Congress

January 29, 2010

by Craig Whitlock and Ed O’Keefe | Washington Post

The Pentagon has been studying ways to integrate gays into the military and, for the first time, will offer recommendations to Congress next week “on a way forward,” defense officials said Thursday, following President Obama’s declaration that he wants to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law this year.

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Mexico City Mayor Vows to Defend Gay Marriage Law

January 29, 2010

from the Associated Press

Mexico City’s mayor says he will defend the capital’s gay-marriage law and insists the ordinance will take effect in March despite an appeal by federal prosecutors.

Mayor Marcelo Ebrard says the federal appeal on constitutional grounds is wrong. He says nothing in Mexico’s constitution prohibits same-sex marriage or adoption by gay couples.

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Live Chat: Prop 8 Trial Recap and Discussion with NCLR

January 28, 2010
Join NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter and Senior Staff Attorney Chris Stoll for a recap and analysis of the Prop 8 trial. Join the live chat today at Pam’s House Blend at 5 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Shannon and Chris have been in the courthouse everyday, live tweeting, and providing daily summaries and legal analysis of the proceedings.
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day6
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Day 8
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Day 10
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Day 12

NCLR Demands Immediate Suspension of Discharges Until Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal

January 28, 2010

Last night, in his first State of the Union address, President Barack Obama promised to work with Congress to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the discriminatory policy banning gays, lesbians, and bisexuals from serving openly in the military. The National Center for Lesbian Rights issued the following statement.

A statement from Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights:

“We agree with President Obama’s statement that repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is the right thing to do, and we commend him for addressing such an urgent issue in his State of the Union address. However, President Obama’s pledge to work with Congress to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2010, falls short of what our service members deserve from their Commander in Chief. Since Obama took office last year, hundreds of able and talented soldiers have had careers ruined and futures wrecked. The President must take concrete steps to end this failed and immoral law that undermines our national security.  At a minimum, we call on our President to immediately issue a “stop loss” order to end discharges of gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers pending a full repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. These service members, our nation, and common decency, deserve at least that.”


Feds Seek to Overturn Mexico City Gay Marriage Law

January 28, 2010

by Mark Stevenson | Washington Post

Mexican federal prosecutors announced Wednesday that they will try to overturn Mexico City’s gay marriage law, which allows same-sex couples to adopt children, on the grounds it violates the constitution.

The Mexico City law, approved in December and due to take effect in March, is the first of its kind in Latin America.

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Obama Urges Repeal of Ban on Open Gays in Military

January 28, 2010

by Philip Elliot | Washington Post

President Barack Obama is urging Congress to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, but Democratic allies and Republican opponents alike are criticizing his approach.

Obama’s effort to eliminate the “don’t ask, don’t tell” practice faces resistance not just from Congress, but also from the Pentagon, where some top officials have been strident in their support for the Clinton-era policy.

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NCLR’s Legal Director Shannon Minter on Perry v Schwarzenegger Proceedings, Day 12

January 27, 2010

cross-posted from Pam’s House Blend

Today was the final day of testimony in Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Like every day before it, today was remarkable.

The majority of the day was spent on finishing up the cross-examination of David Blankenhorn, an expert witness for the defendants. As he did yesterday, renowned attorney David Boies absolutely nailed the examination. Blankenhorn did nothing to help himself, fighting Boies’s yes-or-no questions at every turn even when Boies was simply laying a basic foundation with uncontroversial points. Blankenhorn’s defensive behavior verged on the histrionic, contrasting sharply with Boies’s calm, matter-of-fact approach. At one point, Judge Walker stepped in and instructed Blankenhorn to keep in mind that a fact-finder, meaning a judge or jury, can consider a witness’s demeanor when deciding how credible that witness is and how seriously to take his or her testimony. Although Judge Walker delivered it with great diplomacy and tact, this was a fairly sharp rebuke.

On cross, Boies established a couple of key points that gravely undermined Blankenhorn’s authority as an expert on marriage. First, Boies elicited testimony that Blankenhorn had not read many leading scholarly articles addressing the question of how society would be affected by allowing same-sex couples to marry. For example, of the dozens of articles cited in policy statements supporting marriage equality for same-sex couples by leading professional organizations, Blankenhorn admitted that he had read scarcely more than a handful.  In contrast, all of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses were demonstrably well-versed in the entire range of scholarly literature on the topics about which they testified.

Second, Boies elicited extensive testimony from Blankenhorn acknowledging that permitting same-sex couples to marry would “almost certainly” benefit those couples and their children.  Blankenhorn also testified that  the most important dimensions of marriage (as defined by Blankenhorn in one of his publications) are the same for same-sex and opposite-sex couples.  In short, by the end of Blankenhorn’s cross, his own testimony had provided multiple powerful reasons to permit same-sex couples to marry, and his opposition to marriage equality seemed virtually inexplicable.

It has been an amazing two and a half weeks.  This trial has been a truly historic moment for our community.  It is the first time a federal court has heard, first hand, from real live witnesses, about the harm that the denial of marriage equality causes lesbians, gay men and their families every day.  It’s also the first time a federal court has heard the arguments in favor of marriage equality presented live in court by an array of internationally renowned scholars who are truly experts in their respective fields.

What stands out the most after having seen all the witnesses on both sides is how overwhelmingly one-sided the evidence in this case turned out to be.  The plaintiffs, represented by some  of the most skilled attorneys in the country, laid out a well-crafted, meticulous case, backed by the testimony of half a dozen of the most respected historians, psychologists, economists, and political scientists who study marriage, sexual orientation, and child development.  Using the Prop 8 proponents’ own outrageous and inflammatory words, ads, and emails, the plaintiffs powerfully demonstrated that Prop 8 was a direct product of hostility, fear-mongering, and demonization of lesbians and gay men.  And through the deeply moving testimony of the plaintiffs and other members of our community, they proved beyond question that denying same-sex couples the right to marry causes great harm to LGBT people and their children.

Stacked up against this mountain of facts, scholarship, and science, the Prop 8 proponents – though represented by fine attorneys – were not able to come forward with a case of their own.  Before trial, they dropped nearly every witness they had planned to present and relied entirely on two poorly qualified, ill-prepared expert witnesses, neither of whom was able to establish that banning same-sex couples from getting married has any rational or legitimate purpose relating to procreation, child rearing, tradition, or any of the other justifications that have been offered in the past in support of anti-gay discrimination.  In fact, nearly all of the defendants’ experts agreed with the plaintiffs that marriage equality would benefit same-sex couples and their families in many real, tangible ways.

It should not have come as a surprise that the defense’s case turned out to be so weak.  As our executive director Kate Kendell is fond of saying, the arguments against marriage equality have always been “all hat and no cattle.”  This trial showed more powerfully than ever that there truly is no substance to the arguments of those who would deny equality to our families.  It has been extremely gratifying to see those arguments aired out in public, before a smart, independent-minded judge, in a way that’s never been done before.  It is a shame that the public was unable to see the trial in video, but the transcripts, available at http://www.equalrightsfoundation.org/our-work/hearing-transcripts/, are fascinating reading for anyone interested in learning more about this important chapter in our civil rights struggle.

Judge Walker will now take some time to review all the evidence that has been presented.  The lawyers for both sides will return to court in a few weeks (on a date still to be determined) to present their closing arguments


Watch Kate Kendell on the Last Day of the Prop 8 Trial Testimony & this Evening’s State of the Union

January 27, 2010

Survey Shows Slight Increase in Reported Number of Gays Serving in the Military

January 27, 2010

by Ed O’Keefe | Washington Post

An estimated 66,000 gay, lesbian and bisexual people are serving in the U.S. military, roughly 2 percent of all military personnel, according to a report released Tuesday by a gay rights policy center. The figures suggest a slight increase in the number of gays, lesbians and bisexuals in the military, and they provide opponents of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with fresh data as they lobby the Obama administration for its repeal.

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