NCLR Responds to Senate Failure on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

September 21, 2010

Today, the U.S. Senate failed to break a filibuster to start a debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, which contains an amendment that would enable the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the federal government’s policy barring lesbian, gay, and bisexual people from serving openly in the military.

Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

“It is unfathomable that the largest government employer—the military—is able to openly discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender service members.

As long as this discriminatory policy stands, others have a green light to treat us as unequal. How can LGBT children be safe in their schools if the message from the government itself is that LGBT people can’t be trusted?

This is a wakeup call. An overwhelming majority of people in this country support the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But even with popular support, our elected officials lack the courage to repeal this blatantly discriminatory policy. This shows us that we do not have political allies who are willing to stand up for us when it counts.

Each of us must understand that there’s only one person who can determine the fate of equality for the LGBT community in this country. And that person is you. Only when every person in our community refuses to accept being treated as a second-class citizen will our elected representatives feel the pressure to end this shameful government-mandated discrimination.

Every one of us must become fully engaged in this struggle. Talk to your friends, your family, your co-workers, and tell them why you need their support for full equality. Encourage them to stay informed about the discriminatory laws and policies that hurt us, and to demand justice from the people we voted into office—and make sure you’re doing the same yourself. We must do more, and we must hold our elected officials accountable. This cannot happen again.”

NCLR Applauds Court Decision Striking Down Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

September 9, 2010

Today, a federal district court judge in the Central District of California held that the federal government’s policy of barring lesbian, gay, and bisexual people from serving openly in the military violates the United States Constitution. In a sweeping decision, Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that the government’s policy—popularly known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell—is unconstitutional on its face, and must be struck down. The decision details the voluminous evidence presented by the plaintiffs about the harm caused by the government’s policy. The court held that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell violates the fundamental rights of lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members without advancing any important government interest. The court held that the law also violates lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members’ First Amendment rights because it forces them to be silent about the most basic information about their identities, family relationships, and daily activities, and prevents them from seeking protection from harassment and discrimination. The case was brought by the Log Cabin Republicans on behalf of its members and included testimony from a number of service members affected by the policy.

The decision will not take effect immediately. Judge Phillips asked the plaintiffs to submit a proposed judgment, including a permanent injunction against enforcement of the law, by September 16, 2010. If upheld on appeal, the decision would prevent the federal government from enforcing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell against any service member.

Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

“Today’s decision by Judge Phillips—following other recent decisions striking down California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act–is another landmark victory for LGBT Americans. Once again, those who seek to defend discriminatory government policies failed to present a shred of evidence to justify laws that are based entirely on prejudice and fear. After considering the overwhelming evidence presented by the plaintiffs, Judge Phillips held that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell inflicts severe harm on lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members who put their lives on the line to protect and serve our country, while undermining our national security by requiring the discharge of loyal, qualified, and highly trained personnel. This decision puts another nail in the coffin of official government discrimination based on sexual orientation. It is past time for our country to include LGBT Americans as equal citizens, and today’s ruling is a major milestone toward realizing that goal. We congratulate and thank the Log Cabin Republicans for bringing this historic case.”

Judge Walker Rules Marriages Can Begin Aug. 18 Unless Court of Appeals Intervenes

August 12, 2010

Today, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that there was no basis to stay his Aug. 4 ruling that Proposition 8 violates the United States Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection of the laws. However, Walker also ordered that marriages cannot begin until Aug. 18 at 5 p.m. in order to give the United States Court of Appeals time to review his decision to deny the stay.

A Statement from NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

“It is clear that there is no basis for a stay of Judge Walker’s ruling striking down Prop 8. We hope that the Ninth Circuit will agree that no stay is warranted and will allow marriages to resume. The chance for same-sex couples to marry again is not only fair and just, but an affirmation of love and basic humanity.”

Attorney General Jerry Brown and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Oppose Prop 8 Stay

August 6, 2010

Today, both California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown filed separate motions opposing a stay of U.S. Supreme Court Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision to overturn Prop 8.

A Statement from NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

“We salute Attorney General Brown and Governor Schwarzenegger for their leadership in opposing any further delay in implementing Judge Walker’s decision striking down Prop 8. Every day, same-sex couples in California are prohibited from marrying the person they love. Now that the court has ruled, there is no reason for further delay in correcting this cruel injustice. Attorney General Brown and Governor Schwarzenegger deserve enormous credit for standing up for equality. Their actions make it clear that this is not a partisan issue, but rather a matter of simple justice and fairness for all.”

The National Center for Lesbian Rights Congratulates Attorney Paul M. Smith, Who Will Be Honored with the Thurgood Marshall Award

July 29, 2010

A Statement from NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell

The National Center for Lesbian Rights extends our warmest congratulations and appreciation to attorney Paul M. Smith, who will receive the 2010 Thurgood Marshall Award the most prestigious civil rights honor in the nation at the Thurgood Marshall Award Dinner on Aug. 7 in San Francisco.

Smith, a partner in the litigation department at Jenner & Block LLP and co-chair of Lambda Legal’s Board of Directors, has an impressive track record of successfully arguing before the United States Supreme Court, and worked alongside NCLR in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the recent victory affirming that public universities can require officially recognized and funded student groups to comply with non-discrimination policies. Smith also argued the landmark case of Lawrence v. Texas, which held that every adult has a protected constitutional right to enter into an intimate relationship with the person of his choosing.

Established by the American Bar Association and the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities in 1992, the Thurgood Marshall Award is named after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who epitomized individual commitment, in word and action, to the cause of civil rights in this country. Previous winners include former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

A statement from NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

“Few people are worthier of this honor than Paul, whose profound commitment to advancing civil liberties has made him a legal force to be reckoned with, and a role model and leader within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “He has stood beside us, and fought for us, and more importantly, we know that with him by our side, there are no limits to what we can accomplish.”

NCLR is a proud sponsor of the 2010 Thurgood Marshall Award Dinner. Purchase tickets online.

NCLR Calls on Congress for Immigration Equality for Families

July 15, 2010

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Legislation Must Include Protections for Binational Couples among the Family Unity Provisions

Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights joined a coalition of organizations and leaders calling on Congress to insist that the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) be included in comprehensive immigration reform legislation going forward. This approach is consistent with the Senate framework announced on April 29, 2010 by Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and with the Reuniting American Families Act currently pending in the U.S. House and previously introduced by Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA). UAFA (formerly called the Permanent Partners Immigration Act) would grant U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the right to sponsor their same-sex permanent partners to immigrate to the United States.

A Statement from Maya Rupert, Federal Policy Attorney for National Center for Lesbian Rights:

“We agree with the Representatives who join us here today, that in order for comprehensive immigration reform legislation to be truly comprehensive, it must include UAFA. Right now, our immigration system is badly broken. Family members are needlessly separated from each other when they should be together. Ideally, our immigration system must protect and unite families, not tear them apart or keep them separated. Binational LGBT couples and their children are among those families that immigration reform must help.

NCLR is heartened by the broad support for a fully-inclusive comprehensive immigration reform bill. We stand in solidarity with our allies in Congress, the broader immigration community, the faith-based community, and all fair-minded individuals in advocating for Congress to move swiftly and enact a humane, comprehensive immigration reform bill that will protect so many families.”

The National Center for Lesbian Rights Condemns Hawaii Governor’s Veto Of Civil Unions Bill

July 7, 2010

Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) condemned Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle’s veto of a bill that would have allowed both same-sex and different-sex couples in Hawaii to protect their families by entering into civil unions.

A statement from NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

“Governor Lingle has demonstrated a shocking disregard for the well-being of Hawaii families. The civil-union bill was passed by both houses of the Hawaii Legislature and enjoyed broad popular support. By vetoing the bill, Governor Lingle has thwarted the democratic process and trampled the requirement of equal protection. We strongly support the lawsuit soon to be filed by Lambda Legal and the ACLU, seeking equality for same-sex couples and their children, and we urge everyone who cares about basic fairness to contact the Governor’s office to protest her unconscionable decision.”