Equality is Coming!

On March 26 and 27, America and the world witnessed an amazing and historic moment with the Supreme Court review of the constitutionality of Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  While it is certainly difficult to read the outcome based on oral arguments, it does appear, on the surface anyway, that Prop 8 and DOMA will be thrown out.

While we queer activists would love to see the court rule on the broader issue of marriage equality for the entire nation with its Prop 8 decision, based on the oral arguments, I am not all that confident that that is going to be the end result.  At the very least, I believe the court’s decision will be framed narrowly to only to apply to California and Californians will have their freedom to marry restored.  It will also send a clear message to other states that discrimination at the ballot box is unconstitutional!

The other alternative, which I hope is not the case, the court could simply say the case did not have “standing” and defer to the prior decision made by the California Supreme Court that Prop 8 was unconstitutional.  It is my hope that the court does not take the easy way out and not rule on the case.  Either way, however, Prop 8 will be gone.

In terms of DOMA, I am very encouraged that this atrocity will be thrown out in a decisive manner.  Again, based on the oral arguments, there were at least 5 justices expressing grave concerns over the constitutionality of denying queer Americans the same benefits that straight couples are entitled to when they marry.  Justice Kagan clearly pointed out that the express intent of DOMA was to discriminate based on fear and ignorance when she quoted the proceedings of the Judiciary Committee report when considering the legislation, “Congress decided to reflect an honor of collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.”

Finally, there are a few observations worthy of mention.

First, I find it incredulous that the Chief Justice cannot believe that DOMA was grounded in discrimination and fear of homosexuality.  He is living in a bubble and I do hope Justice Kagan reminds him periodically during the court’s internal debate that indeed the legislation was grounded in discrimination of queer folk, as stated in the quote above.

Second, it saddens me that the court may think their decision to rule on same sex marriage nationally is premature.  When is ruling in favor of equality “premature?”  Our nation was grounded on the premise that all are created equally.  I understand somewhat the court’s desire to let the debate play out a bit longer, but in light of public opinion and the movement toward full and equal on many fronts throughout the nation, it does boggle my mind that the justices cannot see the proverbial writing on the wall that same sex marriage is inevitably going to happen.  The crack in the dam has already started and it is just a matter of time before the dam breaks.  Why not be the one to break it?  I do not understand the hesitancy to be the catalyst.

Last, the debate really is not about same sex marriage.  It has more to do with the freedom to marry. The court in prior cases has ruled in favor of all citizens’ freedom to marry and has held that right to be one of the most cherished rights we as Americans can possess.  The most notable is Loving vs. Virginia, that invalidated the prohibitions on interracial marriage.  I find it intriguing that Justice Thomas ignores the fact that his marriage was once illegal.  I hope he remembers that when debating these same sex marriage cases, but I don’t hold out much hope that he will.

Given all this, the bottom line is that same sex marriage will be the inevitable end result.  Whether it be this coming June or next June or the June thereafter, it will happen.  The freedom to marry will be guaranteed to all citizens of the United States.

American Academy of Pediatrics Supports Gay Marriage

Concludes Same-Sex Marriage As Good For Kids

The American Academy of Pediatrics, representing 60,000 pediatricians and other pediatric specialists, “supports pediatricians advocating for public policies that help all children and their parents, regardless of sexual orientation, build and maintain strong, stable, and healthy families that are able to meet the needs of their children.”

The AAP’s position comes from the perspective of what is best for the children’s well-being: these factors include potentially better access to health insurance, as well as the legal rights for the children and families by marriage, such as parental visitation and custody in case of divorce. There are estimated to be three million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents in the United States, according to the Family Equality Council.

Present and Past Research

The AAP policy statement, “Promoting the Well-Being of Children Whose Parents Are Gay or Lesbian,” and an accompanying technical report will be published in the April 2013 Pediatrics (published online March 21). The report examines some thirty years of research on the well-being of children raised by gay parents and concludes there is no evidence to suggest children are worse off compared with those with heterosexual parents.  The policy statement and accompanying technical report adds recommendations in support of civil marriage for same-gender couples, adoption by single parents, co-parents or second parents regardless of sexual orientation and foster care placement regardless of sexual orientation. In a previous 2002 policy statement and reaffirmed in 2012, the AAP supported second-parent adoption by partners of the same sex as a way to protect children’s right to maintain relationships with both parents, financial security, and eligibility for health benefits.

What the Co-Authors of the Policy Statement Say:

According to Ellen Perrin, M.D., a pediatric professor at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, and co-author of the policy statement, there may also be emotional benefits for kids from the stability that comes from marriage. “children with gay parents tend to realize their family is different than others and express relief when their parents are able to get married. If a child has two loving and capable parents who choose to create a permanent bond, it’s in the best interest of their children that legal institutions allow them to do so.”

Benjamin Siegel, MD, chair of the AAP Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, and co-author of the statement, remarked that “children thrive in families that provide permanent security, and the way we do that is through marriage.  The AAP believes there should be equal opportunity for every couple to access the economic stability and federal supports provided to married couples to raise children.”

What is Not Healthy for the Children

The Policy statement says that many factors confer risk to children’s healthy development and adult outcomes, such as poverty, parental depression, parental substance abuse, divorce, and domestic violence.  But the sexual orientation of their parents is not among them.” Many studies point to the normal development of children of same-gender couples when the child is wanted, the parents have a commitment to shared parenting, and the parents have strong social and economic support.




Polls Show Support for Marriage Equality

Gay Marriage Support Hits New High in Washington Post-ABC News Poll

A significant majority (58%) of American voters for the first time approve of gay marriage, ABC News reports. A previous ABC News/Washington Post Poll in 2004 showed only 32% favored gay marriage. Three years ago, support was at 47%. Just two years ago, a narrow majority approved. The recent Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted March 7 to 10, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. The margin of sampling error for the full survey is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

The poll also found that 72% of Democrats and 62% of independents, but only 34 percent of Republicans support marriage equality. However, in 2004, only 16% of Republicans favored legalizing same-sex marriage; 38 percent of Independents and 43% of Democrats. The greatest growth was reported among moderates, 31 points higher now than in 2004.

Age Matters in Outlook

A slim majority of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents under 50 years old now support gay marriage. Nearly 7 in 10 of those aged 65 and up oppose it, but just four years ago, opposition was 8 in 10. Support has been increasing among older adults, but 44 percent say same-sex marriage should be legal; 50 percent say illegal. But since March 2011, both the under 30 age group and the over 65 group has shown a rise of ten points and more than twenty points since 2004, the lowest point for gay marriage support in ABC/Post polls.

The support for gay marriage is particularly strong among young adults, ages 18 to 29.  The record high for the new poll is 81 percent.

Public Opinion About Homosexuality

Fully 62% of Americans now think being gay is just the way some people are, not a “lifestyle.” This is different from 20 years ago, when fewer than half of the public said so.

For those who see it as a “choice,” more than two-thirds oppose gay marriage.  About ¾ of those who see it as innate, support gay marriage.

Poll About Supreme Court Considerations of DOMA, Prop 8 Next Week

With political figures such as President Obama and, more recently, Hillary Clinton, endorsing same-sex marriage, nearly two-thirds of all Americans say the matter should be decided for all states on the basis of the U.S. Constitution, not with each state making its own laws.

Currently, gay marriage is legal in only nine states and the District of Columbia, but public views are more similar across state lines.  In the states that allow gay marriage, 68 percent say such same-sex marriages should be legal, but so too do 56% of those in states where the practice is not legal.

In states where gay marriage is legal, 52 percent feel strongly that it should be legal.  Where gay marriage is not legal, 39 percent feel strongly that it should be legalized.

Conversion Therapy for N.J. Gay Youth May be a No-No Soon.

Bill Advanced to Senate

On March 17, 2013, New Jersey’s State Senate Committee heard testimony from LGBT activist Troy Stevenson who spoke about the suicide of an individual who had tried conversion therapy which purports to fix homosexuals and convert them to heterosexuality. The Committee also heard from organizations which support young LGBT people on the dangers of conversion therapy, especially for minors. One woman recounted how she had been subject to electric shocks during conversion therapy.

Measure A3371

The bill A3371 being considered in the Senate would prohibit licensed therapists from performing controversial therapy aimed at converting minors from gay to heterosexual.  The Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee moves the bill to the Senate.  Backed by the American Psychological Association’s research, the legislation, if passed, would prohibit counseling for any person under the age of eighteen, that seeks to change the sexual orientation.

The law, even with parental permission, that bans this reparative therapy is not favored by everyone. New Jersey Family Council says “it will infringe on parents’ rights, on their ability to do what they think is best for their children.

The lead sponsor of the bill which bans licensed practitioners from performing conversion therapy on minors is openly gay Democrat from Bergen County, State Assemblyman Tim Eustace. Representing District 38, and endorsed by The Victory Fund that “elects LGBT leaders to change American politics,” Eustace spent ten years as a councilman in Maywood, New Jersey. He was Chamber of Commerce for twenty years.

New Jersey would become the nation’s second state to ban “gay-to-straight” conversion therapy.  California passed a similar bill signed into law last September by Governor Jerry Brown.  The law was set to take effect on January 1, 2013, but the United States Circuit Court of Appeals last month issued an emergency order putting the California law on hold until it can hear full arguments on the issue.


Gay Activists Don’t Think Queen Elizabeth’s Anti-Discrimination Charter Goes Far Enough

In Deference to Commonwealth Countries, Omits References to Gays and Lesbians

On March 11, 2013, Her Majesty the Queen,in a live broadcast, signed a new charter dubbed “a 21st Century Magna Carta” designed to stamp out discrimination against homosexuals and promote “empowerment” of women in a drive to boost human rights.  The document includes affirmations on democracy, human rights, international peace and security as well as freedom of expression.

The Queen’s charter states that signatories oppose “all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, color, creed, political belief or other grounds.”  It’s “the other” that annoys activists such as American Democratic political consultant, writer, and Americablogger John Aravosis.

Says Aravosis, a Washington lawyer, “ in 2013, I’m supposed to laud someone who doesn’t even have the moral and ethical fortitude to call me anything other than “other?”  Did Lincoln free the “others?”

“What is this? the 1980s?  I’m supposed to genuflect because the Queen was too embarrassed to mention the g-word and the t-word?”

The British Press says that the charter doesn’t specifically refer to gays and lesbians because it might offend the Commonwealth’s countries with anti-gay laws.  More than forty-one countries of the fifty-four within the Commonwealth still criminalize homosexuality.  Aravosis again takes offense: “So just in case that wasn’t clear to you – Queen Elizabeth won’t be mentioning gays or trans people in her anti-discrimination statement, lest she offend countries that discriminate.”

British Activists Have Their Say About Her Historic Pledge

Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, initially praised Queen Elizabeth’s agreement.  “Although the clause rejects discrimination based on ‘other grounds’ implicitly includes a rejection of homophobic discrimination, The Queen has never publicly acknowledged the LGBT community since she was crowned in 1952.” Ben Summerskill, the Chief Executive of the gay and lesbian rights group Stonewall UK, says that “this is the first time that the Queen has publicly acknowledged the importance of the six percent of her subjects who are gay.” Columnist at The Guardian, Patrick Strudwick  remarked that “by refraining from using the word gay or gay rights, the head of the Commonwealth will in fact silence opponents of equality!  Gay people of the Commonwealth need its head to speak of them and to them, to protect them.”

Don’t Look A Gift Horse In the Mouth?

Is the Queen, 86, evolving?  Summerskill commented , “we would of course be much happier if the terms would be addressed and discussed openly.  But if addressing them obliquely is a first step, we should be happy about that. It would be foolish not to acknowledge this may be a first step towards equality in some Commonwealth countries.”



Bill Creating Anti-LGBT Discrimination Dead in Utah

Not Enough Votes In Senate Before Deadline

A measure to create a Utah statewide law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or sexual identity died on  March 11, 2013.  Before the Monday deadline to vote on it, Senator Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, co-sponsor of the bill, said he was unable to round up enough votes in the Utah Senate to support it.  Urquhart has represented since 2009 the 29th District in Washington County and prior to that, he served in the House of Representatives in the Utah State Senate from 2001 to 2009.

History of the Legislation

“It is a breakthrough piece of legislation,” said Senator Jim Dabakis (D-Salt Lake City), a co-sponsor of the legislation.  Dabakis was elected Chair of the Utah Democratic Party in July 2011 as the first openly gay person to lead a state party in Utah.  He was appointed to the Utah Senate by Democratic Delegates in December 2012 following the election of Senator Ben McAdams to the mayoralty of Salt Lake County. He is one of the co-founders of Equality Utah and the Utah Pride Center.

For five consecutive years, the legislation has been introduced in the Legislature.  However, on March 7th, the measure had passed out of a legislative committee with approval. “We have had a huge leap this year toward evolving,” remarked Dabakis.

The proposal would not have applied to religious organizations.  They are already exempt from the state’s anti-discrimination laws.  The legislation also extended that exemption to any organization advocating a viewpoint that would be affected by employing someone falling into a protected category.

For the past five years, statewide efforts, generally led by Democrats, have failed in the state’s Republican-controlled Senate.  The majority of the Utah legislators and residents belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which did not support nor oppose the bill.

Urquhart said opposition from Republicans in the Senate mirrored arguments from opponents that protecting people because of their sexual orientation violates the freedom of religious people who don’t support the “lifestyle.”

Future of the Bill

Dabakis and Urquhart hope to work over the next year to get the church to support the legislation as they did in 2009 when Salt Lake became the first municipality in Utah to pass an ordinance making it illegal to fire or evict someone for being gay or transgender and fifteen other counties and cities followed suit.

Urquhart expects the opinions of his colleagues to shift as it has over the past few years and they will advocate for the legislation.  He plans to reintroduce the legislation next year, but if it doesn’t pass, he’ll keep bringing it back until it does.    

Carly Rae Jepsen uses her non-singing voice to Criticize Boy Scouts

Cancels Jamboree Show owing to BSA’s anti-gay Membership Rules

The 2013 Boy Scout Jamboree, which normally draws thousands of Scouts and their leaders to a campground in West Virginia,will not have Canadian pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen entertaining this summer. Jepsen’s single “Call Me Maybe,”has sold more than 12.5 million copies.  She is enormously popular.

Why She Cancelled Her Appearance

Announced on Twitter on March 5th, Ms. Jepsen said “as an artist who believes in equality for all people, I will not be participating in the Boy Scouts of America Jamboree this summer.  I always have and always will support the LGBT community on a global level.”

Change.Org Contacted Jepsen

On February 28, Derek Nance, a former closeted Eagle Scout and camp leader for ten years,  started a petition on Change.org asking Carly Rae Jepsen and the trio Train from San Francisco not to perform at the Jamboree unless openly gay scouts and leaders would be welcome to attend.. Train, an American poprock band, had a Gold album “Save Me, San Francisco.” Last month, Train cancelled its jamboree appearance because of the Boy Scouts’ membership policy that excludes openly gay youths and scoutmasters.

Four days after Nance started the petition drive on change.org, calling on the musical artists to disassociate themselves from the Boy Scouts, more than 60,000 people signed the petition. Spokesman at Boy Scouts of America in Irving, Texas, declined to say whether Jepsen and Train would be replaced as musical headliners at the Jamboree.

GLAAD and Others Who Call for BSA Policy Change

GLAAD (Gay/Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation commended the musicians on its website and urged them to withdraw from the jamboree following Nance’s campaign. “No fair-minded media outlet, corporation or celebrity will want to partner with the BSA as long as the organization puts discrimination and anti-gay bias before the needs of young people.  GLAAD will continue to call for partners of the BSA to speak out against the anti-gay ban until the BSA puts Scouting first and adopts a national non-discrimination policy. Carly Rae Jepsen and Train’s decisions not only send the right message to the BSA, but remind LGBT young people that they are supported and accepted.”

Advocacy groups, including GLAAD, have been calling on the National Geographic Channel to end its relationship with the BSA. The cable channel has a current reality series entitled “Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?” The groups have accused the BSA of using the show as free advertising for the Scouts.

BSA’s Policy

The Boy Scouts of America have continued their policy of discriminating against gays for which corporations such as United Way and Starbucks have withdrawn financial support for the Boy Scouts.  Former scouts and leaders have mailed in their merit badges in support of Eagle Scouts and leaders who have been kicked out of the BSA for being gay.

According to the Supreme Court, the Scouts’ ban on gays is legal.  The court ruled that the organization has a constitutionally protected right to deem homosexuality inconsistent with BSA values. In 2000, the justices ruled 5-4 that the Boy Scouts of America, a private organization, did not have to reinstate a scout leader who was expelled after publicly disclosing his homosexuality.

This past January, BSA’s headquarters announced that the leadership would review the policy again, but decided it was too soon.  There is a national meeting in May 2013 at which councils will vote on the current ban.







Tyler Clementi’s Parents Demand Apology From National Organization For Marriage

President of Ruth Institute Criticizes Tyler in Iowa State University Speech

Last month, Jennifer Roback Morse, President and founder of the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage for the promotion of men/women marriage, spoke to a group of Catholic students at Iowa State University.  In that speech, Dr. Morse urged students to influence gay youth, after befriending them,  to use sexual restraint as an alternative “ to the gay influences” in their lives who may pressure them to have sex.

The Offensive Remark

Morse went on to refer to Tyler Clementi as “that kid Tyler Clementi who killed himself – who threw himself off the George Washington Bridge.” She continues, “ I mean, there was a much older man in the picture…And so I think friendship is what you have to offer.  There are a lot of situations where people are doing something sexual that’s probably not the best thing for them and it would be better if they had somebody who’d be friends with them without coming on to them or without judging them.”

What The Clementis Have to Retort

The Clementis denounced Morse’s comments as “ludicrous,” for connecting their son’s suicide to support from other members of the gay community. “To exploit our late son’s name to  advance an anti-equality agenda is offensive and wrong.  By doing so, National Organization for Marriage proves that not only is there no low they will not sink to, to advance their cruel agenda- but that neither they nor Ms. Morse have any grip on reality.  The very idea that Tyler’s tragedy happened because of too much support – instead of not enough – is ludicrous.  Shame on them.”

Tyler’s parents weren’t the only ones who were offended.  GLAAD (Gay, Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), Equality Matters, and the Human Rights Campaign all demanded an apology as well.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has classified The National Organization for Marriage as an anti-gay group. GLAAD’s President Herndon Graddick said in a statement that “they’re using Tyler’s story to pit young people against their own peers. This is among the more reprehensible tactics we’ve seen seen from NOM.”

How The Clementis Have Honored Tyler’s Name

Two years after their son’s suicide in 2010, the Clementis dedicated a Research Center, Tyler Clementi Research Center at Rutgers University (where Tyler was a Freshman).  The goal of the center is to provide a scholarly support for the work of policymakers, social activists, community leaders and other advocates for vulnerable youth.

On Capitol Hill, local lawmakers are still fighting to get a bill named after him passed.  The proposed Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act would require all universities to have an anti-harassment policy.  


Lech Walesa Criticizes Gay Rights

Poland’s First Elected President Homophobic

Lech Walesa, Poland’s communist-era democracy campaigner, said in a television on March 1 that he believed gay people had no right to sit on the front benches in parliament and, if there at all, should sit in the back “or even behind a wall.”  In other words, gays had no right to a prominent role in politics.

Although this former electrician is no longer active in Polish political life, he was asked about his views on civil partnerships and a new public gay rights campaign on the private Polish broadcaster TVN. The sixty-nine-year-old former shipyard worker replied:   “They have to know that they are a minority and must adjust to smaller things.  And not rise to the greatest heights…spoiling things for the others and taking them from the majority. A minority should not impose itself on the majority.”  In 2000, at a campaign rally, he said that “gay people need medical treatment.”

Complaint Filed About His Remarks

Walesa has been accused of promoting a “propaganda of hate against a sexual minority.  A national committee devoting to fighting hate speech and other crimes in Poland has filed a complaint with prosecutors in Gdansk. The leading Polish television journalist Monika Olejnik has accused  Walesa of  having “disgraced the Nobel Prize” that he received in 1983 as a result for organizing free non-Communist trade unions.

Adam Bielan, a conservative Polish member of the European parliament, said about Walesa: “ I am surprised that only now we are noticing that Walesa is not in control of what he says and that he has views that are far from being politically correct.”

A deputy speaker of parliament with the Democratic Left Alliance, Jerzy Wenderlich, commented : “from a human point of view his language was appalling.  It was the statement of a troglodyte.  Now nobody in their right mind will invite Lech Walesa  as a moral authority, knowing what he said.”

Sam Dick, head of policy at Stonewall, said : “It’s sad that a human rights activist like Mr. Walesa sees fit to deny lesbian, gay and bisexual people the same basic rights he fought so long and hard for.”

Political Influence Has Waned

In 1995, Walesa was narrowly voted out of power in 1995, and his political influence waned. He has never advocated progressive social views.  He now gives lectures internationally on his role in fighting communism and on issues of peace and democracy.

However, even in a Catholic country like Poland, there is a willingness to tackle gay rights.  Polish voters in 2011 elected Poland’s first openly gay and first transsexual members of Parliament.

Yet, a recent poll in Poland revealed that sixty-nine percent of Poles still oppose gay marriage. Walesa is a devout Roman Catholic, father of eight, and affiliates with the Polish church that still maintains that homosexuality is deviant.