Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at Justice Department's 2010 LGBT Pride Month Program. The Attorney General applauded the passage of federal hate crimes legislation:
"We have much to celebrate today. In the year since we last gathered,
our nation – and the Justice Department – have taken steps to address
the unique challenges faced by members of our country’s LGBT community.
As you all know, up until last fall, there was not a single line in the
225-year history of the U.S. Code that referred explicitly to gender
Today, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act –
the President signed into law last October – does just that, finally
our nation’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals from
brutal forms of bias-motivated violence."
The AG recognized, among others: District of Columbia Council Member David Catania, who sponsored the District's marriage equality amendment; Sharon Lubinski, the openly lesbian U.S. Marshal for Minnesota; Jenny Durkan, the openly lesbian U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington; and Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, who authored an opinion that Maryland
should recognize valid same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
Not mentioned: Congress' work toward repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' The Justice Department is fighting the Log Cabin Republicans' federal lawsuit challenging DADT, Log Cabin
Republican v the United States of America.
Also not mentioned, and this is comes as no surprise, the anti-LGBT employment bias and the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination. Or, the Defense of Marriage Act, which DOJ is aggressively defending in federal lawsuit in Boston brought by GLAD. Via the White House Media Affairs Office, read the full remarks AFTER THE JUMP ...
"Justice Antonin Scalia, using history, sarcasm and political taunts, laid down a barrage of objections Wednesday to a plea that the Supreme Court create a new constitutional right of anonymity for individuals who sign petitions to get policy measures onto election ballots. When he was finished, the strong impression was that it might be exceedingly hard to gather a five-vote majority to establish such a right, even though the plea got the fervent support of Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., and some implied help from Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. The oral argument was in John Doe # 1, et al., v. Reed, et al. (09-559).
Declaring that the rough-and-tumble of democracy is not for the faint-hearted, what Scalia referred to as the “touchy, feely” sensitivity of some political activists, the Justice said 'you can’t run a democracy' with political activity behind a First Amendment shroud. 'You are asking us to enter into a whole new field,' Scalia told James Bopp Jr., the lawyer for Washington State signers of an anti-gay rights petition. Politics, the Justice went on, 'takes a certain amount of civic courage. The First Amendment does not protect you from civic discourse — or even from nasty phone calls.'"
The New York Times adds the majority of the Court appeared "skeptical"—especially after this:
"In testy exchanges with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bopp conceded that petition signers give up some expectations of privacy, that their signatures may not indicate a political point of view and that disclosures of such names are a commonplace occurrence in some 20 states. 'The sponsoring organizations sometimes sell or trade these lists' of names, Justice Ginsburg said. 'They use them for fund-raising purposes. So that would be the end of a person’s privacy, at least on one side. Is that true, that the initiative sponsor uses these lists?' 'Yes,' Mr. Bopp said."
Justice Ginsburg added, drawing on Mr. Bopp’s briefs, that signing a petition could mean one of three things: support for the ballot measure, support for the idea that the issue in question should be put to a vote or an effort to placate a pesky solicitor. Mr. Bopp denied endorsing the third view, prompting Justice Ginsburg to read a snippet from one of his briefs saying that people may 'simply sign to avoid any further discussion with a petition circulator.' That caused Mr. Bopp to reverse course."
Of particular note to SCOTUS watchers: Washington's Republican Attorney General Robert McKenna defended his state's open records law. And this was the last scheduled case in the term and "probably the last of Justice John Paul Stevens’s tenure."
The tally Thursday afternoon saw the vote to approve R-71 widening its lead 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent. That lead now appears insurmountable. The Secretary of State's Office estimates another 500,000 to 600,000 ballots statewide are still outstanding, with about half expected from King County, where the measure is being approved by slightly more than 2 to 1. "Voters across the state listened to the personal stories of lesbian and gay families and the challenges they faced and sent a strong message that we want to see all families treated equally under the law in our state," said Anne Levinson, chairwoman of Washington Families Standing Together, which worked for the measure's approval.
Lurleen at Pam's House Blend offers some historical context: "Almost every Washington county shows an increase in pro-equality voting. The last time Washington voters had the opportunity to ratify a pro-equality law at the polls was in 1997. Initiative 677 proposed an employment non-discrimination law. The measure was rejected 59.7% to 40.3%. Contrary to the current image of the Puget Sound area of Washington as progressive, not one single county - not even Seattle's home of King County - voted to approve I-677. Contrast that with the current election where the electorate as a whole approved R-71 and majorities in 10 of Washington's 39 counties have approved R-71."
Gay activists are rightly disappointed by the loss in Maine but let's not dismiss the important victory in Washington. Congratulations to the people of Washington and Washington Families Standing Together for an excellent campaign.
The court's Tuesday action maintains the Monday hold placed by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who temporarily blocked a federal appeals court ruling that had ordered the release of the names. SCOTUSblog reports: "The disclosure will remain blocked until the Supreme Court can act on a coming appeal by sponsors of the referendum. The practical effect is that the ballot measure will go before the state’s voters on Nov. 3 without revelations of who signed the petitions to put it on the ballot."
Appearing before a very welcoming crowd at the Human Rights Campaign's annual dinner in Washington DC, President Barack Obama delivered an emotional speech and reiterated his commitment to LGBT rights. No specifics to enact his campaign promises, though, but the President did use his strongest language yet on the military's failed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
"I will end 'Dont Ask, Don't Tell,''' Obama said to thunderous applause and a standing ovation from the crowd of about 3,000. "We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve the country. We should be celebrating their willingness to step forward and show such courage especially when we are fighting two wars."
On ENDA, the President said "Nobody in America should be fired because they are gay" and committed the Administration to passing a "fully inclusive" version.
The most thunderous applause was for his mention of the Matthew Shepard Act. "I promised Judy Shepard we would pass an inclusive hate crimes bill. And we're going to do it!" he said admitting it's taken "too long." The measure passed the House on Thursday and is expected to pass the Senate next week.
As anticipated, the President did not mention the two ballot measures that would rollback rights granted to LGBTs on either coast: Question 1 in Maine and Referendum 71 in Washington. Obama offered broader promises to oppose the "divisiveness" of opponents of equality.
Obama also acknowledged that many LGBTs "don't believe progress has come fast enough" and added, "Friends should be able to be honest with one another", reminding supporters to keep him and the Congress accountable. Oh and then there was that fabulous opening bouquet to the gays: "It is a privilege to be here tonight to open for Lady Gaga."
No specifics, no call for legislation, and no mention of the major LGBT issues on the November ballot. Bur for the President and Nobel Peace Prize winner to keynote HRC in his first year of office .... that's progress. Best moment? Obama received a massive ovation for saying, "You
will see a
time when our country sees relationship between two men or two women as
just as admirable as relationships between a man and woman."
· Congressional candidate Anthony Woods as a positive role for black gay youth: "Woods' ability to connect with a youth culture increasingly
accepting of gays suggests a number of possibilities for black gay
community. Should Woods win the seat and go on to enjoy a lengthy
and successful career in politics, it will be very hard for history to
downplay his contributions to the political world the way it was done
with civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. Many—including a number of
black gays—know little about Rustin's work to combat segregation,
apartheid, and homophobia. In the digital age where everything is
photographed, taped, and blogged, Woods' potential ascension from
fallen victim of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' to the first black openly gay
person elected to Congress will be a story told repeatedly to young
gays of color."
Thomas Oliver and his partner, Jeffrey Chandler adopted Zyreal when he was only 7 months old, knowing the infant had sickle-cell anemia. Oliver and Chandler say they fell in love with Zyreal when they first saw him— a wide-eyed baby who easily fell asleep in their arms. "He had a round head just like Charlie Brown," Oliver says.
In Zyreal's room near Seabeck, he chatters happily about all the books he's read and Blueie, a stuffed elephant. "I found Blueie walking down the hall at Mary Bridge (Children's Hospital in Tacoma) looking for somebody to love him," Oliver says as Zyreal tosses Blueie into the air. Zyreal says little when asked about his many hospital stays. And his two fathers hope he'll someday be free from pain and medical procedures.
Thomas Oliver and partner Jeffrey Chandler —who are not black—have another adopted black son with special needs who is a Western Washington University student.
The comment stream at the Seattle Times is noteworthy: Several of the comments are downright homophobic (some have been removed), while many others spout proto-racist, faux scientific gene theories or just plain ole racism such as the succinct "Does the Seattle Times put black people on the cover of their paper so often because of white guilt?" One commenter asks: "You guys need to look in the mirror and figure out how you can take
this where you took this. It's just a story about a child whose parents are trying to save his life and you find fault in that?"