What’s on tap for 2012?

Court cases on both coasts will impact marriage equality, while November elections could mean continued progress legislatively — or a time of backsliding

Inside-Cover

WAITING GAME | Members of the anti-Prop 8 legal team, from left, Therese Stewart, Chad Griffin, David Boies, Ted Butros and Ted Olson, speak during a news conference after a hearing in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Dec. 6, 2010, in San Francisco. Thirteen months later, the 9th Circuit judges are expected to issue opinions any day now on whether Prop 8 proponents have legal standing to appeal the trial court ruling, and whether Judge Vaughn Walker was correct in declaring the anti-gay-marriage amendment unconstitutional. (Eric Risberg/Associated Press)

Lisa Keen  | Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com
Significant events are crowding the calendar for 2012, and each promises considerable drama and suspense for the LGBT community.
Here are the 10 most important, from a national perspective, to keep an eye on:

• The next decisions on Proposition 8: A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals could release its opinions any day now. That’s “opinions,” plural.
Before the panel can rule on the constitutionality of California’s law banning marriage for same-sex couples, it must decide whether the Yes on 8 coalition has legal standing to appeal the federal court ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional, and it must decide whether there is any justification for Yes on 8’s request that the lower court decision be vacated.
The list of possible outcomes in Perry v. Brown — the case brought by the American Foundation for Equal Rights with famed attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies leading the charge — is mind-boggling. Whatever the results, any or all aspects could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court immediately or they could be appealed to a full 9th Circuit bench and then to the Supreme Court.
But the panel’s decision will almost certainly have political impact, too. Not only will it affect the momentum of the marriage equality movement, it will almost certainly become fodder in the presidential campaigns.

• The decision, on appeal, in DOMA: A three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments, perhaps as soon as early February, in a powerful challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act’s denial of federal benefits to same-sex married couples.
The challenge, referred to most often as Gill v. OPM, is actually three consolidated cases, two brought by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and one by the state of Massachusetts.
While there are other challenges under way to DOMA, this is the “big guns” challenge and the one most likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court first. And while there is no deadline by which the panel must render its decision, it is likely to turn out one by year’s end.
Then, as with Proposition 8, the case could go to the full circuit court on appeal or straight to the Supreme Court. And, if the appeals court decision is rendered before the November elections, it will almost certainly provoke debate on the presidential campaign trail.

• Tammy Baldwin’s historic Senate bid: U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin is not the first openly gay person to run for U.S. Senate, but she’s the first who has a real chance of winning.
The daily Capital Times is already referring to her as the “likely” Democratic nominee to fill the seat being vacated by Democrat Herb Kohl. She doesn’t have a challenger for the nomination. But she will have a very tough battle against whomever the Republicans put on the ballot.
That’s because the battle will be for more than just one seat in the powerful U.S. Senate, which currently has a breakdown of 53 in the Democratic Caucus and 47 in the Republican. It will be part of a multi-state slugfest between the parties over control of the chamber, the Congress and the nation’s laws.

• The fight for the Senate: Polls at the moment indicate voters are inclined to vote for Democrats over Republicans next November. But that sentiment is not providing a large margin — one or two points —  and it’s too soon to guess who the voters will blame for what 11 months from now.
But some Senate races — in addition to Tammy Baldwin’s — could have big consequences for LGBT voters.
In Virginia, a pro-gay former governor, Tim Kaine, will likely be pitted against an anti-gay former senator, George Allen. In Massachusetts, a pro-gay challenger, Elizabeth Warren, will almost certainly be the Democrat facing incumbent Scott Brown, whose attitude toward the community has been much less friendly.
And at least seven other states are expected to have competitive races for the Senate.

• Counting the “Gay Caucus”: U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., will be starting his 40th year in Congress when the House reconvenes Jan. 17. And it will be his last.
Frank announced last year that he is retiring at the end of his term. When he does, the clique of four openly gay members of Congress — Frank, Baldwin and Reps. Jared Polis and David Cicilline — will shrink by one. If Baldwin fails to win a Senate seat, it could shrink by half.
But there are prospects for adding members. Openly gay Wisconsin Democratic Assemblymember Mark Pacon is running for Baldwin’s U.S. House seat. And there are three other openly LGBT candidates for the U.S. House this November: Marko Liias from Seattle, Mark Takano from Riverside, Calif., and Kyrsten Sinema from Phoenix.
So, the number of openly gay members of Congress could go from four to as low as two (though zero is, technically, possible) to as high as seven. But no one will have the seniority and clout that Frank has had — and has used — to advance pro-gay measures.

• On hold, and on defense, in Congress: Pro-LGBT bills — such as efforts to repeal DOMA and pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — are not likely to see much action in 2012. But anti-gay measures might.
Why? Because it’s an election year and Republicans still control the House. And supportive Democrats will not be inclined to push controversial legislation during an election year, because it can detract from the focus on jobs and the economy, where most voters want focus right now.
Republicans, on the other hand, have often used hostile measures aimed at gays during election years as a way of putting Democrats on the spot with voters generally and gays specifically.

• Ballot battles abound: There will be important LGBT-related ballot measures before voters in several states this year.
North Carolina and Minnesota will vote on whether to ban same-sex marriage through amendments to their state constitutions. Voters in Maine will decide whether to strike down their existing ban on same-sex marriage.
LGBT activists in Washington State are gathering signatures to put a measure on that state’s ballot to gain marriage equality. A small group in California has until May 15 to gather more than 800,000 signatures to put a measure on the ballot there to repeal Proposition 8.
And the California Attorney General is expected to announce by Jan. 9 whether opponents of a new bill to include information about LGBT figures in history as part of the public school curriculum can begin circulating petitions to get a repeal measure on the ballot there.
All of these have the potential to be big, expensive and consequential battles.

• Fight for freedom of religion: The right-wing Alliance Defense Fund and others have a concerted effort under way in the courts to undermine laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Their strategy is to argue that people who discriminate against LGBT people do so because their religious beliefs require them to do so. Their question to the court is, “What rules? The First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion or the equal protection clause that says all citizens should be treated equally under the law?”
One case has already reached the U.S. Supreme Court and failed, but other cases — many other cases — are winding their way through nearly every circuit in the country. And their outcomes have the potential to chip away at the strength of the nation’s legal mandate that all people be treated equally.

Tammy-and-Obama

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, left, President Barack Obama, right

• A fight for the White House: The difference for LGBT people between having President Barack Obama in the White House and President George W. Bush has been stark. So the consequences of November’s presidential election will also be profound.
Either Obama stays, and things continue to improve — in law and in society’s attitudes — or a new president is elected from a field of Republicans who seem, at times, to be vying for the mantle of most gay-hostile candidate.
In the latter case, LGBT people can expect progress to halt or backslide.

• Ah, the unpredictable: One of the bigger LGBT stories of 2011 happened in February, and it was one nobody expected: The Obama administration announced it considered DOMA unconstitutional and would not argue for its defense in most cases.
Another big story that no one expected: The Obama administration announced a major new diplomatic mission to push for protection of human rights for LGBT people around the world.

And given that Rep. Frank said in January 2011 he’d run for re-election in 2012, it was a surprise, in November, when he announced that he would not. As Frank pointed out, circumstances change.

Circumstances change, things change, people change. And often, they change each other.

But history marches on through time, and only in retrospect can any trajectory be certain as to where it’s going.

© 2012 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Ken Mehlman inspiring? Not to me

Hardy Haberman
Flagging Left

Why honor a man who spent years not just hiding in the closet, but working with those who oppressed his LGBT brothers and sisters?

In a move that has stunned a lot of folks, Out Magazine has named Ken Mehlman one of its 100 most inspiring people of the year. I was stunned not just by Mehlman’s inclusion in the Out 100 list, but the use of the word “inspiring” to describe him.

Let me explain.

Ken Mehlman was campaign manager for the 2004 re-election of George W. Bush. You remember him?

He was the president who threatened to veto the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which added sexual orientation to the list of protected classes in existing hate crimes laws. And he was the president who supported the federal Marriage Protection Amendment, a heinous law that — luckily — failed to pass.

Then, from 2005 to 2007, Mr. Mehlman served as the chairman of the Republican National Committee. During that time, he supported the Republican Platform, which included opposition to same-sex marriage.

Well, maybe that’s water under the bridge. But I have to say, I do not find Mr. Mehlman in any way inspiring.

What is inspirational about a man hiding in the closet, actively working against LGBT rights on perhaps the largest scale imaginable?

What is inspirational about a man who served as the guiding force of a Republican Party that stepped up its use of anti-gay rhetoric and propaganda to motivate the most conservative of its members?

What is inspirational about a man who, when he finally decided to come out at 43, assembled a team of strategists to make his coming out as painless as possible?

Now to be fair, since he has opened his closet door, Mehlman has gone on record as supporting many LGBT causes. He even lent his support to the American Foundation for Equal Rights.
Good for him. But Out Magazine’s criteria for their selection is “the extraordinary power of the individual to inspire and motivate by example.”

What kind of example has Mehlman set?

From what I can tell, his example is this:

• Stay in the closet as long as you can, and do anything necessary, even if it means supporting people who actively work to discriminate and inflict suffering on the LGBT community.
• Do anything necessary to gain power and wealth and influence for your own gain, then once you are well situated, carefully come out while offering support to the same people you helped oppress.

• Come out once there is little danger of your actions hurting your own personal wealth or celebrity status.

• Lastly, make a grand show of your compassion and support for LGBT causes with sufficient effort and cash to buy your way into prominence as a gay icon.
Harsh words? You betcha.

Here is the deal: I understand just how difficult it is to come out, every LGBT person does. We have not reached a time when coming out is simple and non-traumatic.

I also understand how everyone comes out at their own pace. For me it was a process that took several years, starting when I was 18 and continuing until I was 20.

During that time I was conflicted and confused and sometimes hid my orientation. But I never actively tried to oppress my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

Still, giving Ken the benefit of the doubt, maybe he didn’t realize he was gay until 2010. Whatever his story, I have sympathy for him in his personal struggle, but absolutely no sympathy for his active participation in the oppression of LGBT people and the encouragement of homophobic smear campaigns which stepped up the level of hatred and discrimination in our country.

Maybe I need to take a page from the fundamentalists’ creed, and “love the sinner, hate the sin?” The problem with that is I would still be “hating,” and that’s not going to help anyone.
I don’t hate Ken Mehlman; I just find him a very sad person who may or may not be trying to atone for his past behaviors. That is a very human struggle and one we all face at one time or another. To do that with grace and humility might be something truly inspiring.

For that, I will wait and see.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November, 11, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

We don’t all have the luxury of time

The American Foundation for Equal Rights, the organization behind the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, has asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to lift its injunction and allow legal same-sex marriages to resume in California as the lawsuit moves through the appeals process.

As you probably remember, early last year federal District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Prop 8 — an amendment to the California Constitution approved in a 2008 voter referendum — violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection. California state officials said they would not appeal the ruling because they, too, believed Prop 8 to be unconstitutional. But the folks who backed the amendment in the first place and who were the only ones to try to defend it in Walker’s court, did appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit, which issued an injunction that is keeping same-sex marriages from resuming under Walker’s ruling. But in addition, the 9th Circuit, unsure whether the Prop 8 supporters even have legal standing to appeal, have asked the California Supreme Court to weigh in on the question of standing.

And therein lies the problem. The California Supreme Court justices have said they will issue an opinion on standing, but they aren’t in any hurry to do it. In fact, they don’t plan to issue any decisions until sometime after the summer.

And that just isn’t soon enough for some people, and that’s why AFER is asking the 9th Circuit to lift the injunction.  We don’t all have the luxury of time, and that includes 78-year-old Ed Watson of Palm Springs.

Watson has joined in Courage Campaign’s efforts to get the injunction lifted by writing this letter and making the video above. I think he says it all:

“Yesterday, I found out the California Supreme Court denied a motion to speed up the Prop 8 trial. They’re going to take their summer recess and come back in around 6 months or so. It must be nice for them.

“The thing is, I am 78 years old, and I have Alzheimer’s disease. I have been with my partner, Derence, for over 40 years. And if the courts drag this out for months and months, I fear I will, God forbid, lose the ability to recognize my beloved Derence when he gets on his knee to propose to me.

“I can’t afford that, and Derence deserves better. That’s why I agreed to be named in Courage Campaign’s amicus curiae letter to the 9th Circuit, asking that the stay be lifted so I can at least have my dignity on our wedding day.

“Please watch this video of my and my partner Derence, then co-sign our letter to the 9th Circuit, begging them to lift the stay while the California Supreme Court drags its feet.

“If the California Supreme Court is going to take its time, then we deserve the dignity of marriage … before I can’t remember what marriage is.”

“Humbly, Ed Watson, Palm Springs, CA.”

—  admin

Federal appeals court asked to allow same-sex marriages to resume in California

Ted Olson

The American Foundation for Equal Rights, which is challenging Proposition 8 in federal court, today asked an appeals court to lift its stay blocking same-sex marriages in California and allow them to resume immediately pending the outcome of the case.

In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit stayed an injunction barring enforcement of Prop 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage. However, AFER argues in its motion filed today that due to delays in the Prop 8 case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the stay should be lifted.

AFER’s request is unrelated to today’s announcement by the Obama administration calling a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and saying the Department of Justice will no longer defend DOMA in federal court.

“We are respectfully asking the Court to lift its stay on marriage for gay and lesbian couples because it has become apparent that the legal process is taking considerably longer than could reasonably have been anticipated,” said Theodore B. Olson, co-lead counsel for AFER. “It’s important to remember that the stay was originally ordered with the understanding that the Ninth Circuit would rule swiftly on the case before it. Now that the issue of the Proponents’ standing to appeal has been referred for analysis by the California Supreme Court, substantial additional, indefinite and unanticipated delays lie ahead. It’s unreasonable and decidedly unjust to expect California’s gay and lesbian couples to put their lives on hold and suffer daily discrimination as second class citizens while their U.S. District Court victory is debated further.”

Read the full press release after the jump.

—  John Wright

Elton John: Most annoying out performer

Elton John

Am I the only one who finds Elton John getting more and more annoying by the day?

First of all — and maybe this is more of an argument with American media than with John — why do I see him referred to as “Sir” Elton so often? I thought we fought a war against the tyranny of a monarchy and as Americans we do not recognize the inequality of those silly titles. The Queen is nothing more than the world’s wealthiest welfare recipient. I do not recognize nobility and I’m won’t call anyone by a title of inequality.

But here’s my real beef:

Two years ago, John was criticizing the LGBT community for pushing for marriage equality rather than civil unions in the Prop 8 debate. Now he’s complaining he can’t get married.

—  David Taffet

When will Ken Mehlman stop funding anti-gay politicians like his old boss Kay Granger?

Congresswoman Kay Granger

Change.org has a piece up about how despite his pledge to support gay rights, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman — who came out of the glass closet on Wednesday — has continued to give money to decidedly anti-gay politicians.

One of those anti-gay politicians is Mehlman’s one-time boss, Republican Texas Congresswoman Kay Granger. According to OpenSecrets.org, Mehlman gave $2,400 to Granger in December 2009.

Mehlman served as Granger’s chief of staff in the late 1990s. That’s where Mehlman met Karl Rove, who worked as a campaign consultant for Granger. Of course Mehlman and Rove would both later go on to work for President George W. Bush. (Remarkably, despite all these Texas ties, the state’s major newspapers said very little about Mehlman’s coming out in today’s editions.)

Granger, whose district covers the western half of Tarrant County as well as Wise and Parker counties, has consistently received a zero on LGBT issues in the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard. Most recently, Granger voted against DADT repeal this year and against LGBT-inclusive hate crimes legislation in 2009. Here’s a snippet of Granger’s prior voting record on gay rights from OnTheIssues.org:

• Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. (November 2007)

• Voted YES on Constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman. (July 2006)

• Voted YES on Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. (September 2004)

• Voted YES on banning gay adoptions in DC. (July 1999)

It’s great that Mehlman has agreed to host a September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group that’s fighting Prop 8 in court. But it’s difficult to even begin to forgive him for all harm he’s inflicted on the LGBT community when he’s continuing to help inflict it by supporting our enemies.

—  John Wright