BREAKING: 10th Circuit says OK marriage ban is unconstitutional

Bs1h9tfCAAAgOOnA U.S. appeals court ruled today that Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The 2-1 vote by the U.S. Tenth Circuit of Appeals affirmed U.S. Judge Terence Kern’s earlier decision in Bishop v. Smith.

The same three-judge panel also ruled earlier Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

The court stayed its ruling however, pending an appeal by the state of Oklahoma.

The case is the oldest challenge to a same-sex marriage ban in the country.

Since the Supreme Court’s major gay rights decisions last year, 17 federal courts have ruled that state same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional. More than 70 cases are pending in federal court including one in Texas, DeLeon v. Perry according to a press release from the Human Rights Campaign.

 

—  James Russell

Federal Marriage Amendment reintroduced with strong Texas support

Johnson

Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Plano, one of four Dallas congressmen supporting the anti-gay marriage amendment.

UPDATE: Congressman Tom Latham’s office called this morning to say his name never should have been on the bill. Placing his name on the bill was a staff member’s mistake and it was withdrawn as soon as the mistake was discovered.

ORIGINAL POST: Since part of the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down, the Federal Marriage Amendment has re-emerged but appears to have little chance of passage at this time.

In the House of Representatives, one Democrat and 38 Republicans, including eight from Texas, have co-sponsored a House Joint Resolution proposing an amendment that would enshrine marriage in the Constitution as between one man and one woman.

Texas has twice as many co-sponsors of the bill as the next closest state, North Carolina, with four. The Democratic co-sponsor is Nick Rahall of West Virginia.

Four of the Texas Republicans are from the Dallas area — Rep. Sam Johnson of Plano, Rep. Joe Barton of Arlington, Rep. Kenny Marchant of Coppell and Rep. Ralph Hall of Rockwall.

Other Texas representatives co-sponsoring the resolution are Rep. Steve Stockman, Rep. John Carter and perennial crackpot Rep. Louie Gohmert.

Since its introduction, the resolution has already lost one co-sponsor, Tom Latham, R-Iowa,, but picked up Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, this week. Latham’s state has marriage equality.

The only current co-sponsor from a state with same-sex marriage is Rep. Andy Harris, R-Maryland.

No women co-sponsored the resolution. Only one co-sponsor is under 40 and all are white men.

Each house of Congress would have to pass the proposed amendment by a two-thirds vote before going to state legislatures where it would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states. More than a quarter of the states have marriage equality.

FMA was first proposed in 2002 and last failed in the House of Representative in 2006.

—  David Taffet

‘DOMA is dead’

SupremeCourtFlash

Marriage equality supporters gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court building Wednesday as the high court hears oral arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. (Courtesy of GLAAD)

LGBT legal experts believe majority on Supreme Court will find law unconstitutional

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service

Today’s argument in the U.S. Supreme Court over the Defense of Marriage Act sounded at times as if President Barack Obama was on trial for enforcing the law even though he considers it unconstitutional. At other times, it sounded like Congress was on trial, for attempting to cloak its moral disapproval of gay people under the guise of seeking “uniformity.” And at the end of two hours, LGBT legal activists seemed cautious but optimistic that there are five votes to find DOMA unconstitutional.

It was the second and final day of two historic sessions at the nation’s high court to hear oral arguments in cases challenging the federal law denying recognition of marriage licenses granted to same-sex couples — and challenging a state law banning same-sex couples from obtaining marriage licenses.

Wednesday’s case, U.S. v. Windsor, posed the question of whether Section 3 of DOMA violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. New York lesbian Edith Windsor filed the lawsuit with the help of the ACLU when the federal government demanded she pay more than $360,000 in estate taxes after her same-sex spouse died. Surviving spouses in male-female marriages do not have to pay estate taxes.

LGBT legal experts said after Wednesday’s arguments in the DOMA case that it’s likely the Supreme Court will strike down the law when it issues its ruling, expected sometime in late June.

“I think we’re going to win,” said Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “I think the court is going to reach the merits on this case and I think they’re going to say that DOMA violates the federal constitution, probably for equal protection reasons. … I do think DOMA is dead.”

The first 50 minutes of the two-hour argument was given to a discussion of whether the case was properly before the court, given procedural questions. On the issue of DOMA’s constitutionality, former George W. Bush Solicitor General Paul Clement, an attorney hired by the Republican-led Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), said the Congress, in passing the law in 1996, did not discriminate against gays but simply decided to define the term “marriage” “solely for federal law” in order to ensure “uniformity” in the deliverance of benefits.

“It’s rational for Congress to say it’s treating same-sex couples in New York the same as same-sex couples in Nebraska,” said Clement.

That assertion did not go unchallenged.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg all questioned Clement on it.

“What gives the federal government the right to be concerned at all about the definition of marriage?” asked Sotomayor, noting that marriage has always been considered an area of state law. She suggested members of Congress appeared to create a law to disfavor a “class they don’t like.”

When Clement suggested Congress was helping the states by putting the issue on “pause” and letting the states work through the democratic process in deciding the law in each state, Kennedy noted that DOMA seemed instead to be “helping states if they do what [members of Congress] want them to do.”

Justice Ginsburg said DOMA appears to affect same-sex couples by turning their marriages into a sort of “skim milk,” in comparison to whole milk version enjoyed by male-female couples.

Justice Kagan perhaps hit the hardest note when she said the record of House proceedings around DOMA in 1996 seemed to indicate Congress “had something else in mind than uniformity … something that’s never been done before.” She quoted a passage of the House report that said that DOMA was intended to express “moral disapproval” of marriage for same-sex couples.

“That’s a pretty good red flag,” said Kagan.

Clement seemed to be caught off guard by the excerpt. “Does the House Report say that?” he asked.

The challengers of DOMA appeared off guard at times, too.

Chief Justice John Roberts asked both Solicitor General Donald Verilli and plaintiff’s attorney Roberta Kaplan whether it would be permissible for Congress to adopt a definition for federal purposes that included gay couples, rather than excluded them.

Verilli said the House Report excerpt “makes glaringly clear” that DOMA was intended to exclude lawfully married same-sex couples.

“Are you saying that 84 senators were motivated by animus?” asked Chief Justice Roberts in follow-up to both Verilli and Kaplan.

Both Verilli and Kaplan clearly avoided saying that think DOMA was motivated by animus.

“It could have been a lack of reflection or an instinctive response,” said Verilli. But, he added emphatically, “Section 3 discriminates and it’s time for this court to recognize that discrimination cannot be reconciled with our fundamental commitment to equal protection of the law.”

But it was during questioning about the procedural matters that Roberts and other conservative justices hammered on what came across as much as a political jousting as it was a legal matter.

Roberts wondered why President Obama didn’t have “the courage of his convictions” that DOMA was unconstitutional and “instead, wait until the Supreme Court” rules it so.
Justice Samuel Alito said he thought it odd that President Obama would continue to enforce DOMA “until the court tells him to stop.”

Justice Breyer commented that the president has an “obligation” to faithfully execute the laws, whether he likes them or not.

Jon Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal, said he was “very encouraged” by the argument.

“When it comes to the merits, I think there are at least five justices who are prepared to strike down Section 3 of DOMA,” he said. “One of the things that Justice Ginsburg said at the end, about the beginning of the sex discrimination cases, the court did strike down laws that discriminated based on sex based on rational basis, and saw it as discrimination.”

Mary Bonauto, head of civil rights for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said she thought the questioning was “vigorous” on the procedural issue of standing. On the issue of DOMA’s constitutionality, she said she thought Justice Kagan “called out” the discriminatory statement in the House report.

“Overall, they were asking the right questions and the right themes were in play,” said Bonauto.

Jenny Pizer, a Lambda Legal attorney who followed the case at the three-week trial in San Francisco, said she thought it was clear that the argument of “uniformity” made “no sense at all.”

“It was surprising to me the suggestion from some of the conservative justices that the administration should not enforce laws when they have questions about constitutionality or have a view of constitutionality different from previous administrations have said. That seems immensely impractical,” said Pizer.

“One thing that did seem clear yesterday and today,” said Pizer, “is that we’re witnessing a moment of recognition of anti-gay discrimination and the government trying to come to terms with how it should change. Perhaps we shouldn’t be that surprised that some justices are resistant to addressing the merits of question, but the justices are particularly well situated to address them.”

Yesterday’s argument was over the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved ban on marriage licenses for same-sex couples. The court heard 80 minutes of argument in Hollingsworth v. Perry over whether it should find California’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

In both cases, both sides see Justice Anthony Kennedy as the most likely justice to provide a fifth vote for the winning side. But Tuesday’s argument in the Proposition 8 case left many speculating that the court may decide that opponents of marriage quality did not have proper legal standing to appeal the case.

Legal standing was an issue in the Windsor case, too, because the Obama administration appealed the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that DOMA violates the equal protection clause of the constitution. A party bringing an appeal must show it is injured by the lower court holding.

© Copyright 2013 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

Guide to oral arguments on Prop 8, DOMA

MARRIAGE-AND-SUPREME-COURT-LOGO

Editor’s Note: The following is the fourth in a four-part series to prepare readers for what to expect March 26 and 27 when the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the marriage equality cases.

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service

Two of the LGBT civil rights movement’s most important cases come before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 26 and 27 and, regardless of the outcome, they will almost certainly be the most watched oral arguments ever on an LGBT issue.

A “United for Marriage” coalition of national and local LGBT groups have planned a number of events and rallies for the steps of the Supreme Court building and have organized buses from several cities to bring in participants. (CLICK HERE FOR INFO ON RALLIES IN NORTH TEXAS) The rallies are likely to enjoy a great deal of visibility on national TV screens, as the high court does not provide for any live camera or web broadcast of the arguments themselves.

There are only 400 seats in the courtroom, according to the public information office: 240 are for the public, 36 for journalists, and the rest (124) for guests of the justices and members of the Supreme Court bar. The court also provides a few more seats for journalists in an adjacent “hallway” with obstructed views of the courtroom, and it has 30 seats in the public section where visitors can watch for three to five minutes each before being rotated out.

Readers who are eager to absorb the arguments themselves but are unable to snare a courtside seat have two options: an audio recording and a transcript –both available at www.supremecourt.gov. (Click on “Oral argument” and choose either “Argument transcript” or “Argument recording.”) The public information office says both will be available by noon Dallas time on Tuesday and 1 Dallas time on Wednesday.

Some of the players are already well known to readers, some are not. Certainly, the key issues in the case have occupied a central focus for the LGBT community for many years now and the resolution of both cases are of enormous consequence to LGBT people throughout the country.

To help readers prep for the argument and the expected crush of media reporting on the cases, the following is a quick guide to the issues, the attorneys, and what to listen for:

Tuesday, March 26 at 10 a.m. EDT: Proposition 8:

Case name: Hollingsworth v. Perry (Case No. 12-144)

Issue in play: Whether the voters of California have a right to amend their state constitution to prevent same-sex couples from obtaining marriage licenses the same as male-female couples. A decision, if rendered, could potentially affect other states with such bans.

Question posed by the court: Whether Proposition 8 violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from depriving any person of “the equal protection of the laws.”)

Additional question posed, on standing: Whether the Yes on 8 coalition that campaigned for passage of Proposition 8 has legal standing to appeal the lower court decision, given that California elected officials chose not to appeal.

Plaintiffs in the original lawsuit: Two California couples who seek the right to marry: Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier of Berkeley and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo of Burbank.

Petitioner bringing appeal: Dennis Hollingsworth is a former state senator from California who helped lead protectmarriage.com, a coalition of groups that established the Yes on 8 campaign. He and other officials brought the appeal after losing in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Attorneys arguing merits and standing:

For Yes on 8 and for Proposition 8: Charles Cooper

For same-sex couples and against Proposition 8: Ted Olson

For the U.S. and against Proposition 8: Solicitor General Donald Verrilli

History behind the case: This dispute began more than 13 years ago, when voters first approved Proposition 22 to limit marriage to heterosexual couples only. That vote was challenged in state court and, the California Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that such a restriction violated the state constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. Opponents of allowing gays to marry came up with another initiative, Proposition 8, to amend the state constitution. Proposition 8 passed that same year, but supporters of same-sex couples, via the newly minted American Foundation for Equal Rights, filed suit in 2009 in federal court, saying the ban violated the equal protection rights of gays under the federal constitution.

The litigation made a major media splash at the time because AFER’s lead attorneys were former George W. Bush Solicitor General Ted Olson and renown liberal litigator David Boies. In the 2000 election, Olson and Boies had been opposing attorneys in the Supreme Court case deciding who won the 2000 presidential election. The AFER lawsuit also garnered considerable attention because much of the LGBT legal infrastructure was against it. But during a three-week trial in San Francisco federal court, the community came onboard and plaintiffs won. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker (who came out as gay after retirement) issued a decision in August 2010, saying Proposition 8 violated the federal equal protection clause because there was no rational basis for limiting the designation of marriage to straight couples. He also said it violated the federal due process clause because there was no compelling reason for the state to deny same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry.

State officials in California chose not to appeal the decision, but the Yes on 8 coalition was allowed to do so (creating the question of legal standing). In February 2012, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld Walker’s decision but on much more narrow grounds –it said the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1996 ruling in Romer v. Evans precluded voters from withdrawing the right to marry from same-sex couples in California. But the Supreme Court is asking for arguments on the broader question of whether Proposition 8 violates the constitutional right to equal protection.

Wednesday, March 27, 10 a.m. EDT: Defense of Marriage Act:

Case name: U.S. v. Windsor (Case No. 12-307)

Issue in play: Whether the federal government can deny to citizens who are legally married to a same-sex partner the same benefits it provides citizens who are legally married to an opposite sex partner. A General Accounting Office study in 2004 found that DOMA affects 1,138 federal statutory provisions of the United States Code in which marital status is a factor in determining or receiving benefits, rights, and privileges.

Question posed by the court: Whether Section 3 of DOMA violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from depriving any person of “the equal protection of the laws.”
Additional question posed, on standing: The Supreme Court has posed two questions: Whether the executive branch’s agreement with the Second Circuit decision in Windsor v. U.S. (that DOMA is unconstitutional) precludes the Supreme Court from ruling in the case, and whether the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) has standing to defend DOMA in court.

Plaintiff in the original lawsuit: Edith Windsor is the surviving spouse of Thea Spyer. The couple had been together for 40 years and married in Canada in 2007. Spyer died in 2009, before New York State allowed marriage licenses for same-sex couples. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service would not allow Windsor to take the routine marital estate tax deduction and, instead, demanded she pay more than $360,000 in taxes on the estate she shared with her spouse.

Petitioner bringing appeal: The U.S. brings the appeal to defend the administration’s obligation to enforce DOMA. But the real defender of DOMA in this case is a legal team hired by the Republican-led House legal office (aka BLAG).

Attorneys arguing standing:

At the invitation of the court, against standing: Vicki C. Jackson

For the U.S. and against standing: Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan

For BLAG and for standing: Paul Clement

Attorneys arguing merits:

For BLAG and for DOMA: Paul Clement

For the U.S. and against DOMA: Solicitor General Donald Verrilli

For plaintiff Windsor and against DOMA: Roberta Kaplan

History behind the case: The Windsor lawsuit is one of seven challenges with appeals pending before the Supreme Court against DOMA, the law approved by Congress in 1996 to head off what was then a burgeoning movement toward achieving equal rights to marriage. The law has two sections: Section 2 says that no state “shall be required” to recognize a marriage license to a same-sex couple granted by another state. Section 3 says that the federal government can give recognition to marriage licenses of male-female couples only. Section 3 is the only part of DOMA under contention in the lawsuits.

In December, the Supreme Court agreed to hear U.S. v. Windsor. The Windsor case was originally filed by the ACLU with the help of Windsor’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York, and Pamela Karlan, co-director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford Law School. Karlan, who is openly gay, has been mentioned as a potential candidate for a Supreme Court nomination.

The Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, the first federal appeals court to examine DOMA under heightened scrutiny, ruled last October that DOMA violates the equal protection clause of the constitution.

Defending DOMA is former George W. Bush Solicitor General Paul Clement, an attorney hired by the Republican-led Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG). House Speaker John Boehner called for Clement’s help after directing BLAG’s General Counsel to begin defending DOMA in court after the Obama administration announced it believes the law to be unconstitutional. The Obama administration is obliged to enforce the law (hence the IRS demand that Windsor pay the taxes), but it has refused since February 2011 to defend the law as constitutional.

What to listen for in the arguments: In both cases, Justice Anthony Kennedy’s comments and questions will be watched with a great deal of interest. Kennedy wrote the opinion in Romer and in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision striking down sodomy laws. Both sides consider him the key vote to sway in order to consolidate a five-vote majority.

The critical points in Kennedy’s decision in Romer were that Colorado Amendment 2, prohibiting laws that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation, had “the peculiar property of imposing a broad and undifferentiated disability on a single named group,” that “its sheer breadth is so discontinuous with the reasons offered for it that the amendment seems inexplicable by anything but animus,” and that “it is a classification of persons undertaken for its own sake, something the Equal Protection Clause does not permit.”

But Kennedy has been listing toward the conservative wing of the court recently, leading its dissent against President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and leading its majority ruling to allow corporations to contribute without limits to political campaign activities. And in a speech in Sacramento March 6, he told reporters he thinks it is a “serious problem” that the Supreme Court is being asked to settle controversial issues facing a democracy.

What to watch for on television: Because the court does not allow cameras in the courtroom, rallies outside the Supreme Court will almost certainly get considerable air time.

A “United for Marriage” coalition of national and local LGBT groups has planned events outside the Supreme Court building beginning Monday, March 25, with a “Youth Lights for Equality” candlelight vigil in front of the Supreme Court from 6:30 to 8 p.m. On Tuesday morning, at 7:15 a.m., there will be an interfaith “Prayer for Love & Justice” service, followed by a procession at 8:30 a.m. to the Supreme Court building. At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, there will be a “United for Marriage Rally” on the steps of the Supreme Court. And on Tuesday evening, at 5:30, a “Parting of the Waters” seder.

The “United for Marriage Rally” will return at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday on the front steps of the Supreme Court.

After the argument is over each day –shortly after 11 a.m. on Tuesday and after 11:50 a.m. on Wednesday, EDT– attorneys from both sides of the argument that day typically convene impromptu press conferences on the front steps of the Supreme Court. They express optimism about the outcome, compliment the justices for asking “good questions,” and explain the importance of the cases in short sound bites. One thing they don’t typically do is predict the outcome.

© Copyright 2013 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

…………………

PART I: Standing in the way: A look at the standing issues in both cases that could determine whether the court makes a decision or passes on either or both. (March 15)

PART II: President’s Punch: How strong a position has the Obama administration taken in both cases to push for the most decisive victory on marriage equality? (DallasVoice.com)

PART III: Friends and foes at the bar: What groups have lined up for marriage equality and which have lined up against? What have the gay legal groups submitted? (March 22)

—  John Wright

Congresswoman Johnson speaks out against more spending to defend DOMA

U.S. House Republicans’ funding of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act continued Thursday as they authorized more spending to defend it in court.

Republicans included authorization of their efforts to defend DOMA in the Rules of the House of Representatives. Spending for DOMA’s defense has reached nearly $2 million.

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, joined several who spoke out against the continued funding.

“House Republicans continue to demand drastic cuts to government programs at all levels under the guise of reducing wasteful spending,” Johnson said in an emailed statement. “Yet, the GOP’s decision to retain a private law firm to defend the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act is both hypocritical and a waste of taxpayer funds.  It needs to be very clear to the American people that the views of the House of Representatives are not being fully represented.”

Johnson voted for DOMA in 1996, but is now a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA.

Marc Solomon, national campaign director of Freedom to Marry, and the Human Rights Campaign also issued statements.

“It’s truly disheartening that, on a day of new beginnings on Capitol Hill, the leadership of the House of Representatives is advancing a measure, through its rules, to continue spending taxpayer dollars on expensive lawyers to defend the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in court,” Solomon said. “This law has been struck down as unconstitutional 10 times, with support from judges appointed by Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes. It’s past time for the Republican leadership to listen to their constituents, a majority of whom support the freedom to marry, and stop wasting precious resources in an effort to treat fellow Americans as second-class citizens.”

HRC’s statement is below.

—  Anna Waugh

3 TX Dems want to screw 83-year-old lesbian out of 40-year partner’s estate

Thea Spyer and Edith Windsor

Back in July we reported that a majority of House Democrats from Texas had declined to sign a brief opposing the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act — despite the fact that the Texas Democratic Party had recently added marriage equality to its platform. The brief filed in July was signed by 132 House Democrats, including four of the nine from Texas.

Two months later, Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi and 144 other House Democrats filed a similar brief today in another case challenging the constitutionality of DOMA, and this time two more Democrats from Texas have signed on, bringing the total from the Lone Star State to six of nine. It’s worth nothing that today’s brief was filed on the heels of a convention at which Democrats added marriage equality — including opposition to DOMA — to their national platform.

The two Democrats from Texas who did not sign the July brief but signed today’s brief are Reps. Al Green and Silvestre Reyes. The four Texas Democrats who signed both briefs are Reps. Lloyd Doggett, Charlie Gonzalez, Sheila Jackson Lee and Eddie Bernice Johnson. The three Texas Democrats who signed neither brief are Reps. Henry Cuellar, Gene Green and Rubén Hinojosa.

Metro Weekly reports the brief filed today is in the case of Edith Windsor, an 83-year-old lesbian widow who sued the government after she was taxed more than $363,000 on assets that passed to her after the death of her wife in 2009 because the government did not recognize their marriage. The two women first met in 1963 and were married in New York in 2007 after a more than 40-year engagement.

We just wonder if Cuellar, Gene Green and Hinojosa have watched the below video about Windsor’s case.

—  John Wright

Majority of House Democrats from Texas decline to sign brief opposing Defense of Marriage Act

Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson was among four Democrats from Texas who signed the brief opposing DOMA. Five House Democrats from Texas declined to sign the brief.

With friends like these, who need enemies?

The Texas Democratic Party may have recently added marriage equality to its platform, but obviously that doesn’t mean all or even most Democratic elected officials in the Lone Star State support the plank — or have the guts to stand up for it.

In fact, a majority of U.S. House Democrats from Texas have declined to sign a court brief opposing the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act.

Five of the nine House Democrats from Texas — the most from any state — are among 60 from across the country who declined to sign the friend-of-the-court brief filed Tuesday before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. (BuzzFeed has a list of all 60 representatives who declined to sign the brief.)

The Washington Blade reports that 132 House Democrats signed the brief, which urges the federal appeals court to strike down as unconstitutional the the 1996 law prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriage. The brief was filed in Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management, in which federal employee Karen Golinski is seeking benefits for her partner.

Shelbi Day, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal, which represents Golinski, told the Blade that the brief filed by House Democrats “sends a powerful message” and “underscores just how problematic and unconstitutional DOMA is.”

“As the brief points out, DOMA is not the rational result of impartial lawmaking but rather was enacted in haste with no legitimate government purpose,” Day said. “We welcome this brief and applaud the members of Congress who have signed it.”

The four Democrats from Texas who signed the brief opposing DOMA are Reps. Lloyd Doggett, Charlie Gonzalez, Sheila Jackson Lee and Eddie Bernice Johnson.

The five U.S. House members from Texas who declined to sign the brief are Reps. Henry Cuellar, Al Green, Gene Green, Rubén Hinojosa and  Silvestre Reyes. (To his credit Al Green is a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA.)

In case you’re wondering, contact info for these five — and the rest of Texas’ congressional delegation — can be found here.

Read the full brief here.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson records LGBT Pride Month message

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, pledged her continued support for equality in an LGBT Pride Month video.

The video was posted on the congresswoman’s YouTube page Friday.

A longtime supporter of LGBT rights, Johnson voted in favor of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 but now is now a sponsor of the bill to repeal DOMA.

In the video, she mentions that this year is the 43rd  anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, reflecting on the “enormous advancements in gay rights” since then that include the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

“These laws strengthen our commitment to value every American’s life equally, both publicly and privately,” she said. “The law of the land must protest every American’s civil rights.”

Johnson pledges in the video to continue to support gay rights as a member of LGBT Equality Caucus and to help pass legislation that “ensures a more united fight against discrimination and intolerance.”

“While great progress has been made, more work needs to be done,” she said.

Watch the video below.

—  Anna Waugh

For the 1st time ever, a gay immigrant is allowed to stay in Texas based on a same-sex marriage

David Gonzalez and Mario Ramirez (via Stop the Deportations: The DOMA Project)

A Houston immigration judge has allowed a gay Costa Rican immigrant to stay in the U.S. based on his same-sex marriage to an American — which LGBT advocates say is a first in Texas.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Judge Richard Walton on Thursday closed a deportation case against David Gonzalez, an accountant who’s been fighting to stay in Texas with his husband, U.S. citizen Mario Ramirez, since last year.

Gonzalez and Ramirez, who’ve been together for more than six years and live near the Houston suburb of Humble, were married in California in 2008 — during the brief window when same-sex marriage was legal there. But Gonzalez has overstayed his tourist visa, and because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, he cannot apply for a Green Card based on the couple’s marriage.

Steve Ralls, a spokesman for Immigration Equality, notes that the outcome is consistent with other recent cases involving same-sex couples across the country — including high-profile ones in California and New Jersey. Last August, the Obama administration announced it would focus on high-priority immigration cases involving public safety concerns — a move which benefited same-sex couples where one partner is facing deportation. From the Chronicle:

Gonzalez said he left Costa Rica in Spring 2000 on a tourist visa to escape an abusive ex-lover. More than six years ago, he met Mario Ramirez, a U.S. citizen, whom he calls his “soulmate.”

The couple married in Los Angeles in 2008, during the brief period that same-sex marriage was legal in California. They moved to Texas, bought a home near Humble, and started talking about adopting children.

The closure of Gonzalez’s case means that the government is no longer seeking to deport him, but he still has no legal right to work in the United States.

“It is definitely good news that the administration is beginning to drop deportation proceedings, but now the individuals who are spared from deportation need to be able to receive that legal recognition that is so important as they continue to build a life here with their U.S. citizen partners,” Ralls said.

—  John Wright

Marriage support from an unexpected source

Vice President Dick Cheney

One former Dallas resident not usually known for his liberal positions is lobbying legislators in Maryland to support marriage equality.

The Baltimore Sun reports that Dick Cheney — yes, that Dick Cheney, the former Vice President — is lending his support to passage of a bill sponsored by Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley. The Cheneys now live in Maryland.

Cheney’s daughter is lesbian, and he has always supported her and her relationship with partner Heather Poe. But by taking a position in favor of marriage equality he’s taking a position more liberal than that of Presidents Barack Obama or Bill Clinton. Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act that allows states to not recognize marriage performed by other states.

Also lobbying Maryland lawmakers is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who worked for passage of the New York state law last year.

In other marriage news, marriage equality passed the New Jersey Assembly and was forwarded to Gov. Chris Christie, who promptly vetoed it. Supporters have until the end of the legislative session in January 2014 to override.

—  David Taffet