Congressman Marc Veasey issues statement on Prop 8, DOMA cases

Official Photo_Rep Marc Veasey

Rep. Marc Veasey

Freshman Congressman Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, reminded his North Texas constituents Tuesday that he is committed to fighting for full equality for LGBT citizens.

Veasey released the following statement today following the opening arguments in the Proposition 8 case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“As the Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, I would like to reaffirm my commitment to the LGBT community,” the statement reads.

“It is my hope that the justices of the nation’s highest court rule that committed same-sex couples have civil and constitutional rights. The struggle for equality has taken us from Stonewall to the Supreme Court.

“As decades of progress have changed attitudes and opened hearts, I will continue to fight for members of the LGBT community until they have full equality under the law.”

—  Anna Waugh

Porn actor Wilfred Knight kills self after screed on immigration inequality

WKJust last month, we reported that gay porn actor Arpad Miklos had died of an apparent suicide — the latest in a string of deaths to hit the adult film community. Then last week, we learned that another porn legend had killed himself.

Wilfred Knight, known for his videos for Lucas Entertainment and Colt Studio, took his own life just two weeks after the suicide of his partner. He had just turned 35. What makes Knight’s death especially poignant were the reasons behind it.

See, Knight — a French citizen — had moved with his partner to Canada once his U.S. student visa expired, because even though the two were legally married in Canada in 2011, the U.S. government refused to acknowledge it, due to the Defense of Marriage Act. That meant they had to leave for the Great White North, where Knight’s partner accepted a job that included same-sex partner benefits.

Knight’s husband, however, lost his job about six months ago, and last month, took his own life. Knight found the body. The adult film actor then took his own life, angered by the unfair treatment of gay couples by the federal government.

How do we know all this? Because Knight said so. In a screed published on his blog, Knight railed against American immigration laws, blaming his partner’s death on the lack of same-sex rights. It was practically a suicide note.

Because Knight was most famous for his involvement in the porn industry, it’s unlikely the story will have much resonance outside the gay press. But isn’t this exactly what should be pointed out the U.S. Supreme Court when deciding DOMA’s constitutionality? How many couples like this much meet the tragic consequences of homophobic immigration policies?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Equality Texas among groups to file joint brief in marriage equality cases

EqualityTexas

Equality Texas has joined more than two-dozen statewide organizations in filing a joint amicus brief in the two marriage equality cases currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The “Red State Brief” is a brief supported by the Utah Pride Center, Campaign for Southern Equality, Equality federation and 25 statewide advocacy groups. It calls for the court to uphold appellate court rulings that found the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 unconstitutional. It explains the history of anti-gay legislation in many states that degrade LGBT citizens and deny them freedoms.

“This brief calls for an end to the systemic denigration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans,” Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said. “The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to consider whether all Americans are entitled to equal treatment under the law regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. The Court must answer this question with a resounding, ‘Yes, ALL Americans must be treated equally.’”

Read the brief here.

—  Anna Waugh

Scalia claims he’s never expressed his views on marriage equality

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, right, reads from his new book, ‘Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts,’ alongside SMU professor and co-author Bryan Garner. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told an audience at Southern Methodist University on Monday night that he hasn’t previously “expressed [his] views” on marriage equality or gun control.

The comment came while Scalia and SMU professor Bryan Garner were lecturing on their new book, Reading Law: Interpretations of Legal Texts. Part of the lecture focused on interpreting texts in the context in which they were written.

Garner explained that someone can personally disagree with a text but can agree on its interpretation. He explained that he and Scalia differ on gun control and marriage equality because he favors both. Scalia countered that he hadn’t expressed his views on either topic and left it at that.

Scalia’s statement seems at odds with his dissenting opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, which declared state sodomy laws unconstitutional. In the opinion Scalia wrote:

“State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today’s decision; the Court makes no effort to cabin the scope of its decision to exclude them from its holding.”

—  Anna Waugh

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

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: Same-sex couples refuse to file taxes separately, file as married to protest DOMA

The deadline to file taxes is Tuesday, but for many gay couples the deadline isn’t the problem. Instead many couples are refusing to file separately, which they are required to do because the federal government doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage because of the Defense of Marriage Act.

A group called Refuse to Lie is telling gay couples to file together in an effort to protest the need for repealing DOMA, so they no longer have to lie about being married by filing as single.

“The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) not only denies legally married gay couples the benefits of marriage, but we are also told to disavow our spouses and file our taxes as ‘single,’” RTL states on its website. “Across the country, legally married gay couples are taking a stand. We are refusing to lie about the fact that we are married. Taking this principled stand is not without risk and each person doing so needs to carefully consider those risks before deciding if it is a stand you are willing to take.”

The Human Rights Campaign has released an issue brief on federal taxation that explains how LGBT families are denied benefits and pay significantly more in taxes.

HRC is encouraging the public to use Facebook and Twitter to spread the message using the hashtag #gaytax and to tweet to House Speaker John Boehner (@speakerboehner) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (@ericcantor) about their stories of tax inequality in an effort to get them to stop defending DOMA.

Watch a segment on the movement from MSNBC below:

—  Anna Waugh

Congressional District 33 candidates back ENDA, DOMA repeal at Stonewall Democrats forum

Six of the 11 Democratic candidates for the U.S. Congressional District 33 seat are shown at the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas forum Tuesday, March 27. From left, state Rep. Marc Veasey, former Dallas Councilman Steve Salazar, Dallas activist Jason Roberts, former state Rep. Domingo Garcia, Dallas attorney Chrysta Castaneda and Hispanic activist Carlos Quintanilla. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Six of the 11 Democratic candidates for the new U.S. Congressional District 33 voiced support for the LGBT community at a forum Tuesday night sponsored by Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

The forum attracted an attendance of about 100, with dozens of people coming and going throughout and standing in the back of the Vixin Lounge at Sue Ellen’s to hear the candidates.

The district begins in southeast Fort Worth area that includes the Rainbow Lounge and cuts through Arlington and Irving before ending in North Oak Cliff.

State Rep. Marc Veasey, former state Rep. Domingo Garciaand former Dallas Councilman Steve Salazar were the three frontrunners in attendance at the forum.

Three lesser-known candidates in the race also participated: local business owner and activist Jason Roberts, Dallas attorney Chrysta Castaneda and Hispanic activist Carlos Quintanilla.

All six candidates said they support repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, in addition to passing an LGBT-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act and Student Non-Discrimination Act.

—  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