Nashville Mayor Karl Dean endorses marriage equality

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean became the first mayor in Tennessee to endorse marriage equality today, according to a statement from Mayors for Freedom to Marry.

tn_rainbow“Tennessee’s denial of the freedom to marry directly harms the state’s more than 10,000 same-sex couples and their loved ones, and by putting obstacles in the path of businesses and families, drags everyone down,” said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry.

“I believe that all people should be treated fairly and equally and that their individual dignity should be respected,” said Dean. “Embracing and celebrating our growing diversity makes our city stronger. Nashville needs to continue in that direction, and it’s my hope that joining this effort will help us do that.”

“We welcome Mayor Dean as another voice in favor of moving Tennessee, the South, and all of America to the right side of history,” added Wolfson.

Dean joins over 500 mayors across the country who have endorsed marriage equality. Of the 500, only four are in Texas: Austin’s Lee Leffingwell, Houston’s Annise Parker, El Cenizo’s Raul Reyes and Shavano Park’s A. David Mame.

No mayor from Dallas-Fort Worth has yet to sign onto the pledge.

—  James Russell

Same-sex couples to request marriage licenses on Valentine’s Day in Dallas

Valentines

On Valentine’s Day 2012, County Clerk John Warren, right, explained to Daniel Cates, left, and same-sex couples trying to get married that he could not issue marriage licenses to them. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Mark “Major” Jiminez is planning a Valentine’s Day marriage counter protest in Dallas, in coordination with protests across the country organized by Freedom to Marry.

“Nothing better highlights the state-sanctioned discrimination against same-sex couples than having same-sex couples, often with children and grandchildren in tow, turned away from the counter that serves every other heterosexual couple that approaches – no questions asked,” Freedom to Marry’s Brian Silva wrote in a press release.

Last year, several couples applied for marriage licenses in Dallas on Valentine’s Day and were turned away.

Jiminez, who attended the rally, walked to City Hall with GetEqual’s Daniel Cates after the protest to deliver Valentine’s cards to Mayor Mike Rawlings. The mayor had just refused to join Mayors for the Freedom to Marry. Jiminez was arrested on July 5 when he applied for his own marriage license and refused to leave the building.

The County Records Building is at 509 Main St. and protesters will gather outside on the plaza before noon.

Also, on March 25, Cates is organizing a rally in coordination with the National Call for Equality — called “Dallas says, ‘We do,’” — in advance of oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in the Prop 8 and DOMA cases on March 26 and 27.

“Please bring signs in support of equal rights, Pride flags, candles and plenty of friends,” Cates writes on the Facebook event page.

People will meet at the Legacy of Love Monument on the corner of Oak Lawn Avenue and Cedar Springs Road.

—  David Taffet

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

Gay GOP group takes out full-page marriage equality ad in Tampa paper

Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry and Log Cabin Republicans will be running the above full-page ad (click to enlarge) in Wednesday’s Tampa Tribune calling on the GOP to support the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples.

Yesterday, the Human Rights Campaign and Freedom to Marry teamed to air an ad on TV featuring San Diego’s Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders arguing the case for marriage equality. Find the video here.

The full-page color ad features photos of same-sex couples and their families. It emphasizes that the freedom to marry is fully consistent with principles valued by conservatives — freedom, personal responsibility and the importance of family.

An email from Log Cabin Republicans said the ad comes in the wake of the party’s extreme stance on marriage in its draft platform, which includes support for a federal constitutional amendment banning the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. Tony Perkins, the president of the anti-gay Family Research Council, authored the marriage plank, which is expected to be ratified at the convention.

“Gay or straight, Republicans are united in the belief that strong families are critical to a free society,” said R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. “As fellow conservatives, Log Cabin Republicans actually agree with Tony Perkins about the importance of family values. The difference is, we believe that the freedom to marry is directly in line with the core ideals and principles of the Republican Party — less government, more individual freedom, personal responsibility and the importance of family.”

—  David Taffet

UT agrees to investigate professor’s flawed study that found children of gay parents are worse off

Mark Regnerus

The University of Texas at Austin is launching an investigation into a flawed parenting study that found children of straight couples have better lives.

Mark Regnerus of UT’s department of sociology and the Population Research Center conducted the study. Regnerus examined children living in stable, two-parent heterosexual households for his control group and analyzed a mixture of children raised by gays and lesbians, including those who had a parent in a same-sex relationship but didn’t live with that parent.

The Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation funded the study. Both are known for their support of conservative causes. The Witherspoon Institute has ties to the Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage and ultra-conservative Catholic groups like Opus Dei.

The study gained enormous negative backlash from the LGBT community, including groups like the Family Equality Council, the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation, after it was discovered that right-wing organizations helped fund the project.

UT’s investigation will determine whether the study lacked scientific integrity and whether Regnerus had unprofessional relationships and gained from the study’s backers.

—  Anna Waugh

Flawed study from UT researcher attempts to prove children of heterosexual parents fare better

Mark Regnerus

LGBT advocates are denouncing a study from a University of Texas researcher that claims children with gay or lesbian parents don’t fare as well as children of heterosexuals. (Media Matters picked the study apart and found at least five ways the study is flawed.)

“Flawed methodology and misleading conclusions all driven by a right-wing ideology,” said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council, in a statement. “That alone should raise doubts about the credibility of this author’s work. But on top of that, his paper doesn’t even measure what it claims to be measuring.”

The study was done by Mark Regnerus of the department of sociology and the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

For his heterosexual control group, Regnerus used children living in stable, two-parent homes. For his group of children of gays and lesbians, he used what was described as a hodgepodge of families that included any child whose parents had ever had a same-sex relationship, even if the child did not live with that parent.

“Because of the serious flaws, this so-called study doesn’t match 30 years of scientific research that shows overwhelmingly that children raised by parents who are LGBT do equally as well as their counterparts raised by heterosexual parents,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.

In the study Regnerus showed that some disadvantages children of gays and lesbians face are a result of the discrimination against the LGBT community. That includes the added expenses and other hurdles gay and lesbians encounter because of the lack of relationship recognition. While not its intention, the study actually makes a good case for marriage equality.

Other studies show that children of gays and lesbians fare equally as well or better than the children of heterosexuals.

The Family Equality Council, HRC, Freedom to Marry and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation issued a joint statement slamming Regnerus and attacking the study’s funding.

Funding came from the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation, both known for their support of conservative causes. The Witherspoon Institute has ties to the Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage and ultra-conservative Catholic groups like Opus Dei.

—  David Taffet

TX Dem. Party Chairman Boyd Richie supports marriage equality, says TX loves ‘all our families’

Boyd Richie

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie joined 10 other state Democratic Party chairs Thursday in issuing his support for marriage equality to be added to the party’s platform in September at the Democratic National Convention.

“In Texas we love all our families,” Richie said in a Freedom to Marry release. “We know to build a strong Democratic party and a strong Texas we must honor the core principles of our party and champion the full human rights of every citizen.”

Richie’s support is an interesting twist, seeing as the State Democratic Executive Committee voted down a civil unions resolution in November. When the item came back up for discussion in February, Richie ruled it out of order because it had already been voted on.

Richie joined state party chairs from California, New York, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Vermont, Wisconsin, Washington, New Jersey and Kansas in supporting the effort.

However, Vermont Democratic Party Chairman Jake Perkinson objected to the inclusion of his name in the announcement because he simple told the organization he supported gay marriage, but not that it should be included in the party platform.

“It certainly was a little bit overreaching to put my name on something that I hadn’t even reviewed at that point,” he told POLITICO. “The whole thing just seems premature…the conversation was, do you support gay marriage? And yes, obviously I do. I said, what’s the next step? They said that’s all we need for now, and we’ll get back to you….that was two weeks ago.”

New York’s Jay Jacobs clarified his name’s inclusion in the announcement, saying he does not think his personal opinion reflect that of his state Democratic Party.

Read the full Freedom to Marry announcement after the jump.

—  Anna Waugh

Gonzalez issues statement on marriage equality plank, as San Antonio continues to lead the way

Charles Gonzalez

U.S. Rep. Charles Gonzalez, D-San Antonio, a national co-chair for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, is also the only member of Texas’ congressional delegation who’s signed Freedom To Marry’s petition in support of a marriage equality plank in the 2012 Democratic Party platform.

Gonzalez is one of several Obama campaign co-chairs who’ve endorsed the marriage equality plank. In response to a request from Instant Tea, spokesman Drew Stout sent over a statement from Gonzalez explaining his position. Here’s the full statement:

“The Democratic Party has been and always will be the Party committed to fighting for equality for all Americans,” Gonzalez said. “As an individual Member of Congress, marriage equality is an issue which I support. During the platform writing process, ideas and opinions will be considered from our diverse Democratic Party family, and I understand that the President and the Party are committed to crafting a platform that reflects our values and a belief that America is a nation in which everyone deserves a fair shot and hard work is rewarded. I fully expect that my opinion, and the opinions of others, will be an important consideration in reaching a consensus in drafting our party’s platform. The time will come to consider the content of the platform, but at this time, not a single platform committee member has been chosen and the process has yet to begin. As the election season moves forward, my chief objective will be for President Obama and our candidates in every part of the country to prevail in November so that we continue to make this country a better place for everyone.”

Interestingly, Gonzalez’s public support for the marriage equality plank continues a recent trend of politicians from the San Antonio area leading the way on this issue in the Lone Star State. Of the six Texas mayors who’ve joined Mayors for the Freedom to Marry campaign, three are from Bexar County.

—  John Wright

Rawlings gets 108 more calls on marriage pledge, which activist says will haunt Dallas mayor

GetEQUAL organizer Daniel Cates says Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings' decision not to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage places a permanent strain on his relationship with the LGBT community.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ office received 108 phone calls Friday from people urging him to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage, according to Chief of Staff Paula Blackmon.

The calls were part of a Statewide Day of Action organized by GetEQUAL.

“It was steady all day,’ Blackmon said.

Asked whether the calls had convinced Rawlings to change his mind and sign the pledge, Blackmon said, “Not to my knowledge.”

She added that, as Rawlings has previously stated, the mayor plans to meet with LGBT leaders in the near future to further discuss what other things he can do to support equality. Rawlings claims he’s personally in favor of same-sex marriage but doesn’t want to get involved in divisive social issues.

Daniel Cates of GetEQUAL, who organized Friday’s Day of Action, said he’s proud of the number of calls it generated.

“I think it’s probably a lot more calls then they usually get on any issue,” Cates said. “I think 108 calls is respectable. Each one of those calls I think represents thousands of people who didn’t call in, and if they’re smart, they [in the mayor's office] realize that.”

Cates said he believes Rawlings is proving that he isn’t listening to what people have to say about the marriage pledge.

The LGBT community can no longer trust the mayor, who shouldn’t be considered an ally, Cates said. Asked whether he agrees with other activists who’ve suggested the marriage pledge has become like kicking a dead horse, Cates suggested he’s ready to move on but won’t drop it completely — partly because that’s what Rawlings has hoped for the whole time.

“The fact is we do have bigger fish to fry,” he acknowledged. “We do have more important things to worry about, and if Rawlings isn’t going to join us, then that’s fine. But he needs to know that we are going to continue to remind him about this. It’s always going to be there haunting him. This is going to be a permanent strain on his relations with the LGBT community.”

—  John Wright

LGBT activists to flood Dallas mayor’s phone line with requests that he sign marriage pledge

Daniel Cates

I’ve been unable to get in touch with Daniel Cates, the local organizer for GetEQUAL, but according to Facebook, it looks like his group is putting together a “Statewide Day of Action” on Friday — in which people are encouraged to call Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ office and ask him to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage. This event was also promoted during last night’s monthly meeting of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. In addition to Cates, we’ve left a message with Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ chief of staff, so we’ll keep you posted. From the FB event:

**PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO FORWARD THIS INVITE TO THOSE IN YOUR FRIEND LISTS**

Despite weeks of outrage from the community, protests,countless emails, thousands of phone calls, petition signatures, faxes and even a meeting with members of the LGBT community, Mayor Mike Rawlings of Dallas continues to refuse to join the Mayors of almost every major U.S. city in signing a pledge in support of marriage equality.

Rather than throwing in the towel, GetEQUAL TX is just getting started!

Join us Friday, February 24th, 2012 as we invite Texans to give the Dallas Mayor’s Office a little call. Our goal is to tie up the office phone lines from 9am-5pm with literally thousands of calls, sending a message to Mike Rawlings that this issue is not going away!

Here is all you have to do anytime on Friday, February 24th,btween 9am and 5pm:

CALL: 214-670-4054

TELL THEM: “My name is______, I believe that all Texans should be able to marry the person that they love. I want Mayor Mike Rawlings to Sign the Pledge.”
(We ask that you please be respectful)

This is the first in a series of actions we will use to continue to pressure our mayor to turn his words into action! We will keep you posted on further developments!

Thank you so much for your commitment to equality!

According to Freedom to Marry, seven mayors from Texas are now among the more than 100 from across the country who’ve signed the group’s pledge. The latest addition to the list from Texas is Lucy Johnson of Kyle, south of Austin.

—  John Wright