Changing hearts and minds

Freedom to Marry Town Hall features couples challenging Texas marriage equality ban

plaintiffs

Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes, Nicole Dimetman and Cleo DeLeon

Tammye Nash  |  Managing Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

 

In less than a month, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court will hear arguments in three marriage equality cases, including one from Texas — DeLeon v. Perry. And the plaintiffs in the Texas case said Monday night, Dec. 15, that they are optimistic the 5th Circuit will rule in their favor.

Wolfson

Evan Wolfson

The 5th Circuit, considered one of the most conservative of the 13 U.S. circuit courses, is set to hear arguments in the three cases on Jan. 9 in New Orleans.

“Maybe it will be 2-1, but I think they will rule in our favor,” said Mark Phariss of Plano, who with his partner, Victor Holmes, and Austin lesbian couple Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman challenged Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage. The two couples were part of the Freedom to Marry Town Hall held Monday night in Austin.

Evan Wolfson, president of the national Freedom to Marry organization, also participated in the town hall forum, along with Mark McKinnon, a former advisor to President George W. Bush.

The forum also celebrated the launch of Texas for Marriage (TexasForMarriage.com), a new organization dedicated to changing people’s minds in Texas on the subject of marriage equality.

“It’s really inspiring when you meet these families,” said Texas for Marriage Campaign Manager Ward Curtin, adding that his organization’s goal is to share the “stories of the hundreds of thousands” of same-sex families in Texas.

McKinnon

Mark McKinnon

“A panel of three judges will essentially decide on our rights,” Phariss said. “Our rights shouldn’t be up for a vote. Our rights shouldn’t be up to a judge to decide.” But, he added, he and Holmes are hopeful the 5th Circuit judges will make the right decision.

But if the 5th Circuit rules in favor of discrimination, Phariss said he and Holmes are “absolutely determined that we’re in this for the long haul,” and that they would appeal an adverse ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

DeLeon said she and Dimetman are also optimistic, and that they too are willing to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.

Wolfson said at least 60 federal and state court rulings on marriage equality have been issued in the last two years, “virtually all of those courts” have ruled in favor of marriage equality. Today, he said, 35 states have marriage equality, “up from zero just a little more than a decade ago.”

Wolfson, an attorney, worked with Lambda Legal Defense and Education Network from 1988 until April 2001 when he left to form Freedom to Marry, and was involved in lawsuits challenging marriage discrimination in Hawaii and Vermont. He said Monday that while legal cases have changed laws, those cases could not have succeeded if same-sex couples had not done the groundwork by sharing their stories.

Mason

Mason Marriott-Voss

“Hearts have opened; minds have changed,” Wolfson said, because same-sex couples and families have come forward to tell their stories to their families, their friends, their neighbors and more. Because of those conversations, he said, “people understand now who gay people are and why marriage matters.”

The battle for marriage equality has reached a tipping point, but it isn’t won yet, Wolfson continued. “We’re not there yet,” he said, adding that “the way we will get there is by engaging our neighbors, our families, our coworkers.”

Same-sex couples have created an atmosphere where change can happen by sharing their stories, and now “the courts can finish the job, sooner rather than later.”

Dimetman said that she and DeLeon had their “flashbulb moment” when DeLeon was pregnant with their first child. There were problems with the pregnancy and realizing that Dimetman would have no legal connections to the child should something happen to DeLeon during the birth. Now that Dimetman is pregnant with their second child, the couple really want the protections a legal marriage would provide.

curtin

Ward Curtin

Phariss and Holmes said that they love each and simply want to legally protect their relationship. Phariss, saying that he fell in love with Holmes the first time he saw him, noted that Holmes served 23 years in the U.S. Air Force and had earned the right to marry the person he loves.

“The rest of us may not have earned it the same way Vic has, bit we all deserve that right,” he said.

Mason Marriott-Voss, a 16-year-old with two moms, was on hand, with his step-sister and brother, to tell the story of his family. Saying that his parents are “too busy helping us with finals to erode society,” he said that “anti-family” laws “create a raw deal for kids like me” who whose families are targeted by them.

“It’s not our families that need to change,” the teen said. “It’s Texas.”

The Republican Party has, traditionally, been opposed to LGBT rights in general and especially to marriage equality. But McKinnon, who was chief media advisor for George W. Bush in both his presidential campaigns, said that is changing, too.

In the most recently election, McKinnon said, Republican candidates shied away from the issue of same-sex marriage. “That dog didn’t bark,” he said. “It didn’t even whimper. The Republicans are not going to be out in the street tomorrow marching [in support of gay marriage]. But they are not using it as a wedge issue like that once did.”

There are still some candidates and officeholders who are out there “throwing elbows” to fight against marriage equality, including former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, McKinnon said. But most either support marriage equality or don’t want to discuss it at all.

 

 

—  Tammye Nash

Montana becomes No. 35

Marriage_Equality_Map11-17

By the end of November, the orange and purple should be blue on this map.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry and respect for same-sex couples’ marriages in Montana.

Today’s (Wednesday, Nov. 19) ruling follows a favorable marriage ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in cases out of Idaho and Nevada. The circuit court holds jurisdiction over Montana, as well as Alaska and Arizona, which also have the freedom to marry.

Although Montana can appeal to the 9th Circuit, that court has refused to stay marriage rulings for other states. The U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t stayed rulings in circuits where it rejected appeals. So marriage in Montana is likely to begin over the next few days.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, released the following statement:

“Montana’s same-sex couples and their loved ones want what all families want: joy, protections, security, and respect — and that’s what the freedom to marry is all about. This ruling, in keeping with nearly every other court that has ruled in more than a year, brings us to 35 states with the freedom to marry — but we are not done until we end marriage discrimination in all 50 states. It’s time for the Supreme Court to affirm the freedom to marry nationwide and bring our country to national resolution for all loving and committed couples in every state.”

More than 50 federal and state courts in the past year have ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

—  David Taffet

UPDATE: More on the latest marriage ruling out of Louisiana

Adam Polaski at FreedomToMarry.org has posted this blog about the latest court ruling out of Louisiana on same-sex marriage, this time striking down the state’s ban on gay marriage.Screen shot 2014-09-22 at 4.24.40 PM

Polaski explains: “The case, In Re Costanza and Brewer, was filed in 2013 on behalf of Angela Marie Costanza and Chastity Shanelle Brewer, who are raising their 10-year-old son in Lafayette. The case sought respect for Angela and Chastity’s marriage license; since Louisiana did not respect their marriage, one mother was not permitted to legally adopt her son.

“The ruling today grants the second-parent adoption and affirms that the Louisiana amendment violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment.”

Polaski calls Louisiana federal Judge Martin Feldman’s Sept. 3 upholding the same-sex marriage ban an “out-of-step decision,” and notes that “40 separate rulings have been issued since June 2013 in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples [and m]ore than 80 cases have been filed in state and federal courts across the country.”

—  Tammye Nash

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.

—  Dallasvoice

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.

—  Dallasvoice

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.

—  Dallasvoice