This week in marriage equality: Republicans are all over the place

Marriage-Equality-Bumper-Sticker-(7423)A Republican Senate candidate in Oregon supports marriage equality, Georgia’s Republican attorney general wants to avoid it while Indiana’s Attorney General wants it figured out already.

OREGON:

Oregon Republican Senate Candidate Monica Wehby released a TV ad declaring her support for marriage equality. She is the only Republican Senate candidate this cycle to declare her support for marriage equality. She is running against the pro-LGBT equality incumbent Sen. Jeff Merkley (D). Should she be elected to the Senate, she would join four other Republicans senators in supporting marriage equality. The incumbent has consistently lead Wehby in the polls. Watch the video here.

GEORGIA:

Down south, Georgia’s Attorney General Sam Olen has asked that Inniss v. Aderhold, which challenges Georgia’s ban on marriage equality, be dismissed. Lambda Legal, which brought the suit, responded in a brief: “Our democracy functions and prevails because we promise liberty and equality for all. Our judiciary exists to enforce that promise. Plaintiffs turn to this Court to vindicate their families’ rights to liberty and equality.” Read the whole response here.

INDIANA:

Indiana’s Attorney General Greg Zoeller is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state’s marriage equality ban, Baskin v. Bogan, also filed by Lambda Legal.“Only the highest court in the country can provide the secure relief that same-sex couples and their children need, and it’s extremely important that these families are able to count on the protections of marriage as soon as possible,” said Paul Castillo, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal.

—  James Russell

Texas defies defense secretary’s order to register same-sex partners

Chuck Hagel

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

After Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered national guards in all states to register same-sex partners of military personnel for identification cards, three states including Texas continue to defy the federal government.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin responded by telling Hagel and President Barack Obama to “stop using the National Guard as a pawn in a larger social agenda.”

When the Department of Defense decided same-sex spouses would receive all of the same benefits as opposite-sex spouses in September, Texas refused to register same-sex partners and directed them to federal facilities. Eight other states followed Texas’ lead.

“Unfortunately, officials from at least three states, including Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia, have so far responded with open and blatant defiance of his [Hagel] order and have stated their intention to continue discriminating against gay and lesbian couples serving in the national guard,” said Stephen Peters, president of American Military Partner Association.

Oklahoma state Sen. Al McCaffrey was in Dallas over the weekend for the Black Tie Dinner. He suggested a way to get his state to comply was to threaten to pull equipment out of the state. While the National Guard is run by the state, most of the equipment it uses, including tanks, planes, guns and even the computer used to register military partners belongs to the federal government, he said.

—  David Taffet

Georgia governor is too homophobic to use the word ‘homophobia’

Deal

Nathan Deal

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is taking a page right out of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ For-You-But-Against-You book.

That’s right, Dallas may have the mayor who supports marriage equality yet somehow doesn’t, but Georgia can now rightfully stake its claim to the governor who’s too homophobic to use the word “homophobia.”

The Georgia Voice reports that Deal has issued a proclamation requested by organizers of the International Day Against Homophobia — but only after sanitizing it into “Mistreatment Awareness Day.”

This has prompted activists to launch a Change.org petition calling for Deal to call IDAHO by its name:

In Georgia, well-known activist Betty Couvertier has been the IDAHO organizer for the last four years. For the second year in a row, Governor Nathan Deal’s office has issued a proclamation per Betty’s request to recognize the annual Atlanta and Georgia-wide events. Herein lies the problem – the Governor’s office refuses to officially address a day against homophobia, instead issuing the vague recognition of “Mistreatment Awareness Day,” as they did last year.

By sanitizing the word “homophobia,” Governor Deal’s office has quite literally engaged in it, by refusing to address the specific concerns of Georgia’s LGBTQ citizens. The Georgia House of Representatives recognizes the importance of this event by issuing a correct proclamation, as should the Office of the Governor.

Please join us in petitioning Governor Deal’s office to immediatley reissue a proclamation for “International Day Against Homophobia” as it was originally requested. To issue a proclamation as anything else, is to do disservice to the very purpose of IDAHO events, and feed the homophobia worldwide organizers seek to advocate against.

The petition also calls for Deal to “mail the official proclamation in an appropriate certificate envelope, to ensure it does not arrive a second time folded and tattered, signifying diminished value by the Governor’s office.”

Sign it by going here.

And by the way, if anyone wants to start petition on Rawlings, we’ll be glad to post it as well.

—  John Wright

Remembering John Lawrence, the man behind Lawrence v. Texas

Lawrence

John Lawrence and Tyrone Gardner

Metro Weekly reports that one-time Houstonian John Geddes Lawrence, the “Lawrence” in Lawrence v. Texas, passed away last month at the age of 68:

“In the facts underlying the Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas, Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested under Texas’s Homosexual Conduct Law after police entered Lawrence’s home on Sept. 17, 1998, and saw them “engaging in a sexual act.” The couple challenged the law as unconstitutional”

I was 22 and living in Dallas in 2003 when the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Lawrence declaring Texas’ law against “homosexual conduct” unconstitutional. A group of over 100 people gathered in the parking lot of the Resource Center of Dallas as Dennis Coleman, then with Lambda Legal, read excerpts of the decision. I remember the exuberant electricity in the air, the crowd bubbling with joy and the relief of centuries of official oppression finally coming to an end. Similar get-togethers took place across the state, as an entire community breathing a collective sigh of relief.

That relief has turn to frustration over the years. Although the Supreme Court decision rendered Penal Code Section 21.06 unconstitutional, the law remains on the books, and efforts to remove it have met with significant resistance. During a hearing this spring on finally removing the unconstitutional law, Rep. Jose Aliseda, R – Pleasanton, lamented that repeal of the law would entail removing portions of the Health Code requiring that HIV education efforts include information that “homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code.”

Before Lawrence several attempts were made to remove the law against “homosexual conduct.” The Texas legislature voted to remove it from the penal code as part of a complete rewrite of the code in 1971, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Preston Smith. In 1973 the Legislature again undertook a rewrite of the code, keeping “homosexual conduct” a crime but making it a class C misdemeanor. In 1981 a U.S. District Court ruled in Baker v. Wade that the law was unconstitutional, but as that case was winding its way through an unusually torturous appeals process the Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick that a similar law in Georgia was constitutional, making the questions in Baker moot. Similarly, in the 90′s there was hope that Texas v. Morales might finally prevail in defeating the “homosexual conduct” prohibition, but the Texas Supreme Court decided that since, in their opinion, the law was rarely enforced, there was no reason for them to rule in the matter.

Lawrence’s legacy lives on in a scholarship named after him and Garner administered by the Houston GLBT Community Center. The scholarship “recognizes outstanding leadership shown by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Texas high school seniors and college
students by contributing to the cost of their continuing education. Selection is based upon character and need.” Tim Brookover, president of the community center, expressed sorrow at Lawrence’s passing “John was a hero, the community owes a great debt of gratitude to John and Tyrone for taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Brookover. “They could have easily allowed it to slip away, but they decided to stay and fight and that makes them heroes and role models.”

The application deadline for the John Lawrence/Tyrone Gardner Scholarship is March 2, 2012.

—  admin

Georgia: Megachurch pastor comes out of the closet

And he was married for 21 years and has children, but he decided to come clean after the rash of very public gay teen suicides. (WSBTV.com):

The pastor of a Rockdale County megachurch has publicly announced he is gay. Jim Swilley, bishop of Conyers’ Church in the Now, said he hopes his coming out will change attitudes toward homosexuality.

“I know a lot of straight people think it is a choice. It is not,” Swilley told Channel 2′s Diana Davis. I think some women marry gay men because they really think they can change them,” Swilley said.

He says he’s received support from many in his congregation, but at least one conservative Christian blog has called him sick, twisted, unclean and an instrument of the devil.

“I know all the hateful stuff that’s being written about me online, whatever,” Swilley said. “To think about saving a teenager yeah, I’ll risk my reputation for that.”

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

GEORGIA: Megachurch Pastor Comes Out

The pastor of a massive Georgia church has come out, saying the recent rash of gay teen suicides made it impossible to continue living a lie.

Jim Swilley, 52, founded Rockdale County’s Church in the Now 25 years ago. His wife, Debye, was the associate pastor, and together they had four children. Swilley says he’s known that he’s gay since he was a boy, and his wife knew when they got married. Jim and Debye are now divorced, but they kept his secret for more than 21 years. Earlier this year, Swilley says, Debye told him she thought it was time he stop living a lie. Swilley says he decided she was right after reading stories about kids being harassed by antigay bullies and committing suicide.

The below news story notes that some Christian websites and blogs are condemning Swilley, calling him “sick, twisted, and a tool of Satan.”

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Tragedy waiting to happen? Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia, and Virginia allow loaded guns in bars

Looking at the states in question, perhaps we should not be surprised, but seriously, how is this a good idea ANYWHERE in this gun-loving, hair-trigger temper, liquored-up society? (NYT):

Happy-hour beers were going for at Past Perfect, a cavernous bar just off this city’s strip of honky-tonks and tourist shops when Adam Ringenberg walked in with a loaded 9-millimeter pistol in the front pocket of his gray slacks.

Mr. Ringenberg, a technology consultant, is one of the state’s nearly 300,000 handgun permit holders who have recently seen their rights greatly expanded by a new law – one of the nation’s first – that allows them to carry loaded firearms into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.

…The new measures in Tennessee and the three other states come after two landmark Supreme Court rulings that citizens have an individual right – not just in connection with a well-regulated militia – to keep a loaded handgun for home defense.

…State Representative Curry Todd, a Republican who first introduced the guns-in-bars bill here, said that carrying a gun inside a tavern was never the law’s primary intention. Rather, he said, the law lets people defend themselves while walking to and from restaurants.

The purported mitigating factor here is the gun-toter cannot drink alcohol in the establishment. If these laws are challenged in states with big urban city centers and gun restrictions fall by the wayside, you can imagine the chaos that will ensue.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

GEORGIA: Accuser Of Bishop Eddie “Down Low” Long Speaks Out About Abuse

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

Judge Rules Against Anti-Gay Student In Georgia

Remember Jennifer Keeton, the anti-gay Augusta State University student who sued the school last month claiming that the public institution violated her First Amendment rights by forcing her to accept homosexuality in order to graduate from her counselor education program? ASU wanted to set Keeton up for a remediation program that would "address issues of multicultural competence and develop understanding and empathy." Well a federal court has found that the school's requirement is "academically legitimate" and she could get kicked out of school if she doesn't participate in the program.

The Augusta Chronicle reports on U.S. District Judge Randal Hall's ruling:

6a00d8341c730253ef013485aac774970c Professors asked Keeton to complete the remediation plan after she said she opposed homosexuality and would tell gay clients "their behavior is morally wrong and then help the client change that behavior," according to an affidavit filed in the case. Keeton filed a lawsuit against the school in July, alleging the requirement was viewpoint discrimination and a violation of her First Amendment rights.

Hall ruled that Keeton "failed to clearly establish her high burden of persuasion of a 'substantial likelihood' of success of the merits of her case."

She provided no evidence that ASU faculty imposed the remediation plan because they personally disagreed with her views, Hall said. In an Aug. 11 hearing, ASU professors testified that the plan was not a punishment for voicing her beliefs, but a tool to teach Keeton how to counsel clients while not imposing her views.

"All three professors testified that they never told (Keeton) that she was required to change her religious beliefs in order to stay in the counseling program," Hall wrote.

Hall summed the situation up best in his ruling: "It was not (Keeton's) personal beliefs that were their concern, but rather only her inability to separate her personal beliefs in the judgment-free zone of a professional counseling situation."


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Another NOM Fail. This time in Georgia.

Via the Courage Campaign’s NOM Tour Tracker, today’s NOM Hate Bus tour event in Atlanta was supposed to be a big one. After all, the group was touting an appearance from Dr. Alveda King, the niece of MLK. Well, it was another NOM fail. There were 20 NOM supporters. Meanwhile, thanks to the work of Equality Georgia, there were over 250 supporters of equality.

For an organization that purports to have such broad committed support, there not really turning out the troops for the tour.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright