BREAKING: SCOTUS to rule on marriage equality

Texas plaintifss

Plaintiffs in the Texas marriage equality case listen as their attorney, Neel Lane, center, speaks at a press conference outside the courthouse in New Orleans after the 5th Circuit court hearing on Jan. 9. Plaintiffs are Nicole Dimetman and Cleo DeLeon of Austin and Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss of Plano. (Photo by Erin Moore)

The U.S. Supreme Court decided today (Friday, Jan. 16) to hear arguments in four cases challenging marriage equality. The justices are expected to hear arguments in the cases in April and issue a ruling by June, according to reports by CNN and others.

The court will hear appeals from Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky and Michigan — all four of which are in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, the only federal appellate court to have ruled against marriage equality since SCOTUS’ landmark U.S. v Windsor decision in June 2013.

In the first week of 2015, Florida became the 36th marriage equality state. The District of Columbia also recognizes same-sex marriages

The Supreme Court last October declined to hear appeals in several cases challenging same-sex marriage bans, all of which had been decided by federal appellate courts in favor of equality.The decision by the court launched a wave of new marriage equality states and appeared to indicate that the court stands in favor of marriage equality.

The court also declined in December to extend a stay on the federal trial court ruling striking down the same-sex marriage ban in Florida.

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments last Friday, Jan. 9, in marriage equality cases from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Although there is no word yet when the 5th Circuit court might issue a decision in those cases, marriage equality supporters feel the decision will come down in their favor.

—  Tammye Nash

Woman pleads guilty in case of videotaped beating of trans woman at McDonald’s

Teona Brown, 19, has pled guilty Thursday, Aug. 4, to first degree assault charges and a hate crime charge in connection with the beating of transgender woman Chrissy Polis last April in Towson,

Chrissy Polis

Md. The attack was captured on video by a McDonald’s employee — who filmed the assault rather than step in and try to stop it — last April. The video went viral online and was used, along with new footage from a surveillance camera, in court hearings this week. CBS Baltimore has this report on the plea.

Conviction on a first degree assault charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years, and a hate crime conviction could add another 10 years. Because Brown pled guilty to the attack, prosecutors are recommending that the judge sentence her to five years in prison. A sentencing hearing has been set for next month.

Polis was present in court on Thursday, but told reporters she was nervous about being there and had no comment. “I just want to lay low and keep my life as normal as possible,” she said.

A second person charged in the attack was 14 at the time and has been charged with assault as a juvenile. Because she is a minor, her identity has not been released.

Below is a video of a news report aired on the Washington, D.C., Fox news program when the attack happened. It includes video of the attack and, as State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said this week, “The severity of the beating is much easier to understand when you see a video. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. Well, a video’s worth a million.”

—  admin

Watch LIVE: New Hampshire Hearings on Repeal of Marriage Equality

Click 'play' to listen to the New Hampshire House debates on marriage equality LIVE.

(via good as you)

Towleroad News #gay

—  David Taffet

Chris Matthews Calls For Senate War Crimes Hearings Over Iraq Invasion

Joe. My. God.

—  David Taffet

Two Days, Two Hearings, for Equality in Hawaii

Over the past two days I have provided testimony to both the Hawaii Senate on Safe Schools legislation and the House on Civil Unions on behalf of HRC’s more than 4,000 members and supporters in the Aloha State.  The outcome of each was the same – equality is on the march here in the islands.

On Monday, the Senate Education Committee heard testimony on several bills related to curbing bullying in schools and through the use of technology – cyber bullying.  The committee was genuinely supportive of the measures and deferred decision making until Wednesday to give members and staff a chance to combine each of the bills into an overall package.

Then on Tuesday, Hawaii took another crucial step towards equality as the House Judiciary Committee amended and then passed SB 232, a civil unions bill that provides equal rights and responsibilities of married couples in Hawaii by a 11-2 vote after hearing oral testimony.  I again provided testimony on behalf of HRC during the five hour hearing.  The bill will now be considered by the full House before it heads back to the Senate for final approval as amended.

SB 232 is identical to HB 444, the civil unions bill from last year’s session, except for some technical corrections. That bill passed Hawaii’s House and Senate, with near super majorities, before Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed it.  No override vote was held.

We’ll be on the ground working with Equality Hawaii and other advocates every step of the way, and will keep you up to date as the issues progress.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  David Taffet

Two Days of Senate Hearings Give Momentum to DADT Repeal

After two days of hearings, repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has increased momentum thanks to testimony from senior civilian and uniformed military leadership who have advocated for repeal as well as pledged to successfully implement any change Congress chooses to make.

Yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee heard testimony on the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Working Group report on implementation of DADT repeal which showed that troops by and large did not forsee insurmountable challenges with repeal.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, General Carter Ham and Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson all made clear that there are few hurdles to implementation of open service by gays and lesbians and that they were confident that the military would execute such a repeal without long-term consequences.

Then today, the Chiefs of the military services all expressed that they would successfully implement “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal should Congress change the law.  Testifying were General James Cartwright, General George Casey, Admiral Gary Roughead, General James Amos, General Norton Schwartz and Admiral Robert Papp.

Among the six testifying, three expressed that the law should be repealed and three gave a mixed reaction, expressing some opposition to repeal at this time.  Only one – Marine Commandant General James Amos – expressed his opinion that there could be strong disruption.  In contrast his fellow Marine, General Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, made clear that not only could Marines carry out successful repeal but also there was “benefit derived from being a force identified by honesty & inclusivity.” General Amos did however express that he and his Marines would “faithfully support the law.”

In contrast to Committee Ranking Member John McCain, all of the service chiefs expressed confidence in the report of the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Working Group.  It is one of more than twenty studies from both the military and outside organizations that make an ironclad case for repeal.

Senators said they wanted to hear from military leaders and now they have their answers. The highest ranks of the Pentagon made clear that repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will allow every qualified man and woman to serve without sacrificing the high standards that have made our military great. The small handful of Senators blocking repeal no longer have any fig leaves behind which to hide.

America’s men and women in uniform are professionals who already serve with gays and lesbians and repeal will do nothing to change their dedication to protecting our nation. The working group found clearly that military effectiveness will not be compromised by removing this stain on our service members’ integrity.

After more than twenty studies from both the military and outside organizations, it is time for this debate to close. Further, a failure of Congress to act now will tie the hands of military leaders who have asked for the power to implement the changes that their research lays out. The time for repeal is now.

The full Senate could take up the defense bill to which DADT repeal is attached as soon as next week.  TAKE ACTION now to contact your Senators and tell them it’s time to get rid of this law that has harmed our national security.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

Top Pentagon officials will testify at DADT report hearings on Dec. 2 and 3

Via Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade, we learn that Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin has scheduled two days of hearings on the Pentagon’s DADT report:

For the Dec. 2 hearing, the witnesses are set to include Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen as well as the co-chairs of the Pentagon working group: Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon’s general counsel, and Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Army Europe.

In February testimony before the committee, Mullen has said he supports allowing openly gay people to serve in the U.S. military. Gates has already told reporters that he wants Congress to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

On Dec. 3, the committee is set to hear testimony from Vice-Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright and the military service chiefs: Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead; Marine Corps Gen. James Amos; and Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz.

Chris also spoke to Alex Nicholson from Servicemembers United who remains concerned about the timing:

“We’re in a period now where literally every day counts,” Nicholson said. “If they’re holding hearings on Friday, that, I think, runs the risk of bumping off the motion to reconsider until Monday of the following week, which would be a strain on the calendar.”

Because of the previous failures to pass the Defense Authorization legislation, the calendar is now our biggest enemy — and the opponents of DADT repeal, led by John McCain, will try to. use the calendar to their advantage.


—  admin

Senate to Hold DADT Hearings on Pentagon Report Next Week

The Senate Armed Services Committee is planning two days of hearings on December 2nd and 3rd regarding the Pentagon's report on repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell', which is scheduled for release on Tuesday, the WaPo reports:

Dadt "The panel, led by Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and ranking member Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), will hear from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen; and the co- chairmen of the Pentagon Working Group, Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Army Gen. Carter Ham on Thursday. The next day, in a nod to McCain's wishes to hear from the military's top brass on the issue, the committee will hear testimony from Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. James E. Cartwright, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Naval Chief of Operations Adm. Gary Roughhead, Marine Commandant Gen. James F. Amos and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz."


Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade notes the tight timeframe on DADT repeal:

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said he’s “hopeful” that Congress will be able to enact repeal, but acknowledged that “the clock is our enemy.”

“I’m fearful of time running out on the bill before it’s finished or the prospects of strong opposition from a core group of senators who don’t want to see anything happen in the lame duck,” Sarvis said.

Debate on the defense authorization bill traditionally takes about two weeks in the Senate. Given that slightly more than one month remains in the legislative session this year, time for a debate and vote in the Senate — as well as time for conferencing the legislation — would have to be compressed to move forward.

And Americablog has posted an online 'open letter' to Obama, urging him to call Senators on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'.

Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Andrew Shirvell’s Welcome Back To Work Present: Disciplinary Hearings

Though he's currently taking a "voluntary" leave of absence from the Michigan attorney general's office following his off-the-clock attacks on gay U-Mich student assembly head Chris Armstrong, low-level staffer Andrew Shirvell has some fun awaiting him: hearings to see whether he should face disciplinary action for being a cyber bully.

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—  John Wright