WATCH: Biden says Obama is preparing the ground for the inevitable: Gay marriage

While President Barack Obama says his views on same-sex marriage are “evolving,” Vice President Joe Biden is a little more to the point. In an interview on Good Morning America on Christmas Eve, Biden said he believes same-sex marriage is “inevitable.” He also drew a comparison between marriage equality and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Here’s Biden’s full response, which you can watch in the above video at about the 5:45 mark:

“I think the country’s evolving, and I think there’s an inevitability for a national consensus on gay marriage. That is my view. But this is the president’s policy. But it is evolving. I think the country’s evolving. I remember the first time he met with the joint chiefs, I was with him. He said, ‘Gentleman, I want you to prepare you now.’ I want to end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ So he prepared the ground so that it was so widely accepted as it is today by the military, and I think the same thing is happening across the country with regard to the issue of marriage.”

—  John Wright

Obama: ‘This is a very good day’

President signs bill to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

Click here to watch video of Obama’s speech
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Related story: Military will write rules on repeal of ban

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service

Following a dramatic and eloquent speech, President Barack Obama on Wednesday morning, Dec. 22 signed the legislation that will launch the repeal of a 17-year-old law that prohibits openly gay people from serving in the military.

“This is done,” he said, looking up and slapping his hand on the table, and the crowded auditorium of an Interior Department building in Washington, D.C., erupted with cheers and applause.

The historic ceremony took place less than 24 hours after Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took an 11th-hour action of trying to make implementation of repeal much more difficult and time-consuming.

According to a report on Politico.com, McConnell tried to introduce an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill that would have required that implementation of DADT repeal not take place until after the four service chiefs certify that it could be done without negative consequences for military readiness. The DADT repeal legislation that passed last week requires certification only by the president, the secretary of defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

According to Politico, McConnell attempted to add the amendment by unanimous consent, but Senator Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., a champion of the repeal measure, objected. Lieberman’s objection effectively blocked the amendment from being considered.

The president was greeted with a roar of cheers and applause after he was introduced by Vice President Joe Biden at 9:13 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday. As the president greeted many special guests on stage with him, the crowded began to chant, “Yes, we can,” a prominent slogan of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. When the president reached the podium, he smiled and called back, “Yes, we did.”

“I am just overwhelmed,” said President Obama, beginning his prepared remarks. “This is a very good day, and I want to thank all of you, especially the people on this stage.”

He then told a story about a soldier who fought in the Battle of the Bulge in the Belgian mountains against the Germans in World War II. The soldier, Andy Lee, who put his own life in peril in order to scale a ravine and rescue a fellow soldier, Lloyd Corwin. Forty years later, Lee let Corwin know he was gay.

“He had no idea,” said President Obama of Corwin, “and didn’t much care. Lloyd knew what mattered. He knew what kept him alive.”

Obama also told the story of a young female servicemember who gave him a hug on a receiving line in Afghanistan several weeks ago, when the president made a visit to the troops. The woman whispered in his ear, “’Get ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ done,’” said the president. “And I said to her, ‘I promise you I will.’”

With the signing of the bill today, President Obama has also fulfilled a long-standing promise to the LGBT community overall, a feat that is prompting widespread praise, even from gay Republicans.

“He made this a priority,” said R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans group, who a front row seat during Wednesday’s ceremony. “He was sincere and correct about making this a priority.”

As Obama shook hands with guests on the front row, Cooper said he told the president, “You said get me those [Republican] votes and I got more than you needed.”

In a critical procedural vote to force the repeal measure to the floor in the Senate on Saturday, six Republicans joined Democrats and Independents to provide more than the 60 votes necessary to break the Republican-led filibuster.

Cooper said the ceremony was a “very emotional” one in the auditorium and that “there were definitely many tears of joy” in his eyes and in the eyes of other former servicemembers discharged under the DADT policy during the past 17 years.

The president acknowledged the tenacious work of numerous individuals during Wednesday’s ceremony, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Republican Sen. Susan Collins, and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Patrick Murphy.

NBC News Washington Bureau Chief Mark Whitaker, speaking on MSNBC shortly before the ceremony, said it was House Majority Whip Hoyer whose idea it was to take DADT repeal language out of the annual defense authorization bill — which was being filibustered by McConnell, Sen.  John McCain, R-Ariz., and most Republicans — and put it into a special standalone bill in the House last week.

The House passed that bill on Dec. 15 on a 250-175 vote and sent it immediately to the Senate, which approved it Dec. 18 on a 65 to 31 vote.

The president also singled out Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., in the front of the auditorium, for having “kept up the fight” in the House.

Speaking to MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell Tuesday night, Frank characterized the congressional vote to repeal DADT as being “comparable to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.”

“It is an enormous move forward,” said Frank. Frank said he was moved by a special ceremony held on Capitol Hill on Tuesday by House Speaker Pelosi and Majority Whip Hoyer to sign the enrollment document for the bill to be sent to the president. The hundreds of people in attendance saying “God Bless America.”

“It was a very moving moment,” said Frank.

Also on stage for Wednesday’s ceremony was Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen and Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, an openly gay Marine from San Antonio who was the first servicemember wounded in the Iraq War.

The president used 15 pens to sign the legislation into law. It was not immediately known to whom those pens will be given.

Copyright ©2010 Keen News Service. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

—  John Wright

NATIONAL: 13 races LGBT community should worry about

Races around the country could have significant impact on climate, landscape for LGBT equality

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service lisakeen@mac.com

For hard-core political junkies in the LGBT community, there’s a lot to worry about in the Nov. 2 voting — and not just because there’s the possibility of Republicans taking over the U.S. House and Senate.

A number of races around the country could have significant impact on both the climate and the landscape for LGBT civil rights nationally.

This report identifies 13 of the most important outcomes to keep an eye on next Tuesday and weighs their outcomes to reflect how much impact they could have on the LGBT community efforts to achieve equal rights.

A cumulative score of 100 means the political landscape and climate remain relatively favorable for LGBT civil rights concerns. A zero would signal a significantly unfavorable change.

The current status would rank a score of 80; but the latest poll predictions signal a drop to 60.

1. Control of the U.S. House: Democrats currently hold 255 of the 435 House seats. It takes 218 or more to hold the majority. As of last week, the New York Times-FiveThirtyEight number cruncher was forecasting Republicans would take the majority with 230 seats, leaving Democrats with only 205. Loss of Democratic control in the House means many things: Pro-gay measures have no chance of passage; anti-gay measures do.

2. Control of the U.S. Senate: Democrats currently hold 57 of 100 seats and need 50 to retain the majority (with Democratic Vice President Joe Biden as Senate president).

As of last week, the New York Times-FiveThirtyEight number cruncher was forecasting Democrats would retain the Senate with 51 or 52 seats, to the Republicans 48 or 49. That’s still not a large enough majority for Democrats to break filibusters, but at least it cuts off the ability of Republicans to press for passage of anti-gay measures.

3.
Democrats keep New Hampshire House and Senate: This bellwether state enacted a marriage equality law just this year and already three bills have been filed seeking repeal in 2011. Meanwhile, the Democratic majority in both the state House and Senate are in peril

Nov. 2, says Rep. Jim Splaine, the openly gay state legislator who authored the marriage bill in the House.

Only two of seven Republicans who supported marriage equality were defeated in the primary, but the margins of victory on the marriage equality bill in 2009 were razor thin, and Splaine himself is retiring at the end of this year. If Republicans do take back the majority in the legislature, a repeal bill has a strong chance of succeeding. Polls indicate the results Tuesday are simply unpredictable.

4. New Hampshire retains Democratic governor: Now, imagine the New Hampshire legislature passes a bill to repeal its one-year-old marriage equality law and sends it to the governor’s desk. If incumbent Democrat John Lynch is there, it’s very likely that he’ll veto it. But if Republican challenger John Stephen is there, he’s promised to sign it. Polls give Lynch a good chance of hanging onto the job.

5. California elects Democratic governor: Republican Meg Whitman unabashedly opposes same-sex marriage and voted for Proposition 8. (She favors civil unions.) Democrat Jerry Brown, the state’s attorney general, supports same-sex marriage and has refused to defend California’s same-sex marriage ban — Proposition 8 — in the landmark lawsuit now before the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Whitman has criticized Brown for his position, and some speculate she could — if elected — intervene to enhance the appeal against Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that the measure is unconstitutional.

The team challenging Proposition 8 says it is not concerned about that and, truth be told, the 9th Circuit will have heard the appeal long before the next governor takes office. But the position of the next governor could have some influence if and when the full 9th Circuit and/or the U.S. Supreme Court hear the case. And, legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky notes that, if the 9th Circuit should dismiss the appeal for lack of standing by the current appellants, Whitman “could make a motion in federal court to have the judgment set aside.” Polls call this a toss-up with Brown having a slight edge.

6. California elects Democratic attorney general: Republican Steve Cooley has also criticized Attorney General Brown for refusing to defend Proposition 8 in court. If elected, he, too, could ask to have a 9th Circuit decision set aside, should it rule that proponents of Proposition 8 lack standing. Cooley could also play a pivotal role in the approval of a future initiative should No on 8 activists need to overturn the anti-gay marriage law by ballot measure. Cooley says he would go to bat for Proposition 8; his Democratic opponent, San Francisco district attorney Kamala Harris, says that, because Proposition 8 has been declared unconstitutional, the attorney general should not appeal it.

Cooley has a slight lead in the latest polls.

7. Iowa retains three justices: One of the smallest races in the country is getting big attention: the re-election campaigns of three Iowa Supreme Court justices. All three were on the seven-member bench that unanimously ruled in 2009 that the state constitution requires gay couples be treated the same as straight couples when it comes to marriage licensing.

Justices in Iowa are appointed by the governor but must stand for “retention” at the end of their first year and the end of each eight-year term.

Groups unhappy with the 2009 ruling have turned the retention election for Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit into a referendum on same-sex marriage. Those groups including the anti-gay American Family Association, the Family Research Council, and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). The Des Moines Register reported last week that NOM has spent $200,000 in television ads to oppose the justices’ retention.

Meanwhile, another coalition — a bipartisan one — has been formed to support the justices’ retention. It is headed up by Republican former Gov. Robert Ray and Democratic former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack.

As of Oct. 4, reports the Register, the contests are a toss-up, with 44 percent of 550 likely voters saying they’ll vote for retention, 40 percent against, and 16 percent saying they’ll retain “some.”

8. Cicilline wins U.S. House seat for Rhode Island’s 1st: David Cicilline, the openly gay mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, is given a 91 percent chance of winning the four-way race to represent Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District. For the LGBT community, it would mean a fourth openly gay member of Congress.

9. Pougnet wins U.S. House seat for California’s 45th: Steve Pougnet, the openly gay mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., is given less than a 3 percent chance of unseating incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack. But Pougnet has raised significant money and interest in his first run for Congress and Mack’s popularity has been waning since 2002.

10. Frank re-elected with 65 percent or more: Barney Frank is the Congress’ most veteran openly gay member — in seniority, experience and age. He’s now 70.

Massachusetts politicos who hope to take over his reign in Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional district are already starting to stage their practice runs. That includes Republican Sean Bielat, whose campaign slogan — “Retire Barney”— seeks to capitalize on the notion that Frank is old enough to retire. The polls don’t give him much of a chance to “retire” Frank this year — the New York Times-FiveThirtyEight number cruncher says Frank’s prospects for re-election are at 96 percent.

But it forecasts Frank will win only about 56 percent of the vote, and that’s down dramatically from previous re-election runs in the mid-terms, when he’s won re-election with 99 and 98 percent. In the presidential election years, Frank won with 78 percent in 2004 and 68 percent in 2008.

So, if Frank slips much below 68 percent this year, political pundits and potential challengers will almost certainly smell blood in the water, whether it’s there or not.

11. Maine elects Democratic governor: Equality Maine, the state LGBT civil rights group, says Tea Party Republican candidate Paul LePage would not only veto a marriage equality bill if one came to his desk, but “supports gutting the Maine Human Rights Act,” which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Democratic candidate Libby Mitchell is the polar opposite: According to Maine Public Radio, she would “restore the gay marriage law that was repealed by Maine voters last fall.” Independent candidate Eliot Cutler supports same-sex marriage, too. But guess who’s at the top of the latest poll? LePage. According to the Portland Press Herald on Oct. 22, a poll of 600 registered voters has LePage at 32 percent, Mitchell at 20 percent, and Cutler at 19. Twenty-one percent are undecided and the rest are promised to minor party candidates.

12. New York elects Democratic governor: Tea Party Republican Carl Paladino has turned this race into an interesting one. He is opposed to equal marriage rights for gay couples, doesn’t want his children to think being gay is “an equally valid and successful option” to being straight, and called gay pride parades “disgusting.” But the New York Daily News reported last week that he used to collect rent from gay clubs in Buffalo. As of Oct. 22, Democrat Andrew Cuomo has a 23-point lead over Paladino. And Cuomo would make a much different governor for LGBT New Yorkers. To put it in his own words, “I want to be the governor who signs the law that makes equality a reality in the state of New York.” Polls indicate an easy Democratic win.

13. Minnesota elects Democratic governor: LGBT interest in this race really began to escalate after the Target and Best Buy discount chains donated big money to a group called MN Forward, and MN Forward ran ads in support of Republican candidate Ted Emmer. Emmer’s website makes clear he opposes equal rights to marriage for gay couples and he led an effort in the state legislature to adopt a constitutional amendment to ban them. By contrast, Democrat Mark Dayton supports equal rights for LGBT people and his website includes a prominent and thorough discussion of that support. Polls indicate Dayton will be the likely winner.

© 2010 Keen News Service

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas