BREAKING: U.S. House committee adopts 3 anti-gay amendments to military spending bill

As expected, the Republican-controlled House Armed Services Committee voted tonight to adopt three anti-gay amendments to the 2012 Defense Authorization Act.

The committee voted 33-27 to adopt an amendment by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., that would require all five service chiefs to certify that the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” won’t harm the military’s readiness before repeal is implemented. Under the DADT repeal measure passed last year, only the president, the Defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must certify DADT repeal.

The committee voted by a larger margin, 39-22, to approve an amendment from Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., that would reaffirm that the Defense of Marriage Act applies to the Department of Defense.

Finally, the committee voted 38-23 vote to approve an amendment from Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo. that would prohibit same-sex marriages on military property. Akin’s amendment would also prohibit military chaplains and civilian employees from officiating same-sex marriages.

All three amendments now proceed to the full House.

“Make no mistake, these amendments are meant to slow down open service and perpetuate scare tactics about the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a press release.  “Republicans should stop playing politics by standing in the way of all Americans being able to serve their country equally.”

“As the process moves forward, we call on all lawmakers to stop these side shows and get back to the real work on which Americans so desperately want them to focus,” Solmonese added.

Servicemembers United Executive Director Alexander Nicholson issued a statement responding specifically to the committee’s adoption of Hunter’s amendment.

“Despite the passage of this amendment within the ever-hostile House Armed Services Committee, it is highly unlikely that such an amendment would ever pass the Senate and be signed by the President,” Nicholson said. “The offering of this amendment was a shameful and embarrassing waste of time. The service chiefs have unequivocally said that they do not want this extra burden forced upon them, so if Congress really values their advice on this issue they should take it and forget this unnecessary and unwanted amendment.”

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said the following:

“The amendments adopted tonight during mark-up of the National Defense Authorization Act in the U.S. House related to the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ represent nothing less than an assault on our nation’s senior military leaders and rank-and-file service members, who are marching toward open military service successfully,” Sarvis said. “These adopted amendments to delay and derail repeal are a partisan political attempt to interject the same-sex marriage debate and other unrelated social issues into the NDAA where they have no place. Make no mistake — these votes should be a wake-up call to supporters of open service that our work is not done. Our commitment to timely certification and repeal must be redoubled as we move to the House floor to defend the progress we have made to ensure that LGB patriots can defend and serve the country they love with honesty and integrity.”

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Obama administration will no longer defend key provision of DOMA

President Barack Obama

U.S Attorney General Eric Holder has issued a statement saying the Obama admistration will no longer defend Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act because it believes the provision is unconstitutional.

Section 3, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for federal purposes, was declared unconstitutional by a U.S. district judge last year, but the Justice Department appealed the decision. Holder’s statement means the Justice Department will no longer defend Section 3 of DOMA.

DOMA, passed in 1996, denies married same-sex couples more than 1,000 rights, benefits and responsibilities tied to marriage under federal law. These include Social Security survivors’ benefits, family and medical leave, equal compensation as federal employees, and immigration rights, among many others.

“This is a monumental decision for the thousands of same-sex couples and their families who want nothing more than the same rights and dignity afforded to other married couples,” Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a statement Wednesday. “As the President has stated previously, DOMA unfairly discriminates against Americans and we applaud him for fulfilling his oath to defend critical constitutional principles.”

HRC goes on to note that under federal law, the Obama administration must report its decision to Congress, where anti-gay lawmakers are likely to take up the defense of DOMA.

“Congressional leaders must not waste another taxpayer dollar defending this patently unconstitutional law,” Solmonese said. “The federal government has no business picking and choosing which legal marriages they want to recognize. Instead Congress should take this opportunity to wipe the stain of marriage discrimination from our laws.”

Today’s decision doesn’t mean Section 3 of DOMA has been repealed or will no longer be enforced. That would take a court ruling or an act of Congress. However, the announcement is consistent with Obama’s statements during his campaign, when he said he favored a full repeal of DOMA: “I support the full and unqualified repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act,” Obama said in 2007. “While some say we should repeal only part of the law, I believe we should get rid of that statute altogether.”

The full text of Holder’s statement is after the jump.

—  John Wright

Iowa House votes to overturn same-sex marriage


The Iowa House voted 62-37 today to pass a resolution that would place a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the ballot.

The resolution now goes to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mike Gronstal has vowed to block it. Even if it passes the Senate, the resolution would have to pass again in the next session of the Legislature before being placed on the ballot in 2013.

The proposed constitutional amendment would ban not only same-sex marriage, but also civil unions and domestic partnerships.

“The actions of the Iowa House have the potential to place families at risk,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said in a statement. “The people of Iowa deserve better from their representatives. Iowa has a proud tradition of protecting the liberties of all of its citizens and we call upon the Senate to restore that tradition.”

Watch video from Monday’s public hearing on the bill above.

—  John Wright

HRC calls out Pastor Joel Osteen, who will again promote gay teen suicide on CNN tonight

Above is video of the Houston megachurch pastor’s latest remarks, which are scheduled to air tonight on CNN. And below is a press release that just came across from the Human Rights Campaign:

HRC to Joel Osteen:  Use Your Pulpit for Good, Not Hate

Televangelist’s Hateful Remarks Before a National Audience are Dangerous

WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest civil rights organization dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality, today called on Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, TX and well-known evangelical preacher with a syndicated television following of over 7 million viewers, to immediate apologize for his remarks on national television that “the Scripture shows that [homosexuality] is a sin.” Osteen made the remarks on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight. The full show will air tonight.

“It’s a real shame that someone of Joel Osteen’s prominence and life experiences would repeat this tired and dangerous statement. It furthers ignorance and discrimination by some Americans and adds a burden to those already struggling to accept their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “One would hope Mr. Osteen would use his pulpit, with an audience of over 7 million people, to tell all human beings that they are loved just the way they are. Instead he chose to send a dangerous and irresponsible message.”

The American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association have both concluded that same-sex attraction is normal.

Mr. Osteen’s position does not reflect the views of many religious leaders and denominations. Mainline denominations such at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and the Episcopal Church, see God’s divine presence working across the spectrum of human sexuality. Many Baptists also dispute Mr. Osteen’s stance.

“Joel Osteen is certainly entitled to his opinion, but America needs to know that he doesn’t speak for all Christians, he doesn’t even speak for all Baptists,” said Rev. Dr. Miguel de la Torre, a Baptist minister and member of the HRC Religion Council. “As a Southern Baptist and an ethicist I believe that we can’t follow Jesus’ commandment to love God and our neighbor as our self if we start with the premise that homosexuality is sinful. Starting with the belief that people are sinful doesn’t allow us to get to know them, let alone love them.”

HRC encourages young Baptists who are struggling with their identity to contact the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB) for resources on the church and sexuality. AWAB’s website is http://www.wabaptists.org/. AWAB partnered with the Human Rights Campaign in 2010 to honor several Washington, DC area Baptist pastors who were instrumental in passing marriage equality legislation in the District of Columbia.

—  John Wright

Obama again mentions ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ in State of the Union, but not gay marriage

HRC welcomes comments; GetEQUAL sees missed opportunity

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service

President Barack Obama once again brought up the issue of gays in the military during his annual State of the Union address. Last year, he called for repeal of the federal law barring openly gay people from serving. This year, just a month after having signed a bill to repeal that law, the president urged universities which have barred military recruiters over the gay ban now allow recruiters back on campus.

“Our troops come from every corner of this country — they are black, white, Latino, Asian and Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love.”

That drew applause.

“And with that change,” continued Obama, “I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation.”

That drew a brief standing ovation.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese welcomed President Obama’s words concerning the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell,” but added that “there remain a number of pressing issues for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community when it comes to economic security.”

“The President and Congress can do much more to ensure the economic empowerment of LGBT people including ending the unfair taxation of partner health benefits, prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and ensuring that all married couples have access to the same federal benefits and protections for their families,” said Solmonese, in a statement released before the president delivered his address to Congress. “We look forward to working with this President and allies in Congress on the challenges ahead.”

But Robin McGehee, director of the activist group GetEQUAL, expressed disappointment.

“Tonight, President Obama missed an opportunity to lay out an agenda and strategy that continues progress made toward LGBT equality – removing the burden of being second-class citizens and acknowledging our families,” said McGehee, in a statement.

“Sadly, while national hero Daniel Hernandez sat with the First Lady to witness this historic speech, he did not have the luxury of sitting there as an equal – for that, our elected officials should be ashamed. It is time for the President to put the power of the White House behind the passage of legislation that would give the right of full federal equality to LGBT Americans. As a community, it is our promise and our obligation to continue the work of holding both the President and Congress accountable for the inalienable human rights, dignities, and freedoms we all deserve.”

He did not, as some LGBT activists had urged, set a new goal for Congress — repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

President Obama did include an openly gay man as one of his special guests in the House visitors’ gallery Tuesday night.

The man was Daniel Hernandez Jr., who was singled out by many news accounts as one of the heroes to take action during the Jan. 8 shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson. Hernandez, who was serving as an intern in Giffords’ Tucson office, rushed to her side and provided first aid that many have said saved the congresswoman’s life.

A number of Twitter messages from various people noted that Tuesday was also Hernandez’s 21st birthday. One Twitter message was from the account of Rep. Giffords, saying: “From the entire Giffords team: Happy 21st Birthday Daniel Hernandez! Sounds like you have fun plans tonight.”

CNN indicated it was the first Twitter message from Rep. Giffords’ account since she was critically injured in a shooting January 8. Giffords is still recovering from her wounds and is at a rehabilitation hospital in Houston.

Cameras scanning the gallery showed Hernandez early during the broadcast of the State of the Union. But Hernandez appeared to be standing near the back of the gallery, not seated near First Lady Michelle Obama, as expected.

In response to concerns about the hostile political environment, many members of Congress eschewed the usual seating arrangement of Republicans on one side and Democrats on the other, and sat together.

Three of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices chose not to take seats at all and did not attend the State of the Union address. They were the three most conservative — Justices Antonin Scalia, Sam Alito, and Clarence Thomas.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

HRC goes on strike, threatens to spam our Inbox until it has 32 new members from Texas

We’re joking, of course, but that is kinda what President Joe Solmonese implies in a mass e-mail this morning. Here’s an excerpt:

We have staff on the ground around the country and plans to deploy even more. We’re bolstering state groups, even as we fight against hostile federal bills and amendments. But to make it work, we need 2,011 new members like you – that works out to just 32 more from Texas – to join HRC in the next week. Once you do, we’ll stop sending reminders and get back to the work of securing equality.

Solmonese goes on to reiterate his warning that if you don’t join, you’ll continue to receive these e-mails:

Be part of the civil rights battle of our day. Fight for marriage. Join now — and we won’t send you any more emails for the remainder of our membership drive.

On a serious note, the e-mail comes under the subject line “The next Prop 8,” and it notes that lawmakers in New Hampshire are set to try to repeal same-sex marriage. It also says “hateful groups” are trying to ban same-sex marriage in Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Iowa and West Virginia. There are now 20 state legislatures with anti-LGBT majorities, Solmonese says, which is twice as many as are under pro-equality leadership.

And if that isn’t reason enough to join HRC, check out the USB car charger above that’s offered with a new membership, which can be had for as little as $35.

If journalism ethics didn’t discourage us from supporting individual LGBT groups, Instant Tea would be tempted. Then again, we’d stop receiving these fun e-mails. But seriously, maybe you should join so that HRC will start working again. Full e-mail after the jump.

—  John Wright

Marriage next on ‘gay agenda,’ NYT reports

Richard Socarides

According to a report in the New York Times, marriage, rather than employment non-discrimination, is the next item on the official “Gay Agenda” now that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is on its way to being repealed.

A new group called Equality Matters grew out of a group called Media Matters. Bill Clinton adviser Richard Socarides will head the group. Advocate writer Kerry Eleveld will edit the group’s website.

The Times points out that marriage discrimination means discrimination in taxes, social security benefits and other programs run by the federal government even if a couple is legally married.

While many more rights flow from marriage equality, it is interesting that the group has chosen that as the next fight. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was, in many ways, an employment non-discrimination issue. The next logical win would be again in the employment area. Most people understand that someone shouldn’t be fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, even among people who base their marriage-equality views on religion.

And Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said he welcomed the new group and hoped they would help change opinions. But who gave this new group the authority to decide the next battle? Or is the New York Times bestowing a title on the group prematurely? Either way, we weren’t consulted and haven’t even received a press release from Equality Matters.

—  David Taffet

Black Tie hands out $1.15 million

Kouvelis named as 2011 co-chair as board begins preparations for 30th annual fundraiser in November

Tammye Nash and David Taffet | nash@dallasvoice.com

HANDING OUT THE CHECKS | 2010 Black Tie Dinner Co-chairs, above left, Nan Arnold and Ron Guillard talk about their year heading up the Black Tie board. Incoming 2011 Black Tie Co-Chair Chris Kouvelis, right center, presents a check to representatives of Home for the Holidays. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Officials with Black Tie Dinner on Thursday, Dec. 9, distributed grants to 20 beneficiaries totaling $1.15 million — up from the 2009 total of $1.04 million.
The funds, representing proceeds from the 29th annual Black Tie Dinner held in November, were distributed at a reception at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, host hotel for the annual fundraising dinner.

Ron Guillard, completing the second year of his two-year term as Black Tie Dinner co-chair, offered special recognition to the sponsors, table captains, dinner guests and volunteers who helped make this year’s sold-out dinner so successful.

CATCHING UP | AIDS Services of Dallas President and CEO Don Maison, left, talks with former Resource Center Dallas board chair Bill Brosius during the Black Tie Dinner check distribution party Thursday. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

“My last official act couldn’t be more exciting than to distribute checks,” Guillard said. “It’s fantastic to be in the room with all the people who do so much work with Black Tie Dinner assuring its success.”

Nan Faith Arnold, who began the second half of her two-year term as co-chair at the distribution party, said, “I’m having a blast. It’s a great night. Each of our beneficiaries stands strong for the people they serve.”

“Stand strong” was the theme of this year’s event.

Chris Kouvelis, who will be Arnold’s dinner co-chair in 2011, was introduced.

“The check distribution event is the culmination of what we work for all year,” Kouvelis said. “It’s the most exciting thing to do. I’m honored to be in this position and am looking forward to a fantastic year.”

As in previous years, about half of the proceeds from the 2010 dinner — $577,500 — went to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. The Dallas-Fort Worth dinner is the largest fundraiser of its kind each year for the foundation.

HRC Development Director Chris Speron attended the check distribution event. Executive Director Joe Solmonese was scheduled to attend but remained in Washington because of the “don’t ask, don’t tell vote.”

“The Dallas LGBT community is one of the most generous communities anywhere,” Speron said. “And the Black Tie Dinner is unmatched anywhere in the country. We are so privileged to work with the people involved in Black Tie Dinner and benefit from their amazing work.”

The remaining funds were divided between 19 local organizations providing services to the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities. Resource Center

EXPRESSING THANKS | Board members for Equality Texas, along with Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman, right, accept the organization’s check from Black Tie Dinner. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Dallas received the largest local grant, getting a check for $48,504 from Black Tie.

RCD Executive Director Cece Cox said, “We are again delighted and thankful to be a beneficiary of Black Tie Dinner. This is unrestricted money that allows us to provide more services and reach more people.”

Groups were acknowledged for their participation. Turtle Creek Chorale sold the most raffle tickets. White Rock Friends contributed the most volunteer hours and the chorale was recognized for 682 hours of rehearsal time for the Black Tie Dinner performance. Resource Center Dallas sold the most tables with 22.

Black Tie Dinner is the largest formal seated dinner of its kind in the country in terms of both attendance and charitable contributions. This year, 3,000 guests attended the event, which featured keynote speaker Tammy Baldwin, U.S. congresswoman from Wisconsin, Media Award recipient Chely Wright, Elizabeth Birch Equality Award recipient American Airlines and Kuchling Humanitarian Award recipient the Rev. Carol West.

Arnold and Kouvelis said the Black Tie Dinner board is already working on the 30th Anniversary dinner, scheduled for  Nov, 12, 2011, at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. The 2011 beneficiary application will be available online in February at BlackTie.org.

……………………….

•2010 Black Tie Dinner Beneficiaries

Human Rights Campaign Foundation $577,500
AIDS Arms $38,029
AIDS Interfaith Network $24,464
AIDS Outreach Center $28,245
AIDS Resources of Rural Texas $25,622
AIDS Services of Dallas $34,896
Celebration Community Church $40,043
Congregation Beth El Binah $26,157
Equality Texas Foundation $25,219
Health Services of North Texas $23,600
Home for the Holidays
$24,375
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund
$38,764
Legacy Counseling Center $24,449
Legal Hospice of Texas $25,844
Northaven United Methodist Church $38,559
Resource Center of Dallas $48,504
Turtle Creek Chorale $32,494
White Rock Friends $21,055
The Women’s Chorus of Dallas $22,532
Youth First Texas $34,640

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

More bad news from Election Night: 3 Iowa judges who backed marriage equality are defeated

Tena Callahan

Among the Democrats in Dallas County who hung on to their seats on Tuesday was State District Family Court Judge Tena Callahan, who in 2009 boldly declared Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Callahan defeated Republican opponent Julie Reedy by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent, and her landmark decision didn’t appear to have hurt her at all at the polls.

However, the news was not so good for three Supreme Court judges in Iowa who ruled in favor of marriage equality in 2009. The three were all defeated in retention elections on Tuesday, after being targeted by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage.

NOM spent $600,000 on TV ads and a 45-county bus tour targeting the Iowa justices. Despite their defeat, though, LGBT groups noted that same-sex marriage remains legal in Iowa.

“By their own admission, NOM’s Iowa strategy was about sending a warning shot to judges nationwide,” Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a statement. “NOM and its secret donors will continue to target judges around the country if they rule in favor of marriage equality and will foster an anti-gay, hostile environment in the process.”

Lambda Legal, which brought the lawsuit that resulted in the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, had this to say about the result:

“Let’s be clear about what happened in Iowa and what didn’t happen: Three skilled jurists lost their jobs, but the Court’s ruling in the case allowing same-sex couples to marry is still the law of the land, enshrined in the Iowa Constitution. Same-sex couples continue to marry in Iowa. Antigay groups have lost on the big issue — equality — and they are attacking our courts for protecting it.

“This spiteful campaign is a wake-up call to future voters who must resist attempts to politicize the courts. It is the responsibility of us all to protect the system of checks and balances that defines our democracy, and it continues to be our responsibility at Lambda Legal to make our case for equality, not just before judges, but in the court of public opinion.

“We are angry, but we also take the long view: The Iowa Supreme Court delivered justice that will outlast this political fight by upholding the Iowa Constitution’s guarantee of equality for all Iowans. Seven jurists were posed a question by people who had been denied basic fairness guaranteed by the state constitution. The judges did their jobs with integrity – as they must.

“But the result in Iowa shines a light on a dangerous agenda to undermine the democratic system of checks and balances that has served us well for over 200 years. If an embattled judiciary were to lose its ability to protect our laws and constitution with impartiality, that would be a tragic loss for our country. We can’t let that happen.”

—  John Wright

HRC releases statement on Asher Brown’s suicide; bullied gay teen in California dies

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese issued the following statement Wednesday morning on the suicide of Asher Brown, the 13-year-old from Houston who took his life after enduring months of anti-gay bullying at his middle school:

“We feel for Asher’s family during this sad time. This young man had a wonderful life ahead of him, but he was ‘bullied to death’ because he was gay. This tragedy was preventable. School officials must act when kids are tormented and bullied. All students deserve to be treated with dignity and respect which is why HRC urges school districts and state legislatures everywhere to implement enumerated anti-bullying policies and laws that that protect all students.”

Equality Texas has issued an action alert calling on people to contact their state legislators and urge them to pass safe schools legislation that protects LGBT youth. Also, Change.org has posted a petition addressed to officials in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District.

Also, a gay 13-year-old in California has died after nine days on life support, after attempting suicide in response to years of anti-gay bullying. Seth Walsh, 13, who hung himself from a tree in his back yard on Sept. 19, died Tuesday afternoon. No charges have been filed.

—  John Wright