Mayor’s misstep on marriage pledge shows how far we’ve come

Laura Miller, who became LGBT icon, opposed gay unions during 1st campaign 10 years ago

David-Webb

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

The signing of a pledge in support of same-sex marriage by some 80 mayors attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ recent meeting in Washington, D.C, represents a powerful, almost astounding stride in the LGBT community’s march to equality.

Only one big-city mayor created a controversy by refusing to sign the pledge, and that unfortunately was Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who probably regrets the decision now.

His decision not to sign the pledge — even though he later claimed he personally supports marriage equality — set off a bone-jolting controversy in Dallas as LGBT activists reacted to the news.

Rawlings cancelled a planned appearance at a neighborhood meeting because of activists’ plans to demonstrate against him, and all of the city’s newspapers and television stations began covering the story. The Dallas Morning News, which is infamous for its conservative takes on many progressive measures, praised Rawlings for resisting pressure to sign the pledge.

As a result of Rawlings thwarting activists’ plans to confront him at the neighborhood meeting, GetEQUAL scheduled a “Sign the Pledge” rally at City Hall.

There was a time when LGBT activists would have given the mayor a pass on the marriage equality issue, but that has long since passed. In declining to sign the pledge, Rawlings used the excuse that he was practicing a policy of avoiding social issues unrelated to city government.

That excuse had previously worked for former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller when she chose not to address the issue of marriage equality. At the same time, she managed to achieve something close to sainthood in the eyes of Dallas’ LGBT community because of her support of a nondiscrimination ordinance addressing sexual orientation and gender identity passed in 2002.

When Miller first campaigned for mayor she and all of her opponents declared in a candidate’s forum that they opposed same-sex marriage, but they all declared support for the nondiscrimination ordinance. That apparently was enough at the time to gain the trust and support of LGBT activists, especially after it was learned she had a gay uncle and a lesbian stepsister she loved and supported.

Miller, who served as mayor from 2002 to 2007, later gave more support to the LGBT community’s pursuit of marriage equality by speaking out against Texas’ constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that voters approved in 2005. She also began supporting marriage equality during her speeches at Dallas’ glittering Black Tie Dinner.

Today, Miller says that she “supports gay marriage 100 percent,” and she adds that “it will be legal nationwide sooner than later. Young people today don’t give it a second thought and support it fully.”

As the mother of two daughters and one son, Miller knows her stuff. She declined to comment on Rawlings’ decision not to sign the pledge, but it’s a pretty good bet that if Miller were in his shoes today she would have signed that pledge — policy or no policy.

Rawlings made a terrible error in judgment when he refused to sign the pledge along with the mayors of other big cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Boston, San Diego, Portland, Denver and the list goes on and on. What’s worse, Texas mayors from Austin, Houston and San Antonio signed the pledge.

If Rawlings had simply signed the pledge, it likely would have been reported by the Dallas media, there would have been a few stones thrown at him by conservative conscientious objectors and then it would have been forgotten. But now, it will continue to rage as a full-scale controversy for an undetermined amount of time.

At this point it seems like the best course of action for Rawlings to take would be to just sign the pledge, seeing as how he is already on record as supporting marriage equality. That action might stir up resentment among conservative constituents, but at least it would put Rawlings on the winning side of the debate.

The fact of the matter is that marriage equality will indeed one day be the law of the land, no matter how much that irks those who would prevent it if they could.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Jo Hudson invites Robert Jeffress to COH

The Rev. Jo Hudson, senior pastor at the Cathedral of Hope, has written a response to D magazine’s January cover story, How First Baptist’s Robert Jeffress Ordained Himself to Lead America. In the story, writer Michael Mooney claims he was prepared to hate Jeffress.

The Rev. Jo Hudson

“It would be easy to dislike him if he were a hypocrite or a bigot, if he were an insufferable megalomaniac or the kind of man who preaches out of hate and anger,” Mooney wrote. Funny he doesn’t see the bile Jeffress spews at the LGBT community as anything other than pure hatred.

In her response, Hudson points out that “the writer quotes the words of Dr. Jeffress from a sermon he delivered in 2008 called ‘Gay is not OK.’”

“Unlike your writer, I don’t want to hate Robert Jeffress,” Hudson writes. Her rebuttal is on target. I’ve heard her speak and read her writing a number of times, but she’s never been better than in this response.

Rather than spreading more hatred, Hudson compliments Jeffress. She says his arrival at First Baptist “ushered in a revival” and that “anyone who leads a church like that can’t be all bad.”

But she takes him to task for his disgusting description of the LGBT community: “What they (homosexuals) do is filthy. It is so degrading that it is beyond description,” Jeffress said in the “Gay is not OK” sermon.

And she ends brilliantly — she invites him to come and visit the Cathedral as her guest. And I have a funny feeling that what would surprise him most is just how warmly he’d be welcomed. He’d expect protests. He’d expect shouting and depravity. What he’d find are families and friends attending a church service.

A warm welcome — a true show of Christianity — would be the most disconcerting thing that could happen to him. I suspect Jeffress will never take Hudson up on her invitation. Why ruin his good myth with a few facts?

—  David Taffet

Your vote in the 2012 Readers Voice Awards could win you a trip for two

The deadline to vote in our 2012 Readers Voice Awards is coming up fast. As in Jan. 28. Yes, that’s this coming Saturday. And doing so could get you up in the air.

Voters can enter to win a drawing for two American Airlines tickets good for travel in the US 48, Caribbean, Bahamas, Canada and Mexico. And that’s per each category. So you’re totally bumping up your chances and making your voice heard on what’s tops in the DFW gayborhoods (and beyond). And don’t forget to vote in the “My Gay Texas” photo contest for that image that best highlights the LGBT community.

Ready to vote? Then just click on DFWReadersVoice.com and get started. Good luck!

 

—  Rich Lopez

UPDATED: Rawlings won’t attend neighborhood meeting due to threat of LGBT protest

Daniel Cates

The fallout continues over Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ refusal to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.

Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ chief of staff, confirmed today that the mayor may cancel a neighborhood meeting scheduled for Kiest Park on Tuesday night, after LGBT activists threatened to stage a demonstration at the event.

Last week, Rawlings angered many in the LGBT community when he said that although he “personally” supports same-sex marriage, he won’t sign the pledge because his policy is to avoid social issues that don’t directly impact city government.

Dallas is the largest city in the nation whose mayor hasn’t signed the pledge unveiled by the national group Freedom to Marry during the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C.

“It doesn’t need to be a demonstration, it needs to be conversation,” Blackmon said. “He’s willing and he’s open to sit down and talk about it, but he doesn’t want it to be done in an atmosphere that’s not constructive.”

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for the LGBT direct action group GetEQUAL, said Blackmon contacted him this morning and offered a meeting with Rawlings if the group called off the demonstration.

Cates said he’s interested in meeting with the mayor, but when he refused to cancel the demonstration, Blackmon rescinded her offer.

“Preconditions are not acceptable,” Cates said. “We’ll meet him at Starbucks at midnight if that’s what it takes, but we’re not going to cancel a demonstration in order to have a meeting. [The LGBT] community is pretty outraged by this, and I think they have a right to express that. We’ll call off the demonstration if he signs the pledge.”

Blackmon said when it became clear that Cates wouldn’t settle for anything less than Rawlings signing the pledge, she decided it would be better to pursue a meeting with other LGBT leaders. “The mayor is not going to sign the pledge,” she said.

Blackmon added that it was still “up in the air” whether the mayor would cancel the Kiest Park meeting.

Cates, who’s also launched an online petition calling for Rawlings to sign the pledge, said if and when the Kiest Park neighborhood meeting is canceled, he’ll call off the demonstration. However, he said GetEQUAL will look for other opportunities to demonstrate, possibly outside City Hall.

“We are determined to escalate this if they continue to refuse to cooperate,” Cates said.

UPDATE: Blackmon confirmed this afternoon that Mayor Rawlings will not attend the Kiest Park community meeting.

She said residents who plan to attend the “Meet the Mayor” meeting want to talk about things like potholes and loose dogs, and it would be unfair to subject them to an LGBT demonstration.

“He just does not want to put them through that, so he plans to meet with them on a more individual basis,” Blackmon said.

She added that City Councilwoman Delia Jasso and Councilman Scott Griggs still plan to attend the Kiest Park meeting. She also said the mayor is reaching out to other LGBT community leaders to set up a meeting with them. However, she said it’s doubtful that the meeting with LGBT community leaders will be open to the media.

—  John Wright

Here’s the pledge in support of same-sex marriage that Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings refuses to sign

Houston Mayor Annise Parker is among the co-chairs of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry.

Jackie Yodashkin at Freedom to Marry sends along word that the group has now posted a list of 74 of the mayors who’ve signed its pledge in support of same-sex marriage, as well as the text of the pledge itself.

As many of us are painfully aware by now, the list doesn’t include Dallas’ Mike Rawlings, who says he “personally” supports same-sex marriage but doesn’t sign things related to social issues that don’t directly impact city affairs. Read our latest story here. (It’s worth noting that since we broke this story Wednesday, it’s been picked up by both the Dallas Morning News, which ran it on the front page of the Metro section today, and the Dallas Observer.)

Rawlings.Mike

Mike Rawlings

Rawlings has also posted a statement on his Facebook page further explaining his position: “Upon taking office, I made a conscious decision to focus on issues that create a healthy, viable city and not on those that are partisan and social in nature. I was asked to pledge my support to ‘Mayors for the Freedom to Marry’ in an effort to pressure state and federal entities to legalize marriage for same-sex couples. I decided not to sign onto that letter because that is inconsistent with my view of the duties of the office of the mayor. To be a world class city, we must be inclusive towards all citizens, including the LGBT community. Personally, I support the LGBT movement and its efforts for equal rights that they deserve.”

Judging by the 63 comments on Rawlings Facebook post, the LGBT community isn’t satisfied. As of this morning, 173 people had signed a Change.org petition calling for Rawlings to sign the pledge. There’s also a Facebook page where you can find contact information for the mayor’s office.

Yodashkin also said that Houston Mayor Annise Parker is now a co-chair of the campaign, called Mayors for the Freedom to Marry. And while Austin’s Lee Leffingwell hadn’t been added to the published list, Yodashkin told me Thursday that Leffingwell had signed the pledge. Yodashkin also mentioned that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will speak at a press conference at 9:45 Eastern time this morning to formally unveil the campaign. Is it possible that Rawlings will have a change of heart and show up, pen in hand? We’ll find out, but for now the full text of the pledge is below.

—  John Wright

Rawlings ‘personally’ supports marriage

Dallas mayor won’t sign pledge but says gay couples should have the right to wed

Rawlings.Mike

Mike Rawlings

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Although he declined to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage this week, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings declared Thursday, Jan. 19 that he personally supports the right of gay and lesbian couples to wed.

Rawlings has elected not to join a group of more than 75 mayors from across the country who’ve signed a pledge circulated by the group Freedom to Marry in conjunction with the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting this week in Washington, D.C.

Under fire from the LGBT community for not signing the pledge, Rawlings explained that since becoming mayor last year, it has been his policy to avoid partisan political issues or social debates that don’t directly impact city government.

“This one obviously was very difficult for me, because I personally believe in the rights of the gay community to marry,” Rawlings said Thursday in an exclusive interview by phone from Washington, where he was still attending the conference. “I think this [same-sex marriage] is way overdue and we need to get on with it, but that’s my personal belief, and when I start to speak on behalf of the city of Dallas … I’ve got to be thoughtful about how I use that office and what I want to impact, and that’s why I decided to stay away from endorsing and signing letters like that.”

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for the LGBT direct action group GetEQUAL, responded that if Rawlings really supports marriage equality, he should sign the pledge, which was set to be formally released at a press conference Friday morning, Jan. 20.

“I think he’s doing the same thing that a lot of politicians do, and that’s saying what he needs to say to get the LGBT vote,” Cates said.

After Dallas Voice reported on its website Wednesday night that Rawlings didn’t plan to sign the pledge, Cates launched a Facebook page and an online petition encouraging people to contact the mayor by phone, email and fax, and ask him to change his mind.

Cates said he may also organize a marriage demonstration outside City Hall in February — but was still hoping Rawlings would reverse course and sign the pledge on Friday.

“If he supports us, we need him to put his money where his mouth is,” Cates said. “Otherwise what he’s proving to me, personally, is that he supports us when it’s going to get him votes or money.”

Rawlings.Pride

SIGN OF SUPPORT | Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings throws beads while riding on the city float in the 2011 gay Pride parade. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

During his campaign last year, Rawlings said during a candidate forum that he voted against Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning both marriage and civil unions. But before Thursday, the closest Rawlings had come to publicly endorsing same-sex marriage was in an interview with Dallas Voice during his campaign, when he said he felt the issue was “irrelevant” and “we should get beyond it and let people do what they want to do.”

Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ chief of staff, said Thursday afternoon that 50 to 60 people had contacted the mayor’s office about the marriage pledge, with the vast majority saying he should sign it.

“People are communicating with us,” said Blackmon, who compared the public response to outcry over the city’s handling of the Occupy Dallas protests.

Rawlings said in addition to the LGBT community, he was getting pushback from his son and daughter, who he said were raised to reflect his personal beliefs about marriage equality.

“I’m catching a lot of grief in my family right now, just so you know, so I respect how people are feeling about this issue, and I understand it,” he said.

Other mayors who’ve signed the pledge include Michael Bloomberg of New York, Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, Annise Parker of Houston, Jerry Sanders of San Diego, Thomas Menino of Boston and Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles.

Jackie Yodashkin, a spokeswoman for Freedom to Marry, said the full list of mayors who’ve signed the pledge would be revealed during Friday’s press conference to kick off the campaign, called Mayors for the Freedom to Marry.

However, Yodashkin told Dallas Voice that as of Thursday, Houston’s Parker and Austin’s Lee Leffingwell were the only ones from Texas who’d signed the pledge. About 20 mayors from Texas, including Fort Worth’s Betsy Price, pre-registered for the Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, according to the website.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

LGBT history project comes into focus

The Dallas Way elects board and officers, unveils model 1-page entry

history

HISTORY BUFFS | The newly appointed board and officers of The Dallas Way are, from left, back row, Jay Forte, Mike Grossman, Stan Aten, Robert Emery, Ann Faye, Mike Anglin, Evilu Pridgeon, Bruce Monroe and Buddy Mullino; and from left, front row, Rebecca Covell, Carl Parker, George Harris and Jack Evans. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

For almost a year, members of Dallas’ LGBT community have been meeting informally to begin a project to collect and archive the community’s history.

On Tuesday, Jan. 17, The Dallas Way formalized itself by electing a board of directors and officers and filing for nonprofit status.

A year ago Jack Evans, now president of The Dallas Way, and his partner George Harris celebrated their 50th anniversary. The couple told their story in the Dallas Voice and on the radio, and Evans concluded that the interest people showed was really an interest in the broader topic of Dallas LGBT history.

The Dallas Way board member Robert Emery said, “We need to focus and clarify and collect our history to strengthen our community and to be a source of inspiration for the young.”

Bruce Monroe, who served as president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance in the early 1990s, created a Facebook page to promote the group and begin collecting stories.

Emery said the final account of the events, groups and people that make up Dallas LGBT history will be scholarly studies compiled and approved by a committee.

Emery’s vision for the group is that The Dallas Way will accurately tell the story of the community and be a reliable source for researchers in the future.

“If you see our stamp in an archive, we hope that will be the definitive story on that subject,” he said.

Writing the history of the community may seem like a daunting task, but Emery said each entry will be just one page.

“I’m not asking you to write a book,” Emery said. But he added that keeping some entries to one page might prove just as difficult as writing a comprehensive history.

Attorney Rebecca Covell, who was also elected to The Dallas Way’s board on Tuesday, called each entry “a gay wiki page.”

One of DGLA’s founders, Mike Anglin, produced the group’s first entry — the story of Bill Nelson. Anglin’s one-page document summarizes the contributions of the man for whom the health clinic on Cedar Springs

Road is named. But Anglin said that links in the article will refer readers to additional one-page stories — Nelson as the first openly gay man to run for Dallas city council, his Cedar Springs store Crossroads Market, how the food pantry began as a shelf in Crossroads Market and many other contributions he made to the community.

To research the story, Anglin called Nelson’s mother, Jean, who is now in her 80s and lives in Houston. She told Anglin she was relieved that he contacted her because she wanted her son’s memory preserved. She sent him boxes of photos and other memorabilia of his activist work — from a laminated copy of a Dallas Times Herald magazine cover to a mock-up of the quilt panel she designed for her son and his partner, Terry Tebedo.

Board member Stan Aten contacted the University of North Texas, which agreed to work with The Dallas Way to help archive and digitize the material.

Two high school students attended Tuesday’s meeting who are members of the Booker T. Washington and Greenhill School Gay Straight Alliances.

Booker T. senior Truett Davis said he became interested in learning about the Dallas LGBT community beyond his GSA when DGLA President Patti Fink and Resource Center Dallas Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox spoke at his school.

“This will give perspective to young people about what has taken place,” Davis said. “This will tell us what has taken place and help us solve problems in the future. What’s already been done is important.”
The Dallas Way meets the first Tuesday of the month in the Park Room, Park Tower Condominiums, 3310 Fairmount Street at 7 p.m. Interested community members are welcome to attend a meeting or contact the group through its Facebook page.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Chicago Cardinal who compared gays to the Klan issues apology

Cardinal Francis George

Several weeks ago, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago made comments comparing gays to members of the Ku Klux Klan. He later revised that statement to comparing gay marches to Klan marches in neighborhoods where they were unwelcome.

Really? Gays are unwelcome in Boystown in Chicago or Oak Lawn in Dallas?

Our friends at New Ways Ministries, a Catholic organization working for gay and lesbian equality within the Catholic Church, sent us an update with an apology by the Cardinal.

During a recent TV interview, speaking about this year’s Gay Pride Parade, I used an analogy that is inflammatory.

I am personally distressed that what I said has been taken to mean that I believe all gays and lesbians are like members of the Klan. I do not believe that; it is obviously not true. Many people have friends and family members who are gay or lesbian, as have I. We love them; they are part of our lives, part of who we are. I am deeply sorry for the hurt that my remarks have brought to the hearts of gays and lesbians and their families.

I can only say that my remarks were motivated by fear for the Church’s liberty. This is a larger topic that cannot be explored in this expression of personal sorrow and sympathy for those who were wounded by what I said.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministries, wrote, “The significance of this action is immense.  For the first time that I can remember, a prelate has acknowledged that words and ideas he has used in regard to the LGBT community were harmful, and he has apologized for the hurt they caused.”

He went on to suggest that if the cardinal is truly sorry, he could meet “parade-goers in front of Our Lady of Mount Carmel church on the day of the parade, and pass out water to them.”

In an update to the apology, DeBernardo published a comment the cardinal made to the local press.

“George said although church teaching does not judge same-sex relationships as morally acceptable, it does encourage the faithful to ‘respect everyone,’” DeBernardo wrote.

He wrote that he hoped the apology was “the first step toward greater reconciliation between the LGBT community and the Catholic hierarchy.”

—  David Taffet

Anable applying for top spot at HRC

Fairness Fort Worth president knows he is new to the activism game, but says there is no denying his passion for the work

Anable-vertical-1-col

Tom Anable

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH  — As 2010 came to an end a year ago, longtime CPA and newly minted gay rights activist Tom Anable came to a momentous decision: He decided to sell his accounting business and spend the next year focusing on activism full time.

Now that year is over, and Anable has made another decision that could change his life again: He is applying for the top position at the Human Rights Campaign.

When HRC President Joe Solmonese announced that he was resigning, effective March 2012, Anable said, “My first thought was, ‘I pity the fool who has to try and fill those shoes.’ Now, three months later, I have started the process to apply myself.”

Anable said Thursday afternoon, Jan. 5, that he had sent his resume to the executive recruiting firm hired by HRC to help in the hiring process. Within 30 minutes, he said, he had been called for an in-depth phone interview, after which he was told his resume is being forwarded to the HRC search committee for review.

“I passed step one. Next step will be early February,” Anable said.
For most of his adult life, Anable said, he had focused his attention on his work. He knew he was gay, but he avoided the political and activist side of the LGBT community completely. Then came June 29, 2009, the night that agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and officers with Fort Worth Police Department raided the Rainbow Lounge on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

As the accountant for Rainbow Lounge, Anable was in the bar the night of the raid, checking receipts. What he saw that night left him shaken and scared — and angry. Within days, Anable had stepped across the line into activism and was helping create a new organization, Fairness Fort Worth, that has since helped revitalize the LGBT community in Tarrant County. And Anable spent the last year as Fairness Fort Worth president.

“It’s been a wild 2 ½ years,” Anable said this week.

Anable said that he first began considering applying for the position of HRC president in mid-December after discussions with some HRC board members while he was in Washington, D.C. for meetings.

“They told me I should apply. At first, I thought, no way. But when I read the job description, I realized, hey, I actually am qualified for this job. I actually do meet the qualifications in this job description,” he said.

When he came back home to Fort Worth and discussed the possibility with friends here, Anable said, he got nothing but encouragement in return: “Carol West, Jon Nelson, [Fort Worth Police] Chief Halstead — they all said I should apply.”

Still, Anable said, “It took me at least a week to wrap my head around the idea, to decide whether this is something I really want to do,” he said. “I did a lot of soul-searching about this. It was a very sobering moment for me, an unbelievable moment for me personally, to realize that in just 2 ½ years I have gone from being just a CPA to being an activist and president of Fairness Fort Worth, to the point where I actually feel qualified enough to even think about applying to HRC.”

Anable readily acknowledges that he is very new to the world of activism and nonprofit management, and he acknowledges that he “may not be what they are looking for” when it comes to the HRC presidency.

“But I do believe that I can apply and be seriously considered. I may be new to this, but no one can deny my passion, and this is a passion I have never had for anything in my life before,” Anable said. “Accounting is not something you get passionate about. Doing tax returns is not a passionate calling. But this, activism, this is about passion.”

Anable said that he knows the HRC board has recently completed a strategic assessment to
decide “what kind of leader they want” to bring in to replace Solmonese. “I don’t know what they’ve decided, and I know I may not be it. What are my odds of getting the job? Probably not that good because I haven’t been doing this very long. But I am going to try.

“All I know is that I am going to apply. If I make the first cut, I’ll say, ‘Thank God.’ If I make the second cut, I’ll say, ‘Thank God.’ And if I get the job, I’ll say, ‘Oh, God!’” he laughed. “But if I do get it, I know I will love every minute of it.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

What’s on tap for 2012?

Court cases on both coasts will impact marriage equality, while November elections could mean continued progress legislatively — or a time of backsliding

Inside-Cover

WAITING GAME | Members of the anti-Prop 8 legal team, from left, Therese Stewart, Chad Griffin, David Boies, Ted Butros and Ted Olson, speak during a news conference after a hearing in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Dec. 6, 2010, in San Francisco. Thirteen months later, the 9th Circuit judges are expected to issue opinions any day now on whether Prop 8 proponents have legal standing to appeal the trial court ruling, and whether Judge Vaughn Walker was correct in declaring the anti-gay-marriage amendment unconstitutional. (Eric Risberg/Associated Press)

Lisa Keen  | Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com
Significant events are crowding the calendar for 2012, and each promises considerable drama and suspense for the LGBT community.
Here are the 10 most important, from a national perspective, to keep an eye on:

• The next decisions on Proposition 8: A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals could release its opinions any day now. That’s “opinions,” plural.
Before the panel can rule on the constitutionality of California’s law banning marriage for same-sex couples, it must decide whether the Yes on 8 coalition has legal standing to appeal the federal court ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional, and it must decide whether there is any justification for Yes on 8’s request that the lower court decision be vacated.
The list of possible outcomes in Perry v. Brown — the case brought by the American Foundation for Equal Rights with famed attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies leading the charge — is mind-boggling. Whatever the results, any or all aspects could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court immediately or they could be appealed to a full 9th Circuit bench and then to the Supreme Court.
But the panel’s decision will almost certainly have political impact, too. Not only will it affect the momentum of the marriage equality movement, it will almost certainly become fodder in the presidential campaigns.

• The decision, on appeal, in DOMA: A three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments, perhaps as soon as early February, in a powerful challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act’s denial of federal benefits to same-sex married couples.
The challenge, referred to most often as Gill v. OPM, is actually three consolidated cases, two brought by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and one by the state of Massachusetts.
While there are other challenges under way to DOMA, this is the “big guns” challenge and the one most likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court first. And while there is no deadline by which the panel must render its decision, it is likely to turn out one by year’s end.
Then, as with Proposition 8, the case could go to the full circuit court on appeal or straight to the Supreme Court. And, if the appeals court decision is rendered before the November elections, it will almost certainly provoke debate on the presidential campaign trail.

• Tammy Baldwin’s historic Senate bid: U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin is not the first openly gay person to run for U.S. Senate, but she’s the first who has a real chance of winning.
The daily Capital Times is already referring to her as the “likely” Democratic nominee to fill the seat being vacated by Democrat Herb Kohl. She doesn’t have a challenger for the nomination. But she will have a very tough battle against whomever the Republicans put on the ballot.
That’s because the battle will be for more than just one seat in the powerful U.S. Senate, which currently has a breakdown of 53 in the Democratic Caucus and 47 in the Republican. It will be part of a multi-state slugfest between the parties over control of the chamber, the Congress and the nation’s laws.

• The fight for the Senate: Polls at the moment indicate voters are inclined to vote for Democrats over Republicans next November. But that sentiment is not providing a large margin — one or two points —  and it’s too soon to guess who the voters will blame for what 11 months from now.
But some Senate races — in addition to Tammy Baldwin’s — could have big consequences for LGBT voters.
In Virginia, a pro-gay former governor, Tim Kaine, will likely be pitted against an anti-gay former senator, George Allen. In Massachusetts, a pro-gay challenger, Elizabeth Warren, will almost certainly be the Democrat facing incumbent Scott Brown, whose attitude toward the community has been much less friendly.
And at least seven other states are expected to have competitive races for the Senate.

• Counting the “Gay Caucus”: U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., will be starting his 40th year in Congress when the House reconvenes Jan. 17. And it will be his last.
Frank announced last year that he is retiring at the end of his term. When he does, the clique of four openly gay members of Congress — Frank, Baldwin and Reps. Jared Polis and David Cicilline — will shrink by one. If Baldwin fails to win a Senate seat, it could shrink by half.
But there are prospects for adding members. Openly gay Wisconsin Democratic Assemblymember Mark Pacon is running for Baldwin’s U.S. House seat. And there are three other openly LGBT candidates for the U.S. House this November: Marko Liias from Seattle, Mark Takano from Riverside, Calif., and Kyrsten Sinema from Phoenix.
So, the number of openly gay members of Congress could go from four to as low as two (though zero is, technically, possible) to as high as seven. But no one will have the seniority and clout that Frank has had — and has used — to advance pro-gay measures.

• On hold, and on defense, in Congress: Pro-LGBT bills — such as efforts to repeal DOMA and pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — are not likely to see much action in 2012. But anti-gay measures might.
Why? Because it’s an election year and Republicans still control the House. And supportive Democrats will not be inclined to push controversial legislation during an election year, because it can detract from the focus on jobs and the economy, where most voters want focus right now.
Republicans, on the other hand, have often used hostile measures aimed at gays during election years as a way of putting Democrats on the spot with voters generally and gays specifically.

• Ballot battles abound: There will be important LGBT-related ballot measures before voters in several states this year.
North Carolina and Minnesota will vote on whether to ban same-sex marriage through amendments to their state constitutions. Voters in Maine will decide whether to strike down their existing ban on same-sex marriage.
LGBT activists in Washington State are gathering signatures to put a measure on that state’s ballot to gain marriage equality. A small group in California has until May 15 to gather more than 800,000 signatures to put a measure on the ballot there to repeal Proposition 8.
And the California Attorney General is expected to announce by Jan. 9 whether opponents of a new bill to include information about LGBT figures in history as part of the public school curriculum can begin circulating petitions to get a repeal measure on the ballot there.
All of these have the potential to be big, expensive and consequential battles.

• Fight for freedom of religion: The right-wing Alliance Defense Fund and others have a concerted effort under way in the courts to undermine laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Their strategy is to argue that people who discriminate against LGBT people do so because their religious beliefs require them to do so. Their question to the court is, “What rules? The First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion or the equal protection clause that says all citizens should be treated equally under the law?”
One case has already reached the U.S. Supreme Court and failed, but other cases — many other cases — are winding their way through nearly every circuit in the country. And their outcomes have the potential to chip away at the strength of the nation’s legal mandate that all people be treated equally.

Tammy-and-Obama

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, left, President Barack Obama, right

• A fight for the White House: The difference for LGBT people between having President Barack Obama in the White House and President George W. Bush has been stark. So the consequences of November’s presidential election will also be profound.
Either Obama stays, and things continue to improve — in law and in society’s attitudes — or a new president is elected from a field of Republicans who seem, at times, to be vying for the mantle of most gay-hostile candidate.
In the latter case, LGBT people can expect progress to halt or backslide.

• Ah, the unpredictable: One of the bigger LGBT stories of 2011 happened in February, and it was one nobody expected: The Obama administration announced it considered DOMA unconstitutional and would not argue for its defense in most cases.
Another big story that no one expected: The Obama administration announced a major new diplomatic mission to push for protection of human rights for LGBT people around the world.

And given that Rep. Frank said in January 2011 he’d run for re-election in 2012, it was a surprise, in November, when he announced that he would not. As Frank pointed out, circumstances change.

Circumstances change, things change, people change. And often, they change each other.

But history marches on through time, and only in retrospect can any trajectory be certain as to where it’s going.

© 2012 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

 

—  Kevin Thomas