Marriage Momentum in Rhode Island

The following is from Laura Kiritsy, Manager of Public Education at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders in New England:

The momentum for marriage equality was palpable at the Rhode Island State House yesterday!

A Rhode Island State Trooper policing the building’s entrance commented late in the evening that it was the biggest crowd he’d ever seen, and indeed supporters and opponents turned out en masse to weigh in on a marriage equality bill and competing legislation that would allow Rhode Islanders to vote on allowing same-sex couples access to civil marriage rights.

Arriving at the Capitol, I had to brave a half-hour of frigid temps waiting in a massive line of people three and four abreast that stretched from the State House down the length of the plaza to Smith Street, so I missed the big rally organized by our friends at Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI) and MassEquality. But the sight inside warmed my heart, as I was greeted by a throng of mostly marriage equality supporters holding colorful pro-equality signs (“Vote for Love!” “Love Thy Constituent,” “Grandparents for Marriage Equality”) aloft in the Rotunda, beneath a massive banner emblazoned with the words Gov. Lincoln Chafee spoke at his inauguration last month: “When marriage equality is the law in Rhode Island, we honor our forefathers who risked their lives and fortune in the pursuit of human equality.”

The marathon hearing before the House Judiciary Committee lasted from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. GLAD Senior Staff Attorney Karen Loewy was in the packed hearing room until after midnight to deliver testimony – long after I had to hop the Amtrak home. Karen spoke poignantly and powerfully against putting the question of marriage rights for same-sex couples on the ballot, basing her testimony on what GLAD witnessed during Maine’s 2009 ballot initiative campaign. She shared how a lesbian couple from suburban Portland awoke the morning after being profiled in their local paper to find their front door, front stairs, driveway and mailbox smeared with human excrement. Though the police suspected a hate crime, the couple was too fearful to take any action on the crime.

“Unfortunately, this kind of incident was not unique,” Karen told the committee. “Nor was the impact on the gay and lesbian families of Maine solely physical. The campaign meant months of walking on egg shells, wondering if the person in front of them in the grocery store check out line was going to vote to maintain their status as second class citizens. For their children, it meant waking up the morning after the vote, and having their parents struggle to explain what this vote meant for their family. Imagine having to reassure your children that you will do everything in your power to keep your family safe and protected, knowing that a majority of people who came out to the ballot box deemed you unworthy to receive the same basic legal protections that every other family receives.”

There were plenty of high points from the testimony that I heard, but my favorite marriage equality supporters were a pair of middle-school teens — Noah Barreto, 13, and Samantha Rodriguez, age 14. Perhaps in response to opponents who believe that the only good parents are biological, heterosexual parents, Noah told the committee that he knows kids of gay parents, “and they’re just like the kids of straight parents.” Samantha spoke of the importance of creating an environment where all people would be accepted. “Being gay is not bad,” she said at one point. She wrapped up with, “All in all, I’m in support of marriage equality.” This is our future!

To be sure, there were low points supplied mainly by the anti-gay professionals. There was NOM’s sex-obsessed Maggie Gallagher: “Men and women have sex, they make babies.” Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council asserted that marriage equality would force Rhode Island taxpayers and businesses to “subsidize homosexual relationships and their higher health care costs.” The NOM-affiliated Ruth Institute’s Jennifer Roback Morse basically insisted that marriage equality would bring about the ruin of parenting as we know it, and, by the way, “the vast majority of African Americans completely reject same-sex marriage.”

“In my view, history will not be kind” to lawmakers who support marriage equality, Roback Morse told the committee. I think Noah and Samantha might disagree.

Rhode Islanders, send a message to your state legislators in support of marriage equality now and ask your friends, family members and colleagues to do the same.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  David Taffet

Momentum Grows for Stand-Alone DADT Repeal Bill; Now 40 Co-Sponsors

The effort to pass “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal legislation as a stand-alone measure is gaining momentum with 40 bipartisan cosponsors already.  Last week after the Senate failed to take up the Defense Authorization Bill to which DADT repeal language is attached, Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) led a group of Senators in proposing an alternative legislative strategy that would pass repeal language apart from the defense bill.  The new measure is S.4023.

The following is a list of cosponsors as of December 13:

  • Sen. Daniel Akaka, (D-HI)
  • Sen. Michael Bennet, (D-CO)
  • Sen. Jeff Bingaman, (D-NM)
  • Sen. Barbara Boxer, (D-CA)
  • Sen. Sherrod Brown, (D-OH)
  • Sen. Maria Cantwell, (D-WA)
  • Sen. Benjamin Cardin, (D-MD)
  • Sen. Robert Casey, (D-PA)
  • Sen. Susan Collins, (R-ME)
  • Sen. Chris Coons, (D-DE)
  • Sen. Chris Dodd, (D-CT)
  • Sen. Richard Durbin, (D-IL)
  • Sen. Russ Feingold, (D-WI)
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA)
  • Sen. Al Franken, (D-MN)
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, (D-NY)
  • Sen. Kay Hagan, (D-NC)
  • Sen. Tom Harkin, (D-IA)
  • Sen. John Kerry, (D-MA)
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, (D-MN)
  • Sen. Mary Landrieu, (D-LA)
  • Sen. Frank Lautenberg, (D-NJ)
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-VT)
  • Sen. Carl Levin, (D-MI)
  • Sen. Joseph Lieberman, (I-CT)
  • Sen. Blanche Lincoln, (D-AR)
  • Sen. Robert Menendez, (D-NJ)
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley, (D-OR)
  • Sen. Barbara Mikulski, (D-MD)
  • Sen. Patty Murray, (D-WA)
  • Sen. Harry Reid, (D-NV)
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-VT)
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, (D-NY)
  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, (D-NH)
  • Sen. Arlen Specter, (D-PA)
  • Sen. Debbie Stabenow, (D-MI)
  • Sen. Mark Udall, (D-CO)
  • Sen. Tom Udall, (D-NM)
  • Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, (D-RI)
  • Sen. Ron Wyden, (D-OR)

“The already large and growing number of my colleagues who are quickly signing on to this bill shows the high level of continuing commitment to repealing DADT before Congress goes home this year,” said Senator Lieberman.

“Like our closest allies, the United States’ Armed Forces should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable of serving our country,” said Sen. Collins.  “After hearing powerful testimony from Secretary of Defense Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen, and reviewing the results of the Pentagon report, I remain convinced that the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy,’ implemented under President Clinton, should be repealed.  And, I agree with Secretary Gates that the issue should be decided by Congress, not the courts.”

“The strong list of initial co-sponsors adds momentum to getting legislative repeal of DADT done this year,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.  “Now the question is whether the Senate and House will take up this measure quickly and get it to the President’s desk.  There should be no excuses for inaction. The one true measure of success is allowing patriotic men and women the opportunity to lend their talents in service to their country.  We’ll soon find out if promises made will be promises kept.”


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

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

Momentum Continues for Lame Duck DADT Repeal

Today a coalition of groups working on repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law released a joint statement pointing out that momentum for repeal in the lame duck session of Congress is continuing.  The statement from the Human Rights Campaign, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Servicemembers United, the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Third Way came after last evening’s reaffirmation of the Senate leadership and the White House’s commitment to end DADT, along with this morning’s Senate press conference.

There is no reason why the Senate cannot complete the work of repeal this year which is supported by nearly eighty percent of Americans, said the groups.

This morning, advocates joined Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Mark Udall (D-CO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Roland Burris (D-IL), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Chris Coons (D-DE) in calling for action on the National Defense Authorization Act – the bill to which DADT repeal is attached – before the end of the year.  Sen. Lieberman said, “We are here to make clear that the reports of death of the movement to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ have been greatly exaggerated”

Last evening, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) welcomed the Majority Leader’s announcement of his intention to bring the NDAA to the floor following the Thanksgiving recess.  He announced he would hold a hearing in early December on the report of the Pentagon Working Group studying DADT implementation.  Media reports on a draft copy of the report last week indicated that troops are not opposed to repeal and that doing away with the policy will be a non-event for the military – an expectation buttressed by the experiences of other countries that have repealed gay bans including the United Kingdom, Australia and Israel.

At a confirmation hearing this morning for Gen. Carter Ham, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), who originally voted against DADT repeal in committee but for the NDAA, said: “I can’t, again having spent five years in the Pentagon; I can’t remember a study on this type of issue that has been done with this sort of care. Not even having seen it or knowing the results, but I know the preparation that went into it. So it’s going to be a very important study for us to look at and examine.”  Gen. Ham concurred saying the study was, “the most comprehensive assessment of a personnel policy matter that the Department of Defense has conducted.” 

At the Pentagon, spokesman Geoff Morrell today reinforced the Pentagon’s support for repeal this year saying, “that’s what we as an administration are pushing for, and we certainly see the merit in using that as the legislative vehicle to ultimately get to repeal.”


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

Concert Notice: Lady Gaga openers Semi Precious Weapons come back on their own

Most people probably hadn’t heard of Semi Precious Weapons until Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball Tour. They opened for her gaining big-time exposure. But their live act didn’t translate so well in the huge venue of American Airlines Center when they were here this past July. Their indie glam rock isn’t the stuff of sports venues, but definitely for the likes of The Loft.

SPW is keeping up its Gaga momentum with some tour dates of their own. They hit Dallas (again) later this month and then come back with Gaga next March. Perhaps by then, they’ll accept their growing fame and kick out a bigger show. They work much better in closer quarters. “Sexually fluid” frontman Justin Tranter is a must-see in high heels — especially up close.

The Loft, 1135 S. Lamar St., Sept. 23 at 8:30 p.m. All ages. $15–$17. TheLoftDallas.com.

—  Rich Lopez