This Week in Marriage Equality

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Dozens of people showed up for National Organization for Marriage’s annual March for Marriage — heterosexual-only marriage, that is.

Among the high-profile participants was Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, who apparently participated mostly to piss off the majority of his own city’s population as well as his congresswoman, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom who pleaded with him not to attend.

Presbyterians

The Presbyterian Church voted on Wednesday to allow pastors to marry same-sex couples in states where it’s legal. That must now be passed by a majority of the 172 local U.S. presbyteries.

Michigan

In a brief filed in Michigan’s marriage-equality case, 14 Republicans, including former state legislators, said conservative “values are advanced by recognizing civil marriage rights for same-sex couples,” not harmed.

“Providing access to civil marriage for same-sex couples poses no credible threat to religious freedom or to the institution of religious marriage,” they wrote in their brief.

Arizona

What the hell is going on with Republican Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona. First, she vetoed anti-gay legislation and now she says it’s time for legal protection.

HRC reported that on Tuesday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer acknowledged that Arizona laws do not prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and suggested that it might be time to change that.

“I do not believe in discrimination,” Brewer said. “We are in the United States of America and we have great privilege that is afforded to everyone.

Sixth Circuit

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals announced Monday they will heard all five cases pending before the court on August 6.

The court will hear cases from all four states in the circuit: DeBoer v. Snyder from Michigan; Bourke v. Beshear in Kentucky; Tanco v. Haslam in Tennessee; and both Henry v. Himes and Obergefell v. Himes in Ohio.

Both sides in the Michigan and Ohio cases will get 30 minutes to argue their case, while both sides in Kentucky and Tennessee will get 15 minutes.

—  David Taffet

Ohio couples want marriages recognized on birth certificates

Timothy_Black_District_Judge

Judge Timothy Black

In most states where judges have ruled that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, they have ordered the state to begin issuing licenses. In Ohio, one ruling last December was sweeping but implemented narrowly.

In that case Judge Timothy Black ruled that once a couple marries in one state, another state can’t take the marriage away.

Two couples sued Ohio to recognize their out-of-state marriages for the purpose of a death certificate.

Although he wrote that the ban on marriage equality was unconstitutional, he limited his ruling to the two couples for the purpose of the death certificate.

Now, more couples have sued, but the strategy in that state seems to be to chip away at the ban one right at a time.

Four couples are suing the state to recognize their out-of-state marriages for the purposes of a birth certificate. Three of the couples live in Ohio and are expecting a child through insemination. The fourth couple lives in New York and adopted a child born in Ohio.

 

The couples suing for proper birth certificates are represented by the same attorney who won the death certificate case.

—  David Taffet

Marriage equality gains legal ground in three states

Federal judges in three states advanced marriage equality lawsuits Monday.Marriage-Equality-Bumper-Sticker-(7423)

One of two lawsuits challenging Virginia’s ban on recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples advanced after a federal judge denied the state’s motion to dismiss the case. Judge Michael Urbanski of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia (Harrisonburg) issued a 17-page memorandum, saying, “It is abundantly clear that plaintiffs’ alleged harm is actual, concrete, and particularized.”

Harris v. McDonnell is a challenge organized by Lambda Legal and the ACLU for two lesbian couples. One couple would like to marry in Virginia; the other has married in the District of Columbia and would like their marriage recognized in Virginia.

Citing sovereign immunity, the judge did dismiss the suit as it was applied to Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, but the lawsuit will proceed with chief defendant Thomas Roberts, the clerk of the Staunton Circuit Court and Janet Rainey, the state registrar.

In Ohio, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black issued a 50-page decision, saying the state constitution’s ban on recognizing same-sex married couples violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection.

The lawsuit was Obergefell v. Wymyslo, in which two surviving spouses sought the right to be identified as such on the death certificates of their spouses.

Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in U.S. v. Windsor, Black said, “It is beyond debate that it is constitutionally prohibited to single out and disadvantage an unpopular group.”

Black issued a permanent injunction against the state from refusing to identify a deceased person’s same-sex spouse on his death certificate.

“Dying with an incorrect death certificate that prohibits the deceased Plaintiffs from being buried with dignity constitutes irreparable harm,” Black wrote. Ohio Attorney General Michael DeWine said the state will appeal the decision to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

And in Utah, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby denied Utah’s request to delay the effect of his December 20 order that the state stop enforcing its ban on same-sex couples marrying.

The Salt Lake City Tribune reported that shortly after Shelby denied the stay, “hundreds” of same-sex couples began applying for marriage licenses around the state.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s administration then asked the Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to issue a stay of Shelby’s order, pending the state’s appeal of Shelby’s decision that the ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.

LISA KEEN  |  Keen News Service

—  Steve Ramos

As we prep our Family Life section, another non-bio lesbian mom loses access to child

We here at Dallas Voice are hard at work this week getting ready to publish our first-ever Family Life special section. That’s why this news story about a non-bio lesbian mom in Ohio losing access to her child had a special resonance for me this week.

Michelle Hobbs and Kelly Mullen had a child together in 2005, with Mullen as the biological mother who conceived through in vitro. But even though Mullen had signed a health-care power of attorney, a general durable power of attorney and will where she nominated Hobbs as the child’s guardian, when the two women split up, Mullen still decided to cut off contact between Hobbs and her child. And on Tuesday, the Ohio Supreme Court said Mullen could get away with that.

(By the way, the two women took out a second mortgage on the home they owned to pay for the in vitro fertilization process.)

Justice Robert Cupp, writing the opinion for the majority in the 4-3 decision, said, “Hobbs was a nonparent under Ohio law despite her active role in raising and caring for the child.” The court also said that because Mullen never finalized Hobbs’ parental rights in a legally binding contract, she had the right to end Hobbs’ parental role with the child when the two women split.

This, of course, isn’t the only case where a biological parent decided to cut off a non-bio parent’s access to children the two had raised together. But it seems especially timely to me, given the special section we are getting ready to publish. So if you and your partner have — or are considering having — children, be sure and check out Friday’s issue of Dallas Voice. We’ll have information in that issue on legal ways to protect yourself, your partner and your children, as well as other articles pertaining to various aspects of “family life” in all its forms in the LGBT community.

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Ohio Congressman Targets D.C. Marriage Equality

JIM JORDAN X390 (FAIR) | ADVOCATE.COMSocial conservatives in Congress may push to roll back marriage rights for same-sex couples in Washington, D.C.  
Advocate.com: Daily News

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Veterans Across Ohio Push Senator Voinovich to Stand Up for Repeal

Yesterday, HRC held simultaneous public forums with veterans affected by the harmful “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy in Cleveland and Columbus.  The events, covered by local media, were held at the Cleveland City Hall where Senator George Voinovich cut his political teeth decades ago as Cleveland Mayor, and the Ohio Statehouse where he served as Governor.  Repeal advocates wanted to respectfully remind the Senator that he has bucked the more conservative elements of his party when it was the right thing to do – as it is the right thing to do with repealing this discriminatory law.

In Cleveland, Major General Dennis Laich and Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman were joined by four Ohio veterans who stood up to tell their stories and make their voices heard.  Brian Tupaz, Robert Tackett, Marie Bohousch and Mark Szabo each took to the stage to share publicly their personal experience with DADT.  Their stories serve as a painful reminder of how this law has failed our service members and our country.

Two and a half hours south by southwest, at the Ohio Statehouse, Claudia Mason and David Goetz echoed those in Cleveland and called on Senator Voinovich to publicly declare his support for DADT repeal. They reminded him that he has stood on the side of equality before, voting in favor of the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hates Crimes Prevention Act last year, and should honor the 14,000 service members who have been discharged under this discriminatory law by voting to end this law.

Claudia, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel from Dayton, is a straight ally and is outspoken about the importance of repealing this law. She called on Senator Voinovich to join his fellow Buckeye, Senator Sherrod Brown and listen to the recommendation from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary Gates in supporting repeal this year.

Also this week, members of the Columbus steering committee joined Collin and me at the Ohio Democratic Party offices to call repeal supporters and urge them to call on Senator Voinovich to support repeal this year. If you’re a Buckeye, make your voice heard by calling Senator Voinovich at 202.224.3353.

We’ll be putting the pressure on Senator Voinovich and urging him to join the ranks of supportive Republicans like Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year. Now is the last opportunity for Voinovich to stand on the side of equality. With a vote in the Senate on repeal of DADT expected as early as Saturday morning, Senator Voinovich needs to hear from you NOW!


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Ramping Up DADT Repeal Action in Ohio

We’re literally in the final stretch and even though we’ve been in Ohio for months, it’s now or never in convincing Senator George Voinovich to do the right thing and vote for repeal.  Not only is Congress about to adjourn for the session, but Voinovich is retiring from the Senate and elected office after a storied career as an Ohio public servant.

HRC has three staff on the ground in Ohio for this final push.  While I am coordinating our efforts in Cleveland, Adrian Matanza and Collin Burton are in Columbus.  We’re coordinating phone banks and letter writing activities to generate constituent contacts, as well as planning significant public forums with Ohio veterans, telling their stories about life under DADT and calling on Senator Voinovich to vote for repeal.

I arrived yesterday and immediately got to work.  While I began planning our veterans’ forum at the Cleveland City Hall for this Thursday at noon, Adrian and Collin were setting up a similar event in Columbus at the State Capitol for a Thursday at noon kickoff as well.  Voinovich cut his political teeth as the Mayor here in Cleveland before moving to the Statehouse as Governor and we want to remind him that he represents all Ohioans.

Last night, I was honored to be able to attend and speak with Cleveland PFLAG about our repeal efforts and mobilize them to take action by contacting the senator.  More than 30 people attended the meeting and all of them want Senator Voinovich to vote for repeal.

Voinovich has a reputation as somewhat of an independent thinker by Ohioans – someone who is not afraid to buck his party to do the right thing.  Now he has the opportunity to do just that and vote for the standalone repeal bill (S. 4023) and represent all Ohioans by allowing all our service members to serve with equal dignity and respect.  It’s time for the senator to stand up and make his position known on this bill.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Ohio Veterans Meet with Senator Voinovich’s Staff

For the past two weeks, gay and straight veterans in Ohio have been meeting with Senator Voinovich’s senior district staff to tell their stories of serving under the discriminatory regime of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and to urge the Senator to make ending this discriminatory law a part of his legacy.

The stories they told are ones I’ve heard from veterans across the country—and they are chilling. One man had planned his whole life to serve in the United States Army and proudly enlisted after high school even though he knew he was gay. He believed he could keep his identity hidden and still serve his country. Yet, after years of secrecy, where even his closest friends were kept at arms distance, he turned suicidal. Gratefully he lived to tell his story, but sadly others don’t.

Another young former Marine talked about how proud she was to carry on her family’s tradition of serving in the armed forces. After years of service in a job she loved however, she chose not to reenlist because of the grave emotional and mental strain of always lying. Both of these highly- trained and accomplished veterans are eager to return to uniform when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is repealed.

We learned in these meetings–which built on previous meetings earlier in the year both in Ohio and during the HRC/Servicemembers United Veterans Lobby Day in Washington, D.C.– that Senator Voinovich has come to understand that we are hurting our military readiness by not allowing smart, capable, trained men and women to serve. We believe that he is inclined to vote for repeal, but he still needs to hear from veterans and family members across Ohio to ensure that his vote will indeed be one of which he can be proud—one that will allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces of the United States of America and will do away with, once and for all, a shameful legacy of discrimination. Please call Senator Voinovich today to tell him your story.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Ohio State University Students Work for DADT Repeal

Every time I get the opportunity to work with university students, I feel renewed hope for our future.  Their passion for social change together with what might be called, ironically ,a blasé attitude towards LGBT people –an utter embrace and welcome of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities to the degree that it’s a total nonissue— is so refreshing.

They are also willing to take action when they see injustice, which is what the Ohio State University Democrats did at the conclusion of their recent meeting – making phone calls and writing letters to Senator Voinovich urging him to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  They also joined me at the Veterans’ Day rally at the Ohio Statehouse this week.

These talented, open, affirming and engaged students at OSU are our future, and I am feeling so good about that future. 

Please join the OSU students, the families of active duty service members, our veterans and the many fair-minded citizens of Ohio to take action in the coming weeks to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  Please visit our Repeal DADT site and take action NOW.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Calling for Justice on Veterans’ Day at the Ohio State House

In a noontime rally under the soaring stone columns of the Ohio State House in Columbus, a coalition of LGBT groups, including HRC, honored our veterans, and  spoke out for justice for those who are still serving.  Among the crowd were veterans, family members, college students and others—all showing their support for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

One of the speakers, a gay veteran, talked about the challenges of serving in silence.  Among those interviewed by the press that attended was the veteran’s  mother, who spoke passionately, even angrily, about how her son had to live a lie while serving his county.

I was there to move people to action by urging them to contact Senator George Voinovich and nearly everyone at the rally made phone calls to his office immediately after the rally. His vote is key to passing the National Defense Authorization Act and thus repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  If you live in Ohio, please call his office today.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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