Signaling the growing seriousness of the Obama administration’s commitment this year to ending the military’s ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces, the Defense Department said Sunday that it will release a long-awaited report on the matter earlier than planned because senators are eager to vote on whether to repeal the policy.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has ordered the report to be released Nov. 30, one day earlier than planned, “to support Congress’s wish to consider repeal before they adjourn,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Sunday.
The following post comes from HRC Diversity Program Associate Hyacinth Alvaran:
More than 40 of us marched under the HRC flag for the One Nation Working Together rally on Saturday, October 2. We joined the LGBT organizing table – the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, the National Black Justice Coalition, Stonewall Democrats, and Pride at Work – in addition to hundreds of youth marchers and AIDS Walk participants at Freedom Plaza, then marched more than a thousand strong to the Lincoln Memorial to join over 200 organizations and their supporters on the National Mall.
Lead by Donna Payne, Associate Director of Diversity, we were excited to be joined by HRC members from different parts of the country, from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, to New York, Indiana, and North Carolina. Our voices rang clearly as we chanted “What do we want? EQUALITY! When do we want it? NOW!” and walked side-by-side with our sisters and brothers in the labor, civil rights, and environmental movements. Although they were not able to join us, many of the 17 students who came from Bennett College in North Carolina wore their HRC t-shirts proudly as a sign of solidarity through our work together on their campus. (HRC partners with student leaders and faculty at 25 Historically Black Colleges & Universities to improve the environment for the campuses’ LGBT and ally communities.)
Organizers estimate an attendance of about 175,000 people, who listened to leaders such as NAACP President & CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous and National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Deputy Executive Director Darlene Nipper speak passionately and eloquently about the urgent need for jobs, a stronger public education system, and civil rights and justice for all. “Our national destiny,” implored Jealous, “is to move ever forward, and never backward!” And Nipper declared, “Even though it is a challenge, I believe that it is the diversity of this nation that makes this nation so great.”
We also used our participation as an opportunity to call people into action and help us Dial for Equality. According to HRC Regional Field Organizer Christine Sloane:
“One of the greatest things about being a field organizer is the direct contact I get to have with folks on a regular basis. The interesting conversations, inspirational stories, and witnessing the sheer passion so many individuals have for equality makes me feel so lucky to do the work that I do.
This past Saturday, October 2, 2010, was no exception. I had the honor of marching with HRC supporters, friends and colleagues under the Human Rights Campaign banner to the One Nation Working together rally on the Washington Mall. It truly is a beautiful sight to see the progressive community come together once again to raise their voices for equality, education and jobs.
With the help of three fantastic volunteers, we were able to sign up more than 60 individuals to help usDial for Equalityto ensure that HRC’s members are mobilized nationwide to elect and protect pro-equality candidates on November 2, 2010.
While this is fantastic news, we still need your help. We’re less than a month away from the critical mid-terms elections and your 2.5 hours of volunteer time will allow you to reach out to over 100 Human Rights Campaign voters in critical areas like New York, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.
We’ll be making calls every Monday and Wednesday, 6-8:30 p.m. from HRC’s headquarters located at 1640 Rhode Island Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C.
A special thanks goes out to our 40+ members and supporters who joined us for this rally; our allies who included us in this extraordinary event; and our steering committees from Washington, DC and New York, our staff, and our interns who helped make this occasion a tremendous success! We couldn’t have done this without you.
And today, writing for Focus on the Family, Prop 8 ally (and Matt Barber cheerleader) Bruce Hausknecht attempts to lend credence to this logic:
Apparently, the 9th Circuit has already decided as a matter of law that there is a “rational basis” for a duly-enacted law that favors heterosexual marriage over homosexual marriage. Here’s the argument straight from the brief to the 9th Circuit:
This Court has likewise rejected claims that the Federal Constitution bars the government from limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. In Adams v. Howerton, 673 F.2d 1036 (9th Cir. 1982), this Court interpreted “spouse” in a federal immigration provision to exclude partners in a purported same-sex marriage, and squarely held that “Congress’s decision to confer spouse status … only upon the parties to heterosexual marriages has a rational basis and therefore comports with the due process clause and its equal protection requirements.” Id. at 1042. This binding decision likewise forecloses Plaintiffs’ claims. (emphasis mine)
Despite 100 pages or so of Judge Walker’s so-called “fact-finding,” and another 30 or so pages containing conclusions of law, Walker never addresses why he isn’t foreclosed by 9th Circuit precedent from concluding that there is no “rational basis” for a law recognizing only one man, one woman marriage. Even if he’s previously addressed the 9th Circuit case during pre-trial proceedings, I’d still expect a reference to it. [SOURCE]
But here’s what neither Protect Marriage nor Hausknecht are telling you: That the world, including the body of findings that led to the Adams decision, has actually changed in the twenty-eight years since the case was decided. And we don’t mean in terms of emotions or public perception or polling, all of which are certainly part of the change as well. But also in terms of the hardcore facts that led to this particular Court of Appeals Decision.
First and foremost: The way immigration law applied to gays. In the relatively short Adams opinion, the three judge panel relied heavily on The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, and that which was added to the Act by the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965. The 1965 amendments were outwardly hostile to gays and lesbians, specifically citing “aliens afflicted with…sexual deviation.” And so the 9th Circuit panel, working off what Congress had given them, specifically used that exclusion to speak to intent in terms of dealing with gays and their immigration statuses:
Our conclusion is supported by a further review of the 1965 amendments to the Act. These amendments not only added section 201(b) in its present form, but also amended the mandatory exclusion provisions of section 212(a) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a). Yet, both section 15(b) of the amendments, Pub.L. No. 89-236, § 15(b), 79 Stat. 911, 919 (codified at 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(4)), and the accompanying Senate Report, S.Rep. No. 748, 89th Cong., 1st Sess., reprinted in,  U.S.Code Cong. & Ad.News 3328, 3343, clearly express an intent to exclude homosexuals. See Boutilier v. INS, 387 U.S. 118, 121, 87 S.Ct. 1563, 1565, 18 L.Ed.2d 661 (1967). As our duty is to ascertain and apply the intent of Congress, we strive to interpret language in one section of a statute consistently with the language of other sections and with the purposes of the entire statute considered as a whole. Philbrook v. Glodgett, 421 U.S. 707, 713, 95 S.Ct. 1893, 1898, 44 L.Ed.2d 525 (1975). We think it unlikely that Congress intended to give homosexual spouses preferential 1041*1041 admission treatment under section 201(b) of the Act when, in the very same amendments adding that section, it mandated their exclusion. Reading these provisions together, we can only conclude that Congress intended that only partners in heterosexual marriages be considered spouses under section 201(b).
But what the current Prop 8 backers are not telling you? That in 1990, the U.S. Congress (with heavy lifting from Barney Frank) passed the Immigration Act of 1990, which withdrew “sexual deviation” from the INA so that it could no longer be used as a basis for barring U.S. entry. Sure, we LGBT people of 2010 still have a ways to go in terms of Uniting Our American Families. But this 1990 change was MAJOR in terms of immigration law and gay treatment in general. It’s a near certainty that if this change had passed in 1980 rather than 1990, the 9th Circuit would have looked at congressional intent a little differently.
Then there’s the matter of marriage itself, which is the other component on which the panel specifically focused. In 1982, there was nowhere in the world where folks could marry regardless of sexual orientation, nor was there all that much reasonable expectation that such was on the horizon. But here in 2010, a whopping ten countries offer full marriage equality. Close to twenty more offer civil partnerships or civil unions. Here in America, we have five states and the District of Columbia, as well as several other with C.U’s, D.P’s, and other partnership arrangements that were about as conceivable in ’82 as was the ability for a gay blogger to research all of this without ever leaving his chair.
Yes, marriage bans have also passed in that time. But that is the matter before the court today: The constitutionality of these bans. So when looking back at what led the 9th Circuit of 1982 to cite both non-recognition and “traditional and often prevailing societal mores” as big reasons for denial, one has to assume that the progress on this issue is what should surely hold the most weight. Laws have changed. Access has been granted. Heck, Mary Hart first joined “Entertainment Tonight” in 1982, and this year she announced she’s leaving. Society has changed, my friends!
So while Brice Hausknecht might opine this…
[Walker] must also be hoping for a 9th Circuit 3-judge panel that has “evolved” since the 1982 case. I’m not saying there aren’t certain 9th Circuit judges who would gladly ignore their own case law in a rush to rubber-stamp Walker’s decision; but even the typical left-leaning 9th Circuit judge is usually inclined to follow 9th Circuit precedent.
…the reality is that Walker doesn’t have to hope for mental evolution, even though that hopefully has occurred in the past three decades as well. The fact is that the world has factually evolved, even if still not to where we who value full equality want it to be (especially on subjects like marriage and immigration). So we actually suspect that both Walker and the 9th Circuit would/will be more than willing, able, and inclined to take this Adams matter on, if pressed. But we’re just as confident that the anti-LGBT side “would gladly ignore” whatever inconveniences that a fully fleshed out examination would provide, just as they’ve done with almost every fact pertaining to this case and Judge Walker’s decision.
**MORE: The Protect Marriage brief goes to cite Adams again, saying:
A few things on this one: In actuality, the 1982 court panel merely posited reproduction as one possibility for why same-sex marriages are not granted “preferential status,” not the concrete reason why marriage imitations cut the legal mustard:
In effect, Congress has determined that preferential status is not warranted for the spouses of homosexual marriages. Perhaps 1043*1043 this is because homosexual marriages never produce offspring, because they are not recognized in most, if in any, of the states, or because they violate traditional and often prevailing societal mores. In any event, having found that Congress rationally intended to deny preferential status to the spouses of such marriages, we need not further “probe and test the justifications for the legislative decision.” Id. at 799, 97 S.Ct. at 1481.
See that final note about not further probing and testing the justifications, and simply relying on Congress’ rationality? That alone tells us that the court didn’t say that “the never produce offspring” mention is *the* reason why they arrived at their decision!
But beyond that: As fleshed out in the above post, this 28-year-old read of Congress’ intent was built on a body of facts that has concretely, undeniably changed! While eyeglasses of 1982 might be making a fashionable comeback, they should not be the limited lenses through which we examine Adams today.
Bryan Dickenson and Bill Sugg have been together for 30 years.
For the last 12 of those years, Dickenson has worked as a communications technician for Dallas-based AT&T.
After Sugg suffered a debilitating stroke in September, Dickinson requested time off under the federal Family Medical Leave Act to care for his partner.
But AT&T is refusing to grant Dickenson the 12 weeks of leave that would be afforded to a heterosexual spouse under the act.
As a result, Dickenson is using vacation time so he can spend one afternoon a week at Sugg’s bedside at a rehabilitation facility in Richardson. But Dickenson fears that when his vacation runs out, he’ll end up being fired for requesting additional time off to care for Sugg. Dickenson’s attorney, Rob Wiley of Dallas, said he initially thought AT&T’s refusal to grant his client leave under FMLA was just a mistake on the part of the company. Wiley said he expected AT&T to quickly rectify the situation after he sent the company a friendly letter.
After all, AT&T maintains the highest score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which ranks companies according to their treatment of LGBT employees. And just this week, HRC listed AT&T as one of its “Best Places to Work.”
But AT&T has stood its ground, confirming in a statement to Dallas Voice this week that the company isn’t granting Dickenson leave under FMLA because neither federal nor state law recognizes Sugg as his domestic partner.
“I really couldn’t be more disappointed with AT&T’s response,” Wiley said. “When you scratch the surface, they clearly don’t value diversity. I just think it’s an outright lie for AT&T to claim they’re a good place for gays and lesbians to work.”
Wiley added that he’s disappointed in HRC for giving AT&T its highest score. Eric Bloem, deputy director of HRC’s workplace project, said Thursday, Jan. 28 that he was looking into the matter. Bloem said a survey for the Corporate Equality Index asks companies whether they grant FMLA leave to same-sex couples, and AT&T replied affirmatively.
“I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, so I don’t really want to make an official comment on it,” Bloem said.
Walt Sharp, a spokesman for AT&T, said the company has “a long history of inclusiveness in the workplace.”
“There are circumstances under which our administration of our benefits plans must conform with state law, and this is one of those circumstances,” Sharp said in a written statement. “In this case, neither federal nor state law recognizes Mr. Dickenson’s domestic partner with legal status as a qualifying family member for a federal benefit program. There is no basis for this lawsuit or the allegations contained in it and we will seek its dismissal.”
Sharp didn’t respond to a request for further comment.
Wiley said Sharp’s statement doesn’t make sense. No law prohibits the company from granting Dickenson an unpaid leave of absence, which is what he’s requesting. Wiley also noted that no lawsuit has been filed, because there isn’t grounds for one.
The federal FMLA applies only to heterosexual married couples, Wiley said. Some states have enacted their own versions of the FMLA, requiring companies to grant leave to gay and lesbian couples, but Texas isn’t one of them.
Wiley said the couple’s only hope is to somehow convince the company to do the right thing, which is why he contacted the media.
“At some point in time this just becomes really hateful that they wouldn’t have any compassion,” Wiley said of the company. “I think the recourse is to tell their story and let people know how AT&T really treats their employees.”
Through thick and thin
This isn’t the first time Dickenson and Sugg have endured a medical crisis.
Sugg, who’s 69 and suffers from congenital heart problems, nearly died from cardiac arrest shortly after the couple met in 1980.
At the time, Dickenson was a full-time student and didn’t have car. So he rode his bicycle from Garland to Parkland Hospital in Dallas every day to visit Sugg in the intensive care unit.
In an interview this week at the rehab facility, Sugg’s eyes welled up with tears as he recalled what a Parkland nurse said at the time – “If that isn’t love, then I don’t know what the hell love is.”
“And sure enough, it was,” Sugg said over the whirr of his oxygen machine, turning to Dickenson. “As long as I have you, I can get through anything.”
Dickenson said in addition to visiting Sugg each Wednesday afternoon, he wakes up at 7:30 on Saturday and Sunday mornings so he can spend the day with Sugg at the rehab facility.
This past Christmas, Dickenson spent the night on the floor of Sugg’s room.
“That would have been our first Christmas separated, and I just couldn’t bear that, him being alone on Christmas,” Dickenson said.
The worst part of the whole ordeal was when he had to return to work after taking 13 days off following Sugg’s stroke, Dickenson said. Sugg didn’t understand and thought his partner had abandoned him for good.
“He called me over and over every night, begging me to please come see him,” Dickenson said. “And I said, ’Honey, you don’t understand, I had to go back to work to save my job.’
“That’s what really hurts about what they’ve put me through, not my pain and anguish, but his,” Dickenson said.
Dickenson said it was 3 a.m. on Sept. 22 when he rushed Sugg to the hospital. Doctors initially said it was “the worst sinus infection they’d ever seen,” but within 48 hours Sugg had suffered a stroke affecting his cerebellum.
Sugg lost the ability to swallow and his sense of balance. He’s still unable to walk and suffers from double vision.
Because he wasn’t out as gay at work, Dickenson initially told supervisors that his father was sick.
When he returned to work after 13 days at the hospital, Dickenson explained that his domestic partner was ill and he needed more time off. His supervisor managed to get him an additional 30 days of unpaid leave.
In the meantime, Dickenson phoned the company’s human resources department and asked whether he’d be eligible for leave under FMLA, which allows 12 weeks (or about 90 days) per year. Dickenson said he was told that since he lives in Texas, he wouldn’t be eligible.
Dickenson filled out the FMLA forms anyway and sent them to the company, but he never got any response.
When Dickenson returned to work, he asked to be reclassified as part-time employee, so he could spend more time with Sugg. His supervisor refused and told him his best bet was FMLA leave, even though he’d already been denied.
That’s when Dickenson contacted Wiley.
Sugg is scheduled return to the couple’s Garland home from rehab in about a week, but he’s still on a feeding tube and will require nursing care. With any luck, he’ll someday be able to walk again.
Sugg bragged that he was able to drink his first cup of coffee last week, and he’s looking forward to getting back to his hobby of raising African violets.
Dickenson said he knows of at least seven medical appointments he’ll have to arrange for Sugg once he returns home. He said his vacation time likely will run out by April, and he fears that if he loses his job, the medical expenses will eventually cause him to go broke.
But Dickenson, who’s 51, said he’s committed to taking care of Sugg, even if it means living on the street someday.
“When it runs out, I’ll be fired, and it really hurts to be in a situation like that, because I’ve worked very hard for AT&T,” Dickenson said. “We suffer now, but maybe other people in our shoes in the future, if they work for AT&T, they won’t suffer like we do.”