BREAKING: Obama endorses DOMA repeal

President Barack Obama

Speaking at a news conference this afternoon, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced that President Barack Obama endorses legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Carney’s statement came in response to a question from Chris Geidner, a reporter for the LGBT magazine Metro Weekly. The DOMA repeal bill, called the Respect for Marriage Act, is scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

“I can tell you that the president has long called for a legislative repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. which continues to have a real impact on the lives of real people, our families, friends and neighbors,” Carney said (watch video from ThinkProgress below). “He is proud to support the Respect for Marriage Act, introduced by Sen. Feinstein and Congressman Nadler, which would take DOMA off the books once and for all. This legislation would uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections as straight couples.”

In response to Carney’s comments, Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a statement: “We thank the President for his support of the Respect for Marriage Act.  He has repeatedly expressed his desire to see the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act repealed and his Justice Department has taken the historic step of ending its defense of that odious law in court.  By supporting this legislation, the President continues to demonstrate his commitment to ending federal discrimination against tens of thousands of lawfully married same-sex couples.”

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said: “Freedom to Marry applauds President Obama’s strong endorsement of the Respect for Marriage Act and the repeal of so-called ‘DOMA.’  The federal government should not be picking and choosing which marriages it will honor and which it will disregard when it comes to the important federal protections that come with marriage, such as Social Security, health coverage, fair tax treatment, and immigration rights. Congress should follow the President’s lead and return the federal government to its traditional practice of honoring all lawful marriages equally – without the ‘gay exception’ of DOMA.”

Robin McGehee, executive director of GetEQUAL, was less enthusiastic about the news. “So, @BarackObama endorses bill w/no chance of passing this year while *still* unwilling to #EvolveAlready around marriage equality? Thanks!” McGehee tweeted.

Although Obama’s stated support for the Respect for Marriage Act is certainly newsworthy, he has long backed the full repeal of DOMA, dating back to his 2008 campaign. And his Justice Department has taken the position in court that portions of the 1996 law are unconstitutional.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Civil unions in Rhode Island; marriage in Maine; White House Pride reception

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Rhode Island Senate on Wednesday approved a civil unions bill that’s already passed the House, but LGBT groups are calling on Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee to veto the measure because they say its religious exemptions are too broad. For example, church-affiliated hospitals could deny same-sex partners visitation or decision-making, and religious employers could refuse family medical leave.

2. Two LGBT groups are set to announce this morning that they’re launching a citizens initiative to put marriage equality back on the ballot in Maine in 2012. Maine voters rejected same-sex marriage 53-47 percent in 2009 after the Legislature approved it, but new polls show a majority in the state support marriage equality.

3. Speaking at an LGBT Pride Month Reception at the White House on Wednesday, President Barack Obama said, “I’ve met my commitments to the LGBT community.” Obama also said he plans to certify DADT repeal “in a matter of weeks, not months.” Watch video of Obama’s full speech below, and read a recap of the event here.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Suit seeks marriage equality in NJ; White House Pride event; Brown Coffee Co.

The Brown Coffee Co.’s anti-gay tweet

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Lambda Legal and Garden State Equality will announce a lawsuit today on behalf of New Jersey same-sex couples who are demanding that their partnerships be recognized by the state as marriages, not civil unions. The suit comes days after the New York Senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage across the Hudson River. The New Jersey Senate in 2010 rejected a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, and GOP Gov. Chris Christie says he would veto any such future legislation. “Gov. Christie says no way will there be marriage equality in New Jersey,” said Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality. “And we say no way are we going to listen to him.”

2. Things could get “awkward” this evening at the White House during President Barack Obama’s annual LGBT Pride Month Reception, according to The New York Times. That’s because invitees will be looking to celebrate marriage equality in New York, but their host doesn’t endorse same-sex marriage. Activists from GetEQUAL will be outside the reception handing out “Get Bold To Get Equal Scavenger Hunts,” described as “a fun but meaningful opportunity for attendees to step up the pressure on the Obama administration for full LGBT equality.” Cece Cox, executive director of Resource Center Dallas, is among those attending the event.

3. A San Antonio-based coffee company provided a bizarre explanation Tuesday for an anti-gay post from its Twitter account Friday night in the wake of the New York Senate’s vote to legalize same-sex marriage. “No human law can ever legitimize what natural law precludes. #SorryFolks #NotEqual #WhyBother #ChasingAfterTheWind #SelfEvident,” read the tweet sent Friday night by The Brown Coffee Co. On Tuesday, the company attempted to explain the tweet on its blog: “This was a post about CLASSICAL PHILOSOPHY and LAWS (a la Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, etc.), not PEOPLE; but somehow people began to twist what was written and added their own lies to the post to mean that somehow we at The Brown Coffee Company are hateful, homophobic, intolerant people. Those are not the facts and we regret that this has descended into something very ugly based on other people’s incorrect reading of the Twitter post.” At least one shop in New York City has stopped buying coffee from Brown Coffee Co. in response to the anti-gay tweet.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: President Obama to nominate openly gay man for U.S. attorney in Texas

President Barack Obama

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. President Barack Obama is expected to nominate an openly gay man for one of four vacant U.S. attorney positions in Texas. The San Antonio Express-News reports that Obama will nominate U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Lee Pitman of Austin as U.S. Attorney for the Western District, which includes San Antonio, Del Rio and El Paso. Interestingly, Pitman’s nomination is supported by anti-gay Republican Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison. Pitman, a Fort Worth native and graduate of Trinity Valley School, would face a confirmation vote in the Senate. He would not be the first openly gay U.S. attorney, but he would undoubtedly be the first in Texas. Read a detailed profile of Pitman here.

2. In the wake of reports about a Southwest Airlines pilot’s offensive rant over an open cockpit microphone, one California lawmaker is calling on the state to sever its contracts with the airline. Assemblywoman Fiona Ma says she’s not satisfied with the Dallas-based airline’s “slap on the wrist” of the pilot, but as Instant Tea reported Friday, the airline isn’t expected to revisit the disciplinary action.

3. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has released a video invitation to his Aug. 6. Day of Prayer funded by the American Family Association, the anti-gay hate group. Perhaps Perry is getting desperate since only one of 49 governors had RSVP’d affirmatively to his invite for the Day of Prayer as of last week. Watch his video invitation below, and then tell us whether you think “people adrift in a sea of moral relativism” is Perry’s new euphemism for gays.

Gov. Perry’s Invitation to The Response from The Response USA on Vimeo.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Houston schools add LGBT protections; marriage vote still pending in NY

Asher Brown
Asher Brown

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Houston school board on Thursday night unanimously approved a new policy prohibiting discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, according to a report from Meghan Stabler, a board member for the Human Rights Campaign. Houston ISD is the seventh-largest district in the nation, and the new policy protects both students and employees, Stabler reports. It comes eight months after the suicide of gay youth Asher Brown, who took his own life in response to anti-gay bullying in the nearby Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, which has not yet updated its policies to protect LGBT youth.

2. Despite rumors of an all-night session that would finally include a vote on marriage equality, the New York Senate abruptly shut down at 11 p.m. local time on Thursday and will reconvene this morning. Towleroad has a summary of where things stand.

3. As the wait continued in Albany, President Barack Obama addressed an LGBT fundraiser Thursday night in Manhattan, where he said he believes that “gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country” but added that marriage should be left up to the states. Watch video of Obama’s remarks and the protest outside below.

—  John Wright

Resource Center Dallas’ Cece Cox to attend LGBT Pride Month Reception at White House

Cece Cox

Cece Cox, executive director and CEO of Resource Center Dallas, will be among those attending the third annual LGBT Pride Month Reception hosted by President Barack Obama next week at the White House. Cox said she was honored to receive an invitation to the reception set for Wednesday, June 29, and plans to take her partner, Barbara Houser, who serves as chief U.S. bankruptcy judge for the Northern District of Texas.

“I think it speaks very welll of what Resource Center Dallas has done, and our role in being educators and advocates for this community,” Cox said of the invitation. “I’m incredibly honored to represent what Resource Center does.

“There are some serious issues on the table that I will hope there will be some substantive dialogue and answers to,” she added. “There are opportunities for him in regard to making progress for our community.”

The White House typically doesn’t release many details about Pride Moth receptions in advance or provide lists of invitees. The first LGBT Pride Reception in 2009 featured national LGBT leaders from around the country. The second one in 2010 was mostly LGBT youth and leaders from state equality groups.

“This year I’m surmising because of others that I know who are going, it is LGBT community leaders, meaning I think more of a local focus,” Cox said.

Cox said she felt it was important to take Houser.

“She’s a federal employee who has served her country in her position, and is still not entitled to all the rights and benefits that she and I would be entitled to if we happened to be able to be legally married,” Cox said. “I think when there’s an opportunity to represent as a couple, we think that’s important.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Obama issues gay Pride proclamation; civil unions begin in Illinois

Janean Watkins and Lakeesha Harris, who camped overnight, were the first couple to obtain their civil union license in Illinois.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. President Barack Obama on Tuesday proclaimed June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, 2011. Unlike in 2009 and 2010, however, Obama’s LGBT Pride proclamation makes no reference to relationship recognition. Was this intentional or just an oversight? And if it was intentional, why? Perhaps because Obama is still thinking about whether he supports same-sex marriage. Read the full proclamation here.

2. Back in Obama’s home state, Illinois’ new civil unions law takes effect today, and more than 100 couples lined up this morning outside the Cook County Clerk’s Office in Chicago. Although couples can obtain their licenses today, they must wait 24 hours before holding a ceremony. Illinois is the sixth state to allow civil unions or the equivalent.

3. Razzle Dazzle Dallas officially gets under way today with the Cedar Springs Wine Walk & Dog Walk. You mean you haven’t already purchased your sound-activated LED T-shirt?

—  John Wright

Is anyone from Texas invited to Tuesday's gay Pride reception at the White House?

President Barack Obama is hosting a Pride reception at the White House tomorrow. Yippee!

The list of attendees hasn’t been made public, but The Washington Blade is reporting that “invitations generally were restricted to the heads of state equality groups, members of the LGBT community with compelling stories and a contingent of LGBT youth.”

We’ve sent a message to Chuck Smith, interim executive director at Equality Texas, to find out whether he’s invited or is going. And we haven’t heard anything about other invitees from Texas, so if you’re one of them, feel free to let us know.

Despite all our “compelling stories,” we didn’t receive an invitation here at Instant Tea. And yes, we feel snubbed. When is Obama going to start recognizing our accomplishments? Probably whenever we stop criticizing his administration and start giving him money.

—  John Wright

What you should know about the long road ahead before 'don't ask don't tell' is repealed

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network sent out a very helpful guide today detailing the path that lies ahead for the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” I’ve posted the guide in its entirety after the jump.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: White House OKs DADT plan

There was huge news out of Washington on Monday night, as it looks like the White House has signed off on a proposal to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell” by delaying implementation of the change until after the Pentagon completes its working group study.

The proposed repeal of DADT has been in doubt for weeks, after Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was opposed to lifting the policy before the study is completed in December. However, this green light from the White House paves the way for the House and Senate to take up the repeal later this week.

The White House on Monday night issued a Statement of Administration Policy in support of the delayed implementation proposal, which was submitted by congressional leaders who are committed to a legislative repeal this year.

“The White House announcement is a dramatic breakthrough in dismantling ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, in a statement. “The path forward crafted by the President, Department of Defense officials, and repeal leaders on Capitol Hill respects the ongoing work by the Pentagon on how to implement open service and allows for a vote this week. President Obama’s support and Secretary Gates’ buy-in should insure a winning vote, but we are not there yet. The votes still need to be worked and counted.

“If enacted this welcomed compromise will create a process for the President and the Pentagon to implement a new policy for lesbian and gay service members to serve our country openly, hopefully within a matter of a few months,” Sarvis said. “This builds upon the support Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed for open service during the February hearing in the Senate, and further underscores that this Administration is committed to open service.”

—  John Wright