What’s Brewing: House taps former Bush SG to defend DOMA; gay blog Queerty shuts down

Paul Clement

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. House Republicans tapped former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, who served for three years during the Bush administration, to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. And Speaker John Boehner wants to divert money from the Justice Department to pay Clement, a partner at Atlanta-based King & Spalding whose services won’t come cheap (he reportedly earns more than $5 million a year). Clement, representing the House’s Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, has already filed a motion to intervene in one of the cases challenging the constitutionality of DOMA.

2. The gay blog Queerty has shut down. We’ll miss Queerty’s snarky headlines and irreverent prose as much as anyone, but we won’t miss the blog stealing our original content without crediting us.

3. A bill that would bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex is again on the Texas Senate’s intent calendar for today. That means if you haven’t already contacted Senate Democrats and asked them to vote against SB 723, you should do so now (contact info  is here). Meanwhile, LGBT advocates will again be speaking during today’s meeting of the Dallas County Commissioners Court to call on the court to add gender identity to the county’s nondiscrimination policy. We’re headed downtown and will have a report later.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Committee votes to oust Dan Ramos; Texas Senate to vote on anti-trans bill

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A special committee voted Saturday to recommend removing Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Ramos from office, in part for his recent comments comparing gay Democrats to “termites” and “the fuckin’ Nazi Party.” The committee’s recommendation came after a three-hour trial, and a larger group will meet May 3 to vote on whether to accept the recommendation. Ramos didn’t attend the trial and says he plans to challenge the effort to remove him in court.

2. The Texas Senate is slated to vote today on a bill that’s apparently designed to bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex. LGBT advocates are urging people to contact Senate Democrats and ask them to vote against SB 724. If all 12 Democrats in the Senate vote against consideration of the bill, it will die. For contact info for Senate Democrats, go here.

3. An LGBT tax demonstration is planned this evening outside the Dallas Main Post Office at Interstate 30 and Sylvan.The “Equal Taxes, Equal Rights” demonstration is one of many being organized around the country by GetEQUAL and Marriage Equality USA. From the Facebook page: “We will be hosting a peaceful demonstration to educate the public that while we pay the same taxes as our heterosexual counterparts, we do not have access to the same rights. Pro- Equality Activists will rally and hand out informational fliers from 6:00pm to 9:00pm. This event is designed to be a creative and fun way to engage the public on issues of equality!”

—  John Wright

ACTION ALERT: Tell Senate Democrats to vote against bill to ban transgender marriage

dead firefighter's transgender wife
Nikki Araguz

As we noted below, the Texas Senate is slated to consider a bill Monday would effectively bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex. The bill is a direct response to the case of transgender widow Nikki Araguz.

In order to take up the bill, the Senate must have 20 votes. Republicans are one vote short of a 20-vote majority, meaning they will need at least one Democratic vote.

The Transgender Education Network of Texas issued an action alert this morning for people to contact Senate Democrats and urge them to vote against Senate Bill 723 by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands. Here is contact information for Senate Democrats:

Mario Gallegos (512) 463-0106
Wendy Davis (512) 463-0110
Rodney G. Ellis (512) 463-0113
Kirk Watson (512) 463-0114
John Whitmire (512) 463-0115
Carlos I. Uresti (512) 463-0119
Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (512) 463-0120
Judith Zaffirini (512) 463-0121
Royce West (512) 463-0123
Leticia R. Van de Putte (512) 463-0126
Eduardo A. (Eddie) Lucio, Jr. (512) 463-0127
José R. Rodríguez (512) 463-0129

—  John Wright

NATIONAL: 13 races LGBT community should worry about

Races around the country could have significant impact on climate, landscape for LGBT equality

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service lisakeen@mac.com

For hard-core political junkies in the LGBT community, there’s a lot to worry about in the Nov. 2 voting — and not just because there’s the possibility of Republicans taking over the U.S. House and Senate.

A number of races around the country could have significant impact on both the climate and the landscape for LGBT civil rights nationally.

This report identifies 13 of the most important outcomes to keep an eye on next Tuesday and weighs their outcomes to reflect how much impact they could have on the LGBT community efforts to achieve equal rights.

A cumulative score of 100 means the political landscape and climate remain relatively favorable for LGBT civil rights concerns. A zero would signal a significantly unfavorable change.

The current status would rank a score of 80; but the latest poll predictions signal a drop to 60.

1. Control of the U.S. House: Democrats currently hold 255 of the 435 House seats. It takes 218 or more to hold the majority. As of last week, the New York Times-FiveThirtyEight number cruncher was forecasting Republicans would take the majority with 230 seats, leaving Democrats with only 205. Loss of Democratic control in the House means many things: Pro-gay measures have no chance of passage; anti-gay measures do.

2. Control of the U.S. Senate: Democrats currently hold 57 of 100 seats and need 50 to retain the majority (with Democratic Vice President Joe Biden as Senate president).

As of last week, the New York Times-FiveThirtyEight number cruncher was forecasting Democrats would retain the Senate with 51 or 52 seats, to the Republicans 48 or 49. That’s still not a large enough majority for Democrats to break filibusters, but at least it cuts off the ability of Republicans to press for passage of anti-gay measures.

3.
Democrats keep New Hampshire House and Senate: This bellwether state enacted a marriage equality law just this year and already three bills have been filed seeking repeal in 2011. Meanwhile, the Democratic majority in both the state House and Senate are in peril

Nov. 2, says Rep. Jim Splaine, the openly gay state legislator who authored the marriage bill in the House.

Only two of seven Republicans who supported marriage equality were defeated in the primary, but the margins of victory on the marriage equality bill in 2009 were razor thin, and Splaine himself is retiring at the end of this year. If Republicans do take back the majority in the legislature, a repeal bill has a strong chance of succeeding. Polls indicate the results Tuesday are simply unpredictable.

4. New Hampshire retains Democratic governor: Now, imagine the New Hampshire legislature passes a bill to repeal its one-year-old marriage equality law and sends it to the governor’s desk. If incumbent Democrat John Lynch is there, it’s very likely that he’ll veto it. But if Republican challenger John Stephen is there, he’s promised to sign it. Polls give Lynch a good chance of hanging onto the job.

5. California elects Democratic governor: Republican Meg Whitman unabashedly opposes same-sex marriage and voted for Proposition 8. (She favors civil unions.) Democrat Jerry Brown, the state’s attorney general, supports same-sex marriage and has refused to defend California’s same-sex marriage ban — Proposition 8 — in the landmark lawsuit now before the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Whitman has criticized Brown for his position, and some speculate she could — if elected — intervene to enhance the appeal against Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that the measure is unconstitutional.

The team challenging Proposition 8 says it is not concerned about that and, truth be told, the 9th Circuit will have heard the appeal long before the next governor takes office. But the position of the next governor could have some influence if and when the full 9th Circuit and/or the U.S. Supreme Court hear the case. And, legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky notes that, if the 9th Circuit should dismiss the appeal for lack of standing by the current appellants, Whitman “could make a motion in federal court to have the judgment set aside.” Polls call this a toss-up with Brown having a slight edge.

6. California elects Democratic attorney general: Republican Steve Cooley has also criticized Attorney General Brown for refusing to defend Proposition 8 in court. If elected, he, too, could ask to have a 9th Circuit decision set aside, should it rule that proponents of Proposition 8 lack standing. Cooley could also play a pivotal role in the approval of a future initiative should No on 8 activists need to overturn the anti-gay marriage law by ballot measure. Cooley says he would go to bat for Proposition 8; his Democratic opponent, San Francisco district attorney Kamala Harris, says that, because Proposition 8 has been declared unconstitutional, the attorney general should not appeal it.

Cooley has a slight lead in the latest polls.

7. Iowa retains three justices: One of the smallest races in the country is getting big attention: the re-election campaigns of three Iowa Supreme Court justices. All three were on the seven-member bench that unanimously ruled in 2009 that the state constitution requires gay couples be treated the same as straight couples when it comes to marriage licensing.

Justices in Iowa are appointed by the governor but must stand for “retention” at the end of their first year and the end of each eight-year term.

Groups unhappy with the 2009 ruling have turned the retention election for Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit into a referendum on same-sex marriage. Those groups including the anti-gay American Family Association, the Family Research Council, and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). The Des Moines Register reported last week that NOM has spent $200,000 in television ads to oppose the justices’ retention.

Meanwhile, another coalition — a bipartisan one — has been formed to support the justices’ retention. It is headed up by Republican former Gov. Robert Ray and Democratic former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack.

As of Oct. 4, reports the Register, the contests are a toss-up, with 44 percent of 550 likely voters saying they’ll vote for retention, 40 percent against, and 16 percent saying they’ll retain “some.”

8. Cicilline wins U.S. House seat for Rhode Island’s 1st: David Cicilline, the openly gay mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, is given a 91 percent chance of winning the four-way race to represent Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District. For the LGBT community, it would mean a fourth openly gay member of Congress.

9. Pougnet wins U.S. House seat for California’s 45th: Steve Pougnet, the openly gay mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., is given less than a 3 percent chance of unseating incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack. But Pougnet has raised significant money and interest in his first run for Congress and Mack’s popularity has been waning since 2002.

10. Frank re-elected with 65 percent or more: Barney Frank is the Congress’ most veteran openly gay member — in seniority, experience and age. He’s now 70.

Massachusetts politicos who hope to take over his reign in Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional district are already starting to stage their practice runs. That includes Republican Sean Bielat, whose campaign slogan — “Retire Barney”— seeks to capitalize on the notion that Frank is old enough to retire. The polls don’t give him much of a chance to “retire” Frank this year — the New York Times-FiveThirtyEight number cruncher says Frank’s prospects for re-election are at 96 percent.

But it forecasts Frank will win only about 56 percent of the vote, and that’s down dramatically from previous re-election runs in the mid-terms, when he’s won re-election with 99 and 98 percent. In the presidential election years, Frank won with 78 percent in 2004 and 68 percent in 2008.

So, if Frank slips much below 68 percent this year, political pundits and potential challengers will almost certainly smell blood in the water, whether it’s there or not.

11. Maine elects Democratic governor: Equality Maine, the state LGBT civil rights group, says Tea Party Republican candidate Paul LePage would not only veto a marriage equality bill if one came to his desk, but “supports gutting the Maine Human Rights Act,” which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Democratic candidate Libby Mitchell is the polar opposite: According to Maine Public Radio, she would “restore the gay marriage law that was repealed by Maine voters last fall.” Independent candidate Eliot Cutler supports same-sex marriage, too. But guess who’s at the top of the latest poll? LePage. According to the Portland Press Herald on Oct. 22, a poll of 600 registered voters has LePage at 32 percent, Mitchell at 20 percent, and Cutler at 19. Twenty-one percent are undecided and the rest are promised to minor party candidates.

12. New York elects Democratic governor: Tea Party Republican Carl Paladino has turned this race into an interesting one. He is opposed to equal marriage rights for gay couples, doesn’t want his children to think being gay is “an equally valid and successful option” to being straight, and called gay pride parades “disgusting.” But the New York Daily News reported last week that he used to collect rent from gay clubs in Buffalo. As of Oct. 22, Democrat Andrew Cuomo has a 23-point lead over Paladino. And Cuomo would make a much different governor for LGBT New Yorkers. To put it in his own words, “I want to be the governor who signs the law that makes equality a reality in the state of New York.” Polls indicate an easy Democratic win.

13. Minnesota elects Democratic governor: LGBT interest in this race really began to escalate after the Target and Best Buy discount chains donated big money to a group called MN Forward, and MN Forward ran ads in support of Republican candidate Ted Emmer. Emmer’s website makes clear he opposes equal rights to marriage for gay couples and he led an effort in the state legislature to adopt a constitutional amendment to ban them. By contrast, Democrat Mark Dayton supports equal rights for LGBT people and his website includes a prominent and thorough discussion of that support. Polls indicate Dayton will be the likely winner.

© 2010 Keen News Service

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Sen. Cornyn admits to using gay GOP group for votes, in letter to Family Research Council

Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council, sent Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a letter earlier this week requesting that Cornyn skip an upcoming fundraiser for Log Cabin Republicans he’s scheduled to attend, according to CNN.

“Your work in the U.S. Senate on issues important to the family is well known, as is your close association with Family Research Council and the work we do, which makes the association [with Log Cabin] all the more distressing,” Perkins wrote to Cornyn on Monday. “In deference to the work you have done against the debasement of our culture, I would ask respectfully that you withdraw from attending the event.”

Cornyn responded to Perkins on Wednesday by touting his anti-gay credentials. Cornyn tells Perkins he supports the Defense of Marriage Act and favors a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Cornyn says he supports a referendum that would allow Washington, D.C., residents to vote to overturn the City Council’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage. And he says he opposes the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

“All these positions were well known to the Log Cabin Republicans when they invited me, in my capacity as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, to attend their event later this month, and I accepted for two reasons. First, part of my job is to reach out to those committed to defeat Senate Democrats this November. The Log Cabin Republicans are doing just that, as they stand for fiscal discipline, limited government, and a strong national defense. We may not agree on several key issues, but we do agree that every committee in the United State Senate should be chaired by a Republican.  …”

Instant Tea has been harping on this issue for weeks, saying Cornyn is blatantly pandering by attending the Log Cabin dinner. His letter to Perkins confirms that Cornyn has no intentions of supporting gay rights anytime soon, and that he’s only attending the dinner to try to drum up votes in November so that Republicans can take over Congress, which would allow them to further FRC’s cause by preserving discriminatory laws while passing additional anti-gay federal legislation.

Here’s an idea: Maybe Log Cabin should take some of the money Cornyn helps the group raise and donate it to the Trevor Project to help prevent LGBT youth from committing suicide because they’re taught to hate themselves for being gay in a society controlled by people like Cornyn.

READ PERKINS’ LETTER TO CORNYN

READ CORNYN’S RESPONSE TO PERKINS

—  John Wright