Sunday, November 13, 2011

Senate Committee Passes DOMA Repeal

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed last week a bill that would repeal the "Defense of Marriage Act," the law that keeps gay couples from receiving the over 1,000 federal benefits that straight couples receive.  This in spite of Republicans' attempts to delay a vote as long as possible.

The vote was entirely along party lines, with every Democrat voting to repeal DOMA, and every Republican voting to keep it.  This just underscores how out-of-touch Republicans are, backing discrimination at a time when public opinion is on the side of justice and equality for same-sex couples.

I am proud that every Democrat on the committee, including my own senator, Richard Blumenthal, voted to repeal this discriminatory law.  While it is highly unlikely that the full Senate will take up the bill, and even less likely (read: absolutely impossible) that the Republican-controlled House will consider the bill, this is a very important victory for the LGBT community.  We showed last week that, yes, gay rights is a cause worth supporting.  Even though the victory is largely symbolic, it remains one worth celebrating.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

United Online: Maximizing the LGBT Community's Collective Power (Part II)

This is Part II in a three-part series that will explore how the LGBT community can maximize its online presence in order to more efficiently organize, engage, and act.  In Part I, I asserted that the LGBT community is not currently functioning at maximum capacity when it comes to social media:

There is no doubt, then, that social media have removed the barriers to collective action and allowed us to exercise our Constitution-given rights more easily. But is the LGBT community harnessing these tools to the greatest extent that it can?

I will submit that it does not. The LGBT community has yet to fully realize the potential of social media, and thus is not yet operating at maximum capacity.

The problem, I wrote, is fragmentation: the LGBT community is so segmented and self-isolated in its current form that we are hindering our own ability to organize online.  This has serious implications for our ability to undertake collective actions:

When we isolate ourselves in our own blogs and side-projects, we are limiting our collective power and our potential for broad and far-reaching collective action. To maximize our social media efficiency, we must eliminate that segmentation.

I will now discuss how we can overcome this barrier and join together as a singular, unified movement, online.  My "prescription" may at first seem startling, naive, or unrealistic, but I fervently believe that it will greatly increase our ability to organize quickly and easily.  It will revolutionize the way we interact, engage, and act together as a movement and make us a true political force to be reckoned with.

If the problem we are currently facing is segmentation, then the only solution is to foster greater unity.  We need to bring the entire LGBT movement together in one place where we can discuss the issues, organize collective actions, and spark one another's creative activism. 

During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's, the African American community had such a meeting place: the church.  The Black Church was the anchor of their movement, acting as a physical meeting place where many of the most famous acts of non-violent civil disobedience were first crafted (Source).  Having a cultural and geographical center where the African American community could come together, air their grievances, and organize protests allowed the movement to truly flourish. 

The LGBT community does not have this sort of social center.  Yet. 

The LGBT movement really is an example of a "digital movement" - one that is primarily shaped and organized online.  Even though the Stonewall Riots occurred long before the invention of the web, LGBT advocacy as a true social movement was weaned on the internet.  Given this history - as well as the fact of how small the LGBT community is and how geographically dispersed we are - it is only appropriate that we create this sort of central hub online.  One does not yet exist, and that needs to change, for the benefit of our activism.

In the most basic of terms, what I am proposing is an LGBT mega-site where everyone in the LGBT community can come together to engage their fellow advocates, bounce ideas off one another, and organize collective actions.  There is no doubt that such an "online hub" for LGBT activism will ignite this movement and greatly increase our ability to advocate for our rights.

What would such a hub look like?  What would it offer to LGBT advocates, and how would it bring us together in a way that is currently missing from our movement's online activity?  I will now lay out some of the central, defining characteristics of this LGBT mega-site in order to give you a clearer picture as to exactly what I am proposing.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Senate Committee Will Repeal DOMA

...that is, if it actually comes up for a vote.

Those who know Congress well know that promises get made and get broken; bills that are supposed to be marked up get pushed away as priorities shift, as elections draw near, and as new situations arise.  But the fact remains that, if the Senate Judiciary Committee votes on the "Respect for Marriage Act" - which would repeal the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" and allow married gay couples the same federal rights as straight couples - it will have enough votes to pass.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who chairs the committee, has announced that DOMA repeal will be considered by the committee next month.  If this happens, the 18-member committee has enough votes to pass the bill; every single Democrat on the committee is a co-sponsor of the bill:

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.)
Sen, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.)
Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.)
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)

It would be historic for the Senate Committee to vote in favor of repealing DOMA, which has kept gay couples from being treated equally under federal law.  Doubtlessly, the Senate as a whole would not be able to pass the bill this Congress - as we would need not 51, but 60 votes to do so and currently only have 29 cosponsors - but this is an incredible and encouraging first step towards federal marriage equality.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

United Online: Maximizing the LGBT Community's Collective Power (Part I)

We are living in an era in which exercising our civic duties and democratic rights is easier than ever before. With social media – including blogs, social networks (Facebook, Twitter), content-sharing sites (Flickr, YouTube), and wikis – we can connect with one another, share information, engage in important discussions, and organize collective action at almost no cost. 

As Clay Shirky writes in Here Comes Everybody, “most of the barriers to group action have collapsed” (pg. 22). The internet has, as Yohai Benkler writes in The Wealth of Networks, made it so much easier for citizens to become active participants in the public sphere – to not just passively receive information from some elite source, but to actively engage that information, discuss it with others, and act on it (pg. 212-213). 

The internet, particularly with regards to social media, has a profoundly democratizing effect because it allows us to fulfill our democratic duties – such as, as Richard Butsch puts it, to become informed and deliberate over the issues (The Citizen Audience, pg. 1, 12-13) – much more easily and cost-effectively than before. It allows us to come together, sometimes from great geographical distances, and deliberate over the issues, organize collective action, and hold our government and one another accountable – with just a few clicks of the mouse.

There is no doubt, then, that social media have removed the barriers to collective action and allowed us to exercise our Constitution-given rights more easily. But is the LGBT community harnessing these tools to the greatest extent that it can?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Does ENDA Stand a Chance in the Senate?

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is an extremely important bill. It would prohibit businesses from discriminating in their hiring practices based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Despite overwhelming support among the electorate for a non-discrimination statute, Congress has yet to pass ENDA.

The Human Rights Campaign announced today that Sen. Kay Hagan (D-Va.) will cosponsor ENDA in the Senate.   This means that the Senate HELP Committee now has majority support for ENDA and could pass the bill out of committee.

But what then?  Hagan's announcement brings up the tally to 41 cosponsors in the Senate, including three Republicans (Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)).  But these days, you need 60 votes to get anything done in the Senate, as the Republican minority has been all too happy to filibuster any bill it has even a slight problem with. 

In the last Senate, ENDA had 44 cosponsors ( says 45, but it's counting both Ted Kennedy and Paul Kirk, who replaced Kennedy after his death); of them, Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) have yet to cosponsor ENDA in the current Congress.  If you live in Louisiana or Wisconsin, click on those links to contact your senator and urge him or her to cosponsor ENDA again.  I have no doubt they will if enough of their constituents ask them to do so.

That would bring us up to 43 cosponsors; we would need 17 more to pass ENDA in the Senate.  Is this possible?  Below is my list of potential "yea" votes:

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)
Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.)
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.)
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.)
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.)
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.)

Essentially, this list includes the rest of the Democratic Caucus, and two more of the eight Republicans who voted for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal last year.  I did not include Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), because I really can't see him voting for ENDA.  Some of these might seem like a longshot, but keep in mind they don't need to throw their whole weight behind the bill by cosponsoring it - they just need to vote in the affirmative when push comes to shove.

This list comprises 13 senators, which would bring us up to 56 ENDA supporters - four short of cloture.  It's possible that four Republicans would vote for cloture but not for the bill, but I'm not sure I see it given their caucus' behavior so far this Congress; the only Republicans I could imagine doing that are already on this list.

So is ENDA DOA in the Senate this Congress?  It seems like it.  And with both chambers focusing on jobs and the deficit for at least the next few months, I can't imagine ENDA would even come up in conversation until at least next year, and by then we'll already be thinking about the election, and then the bill's prospects for the next Congress.  And it goes without saying that even if the Senate did manage to pass ENDA, the GOP-controlled House would not do so.

But the fact that the bill won't make President Obama's desk this Congress doesn't mean we shouldn't still push for the bill.  It would make a powerful symbolic statement to rack up more and more cosponsors for this very important legislation, just as we've celebrated several DOMA repeal milestones this month.  If you live in one of the states represented by one of the senators listed above, click on their name to contact them and tell them to get onboard as a cosponsors of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. 

ENDA may be out of the question this Congress, but we can still push for equality, and starting the battle now will make it all the easier to win next time around.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The First Republican to Cosponsor DOMA Repeal

The Advocate is reporting that the "Respect for Marriage Act" - which would repeal the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" - has officially picked up its first Republican cosponsor: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.

“I voted against the constitutional amendment defining marriage [in 2006] so I’m pleased to cosponsor the repeal of DOMA and work with my colleagues on marriage equality,” said Ros-Lehtinen, who represents Florida’s 18th district, which includes South Beach, most sections of Miami, and the Florida Keys.
Ros-Lehtinen is also the only Republican member of the LGBT Equality Caucus and, according to the Advocate, has cosponsored many equal rights bills.

With Ros-Lehtinen's cosponsorship, DOMA repeal now has 125 cosponsors in the House, breaking another new record.  The same bill has a record 30 Senate cosponsors, as well.

It's very encouraging to see a Republican cosponsor the repeal of a form of institutionalized discrimination that most of the GOP has been all too happy to defend.  I hope that more Republicans will break away from their leadership and understand the importance of standing up for all people.  Equal rights is not a partisan issue, and Ros-Lehtinen's support for LGBT equality is proof of that.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fair Housing Legislation Introduced in House and Senate

The Advocate is reporting that legislation has been introduced to the House of Representatives and Senate which would prohibit discrimination against LGBT people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts has introduced federal legislation to expressly prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in housing.

The bill, known as the Housing Opportunities Made Equal Act, or HOME Act, would amend the 1968 Fair Housing Act to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, as well as amend the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to prevent such discrimination in lending (the bill would also bar discrimination based on source of income and marital status). A House version of the bill will be introduced later today by Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York.
So far, the bill has seven cosponsors in the Senate, all of whom are Democrats.  According to a press release sent out by Kerry's office, the HOME Act will accomplish five things:

  • Amend the Fair Housing Act to prohibit housing discrimination and intimidation on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or source of income.
  • Amend the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in access to credit.
  • Outlaw housing discrimination both before and after a housing unit is acquired.
  • Strengthen anti-discrimination protections for handicapped individuals and LGBT parents with custody of a child.
  • Provide the Attorney General with appropriate pre-litigation investigative power to enforce the law.
I think it's terrific that fair housing legislation has been introduced to both chambers of Congress.  But with various LGBT-related bills (ENDA, UAFA, DOMA, etc.) targeting various forms of discrimination, one wonders if it would be more worthwhile to introduce one gigantic omnibus bill that would immediately make LGBT people equal in all realms.  We've heard noise that Rep. Jared Polis is drafting a bill - with the help of LGBT activists - that would cover all of these areas.  Doubtlessly, the bill will be going nowhere for a while, but I'm starting to think it might be smart to introduce one package we can all rally around, as opposed to splitting all of our issues up into different bills and risking spreading ourselves too thin.

It's certainly something to consider.  Until then, though, it is great to see more equal rights legislation introduced, and I look forward to seeing the bill pick up more and more cosponsors in both chambers.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ding-Dong, DADT is Dead

Today marks the official end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the discriminatory law that barred gay men and women from serving openly in the US military.

It's amazing and very surreal to speak of DADT in the past tense - for even once Congress voted for repeal and the President signed it into law, there was still a very lengthy process (to the tune of half a year or so) which finally culminated in today's official death of discrimination in the form of DADT.  But at last, we can say that this bigoted remnant of the Clinton Administration is gone for good.

Today's good news comes as the result of hard work of thousands upon thousands of people who called their congressmen, wrote letters to the editor, risked arrest and, yes, blogged for repeal.  I still remember organizing a Facebook event that mobilized over 1,000 people to call the offices of key Senators and urge them to support repeal.  Many people worked very hard over the course of many months to see DADT gone, and we should be proud of ourselves for our accomplishment on this day.

Today is a day of celebration, for we are that much closer to a world in which LGBT people are truly treated equally.  Gay servicemembers are coming out; those who could not serve openly are marrying their loved ones; lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are saying"good riddance" to DADT; the President released this statement on repeal:

As of today, patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love. As of today, our armed forces will no longer lose the extraordinary skills and combat experience of so many gay and lesbian service members. And today, as Commander in Chief, I want those who were discharged under this law to know that your country deeply values your service.

If you live in Connecticut, you can attend a rally this Saturday hosted by Congressman Jim Himes (CT-04) and the Human Rights Campaign celebrating repeal and discussing the next steps towards ensuring full LGBT equality.

Repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is a resounding success for the LGBT community; a law that institutionalized discrimination within our federal government is no more.  But make no mistake: we still have a long way to go in procuring equality for LGBT servicemembers.  Transgender servicemembers are still not allowed to serve openly, and there is nothing stopping LGBT servicemembers from being discriminated against in the military.  LGBT military and veterans spouses are also not treated fairly because of the "Defense of Marriage Act."  We have a long way to go yet in ensuring equality for our men and women in uniform, and for ourselves.

GetEQUAL has mobilized its forces for full federal equality in the wake of DADT repeal, emphasizing the need for equality in various other realms.  Check out the Day of Discontent map to see if there are any events in your area.

Today, we celebrate the death of a discriminatory law that has kept patriotic men and women from serving in the armed forces.  Tomorrow, we continue the fight for full equality.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why gay marriage had (next to) nothing to do with NY-9

In the wake of Democrat David Weprin's shocking electoral defeat by Republican Bob Turner in the race to replace embattled former Congressman Anthony Weiner, many on the political right are insisting that it was Weprin's support for gay marriage that sealed his fate.  The high population of Orthodox Jews in the Brooklyn-Queens district, they say, voted against Weprin's support for equal marriage, putting Turner over the top in what should have been an easy victory for the Democrats.

But the facts are not on their side.  In fact, recent polling in New York's ninth district confirms that there were many factors at play, and that gay marriage was only a small part of a variety of issues voters weighed in deciding who to vote for.

Public Policy Polling gathered the opinions of NY-9ers just days before the election, and their data demonstrate that gay marriage was not what ushered in Congressman Bob Turner; rather, it was the district's disillusionment with President Obama, particularly his stance on Israel, that turned voters away from the Democrats this year.

According to PPP, 56% of voters in the district disapprove of President Obama, compared with only 31% who approve of him.  Compare that to Mitt Romney's 33%-33% split, and the fact that voters said they would vote for Romney over Obama 46% to 42%, and it is clear that Obama's decline in popularity had a significant effect on voters' views of the Democrat in this congressional race; the electorate was just not on Democrats' sides.  Obama has even received flak from within his own party for Weprin's loss.

Specifically on Israel, 54% of voters disapprove of Obama's handling of the issue, while only 30% approve.  The salience of this issue was very high, with 69% saying it was very or somewhat important in deciding who to vote for, while only 29% called it not that important.

On the question of gay marriage, the numbers are almost even, with 45% supporting and 41% opposing.  Given the poll's margin of error of 3.8%, that is virtually a statistical tie.  Furthermore, 55% said this issue was very or somewhat important in their decision on who to vote for, while 44% said it was not that important.  Given the fact that public opinion on gay marriage is split, the fact that the issue was relatively salient (though certainly not as much as Israel) does not immediately point to the issue being a boon for Turner.  In other words, given that opinion is virtually even, it's just as possible that Weprin's support for gay marriage led some voters to want to vote for Weprin, just as much as it led some to not want to vote for him.  The numbers do not support gay marriage opponents' assertions that Weprin's defeat was a direct result of his views on gay marriage.

Not only does reliable polling show that the issue of gay marriage did not play the role that organizations like the National Organization for Marriage is saying it did, but it has even been reported that both candidates sought to downplay the issue, since in New York gay marriage is already legal.

Even among those who did disagree with Weprin's views on gay marriage, the real problem was not so much his mere support for gay marriage, but the fact that he used his religion as an Orthodox Jew as a reason to support it, which many Orthodox Jews found offensive.  Again, the issue of marriage is trumped by other matters.

Bottom line: Those who say Weprin lost the election because of his support for gay marriage have no proof of this.  In fact, statistical evidence points to Obama's unpopularity and his handling of Israel being the major factors at play.  Once again, the anti-equality forces are trying to make political hay out of a race that had very little to do with marriage, but the facts clearly say otherwise.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

DOMA Repeal Reaches Milestone in House

Given the huge losses House Democrats suffered in the 2010 elections, one might assume that the 112th Congress would have fewer cosponsors than the 111th for the "Defense of Marriage Act," the law that bars gay couples from receiving the same rights straight couples receive.

But not so: Amanda Terkel for the Huffington Post reports that the "Respect for Marriage Act" - the law that would repeal DOMA - now has 124 cosponsors, up from last Congress's 120.  The latest cosponsor apparently made his decision in response to the push for a state constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage in his home state of North Carolina:

Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) has decided to fight for federal marriage equality because of the Republican push to ban it in North Carolina. He told the Advocate on Wednesday that he would become a cosponsor of the federal legislation to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage for federal purposes as between one man and one woman.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, will announce the addition of both Miller and Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, as cosponsors to the Respect for Marriage Act on Thursday, according to the congressman's spokesman Ilan Kayatsky. On Tuesday, Reps. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.) were added as cosponsors.
The announcement comes just days after the Senate reached a milestone itself, with a record 30 Senators supporting DOMA repeal.

That a GOP-controlled House would have more co-sponsors than the House before is just confirmation of what we already knew: that DOMA is on its way out and that the American people are tired of government-backed discrimination.  A poll commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign shows that a plurality of Americans oppose DOMA.

Graph courtesy of the Human Rights Campaign

While DOMA will surely be around so long as the House is controlled by the GOP, there is no denying that support for repeal is at an all-time high, both in Congress and across the country.  It is only a matter of time - perhaps just a few years - before DOMA is gone for good.

Call your congressmen and tell them you oppose the discriminatory "Defense of Marriage Act" and want them to co-sponsor the "Respect for Marriage Act."

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Debate of Hate

Photo courtesy of John Waiblinger.

As Republicans met at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., last night in one of many presidential primary debates, there was also another group gathered just outside the library, one that was conspicuously absent from the discussion taking place inside.

GetEQUAL, a national direct action LGBT rights organization, organized a protest outside the Republican Debate to oppose the “hostile environment” the candidates have contributed to for the LGBT community.

The rally included a memorial for several LGBT youth who have fallen victim to hatred, either taking their own lives or being murdered by homophobic assailants. These victims include Marcellus Andrews, 19, of Waterloo, Iowa (Michele Bachmann’s birthplace); Lawrence King, 15, of Oxnard Calif.; Seth Walsh, 13, of Tahachapi, Calif.; and Justin Aaberg, 15, of Anoka, Minn.

Here are some quotes from a release sent out by GetEQUAL prior to the protest:

“While the GOP candidates jockey for position at the front of the political pack, our youth are taking their own lives in record numbers,” said Robin McGehee, Director of GetEQUAL. “It’s time for these candidates to lead, rather than to follow the bigoted and discriminatory philosophies of fringe, right-wing activists who insist on demonizing fellow Americans for political gain.”

Dan Fotou, GetEQUAL activist, states, “Republican candidates need to be reminded that they have the power to make a difference. Their party platform has, time and again, used the LGBT community for political theater to maintain their bigotry. What they fail to realize is the real impact their words carry – words that can result in death.”

“Every Presidential candidate, regardless of party affiliation, is responsible for the safety and care of Americans,” GetEQUAL activist Michael McKeon says. “It’s shameful that Governor Rick Perry refused to sign the Texas anti-bullying bill into law until all references to LGBT youth were removed – including the name of the young man, Asher Brown, for whom the law was to be named. In a state in which he and the GOP platform are calling for the criminalization of homosexuality, it’s no wonder that the safety of our community is at great risk.”

It comes as no great surprise that the protest – along with the LGBT children it honored – went unacknowledged inside the Reagan library; the Republicans jockeying for the nomination are among some of the most conservative, anti-gay lawmakers our country has known in recent politics. Rick Santorum, for instance, has compared homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality, and Michele Bachmann has insinuated that gay families are not real families. Rick Perry supports criminalizing gay sex, and Newt Gingrich thinks President Obama should be impeached for opposing the "Defense of Marriage Act." The track record for all of the candidates – perhaps with the exception of Ron Paul, whose supporters interestingly dotted the group of 20 - is mediocre at best, horrifying at worst.

I applaud GetEQUAL for taking the Republican presidential candidates to task for their unsavory political views. If we want to put pressure on presidential candidates – including Obama – to support LGBT rights in exchange for our electoral support, it is vital that we have a strong and conspicuous presence throughout the electoral process. We cannot be silent while candidates either ignore our interests or actively seek to work against them. I hope that there will be similar protests in the future, including at the sites of the 2012 Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

DOMA Repeal Now Has 30 Senate Co-Sponsors, 120 in House

Freedom to Marry is reporting that Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., will co-sponsor the "Respect for Marriage Act," a bill that would repeal the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA).  DOMA bars legally-wedded gay couples from receiving over 1,000 federal benefits which married straight couples receive.

Mikulski's announcement comes just days after 3,000 petition signatures were delivered to her office - proof that grassroots campaigning can make the difference.

Mikulski becomes the 30th cosponsor for the "Respect for Marriage Act" - an impressive showing, but still only half the number of yea votes needed to pass repeal of the discriminatory law.  Additionally, 120 congressmen have cosponsored the House version of the bill, just over half the necessary yea votes for that chamber.

While DOMA will surely not be repealed by a GOP-controlled House, the more cosponsors we get for this important civil rights legislation, the stronger statement we make against institutionalized discrimination.  DOMA perpetuates a second-class citizenship for gay couples by telling them that their federal government does not recognize their relationship.

It is clear that DOMA has got to go: take a moment to call your congressmen and tell them to support the "Respect for Marriage Act" - and, if they do, to thank them for doing so.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

RI Governor Signs Civil Unions Into Law

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chaffee (I) has signed into law a bill that would allow gay couples to enter into civil unions.

The civil unions bill - which many LGBT advocacy groups opposed because they set up a separate and unequal institution for gay couples and allow religious institutions overly broad exemptions from recognizing those couples - came on the heels of a failed gay marriage law, which failed to muster enough votes in the State Senate after being passed by the State House.

At the bill signing, Chaffee agreed that the religious exemptions are too broad but added that the civil unions legislation "provides a foundation from which we will continue to fight for full marriage equality."

I applaud Rhode Island for passing legislation that will extend legal rights to gay couples - but this legislation does not go far enough in procuring true and full equality for LGBT people.  The state of Rhode Island needs marriage equality, just like every state does, and we need to push harder than ever for gay marriage in one of only two states in New England that don't provide marriage equality (the other being Maine).  That is why we need to ensure that anti-equality legislators in the Rhode Island state legislature get kicked out of office come 2012 to pave the way for marriage in the Ocean State.

Friday, June 24, 2011

UPDATED: New York Marriage Equality Bill Signed into Law

Update (12:25am): Minutes before midnight, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the Marriage Equality Act into law; gay couples can now marry legally in New York in exactly 30 days.


The New York Senate has passed the Marriage Equality Act, which will allow gay couples to marry under state law, 33 to 29. The bill had already been passed by the New York Assembly, so it now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) desk.

New York will join Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Washington, DC, in allowing gay couples to marry equally. With New York set to allow gay marriage, the number of gay people living in an equal marriage state will instantly double.

The vote ends an unpredictable week in Albany, as the Assembly extended its session by a full week in order to take up the marriage bill and other matters. It was speculated that there were 31 votes sealed for marriage, with one more vote needed to pass the bill. A similar bill had been rejected by the State Senate last year.

“What this bill will do is say that we’re family in a way that no other word can – and that word is family,” said Sen. Tom Duane before the vote.

Before the vote on the bill, an amendment to grant additional protections to religious institutions who do not wish to recognize gay marriages passed the senate 36 to 26; the crowd gathered in the gallery erupted in applause.

Sen. Stephen Saland (R) rose to introduce the amendment, thanking Cuomo for being “sensitive” to the balance between “religious freedom” and the “importance of equality.” He then prefaced his vote on the marriage bill.

“I have struggled over this issue, it has been an extremely difficult issue to deal with. Coming from a rather traditional background… my quandary was, all of the folks who wrote me, the thousands and thousands of letters and emails and thousands of telephone calls, they all asked me to do the right thing,” said Saland.

“My decision is going to disappoint a significant number of people, but I can say my intellectual and emotional journey has ended here today, and I have to define doing the right thing as treating all persons with equality, and that equality includes within the definition of marriage. I fear that to do otherwise would fly in the face of my upbringing.”

Sen. Mark Grisanti (R), also an undecided vote, spoke on the bill just before the vote, revealing that he would vote in favor, to more applause.

“I have studied this issue… I have struggled with it. Please know that in the past, what I was telling you and what I believed at the time, was the truth,” He said. “I would not respect myself if I didn’t do the research, have an open mind, and make an informed decision based on the information before me. I cannot legally come up with an argument against gay marriage. I cannot deny a person the same rights that I have with my wife.”

Saland and Grisanti will go down in history as two men who supported equality when it mattered the most, when his was the vote that was needed to bring marriage equality past the finish line. Tonight’s vote is extremely encouraging to everyone who has worked hard for equality in the Empire State and beyond, and I am so excited that New Yorkers will be allowing gay couples to be treated equally under state law.

Friday, June 17, 2011

UN Approves Resolution Condemning LGBT Discrimination

Updated June 17, 2011 10:55am

The United Nations approved Friday a resolution condemning discrimination and violence against LGBT people, by a vote of 23 to 19, with 3 abstentions.

The resolution, introduced by the South African delegation, “[expresses] grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The resolution will call for the UN's high commissioner for human rights, Navanethem Pillay of South Africa, to conduct a study on discrimination and violence against LGBT people worldwide.

Click here to read the resolution in its entirety.

States supporting the resolution included: Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

While resolutions are not legally binding, and thus the situation for LGBT people who are subjected to violence and discrimination around the world is not immediately improved, it is still a gigantic step forward in recognizing LGBT rights as human rights, and LGBT people as people who deserve equality and respect.

It is also a step forward for the US which, under President George W. Bush, did not back a similar resolution introduced by the French delegation.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New York Assembly Passes Marriage Equality

The New York State Assembly has passed a bill allowing gay couples to marry, 80-63.

The bill now goes to the State Senate, where passage is uncertain.  Currently, 31 state senators - including all but one of the Democrats and two Republicans - have committed to supporting the legislation; 32 are needed to pass the bill.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has pledged to sign the bill if passed, and in fact has been an outspoken advocate and a strong lobbyist for the bill for several weeks now.

The Republican Caucus - which is the party in control of the State Senate - met for four hours today to discuss whether to bring the bill up for a vote: no decision has yet been made, and the caucus will reconvene tomorrow to discuss the matter further.

With a strong majority of New Yorkers supporting marriage equality, it is time for the Empire State to join Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Iowa in allowing gay couples to marry.  It is the right thing to do, and I strongly encourage members of the NY Senate to vote for equality when this bill comes to the floor.

If you live in New York, call your state senator and tell him or her to support equal marriage.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Chick-fil-A to Leave GWU

I have written before (here and here) about Chick-fil-A's ties to anti-gay organizations who seek to suppress and discriminate against gay people and especially gay couples.  Since finding out about Chick-fil-A's history of supporting such homophobic groups, I have kept my promise not to eat at the Chick-fil-A at J Street, the George Washington University's dining hall.

Many schools have kicked Chick-fil-A off campus following the media buzz surrounding the eatery's homophobic ties.  The George Washington University is now becoming the next school to eliminate Chick-fil-A from its menu, as students and faculty alike turn away from the hateful chain.  From GW Today:

The most obvious changes to J Street will be two new concepts: a diner, which will feature a made-to-order grill, ready-to-go breakfast and lunch combos, salads, daily specials and coffee drinks and will replace Wendy’s; and a “homestyle favorites” venue, which will serve traditional American comfort food, including meals like meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans, as well as a daily Buff and Blue Plate Special. The homestyle favorites venue will replace Chick-Fil-A. (emphasis added)

Let's be clear: we don't know for a fact that GW is ditching Chick-fil-A because of its homophobic ties: to assert that beyond a shadow of a doubt would be more than misleading.  (More realistically, students are just sick and tired of eating greasy fast food every single day.)  But whatever the reason, Chick-fil-A is no longer going to have a presence on the GW campus, and that is categorically a good thing.

The GW community - a community that accepts and supports its LGBT students - should not be giving a single penny to a dining establishment that will just forward that money to anti-gay organizations.  This move brings GW one step closer to being the perfect school for LGBT students and faculty.  I applaud the decision to remove Chick-fil-A from campus.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

URGENT: Tell Sen. Toni Boucher to Support Transgender Rights

Are you from Westport, Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, or Wilton?  Then you can be critical in helping pass transgender rights in Connecticut.

Last week, the Connecticut State House passed HB 6599: An Act Concerning Discrimination.  This important bill would add "gender identity or expression" to the state's anti-discrimination statute, protecting transgender people from discrimination in employment, education, housing, public accommodations and credit.

The bill now goes to the State Senate, where they may be voting on it as early as this week.  We need to make sure it passes so that our transgender friends and family may be treated fairly in the Nutmeg State.

If you live in the aforementioned towns, your State Senator is Toni Boucher (R), the Deputy Minority Leader.  Though she is a Republican, she voted for marriage equality in 2009 - thus it is clear that she cares about equal rights.  However, when asked in 2008 whether Connecticut should "include gender identity in Connecticut's anti-discrimination laws," she answered "not sure."

Please contact Sen. Boucher and ask her to vote for HB 6599, as written, without any amendments that would weaken the bill.  It would be incredibly significant for a prominent Republican in Connecticut politics to vote in favor of LGBT rights: let's do everything we can to make sure she does!

You can write to Sen. Boucher here: I am going to do so as soon as I publish this post, and I strongly encourage all other constituents reading this to do so as well.

When filling out the information, choose "Bill (indicate below)" for the issue.  Courtesy of CT Equality, here is a script you can use for the Comment section - however, a personalized, unique message goes much further.

As you probably know, on May 19, the House passed HB 6599: An Act Concerning Discrimination. I am writing to urge you to vote for HB 6599 when it comes up for a vote in the Senate, without amendments. This is an issue of basic fairness and equality for the transgender residents of our state. Everyone should be protected from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and credit--we all deserve equal access to the building blocks of life and livelihoods, such as a job and a place to live. No one should live in fear of losing their job for any reason unrelated to job performance, including transgender people. Connecticut can affirm its commitment to providing equality and fairness by adding gender identity and gender expression to its non-discrimination statutes.

Will you support HB 6599 as written? I look forward to hearing back from you. Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.

You can also call Sen. Boucher's office at 1-800-842-1421.

Please contact Sen. Boucher as soon as possible and ask her to support HB 6599 so that transgender people in Connecticut will be protected from discrimination.

If you do not live in Boucher's district, click here to find out who your state senator is, and contact him or her about this important legislation.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Gallup: Majority Supports Marriage Equality

According to Gallup's 2011 Values and Beliefs poll, a majority of Americans support the freedom to marry for gay couples - a first since Gallup started tracking the issue in 1996.

Gallup found that 53% of Americans support marriage equality, while only 45% oppose legalizing gay marriage - a majority of 8%.  This represents a nine-point change over last year's numbers.

69% of Democrats and 59% of Independents support marriage equality, while only 28% of Republicans do (a number that is unchanged from last year's poll).

A whopping 70% of people ages 18-34 support marriage equality, while 53% of people ages 35-54 do, and only 39% of people ages 55+.

Women continue to support marriage equality more strongly than men across all age groups.

This is just the latest in a series of polls that have shown Americans turning towards marriage equality exponentially: those who oppose equality for gay couples are in the minority, and it is very encouraging to see our fellow Americans recognizing us as equals who deserve to be treated as such under the law.

Now, here's an interesting question: how many polls have to show majority support for marriage equality before it becomes a non-event?  In other words, when will there come a time that seeing a poll that shows majority support for equality is so obvious and expected that it's not even worth blogging about?  Just something to think about.

Regardless, Gallup - one of the most reliable and respected polling firms in the world - confirms what we already knew to be true: that Americans support equality for LGBT people and LGBT couples.  It is time for Congress and President Obama to follow the public's lead and repeal the "Defense of Marriage Act" and allow all couples to be treated equally under state and federal law.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Conn. State House Passes Gender Identity Protections

According to CT Equality, the Connecticut State House has passed HB 6599: An Act Concerning Discrimination by a vote of 77-62.

HB 6599 would add "gender identity or expression" to the state's anti-discrimination statute, protecting transgender people from discrimination in employment, education, housing, public accommodations and credit.  This is a very important bill for transgender people, one we must work hard to make sure it reaches the Governor's desk.

Importantly, the bill was passed without any amendments that would alter or weaken the legislation.  The bill now goes to the State Senate and, if passed, onto Gov. Dannel Malloy's (D) desk.

You can find the roll call for tonight's vote here.  It brings me great pleasure to say that, after telling me by email that he would support the bill, Rep. Jonathan Steinberg - my state representative - was one of the 77 legislators to vote for equality.

Momentum is on our side - let's not waste it: if you live in Connecticut, please contact your state senator and tell him or her to vote in favor of equality for transgender people.

Rhode Island House Passes Civil Unions Bill

The Rhode Island state House passed a civil unions bill today by an overwhelming majority of 62-11.

The legislation would allow gay couples to enter into civil unions, which would give them the same rights under the state as married couples; gay couples would not be allowed to marry.

The bill now goes to the Rhode Island state Senate, where Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed has predicted it will pass; Gov. Lincoln Chaffee (I) has said he would sign the bill.

This legislation was fairly controversial, as many pro-equality advocates came out against the bill under the belief that civil unions create separate and unequal institutions that treat gay couples as second-class citizens.

A bill that would allow gay couples to marry in Rhode Island failed earlier this month after it was determined that there were not enough votes for the bill to pass.  An amendment was introduced to the civil unions bill to turn it into a marriage bill, but this amendment was shot down before the final vote.

It is unfortunate that this legislation would retain gay couples as second-class citizens who cannot marry as their straight friends can; however, it is still something worth working for, as many gay couples need the rights civil unions would allow, such as hospital visitation rights.

Civil unions are a stepping stone: they are a means to an end, not an end in themselves.  We will have marriage equality in Rhode Island, perhaps not this year, but certainly soon.  It is a question not of "if," but of "when."  We should work to pass the civil unions bill this year, with the knowledge and determination that full marriage equality will come swiftly after it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Conn. State House May Vote on Transgender Protections Soon

CT Equality is reporting that the Connecticut State House may vote on HB 6599: An Act Concerning Discrimination soon, perhaps as early as this week.  This important bill would add "gender identity or expression" to the state's anti-discrimination statute, protecting them from discrimination in employment, education, housing, public accommodations and credit.

The House Judiciary Committee already passed the bill last month, 27 to 14, without amendments.  However, we need to make sure we have enough support in the full House to get the bill passed, without amendments.

If you live in Connecticut, please take a moment to contact your legislator (you can find out who your state representative is here) and tell him or her to support HB 6599 without any amendments.  It's very easy and very helpful; I already contacted my state rep, Jonathan Steinberg, and was very happy to hear that he supports this legislation.

You can find more information on how to lobby your state rep on this bill here.

Our friends in the transgender community need our help to ensure they are treated fairly and equally: please contact your state lawmaker today and urge him or her to support HB 6599.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sec. Clinton Condemns Homophobia and Transphobia

As part of today's International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (more commonly referred to as IDAHO), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has issued a statement on behalf of the Obama administration to "reaffirm our support for LGBT communities at home and abroad, and to call for an end to discrimination and mistreatment of LGBT persons wherever it occurs."

It is always nice to see the administration openly supporting LGBT rights.  However, the fact remains that, even as we condemn homophobia abroad (from a distance, one must note), there are still many inequalities faced by LGBT people right here in the United States.  LGBT couples are forced apart by discriminatory immigration laws, LGBT still cannot serve in the military (and even after "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is repealed, transgender people will still be barred from open service), and there is no federal law prohibiting employment discrimination against LGBT people.

As Secretary Clinton says, "let us resolve to redouble our efforts."  There is a lot of work to be done, both at home and abroad, to ensure that LGBT people are treated fairly and equally.  We cannot wait for someone else to come along and do that work for us: we must answer the call ourselves and work every day for equality around the world.

Read the full statement below:

In every part of the world, men and women are persecuted and attacked because of who they are or whom they love. Homophobia, transphobia and the brutal hostility associated with them are often rooted in a lack of understanding of what it actually means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). So to combat this terrible scourge and break the cycle of fear and violence, we must work together to improve education and support those who stand up against laws that criminalize love and promote hate. As we mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia this May 17, let us resolve to redouble our efforts.

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am proud to reaffirm our support for LGBT communities at home and abroad, and to call for an end to discrimination and mistreatment of LGBT persons wherever it occurs. Whether by supporting LGBT advocates marching in Belgrade, leading the effort at the United Nations to affirm the human rights of LGBT persons, or condemning a vile law under consideration in Uganda, we are committed to our friends and allies in every region of the world who are fighting for equality and justice. These are not Western concepts; these are universal human rights.

Despite these gains and hard work, there is more to do to turn the tide of inequality and discrimination against the LGBT community. If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, know that the United States stands with you and we are unwavering in our commitment to ending this cycle of hate.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell Signs Civil Unions Into Law

One month after the Delaware state legislature passed a law granting civil unions to same-sex couples by wide margins, Gov. Jack Markell (D) signed the bill into law at a signing ceremony attended by over 600 supporters of equality.

According to the Associated Press, the law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2012, making Delaware the eighth state to grant civil unions or domestic partnerships to gay couples.  Another five states and the District of Columbia grant full marriage equality (albeit without federal protections thanks to the "Defense of Marriage Act"), and a few more grant limited rights and protections to gay couples.

This is a major victory for all supporters of equality in Delaware, and it should be appropriately celebrated as such.  However, separate is not equal, and the fact that a separate institution outside of marriage is being created for gay couples is a solemn reminder that we are not yet equal, in Delaware or anywhere else in this country.

If we want full equality for gay couples, we need full equality in the institution of marriage, and that includes repealing the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

With Hawaii, 25% of States Have Transgender Protections

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) signed into law today House Bill 546, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in employment and as a matter of public policy.  The Hawaii state House voted to pass the bill by an overwhelming majority last month.

Hawaii already has gender identity protections in the areas of housing and public accommodations.  Protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation have existed in Hawaii for two decades.

Hawaii becomes the 13th state (along with the District of Columbia) to protect transgender people in employment, housing, and public accommodations.  As HRC's Jeremy Pittman writes, that means that 25% of American states protect transgender people.  Of course, it's not enough until 100% of them do, but it's a milestone and cause for celebration.

These are the 13 states that protect transgender people in employment, housing, and public acccommodations:

New Jersey
New Mexico
Rhode Island

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

DOMA Repeal Could Pass Senate Committee

According to the Washington Blade, repeal of the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" - formally titled the "Respect for Marriage Act" - has enough votes to pass the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The news comes after Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), both of whom have a seat on the Judiciary Committee, announced their support for the bill; DOMA Repeal now has at least 10 votes in that committee, enough to move the bill to the Senate floor for a full vote.

Act on Principles' public whip count - which is good for feeling out support for a bill but doesn't do a great job of giving exact numbers - shows 20 cosponsors for the "Respect for Marriage Act," and 35 senators "leaning yes."  (I suppose that should now read 22 and 33.)  That means that we may have as many as 55 votes for DOMA Repeal in the Senate, putting us just 5 votes shy of a filibuster-proof majority.

According to the Blade, we need 7 Republicans to support DOMA Repeal in order to pass the legislation; this doesn't fit with Act on Principles' numbers, but the fact remains that we need Republican support for this bill.  Moderate Republicans like Snowe, Collins, Murkowski, and Kirk - all of whom voted to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" last year - are possibilities.

While the bill may pass in the Senate (with a lot of hard work from all in the LGBT community - the kind of work we saw on DADT last year), it is most likely not going to pass in the Republican-controlled House.  However, this does not mean we should not try to get DOMA Repeal passed in the Senate: it would send a message that opponents of marriage equality are in the minority, just like recent polls have shown, and that their days of tyrannical rule over the minority are numbered.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who sponsored the legislation, says she does not know when the bill will come up for a vote, but let's not waste any time: call your senators and tell them to support repeal of the discriminatory "Defense of Marriage Act" - and if they already do, then thank them for their support.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nate Silver: Gay Marriage Opponents Now In Minority

Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight is saying today what many of us have been saying for a few months now: that those who oppose marriage equality are in the minority.

A slew of new polls throughout the past couple months - including one released by CNN just yesterday - have shown that more Americans support than oppose gay marriage.  According to his regression smoothing, around 50% of Americans now support gay marriage, while only 46% oppose.

Anti-equality activists who say Americans don't support gay marriage, then, are no longer telling the truth: a plurality of Americans - and soon a majority as well - support marriage for both gay and straight couples.

Silver added what I believe are some very astute remarks on why these improving numbers will not necessarily translate to positive election results in the very near future:

...the people who turn out to vote are considerably older than the population as a whole, so gay marriage will not perform quite as well at the ballot booth as in surveys of the general population. In addition, whenever a position is gaining ground, its newly won support is often tentative and can be peeled away by an effective counter-campaign.

However, Silver also mentioned that Republicans will find it difficult to use gay marriage as a wedge issue in the coming years:

But Republican candidates, who have placed less emphasis on gay marriage in recent years, probably cannot expect their opposition to it to be a net electoral positive for them except in select circumstances. If support for gay marriage were to continue accelerating as fast as it has in the past two years, supporters would outnumber opponents roughly 56-40 in the general population by November 2012.

Past trends, of course, are no guarantee of future ones, and it’s always possible that the momentum toward increasing support for gay marriage could flatten out or even reverse itself.

But this does put Republicans in a tricky position. Their traditional position on gay marriage is becoming less popular. But to the extent they disengage from the issue, they may lose even more ground. One way to read the trends of the past few years is that we have passed an inflection point wherein it is no longer politically advantageous for candidates to oppose same-sex marriage, which in turn softens opposition to it among the general public, creating a sort of feedback loop and accelerating the trend.

This article is very encouraging: many of us have been saying for a while now that polls are proving our point - that opposition to marriage equality is ever-dwindling - and it seems that Silver, who knows a heck of a lot more about polling than I do, agrees.

Take the Justifiable Anger Readership Survey!

As I approach the end of my seventh month of blogging here at the new Justifiable Anger, I find myself wondering what my readers think about my blog: what they like, what they dislike, what they would like to see more or less of, etc.  I am also a bit curious as to who my readers are: what the average age is, how they identify within the LGBT-straight spectrum, how they know me (if they know me), what other LGBT sites they go to, etc.

Thus, I am announcing the first Justifiable Anger Readership Survey

By taking this 12-question survey, you'll help me answer all of the questions I listed above, and then some.  In reading these answers, I'll determine how I can improve my website.  Should I have guest columnists?  More polls?  Fewer movie reviews?  Less breaking news and more analysis?  This is your chance to weigh in on Justifiable Anger and help shape the path my website will take in the coming months.

All responses are 100% anonymous, so please feel free to answer honestly.

There's no due date, but the sooner I get a large volume of responses, the sooner I can begin improving my site - making the experience better for you.  I want my readers to enjoy their time here (let's face it, blogging is no fun if nobody's reading your work), so this survey will help me help you get more out of JA.

Click here to take the Justifiable Anger Readership Survey.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

CNN Says 51% Support Gay Marriage - But Is That Number Actually Higher?

For the first time, a CNN poll shows that a majority of Americans support equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples: 51% say "marriages between gay and lesbian couples should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages," while 47% disagree.

Two years ago, those numbers were virtually reversed, as 44% supported marriage equality and 54% opposed.

The demographic breakdown is interesting, if not unexpected: 57% of women support, while only 45% of men do.; both white (52%) and non-white (51%) people support; 59% of people who attended college support, while only 42% of people who did not attend college do; 64% of Democrats, 55% of Independents, and only 27% of Republicans support.

But here's where it gets particularly interesting: the poll shows that 60% of people aged 35-49 support gay marriage, while only 40% of people over 50 support it.  But under the 18-34 age bracket, it simply says N/A.

Most likely, this means that there were not enough respondents aged 18-34 to segregate them for the purposes of the demographic breakdown - meaning there were fewer of them than respondents of other age groups.  This wouldn't matter if people 18-34 had similar opinions on the issue, but that's not the case: younger people have been proven to be more liberal than their older counterparts, and this is certainly true when it comes to gay marirage.

Add in the fact that the poll utilized telephone polling (which, as I've written before, can lead to sampling that underrepresents young voters due to disproportionate cellphone usage in that age group), and it's very possible that the 18-34 age group - the age group most supportive of marriage equality- is severely underrepresented in this poll.

If CNN's gay marriage poll underrepresented the younger generation - our generation - then support for gay marriage is actually higher than this poll shows.  CNN's poll - which shows narrow majority support for gay marriage - is actually skewed towards the older, more conservative generation by excluding a representative amount of younger people.

Support for marriage equality, then, is in all likelihood higher than 51%.

Hawaii Passes Employment Non-Discrimination Law for Transgender Hawaiians

The Hawaii House voted 45-4 yesterday to concur with the Hawaii Senate on HB 546 SD1, a bill prohobiting employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

The bill now goes to Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D), who has said he will sign the bill into law.

Transgender people in Hawaii are already protected against discrimination in housing and public accommodations.  Employment protection already exists for gay Hawaiians.

Hawaii becomes the 13th state (not including the District of Columbia) to codify protections for transgender people in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

We're seeing a lot of encouraging progress from Hawaii, which earlier this year passed a civil unions bill.  And no wonder: the state legislature is overwhelmingly Democrat, with a 24-1 majority in the State Senate and a 43-8 majority in the State House.

Elections matter, folks.  If you want LGBT-friendly legislation to pass, you need to vote every single year for the candidates who support equality on the local, state, and federal level.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Delaware House Passes Civil Unions Bill

The Delaware state House has passed a Civil Unions bill, 26-15.  As the Delaware state Senate has already passed the bill, it now goes to the Governor's desk; Gov. Jack Markell (D) has said he will sign it.

The new law will allow gay couples - but not straight couples - to enter into civil unions and receive the same rights under state law that straight couples receive, although they still are not "married" and do not qualify for any federal benefits.

Civil unions are not marriage, and therefore this is not a full equality bill.  However, this is a giant step in the right direction for Delaware.

Uniting American Families Act Introduced in US Congress

The Uniting American Families Act is being introduced today in the House and Senate.

In the House, UAFA will be introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif) in a press conference this afternoon.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) will introduce the legislation in the Senate.

UAFA would allow gay and lesbian American citizens to sponsor their permanent partners for legal residency in the United States, a right currently enjoyed only by married straight couples. 

It would accomplish this by amending the Immigration and Nationality Act to to permit permanent partners of US citizens and lawful permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the same manner as spouses of citizens and lawful permanent residents.

They key is that "spouse" becomes "permanent partner," thus allowing gay couples - whose marriages or partnerships are not recognized under federal law - to sponsor one another for legal residency.

ENDA Introduced in US Senate

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has been re-introduced to the United States Senate.  This bill is fully-inclusive, including employment protections for all LGBT people.

The bill's main sponsors include Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) & Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). 

With two Republicans already supporting the bill as lead sponsors, including Kirk (who is new to the Senate since ENDA was introduced last Congress), it is very possible that ENDA could pass the Senate.  Keep in mind that the last time gay rights came up for a full Senate vote, 8 Republicans voted to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" - which was about 1/5 of their entire caucus last year.

ENDA is part of the Human Rights Campaign's Economic Empowerment Agenda.

"For LGBT job seekers, the challenges of the economic downturn are coupled with the real risk that a potential employer could turn you away because you casually mention your same-sex partner in an interview, or checking your references reveals that you have changed your gender," writes HRC.  "For those LGBT people lucky enough to have jobs, the fear of discrimination can mean constant self-censoring, hiding part of yourself, and your family, from colleagues and supervisors."

Currently, gay people can be legally fired in 29 states, and transgender people can legally be fired in 38 states, just because of who they are.  ENDA is an extremely importrant piece of legislation: while we may not be able to get it passed in the Republican-controlled House, we should put serious lobbying efforts into passing ENDA in the Senate and sending a message across this country that LGBT people deserve the right to live and work freely.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

President Obama Speaks at GWU

President Obama addresses the George Washington University
on the budget and the deficit.

This afternoon, I had the incredible opportunity to go see President Obama give a speech in the Jack Morton auditorium here at the George Washington University.

His speech, titled "Winning the Future," focused on the budget and deficit.  Vice President Joe Biden, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Rep. Paul Ryan, and other prominent officials in the budget battle were in attendance.

Obama blasted the GOP budget plan, shaped heavily by Ryan, as painting a "pessimistic" picture of America, a picture that "the greatest country in the world cannot afford" clean energy, care for the elderly, road repair, and education reform.

In particular, Obama condemned Ryan's plan to replace our current Medicare system - which he agreed needs reform - with a voucher program that, according to Obama, would result in the elderly paying $6,000+ more on their healthcare.

Obama outlined his own budget proposals, which included a $4 trillion reduction in the deficit over 15 years, cuts in all areas of government including defense and entitlement spending, and eliminating tax breaks for the wealthy.  "I don't need another tax cut," he said, "Warren Buffett doesn't need another tax cut."  Obama said he would not sign another bill that extended tax cuts for the wealthy.

Here are some pictures from Obama's speech at GWU:

Rep. Paul Ryan arrives at GWU for President Obama's speech
on the budget.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Vice President Joe Biden
were in attendence for Obama's budget address.

President Obama addresses the George Washington
University on the budget and the deficit.

Friday, April 08, 2011

What Republicans Are Really Fighting

As we draw nearer and nearer to a government shutdown, Republicans are making it quite clear that the only thing stopping them from striking a deal with President Obama and Congressional Democrats is Planned Parenthood, which they say they are fighting because Planned Parenthood provides abortion services.

In fact, they are making it seem as though Planned Parenthood is exclusively an abortion clinic, like that is all they do.  Well look at this graph and tell me if you think Planned Parenthood exclusively provides abortion services:

These are the services that Planned Parenthood really provides; these are the things that Republicans are trying to cut.  STD testing.  Contraception.  Cancer screening and prevention.  Women's health services.  That is what Planned Parenthood is about.  Abortion services, as you can see, account for only 3% of the services provided by Planned Parenthood yearly.

The GOP assault on Planned Parenthood, then, is an assault on women; it is an assault on a woman's right to her health and well-being.  This has nothing to do with abortion; don't let anybody tell you otherwise.

The women of the Senate Democrat caucus are standing up for women everywhere.  In a press conference today, these senators spoke out against Republicans' attacks on Planned Parenthood and on women, and against the lies that are fueling these attacks.  Sen. Barbara Mikulski's (D-Md.) tour de force at the end of the video is particularly powerful.  Check it out below:

Louis J. Marinelli, Creator of NOM's "Summer for Marriage" Tour, Supports Marriage Equality

I could not believe my eyes when I saw this headline posted on a friend's Facebook feed.  Louis J. Marinelli, who with the National Organization for Marriage created to "Summer for Marriage" tour - which went from city to city protesting against marriage equality - has decided that he actually supports full marriage equality:

Having spent the last five years putting all of my political will, interest and energy into fighting against the spread of same-sex marriage as if it were a contagious disease, I must admit that it is hard for me to put the following text into words let alone utter them with my own voice.

Whether it is an issue of disbelief, shame or embarrassment, the one thing that is for sure is that I have come to this point after several months of an internal conflict with myself. That conflict gradually tore away at me until recently when I was able to for the first time simply admit to myself that I do in fact support civil marriage equality.

Marinelli writes about how, during the "Summer for Marriage" tour, he met LGBT people who just wanted to be treated equally and be able to live their own lives the way they wanted to; later, when looking at his own Facebook page, he realized how hateful the people who were against marriage equality were.  I've been to his Facebook page (I've also been banned from his Facebook page), and I can tell you that there are, in fact, some incredibly hateful individuals trolling that page - and I was banned simply for saying I disagree with them, and that being gay is not a choice.

Marinelli has since reformed his Facebook page, came out in support of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and now supports civil marriage for gay couples (he makes the distinction between civil and holy matrimony, and I agree with him when he says that churches should be allowed to decide whether they want to marry gay couples, but not the government).  He strongly concludes:

My name is Louis J. Marinelli, a conservative-Republican and I now support full civil marriage equality. The constitution calls for nothing less.

We often talk about how people who know someone who is gay are more likely to support gay rights.  Marinelli's change of heart perfectly exemplifies that concept: in meeting the gay people he has spent so much of his life trying to oppress, he was finally able to open his eyes and see that we are people, and that we do deserve to be equal.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Delaware Senate Passes Civil Unions

The Delaware state Senate has passed a bill that would allow gay couples to enter into civil unions by a vote of 13-6.

The law would allow gay couples - but not straight couples - to receive the same rights under state law that straight couples receive, although they still are not "married" and do not qualify for any federal benefits.

The legislation now goes onto the Delaware state House, where it is expected to pass; it would then go to Governor Jack Markell for his signature.

Although civil unions are not marriage, and are therefore not equal, I strongly endorse civil unions in the state of Delaware as a stepping stone to full equality in the institution of marriage.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Rep. Barney Frank Re-Introduces ENDA

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) has reintroduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The bill currently has 111 cosponsors; some are making bones of the fact that there are 92 fewer cosponsors than in the 111th Congress, but considering the fact that Democrats lost 63 seats in the Republican Wave of 2010, this is not terribly surprising.
And as Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Rights, tells Metro Weekly:

"We know we lost more than 40 of our co-sponsors to the election, so this isn't especially disturbing that not everyone is signed on as co-sponsors yet," she said. "It's not like today was some sort of a deadline. There will be more in the next couple of days. If you look through the list, you're going to find some obvious people who want to be and will be co-sponsors and just haven't gotten around to it yet."
Frank calls the reintroduction an "organizing tool," and when I spoke with Keisling a few days ago she confirmed that introducing the bill is the best way to ensure that lobbyists can meet with the various members of Congress to talk to them about the bill; our representatives are a bit busy to meet with lobbyists about a bill that hasn't even been introduced.

While ENDA is obviously not going to pass under Republican Congressional leadership, we have the next 1.5 years to reach a critical mass of incumbents who support the bill.  If we do the lobbying and educational work now, it will make passing ENDA that much easier when we have a favorable political climate.  Let's start a strong push for ENDA today, so that when we have a pro-equality majority tomorrow, we'll be ahead of schedule.

Why don't you take a moment to call your representative and ask him or her to cosponsor this very important legislation - or thank them if they already do.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Connecticut House Committee Passes Gender Identity Protections Bill

The Connecticut state House Judiciary Committee has passed HB 6599, "An Act Concerning Discrimination," 27 to 14 without amendments.

HB 5699, if passed, will protect Connecticut's transgender community from discrimination in employment, education, housing, public accommodations and credit.

If you live in Connecticut, please contact your state representative and tell him or her to support HB 6599 so that our transgender friends, family members, and neighbors may live and work with dignity and respect.  This bill will level the playing field, and it must pass.  I already contacted my state representative, and I could not be happier to hear that he supports this important bill.  Please take a moment right now and do the same, so that we can make sure this bill passes when it comes up for a full vote.

 Click here to find out who your state legislator is.

DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz: "Dems Will Be Back"

In an address to the George Washington University College Democrats, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was just named the new chair of the Democratic National Committee, told a full house that "Democrats will be back."

The 18-year Congresswoman, herself a former vice president of the College Democrats in Florida, emphasized throughout her speech the importance of getting students and other young people involved in the campaign.

"We need college students in the trenches to keep Obama in the White House, take back the House, and keep a majority in the Senate," she said.  "You are the future of our party."

Wasserman Schultz outlined the platform for Democrats going into the 2012 election: to highlight the stark differences between Democrats and Republicans.

"Elections have consequences, and we need to articulate the differences between Democrats fighting for the middle class, and Republicans fighting for the elite and the super wealthy," she said.

Wasserman Schultz mentioned, among other accomplishments Democrats will run on in 2012, debt relief for students, affordable health care, and progress in social issues, including the Lily Ledbetter Act and repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Of DADT repeal, Wasserman Schultz said that it "strengthens our armed forces and ensures that any American brave enough to serve their country can do so."

Wasserman Schultz expressed confidence that, by communicating clearly to the American people the many accomplishments of the Obama administration and by "highlighting Republican hypocrisy," Obama can win reelection and Democrats will make gains in both chambers.

"Rest assured that Democrats will be back," she said.

And the one-liner of the night?  To a question on labor union protests in Wisconsin: "I think Governor Walker deserves the Organizer of the Year award."