Thursday, February 21, 2013

Small Town Same-Sex Wedding Story Causes Stir, Newspaper Owner Responds

from the HRC Blog:

A small-town Mississippi newspaper has been blasted with angry messages since running a front-page story on what the newspaper believed to be the first same-sex wedding in the county.

The February 7th edition of The Laurel Leader-Call featured Jessica Powell and Crystal Craven, both of Laurel, who were celebrating their loving commitment to each other in the face of Craven’s diagnosis with Stage 4 brain cancer.

After receiving “a deluge of hate calls, letters, e-mails, Facebook posts, soundoffs and random cross stares,” the newspaper’s owner Jim Cegielski decided to respond to the reaction in an admirable op-ed titled, “Doing our job”.

Cegielski defended the choice to feature the story, writing “whether you like it or not, the first known gay wedding to take place in Jones County is still historic.”

He also responded to those who complained that their children had been exposed to the existence of LGBT people:

We have stories about child molesters, murders and all kinds of vicious, barbaric acts of evil committed by heinous criminals on our front page and yet we never receive a call from anyone saying 'I don't need my children reading this.' Never. Ever. However, a story about two women exchanging marriage vows and we get swamped with people worried about their children.

Read the original article and Cegielski’s full response here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New Poll Shows Support for LGBT Rights in Pennsylvania

 by Cathy Clark for - 2/13/13:

The Pennsylvania legislature’s growing LGBT Equality Caucus has unveiled a new poll as members call for legislation to protect members of the community. The membership in the caucus has doubled and is bicameral and bipartisan.

Representative Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) says the growth of the caucus represents the changing will and mood of the people of Pennsylvania when it comes to simple fairness for LGBT people.

The poll conducted for Equality Pennsylvania finds 62% of the state’s residents believes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens should be entitled to the same civil rights and protections as other minority groups. 69% agree that LGBT workers should be protected from being fired. 73% agree that it should be illegal to refuse service to someone based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. The poll was conducted by CivicScience of Pittsburgh.

State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) says Pennsylvania does not have laws to offer those protections. He says we don’t even have anti-discrimination legislation that has been passed. He says the hate crimes bill was struck down on technical grounds and not replaced.

Bills being reintroduced in this session would ban discrimination in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations.

Representative Brian Sims (D-Phila), the first openly gay person elected to the legislature, says he’s seeing signs that more colleagues in the state Capitol are finally beginning to recognize that common sense protections are long overdue.

Representative Mark Painter (D-Mont), whose wife is a Methodist pastor, says he believes firmly that discrimination, bullying and hatred are not Christian values.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Obama’s Shifts Affect U.S. Legal Plan on Gay Marriage

by Adam Liptak for the New York Times 2/4/13:

WASHINGTON — The practice of law would be much more pleasant, many lawyers will tell you over a second Scotch, if it did not require clients. It is one thing to construct an airtight legal argument and quite another to deal with the demands of inconstant human beings.

Consider Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.’s most prominent client, President Obama. In May, in announcing his support for same-sex marriage, Mr. Obama said the issue should be decided state by state. In his Inaugural Address last month, Mr. Obama seemed to make a case for a more national approach.

The timing was awkward. Mr. Verrilli is in the midst of considering what to tell the Supreme Court in a pair of momentous same-sex marriage cases to be argued in March. Just days before the inauguration, he met with lawyers challenging California’s ban on same-sex marriage, who urged him to weigh in on their side. He was noncommittal, but his client’s public marching orders until then had suggested that he should sit that one out.

Here is what Mr. Obama told Robin Roberts of ABC News in May: “What you’re seeing is, I think, states working through this issue in fits and starts, all across the country. Different communities are arriving at different conclusions, at different times. And I think that’s a healthy process and a healthy debate. And I continue to believe that this is an issue that is going be worked out at the local level, because historically, this has not been a federal issue, what’s recognized as a marriage.”

That reasoning fits tolerably well with the Justice Department’s position in one of the two cases before the Supreme Court, United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307. That case is a challenge to the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman in connection with federal benefits. The Defense of Marriage Act, Mr. Obama explained in May, “tried to federalize what has historically been state law.”

Mr. Verrilli will presumably make much the same point on March 27, when the Supreme Court hears arguments in the Windsor case.

But there is a second case, and there Mr. Verrilli faces tough choices. On March 26, the day before the argument about the 1996 law, the justices will hear Hollingsworth v. Perry, No. 12-144. It seeks to overturn Proposition 8, a voter initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California.

If marriage is a matter for the states, as Mr. Obama announced in May, you might think that California should be permitted to prohibit same-sex marriage.

The federal government is not a party to the California case, and it is not required to file a brief or to take a public position. Ms. Roberts asked Mr. Obama a direct question in May about whether he had given his lawyers instructions about what to do: “Can you ask your Justice Department to join in the litigation in fighting states that are banning same-sex marriage?”

Mr. Obama changed the subject.

All of this might have allowed Mr. Verrilli to concentrate on the case concerning the federal law and stay quiet in the California case. There is a precedent for this: the federal government took no position in 1967 in Loving v. Virginia, the case in which the Supreme Court struck down bans on interracial marriage. Nor did it weigh in on the last major gay rights case, Lawrence v. Texas, which in 2003 struck down state laws making gay sex a crime.

The solicitor general in 2003 was Theodore B. Olson. He is now in private practice and is one of the lawyers challenging the California ban on same-sex marriage. On Jan. 18, he and his colleague David Boies, along with lawyers from the San Francisco city attorney’s office, met with Mr. Verrilli to urge him to take a stand in the California case. Defenders of Proposition 8 made the opposite pitch a few days later.

Mr. Verrilli was noncommittal, but there is now reason to think that Mr. Olson will prevail in persuading Mr. Verrilli to ignore the precedent Mr. Olson had set. That is largely because Mr. Obama’s thinking on same-sex marriage continues to evolve.

In his Inaugural Address last month, Mr. Obama was no longer talking about leaving the issue to the states.

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” he said, “for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.”

Mr. Verrilli has until the end of the month to file a brief in the California case. Paul D. Clement, a former solicitor general who represents House Republicans defending the 1996 federal law, said he detected some paradoxes in Mr. Verrilli’s predicament.

“It will be interesting in the end,” Mr. Clement said dryly at a Georgetown University Law Center forum last week, “if the litigation position of the Justice Department and the president’s position kind of realign.”

Mr. Clement said the solicitor general’s position always had weight at the Supreme Court. But he added that it may be less consequential in the California case than in some earlier ones, given the administration’s general, if nuanced, support for gay rights.

Thomas C. Goldstein, the publisher of Scotusblog and a lawyer who argues frequently before the Supreme Court, said the justices were not the only relevant audience for a brief from the Obama administration’s top appellate lawyer.

“Part of what is going on in the Inaugural Address and part of what would happen in a brief like that is a statement of what’s morally right and wrong,” he said. “It could matter to Americans much more than it matters to the Supreme Court.”

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Oil City, Bruce Springsteen, & A Single Shot To The Head

Comment on the Out In The Silence film web site from John Doe, formerly of Oil City, Pa. --

I grew up in Oil City, graduating in the early 1980s and had a bad high school experience.

I am straight, however, since I was small and awkward and did not fit the prevailing view of how masculine a boy should be, I was called gay, fag, wimp, you name it.

You could say that I was a straight boy who experienced anti-gay bullying.

Starting in 7th grade, I was spat upon, pushed into lockers, had my hair pulled and pretty much treated like scum. The trauma was severe for me.

As a 12 year-old, I constantly wondered how I would deal with this and my only comfort was knowing that there was a way out, that a single shot to my head would end this -- a path that I am glad that I did not take.

It got much better once I got to the upper grades of 10 to 12, but the damage had been done.

Like that Bruce Springsteen song I felt that I was like a dog that had been beat too much and had spent half my life just covering up.

I wish anti-bullying efforts had been around when I was a kid.

I would not say that I have a positive view of Oil City. The overall climate was very narrow minded and nasty, however, at the same time I would ask not to paint all residents there with the same brush.  I am not living there anymore, but know that there are some very decent and open-minded people there.

I am sorry to hear that others experience this.

One of the biggest problems that I have seen in society is that we are not civil to each other and accepting of others' differences.

I am very sorry if any of you out there are treated like this, and I hope that anyone who is treated like this gets the help that they need to improve the situation.