Court: Prop 8 is a violation of constitutional rights

News Notes: Beyond the Carolinas

by David Stout  Associate Editor  editor2@goqnotes.com
Published: August 21, 2010 in Beyond the Carolinas

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — On Aug. 4, the Chief Judge of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California issued a 136-page ruling overturning Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that excluded same-sex couples from marriage in the state. Judge Vaughn R. Walker cited Prop 8’s denial of the constitutional rights of equal protection under the law and due process, among other findings in his decision.

The day after the ruling was issued, gay marriage opponents filed an appeal to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals seeking a reversal.

Judge Walker issued a temporary stay along with his decision, which stopped the order from taking immediate effect. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and State Attorney General Jerry Brown filed separate motions for the stay to be lifted. On Aug. 12, Walker announced that his ruling would take effect Aug. 18.

At press time, it was possible but unclear if the Court of Appeals would step in and issue a stay pending the outcome of its own proceeding.

This unprecedented federal court challenge was filed in May 2009, with both sides presenting their cases in court from Jan. 11 to Jan. 27. Closing arguments were held on June 16. The plaintiffs in the case are two couples who want to marry but who were blocked by Prop 8: Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo.

Kris and Sandy have been together for more than 10 years and their family includes four boys. Both are in public service — Kris leads a childhood health and education agency and Sandy works for a county health department. Their home life centers around their kids, with PTA meetings, soccer and music lessons taking up much of their free time.

Paul and Jeff have been together for nine years. Jeff is a general manager for a movie theater company and Paul is a business owner. They own a home together and are proud uncles.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) brought together attorneys Theodore Olson and David Boies, who notably faced-off in Bush v. Gore, to demonstrate that Prop 8 violates Americans’ constitutional rights by creating two separate classes of people with different laws for each one, contrary to the nation’s founding principles.

Following the decision, James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project, said, “Today’s decision is a huge victory for the LGBT people of America. For the first time, a federal court has conducted a trial and found that there is absolutely no reason to deny same-sex couples the fairness and dignity of marriage.

“At the same time,” he added, “we know that this is not the end. In order to give this case the best possible chance of success as it moves through the appeals courts, we need to show that America is ready for same-sex couples to marry by continuing to seek marriage and other relationship protections in states across the country. It’s simply not fair, and not legal, to continue to exclude committed same-sex couples from marriage.”

Continuing the momentum gained from the court victory, on Aug. 10 the American Bar Association, the nation’s leading legal organization, passed the following resolution:

“RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges state, territorial, and tribal governments to eliminate all of their legal barriers to civil marriage between two persons of the same sex who are otherwise eligible to marry.”

Jennifer C. Pizer, National Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal, the nation’s leading LGBT legal organization, issued a statement in reaction to the resolution.

“With today’s resolution, the ABA has added its informed and nationally influential voice to a growing chorus calling for an end to ignorance and discrimination. As the leading membership organization of legal professionals in this country, the ABA sets national standards of practice and ethics for attorneys.

“This resolution recognizes not only the basic humanity of the ABA’s lesbian and gay members, but of hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian couples and their families nationwide. We commend the members of the ABA House of Delegates for a timely, important vote.”

> The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association has announced the 2010 inductees into the LGBT Journalists Hall of Fame. They are: Lisa Ben, pseudonym for the editor of the first lesbian publication. For nine issues from June 1947 to February 1948, Edythe Eyde, a lesbian who used the pseudonym “Lisa Ben,” wrote a small newsletter in Los Angeles called Vice Versa. The newsletters continued to circulate for several years providing news and information to women who had never seen any other information about lesbians. Hank Plante began his journalism career as a copy boy for the Washington Post. He developed a love for journalism there, worked on the city desk and became managing editor at Sentinel Newspapers. He then moved to television and in the mid-1980s, landed at CBS affiliate KPIX-TV where he covered the AIDS epidemic, earning a Peabody Award and local Emmys. During 25 years at KPIX, Plante, one of the country’s first openly gay TV journalists, worked as a reporter, anchor and political editor. Richard Rouilard, one year out of law school, co-founded in 1979 the National Gay Rights Advocates of San Francisco, which was the first public interest law firm for lesbians and gay men in the U.S. In 1981, he moved to Los Angeles and began a journalism career that included being editor-in-chief of The Advocate. Rouillard nearly tripled circulation there and upgraded the magazine’s layout and journalistic standards. He also was a founder of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. He died in 1996.

> GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, praised the Aug. 5 introduction of the Safe Schools Improvement Act, a federal anti-bullying bill that includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, in the Senate by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and 10 cosponsors. The Safe Schools Improvement Act, which is endorsed by the nearly 70 members of the GLSEN-led National Safe Schools Partnership, will require comprehensive anti-bullying policies in our nation’s public schools. The bill was introduced in the U.S. House last year by Rep. Linda Sánchez and has 119 bipartisan cosponsors.

> On Aug. 15, Soulforce, a national organization dedicated to confronting and ending anti-LGBT discrimination through nonviolent resistance, took to the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building to counter a rally organized by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage. NOM is in the midst of a cross-country bus tour that not only advocates opposition to equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, but also fosters hate-filled rhetoric targeting the LGBT community. Soulforce Executive Director Rev. Dr. Cindi Love stated, “One poster that I saw [at a previous NOM rally] showed two lesbians with nooses around their necks and the words ‘The Solution to Gay Marriage.’ While that’s sickening and saddening, it’s not surprising to see those against equal marriage lash out in that way. But it shows how important it is for those of us who support LGBTQ rights to come forward … to stand in solidarity.”

> Actress Brittany Snow (“Hairspray,” “Prom Night”) is to be the first-ever recipient of a new honor from Point Foundation, the nation’s largest scholarship-granting organization for LGBT students of merit. The Point Horizon Award was created specifically to honor and recognize a young person who has taken a leadership role as an advocate of the LGBT community. In addition to Point, Brittany has previously lent her time and talents to many other LGBT organizations, including the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, Trevor Project, and the “No on 8” campaign.

> A new study looking at the role probiotics may play in increasing CD4 cell count in people with HIV infection is underway at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Researchers have just begun a 3-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial to demonstrate safety and efficacy of taking capsules with 2 billion cells of a strain of Bacillus coagulans probiotics known as GanedenBC30 to increase critical CD4 cell count, a measure of immune status used to gauge progression of HIV infection. The AHF trial is believed to be the first-of-its-kind in the U.S., while small clinical trials conducted in Africa have shown that probiotic yogurts can dramatically increase CD4 cell count in test subjects with HIV infection. However, the results left important questions unanswered. HIV can lead to AIDS by damaging the body’s immune system — specifically, white blood cells often referred to as CD4 cells that are crucial to the body in fighting diseases. HIV infection is often marked by a state of chronic inflammatory response triggered by the leakage of Gram-negative bacteria from the intestines into the bloodstream. This state of chronic inflammation is believed to leave CD4 cells more prone to infection and destruction by HIV. Researchers at the AHF hypothesize that probiotic consumption may reduce leakage of Gram-negative bacteria from the intestine, thereby reducing the resulting inflammatory response and destruction of CD4 cells.

> The Give a Damn Campaign, a project of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Fund, has released its latest video which highlights the fact that in more than half the states in the U.S. a person can be fired for being LGBT. Whoopi Goldberg, Piper Perabo and Brad Goreski take part in this newest video in the campaign’s ongoing monthly series. Only 21 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Of those, only 12 also protect employees from discrimination based on gender identity. To learn more about the Give a Damn Campaign, visit www.wegiveadamn.org. : :