DOMA Pt. 1: Court sides with equality
NEW YORK, N.Y. — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York ruled Oct. 18 that Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional because it discriminates against married same-sex couples. N.Y. Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman had filed a friend-of-the-court brief together with Vermont and Connecticut arguing that DOMA violates same-sex couples’ right to equal protection under the U.S. Constitution and should be more closely scrutinized because it constitutes a sweeping intrusion into the States’ regulation of marriage.
The Court agreed, holding that DOMA is subject to intermediate scrutiny because it discriminates based on sexual orientation, and that DOMA’s defenders did not establish a sufficiently strong federal interest in DOMA’s rejection of same-sex marriages to pass constitutional muster. The Court observed that DOMA’s intrusion into the realm of State regulation was cause “to look upon Section 3 of DOMA with a cold eye.”
DOMA Pt. 2: GOP has flushed $1.5M
WASHINGTON, D.C. — To date, House Republicans have racked up a $1.5 million bill for taxpayers in their perverse defense of DOMA. The news is particularly galling given the facts that a solid majority of Americans support marriage equality, and the the GOP’s argument has been soundly rejected in all six federal courts in which it has been heard. House Speaker John Boehner now faces the question of whether to raise the previously approved $1.5 million cap so the Republican Congress can waste even more taxpayer money on this boondoggle.
Human Rights Campaign Legislative Director Allison Herwitt issued the following statement in response: “It’s unbelievable that House Republicans continue to pour taxpayer dollars into a case aimed solely at discriminating against Americans. In poll after poll, we see that voters do not view marriage equality as a critical issue for lawmakers — likely because a good majority of the country already supports it. The American people need job creation and infrastructure improvements.”
Catholic Church funding anti-gay fight
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new report from the Human Rights Campaign finds the Catholic Church is funneling substantial dollar amounts into the four states where marriage equality is on the ballot this fall — Minnesota, Maryland, Maine and Washington — and in many cases, parishioners may not even be aware that their donations are being used to fund discrimination. The report shows that the Church has spent at least $1.1 million to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. A significant portion of the money — more than $640,000 — comes from the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal organization within the Church.
In addition, a close ally of the Church, the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, has spent nearly $1.4 million on the four ballot measures. The anti-LGBT activity of the Church hierarchy stands in direct opposition to the values of the majority of Catholics. A 2012 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that nearly 60 percent of Catholics support marriage equality.
SLDN: Calls up since DADT repeal
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a free and confidential organization for LGBT service members and veterans seeking legal assistance, reports that calls to its hotline have increased since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in September 2011. SLDN leaders say callers are seeking a range of help that includes discharge upgrade assistance; advice about serving openly; requests from veterans discharged under DADT who wish to serve again; information on issues related to transgender service; and guidance for gay and lesbian military families navigating the unequal system of support and benefits created by the Defense of Marriage Act.
Reportedly, more than 90,000 LGBT veterans discharged under DADT and the prior ban on gay and lesbian service may qualify to have their discharge paperwork corrected. In the last year, SLDN has assisted more than 200 veterans seeking to upgrade their discharge paperwork. Others seeking assistance may visit sldn.org/vetdischargechanges for more information and to begin the process.
New law rights historic wrongs
LONDON, U.K. — Men with historic convictions for consensual gay sex can now apply to have them expunged thanks to Parliament’s passage of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. Gay rights group Stonewall lobbied hard for the measure. The new law also includes amendments that will enable men maliciously convicted of “loitering with intent” under Section 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824 to have those convictions removed from their criminal records as well.
Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill said, “Thousands of men who’ve been burdened with homophobic convictions can clear their names, and Stonewall stands ready to help them. We never forget that the equality we enjoy today came too late for many. By correcting these historic injustices we can start to bring closure to a very sad period of this country’s history.”