November 8, 2010 – The New York Times
Gay Couples to Sue Over U.S. Marriage Law
by John Schwartz
Joanne Pedersen tried to add her spouse to her federal health insurance on Monday. She was rejected. Again. The problem is that while Ms. Pedersen is legally married to Ann Meitzen under Connecticut law, federal law does not recognize same-sex unions. So a health insurance matter that is all but automatic for most married people is not allowed for them under federal law. Ms. Pedersen and Ms. Meitzen plan to file a lawsuit Tuesday against the government in an effort to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing marriages of same-sex couples.
They are plaintiffs in one of two lawsuits being filed by the legal group Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a gay rights legal organization based in Boston, and by the American Civil Liberties Union. A similar challenge by the gay rights legal group resulted in a ruling in July from a federal judge in Boston that the act is unconstitutional. The Obama administration is appealing that decision.
The two new lawsuits, which involve plaintiffs from New York, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire, expand the attack geographically and also encompass more of the 1,138 federal laws and regulations that the Defense of Marriage Act potentially affects — including the insurance costs amounting to several hundred dollars a month in the case of Ms. Pedersen and Ms. Meitzen, and a $350,0000 estate tax payment in the A.C.L.U. case.
The civil liberties union filed suit on behalf of Edith S. Windsor, whose spouse, Thea C. Spyer, died last year of aortic stenosis. The two women, New Yorkers who had been together for 44 years, married in Toronto in 2007. New York officially recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states. Had the two been man and wife, there would have been no federal estate tax to pay. “It’s just so unfair,” said Ms. Windsor, who is 81.
Taken together, said Mary Bonauto, the director of the Civil Rights Project for the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the cases show same-sex couples “are falling through the safety net other people count on.” Traditionally, Ms. Bonauto noted, the federal government has left the definition of marriage to the states. “The federal government has respected those determinations, except in the instance of gay and lesbian couples marrying,” she said. The result, she said, is a violation of constitutional guarantees of equal protection.
In the Massachusetts case earlier this year, the Justice Department defended the Defense of Marriage law, and is likely to do so again as the two new cases move forward. A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, Tracy Schmaler, said, “The Justice Department has a longstanding tradition of defending acts of Congress when they are challenged in court.” The new cases, however, could increase the pressure on President Obama to act on his repeated promises to support gay rights. Mr. Obama has called for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, saying it is discriminatory. But he has also said he supports civil unions but not same-sex marriage. Last month, however, at a meeting with liberal bloggers, he said he had been thinking “a lot” about that position, saying, “Attitudes evolve, including mine.”
Five states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages to be performed, but 31 states have passed laws blocking them. The issue continues to echo politically. Last week, Iowa voters removed three of the Supreme Court justices who had participated in a unanimous decision allowing same-sex marriage. Maggie Gallagher, the chairwoman of the National Organization for Marriage, a group that opposes same-sex marriage, said court challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act showed that gay rights advocates “continue to push a primarily court-based strategy of, in our view, inventing rights that neither the founders nor the majority of Americans can recognize in our Constitution.”
To Ms. Pedersen, the question is one of justice. She and Ms. Meitzen, who married in 2008, have been together in Connecticut for 12 years. Ms. Meitzen, a social worker, has had health problems, and Ms. Pedersen, a civilian retiree from the Department of Naval Intelligence, tried to enroll her spouse in the federal employee health benefits program — a move that would save them hundreds of dollars a month.
Both women had been married before, to men, and have grown children. The fact that the law values one of their marriages over another is a source of consternation, Ms. Pedersen said. “If we were heterosexual, we wouldn’t be talking today, because we would have the benefits,” Ms. Pedersen said. “I would just like the federal government to recognize our marriage as just as real as everybody else’s.”
November 8, 2010 – The Seattle Times
Iowa judges unseated for gay marriage support
Campaign leader Vanderpleets needs lesson on branches of government
Editor, The Times:
Voters Tuesday removed three Iowa Supreme Court justices from office, following their participation in a unanimous decision by the court to uphold same-sex marriage as a constitutional right [“Voter anger dooms Iowa Judges,” News, Nov. 4]. Leader of the campaign, unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor Bob Vanderpleets, said: “I think it will send a message across the country that the power resides with the people. It’s we the people, not we the courts.”
I disagree. It’s we the people, we the legislative branch, we the judicial branch and we the executive branch. Vanderpleets claims that the justices “… usurped the will of the people.” Puh-leeze.
We are a nation of laws — complicated, and 224 years in the making. The courts are charged with interpreting this body of law and rendering judgments that uphold and defend the will of the Constitution. Popular opinion is too capricious and easily misjudged by those with their hands on the levers of power. That’s why we have laws. If majority opinion alone should dictate behavior, we are doomed to anarchy. It will be strong against weak, rich against poor, uneducated against educated.
A statement by the newly ousted judges makes my point nicely. “… judges base their decisions on the law and nothing else.” Duh.
Romeo James Enslow, Langley
November 8, 2010 – LGBTQ Nation
First openly gay Episcopal bishop to retire, citing stress, death threats
LGBTQ Nation – Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, whose consecration instigated a global religious controversy, announced to the Disocese of New Hampshire on Saturday that he would take early retirement, citing public backlash and “constant strain” from the experience.
The Boston Globe reports:
Robinson, 63, whose consecration seven years ago as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church divided the Anglican Communion worldwide, announced Saturday at the annual convention of the New Hampshire diocese that he plans to retire in January 2013, short of the mandatory 72-year-old retirement age for Episcopal bishops.
He cited death threats and the considerable strain that the worldwide rift has placed on him, his family, and the church. “The fact is, the last seven years have taken their toll on me, my family, and you,” Robinson told the convention. “Death threats, and the now-worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as bishop, have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark, who has faithfully stood with me every minute of the last seven years.”
Robinson has reportedly received death threats, hate mail and rejection from some parts of the global Anglican fellowship following his consecration seven years ago. He was surrounded by bodyguards and wore a bulletproof vest under his vestments at the 2003 ceremony. He and his partner of more than two decades, Mark Andrew, held a civil union ceremony in 2008, and the bishop publicly advocated for same-sex marriage in New Hampshire, which the state legalized last year.
In April 2009, Robinson made the Out magazine Third Annual Power 50 list of the most influential gay men and women in the U.S., landing at number 7.
Beyond his convention address, Robinson has declined to comment to the media regarding this retirement.
November 17 2010 – The Daily News
California elects nation’s first openly transgender judge, Victoria Kolakowski
by Michael Sheridan – Daily News Staff Writer
Judicial elections generally don’t gain much notice, but one such race in California has drawn national attention as it prepares to place the country’s first openly transgender judge on the bench. Victoria Kolakowski, who had a sex-change operation in 1991, has declared victory in a highly contested election for the Alameda County Superior Court. According to the final, uncertified tally, the 49-year-old has defeated rival John Creighton, with 162,082 votes to his 152,546, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
"There’s never been a transgender judge that anyone we know is aware of," said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, a gay rights group, though Kolakowski had served as an administrative law judge in the state. Although unofficial counts had Kolakowski leading by several thousands votes since the Nov. 2 election, neither party was willing to declare victory until now. With 21 years of legal experience, Kolakowski insisted she did not want herself to be labeled as the "transgender" candidate.
"If you look at the election coverage from the San Francisco Chronicle and Oakland Tribune, it makes it sound like I ran as the transgender candidate in the race," she told the Bay Area Reporter. "That is not why people voted for me and not why people didn’t vote for me." Kolakowski, who is married to Cynthia Laird, news editor of the Reporter, nearly did not become a lawyer after the Louisiana State Bar Association rejected her application.
"I was initially denied because they said I was not of a sound mind," she said. The association made the claim because she listed herself as a transsexual. She ultimately had to appeal the decision to the Louisiana Supreme Court before she was allowed to take the bar exam.
She later moved to California to practice law, where she has been a private lawyer, as well as a corporate attorney.
2 December 2010 – PinkNews
Illinois senate approves civil unions
by PinkNews.co.uk Staff Writer
The Illinois senate has given a green light to civil marriage legislation by 32-24 votes. Democratic Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign the bill into law shortly, making Illinois the fifth US state to allow civil unions. Another five states allow gay marriage and campaigners in Illinois said this is their ultimate goal.
Jacob Meister, president of The Civil Rights Agenda, a gay rights organisation, told AP that civil unions would give gay couples essential rights but added: “The ultimate goal is not to be separate but equal.”
However, another gay activist, Modesto Valle of the Center on Halsted, said he was concerned that accepting civil unions now could make it harder to win marriage equality in the future. Gay couples in Illinois will gain some of the rights associated with marriage but their relationships will not be recognised under federal law.
December 12, 2010 – The Los Angeles Times
Gay and homeless: In plain sight, a largely hidden population
Every year, hundreds of gay youths end up on the streets of L.A. County, where they make up a disproportionate share of the people under 25 who are homeless. ‘They haven’t been on the streets for years and years,’ an advocate says, ‘so they don’t look bad.’
by Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times
The city hipsters sipping expensive coffee and chatting on cellphones did not give a second look at the two young men cutting across a Hollywood courtyard on their way to bed down in a nearby park. AJ, 23, and his boyfriend, Alex, 21, hide their blankets and duffel bags in bushes. They shower every morning at a drop-in center and pick out outfits from a closet full of used yet youthful attire.
"If I could be invisible, I would," AJ said. "I feel ashamed to admit that I’m homeless." Every year, hundreds of gay youths end up alone on the streets of Los Angeles County, where they make up a disproportionate share of the at least 4,200 people under 25 who are homeless on any given day. A recent study found that 40% of the homeless youths in Hollywood, a gathering spot for these young people, identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or unsure of their sexual orientation. Five percent say they are transgender. But it is a largely hidden population, said Simon Costello, who manages the drop-in center frequented by AJ and Alex.
"They haven’t been on the streets for years and years," he said, "so they don’t look bad." Blending in is part of how AJ and Alex survive on the streets. Police officers are quick to issue tickets, and the streets are full of predators. In recent weeks, a Times reporter and a photographer spent time with several gay homeless men in their early 20s. The men agreed to speak openly about their lives, including illegal drug use and other criminal activity, on the condition that their full names not be used. Using public records and other sources, The Times was able to independently verify some details they shared about their family histories.
December 12, 2010 – Fox News
First Latina, Openly Gay Colorado Supreme Court Justice
Following in her father’s footsteps, Monica Marquez blazed a similar trail — and a completely new one. Deputy Attorney General Monica Marquez is the first female Hispanic Colorado Supreme Court Justice and she is also the first openly gay jurist on the state’s high court. But she was quick to tell her colleagues that her allegiance is to the law, not any special interest group when she was sworn in Friday.
"On the bench, of course, my allegiance is to the law, not to any particular constituency," she said after she was sworn in by her father, retired Judge Jose D.L. Marquez, who was the first Latino appointed to the Colorado Court of Appeals. Marquez, 41, is a Grand Junction native who attended Stanford and Yale universities.
Gov. Bill Ritter told the justices that he interviewed Marquez and determined she has a "deep respect for the rule of law." He said he was reassured she would not show preference. "It’s important not to do that for any interest group," he told the court. At present, there are no major gay rights issues pending before the court, but there could be a court challenge if Colorado Republican lawmakers go ahead with their plan to introduce an Arizona-style immigration law.
Republicans are considering a long list of new immigration requirements, including controversial ones that would require that authorities verify the immigration status of all arrested people before they are released from jail and allow for warrantless arrests. Damian Arguello, president of the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association, said Marquez has resigned as a board member. Arguello said he believes Marquez is objective. Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, a conservative think tank, said he is more worried about her opinions on Colorado’s constitutional tax and spending limits after she won a state Supreme Court ruling that fees are not taxes requiring voter approval.
Caldara said gay rights are not a legal issue at this time. Heather Draper, spokeswoman for the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Community Center said Colorado lawmakers have passed five laws in recent years improving gay rights, including laws that allow same sex couples to designate beneficiaries, adopt children and bar discrimination in housing, but none of those issues are involved in pending litigation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
17 December 2010 – PinkNews
Mother of gay suicide teen pleads for anti-bullying action
by Jessica Geen
The mother of a California teenager who killed himself after he was bullied for being gay has pleaded with his school district to do more about the problem. Seth Walsh, 13, died nine days after hanging himself in September. He had endured years of homophobic bullying at school. His mother Wendy and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have asked Tehachapi school district to prevent another tragedy.
In a letter sent yesterday, they asked the school district to work with them and demanded that changes be made. Mrs Walsh has also recorded a video about her son. She said that teachers did not seem to care that her son was badly bullied and had done nothing to stop the harassment. She said: “Seth told me he was gay when he was in the sixth grade. He was a wonderful, loving child, and I loved him for who he was. I can’t bring my son back. But schools can make a difference today to keep this from happening to any more young people. Schools need to take harassment and bullying seriously when parents or students tell them about it, and when they see it in the halls.”
According to Seth’s mother and close friends, some teachers even joined in the bullying. One allegedly called him “fruity” in front of a class of students. Mrs Walsh said her son was a clever student but his grades had fallen as the harassment intensified. She said teachers were aware he was suffering but did not respond to her pleas for something to be done. His friends said he had become depressed and frightened about using the bathroom or boys’ changing room before gym class. He was taunted with abuse such as “fag” and “queer”, they said.
Seth hanged himself from a tree in the family garden on September 17th. He left a note criticising his school for not helping him and died in hospital on September 28th. An investigation carried out by the ACLU said that school district officials were aware of the bullying but “largely ignored” it. California law requires schools to protect students from harassment based on sexual orientation and the US Department of Education has also launched an investigation of the school district.
The ACLU says that at least 11 LGBT teenagers have killed themselves after suffering bullying in the last few months. “Students have the right to be safe and supported at school for being exactly who they are. And parents deserve to know that their kids are going to school in a respectful environment where they are nurtured to reach their full potential,” said Elizabeth Gill, staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project and the ACLU of Northern California. “Public schools have a duty to protect students from harassment based on sexual orientation, but too many schools get a failing grade in this respect.”
December 18, 2010 – The New York Times
Senate Repeals Ban Against Openly Gay Military Personnel
by Carl Hulse
Washington — The Senate on Saturday struck down the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, bringing to a close a 17-year struggle over a policy that forced thousands of Americans from the ranks and caused others to keep secret their sexual orientation. By a vote of 65 to 31, with eight Republicans joining Democrats, the Senate approved and sent to President Obama a repeal of the Clinton-era law, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy critics said amounted to government-sanctioned discrimination that treated gay and lesbian troops as second-class citizens.
Mr. Obama hailed the action, which fulfills his pledge to reverse the ban. “As commander in chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known,” Mr. Obama said in a statement after the Senate, on a 63-33 vote, beat back Republican efforts to block a final vote on the repeal bill.
The vote marked a historic moment that some equated with the end of racial segregation in the military. It followed a comprehensive review by the Pentagon that found a low risk to military effectiveness despite greater concerns among some combat units and the Marine Corps. The review also found that Pentagon officials supported Congressional repeal as a better alternative than an court-ordered end. Supporters of the repeal said it was long past time to end what they saw as an ill-advised practice that cost valuable personnel and forced troops to lie to serve their country.
“We righted a wrong,” said Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, the independent from Connecticut who led the effort to end the ban. “Today we’ve done justice.”
Before voting on the repeal, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created a path to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants who came to the United States at a young age, completed two years of college or military service and met other requirements including passing a criminal background check. The 55-41 vote in favor of the citizenship bill was five votes short of the number needed to clear the way for final passage of what is known as the Dream Act. The outcome effectively kills it for this year, and its fate beyond that is uncertain since Republicans who will assume control of the House in January oppose the measure and are unlikely to bring it to a vote.
The Senate then moved on to the military legislation, engaging in an emotional back and forth over the merits of the measure as advocates for repeal watched from galleries crowded with people interested in the fate of both the military and immigration measures. “I don’t care who you love,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said as the debate opened. “If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.”
Mr. Wyden showed up for the Senate vote despite saying earlier that he would be unable to do so because he would be undergoing final tests before his scheduled surgery for prostate cancer on Monday. The vote came in the final days of the 111th Congress as Democrats sought to force through a final few priorities before they turn over control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans in January and see their clout in the Senate diminished.
It represented a significant victory for the White House, Congressional advocates of lifting the ban and activists who have pushed for years to end the Pentagon policy created in 1993 under the Clinton administration as a compromise effort to end the practice of banning gay men and lesbians entirely from military service. Saying it represented an emotional moment for members of the gay community nationwide, activists who supported repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” exchanged hugs outside the Senate chamber after the vote.
“Today’s vote means gay and lesbian service members posted all around the world can stand taller knowing that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ will soon be coming to an end,” said Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
December 2010 – Resource
Criminal-Justice and School Sanctions Against Nonheterosexual Youth: A National Longitudinal Study
Nonheterosexual adolescents often face discrimination. At home, some nonheterosexual adolescents experience verbal and physical abuse; 26% of nonheterosexual children leave their families because of conflicts over sexual orientation, and many become homeless.1,2 Thirty percent suffer family violence after "coming out."1 Harassment by peers is also common.3–10
It is not surprising that nonheterosexual adolescents experience high rates of depression and suicide.3,9,11–13 In addition, they are more likely than other adolescents to engage in high-risk sexual and substance-use behaviors, to carry weapons (often as a precaution against assault), and to engage in petty survival crimes because of homelessness.2,3,5,11,14–19 These activities place nonheterosexual adolescents at risk for school and criminal-justice sanctions. Nonheterosexual youth also are more likely than their peers to be referred to courts by their families through PINS (Person in Need of Supervision) or CHINS (Child in Need of Supervision) petitions.8
In addition, consensual same-sex sexual acts more often trigger punishments than equivalent opposite-sex behaviors.8,19,20 Indeed, until the Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in Lawrence et al v Texas,20 states could legally prosecute same-sex couples for consensual sexual acts. Anecdotal reports 5,21 have suggested that nonheterosexual girls may be particularly overrepresented in the juvenile-justice system. Scholars have suggested that the overrepresentation of nonheterosexual girls may relate to the historical role of the juvenile-justice system in policing girls’ sexuality,22 as well as a heightened juvenile-justice system and media opprobrium directed at girls with "aggressive" or "masculine" gender presentations.23
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