Rainbow bLAWg

Idaho Va Cemetery

Navy Veteran Denied Request to be Buried With Same-Sex Spouse

idaho va cemetery 2U.S. Navy veteran Madelynn Taylor’s request to be laid to rest with her wife has been denied by a Veterans Cemetery in Boise, Idaho.  The Division of Veterans Services has apparently denied access for her now-deceased wife’s ashes to be laid to rest in a shared plot.

The couple’s ashes would fit in one vault on the wall, and would not occupy more space than a single person’s remains.  It is typically a common practice for the spouse of an eligible service member to be buried in a veterans cemetery.  “It’s not taking up any more space to have both of us in there, and I don’t see where the ashes of a couple of old lesbians is going to hurt anybody,” she said.

A spokesperson with the Division of Veterans Services told KBOI they are forced to “abide by the Idaho state constitution” which only legally recognizes marriage between one man and one woman.

“I’m not surprised. I’ve been discriminated against for 70 years, and they might as well discriminate against me in death as well as life,” Taylor said.
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Margherita Peak

American Plants Rainbow Flag on Uganda’s Highest Peak

Margherita-peakAfter a 6 day climb, Neal Gottlieb, founder of Three Twins Ice Cream in San Francisco, has claimed Margherita Peak on Mount Stanley for Gays in protest of Uganda’s new anti-LGBT laws.

The Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014 (previously called the “Kill the Gays bill” in the media due to the originally proposed death penalty clauses) was passed by the Parliament of Uganda on 20 December 2013 with the death penalty proposal dropped in favor of life in prison. The bill was signed into law by the President of Uganda on 24 February 2014.

Gottlieb also published the text from an open letter to Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni:

Dear President Museveni of Uganda,

On April 16, 2014, after a 6-day climb, I summited your country’s tallest peak, Mount Stanley’s 16,753 foot tall Margherita Peak, and mounted a gay pride flag at its summit in protest of your country’s criminalization of homosexuality.

Your country’s highest point is no longer its soil, its snow or a summit marker, but rather a gay pride flag waving brilliantly, shining down from above as a sign of protest and hope behalf of the many thousands of Ugandans that you seek to repress and the many more that understand the hideous nature of your repressive legislation.

The wiser of us understand that humans possess certain unalienable rights. These rights include freedom to express oneself, freedom to worship one’s god or none at all and freedom to live and love as one is born […]

If you don’t like said flag on your highest peak, I urge you to climb up and take it down. However, you are an old man and surely the 6-day climb through the steep muddy bogs and up the mountain’s glaciers is well beyond your physical ability. Your days are more limited than most. Do you want your remaining days to be yet another blight on the history of your nation or will you find the strength to reverse your actions and allow all Ugandans to be free?

With all due respect,
Neal Gottlieb

Georgia Header

Georgia Gay Marriage Ban Goes Before The Court

georgia small imageThree same-sex couples and one woman filed a federal class-action lawsuit Tuesday challenging Georgia’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The suit makes Georgia the last Southern state, and one of the last in the nation, to face a challenge to its ban on gay marriage.

“This lawsuit is really about these loving couples trying to protect their families in the same way that different-sex couples can do,” said Tara Borelli, senior attorney with Lambda Legal, the national legal group seeking full recognition of the legal rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people.

There are currently 65 pending lawsuits in federal courts of appeal, federal district courts and state courts challenging existing marriage laws in 30 states and Puerto Rico, according to Lambda Legal’s analysis.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last June, in a decision that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where they’re legal. Justice Antonin Scalia said in his dissent that the ruling “arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition.” He predicted that suits like the one filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Atlanta were “a second … shoe to be dropped later.”

His words seem prescient: Since that ruling, federal judges in Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia have ruled that state laws banning same-sex marriages were unconstitutional; those decisions are currently being appealed.

Georgia, where 76% of voters ratified a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriages in 2004, was late to the table because “there’s been an attempt to make strategic decisions about the places where we’d have the best chance of success,” Borelli said. “But it became clear as time went on that Georgia should be on that list.”

Views on the matter seem to be shifting: A poll in September by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that 48% of Georgians favor gay marriage and 43% oppose it.

One of the Georgia couples named in the suit, Christopher Inniss, 39, and Shelton Stroman, 42, of Snellville, have been together for 13 years, and have a son, Jonathan, 9. They said at a news conference Tuesday that they value their privacy and initially did not want to sue. “At first it was a hard decision, but it became really easy when we thought about our lives,” Stroman said, adding that they want Jonathan “to be able to celebrate marriage like his friends do with his parents.”

Another plaintiff, Jennifer Sisson, 34, of Decatur, said that her spouse, Pamela Drenner, 49, died in March after a long battle with ovarian cancer. They had married on Valentine’s Day 2013 in New York after tests showed Drenner’s cancer treatment had apparently succeeded.

Sisson said she was Drenner’s caregiver in those final, difficult months. She said she was devastated that she could not be named as spouse on the death certificate. “Having the marriage recognized on the death certificate, you have a chance to re-write your own story in a way,” she said. “But 12-14 hours after she died, I was told it was not an option to have the marriage recognized on her death certificate. To have that as kind of the final act … was absolutely, tremendously hard.”

 

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Gay Marriage Oregon C44d82d2e5b8bca1

Oregon Gay Marriage Ban Challenged In Court

oregon gay marriageOn Wednesday, attorneys for four gay and lesbian couples as well as the state of Oregon urged a federal judge to strike down Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Since there were no comments in favor of the ban, lawyers on both sides of the case were asking for the same ruling from the judge. Oregon’s attorney general, Democrat Ellen Rosenblum, has previously said the ban is legally indefensible and has refused to offer arguments in defense of it.

Judge Michael McShane did not give any indication which way he was leaning. His questions were largely focused on the application of precedent from higher courts and whether he should delay the implementation of his ruling until the appeals courts sort out other gay marriage cases pending around the country.

The couples who filed suit are asking McShane to declare the ban unconstitutional and allow same-sex couples to wed. They also want same-sex marriages performed in other states to be recognized in Oregon.

The plaintiffs are making two arguments based on of the U.S. Constitution’s equal-protection and due-process clauses. They say the ban, known as Measure 36, is unconstitutional and discriminatory because it serves no legitimate government interest. They argue that marriage is a fundamental right of all Americans, but gays and lesbian couples are being excluded.

“Measure 36 has walled off an entire class of citizens,” said Lake Perriguey, an attorney for two of the couples who filed suit.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, federal judges have ruled that voter-approved bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional in five states: Utah, Oklahoma, Michigan, Texas and Virginia. In three other states — Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee — federal judges have ordered the recognition of same-sex marriages that occurred out-of-state.

Like Rosenblum, Democratic attorneys general in at least seven states have refused to defend their state bans on same-sex marriage.

McShane has said he won’t rule on the constitutionality of the same-sex marriage ban until he decides on a request filed this week by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) to defend Measure 36. McShane said he will consider the group’s request next month and possibly hold new oral arguments so NOM can defend the ban.

John Eastman, the group’s chairman, said the judge would benefit from hearing several arguments that were not raised in court Wednesday because nobody was defending the ban.

“The notion that there are no plausible arguments to make in defense of marriage is ludicrous,” said Eastman, who is also a law professor at Chapman University in California.

In other states where such bans have been challenged, its defenders have argued that marriage is intended to create a stable family unit from relationships that can result in procreation, which they say is a legitimate government interest.

LGBT rights groups say they’ve collected enough signatures to force a statewide vote on gay marriage onto the ballot in November, but they’ll discard them and drop their campaign if the court rules in their favor by May 23.

Oregon law has prohibited same-sex marriage for some time, but 57% of voters approved the ban to the state constitution in 2004. The decision came months after Multnomah County, which is the state’s largest and includes the city of Portland, briefly issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In all, about 3,000 gay couples were allowed to marry before a judge issued a ruling preventing the distribution of any new marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  The marriages were later invalidated by the Oregon Supreme Court.

McShane is Oregon’s newest federal judge, appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate last year.

 

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Just double click on the rainbow banner:

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pat brady

Ill. GOP Officials Who Wanted Brady Ousted Rejected

pat brady Republican officials who wanted to remove former Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady for his statements in support of same-sex marriage have been unseated from their party positions.

Republicans across Illinois held elections for each of the 18 state central committee member positions this week, replacing all but one of the seven officials who signed a letter last year urging a vote to dismiss Brady as chairman. The seventh official who signed the letter, incumbent Mark Shaw of the 10th Congressional District, was re-elected to a four-year term.

In January 2013, Brady began verbalizing support of support of same-sex marriage in public, a view that runs counter to the party’s platform that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Committee members who approved of Brady’s removal said that he not only violated the platform, but also made the comments without privately informing them first.

In turn, Brady suggested that the Republican party was “on wrong side of history.”

Brady resigned from his chairman’s post last May, citing his wife’s battle with cancer and the desire to spend more time with his family after four years as chairman and two as a Republican National Committee member. He was succeeded by current chairman Jack Dorgan of Rosemont last June.

The party’s shift in ideology has come as Republicans both in Illinois and nationally are working to expand their views with the hope that they can attract women and minority voters in November.

In all, only seven of 18 incumbent committeemen were re-elected to new four-year terms.

“There were some people that have moved on that were great, and then there were others that were absolutely destructive and were not good for the party and they’re gone,” said Brady, who is no longer a member of the committee. “All in all, it was a good night, (bringing in) a lot of new blood.”

Several of the new Republican officials have already stated that they feel social issues should take a back seat to get-out-the-vote efforts before elections in November, including a serious challenge to Gov. Pat Quinn by Republican Bruce Rauner.

Newly elected 8th District committeeman Ryan Higgins of Schaumburg said, “there’s room to disagree on those issues. In my role at the state party level, I don’t want my opinion to be known.”  Higgins, who ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 2010, said he supported civil union legislation on several newspaper questionnaires at the time.

“The leaders we selected today will help guide our party forward, hold Gov. Quinn accountable for his failures, and elect Republicans up and down the ticket,” Illinois Republican chairman Jack Dorgan said in a statement.

Ohio Gay Marriage

Judge Orders Ohio to Treat All Legal Marriages Equally

ohio-gay-marriageFederal Judge Timothy Black ordered the state of Ohio to recognized the marriages of same-sex couples performed in other states. His ruling on Monday criticized the state’s “ongoing arbitrary discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.” He says the state’s marriage recognition bans are unconstitutional and unenforceable.

However, Black said might put the ruling on hold pending appeal until attorneys on both sides present arguments. The four gay couples who filed the lawsuit will be exempt from the stay. That would mean the state would immediately have to recognize their marriages and list both spouses as parents on their children’s birth certificates.

If Black declines to stay his ruling, that would allow gay couples in Ohio to obtain the same benefits as any other married couple in the state, including property rights and the right to make some medical decisions for their partner.

The state plans to appeal Black’s ruling, arguing that Ohio has a sovereign right to ban gay marriage, which voters did overwhelmingly in 2004. However, Al Gerhardstein, the Cincinnati civil rights attorney who filed the lawsuit that led to Black’s ruling, said that he has immediate plans to file a another lawsuit to win the right to marry in the state.

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Indiana Couple

Federal Judge Orders Indiana To Recognize Lesbian Couple’s Marriage

indiana-coupleA federal judge ordered Indiana on Thursday to recognize the out-of-state marriage of a Munster lesbian couple because one of the women has Stage 4 ovarian cancer and is terminally ill.

U.S. District Judge Richard L. Young granted the emergency request to Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney in Evansville, who argued for immediate recognition of their 2013 Massachusetts marriage via a temporary restraining order.

The couple have said that they need their marriage to be recognized so they can access federal and state safety nets for surviving spouses and their children and so that Quasney’s marital status on her death certificate will reflect their wedding last year.

Quasney and Sandler, who have been together 13 years and have two daughters, ages 1 and 2. They were conceived through “reproductive technology” and birthed by Sandler, according to their brief. In their federal complaint, the women argued that Indiana’s marriage law “encourages and invites private bias and discrimination, including in medical settings,” and as unmarried it would interfere with Sandler’s ability to take care of her partner’s affairs after her death. She would be denied the safety net generally available to a surviving spouse and the children of the person who has died.

Arguing on behalf of the state, Solicitor General Tom Fisher said that under current Indiana law, the state’s marriage statute does not allow for hardship exceptions, like the one in Sandler and Quasney’s case. He said that request doesn’t constitute immediate harm and wouldn’t justify the emergency request for recognition.

Thankfully the judge did not agree.

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Scotusnewmex

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Anti-Gay Case

Was7402494The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a photographer who refused to photograph a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony, letting stand a New Mexico high court ruling that helped spur a national debate over gay rights and religious freedom.

That court ruled Elane Photography violated the state’s anti-discrimination law when it refused to take pictures of the couple’s commitment ceremony. The attorneys were made the argument that serving a same-sex couple would violate the photographer’s First Amendment right to free expression, arguing that photography is an artistic pursuit and not simply a service.

The New Mexico court ruled the photo studio’s action was discriminatory in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding of a racially mixed couple.

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Mississippi Burning

Mississippi Gov. Signs Anti-Gay Bill

mississippi-burningMississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a an Arizona-style anti-gay segregation bill that supporters say will assure unfettered practice of religion without government interference. The bill, called the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, will become law July 1. It also will add “In God We Trust” to the state seal.

Next to the seal will hang the Mississippi state flag which still bears the confederate battle emblem.

Mississippi currently has no anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBT people, and the bill passed could allow religious business owners to turn away gay or lesbian customers based on their religious beliefs.

Most Americans believe that these “religious liberty” bills will be struck down by the courts — but the language in Mississippi’s bill cleverly disguised it’s anti-gay language. After the failures in Arizona, Kansas and Idaho, this bill was revised to allow private businesses to refuse service to gay people.

The bill bans authorities from placing a “burden[s] a person’s right to exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability,” unless it’s “essential to further a compelling government interest” and “the least restrictive means” of furthering that interest.

If that sounds confusing, it is. The Mississippi legislature’s intentionally wrote a bill so broad and opaque that no court could possibly quibble with the constitutionality of the text alone.

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Days Of Our Lives

Daytime TVs First Gay (Male) Wedding

days-of-our-livesStarting tomorrow, NBC’s longest running daytime drama, Days of Our Lives will feature the first gay male wedding between Will Horton (played by Guy Wilson) and Sonny Kiriakis (Freddie Smith).

Freddie Smith joined the cast in 2011, becoming the soap’s first openly gay character. Smith also played gay on the CW’s nighttime teenage drama 90210.

This isn’t the first gay wedding in daytime. That milestone occurred in 2009 on ABC’s All My Children, when Eden (Bianca Montgomery) and Tamara (Reese Williams) donned designer dresses to mark the first-ever lesbian wedding.

NBC says the ceremony will be officiated by a ‘surprise’ guest. According to spoilers, the surprise officiate is Marlena (Deidre Hall).

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