Tag Archives: Defense of Marriage

Feds asked to recognize Indiana same-sex marriages

Attorneys have asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to step in on behalf of hundreds of same-sex couples who were wed before a federal appeals court stayed an order striking down Indiana’s gay marriage ban.

The letter by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana asks Holder to issue a statement that the federal government will recognize the marriages as he did in Utah and Michigan, which would make Indiana’s couples eligible for federal benefits for married couples.

The ACLU’s move comes the same week that Gov. Mike Pence’s office said the state wouldn’t recognize the same marriages.

Separately on July 11, the 7th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago combined Indiana and Wisconsin’s gay marriage cases and set them on an expedited schedule. Already, attorneys and activists have called on Holder to recognize the same-sex marriaged that took place in Wisconsin in June.

In Indiana, hundreds of couples were married from June 25, when a U.S. district court judge struck down the state’s gay marriage ban, to June 27, when a federal appeals court stayed the decision.

Gov. Mike Pence’s general counsel instructed state agencies last week not to recognize the marriages that were performed during that gap. The policy applies only to state agencies that report to Pence’s office and would affect state services controlled by those agencies, such as food stamps or the ability to file jointly for state taxes.

Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, said that he believed the state’s position was incorrect.

“These marriages were lawful and valid when they were entered into and we do not believe that they can be retroactively voided,” Falk said in the letter, which was mailed to the attorney general’s office on Friday.

Pence’s office did not return phone calls and emails from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Gay marriage banned by popular vote in Croatia

A majority of Croatians voted in a referendum on Dec. 1 to ban gay marriages in what is a major victory for the Catholic Church-backed conservatives in the European Union’s newest nation.

The state electoral commission, citing near complete results, said 65 percent of those who voted answered “yes” to the referendum question: “Do you agree that marriage is matrimony between a man and a woman?” About 34 percent voted against.

The result meant that Croatia’s constitution will be amended to ban same-sex marriage.

The vote has deeply divided Croatia. Liberal groups have said the referendum’s question infringes on basic human rights. The Church-backed groups have gathered 750,000 signatures in its support.

Referendum results signal that right-wing and conservative forces have been gaining strength in Croatia amid the deepening economic crisis and widespread joblessness.

The country of 4.4 million, which became EU’s 28th member in July, has taken steps to improve gay rights, but issues such as same-sex marriage remain highly sensitive in the staunchly Catholic nation.

The referendum was called by the “In the Name of the Family” conservative group after Croatia’s center-left government drafted a law to let gay couples register as “life partners.”

The Catholic Church leaders have urged their followers to vote “yes” in the referendum. Nearly 90 percent of Croatians are Roman Catholics.

“Marriage is the only union enabling procreation,” Croatian Cardinal Josip Bozanic said in his message to the followers. “This is the key difference between a marriage and other unions.”

Croatia’s liberal president, Ivo Josipovic, said he voted against amending the constitution. Josipovic said the referendum result must be respected, but added the government is preparing a law to allow some rights to gays and lesbians living together.

“The referendum result must not be the reason for new divisions,” Josipovic said. “We have serious economic and social problems. It’s not worth it to focus on such issues.”

Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said earlier “this is the last referendum that gives a chance to the majority to strip a minority of its rights.”

Conservatives have also started gathering signatures for another referendum, demanding a ban of the Cyrillic alphabet in Croatia. The Cyrillic is used in neighboring Serbia and by minority Serbs in Croatia. The nationalists blame the Serbs for atrocities committed by their troops during Croatia’s 1991-95 war for independence from the Serb-led Yugoslavia.

The EU hasn’t officially commented on the referendum, but has clashed with Croatia over some of its other laws, including an extradition law that has prevented its citizens from being handed over to the bloc’s other member states, which Croatia had to amend under pressure from Brussels.

Several hundred gay rights supporters marched in the capital, Zagreb, on Saturday urging a “no” vote.

“I will vote against because I think that the referendum is not a festival of democracy, but a festival of oppression against a minority, which fights for its rights and which does not have its rights,” Jura Matulic, a university student, said.

Federal government begins issuing benefits to married gay couples

The U.S. government began issuing employee benefits to married same-sex couples on June 28, the same day that gay marriages resumed in California after years of waiting.

Both developments resulted from the historic Supreme Court decisions on June 27 that overturned a key provision in the Defense of Marriage Act and left in place a trial court ruling overturning California’s Proposition 8.

The president, on June 28, issued a statement: “Today my Administration announced that, for the first time in history, we will be making important federal employee benefits, including health care and retirement benefits, available to eligible married gay and lesbian couples and their families.

“This is a critical first step toward implementing this week’s landmark Supreme Court decision declaring that all married couples – gay and straight – should be treated equally under federal law. Thousands of gays and lesbians serve our country every day in the federal government. They, and their spouses and children, deserve the same respect and protection as every other family.

“Under the leadership of Attorney General Holder, we will continue to move as quickly as possible to fully implement the Court’s decision.”

Attorney General Eric Holder also issued a statement: “Today’s announcement represents a historic step toward equality for all American families. The Supreme Court ruled this week that Americans in same-sex marriages are entitled to equal protection and equal treatment under the law. By extending health insurance and other important benefits to federal employees and their families, regardless of whether they are in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages, the Obama Administration is making real the promise of this important decision.”

“These initial changes in federal benefits will make a meaningful, positive difference in the lives of many. But this is only the beginning. As the president directed, the Department of Justice will continue to coordinate with other federal agencies to implement this ruling as swiftly and smoothly as possible. I look forward to sharing additional information as it becomes available.  We will never stop fighting to ensure equality, opportunity, and – above all – justice for everyone in this country.”

Meanwhile, in California, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted its stay and allowed a U.S. district court judge’s ruling overturning Prop 8 to take effect. That meant same-sex marriages could resume immediately in the nation’s most populous state.

Among the first to city halls to wed were the plaintiffs in the case.

“After four and a half long and painful years, justice for committed gay and lesbian couples has finally been delivered,” said Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign. “In California, a time of struggle and indignity are over, and love, justice and freedom begin anew. And now, no election, no judge – no one – can take this basic right away. At long last, marriage has finally returned to the most populous state in the nation.”

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper comes out for marriage equality

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper joined the Democratic league backing marriage equality on April 2, announcing his support on his Facebook page.

Carper, from Delaware, wrote, “As our society has changed and evolved, so too has the public’s opinion on gay marriage – and so has mine. I pray every day for God to grant me the wisdom to do what is right. Through my prayers and conversations with my family and countless friends and Delawareans, I’ve been reminded of the power of one of my core values: the Golden Rule. It calls on us to treat others as we want to be treated. That means, to me, that all Americans ultimately should be free to marry the people they love and intend to share their lives with, regardless of their sexual orientation, and that’s why today, after a great deal of soul searching, I’m endorsing marriage equality.”

A wave of new endorsements for equality arrived with the U.S. Supreme Court arguments on two landmark marriage cases. Marriage equality advocates now find it easier to list the Senate Democrats who have yet to take a stand for marriage equality. Those who have yet to announce an evolution are:

• Joe Donnelly of Indiana.

• Tim Johnson of South Dakota.

• Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

• Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

• Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

• Bill Nelson of Florida.

• Mark Pryor of Arkansas

On the Republican side in the Senate, Ohio’s Rob Portman has said he supports marriage equality. Also, on April 2, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois said in his blog that he supports marriage equality. Kirk said what matters in life is who you love and “government has no place in the middle.”

Web goes red as equality box for gay marriage spreads

Bud Light said it with beer cans and Martha Stewart with red velvet cake as companies and celebrities from Beyonce to George Takei joined millions of social media users in posting and tweaking a simple red logo in support of gay marriage.

A square box with thick pink horizontal lines (the mathematical equal symbol) was offered for sharing this week by the Human Rights Campaign as the U.S. Supreme Court took up arguments in key marriage rights cases.

The image, replacing profile pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and elsewhere, is a makeover of the advocacy group’s logo, usually a blue background with bright yellow lines. The HRC made it available in red – for the color of love – on Monday and estimated tens of millions of shares by Wednesday.

“It shows the enthusiasm and the passion,” said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the nonprofit in Washington, D.C.

Like viral campaigns of yore, supporting breast cancer awareness (pink), President Barack Obama (change your middle name to Hussein) and even Arab Spring (green), a bit of fatigue set in on some social media streams by those questioning whether such efforts serve to change any minds or, put simply, are plain annoying.

“My Facebook feed is a cascading aesthetic nightmare. Thanks, equality,” Washington Post writer Dan Zak wryly grumbled on Twitter.

A photo of Justice Anthony Kennedy made the rounds with the quip: “Before we make a ruling, did enough people change their Facebook profile picture?!”

None of that mattered to the masses of same-sex marriage supporters. Some swapped matzoh for the pink lines as Passover got under way, or added frowny Internet star Grumpy Cat, who explained marriage equality would make her happy.

Bert and Ernie showed up against the red background. (They’re best friends with no plans to marry, according to Sesame Street.) Another version featured Paula Deen atop the red square and lines turned a shade of yellow akin to her favorite fatty ingredient and the tagline: “It’s like two sticks of butter y’all.”

Takei, a noted punster with nearly 4 million followers in Facebook, turned the equal sign into the division sign for those opposed to marriage equality.

Beyonce, with more than 44 million followers there, played it straight, leaving the logo alone and adding a personal message: “It’s about TIME!!! (hash)EQUALITY (hash)MarryWhoYouLove.

Fergie let the image speak for itself on Twitter, adding: “No words necessary.” Montana Sen. John Tester, a Democrat who endorsed same-sex marriage on Tuesday, put the logo up as his profile on Facebook while the clothing site Bonobos swapped its usual Facebook pic for the red square using fancy white pants for the equal sign.

Martha Stewart’s Facebook page used a slice of red cake with white icing to make the image and the HBO page for “True Blood” added fangs.

All in good fun?

“There’s a lot of serious conversation going on and there’s an awful lot of important concepts that the Supreme Court justices are discussing,” Sainz said. “What this logo going viral means is individuals have reduced it to a very straightforward concept.”

Steve Jones, a professor of online culture and communications at the University of Illinois at Chicago, wondered whether all the mash-ups muddle the message.

“Once you throw it together with something like Grumpy Cat it’s fun,” he said. “But was this message intended to be fun?”

For the record: Reaction to the Prop 8 arguments

Reaction to the Supreme Court oral arguments on Proposition 8, to the March 27 oral arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act and to the widespread push for marriage equality in the United States:

Openly gay U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis.: “The Supreme Court has an unparalleled opportunity … to move our country closer to our founding ideals of equality for all. …I am hopeful the court will reflect the rising momentum of support for marriage equality and vote to strike down these discriminatory laws that treat LGBT couples as second-class citizens. It has become increasingly evident that supporters of marriage equality have the country and the Constitution on our side.”

David Boies, attorney for the American Foundation for Equal Rights: “We had a thoughtful hearing. We appreciate the court’s attention to this issue. It’s now in the hands of the Supreme court. It’s been a long journey here over the past three and a half years, and we are all greatly encouraged by the imminent decision. The remarkable thing that happened in there is that there was no attempt to defend the ban of gay and lesbian marriage – all that was discussed in there is whether this should be decided at the state level. But our federal constitution grants fundamental rights to all Americans.”

Baltimore Raven Brendon Ayanbadejo: “We’re not going to stop until everyone can marry the person they love. We’re not only strengthening the family unit and the communities with marriage equality, we’re strengthening America. At the end of the day – love is always going to win the game.”

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis.: “As we continue to work towards a more perfect union, we must insure that our union includes all people, no matter their gender, race, ethnicity – or as in these cases – sexual orientation. It is my sincere hope that the Supreme Court comes to see throughout these arguments the unconstitutionality of both California’s Prop. 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act and rule in favor of inclusion and not exclusion.”

Openly lesbian U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.: “This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will listen to arguments in cases that will decide whether our country becomes more equal, not less. The court will decide whether gay American citizens can continue to be discriminated against simply because of who they love. On Wednesday, I look forward to being a witness to history as I am excited to have a chance to attend the U.S. Supreme Court proceedings. With these two historic cases, America’s highest court will have an opportunity to reflect the progress we have all witnessed across our country. They will have an opportunity to reaffirm our founding belief that all Americans are created equal under the law.” 

Skater Johnny Weir-Voronov: “Today’s the day. Everyone deserves the same rights as their parents, coworkers, friends and enemies. We shall rise up.”

Actress Alyssa Milano: “Changed my profile picture and header in support of marriage equality. Feel free to do the same!”

Model Cindy Crawford: “This week the #SupremeCourt will hear two cases on marriage equality. I say it’s #Time4Marriage! Join me and speak out for #equality.”

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.: “Like so many of my generation, my views on allowing gay couples to marry have been challenged in recent years by a new, more open generation.”

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.: “I support marriage equality because it is the fair and right thing to do. Like many Virginians and Americans, my views on gay marriage have evolved, and this is the inevitable extension of my efforts to promote equality and opportunity for everyone.”

Actor-activist Rob Reiner: “Today is a historic day for all those who believe in freedom and equality. After more than four years of working our case through victories at the federal District and Circuit courts, we finally had an opportunity today to present our arguments in support of marriage equality for gay and lesbian Americans before the highest court in the land. This case has always been about the love shared by two individuals and about the central promise from our nation’s founding that all men are created equal and are endowed with inalienable rights, including the pursuit of happiness.”

New Organizing Institute executive director Ethan Roeder: “Marriage equality is one of the great civil rights issues of our time, and something our community of organizers cares about deeply.”

Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin: “There’s a lot to celebrate given that we’ve reached the tipping point on marriage equality. Families all over this country from coast to coast, in red states and in blue, believe in basic fairness and the freedom to marry the person you love. The right to marry the person you love has been upheld by the court 14 times in its history. It’s a fundamental part of who we are as Americans.”

U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra, chair of the House Democratic Caucus: “We have reached a defining moment in our historic march for progress. What the Supreme Court will hear this week is what lower courts have already affirmed – no American should be denied equal protection under the Constitution. I believe history is on our side and our calls for justice will ultimately result in a victory for equality. Let’s continue our progress so that we uphold our most basic principles for all.”



Thousands rallying for marriage equality across country

Chanting “marriage equality for all,” thousands gathered at the U.S. Supreme Court this morning (March 26) to rally before the justices hear oral arguments on California’s constitutional amendment against gay marriage.

Last night, thousands more rallied for equality in San Francisco, Denver and other cities. The wave continues throughout today, with events taking place in all 50 states, including Wisconsin.

At the Supreme Court, the rally began at about 9 a.m. EST on the plaza at First and East Capital Streets NE.

“Today we stand on the steps of the Supreme Court and on the threshold of history, as the highest court in the land considers one of the most defining civil rights issues of our time. Our gathering at the Supreme Court, as well as all of the powerful events occurring in every state across the country, reflects the vast diversity of support for marriage equality,” said National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director Rea Carey. “The array of people and organizations standing up for equality is historic: nearly 300 leading businesses, 30 retired military leaders, 131 top Republicans, 214 sitting members of Congress, and dozens of religious, labor, legal and family health organizations. This is a watershed moment for America.”

The speaker lineup included:

• Brendon Ayanbadejo, Superbowl champion and Baltimore Ravens linebacker, who said he was attending as a “patriot” and that, “in the end, love is always going to win the game.”

• Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

• Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who said, “There are no second-class citizens in America. And there are no second-class marriages in America.”

• The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral, who talked about the broad support for marriage equality. “It is time for marriage equality,” he said, adding, “I believe in God’s blessings for all.”

• Margaret Hoover, GOP strategist and political commentator, who stressed the degree of marriage equality among young Republicans.

• Nelda Majors and Karen Bailey, a Phoenix couple who talked about being together for 50 years.

• David Frum, GOP strategist and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, who talked about political transformation.

• Allyson Robinson, executive director of OutServe-SLDN, who said focused on the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars married gay military servicemembers from accessing the same federal benefits as straight servicemembers. She said, “The fact is, nothing about DOMA ‘defends’ America or its values. All DOMA does is make us weaker.”

• Craig Stowell and his wife, Berta, a former Marine and conservative Republican.

• Andy McNeil and Todd Bludworth, fathers to twins in Florida, which refuses to recognize the couple’s marriage from Vermont. “We are not asking for anything more than our neighbors, friends and family but certainly expect no less,” Bludworth said. McNeil said, “Fair-minded Americans … have come to embrace marriage equality.”

• Janet Murguía, president of the National Council of La Raza.

• Brent Wilkes, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

• The Rev. Al Sharpton, civil rights activist.

• LZ Granderson, CNN and ESPN commentator, who said, “Same-sex couples are not here asking for a seat at the table because we’ve always been here. We’re not here at the steps of Supreme Court to beg. … I too sing, America.”

• Lt. Col. Linda Campbell, who was granted the first same-sex spousal burial in a U.S. national cemetery for her partner, who spoke eloquently about the love she and her wife shared and their long struggle for equality.

• Bishop Gene Robinson and his daughter Ella Robinson.

“Americans in communities across the country have stepped up and organized around marriage equality in truly momentous ways,” said Heather Cronk of the activist group GetEQUAL. “In every single state across the country, everyday folks are organizing publicly and powerfully to show their communities’ support for equality.”

Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign said, “”There’s a lot to celebrate given that we’ve reached the tipping point on marriage equality. Families all over this country from coast to coast, in red states and in blue, believe in basic fairness and the freedom to marry the person you love. The right to marry the person you love has been upheld by the Court 14 times in its history. It’s a fundamental part of who we are as Americans.”

In Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, there are events in Milwaukee and Stevens Point.

In Milwaukee, a rally and vigil to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and Repeal Proposition 8 takes place at 5 p.m. March 26 at Plymouth Church, 2717 E. Hampshire St. Sponsors include the United Church of Christ, Equality Wisconsin, the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center and United for Marriage.

Speakers include Paul Williams and Denise Cawley of the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, Chris Ahmuty of the ACLU- Wisconsin, Jason Burns of Equality Wisconsin and the Rev. Bridget Flad of Plymouth Church.

The Stevens Point event takes place at a private residence and begins at 6:30 p.m. March 26.

On the Web…

www.unitedformarriage.org 

Find photos from the events at http://unitedformarriage.tumblr.com.

Obama considers stepping in on Prop 8 case

UPDATE: Late Feb. 23, the Justice Department filed a brief in the case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. The brief argues that DOMA is unconstitutional and that “gay and lesbian people have been subject to a significant history of discrimination in this country.”

Facing heightened expectations from LGBT civil rights supporters, the Obama administration is considering urging the Supreme Court to overturn California’s ban on gay marriage – a move that could have a far-reaching impact on same-sex couples across the country.

The administration has a week to file a friend-of-the-court brief with the justices outlining its opinion on the California ban, known as Proposition 8. While an administration brief alone is unlikely to sway the high court, the government’s opinion does carry weight with the justices.

Opponents of the Proposition 8 ban believe the president signaled his intention to file a brief when he declared in last month’s inaugural address that gays and lesbians must be “treated like anyone else under the law.” An administration official said Obama, a former constitutional law professor, was not foreshadowing any legal action in his remarks and was simply restating his personal belief in the right of gays and lesbians to marry, though the official said the administration was considering filing a brief.

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli is consulting with the White House on the matter, according to a senior administration official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to address the private deliberations publicly.

The Proposition 8 ballot initiative was approved by California voters in 2008 in response to a state Supreme Court decision that had allowed gay marriage. Twenty-nine other states have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, while nine states and Washington, D.C., recognize same-sex marriage.

Public opinion has shifted in support of gay marriage in recent years. In May 2008, Gallup found that 56 percent of Americans felt same-sex marriages should not be recognized by the law as valid. By November 2012, 53 percent felt they should be legally recognized.

While the Justice Department would make the filing, the president is almost certain to make the ultimate decision on whether to do so.

“I have to make sure that I’m not interjecting myself too much into this process, particularly when we’re not a party to the case,” Obama said on Feb. 20 in an interview with San Francisco’s KGO-TV.

He said his personal view was that gay couples should have the same rights as straight couples and said his administration would do whatever it could to promote that principle.

Obama has a complicated history on gay marriage. As a presidential candidate in 2008, he opposed the California ban but didn’t endorse gay marriage. As he ran for re-election last year, he announced his personal support for same-sex marriage but said marriage was an issue that should be decided by the states, not the federal government.

To some, Obama’s broad call for gay rights during his Jan. 21 inaugural address was a sign that he now sees a federal role in defining marriage.

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” Obama said during his remarks on the west front of the Capitol. “For if we are truly created equal, than surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

Seeking to capitalize on growing public support for gay marriage, advocates are calling on the administration to file a broad brief not only asking the court to declare California’s ban unconstitutional but also urging the justices to make all state bans illegal.

“If they do make that argument and the court accepts it, the ramifications could be very sweeping,” said Richard Socarides, an attorney and advocate.

The administration could also file a narrower brief that would ask the court to issue a decision applying only to California. Or it could decide not to weigh in on the case at all.

The Supreme Court, which will take up the case on March 26, has several options for its eventual ruling. Among them:

• Uphold the state ban on gay marriage and say citizens of a state have the right to make that call.

• Endorse an appeals court ruling that would make same-sex marriage legal in California but apply only to that state.

• Issue a broader ruling that would apply to California and seven other states: Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island. In those states, gay couples may join in civil unions that have all the benefits of marriage but may not be married.

• Rule that the Constitution forbids states from banning same-sex unions.

For weeks, supporters and opponents of Proposition 8 have been lobbying the administration to side with them.

Last month, Theodore Olson and David Boies, lawyers arguing for gay marriage, met with Verrilli and other government lawyers to urge the administration to file a brief in the case. A few days later, Charles Cooper, the lawyer defending Proposition 8, met with the solicitor general to ask the government to stay out of the case. Those kinds of meetings are typical in a high court case when the government is not a party and is not asked by the court to make its views known.

Boies and Chad Griffin, president of the advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, also had a meeting at the White House on the case.

Ahead of next week’s deadline, nearly two dozen states have filed briefs with the court asking the justices to uphold the California measure.

One day after the court hears the California case, the justices will hear arguments on another gay marriage case, this one involving provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The act defines marriage as between a man and a woman for the purpose of deciding who can receive a range of federal benefits.

The Obama administration abandoned its defense of the law in 2011 but continues to enforce it.

U.S. bill to protect same-sex binational couples introduced

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., on Feb. 5 reintroduced the Uniting American Families Act to protect binational same-sex couples at risk of being broken apart by current U.S. immigration policy and an anti-gay federal law.

Nadler introduced the legislation with support from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and U.S. Reps. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.),Charlie Dent, R-Pa., Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., John Conyers, D-Mich., Jared Polis, D-Colo.,DavidCicilline, D-Rhode Island, Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Mark Takano, D-Calif., Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y.), Mike Honda, D-Calif., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Mark Pocan, D-Wis.

The legislation would allow gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their permanent partners for legal residency in the United States, a right currently provided only to married heterosexuals under immigration law. Because the federal government does not legally recognize gay and lesbian couples and their children as families, many same-sex bi-national couples are torn apart, Nadler said.

He added that the bill – U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont plans to introduce companion legislation – should be considered in any legislative proposal for immigration reform.

“Today, thousands of committed same-sex couples are needlessly suffering because of unequal treatment under our immigration laws, and this is an outrage,” Nadler said in a press statement.  “Our Constitution guarantees that no class of people will be singled out for differential treatment – and LGBT Americans must not be excluded from that guarantee. Moreover, any serious legislative proposal for comprehensive immigration reform absolutely must include gay and lesbian couples and their families.”

Pelosi added, “We must continue to strike down the barriers of discrimination wherever they exist. As we work toward comprehensive immigration reform, we must ensure that the value of all families is valued, respected and recognized in the eyes of the law.”

Gutierrez, who has long championed comprehensive immigration reform and LGBT equality, said, “Our laws ought to reflect reality and the full diversity of what family means in the United States today. I will fight for UAFA because it is the right thing to do and because it protects the interests of all families.”

The legislation had co-sponsorship from the openly gay and bisexual members of Congress, as well as leading LGBT and immigration rights groups.

“Today’s bipartisan reintroduction reminds us that LGBT immigrant families live in Democratic and Republican districts,” said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality. “Voters sent a clear message in November: they support treating everyone – gay and straight, citizen and immigrant – with dignity and respect.  These are true American values.  As Congress moves forward on long overdue immigration reform, lawmakers must include UAFA as part of that effort.  Our immigration laws must reflect the diversity of our beautiful country and must protect families and family unity.  We are grateful to Congressman Nadler for his decades-long leadership on this issue and to his House colleagues from both parties who have joined our efforts.”

Nadler’s office said at least 31 countries allow citizens to sponsor gay and lesbian permanent partners for legal immigration, including Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Both France and the UK now are considering legalizing same-sex marriage.

Anti-gay forces file briefs with Wisconsin, U.S. Supreme Courts

On Jan. 22, the day after Barack Obama’s bold inaugural call for broader equality, right-wing factions filed anti-gay briefs with the Wisconsin Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court.

At the federal level, proponents of California’s Proposition 8, the 2008 amendment that bars same-sex marriage in the state, asked the high court to rule that marriage is the union of a man and a woman and amendments against gay marriage are constitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hold arguments in March on the Prop 8 case, as well as a federal case challenging the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. A decision from the court is expected in late June.

Prop 8 proponents, defending the California constitutional amendment, stated in their brief, “That same-sex relationships are not recognized as marriages does not reflect a public judgment that individuals in such relationships are ‘inferior’ or ‘of lesser worth as a class, but simply the fact that such relationships do not implicate society’s interest in responsible procreation in the same way that opposite-sex relationships do.”

In another brief, Republican leaders in the U.S. House — Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy — are defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of gay marriages. The brief said, “Judicially constitutionalizing the issue of same-sex marriage is unwarranted as a matter of sound social and political policy while the American people are so actively engaged in working through this issue for themselves.”

Opponents of Prop 8 and DOMA are expected to file their briefs in the next month.

Some LGBT civil rights leaders have said that the president’s inaugural call for marriage equality was a message to the justices.

The president, speaking outside the Capitol on Jan. 21, said, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law. For if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

In Wisconsin on Jan. 22, the Alliance Defending Freedom asked the state Supreme Court to decide whether Wisconsin’s law recognizing same-sex couples as domestic partners violates the state constitutional amendment against gay marriage.

At the end of the year, a state appellate court upheld a lower court’s finding that the partnership law can stand.

The appellate judges affirmed a lower-court ruling that the partnership law does not violate the 2006 amendment because “… it would ‘take pages’ to list the rights and obligations that go with marriages but not domestic partnerships. …It is not necessary to list that many here to demonstrate that … the rights and obligations of marriage are not substantially similar to the rights and obligations of domestic partnerships.”

At the time, Lambda Legal attorney Christopher Clark said, “The court has affirmed what we have maintained all along – it is ridiculous to suggest that a domestic partnership law could be considered anything closely resembling a marriage for purposes of state law.

“In fact, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments as ‘nonsense.’ We fought off this ugly attack against the rights and protections currently available to same-sex couples and their families in Wisconsin – a sweet holiday present to loving couples and families.”

Almost immediately opponents vowed to take their case, Appling v. Doyle, to the state Supreme Court or, rather, back to the appeals court.

“The lifelong, faithful union of a man and a woman is the foundation of every healthy, stable society. The people of Wisconsin recognize this, and that is why they approved a constitutional amendment that specifically protects marriage from all imitators,” said ADF attorney Austin R. Nimocks. “We are appealing the appellate court’s decision because this domestic partnership scheme is precisely the type of marriage imitation that the voters intended to prevent.”

The ADF, representing the ultra-right Wisconsin Family Action president Julaine Appling, maintains that the partnership law is in conflict with the state constitutional amendment, approved by voters in November 2006, that says, “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state.”

Appling, in a news release on Jan. 22, said, “The people of Wisconsin believe that marriage is the one and only relationship that is absolutely essential to the future of humanity. Their will, as very clearly expressed in the marriage amendment, ought to be respected.”

Katie Belanger of Fair Wisconsin, which is working with Lambda Legal to defend the domestic partnership law in court, said, “It is disappointing that the plaintiffs and the Alliance Defending Freedom are continuing their efforts to take away important legal protections from same-sex couples and their families. But, Fair Wisconsin, Lambda Legal and the domestic partners who have intervened in this case remain committed to defending the domestic partnership law. We look forward to presenting our arguments to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.”

Jason Burns of Equality Wisconsin, which like Fair Wisconsin advocates statewide for LGBT equality, said, “We are deeply disturbed that the Alliance for Defending Freedom is continuing to pursue an avenue that would result in the repeal of the domestic partner registry. Wisconsin is lucky to have organizations like Fair Wisconsin and Lambda Legal to take the lead in defending the basic freedoms of committed LGBT Couples. While Equality Wisconsin is not a part of the lawsuit we support their efforts and are we are willing to assist in anyway we can.”