As I stood in line in hopes of receiving my Utah State marriage license, I did not feel excited, hopeful, or joyful. In fact, I felt pathetic, foolish, and less than. As I turned to look at the beautiful woman standing next to me, the woman who has been standing by my side for the last 27 years, I felt a sense of overwhelming sadness. She—we—deserved better than this. Better than standing in a line in the freezing cold hoping a door would open both literally and figuratively. Our love, our union, our struggles, our family deserved better than desperately standing in the freezing cold awaiting doors to open at the Weber County Clerk’s Office in Ogden, Utah. We had been up early with the hope of counties opening their doors and allowing us to receive a marriage license. We had driven around for hours from county to county trying to find the one government office that possessed the courage to follow the court order and issue marriage licenses to its gay and lesbian citizens. We now stood in line with hundreds of people with a small glimmer of hope and yet, my heart and soul felt so very heavy.
My thoughts were suddenly jolted as the phone in my pocket began to ring. I looked at the caller ID and answered the phone, “Hi baby.”
“Hi Mom. Ya’ll getting married?”
“Well son, we are in the line waiting.” I didn’t want to say more as the excitement in his voice was so innocent and sweet; yet in my head I felt those doors were never going to open. His voice pulled me back to the phone.
“I’m hungry,” he said. These are two very familiar words, which we hear multiple times on a daily basis. As an 18 year old boy, his mind was focused on only a few needs.
“Ok,” I said. “Are your sister and brother-in-law on their way to the house?”
“Yes,” he answered. “They are on their way.”
“Ok, son. Tell her to pick up something on her way or make yourself a sandwich.”
“Ok mom, love ya.” “Love you buddy,” I replied. “See ya soon.”
As I placed the phone back in my pocket, an overwhelming sense of disappointment and a familiar despair began to enter my thoughts. Being an attorney and a Mormon, I knew my attempt to gain a marriage license in the State of Utah would be futile. I would once again have to explain to our children that while God loved our family, there are still people here on Earth who do not understand His love and compassion. So often we are asked, “Why do you live in Utah?” That answer is simple: Utah is our home. We have lived in the south, too. I am Mormon while Brenda, my partner of 27 years, is Catholic. We have no spiritual home, as our religions remain firm in their beliefs denying rights to their gay members. The truth is—we love Utah. We love the culture. We love the people. We don’t drink; we don’t smoke, and we are raising kids. We love raising our kids in Utah. We fit in quite nicely except for one small detail—we happen to be two women in love with each other.
My toes are freezing as I stand in this long line. To distract myself from the elements, my thoughts travel back to less than 30 days ago when I received a call from our daughter.
“Hey baby girl. How’s your day?”
“Good,” she says. “Bryce and I just got our marriage license!”
“Glad ya’ll finally got your license,” I express. “The wedding is only two days away. Did it take you long to get it?”
“Nope—just walked right in,” she says. “Had to drive all the way to Provo though because the Draper office was closed—but there was no line.”
At this point, there were several hundred people waiting in our line. How ironic that less than 30 days ago we were celebrating the legal marriage of our daughter. My thoughts quickly go back to last month when my partner and I proudly walked our daughter down the aisle to marry. There were close to 400 guests. We walked her to the front of the room, and a Mormon Bishop married her. The ceremony was beautiful.
Once again, I am brought back to the present moment as my phone rings again.
“Hey baby girl.”
“Are ya’ll almost done? We are here at the house to make Christmas cookies like we planned.”
“Well babe,” I say. “This is taking a bit longer. Can you tell your cousins that it will be later in the day before we get back to make cookies?”
“Ok,” she answers, “but hurry. Love you.”
“I love you, too. See ya soon.”
Now my thoughts are a bit frustrated. We had planned to make Christmas cookies and treats with my sisters, nieces, and nephews—all of whom are Mormon (which is irrelevant, but thought you all should know). I am upset that chasing a marriage license has taken away our family time together—time we cannot get back. This is not fair and is wrong in so many ways. There is a rustle in the crowd as the Weber County door opens and cheers erupt. I quickly make my way to the front of the line to hear the announcement. The cheers turn to moans as it is announced the clerk cannot let us in.
Humiliated, I grab Brenda’s hand and say “Let’s go.” On the long drive back home, we discuss the legal significance of Judge Robert Shelby’s ruling and contemplate the behind-the-scenes scenario that must be taking place with the government leaders and of course “the church” leaders, AKA, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints." As silence replaces our words, my mind once again begins to wander. I think about the legal argument the state presented in denying same-sex couples the right to marry. The best interest of children always becomes relevant. The state argued being raised by a father and mother is the optimal situation in producing well-adjusted children.
Who did that study? No one has ever contacted us to be part of a study. No one has evaluated our two straight children—whom, of course, their moms think are amazing. Ok, my biased thoughts aside—our kids—a girl and a boy, should be judged on their own merits. Our straight daughter just married an amazing man and is in her final year of college as a biochemistry major. She is beautiful from the inside out. She is smart, caring, loving, and has a great sense of humor. Our son is kind, smart, funny, and an incredible athlete who has received an offer to play collegiate baseball. They are really good kids based on the standards of society and both of them are straight.
I, on the other hand, was raised by one male and one female; both straight. In fact, my father was a Mormon Bishop, Stake President, and Mission President. Brenda was raised by one male and one female; both straight, who are Catholic. We were raised in the optimal situation according to the state, but both of us turned out gay. So if being gay is "bad"—an abomination, and allowing gay people to marry will destroy marriage and society, then producing gay children must be considered bad and undesirable. Accordingly, our parents failed the state test. If the rationale of the state’s arguments was to be applied to Brenda and me, and recognizing our union produced two well-adjusted straight children, then we should be allowed to marry. Our parents should have been forced to divorce. Certainly producing gay children from a straight marriage is a detriment to society and traditional marriage, right?
Legal marriages should be defined as a union between two loving and committing adults who wish to share legally protected state and federal rights. Legal marriage should remain about legal rights—not religious definitions. The constitution unequivocally protects the right to freedom of religion and yet it is very clear that the separation of church and state is an intricate part in producing a democratic state of the union. While marriage is a spiritual act in religion, it is a legal act in governing. The government must provide all legal rights and protection under the law to all people equally. Religions do now and can continue to deny members rights based upon their beliefs. Religions remain divided on the definition of marriage and treatment of their gay members and that is perfectly within their rights to do so. The government should provide one legal definition of marriage that applies to all citizens equally. It is their duty to do so.
Let’s be honest here. My life has been way more difficult having been gay than my children’s lives have been. I have been faced with trials and obstacles that I never thought possible to overcome. I spent thousands of hours of counsel with church leaders; thousands of hours in prayer and nothing worked—nothing made me straight. I even joined the God Squad and Fellowship of Christian Athletes and got "saved" at my friend’s southern church. I tried everything to become straight to no avail. Alternatively, my children who are a product of a gay relationship are straight and have it much easier than we ever did. So suffice it to say that in this scenario, the best interest of the children was to be raised by a gay couple. Accordingly, Brenda and I should be married as we have produced straight, well-adjusted children.
The result of this rationale is absurd as I hope everyone can see this. While the government, the state, and the courts determine the fate of our access to equal protection and legal rights, please include our children in your studies. Please include all the gay children who were produced by straight religious parents to determine and define legal marriage. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech remain in place to protect the views of those religions and people who consider homosexual acts and people as an abomination. It provides them the rationale to deny my legal right to marry the person I love. I choose to be judged by my God only. I choose to live in a country where I know my leaders will protect my legal rights and provide me equal protection under the laws of this great nation.
My heart is heavy, and I am tired. I can no longer remain silent on this issue. I can no longer stand to hear that children are better off being raised by a man and a woman. The studies undeniably show children who are raised by loving, supportive parents—regardless of their gender or sexual orientation—are well-adjusted children. Our children are proof. Moreover, the fact that I am gay is not a result of my environment as five of the six siblings raised by my parents are straight. I was created from the same DNA and the same God and I am gay. God created me just as He did my brother and sisters. God does not create mistakes, and I am not a mistake. I am not a product of a broken home. I am a product of two amazing, loving parents who believe in God, the Bible, morals and standards, and who raised me to believe the same. They did not fail by producing me.
Brenda and I have now raised two children with those same standards and beliefs. We just had to do it on our own and without the loving support of a religious institution and congregation can provide. We never found a home or felt welcome in our place of worship so we had to teach our children that they are children of God who are loved and are to serve Him and honor Him and our family name. We have never been legally recognized so we had to tell our children that our relationship and our family are valid and real.
I have always known in my heart and head there would come a time when we would find legal recognition and spiritual acceptance. It is time. The time is now. We can wait no more. And, thankfully, we succeeded in exchanging our vows on December 23, just in time for Christmas.
By Sally Farrar
Policy & Legal UpdatesDecember 23 – 29, 2013
MEUSA Summary • News Source OKLAHOMA • On 22 December 2013, in Mary Bishop, et al. v. United States and Tulsa County Court Clerk, et al., challenges the state constitution for denying the right to marry the person of one’s own choice, for refusing to recognize same-gender marriages performed in other states, and for other aspects of the federal Defense-of-Marriage Act, lawyers filed a brief pointing to the federal ruling two days earlier in which UT’s marriage ban was declared unconstitutional. • MEUSA Summary • News Source VIRGINIA • On 23 December 2013, in Joanne Harris, et al. v. Staunton, VA Court Clerk, et al.,a federal class action lawsuit for couples seeking full marriage equality for all VA residents, the court refused to dismiss the case, but removed the governor as a defendant. • MEUSA Summary • News Source INDIANA • On 20 December 2013, in re the marriage of Melanie Davis & Angela Summers, the IN Court of Appeals ruled that the IN ban on same-gender civil marriage cannot be used to invalidate a marriage when one spouse later changes his/her gender identity. • MEUSA Summary • News Source HAWAII • On 23 December 2013, in McDermott v. Abercrombie, HI state lawyers asked a state judge to dismiss the lawsuit seeking to overturn the 2003 Marriage Equality Act. • MEUSA Summary • News Source ILLINOIS • On 17 December 2013, in Darby v. Cook County Clerk David Orr, the state court dismissed the original case since the relief that the plaintiffs were seeking occurred when IL enacted a same-gender civil marriage law on 5 November 2013. • MEUSA Summary • News Source UTAH • On 22 December 2013, in Kitchen, et al. v. Utah Attorney General John Swallow, et al., in which 3 couples filed a federal lawsuit challenging Utah’s constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriage, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied UT’s request to stay (suspend) the district court ruling while the district court decides whether to suspend its own ruling during the time that the case is on appeal. On 23 December 2013, UT made the request again, and the Court of Appeals denied it again. • MEUSA Summary • News Source UTAH • On 23 December 2013, in Kitchen, et al. v. Utah Attorney General John Swallow, et al., in which 3 couples filed a federal lawsuit challenging Utah’s constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriage, U.S. district court judge denied UT’s request to stay his 20 December ruling declaring UT’s marriage ban unconstitutional. • MEUSA Summary • News Source UTAH • On 24 December, in Kitchen, et al. v. Utah Attorney General John Swallow, et al., in which 3 couples filed a federal lawsuit challenging Utah’s constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriage, UT made a 4th request for a stay, and the Court of Appeals denied it, mainly because: (a) the appeal does not appear likely to succeed; (b) the lack of a stay is unlikely to cause irreparable harm to the state; and (c) the presence of a stay is likely to harm the plaintiff couples who now can marry legally. UT then announced that it will make a 5th request to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Justice Sonia Sotomayor will grant the stay, or deny the stay, or ask the full Court to decide. • MEUSA Summary • News Source UTAH • On 27 December 2013, Republican lawmakers committed about $2 million for opposing marriage equality in the U.S. Appeals Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. In the first week since the 20 December ruling, about 1,000 same-gender couples married. • MEUSA Summary • News Source TEXAS • On 26 December 2013, in Noel Freeman, et al. v. Houston, TX Mayor Anise Parker, et al., Lambda Legal file a federal lawsuit seeking to restore employee spouse benefits for same-gender spouses. • MEUSA Summary • News Source IDAHO • On 24 December 2013, in Sue Latta, et al. v. ID Governor C. L. Butch Otter, a marriage rights case, the plaintiffs asked the judge to block the state from intervening in their lawsuit. • MEUSA Summary • News Source
Send questions and comments to: NFlaherty@MarriageEquality.org.
The message came through at 1:53 pm on Friday: “KSL NEWSRADIO: Fed judge rules Utah’s Amendment 3 unconstitutional. Amend 3 denies marriage between 1 woman & 1 man and bans gay marriage.” A little cheer escaped my lips as I sat in my office in disbelief. I immediately called Jolene, my wife of 23 days after our marriage in Vancouver, WA, and told her the news. I asked her to search online to see if she could find out if it was true. In the meantime, the Salt Lake Tribune website issued a release stating that Amendment 3 had been struck down. I had been working with our Corporate office concerning a ‘same sex tax’ they were deducting from my paycheck to cover Jolene on my health insurance. I sent them the Salt Lake Tribune article with a note that it was time for them to quit deducting the same sex tax from my pay. I haven’t been to work since, so do not know what kind of reply I have waiting for me at work.
Jolene called and asked me when I could leave work so we could take part in the celebrations. I told her I could head out at 2:30. Before heading home, I shared the great news with several coworkers. We knew that our marriage in Washington State would now be recognized in Utah. There is no reason for us to get married again; however, we wanted to join others who were headed to the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office to obtain their marriage licenses.
We had no idea what we would encounter once we arrived. As we entered the first floor of the Salt Lake County Building, Utah State Senator, Jim Dabakis had just married his long-time partner, Stephen Justeson. Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker was their wedding officiant! Cheers were ringing out as another marriage had just been completed down an adjacent hallway. People were everywhere…. Smiles were on their faces and tears were in their eyes. We were witnessing marriage equality in our home State of Utah for the very first time on the first day same sex marriages could be performed. It was history in the making!
We headed to the second floor where the County Clerk’s office had a line out the door that went clear down the hall. People were scrambling to get into line; someone was handing out marriage license applications which still listed "Groom" and "Bride" as the registrants. Couples were filling out the paperwork and were scratching out either groom or bride and writing in the respective person they were marrying. People had looks of disbelief and joy on their faces. Jolene and I kept looking at each other, not believing this moment had actually arrived. We would tear up, smile and continue looking through the crowd.
There were several wedding officiants performing weddings on-the-spot for free! Jolene is also a registered wedding officiant and performed one wedding before the night was over.
The Salt Lake County Clerk’s office normally closes at 5 pm on Fridays. At that time, they determined where the end of the line was and said the office would officially close after those people received their paperwork. People still continued to arrive and get in line. It was 7:10 pm by the time those at the demarcation point had paid their $40 processing fee and received their official marriage application! The clerk’s doors were closed and Salt Lake County Sheriff personnel stood their ground, not letting anyone else in.
Those remaining in line were listless as they knew a stay was being worked which would permanently close the door until the appeals process could be finished. Tears flowed freely as hopes were being taken away. State Senator Jim Dabakis addressed the crowd and said he would do everything he could to get the doors opened on Saturday so the issuance of marriage licenses could continue. That, however, did not happen.
The only place open on Saturday was the Weber County Clerk’s office in Ogden, UT. Several friends had contacted Jolene and asked if she would marry them on Saturday, so we headed to the Weber County Clerk’s office. Unlike the Salt Lake office, those in line in Ogden had to wait outside in freezing cold temperatures. Many were there for several hours before it was announced that Weber County would not be handing out any marriage licenses that day. The crowd was stunned. We have to wait until Monday to see what comes next.
By Colleen Mewing
Policy & Legal UpdatesDecember 16 – 22, 2013
MEUSA Summary • News Source ILLINOIS • On 16 December 2013, in Darby v. Orr, a federal judge agreed with Lambda Legal attorneys, and ordered that all IL couples in which a partner suffers a life-threatening illness can marry prior to the 1 June 2014 start of same-gender civil marriages. • MEUSA Summary • News Source ILLINOIS • On 6 December 2013, in Brenda Lee, et al. v. Cook County Clerk David Orr, four same-gender couples filed a federal suit seeking to marry immediately instead of waiting for the 1 June start date. • MEUSA Summary • News Source PENNSYLVANIA • On 17 December 2013, in Deb & Susan Whitewood v. PA Governor Tom Corbett et al., in which 23 people are challenging the 1996 PA law that bans same-gender marriage for residents, and that ignores out-of-state same-gender marriages, U.S. District Judge John Jones rejected the argument of PA lawyers (whose team charges at least $725 each hour) that this court lacks authority to decide the case, and then he blocked any higher court review at this time. The trial starts on 9 June 2014. • MEUSA Summary • News Source TEXAS • On 17 December 2013, in Jack Pidegon & Larry Hicks vs. Houston Mayor Annise Parker, et al., with plaintiffs represented by Harris County GOP Chairman Jared Woodfill, a TX district judge temporarily prohibited Houston, TX from offering partner benefits to same-gender couples. A hearing is set for 6 January 2014. • MEUSA Summary • News Source ILLINOIS • On 17 December 2013, in Darby v. Orr, the court dismissed the case since the relief that the plaintiffs were seeking occurred when IL enacted a same-gender civil marriage law on 5 November 2013. • MEUSA Summary • News Source NEW MEXICO • On 19 December 2013, in Rose Griego, et al., v. NM Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Oliver, the NM Supreme Court unanimously ruled that same-gender and mixed-gender couples, and their civil marriages, are guaranteed equal rights, protection, and responsibilities under the law, effective immediately. The court rejected 3 arguments put forth by the opponents of equality: (1) mixed-gender marriages benefit when same-gender marriages are banned and mixed-gender marriages suffer when same-gender marriages are allowed; (2) marriage requires procreation and procreation requires marriage; and (3) same-gender couples don’t raise children from prior marriage, fertilization, surrogacy, foster care, and/or adoption. • MEUSA Summary • News Source WEST VIRGINIA • On 17 December 2013, in Casie Jo McGee, et al. v. Cabell County Clerk Karen Cole, et al., the WV attorney general asked a federal judge to dismiss the suit challenging WV’s law banning same-gender civil marriage, arguing that the plaintiffs, who are not now legally married anywhere, are suffering no harm. • MEUSA Summary • News Source ARKANSAS • On 19 December 2013, in Kendall Wright et al. v. AR Governor Michael Beebe, et al., in which 21 same-gender couples seek to overturn the 2004 AR constitutional ban on same-gender civil marriage, the statutory ban, and the federal law allowing states to ignore same-gender marriages from other states, the judge decided not to dismiss the suit, and also decided that couples may not marry while the case is pending. • MEUSA Summary • News Source UTAH • On 20 December 2013, in Kitchen, et al. v. Utah Attorney General John Swallow, et al., the court rejected UT’s arguments that: (1) marriage is not a right; (2) states can deny marriage to certain citizens; (3) “responsible procreation” is a reason to exclude same-gender couples, and (4) same-gender parents raising children is harmful, and then declared the UT same-gender civil marriage ban an irrational, unconstitutional denial of a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution, and allowed marriages to begin the same day. Hours later, UT appealed the decision, and filed a motion seeking to halt marriages during the appeal case. • MEUSA Summary • News Source TEXAS • On 20 December 2013, in Jack Pidegon & Larry Hicks vs. Houston Mayor Annise Parker, et al., the city of Houston said it will appeal the 17 December court order barring domestic partner benefits for same-gender spouses of city employees. • MEUSA Summary • News Source UTAH • On 22 December 2013, in Kitchen, et al. v. Utah Attorney General John Swallow, et al., in which 3 couples challenged UT’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriage, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied UT’s request to suspend the district court ruling while the district court decides whether to suspend its own ruling during the time that the case is on appeal; consequently, marriages legalized by the 20 December ruling may continue throughout the appeal process, unless the district court reverses its earlier decision. On 23 December or later, Federal District Judge Robert Shelby will decide whether to halt marriages while UT appeals the case. His decision about halting marriages during the appeal could also be appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court, as well as to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Justice Sotomayor would grant the halt, deny the halt, or ask the full Court to decide. • MEUSA Summary • News Source NORTH CAROLINA • On 20 December 2012, in Marcie Fisher-Borne, et al. v. John Smith, et al., in which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued several state judges in federal court on behalf of 6 same-gender couples and their children seeking adoption and marriage rights, Republican lawmakers engaged free legal help from Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT law firm, to defend the state’s constitutional ban on same-gender civil marriage. • MEUSA Summary • News Source OREGON • On 19 December 2013, in Paul Rummell, et al. v. OR Governor John Kitzhaber, et al.,two Portland couples filed a federal lawsuit challenging OR’s ban on same-gender civil marriage. They hope to combine their suit into Deanna Geiger, et al. v. OR Governor John Kitzhaber, et al., which was filed on 15 October. • MEUSA Summary • News Source
MEUSA Summary • News Source FLORIDA • On 16 December, FL state Representative Linda Stewart re-submitted a domestic partner bill. • MEUSA Summary • News Source ARIZONA • On 17 December 2013, Cottonwood, AZ legalized same-gender unions, joining Bisbee, Jerome, Sedona, and Tucson, AZ. • MEUSA Summary • News Source NEW MEXICO • On 19 December 2013, NM state Senator Bill Sharer (R) proposed to amend the NM constitution to ban same-gender civil marriage based on his assumption that same-gender couples have no children. The change would have to pass both chambers of the NM legislature, before appearing on a statewide voter ballot. Similar proposals in 2005, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2013 all failed in the legislature. • MEUSA Summary • News Source FLORIDA • On 18 December 2013, FL state Representative Linda Stewart (D) filed HB-439, which would legalize domestic partners, but give them only a few of the rights and protections available to married people. A similar bill, SB-196, filed in the Senate on 9 January 2013, died in the Judiciary Committee in May 2013. • MEUSA Summary • News Source
MEUSA Summary • News Source
Send questions and comments to: NFlaherty@MarriageEquality.org.
Last weekend, our community lost one of our most powerful advocates and a truly wonderful person: Marvin Burrows.
Marvin came out 62 years ago – in 1951 – at age 15. A couple years later he met Bill, whom he would marry at San Francisco City Hall on February 13, 2004, 51 years later. In his own words from testimony to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee: “I met the love of my life, William Duane Swenor, in 1953. He was 15 and I was 17. My father found out and told me to leave home if I continued to see Bill. After my dad kicked me out I had no place to go, and I was still in high school. I stayed with my grandmother until Bill could ask his mother if I could move in with them. She gave her permission, I moved in, and from that time on we lived as a committed couple.” After 51 years together, Marvin described his wedding to Bill as “the best time in our lives…”
But the courts declared Marvin and Bill’s marriage and the marriages of over 4,000 other same-sex couples who married in San Francisco in 2004 “null and void.” And as Marvin and Bill began to fight back with thousands of others, Bill died suddenly. Because their marriage had been declared to be illegal, Marvin was denied the legal rights and dignity that every American should have. The indignity began almost immediately after Bill passed away. “When Bill passed I called the cremation service that had taken care of my mother…However, they told me that I did not have the right to dispose of (Bill’s) body…(because they) considered us to be only ‘roommates,’ basically legal ‘strangers.’”
That was only the beginning. Soon thereafter, the Social Security Administration denied Marvin spousal survivor benefits and Bill’s labor union denied Marvin survivor pension benefits because the law would not recognize their marriage, even after 52 years together. Marvin was forced to move from the home that he and Bill had shared for over three decades. In Marvin’s words, “I lost my lifelong partner, my home, our animals, income, my health insurance, and even my bed and furniture all in one fell swoop.”
Marvin fought back in every way and with everyone he possibly could.
Over the years, Bill and Marvin had built strong personal relationships with many of Bill’s fellow local union members – all of whom identified as straight – and the union members had deep respect for Bill. They and many others stood up with Marvin, and after a 3-year struggle, the national union finally relented and awarded Bill’s pension to Marvin, saying it was “the right thing to do for a fellow member.” The victory was a public policy breakthrough for same-sex couples everywhere.
Marvin was a wonderful friend, and an inspiring activist with organizations including Marriage Equality USA, Lavender Seniors, GLOBE, Meals on Wheels, and California Senior Leaders at UC Berkeley, just to name a few. His legacy inspires us all to continue to stand up together and never give up.
By MEUSA National Media Director Stuart Gaffney and MEUSA Director of Legal & Policy John Lewis
This article originally appeared in SF Bay Times, December 18, 2013: http://sfbaytimes.com/marvin-burrows-love-warrior/
Policy & Legal UpdatesDecember 9 – 15, 2013
- On 12 December 2013, U.S. Senator Mike Lee introduced the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act(House #3133, Senate #1808), which would legalize discrimination against LGBT individuals, couples, and their children by governments, businesses, hospitals, and individuals. Lawmakers favoring it include 12 Senators (11 Republicans, 1 Democrat). Based on history, the chance of enactment is 1%. • MEUSA Summary • News Source
MEUSA Summary • News Source PENNSYLVANIA • On 9 December 2013, in Cara Palladino & Isabelle Barker v. PA Governor Corbett et al., a couple suing to get PA to recognize their 2005 MA marriage, PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane sought to be dismissed as a defendant because her office was not involved in violating the plaintiffs’ rights. • MEUSA Summary • News Source TEXAS • On 11 December 2013, in Cleopatra De Leon, et al., v. TX Governor Rick Perry et al.,a federal class action lawsuit for all TX couples challenging the 2005 TX constitutional ban on marriage inside and outside TX, the judge agreed to hear the case starting 12 February 2014. • MEUSA Summary • News Source ARKANSAS • On 12 December 2013, in Kendall Wright et al. v. AR Governor Michael Beebe, et al.,11 same-gender couples challenging the 2004 AR constitutional ban on same-gender civil marriage, the state law banning same-gender civil marriage, and the federal law allowing states to ignore same-gender marriages from other states, and also seeking parental rights, birth certificate names, insurance, and other benefits, asked that oher couples be allowed to marry during the suit, and defendants for Faulkner County and AR asked that the suit be dismissed, after which the judge gave no indication of when or how he might rule. • MEUSA Summary • News Source TEXAS & MISSISSIPPI • On 13 December 2013, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed that MS had stopped discriminating, and that all 50 states deliver all benefits to same-gender spouses of Army National Guard personnel (active duty, dependents, retired). IN and WV accept applications from and issue cards to everyone, but GA, LA, MS, and TX use only federal workers to enroll applicants and issue ID cards, and FL, OK, and SC moved the equipment to federal property, forcing all couples to travel longer distances. • MEUSA Summary • News Source NEW MEXICO • By 13 December 2013, 60% of NM residents were living in 8 of the 33 counties (Bernalillo, Doña Ana, Grant, Los Alamos, Santa Fe, San Miguel, Taos, Valencia) that were issuing marriage licenses, and over 1,700 same-gender couples had married. Out of 7 NM lawsuits in 2013, 0 were defeats for marriage equality, 3 were victories for equality, and 4 remain pending, 1 of which is about to be decided by the NM Supreme Court. • MEUSA Summary • News Source MICHIGAN • On 13 December 2013, in April DeBoer & Jayne Rowse v. MI Governor Rick Snyder, et al., in a challenge to the constitutionality of the state’s 2004 ban on same-gender marriage, civil union, domestic partnership, and joint adoption, the defendants asked that the trial not be split into 2 parts: (1) constitutionality of marriage/adoption laws; and (2) deciding what scrutiny level is required when judging laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation, and asked the court to ignore which level of judicial scrutiny applies to laws that discriminate against same-gender couples. • MEUSA Summary • News Source
MEUSA Summary • News Source FLORIDA • On 12 December 2013, the Pensacola City Council approved several important domestic partner rights, joining at least 14 FL cities and counties representing 50% of FL residents. • MEUSA Summary • News Source
MEUSA Summary • News Source PENNSYLVANIA • On 11 December 2013, the Why Marriage Matters Pennsylvania campaign was launched by Freedom to Marry and ACLU of Pennsylvania. • MEUSA Summary • News Source COLORADO • On 9 December 2013, Public Policy Polling surveyed 928 CO voters (including 355 usual Republican primary voters) about same-gender civil marriage, and reported that 53% favor it, 39% oppose it, with 8% unaccounted for. • MEUSA Summary • News Source
Send questions and comments to: NFlaherty@MarriageEquality.org.
This year has ushered in several marriage equality victories, including seven additional marriage equality states and a Supreme Court ruling affording federal benefits to married couples across the country. Building on this momentum, and to prevent marriage equality opponents from regaining their footing, MEUSA is proud to announce an alliance with its National Equality Action Team (NEAT) and Freedom Indiana to stop the Indiana legislature from putting a marriage equality referendum on the ballot that has the potential to add a marriage equality prohibition to the state constitution.
MEUSA is seeking volunteers from across the country to sign up immediately to help stop this harmful initiative! Volunteers will connect Indiana residents who support same-sex couples and their families with their local legislators. Hoosiers will be encouraged to tell their legislators how this far-reaching amendment would limit freedoms and be unfair to gay families. MEUSA will provide volunteers with training, support and resources. Contacting legislators works, as NEAT recently witnessed with victories in Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, and Illinois. Anyone with internet access, a phone, and a desire to help CAN make a difference. Those interested in volunteering can go to www.theneat.org to sign up to make calls from home or from one of several locations to support love and freedom for all Hoosiers.
Policy & Legal UpdatesDecember 2 – 8, 2013
MEUSA Summary • News Source WASHINGTON • On 3 December 2014, in Michael Hall, et al. v. BNSF Railway Company, two legally married same-gender couples filed a federal suit to obtain spouse health insurance coverage for themselves and all other workers because although same-gender civil marriage is legal in WA, the employer refuses to comply. • MEUSA Summary • News Source MISSISSIPPI • On 2 December 2013, in Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham v. Dana Ann Melcon, a state judge refused to grant Ms. Czekala-Chatham a divorce involving property, alimony, children, and inheritance (because MS doesn’t recognize legal same-gender civil marriages from any jurisdiction), and Czekala-Chatham said she is appealing the ruling. • MEUSA Summary • News Source LOUISIANA • On 3 December 2014, LA Army National Guard Lt. Col. Michael Mazmierzak confirmed that LA now issues same-gender spouse benefits by using federal personnel, funds, and systems for processing applications, leaving only GA and MS still unlawfully denying benefits. • MEUSA Summary • News Source WASHINGTON • On 3 December 2013, in Michael Hall, et al. v. BNSF Railway Company, two legally married same-gender couples filed a federal suit to obtain spouse health insurance coverage for themselves and all other workers because although same-gender civil marriage is legal in WA, employer BNSF refuses to comply. On 4 December 2013, America’s largest freight rail carriers (BNSF, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, CSX, and others) announced they will all provide health care benefits to same-gender spouses of their workers, starting 1 January 2014. • MEUSA Summary • News Source LOUISIANA • On 2 December 2013, in Jonathan Robicheaux and Derek Pinton, et al. v. LA Attorney General James Caldwell, two couples challenging the LA bans on same-gender civil marriage asked the court to reconsider its dismissal, and to allow the addition of another defendant.
MEUSA Summary • News Source
MEUSA Summary • News Source OREGON • On 7 December 2013, Oregon United for Marriage annouced it had collected more than the 116,284 signatures needed to put marriage equality on the 2014 ballot. • MEUSA Summary • News Source
Send questions and comments to: NFlaherty@MarriageEquality.org.
As we commemorate the 35th anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk, our recent trip to Japan to speak about marriage equality made clear how Harvey’s call to come out is just as important as ever.
Significantly fewer LGBT Japanese have come out than their American counterparts, and LGBT Japanese are a much less visible part of society and the media than in the U.S. The Japanese people we met gave us insight into how coming out in Japan is similar to, and different from, America.
One Japanese activist told us that he came out to his parents in high school after his first date with a boy, because he did not want to keep a secret within himself and wanted his parents to know him as he really was. His parents were very accepting. But another activist described how 20 years ago, his father and brother beat him when he came out and threw him out of the house. He found his way to the office of a Tokyo LGBT activist organization that let him sleep on their floor until he could get on his feet. He has now worked for that organization for over 10 years and is a leading advocate for people with HIV/AIDS in Japan.
We met a bisexual student who wants to design LGBT manga cartoons to support the movement, but was afraid to come out to her father. We encouraged her to come out if it was safe, so that she could lead a life that was true to who she was and contribute her creativity and talent to help others.
Coming out appears to be particularly difficult for many Japanese LGBT people because of the importance of social conformity in Japan. Many college students told us that they had known perhaps only one openly LGBT person in their entire lives. We were the first openly LGBT people some had ever met. Activists told us that the pressure for conformity can lead to greater internalized homophobia, and that coming out can lead to significant social isolation and loneliness.
However, our speaking about Harvey Milk’s call to come out – both for one’s personal well being and for the benefit of the movement – seemed to resonate everywhere we went. Activists believed that more Japanese LGBT people coming out was critical to advancing legal, social, and political change, including marriage equality.
After hearing our marriage and coming-out stories, one student decided it was time for him to come out, too — but not as LGBT (he was straight) but as a Japanese person of Korean ethnicity, a group that faces significant discrimination. When he came out as Korean-Japanese and told his personal story of exclusion and discrimination, he received enormous support from his classmates. In so doing, we hope he made his own life better and, at the same time, took an important step to help the movement for human dignity and equality for all – an act with which we believe Harvey would have been very pleased.
By MEUSA National Media Director Stuart Gaffney and MEUSA Director of Legal & Policy John Lewis
This article originally appeared in SF Bay Times, November 28, 2013: http://sfbaytimes.com/coming-out-for-marriage-equality-in-japan/