Congress holds first hearing on repeal of DOMA
In a Senate hearing on the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), couples in same-sex marriages testified on how the anti-gay marriage law harmed them. It was the first hearing in Congress on the repeal of DOMA, a 1996 law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage.
Ron Wallen, a resident of Indio, Calif., has been unable to make house payments following the recent death of his partner of more than 50 years, Tom Carrollo.
“I am spending my days and nights sorting through our possessions, packing boxes to move—even while I am still answering the condolence cards that come in the mail,” said Wallen in his testimony to Congress.
“The time has come for the federal government to recognize that these married couples deserve the same legal protections afforded to opposite-sex married couples,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, chair of the committee, said.
“Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), sponsor of the DOMA repeal legislation, maintained that the anti-gay law should be off the books because marriage, as well as other issues related to family such as adoption and divorce, has been under the jurisdiction of state law,” the Washington Blade reported.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) was the only committee member to speak out against the repeal of DOMA, saying he believes marriage should be reserved for one man and one woman.
President Obama backs repeal of ban on same-sex marriage
President Barack Obama is supporting the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would repeal the federal government’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The president has “long called for a legislative appeal for the socalled Defense of Marriage Act which continues to have a real impact on families,” White House spokesperson Jay Carney said, according to The Huffington Post.
In February, the Obama administration announced its belief that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. At the time, Carney said the president was “grappling” with his personal stance on same-sex marriage but had always thought DOMA was “unnecessary and unfair.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a lead sponsor for the Respect for Marriage Act, was one of 14 senators to vote against DOMA. The repeal legislation has 27 co-sponsors, and she says the effort to fight DOMA will continue “until the battle
Under the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex married couples are not eligible for the all of the benefits that a heterosexual married would receive. Even in states where gay marriage is legal, same-sex married couples cannot file joint federal income taxes, claim certain deductions, or receive spousal benefits under Social Security.
Pelosi supports executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination
Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader, endorsed the idea of an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT individuals in the workplace.
“I think it is all long overdue. I have long supported ending discrimination in the workplace for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders,” Pelosi said, according to the Washington Blade.
An executive order could be an alternative to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but the White House has yet to say whether the president would consider issuing the order. President Obama has supported ENDA as a means to ending job discrimination for LGBT workers.
“It’s time the government stopped doing business with businesses that discriminate against LGBT Americans,” Richard Socarides of Equality Matters said. “We all agree, so why not put some teeth behind it.”
An executive order could complement ENDA by providing two avenues for LGBT workers who feel they have experienced workplace discrimination; an executive order would go through the Department of Labor, while ENDA would work through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Currently, both agencies protect other workers, such as racial minorities and women.
Polls show gay candidate a favorite to become Ireland’s president
Independent Sen. David Norris is leading in opinion polls for the presidential election of Ireland, with a quarter of those polled planning to vote for him.
If successful in his bid for president, he would be the first openly gay head of state, according to Pink News. Johanna Sigurdardottir, prime minister of Iceland was the world’s first openly gay head of government in 2009.
When asked if his country is ready for an openly gay president, Norris said, “I don’t see myself as a gay president; I see myself as a president who happens to be gay. I think the Irish people are a little bit bored with my sexuality.”
Norris, who announced his bid to run in the October election to succeed Mary McAleese in March, has strong support in his hometown of Dublin and has been attracting support from members of the major political parties as well. He leads by four points above Fine Gael’s candidate Gay Mitchell.
“When presented with a number of options, 38 percent of voters said a candidate who could represent Ireland well was the most important; 17 percent said honesty/reputation and nine per cent opted for personality. Just three percent said a candidate’s political experience was the most important factor,” Irish Central reported.
Group sets up fund for marriage equality opponents
A New York group has established a fund to raise financial support for marriage equality opponents who claim to have suffered consequences because of their religious beliefs. The Courage Fund was inspired by Laura Fotusky, a town clerk in Barker who resigned from her position rather than issue marriage licenses and officiate ceremonies for same-sex couples.
The fund is organized by New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, an evangelical Protestant group. The group’s goal for the fund is to replace the salaries of Fotusky and other opponents to the new law and to fight marriage equality in New York, according to the Advocate.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the marriage equality bill into law last month and says that clerks should follow the law or resign. Fotusky made the right decision by resigning, Cuomo said.
The law currently has exemptions for religious organizations who are opposed to officiating same-sex marriage ceremonies or allowing their facilities to be used for similar celebrations. Opponents to the new law say the exemptions are not enough and that individuals need to be protected as well.
“People with strong convictions concerning the authentic definition of marriage will find themselves vulnerable to a lawsuit,” wrote New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms earlier this month.
College student working to legalize same-sex marriage in Colorado
Inspired by recent progress made for gay rights, college student Mark Olmstead hopes to get a marriage equality initiative on the Colorado ballot for the 2012 election. Currently, the Colorado state Constitution defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
The state title board will review Olmstead’s proposal, and, if passed, he will need to collect 86,000 signatures before the initiative could be brought to voters.
“It’s more appropriate for an issue like this to be before voters than before the Legislature, trying to work around the vote of the people,” state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, an opponent to Olmstead’s efforts, said.
According to Brad Clark, executive director for LGBT advocacy group One Colorado, it is the state Legislature’s responsibility “to ensure these couples have the protections they need.”
“Carrie Gordon Earll, spokeperson for CitizenLink, the policy arm of Focus on the Family, doesn’t believe the ballot initiative has a chance,” reported the Denver Post.
“Every time the definition of marriage has gone to the voters—31 times to date—voters have affirmed marriage as one man and one woman,” she said in a statement. “We have every confidence that the people of Colorado would affirm that vote again.”