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Prop 8 trial begins Monday

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The eyes of LGBT rights supporters will be on the proceedings of a California federal court case next week that could overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage — and possibly similar bans throughout the country.

The trial in the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger will begin Monday. Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court’s Northern District of California will preside and has called for expedited proceedings because of the serious nature of the complaints raised by plaintiffs.

During the trial, Walker will consider witness testimony, documents and other evidence and arguments from both sides over the constitutionality of Proposition 8, an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage. The amendment was approved in 2008 through voter referendum.

Attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies are representing plaintiff couples that were denied marriage licenses in California because of the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

While it’s the first time these lawyers have worked together on a case, they have crossed paths before in opposition to each other. In the 2000 case of Bush v. Gore, Olson represented then-Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush while Boies represented then-Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore.

Olson and Boies — who are litigating on behalf of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, a California-based LGBT organization founded last year — are arguing Prop 8 is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and singles out LGBT people for discrimination, among other reasons.

Yusef Robb, an AFER spokesperson, said, “preparations are intense” for the legal team that is arguing that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.

“Proposition 8 is wrong and it’s unconstitutional, and we will demonstrate that through the testimony of our plaintiffs, expert [witnesses], evidence and arguments from an unmatched legal team,” he said.

Robb said the trial should last about three weeks, but could drag out for five weeks. Supporters of the lawsuit are expecting the case to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, but first the case would have to be heard in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, said the case is significant because “it’s a critical piece in the ongoing fight for full equality.”

“We are extremely hopeful that the federal courts will strike [down] Prop 8 as unconstitutional because it clearly violates the federal Constitution, especially in light of the California Supreme Court decision that upheld Prop 8 in the California Constitution,” he said.

Equality California was among the groups that filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief in favor of overturning Prop 8. Kors said he’s confident Walker will overturn Prop 8 because it’s “a clear violation of the United States Constitution.”

Other groups that have filed “friend-of-the-court” briefs are the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and National Center for Lesbian Rights. The City and County of San Francisco — under the leadership of City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Chief Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart — are supporting the plaintiffs as co-counsel and are focusing on the negative impact Prop 8 has on government services and budgets.

While the case is focused on the constitutionality of Prop 8, it’s possible that marriage bans throughout the country could be struck down if the case goes to the Supreme Court and it rules in favor of the plaintiffs.

Robb said the question of whether a Supreme Court ruling would end marriage bans throughout the country “would depend on the particular issues the court chooses to review, as well as how they specifically draft their opinion.”

One contentious issue leading up to the trial was whether the judge would allow TV cameras in the courtroom to record and broadcast the trial.

Opponents of Prop 8 urged Walker to allow proceedings to air on TV to bring more attention to the marriage issue, while supporters of Prop 8 are arguing against such a move because they feel backers of the amendment would be subject to harassment and intimidation.

Walker ruled Wednesday that the trial will be recorded — but the broadcast will be delayed and it will air on the Internet and not live TV, according to media reports.

Walker decided to post a delayed recording of the case challenging Proposition 8 on YouTube, according to the The San Francisco Chronicle. AFER announced the decision in a Twitter posting: “Judge: pending approval from 9th Circuit, trial will be recorded daily for delayed posting to internet.”

Robb said AFER believes it’s important for the trial to air to show the harm that Prop 8 has caused same-sex couples.

“This trial is a chance for the true harm of Prop 8 to be revealed through facts, evidence and the law, without the spin, slogans and deception that dominate political campaigns,” he said. “These proceedings should be available to as many people as possible.”

Kors also supports airing the trial. He said the broadcast would allow people who are undecided on same-sex marriage to learn more about why marriage rights are important to LGBT people.

“It’s an opportunity for them to see us for who we really are, and for them to hear the arguments both from our side about why equality is so important and why denying us the freedom to marry harms us and our families, and to really hear what the right-wing’s justification for that discrimination is,” he said.

Kors also claimed that airing the trial would reveal that supporters of Prop 8 distorted the truth during the 2008 campaign as they encouraged voters to approve the amendment.

Among the disputed arguments that supporters of Prop 8 put forward was that failure of the amendment would mean that children would have to learn about same-sex marriage in public schools.

“It’s different when you’re arguing in court and testifying under oath than it is when you run a 30-second television ad that tells lies,” he said. “So it’s a chance for people to hear the truth from both sides, which is why we want it to be televised and clearly why the right-wing doesn’t because it’s not an environment where they can control what they’re saying.”

While predicting that the trial court would strike down Prop 8, Kors said it’s possible that the ruling could be overturned by a higher court.

But if that happened, Kors said the trial court proceedings would still be helpful in persuading the public to overturn the amendment at the ballot box. Equality California has chosen 2012 as the year to challenge Prop 8 through another voter referendum.

“It’s an opportunity for the public to learn more about why marriage equality is so important for same-sex couples and their families — and that the lies the right-wing told in California and more recently in Maine are nothing but lies,” Kors said. “And that, I think, is going to be really important in moving public opinion.”

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Sam Brown

    January 8, 2010 at 10:08 am

    In bringing prop. 8 to trial, we should remember the old Chinese proverb, “Be Careful What you Wish For.”

    While I feel as strongly as most readers here about the need for marriage to be available to us, I cannot help but think that it will hurt us if we try to bully the will of the people through legal tricks. Consider the abortion issue as an example. It was getting close to be made legal in some places and situations with general support when the courts intervened and made an edict. Now it remains a chasm in our public thought. If abortion laws had changed in most places through legislative action, and bills to change them back failed several times it would considred a dead issue in the political world. Only the “gadflies” would be pushing it.

    Public opinion is evolving in our favour now that more people are out of the closet, and thus more people understand us as just regular harmless folks who care about their loved ones and their country. Even basic rights for us, such as employment non-discrimination have gone from about 20% public support in the 1980’s to 80% today. Almost every poll shows stronger support for our rights from younger people in both parties and of many religious traditions. We need to build on this trend and educate people and we need to be examples of solid couples and good citizens so this can all get resolved in our favour democratically.

    …Sam Brown

  2. One Liberal Christian

    January 12, 2010 at 12:43 am

    Seeking equal rights through the courts a ‘legal trick”? Hardly. One major role of the Courts in our REPUBLIC, not a democracy, is the protection of minority rights against majority tyranny – read The Federalist Papers by Jay, Hamilton, and Madison.

    And the present course by gay leaders to hide from Federal protection has hardly worked: 35 states ban same-sex marriage, NJ, NY booted it, MA, CA, and HI all overturned same-sex marriage laws.

    Therefore it is only logical, and if we want equal rights now instead of waiting 20 years, we need to pursue all avenues available. You may be 8 years old, so having equal marriage rights by 2030 would be ok, but for the majority of us that is simply too long. It’s now or it aint worth much when your 60 or 70 years old.

    And besides, in 20 years most people will support gay marriage, so what do we have lose? If gay marriage is struck down, then in 20 years we can finally win it your way – through popular vote.

  3. Brian

    January 12, 2010 at 10:29 am

    I say use legal tricks or whatever it takes to be treated equally. This is 2010 and nobody should be denied equal rights.

  4. vanhellslinger

    February 16, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    SCIENCE VS GAY
    2-16-10
    We have all seen or read of homosexuality in other species of animals. It’s acceptable behavior because they are lower animals. We know it’s wrong because in our simplest understanding of biology, sex is for the creation of new life.
    With human homosexuality, we tend to view those infected as we would others with birth defects and disease, consequently we embrace and protect them from harm. Unfortunately gays are humans with minds, not cats and dogs, and what has happened is they have used this protection to enhance their predatory nature. They have learned to accept their defect as normal, because it is normal in nature to have defects. The problem is they misused the word normal, and now claim to be normal or free of defect. They have twisted the reality of being defective/diseased people and created an illusion of being in a proper state of existence.
    Science not religion, or the combination will prove the gays undoing. We will soon create the technology to design sexual preference at birth. Eventually homosexuality will be phased out of existence. After all what rational minded couple would choose their newborns to be gay?

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National

In a historic first, Colorado now has a 1st gentleman as Gov. Polis marries

The governor and his now husband decided to hold their nuptials on the 18th anniversary of their first date

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Governor Jared Polis and 1st Gentleman Marlon Reis exchange vows (Screenshot via CBS News Denver)

DENVER – Colorado’s Democratic Governor Jared Polis married his longtime partner Marlon Reis in a ceremony that marked the first same-sex marriage of a sitting Out governor in the United States.

The couple was married Wednesday in a small traditional Jewish ceremony at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where Reis had matriculated and graduated from. The governor and his now husband decided to hold their nuptials on the 18th anniversary of their first date.

“We met online and went out on a date and we went to the Boulder bookstore and then went to dinner,” Polis told KCFR-FM, Colorado Public Radio (CPR).

In addition to family and close friends in attendance, the couple’s two children participated with their 7-year-old daughter serving as the flower girl and their 9-year-old son as the ring bearer.

The governor joked that their daughter was probably more thrilled than anyone about the wedding. “She was all in on being a flower girl. She’s been prancing around. She got a great dress. She’s terrific,” he said CPR reported.

Their son was also happy, but more ambivalent about it all according to Reis. “Kids are so modern that their responses to things are sometimes funny. Our son honestly asked us, ‘Why do people get married?”

Colorado’s chief executive, sworn in as the 43rd governor of Colorado in January 2019, over the course of nearly 20 years as a political activist and following in public service as an elected official has had several ‘firsts’ to his credit.

In 2008 Polis is one of the few people to be openly Out when first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as well as being the first gay parent to serve in the Congress. Then on November 6, 2018, he was the first openly gay governor elected in Colorado and in the United States.

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Gov. Jared Polis And First Gentleman Marlon Reis Are Newlyweds

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U.S. Catholic theologians call for LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections

Joint statement says church teachings support equality

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More than 750 of the nation’s leading Catholic theologians, church leaders, scholars, educators, and writers released a joint statement on Sept. 14 expressing strong support for nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

The six-page theological statement, “A Home for All: A Catholic Call for LGBTQ Non-Discrimination,” was scheduled to be published along with the names of its 759 signatories as a four-page advertisement on Sept. 17 in the National Catholic Reporter, a newspaper widely read by Catholic clergy and laypeople.

The statement was initiated by New Ways Ministry, a Mount Rainier, Md., based Catholic group that advocates for equality for LGBTQ people within the church and society at large.

“As Catholic theologians, scholars, church leaders, writers, and ministers, we affirm that Catholic teaching presents a positive case for ending discrimination against LGBTQ people,” the statement says. “We affirm the Second Vatican Council’s demand that ‘any kind of social or cultural discrimination…must be curbed and eradicated,’” it says.

“We affirm that Catholic teaching should not be used to further oppress LGBTQ people by denying rights rooted in their inherent human dignity and in the church’s call for social equality,” the statement adds.

The statement notes that its signers recognize that a “great debate” is currently taking place within the Catholic Church about whether same-gender relationships and transgender identities should be condoned or supported.

“That is a vital discussion for the future of Catholicism, and one to which we are whole-heartedly committed,” the statement continues. “What we are saying in this statement, however, is relatively independent of that debate, and the endorsers of this statement may hold varied, and even opposing, opinions on sexual and gender matters,” it says.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministries executive director, said his organization and the signers of the statement feel the issue of nondiscrimination for LGBTQ people can and should be supported by Catholic leaders and the church itself even if some are not yet ready to support same-sex marriage and sexual and gender identity matters.

“LGBTQ non-discrimination is being debated at all levels in our society, and the Catholic perspective on this is often misrepresented, even by some church leaders,” DeBernardo said. “Catholics who have studied and reflected deeply on this topic agree that non-discrimination is the most authentic Catholic position,” he said. 

DeBernardo said those who helped draft the statement decided it would be best to limit it to a theological appeal and argument for LGBTQ equality and non-discrimination and not to call for passage of specific legislation such as the Equality Act, the national LGBTQ civil rights bill pending in the U.S. Congress.

The Equality Act calls for amending existing federal civil rights laws to add nondiscrimination language protecting LGBTQ people in areas such as employment, housing, and public accommodations. The U.S. House approved the legislation, but the Senate has yet to act on it.

“We wanted this to be a theological statement, not a political statement,” DeBernardo said.

He said organizers of the project to prepare the statement plan to send it, among other places, to the Vatican in Rome and to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has expressed opposition to the Equality Act.

Among the key signers of the statement were 242 administrators, faculty, and staff from Sacred Heart University, a Catholic college in Bridgeport, Conn. New Ways Ministries says the statement was circulated by the school’s administration and eight of its top leaders, including President John Petillo, are among the signers.

Some of the prominent writers who signed the statement include Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking;” Richard Rodriquez, author of “Hunger of Memory;” Gary Wills, author of “Lincoln at Gettysburg;” and Gregory Maguire, author of “Wicked.”

The full text of the statement and its list of signatories can be accessed at the New Ways Ministry website.

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Activists reflect on Black Trans Lives Matter movement resurgence

Blade speaks with Alex Santiago, Jasmyne Cannick

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An I Am Human Foundation billboard along Atlanta's Downtown Connector expressway on Feb. 22, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The world came to a standstill last year as a video surfaced online that showed then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd. The video went viral and sparked numerous protests against racism and police brutality in the U.S. and around the world as many people felt it a potent time to relay their frustrations with and to their governments.

For the LGBTQ community, these protests brought to light the need for human rights for transgender individuals as the murders of people like Tony McDade in Florida and Nina Pop in Missouri reawakened the flame within the Black Trans Lives Matter movement.

A tribute to Tony McDade in downtown Asheville, N.C., in June 2020. McDade was a Black transgender man who was shot and killed by a white police officer in Tallahassee, Fla., on May 27, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Washington Blade more than a year later spoke with Alex Santiago, executive director of the I Am Human Foundation in Atlanta, and Jasmyne Cannick, a Democratic political strategist and journalist in Los Angeles, to reflect on last year’s Black Trans Lives Matter movement, how far it has come, and what’s in store for the future. 

Uplifting voices often silenced

Participating in the Black Lives Matter protests was an easy decision for Santiago. He is a member of the Legendary House of Garcon, a ballroom house headquartered in D.C. 

Although the house is composed mostly of LGBTQ members, Santiago still felt the need to center trans voices and experiences by visually representing them during Black Lives Matter marches. 

“[I decided that] when I go I’m going to have signs that say ‘Black Trans Lives Matter.’ After talking to a couple of the people in the house, they said it was a great idea. So, they got these t-shirts made that incorporated the trans colors [baby blue, baby pink and white],” says Santiago.

Out of the 250 people in the Legendary House of Garcon, 175 showed up to D.C. from other states to march in solidarity with Black trans people. Santiago says that from what he was told, his was the largest group of activists representing Black trans lives at protests. 

“At first I thought people were going to look at us crazy, like, ‘Why are you separating yourselves or being exclusive?’. But, we got a great response from the general population that was there that day. It was a good day,” says Santiago.

Cannick, who was in Los Angeles during the protests, lent her efforts to platforming pertinent issues. She identifies herself as an ally and a “friend” to the LGBTQ community. 

“I’m active in the LA community and everybody knows me. So, whenever something happens, someone is hurt, someone is killed or someone needs to get the word out about something that’s going on particularly as it relates to the trans community, I’m always asked to get involved, and I do,” says Cannick. 

Over the past year, she reported on multiple LGBTQ issues including the trial of Ed Buck, a Democratic political fundraiser who was convicted in the deaths of two gay Black men who he injected with methamphetamine in exchange for sex.

What happened to the BTLM movement and what needs to change?

The nature of many social movements is that as the intense emotion surrounding them fades, people’s fervor for change wanes as well. This is especially true with allies who are not directly linked to the cause.

“Fatigue and frustration at the relatively slow pace of change to a growing backlash on the right against efforts to call out systemic racism and white privilege — has led to a decline in white support for the Black Lives Matter movement since last spring, when white support for social justice was at its peak,” US News reports about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Cannick believes this is the same for the Black Trans Lives Matter movement. She says Americans allow the media to dictate how it behaves and responds to issues. Thus, when stories “fall out of our media cycles … they fall out of our memories.”

“I think that’s not going to change, and that’s a psychological thing, until we learn how to not let the media necessarily dictate our issues,” says Cannick. 

She suggests that individuals remain plugged into their communities by “doing anything to make sure they keep up with an issue” including following the “right people” on social media and setting up Google alerts for any breaking news. 

Jasmyne Cannick (Photo courtesy of Jasmyne Cannick)

Santiago also echoes Cannick’s sentiments. 

“We wait until something happens before we do something. And, I don’t want to be retroactive; I want to be proactive. I want people to see me when things are going well [and when they’re not going well],” says Santiago. 

Upon returning to his home in Atlanta after the D.C. protests, Santiago contacted a billboard installation company and paid for a billboard labelled, “Black Trans Lives Matter” to be displayed on University Avenue near downtown Atlanta. He says that the billboards got attention and helped to spread much-needed awareness. Following this success, he is now in the process of installing a new billboard labelled, “Black, Trans and Visible. My life Matters.”

“Unless you’re in people’s faces or something drastic happens, people forget. Unless you’re living it, people forget,” says Santiago.

As time progresses, both Santiago and Cannick nest hope for the Black Trans Lives Matter movement. However, this hope can only persist when crucial steps are taken to ensure Black trans individuals around the country are protected, most importantly through legislation.

The New York Times reports there are close to 1,000 elected LGBTQ officials in the U.S., with at least one in each state except Mississippi. 

“We need to have more legislation. We need more voices in power like the council Biden has right now,” says Santiago. 

“You know that [Biden] has a lot of trans people and Black trans people [involved], and a part of that’s a positive step in the right direction, but we need that times 10,” says Santiago.

He believes that political representation should extend to local governance where ordinary Black trans individuals can be trained to assume leadership roles. 

Cannick’s focus is on the Black community. 

“[Trans women] are usually murdered by Black men. If we ever expect that to change, we need to start talking about that,” says Cannick.

She’s open to having conversations that put people, including her as a cis-identifying woman, in uncomfortable and awkward spaces. 

She hosts a podcast titled “Str8 No Chaser” and recently aired an episode, “Why Are Black Men Killing Trans Women,” where she discussed with three Black trans women about the gender and sexuality dynamics within the Black community and their perils. 

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