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Boehner suggests House marriage hearing is ‘legitimate’

Gallagher among scheduled witnesses; HRC says GOP ‘obsessed’ with discrimination

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U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) suggested on Thursday that an upcoming House hearing on “defending marriage” is a “legitimate” use of U.S. government funds as the subcommittee confirmed that witnesses who are set to testify include anti-gay activists.

During a news conference, Boehner made the remarks in response to a question from the Washington Blade on whether he supports the planned hearing, which is set to take place Friday before the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, and if he thinks the event is an appropriate use of federal resources.

“There are a lot of committees, a lot of hearings,” Boehner said. “As I made it clear from the beginning of this year, the committee process is important to this institution, and I think addressing any question — serious question — in American society is legitimate.”

Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, said in response to Boehner’s remarks that the upcoming hearing will “no doubt showcase the [Republican] majority’s obsession with ensuring continued discrimination against same-sex couples.”

“They’re welcome to think that’s a legitimate way to spend their time but the vast majority of Americans will be scratching their heads wondering why House Republicans have held a third hearing in as many weeks to demonize LGBT people,” Cole-Schwartz said.

Cole-Schwartz was counting two earlier hearings that House committees held to oversee implementation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal as anti-gay hearings and the upcoming testimony on “defending marriage” as the third anti-gay hearing this year.

Also on Thursday, the committee made public the names of the three witnesses who were set to testify, which include two witnesses with a history of anti-gay views. The background of the scheduled anti-gay witnesses lends credence to speculation that the hearing — which is set to begin at 10 am in Room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building — will be hostile to same-sex marriage.

Capitol Hill observers say the expect the hearing to be critical of President Obama’s announced decision on Feb. 23 to drop defense of the Defense of Marriage Act against litigation in court. Boehner has since directed the House general counsel to take up defense of the anti-gay law.

The most high-profile scheduled witness is Maggie Gallagher, chair of the National Organization for Marriage, who has previously testified before Congress against same-sex marriage and has a history of anti-gay activism. She didn’t respond on short notice to the Blade’s request to comment for this article.

Another expert who’s scheduled to speak is Edward Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and director of center’s program on the constitution, the courts, and the culture. A former law clerk to U.S. Associate Justice Antonin Scalia and a high-ranking legal adviser in the Justice Department for former President George W. Bush, Whelan has written several anti-gay tracts as a scholar at the center.

Whelan, who didn’t immediately respond to the Blade’s request to discuss his testimony, has been critical of the Obama administration for what he said is not vigorously defending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” against litigation in court and — in essay titled “The Most Egregious Performance Ever by a Federal District Judge” — found fault with U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision last year that determining that Proposition 8 in California was unconstitutional.

“Walker’s course of conduct would be sufficient cause for national scandal in any case,” Whelan wrote. “That it comes in a case that aims to radically remake the central social institution of American society makes it utterly intolerable.”

But another scheduled witnesses at the hearing, Carlos Ball, a gay law professor at Rutgers Law School, told the Blade he plans to argue in his testimony that Obama rightfully determined that DOMA is unconstitutional and that the president shouldn’t defend the law in court.

“It is unusual for an administration to decide not to defend the constitutionality of the statute, but it is by no means unprecedented,” Ball said. “The first President Bush did it; President George W. Bush did it as well. In my view, any administration has a constitutional obligation to make an independent judgment on the constitutionality of certain statutes, especially when there is no clear law on whether the statutes are constitutional or not.”

Additionally, Ball said he plans to testify that DOMA is a “constitutionally indefensible statute” because the states have traditionally enjoyed the prerogative of regulating marriage.

“What the plaintiffs in these DOMA lawsuits are saying is not that they have a federal constitutional right to marry — that’s not the issue,” Ball said. “These couples are already married under the laws of their states. What that their arguing is that the federal government should not discriminate against their marriages when it comes to federal governments. The administration has concluded that it’s unconstitutional to treat differently, and I think they’re absolutely correct.”

Ball is the author of numerous pro-LGBT scholarly works, including “The Right to be Parents: How LGBT Mothers and Fathers Have Revolutionized Family Law,” “From the Closet to the Courtroom: Five LGBT Rights Cases That Have Changed Our Nation” and “The Morality of Gay Rights: An Exploration in Political Philosophy.”

Even the Republicans who are members of the subcommittee have a history of anti-gay views. In an interview with Think Progress, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), chair of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, has said Obama and Holder could impeached over the decision and that he would favor defunding the Justice Department if it doesn’t defend DOMA.

Other subcommittee members include Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who has initiated to congressional effort to eliminate same-sex marriage in D.C., and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who has repeatedly made anti-gay remarks said gays wouldn’t face discrimination if they didn’t wear their “sexuality on their sleeve.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), ranking Democrat of the subcommittee, said he hasn’t had any conversations with Franks on what he wants to accomplish with the hearing, but plans to attend and expects hostility against the Obama administration.

“This is a hearing really on the administration’s decision not to defend DOMA in court,” Nadler said. “I think [Franks is] trying to dramatize his position — that the administration is doing a terrible thing by not defending the law.”

Nadler said proponents of Obama’s decision are prepared to make the point that Obama rightly dropped defense of DOMA because the statute targets married same-sex couples for discrimination.

“I think we’re going to make the point that although it’s unusual, it’s not unprecedented,” Nadler said. “In fact, it’s required when the administration’s legal people decide — as they have in this case on good legal grounds — that the law is indefensible constitutionally.”

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. FAEN

    April 14, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    This is so pathetic. With all the other issues we have the GOTP are going to have hearings on something they KNOW is unconstitutional and will fall. What a bunch of mooks.

  2. Katie Murphy ex cath

    April 14, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    what else would you expect of a catholic. His hatred is probably because he also was molested and the church twisted his fears itno hate of gay people.

    Its almost like molestation is part of the program of the church to capture minds.

    http://www.nobeliefs.com/nazis.htm

    http://www.catholicarrogance.org

  3. Jos. A. Mustich

    April 15, 2011 at 7:13 am

    Hey Bonner stop acting like a marriage cop and play some bingo in the middle of the Potomac River…and stop wasting everyone’s time dude.
    Cheers, Joe Mustich, CT Justice of the Peace, USA.

  4. blue-heron

    April 15, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Where in the Constitution does it say that it is the Federal Government’s job to determine Morality; and/or to furthermore pick and chose which groups of tax-paying citizens fall within said moral boundaries?

    Where too does it say that tax-exempt religious groups shall have a louder voice with their representatives than others?

    Why would there be a need to enact a Constitutional Amendment banning Gay Marriage, if the current process of denying Legally Married Gays their Federal Benefits and Protections were truly Already unConstitutional?

    *And very importantly: Have all Legally Married Gays filed their Protective Claims with the IRS (which will protect Couples’ ability to file amended Returns as “Married”, beyond the normal Statute of Limitations, gaining couples likely LARGER Returns, should current or future Court cases determine that Gay Marriage is Constitutional)? The Government should pay Gay Couples equally as it does Straight Couples.

  5. Scott Rose

    April 15, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    The Republican position on this matter is known; they want to perpetuate the anti-gay discrimination. Where the use of tax money to hold this kangaroo “hearing” is especially objectionable is that much of that tax money comes from gay people and others who support their rights. The enlightened are being forced to pay for the bigoted to hold a kangaroo hearing over civil rights for gay people.

  6. Dakotahgeo

    April 15, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    Oh my! The GOTP Circus is in town again. The House clowns are lose. The comedic entertainment factor of the GOTP never ceases to amaze me when I think of the unbelieveable progress of the GLBT “agenda” in the last 42 years. The right wings’ hard work in our favor is deeply appreciated, having turned the GLBT dark horse into a mighty work horse for good. Kudos…Dumbos!

  7. David

    April 17, 2011 at 11:16 am

    WHERE ARE THE JOBS JOHN BONER PROMISED?

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National

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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Evangelical Lutheran Church installs first Trans prelate

The bishop will lead one of the church’s 65 synods, overseeing nearly 200 congregations in Northern California and northern Nevada.

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The Rev. Megan Rohrer (Photo Credit: Vince Donovan)

SAN FRANCISCO – The Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer was installed as the first openly transgender bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on Saturday, in services held at the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. The presiding bishop of the ELCA, Elizabeth Eaton, led the installation ceremony.

“My call is to be up to the same messy, loving things I was up to before,” Rohrer told those gathered in the cathedral. “But mostly, if you’ll let me, and I think you will, my hope is to love you and beyond that, to love what you love.”

The bishop will lead one of the church’s 65 synods, overseeing nearly 200 congregations in Northern California and northern Nevada.

Rohrer, who uses the pronouns they/them, was elected to serve as bishop after the retirement of their predecessor. The Sioux Falls, South Dakota native had moved to the Golden State to pursue master and doctoral degrees at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. In 2010, they became one of seven openly out LGBTQ pastors accepted by the Evangelical Lutheran church after it allowed ordination of pastors in same-sex relationships.

The bishop and their spouse are raising two children and prior to installation, Rohrer was pastor of the Grace Lutheran Church and served as a chaplain coordinator for the city of San Francisco’s police department. Rohrer has assisted in ministering to the city’s homeless and LGTBQ community for a number of years.

“I step into this role because a diverse community of Lutherans in Northern California and Nevada prayerfully and thoughtfully voted to do a historic thing,” Rohrer said in a statement. “My installation will celebrate all that is possible when we trust God to shepherd us forward.”

The synod Rohrer leads is part of the largest Christian denominations in the United States with about 3.3 million members.

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