Connect with us

National

Votes lined up in Senate committee for DOMA repeal

Kohl, Klobuchar voice support for Respect for Marriage Act

Published

on

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has recently voiced support for DOMA repeal (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

New support for legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act assures that the necessary votes are in place for a favorable Senate committee vote on the measure as advocates maintain hearings should take place first before advancing the bill.

Last week, the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would repeal the 1996 anti-gay law that prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, gained two additional co-sponsors: Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.).

Kohl’s support for the legislation is critical because he’s a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and would have a vote when the roll is called to move the legislation to the floor. Lynn Becker, a Kohl spokesperson, said the senator had previously considered DOMA a state issue.

Meanwhile, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), another member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has also said she’d vote for repeal of DOMA in committee, although she’s stopped short of co-sponsoring the legislation. Last month, the Minnesota Independent reported that the senator would back the Respect for Marriage Act.

In a statement provided to the Washington Blade, Klobuchar confirmed that legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act has her support.

“I would vote to repeal this law because I believe same-sex couples and their families should have access to the same basic rights, including hospital visitation and survivor benefits,” Klobuchar said.

The support from Kohl and Klobuchar means that the Respect for Marriage Act has at least 10 votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee — enough to advance the bill to the Senate floor.

The two Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee publicly came on board in support for DOMA repeal after the Courage Campaign, a progressive California-based grassroots organizing network, pushed the lawmakers to articulate their support.

Rick Jacobs, chair of the Courage Campaign, said his organization began eyeing important votes in the committee upon introduction of the Respect for Marriage Act in March.

“It was two situations where we had this idea … to have people tell their stories locally and to make sure … that these legislators heard that they all have constituents, supporters and donors who are affected by DOMA,” Jacobs said.

In Minnesota, Jacobs said the Courage Campaign circulated an online petition to encourage Klobuchar to voice support for the Respect for Marriage Act. After the initiative, the Minnesota senator said she’d support the legislation.

“We published a blog post on our Prop 8 Trial Tracker asking about her,” Jacobs said. “That got picked up by the Minnesota Independent, and together with folks in state, there was a little pressure put on, and within about a day, as I recall, a state senator had gotten confirmation that she would repeal of DOMA.”

Similarly for Kohl, Courage Campaign launched an online campaign to encourage his support for DOMA repeal. According to the organization, more than 1,000 people wrote to Kohl urging him to back the Respect for Marriage Act.

“We contacted our members in his state — we’ve got 7,000 — and they contacted him,” Jacobs said. “They gave us some really terrific stories and, again, last week, his state director contacted the local equality organization that we’re working with to confirm, to say, ‘Yes. yes, yes, we are going to be on board.'”

Despite having the votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee, imminent plans that exist for the Respect for Marriage Act in the panel are unclear. Erica Chabot, a Senate Judiciary Committee spokesperson, said she was unable to communicate with Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) during the congressional recess about his plans.

Advocates working to advance the legislation say hearings should take place before the bill is sent to the Senate floor to follow regular order and build additional support.

Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, said “a tremendous amount of work” is needed before the Senate is ready to pass DOMA repeal.

“We are working with Chairman Leahy and other leaders to build support for the bill and we believe a hearing is a good first step to start that education process before decisions are made on tactics for passage,” Cole-Schwartz said.

Jacobs said he would defer to Feinstein’s judgment on when the time is right to hold a committee vote on the Respect for Marriage Act.

“I would defer to Sen. Feinstein, and I say that because I really do trust her on this issue,” Jacobs said. “She looked me in the eye in February — and I’ll never forget this — and she said, ‘I want to repeal DOMA.'”

Still, Jacobs maintained supporters of DOMA repeal “don’t have to sit still for two years” and said congressional testimony would be a big step because pro-repeal hearings have never taken place in the Senate.

Brian Weiss, a Feinstein spokesperson, deferred to earlier comments the senator made during a news conference in March upon introduction of the legislation where she articulated a sentiment similar to HRC’s.

Feinstein predicted that hearings would be held in the Senate Judiciary Committee, followed by a successful vote to report the bill to the floor.

“We use the regular order as much as we can and we can use it the entire way so that the hearings are held and no one can say we pushed anything through, so that everybody has a chance to express themselves,” Feinstein said.

Even if the bill is reported to the Senate floor, significant hurdles remain in passing the legislation. Ending a filibuster in the Senate requires 60 votes, so at least seven Republicans would have to vote in favor of ending debate on the measure. The Respect for Marriage Act as of Tuesday had no GOP support.

Further, the legislation is unlikely to see a vote in the GOP-controlled House, where U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has directed the House general counsel to litigate on behalf of DOMA in court.

To facilitate more support for DOMA repeal, Jacobs said Courage Campaign intends to have a grassroots volunteers in each state by early May and in each congressional district by the end of June pushing lawmakers to back the Respect for Marriage Act.

“We’re going to organize and organize and organize,” Jacobs said. “I assure you, we will see more senators getting on board.”

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

National

GLAAD: Social media platforms continue to fail to protect LGBTQ users

Only TikTok received a passing grade

Published

on

(Public domain photo)

GLAAD released its fourth annual Social Media Safety Index on Tuesday, giving virtually every major social media company a failing grade as it surveyed LGBTQ safety, privacy, and expression online.

According to GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, YouTube, X, and Meta’s Facebook, Instagram, and Threads received failing F grades on the SMSI Platform Scorecard for the third consecutive year.

The only exception was Chinese company ByteDance, owned TikTok, which earned a D+.

Some platforms have shown improvements in their scores since last year. Others have fallen, and overall, the scores remain abysmal, with all platforms other than TikTok receiving F grades.

●     TikTok: D+ — 67 percent (+10 points from 2023)

●     Facebook: F — 58 percent (-3 points from 2023)

●     Instagram: F — 58 percent (-5 points from 2023)

●     YouTube: F — 58 percent (+4 points from 2023)

●     Threads: F — 51 percent (new 2024 rating)

●     X: F — 41 percent (+8 points from 2023)

This year’s report also illuminates the epidemic of anti-LGBTQ hate, harassment, and disinformation across major social media platforms, and especially makes note of high-follower hate accounts and right-wing figures who continue to manufacture and circulate most of this activity.

“In addition to these egregious levels of inadequately moderated anti-LGBTQ hate and disinformation, we also see a corollary problem of over-moderation of legitimate LGBTQ expression — including wrongful takedowns of LGBTQ accounts and creators, shadowbanning, and similar suppression of LGBTQ content. Meta’s recent policy change limiting algorithmic eligibility of so-called ‘political content,’ which the company partly defines as: ‘social topics that affect a group of people and/or society large’ is especially concerning,” GLAAD Senior Director of Social Media Safety Jenni Olson said in the press release annoucing the report’s findings.

Specific LGBTQ safety, privacy, and expression issues identified include:

●      Inadequate content moderation and problems with policy development and enforcement (including issues with both failure to mitigate anti-LGBTQ content and over-moderation/suppression of LGBTQ users);

●      Harmful algorithms and lack of algorithmic transparency; inadequate transparency and user controls around data privacy;

●      An overall lack of transparency and accountability across the industry, among many other issues — all of which disproportionately impact LGBTQ users and other marginalized communities who are uniquely vulnerable to hate, harassment, and discrimination.

Key conclusions:

●      Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and disinformation on social media translates to real-world offline harms.

●      Platforms are largely failing to successfully mitigate dangerous anti-LGBTQ hate and disinformation and frequently do not adequately enforce their own policies regarding such content.

●      Platforms also disproportionately suppress LGBTQ content, including via removal, demonetization, and forms of shadowbanning.

●      There is a lack of effective, meaningful transparency reporting from social media companies with regard to content moderation, algorithms, data protection, and data privacy practices.

Core recommendations:

●      Strengthen and enforce existing policies that protect LGBTQ people and others from hate, harassment, and misinformation/disinformation, and also from suppression of legitimate LGBTQ expression.

●      Improve moderation including training moderators on the needs of LGBTQ users, and moderate across all languages, cultural contexts, and regions. This also means not being overly reliant on AI.

●      Be transparent with regard to content moderation, community guidelines, terms of service policy implementation, algorithm designs, and enforcement reports. Such transparency should be facilitated via working with independent researchers.

●      Stop violating privacy/respect data privacy. To protect LGBTQ users from surveillance and discrimination, platforms should reduce the amount of data they collect, infer, and retain. They should cease the practice of targeted surveillance advertising, including the use of algorithmic content recommendation. In addition, they should implement end-to-end encryption by default on all private messaging to protect LGBTQ people from persecution, stalking, and violence.

●      Promote civil discourse and proactively message expectations for user behavior, including respecting platform hate and harassment policies.

Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court declines to hear lawsuit against Montgomery County schools gender guidelines

4th Circuit last August dismissed parents’ case

Published

on

U.S. Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a lawsuit against Montgomery County Public Schools guidelines that allow schools to create plans in support of transgender or gender nonconfirming students without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

Three parents of students in the school district — none of whom have trans or gender nonconfirming children — filed the lawsuit. 

A judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last August dismissed the case. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

Continue Reading

National

Bill to support LGBTQ seniors in rural areas reintroduced

Advocates praise Elder Pride Act

Published

on

(Washington Blade file photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) reintroduced legislation to increase access to needed services and resources for LGBTQ seniors who live in rural areas this week.

The Elder Pride Act would bolster the capacity and ability of Area Agencies on Aging located in rural communities to better serve and support LGBTQ seniors who often require affirming care, services, and supports that are often underfunded and scarce in many parts of the country.

Recent surveys show that between 2.9 million and 3.8 million LGBTQ people live in rural American communities.

“LGBTQ+ elders and older people living with HIV live in every part of this nation, including rural areas. We all deserve to be able to age in our communities with the services and supports we need to remain independent,” SAGE CEO Michael Adams said in the press release announcing the reintroduction of the legislation. “We commend Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Sharice Davids (D-KS) on reintroducing the Elder Pride Act. And we honor the contributions of our many LGBTQ+ trailblazers whose tireless advocacy allowed us to reintroduce this critical bill. We look forward to working alongside Reps. Bonamici, Pocan, and Davids, and our LGBTQ+ pioneers nationwide to pass this legislation.”

“LGBTQI+ seniors should be able to access services and care that meets their unique needs, regardless of where they live,” said Bonamici, chair of the Equality Caucus’s LGBTQ+ Aging Issues Task Force.”Those who live in rural areas frequently face increased barriers, which Congress can break down. The Elder Pride Act will increase resources for programs and services that will improve the lives of LGBTQI+ elders.”

“The Elder Pride Act will improve the overall health and social and economic well-being of LGBTQI+ older adults and seniors living with HIV in rural areas by better equipping senior service providers with resources to address the unique needs of these communities. I’m pleased to introduce this important legislation with my colleagues and co-leaders on the Equality Caucus, Reps. Pocan and Davids,” Bonamici added.

“Rural LGBTQI+ seniors have been lacking access to necessary services and care for too long,” said Pocan, co-chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “The Elder Pride Act creates opportunities for LGBTQ+ seniors in rural communities, benefiting everyone in the region. I look forward to advancing this important legislation.”

“Many of our LGBTQ+ elders fought tirelessly for equality in a world that refused to accept their identity,” said Davids. “While they overcame tremendous odds to give future generations the rights they deserve, our elders, particularly those in rural communities, continue to face discrimination when accessing long-term care and healthcare. I am proud to support the Elder Pride Act because who you are and who you love should never increase your risk for isolation, poverty, and poor health outcomes as you age.”

The Elder Pride Act complements the Older American Act, which was updated under Bonamici’s leadership, by establishing a rural grant program designed to fund care and services for LGBTQ seniors. The grant would also support programs that:

• Provide services such as cultural competency training for service providers;

• Develop modes of connection between LGBTQI+ older adults and local service providers and community organizations;

• Expand the use of nondiscrimination policies and community spaces for older adults who are members of the LGBTQI+ community or another protected class; and,

• Disseminate resources on sexual health and aging for senior service providers.

A fact sheet on the legislation can be found here, and the full text can be found here.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular