Connect with us


Boehner says no House vote on DOMA repeal

‘It is the law of the land and should remain the law of the land’



John Boehner

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

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated on Thursday he wouldn’t bring to a vote before the House legislation pending before Congress that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

Asked by the Washington Blade if he’s be open to bringing the measure to a floor vote, Boehner replied, “Congress has acted on this issue some number of years ago, and I think that the Congress acted on [it] in a bi-partisan way. It is the law of the land and should remain the law of the land.”

DOMA repeal legislation has received renewed legislation since the White House announced on Tuesday that President Obama supports the DOMA repeal legislation, known as the Respect for Marriage Act. The president campaigned on legislative repeal of DOMA, but not until this week did not he articulate support for the Respect for Marriage Act as the vehicle to repeal the anti-gay law.

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on DOMA repeal featuring testimony from individuals in same-sex marriage who were negatively affected by the statute, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Boehner’s indication during his weekly news conference that he wouldn’t hold a vote on DOMA repeal shouldn’t come as a surprise. When Obama declared that the law was unconstitutional in February and that he would no longer defend the law in court, Boehner directed House general counsel to take up defense of the law in March following a party-line vote in the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said he hopes Boehner would change his mind about DOMA repeal and recalled testimony that took place before the Senate in favor of DOMA repeal on Wednesday.

“I hope Speaker Boehner will reconsider his apparent refusal to allow for a vote on repealing the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act,’ which civil rights hero, Congressman John Lewis, rightly called a stain on our democracy,” Wolfson said. “Much has changed since 1996 — including the fact that we now have tens of thousands of married same-sex couples, many with children, directly harmed by DOMA’s departure from the traditional federal practice of honoring lawful marriages.”

Wolfson, among those who testified before the Senate, noted that former Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia, the sponsor of DOMA in 1996, has since come out for full repeal of the legislation.

“Just as the Republican sponsor of DOMA then now supports its immediate repeal, so should other members of Congress be permitted to reconsider bad legislation, the unfairness of which was powerfully demonstrated at the Senate hearing yesterday,” Wolfson added.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), sponsor of DOMA repeal legislation and witness at the Senate hearing, said in a statement that despite Boehner’s remarks, he’s confident “we will soon see growing Republican congressional support for repealing DOMA” in the wake of passage of same-sex marriage legislation in New York thanks in part to a Republican-controlled Legislature.

“A number of House Republicans have told me privately that they feel the same way,” Nadler said. “This, coupled with the fact that there is now a majority of Americans who support equality and with the recent polling data showing that a majority of Republican voters want GOP leadership to give up their position on this matter, means that it is only a matter of time before we act in a bipartisan manner and repeal DOMA. And, believe me, we will keep pushing to get it done until we have succeeded.”

But one of the prominent voices in the movement against same-sex marriage commended Boehner for his apparent assurance that DOMA repeal legislation wouldn’t come before the House.

Maggie Gallagher, chair of the National Organization for Marriage, said a vote to repeal DOMA on the House floor would be a wasted effort.

“We applaud Boehner for saying he sees no good reason for wasting time on a vote to repeal DOMA,” she said. “The House just voted to re-affirm DOMA by a powerful bi-partisan majority in the context of the military.”

Earlier this month, the House approved an amendment as part of major defense spending legislation that reaffirmed DOMA. The measure passed by a vote of 248-175.

Continue Reading


  1. Thomas

    July 22, 2011 at 11:45 am

    The #1 plank in the GOP platform is BIGOTRY!

  2. Loretta Fearon

    July 22, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Remember this moment at re-election time. I would like to get married to my partner of seven years. Many voters are watching politicians that don’t stand for the voters wishes. And comments like it would be a waste of time.(Maggie Gallagher) Please repeal DOMA. It’s what this voter wants.

  3. Fred Seifts

    July 22, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Is he saying the “Law of the Land is not to have equal rights?” Congress may have acted on this issue some years ago, but Lincoln acted even more years ago about discrimation. My view of many elected servents are they are so simple in may viewpoints and so self bigot in other ways.

  4. David in Houston

    July 22, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    ”Congress has acted on this issue some number of years ago, and I think that the Congress acted on [it] in a bi-partisan way.”

    That was FIFTEEN YEAR AGO!!! It’s laughable to think that our society hasn’t changed at all in 15 years. Perhaps Mr. Boehner is the only one that hasn’t changed. I have no doubt he’s just as homophobic now as he was then. I’m wondering if his ideology would have applied to slavery (or a woman’s right to vote or interracial marriage)? If there were bi-partisan laws supporting slavery, then it should remain the law of the land, right? Governments have NEVER acknowledge that they’ve been discriminating against their own citizens. That would be unheard of.

    One man should not be able to prevent social progress. What Mr. Boehner is doing is unethical. If someone’s going to be labeled a socialist, I know exactly who that person should be.

  5. Leslie

    July 23, 2011 at 12:32 am

    Earlier this month, the House approved an amendment as part of major defense spending legislation that reaffirmed DOMA. The measure passed by a vote of 248-175.

    So finish the statement with: “The House version of the defense authorization bill contains a similar measure reaffirming the Defense of Marriage Act as well as other anti-gay measures. The Senate Armed Services Committee, however, left out these provisions in its version of the legislation.”


    The House voted on a defense spending bill, not on DOMA. Why does every press report stop at half of the truth?!

  6. devon charles

    July 23, 2011 at 10:10 am

    The republicans will block any repeal of DOMA for the foreseeable future.
    Lawsuits challenging DOMA are “moving” at a glacial pace.
    And if a DOMA challenge does indeed land at the supreme court, there are 4 conservative votes that will likely uphold the law automatically.
    DOMA seems likely to be around for a long time, unfortunately.

  7. Michael

    July 23, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Rep Boner (sp intended) states that the House won’t vote on DOMA because “it’s the law of the land.” Using that logic, Since they aren’t going to change any existing laws, I guess they’ll have a clear schedule. If they’re not doing anything, I suggest eliminating the House–that saves over $46M in Rep salaries and over $490M in staff salaries. Look over $500M cut from fed budget & more efficient to boot. Gang of 6/7, what do you say?
    Better yet, I hope some day these highly paid “leaders” can do what they are suppose to do–govern. I’m tired of these overgrown children playing politics like they’re on a first grade playground! I’m ashamed of all of them for treating serious issues (national debt, federal budget, civil liberties, etc.) like a game of dodge ball.

  8. Ranger G

    July 25, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Marriage is a unique relationship between one man and one woman; the male female relationship is the sole relationship that naturally creates new human beings, and a self-sustaining unit within which to nurture that new life. No same-sex couple can replicate that unique natural relationship, so there is a profound and correct reason to protect marriage as one man/one woman. So fight for all the rights you want, but cut the baloney about this being a matter of “equality.” It’s not; same-sex relationships are very, very different than marriage relationships and treating different things differently in the law is done all the time–and rightly so.

    • Sapient

      November 30, 2011 at 11:43 pm

      We’re talking about people here. People are not ‘things.’

  9. Rev'd John Romano

    July 26, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Cant we impeach this guy or do what ever is done to change the Speaker of the house?
    I never knew that we were allowed to discriminate, I wouldn’t want to see slaves, I believe women should vote, I believe in interacial marriage, and I believe that same sex couples should be allowed to marry. My religion says it’s fine, so what, we can’t have religious freedom either, nor freedom of expression? How about this. Since you are not giving same sex couples their constitutional right to happiness and not allowing them to marry, since you are saying that they are not equal as citizens, then why don’t you grant them the ability to not have to pay taxes? If someone pays their taxes like everyone else, shouldn’t they be able to marry who ever they want? It’s not only those who are in same sex relations who are already married who are effected, it’s also those of us who aren’t and wish to be.

  10. Emily

    August 5, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    So, the “law of the land” is to put laws on everything we do? It’s supposed to prevent people from marrying who they love and having it recognized? I can’t believe anyone would stand for something like that. The government should be focusing on our ailing economy, not invading our personal lives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


VIDEO: Utah deal promoted as national model for LGBTQ rights, religious liberty

Data finds state has 2nd highest support for LGBTQ rights



(Screen capture via YouTube)

A new video from the premier LGBTQ group in Utah, challenging the idea LGBTQ rights must be at odds with religious liberty, promotes an agreement reached in the state as a potential model to achieve a long sought-after update to civil rights law at the federal level.

The video, published Friday by Equality Utah, focuses on a 2015 agreement in Utah between the supporters of LGBTQ rights and the Mormon Church to enact a compromise acceptable to both sides. The agreement by those two sides led to an LGBTQ civil rights law in the state, which has Republican control of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, says in the video dialogue is key to achieving meaningful success, whether its among the people of Utah, a state legislature or lawmakers in Congress.

“When you are working with LGBT rights in a state like Utah, and you want to advance legal equality, you can’t do it without working with Republicans, with conservative, with people of faith,” Williams says.

Williams, speaking with the Washington Blade over a Zoom call, said the main audience for the video is people on “the center right and the center left” willing to listen to other side when it comes to LGBTQ rights and religious liberty.

“People that have the courage to reach out to each other, and sit down across from each other and say, ‘Hey look, let’s hammer this out,” Williams said. “That’s who my audience is.”

Not only did Utah enact non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, but the state under a Republican governor administratively banned widely discredited conversion therapy for youth. When lawmakers proposed legislation that would ban transgender youth from competing in school sports, the proposal was scuttled when Gov. Spencer Cox (whom Williams called a “super Mormon”) said he’d veto it after it came to his desk.

Marina Gomberg, a former board for Equality Utah, is another voice in the video seeking dispel the narrative religious liberty and LGBTQ rights are in conflict.

“in order to protect LGBTQ people, we don have to deny religious liberty, and in order to provide protections for religious liberties, we don’t have to deny LGBTQ people,” Gomberg says. “The idea that we do is a fallacy that Utah has dismantled.”

In July, new polling demonstrated the surprisingly the Utah, despite being a conservative state, has the second highest percentage of state population in support for non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The data Public Religion Research Institute from 77 percent of Utah residents support LGBTQ people, which is just behind New Hampshire at 81 percent.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the pro-LGBTQ American Unity Fund, said the Utah agreement demonstrates the possibility of reaching an agreement at the federal level once “second order” issues are put into perspective.

“The first order question has to be how are we winning the culture,” Deaton said. “Do people even want to pass the bill? And if they do, you then figure out the details.”

The American Unity Fund has helped promote as a path forward for LGBTQ non-discrimination at the federal level the Fairness for For All Act, legislation seeking to reach a middle ground on LGBTQ rights and religious freedom. Polling earlier this year found 57 percent of the American public back a bipartisan solution in Congress to advance LGBTQ civil rights.

Supporters of the Equality Act, the more established vehicle for LGBTQ rights before Congress, say the Fairness for For All Act would give too many carve-out for LGBTQ rights in the name of religious freedom. The Equality Act, however, is all but dead in Congress and has shown no movement in the U.S. Senate.

Skeptics of the Utah law would point out the law doesn’t address public accommodations, one of the more challenging aspects in the fight for LGBTQ rights and one or remaining gaps in civil rights protections for LGBTQ people in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County. As a result, it’s perfectly legal in Utah for a business owner to discriminate against LGBTQ coming as patrons.

Williams, however, shrugged off the idea the lack of public accommodations protections in Utah make the agreement in the state makes it any less of a model, making the case the spirit behind the deal is what matters.

“I think copying and pasting Utah’s law doesn’t work for lots of reasons,” Wililams said. “What’s most important is a model of collaboration because when you are sitting around the table with each other — Democrats and Republicans, LGBTQ people and people of faith — that’s when the transformation happens. That is when the mutual respect is really forged.”

Continue Reading


Venezuelan man with AIDS dies in ICE custody

Pablo Sánchez Gotopo passed away at Miss. hospital on Oct. 1



Pablo Sanchez Gotopo, who was living with HIV/AIDS, died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in Mississippi on Oct. 1, 2021. (Courtesy photo)

A Venezuelan man with AIDS died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody on Oct. 1.

An ICE press release notes Pablo Sánchez Gotopo, 40, died at Merit Health River Oaks in Flowood, Miss., which is a suburb of Jackson, the state capital. The press release notes the “preliminary cause of death was from complications with acute respiratory failure, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), pneumonia, acute kidney failure, anemia and COVID-19.”

ICE said U.S. Border Patrol took Sánchez into custody near Del Rio, Texas, on May 17. He arrived at the Adams County Detention Center in Natchez, Miss., four days later.

“Upon arrival to an ICE facility, all detainees are medically screened and administered a COVID-19 test by ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) personnel,” said ICE in its press release. “Sánchez’s test results came back negative.”

The press release notes Sánchez on July 28 received another COVID-19 test after he “began showing symptoms of COVID-19.” ICE said he tested negative, but Adams County Detention Center personnel transferred him to a Natchez hospital “for additional advanced medical care.”

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations staff in its New Orleans Field Office, according to the press release, “coordinated with hospital staff to arrange family visitation” after Sánchez’s “health condition deteriorated.” Sánchez was transferred to Merit Health River Oaks on Sept. 25.

“ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases,” says the press release.

Venezuela’s political and economic crises have prompted more than 10,000 people with HIV to leave the country, according to the New York-based Aid for AIDS International.

Activists and health care service providers in Venezuela with whom the Washington Blade has spoken in recent years have said people with HIV/AIDS in the country have died because of a lack of antiretroviral drugs. Andrés Cardona, director of Fundación Ancla, a group in the Colombian city of Medellín that works with migrants and other vulnerable groups, told the Blade last month that many Venezuelans with HIV would have died if they hadn’t come to Colombia.

The Blade has not been able to verify a Venezuelan activist’s claim that Sánchez was gay. It is also not known why Sánchez decided to leave Venezuela and travel to the U.S.

ICE detainee with HIV described Miss. detention center as ‘not safe’

Activists and members of Congress continue to demand ICE release people with HIV/AIDS in their custody amid reports they don’t have adequate access to medications and other necessary medical treatment.

Two trans women with HIV—Victoria Arellano from Mexico and Roxsana Hernández from Honduras—died in ICE custody in 2007 and 2018 respectively. Johana “Joa” Medina Leon, a trans woman with HIV who fled El Salvador, died in 2019, three days after ICE released her from a privately-run detention center.

The Blade in July 2020 interviewed a person with HIV who was in ICE custody at the Adams County Detention Center. The detainee said there was no social distancing at the privately-run facility and personnel were not doing enough to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

“It’s not safe,” they told the Blade.

The entrance to the Adams County Detention Center in Natchez, Miss. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Elisabeth Grant-Gibson, a Natchez resident who supports ICE detainees and their families, on Wednesday told the Blade that she was able to visit the Adams County Detention Center and other ICE facilities in the Miss Lou Region of Mississippi and Louisiana from November 2019 until the suspension of in-person visitation in March 2020 because of the pandemic.

“Medical neglect and refusal of medical care has always been an issue in the detention center at Adams County,” said Grant-Gibson. “After the facilities were closed to public visitation, those problems increased.”

Grant-Gibson told the Blade she “worked with a number of families and received phone calls from a number of detainees, and I was told again and again that detainees were being refused the opportunity to visit the infirmary.”

“When they did visit the infirmary, they were given virtually no treatment for the issues they were presenting with,” said Grant-Gibson.

ICE in its press release that announced Sánchez’s death said fatalities among its detainees, “statistically, are exceedingly rare and occur at a fraction of the national average for the U.S. detained population.” ICE also noted it spends more than $315 million a year “on the spectrum of healthcare services provided to detainees.”

“ICE’s Health Service Corps (IHSC) ensures the provision of necessary medical care services as required by ICE Performance-Based National Detention Standards and based on the medical needs of the detainee,” notes the ICE press release. “Comprehensive medical care is provided from the moment detainees arrive and throughout the entirety of their stay. All ICE detainees receive medical, dental, and mental health intake screening within 12 hours of arriving at each detention facility, a full health assessment within 14 days of entering ICE custody or arrival at a facility, and access to daily sick call and 24-hour emergency care.”

An ICE spokesperson on Wednesday pointed the Blade to its Performance-Based Detention Standards from 2011, which includes policies for the treatment of detainees with HIV/AIDS.

A detainee “may request HIV testing at any time during detention” and ICE detention centers “shall develop a written plan to ensure the highest degree of confidentiality regarding HIV status and medical condition.” The policy also states that “staff training must emphasize the need for confidentiality, and procedures must be in place to limit access to health records to only authorized individuals and only when necessary.”

“The accurate diagnosis and medical management of HIV infection among detainees shall be promoted,” reads the policy. “An HIV diagnosis may be made only by a licensed health care provider, based on a medical history, current clinical evaluation of signs and symptoms and laboratory studies.”

Continue Reading


Rachel Levine on becoming four-star admiral: ‘It comes from my desire to serve’

Trans official sworn-in to U.S. Public Health Service



For Rachel Levine, the appointment to her new role as a four-star admiral complementing her existing duties as assistant secretary for health is another way for the first openly transgender Senate-confirmed presidential appointee to serve.

“I think that this just really comes from my desire to serve in all capacities,” Levine said in an interview Tuesday with the Washington Blade. “To serve the first day in my field of academic medicine and pediatrics, but then in Pennsylvania and now in the federal government, and it furthers my ability to do that.”

Levine, 63, also recognized the importance of the appointment as a transgender person within the U.S. Public Health Service, for which she was ceremonially sworn in on Tuesday

“I think for the LGBTQ+ community, it is a further sign of progress and our president’s commitment to equity, to inclusion and diversity,” Levine said. “So I think that it is a very important milestone, and I’m pleased to serve.”

As part of her duties, Levine will lead an estimated 6,000 public health service officers serving vulnerable populations, including deployments inside and outside the country for communities beleaguered with the coronavirus, according to the Department of Health & Human Services. The role involves working closely with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murphy, whom Levine called her “friend and colleague.”

The U.S. Public Health Service, Levine said, has deployed “many, many times,” including its greatest number ever of deployments to vulnerable populations during the coronavirus pandemic. Among the places the service has deployed, Levine said, was in her home state of Pennsylvania, where she recently served as secretary of health.

Not only is Levine the first openly transgender person to serve in the uniformed health service as a four-star general, but she’s also the first woman to serve in that capacity.

“We have 6,000 dedicated committed public servants really all focused on our nation’s health, and they serve in details to the CDC and the FDA and the NIH, but also clinically with the Indian Health Service, and the federal prison system,” Levine said. “They’re also detailed and deployed throughout the country, and they deployed like never before for COVID-19 as well as the border, as well as dealing with floods and hurricanes and tornadoes.”

Although the Public Health Service is primarily focused on addressing public health disasters within the United States, Levine said it has a record of deployments overseas, including years ago when it was deployed to Africa under the threat of Ebola.

Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra had high praise for Levine in a statement upon news of taking on a leadership position in the service.

“This is a proud moment for us at HHS,” Becerra said. “Adm. Levine — a highly accomplished pediatrician who helps drive our agency’s agenda to boost health access and equity and to strengthen behavioral health — is a cherished and critical partner in our work to build a healthier America.”

Levine, however, was careful to draw a distinction between her appointment within the Public Health Service and being a service member within the U.S. armed forces.

“It is not a military branch, it’s not the armed forces: It’s a uniformed force, so it’s different,” Levine said. “For example, the Army, the Navy, our military, there are two other uniformed branches, and that is ours, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and NOAA.”

The new role, Levine said, would complement her duties as assistant secretary for health. Although not only secretaries of health have been commissioned to take the uniform, Levine said she wanted to undertake that as part of her role in the Biden administration.

The two appointments were not simultaneous, Levine said, because of a general process she undertook, which was completed just this week.

It hasn’t been an easy road for Levine. During her Senate confirmation process, when she was hounded by anti-transgender attacks in conservative media and rude, invasive questioning by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on her gender identity.

Levine, however, said she hasn’t encountered any hostility regarding her new role (as of now) and shrugged off any potential attacks in the future and said the move is about her career “to serve and to help people.”

“I’ve continued that for our nation as the assistant secretary for health and this is just a further demonstration of my commitment to service,” Levine said. “I don’t know what others will say, but that’s the genesis of my wanting to serve in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and to place on the uniform.”

Levine’s new appointment comes shortly after a group of Democratic senators led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) sent her a letter dated Sept. 30 calling on her and Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, to issue new guidance for hospital or residential care on mental health needs of transgender people.

Asked about the letter, Levine said mental health issues are under the authority of Delphin-Rittmon and the two “will work together and we will respond.”

Specifically, the senators in the letter call on the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council, or BHCC, and experts in the field of adolescent trans care to offer guidance on best practices for inpatient mental health care among these youth.

Asked what the response will look like, Levine said, “We’re going to work on that.”

“We will be looking at what they’re asking for and the requirements, and we’ll talk with them and the stakeholders and we’ll look to issue appropriate guidance,” Levine said.

Continue Reading

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts