Connect with us

National

Mikulski pressured to co-sponsor DOMA repeal

Petition of more than 3,000 names to be delivered Friday

Published

on

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (photo courtesy wikimedia)

The senior U.S. senator from Maryland is facing increasing pressure to sign on as a co-sponsor of legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act amid plans to win marriage equality in her state in 2012.

A coalition of LGBT rights advocates — made up of Courage Campaign, Freedom to Marry and Equality Maryland — are building pressure on Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) to co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act by circulating a petition among Maryland residents asking her to support the bill.

MORE IN THE BLADE: SENATE PANEL APPROVES DOMA REPEAL LEGISLATION

As of Tuesday, organizers had collected more than 3,000 names for the petition encouraging Mikulski to voice support for the Respect for Marriage Act. LGBT rights advocates were set to deliver the petition to Mikulski’s Baltimore, Md., office on Friday.

LGBT rights advocates said Mikulski’s lack of co-sponsorship of the bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), is particularly striking because other elected officials in her states have voiced support for same-sex marriage and because plans are in motion to legalize same-sex marriage in the state next year.

Rick Jacobs, chair of the Courage Campaign, said Mikulski’s support would be significant because she’s a leader of the Democratic Party and because it would align her with the movement toward marriage equality in Maryland.

“I think with Sen. [Benjamin] Cardin on board, and the governor on board and her state moving, I think it’s really important that she joins in,” Jacobs said. “I’m going to assume that her staff and she simply need education. I’m going to assume that. If several thousand of her constituents can help her provide that education, then that’s great. But beyond that it’s really time for Sen. Mikulski to join us.”

MORE IN THE BLADE: WHY DOES NOM BELIEVE DOMA WILL BE IN THE DEFENSE BILL?

Last month, Gov. Martin O’Malley announced he would push for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Maryland as part of his legislative package in 2012. The Maryland governor had been criticized for not taking a leadership role in the effort to legalize gay nuptials in his state this year.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said O’Malley’s support indicates that Maryland is in the midst of a debate on same-sex marriage and said Mikulski’s co-sponsorship of the Respect for Marriage Act would show where she stands in the discussion.

“It’s important that Sen. Mikulski be on the right side of this deeply important matter of justice for families and the right side of history as well,” Wolfson said.

Additionally, Wolfson said Mikulski’s co-sponsorship would put her in a position to back same-sex couples in her state who are married or are seeking the right to marry. While Maryland doesn’t offer same-sex marriage under state law, it recognizes such unions that are performed in other jurisdictions.

“As we’ve seen from the release on Census data and the snapshots provided by the Williams Institute and others, there are families in Maryland across the state who are harmed by the denial of marriage, and by federal discrimination against the marriages that they manage to celebrate right across the border in the District of Columbia as well as other states,” Wolfson said.

According to recent numbers published by the Williams Institute at the University of California in Los Angeles based on data from the 2010 U.S. Census, 16,987 same-sex couples live in Maryland and make up 7.88 couples in every 1,000 households.

Rachel MacKnight, a Mikulski spokesperson, said the senator is “very closely” looking at Feinstein’s legislation.

As long as the Senate is out of session for August recess, Mikulski is unable to sign on as a co-sponsor to the legislation. An informed source said the senator would make an announcement regarding her support for the Respect for Marriage Act in September.

Other members of the congressional delegation from Maryland have already signed on in support of the legislation. Cardin, the junior senator from Maryland, joined on as a co-sponsor in May. The legislation has a total of 28 co-sponsors in the Senate — all Democrats.

In the House, where Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) sponsors companion legislation, Reps. John Sarbanes, Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen as well as House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer have become co-sponsors. The House legislation has 120 co-sponsors in total.

Lisa Polyak, acting board chair for Equality Maryland, said support from Mikulski would “round out the complement” of statewide elected officials in Maryland who’ve voiced support for same-sex marriage.

“She’s the only one at this time who doesn’t, both at the state and federal level,” Polyak said. “I think there’s really no reason for her not to support it. Public opinion polls are there. She’s shown herself to be a progressive senator on other issues, and I think this fits easily within the types of issues that she’s supported in the past for women and family and children.”

Other members of the congressional delegation from Maryland have yet to sign on in support of the Respect for Marriage Act. They include Democratic Reps. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and Elijah Cummings. Republican House members Roscoe Bartlett and Andrew Harris also aren’t DOMA repeal co-sponsors. Bartlett has voiced opposition to same-sex marriage and has voted for a U.S. constitutional amendment restricting marriage to one man, one woman.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Rep. Andrew Harris (R-Md.) as a Democrat. The Blade regrets the error.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Sadie Cast

    August 24, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Congressman Harris is also a Republican from MD-01. Maryland has two Republican Members in Congress. Might want to edit this for accuracy.

  2. Tom N Va

    August 24, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Maryland absolutely does NOT recognize same sex marriages performed in other states. This is a widely quoted error. I’m not sure how it started.

  3. Robert Chase

    August 24, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Please drop your support of D.O.M.A., I won’t peek in your bead room if you don’t peek in mine.

  4. Patrick Wojahn

    August 24, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Tom, It started because it’s true – sort of at least. Doug Gansler, the State Attorney General, issued an opinion in early 2010 stating that it is his interpretation of Maryland law that Maryland recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states. As a result, for purposes of the Executive Branch of the State Government, Maryland DOES recognize same-sex marriages performed in other States. Various Maryland State agencies were supposed to provide information about how this decision would apply, but have issued little additional information. Please see a FAQ here – http://data.lambdalegal.org/publications/downloads/fs_faq-about-marriage-recognition-for-ss-couples-in-md.pdf – about the specific impact that this decision has for couples.

  5. Frank

    August 24, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    She needs to sign on as co-sponsor the day the senate session opens. If not, she needs to sign her retirement papers. She needs to get on the stick. This should be a no-brainier for her.Aside from the fact that we all believe she is a lesbian in the closet, she needs to live up to her statements of support LGBT’s and that means all the way. If she doesn’t sign on, she won’t have mine and my husband’s vote at election time this time.

  6. AnthonyN

    August 25, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Isn’t she an in the closet lesbian?

Leave a Reply

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

National

Does a potential overturn of Roe imperil LGBTQ rights?

Some fear that Obergefell marriage decision could fall

Published

on

Protests outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1. (Photo by Cathy Renna)

The oral arguments before the justices of the United States Supreme Court had barely ended in the case brought by the state of Mississippi defending its law banning abortion after 15 weeks, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, when alarms were set off in legal circles as some argued that Obergefell v. Hodges — the same-sex marriage decision — would be in danger should the high court rule to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Florida State University law professor Mary Ziegler, appearing on NPR’s ‘Heard on All Things Considered,’ told host Mary Louise Kelly that there was a basis for concern over whether the court would actually overrule its precedents in other cases based on the questions and statements raised during the hearing by the conservative members of the court.

Asked by Kelly if she saw a legal door opening Ziegler affirmed that she did. Kelly then asked her, “Them taking up cases to do with that. What about same-sex marriage?”

Ziegler answered, “Yeah, same-sex marriage is definitely a candidate. Justices Alito and Thomas have in passing mentioned in dicta that they think it might be worth revisiting Obergefell v. Hodges – the same-sex marriage decision.

“And I think it’s fair to say that in the sort of panoply of culture war issues, that rights for same-sex couples and sexual orientation are still among the most contested, even though certainly same-sex marriage is more subtle than it was and than abortion was.

“I think that certainly the sort of balance between LGBTIQ rights and religious liberty writ large is a very much alive issue, and I think some states may try to test the boundaries with Obergefell, particularly knowing that they have a few justices potentially willing to go there with them.”

As almost if to underscore the point raised by Ziegler during the hearing, Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor pointed out that the high court has taken and “discerned” certain rights in cases from the Constitution.

Along with abortion, the court has “recognized them in terms of the religion parents will teach their children. We’ve recognized it in their ability to educate at home if they choose,” Sotomayor said. “We have recognized that sense of privacy in people’s choices about whether to use contraception or not. We’ve recognized it in their right to choose who they’re going to marry.”

In following up the cases cited by Justice Sotomayor, Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart, who was defending the state’s abortion law, whether a decision in his favor would affect the legal precedents in those cases cited by Justice Sotomayor.

In his answer to Justice Barrett, the state’s Solicitor General said cases involving contraception, same-sex marriage and sodomy wouldn’t be called into question because they involve “clear rules that have engendered strong reliance interests and that have not produced negative consequences or all the many other negative stare decisis considerations we pointed out.”

However, Lambda Legal Chief Strategy Officer and Legal Director, Sharon McGowan had a different take and interpreted remarks by Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to mean that the decisions in Lawrence v. Texas, which decriminalized private sexual intimacy between same-sex couples, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down remaining bans on the freedom of same-sex couples to marry, would actually justify overturning Roe v. Wade.

In a publicly released media statement McGowan noted: “During today’s argument, Justice Kavanaugh suggested that two key Supreme Court decisions protecting LGBTQ civil rights—Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges—support overruling Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

‘To that we say, NOT IN OUR NAME. LGBTQ people need abortions. Just as important, those landmark LGBTQ decisions EXPANDED individual liberty, not the opposite. They reflected the growing societal understanding of our common humanity and equality under law.

“Just as the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education rejected the lie of ‘separate but equal,’ the Supreme Court’s decisions in Lawrence and Obergefell appropriately overruled precedent where it was clear that, as was true with regard to race, our ancestors failed properly to acknowledge that gender and sexual orientation must not be barriers to our ability to live, love, and thrive free of governmental oppression. … 

“These landmark LGBTQ cases, which Lambda Legal litigated and won, and on which we rely today to protect our community’s civil rights, were built directly on the foundation of Casey and Roe. Our interests in equal dignity, autonomy, and liberty are shared, intertwined, and fundamental.” 

On Sunday, the Blade spoke with Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national LGBTQ+ legal organization that represented three same-sex couples from Tennessee, whose case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court along with Obergefell and two other cases.

Minter is urging caution in how people interpret the court arguments and remarks made by the justices.

“We should be cautious about taking the bait from anti-LGBTQ groups who falsely argue that if the Supreme Court reverses or undermines Roe v. Wade, they are likely to reverse or undermine Obergefell or Lawrence. In fact, that is highly unlikely, as the argument in Dobbs itself showed,” he said.

“The only reason Justice Kavanaugh mentioned Obergefell and Lawrence, along with Brown v. Board of Education, was to cite them as examples of cases in which the Supreme Court clearly did the right thing. All of those decisions rely at least as strongly on equal protection as on fundamental rights, and even this extremely conservative Supreme Court has not questioned the foundational role of equal protection in our nation’s constitutional law,” Minter stressed.

During an interview with Bloomberg magazine, David Cortman, of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based anti-LGBTQ legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist hate group, said “two things in particular distinguish abortion from those other privacy rights: the right to life and the states’ interest in protecting a child.”

Cortman, whose group urged the justices to allow states to ban same-sex marriages, said those other rights may be just as wrong as the right to an abortion. “But the fundamental interest in life that’s at issue in abortion means those other rights are probably not in any real danger of being overturned.”

But Cortman is of the opinion that there is little impetus among the court’s conservatives to take up challenges to those cases.

However, the fact that the six to three makeup of the high court with a conservative majority has progressives clamoring for the public to pay closer attention and be more proactively engaged.

Kierra Johnson, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, in an emailed statement to the Blade underscored those concerns:

“Reports and analysis coming out of Wednesday’s Supreme Court hearing on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization are extremely disturbing and represent a threat to our individual constitutional rights to privacy and autonomy. There is no ‘middle ground’ on what the Constitution guarantees and what was decided decades ago with the Roe v Wade decision. 

“This is about liberty, equality, and the rule of law, not the political or partisan views of those sitting on the bench. The unprecedented decision to remove a constitutional right recognized by the Supreme Court 50 years ago would set back civil rights by decades. ….

“Abortion access is essential, and a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. Bans on abortion are deeply racist and profoundly sexist – the harshest impacts fall on Black and Brown women and pregnant people and on our families and communities.

“If you think this decision will not affect you, think again: a wrong decision by the Supreme Court means you, too, will lose your bodily autonomy, your ability to own your own personal and community power. This is not just about abortion; it is about controlling bodies based on someone else determining your worthiness. This is a racial justice issue. This is a women’s issue. It is an LGBTQ issue. It is a civil rights issue. These are our fundamental rights that are at stake.”

Continue Reading

Minnesota

Minnesota middle school principal ousted for displaying Pride flag

Critics ramped up attacks on the career educator- some compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students

Published

on

Screenshot via Marshall Public Schools, YouTube Channel

MARSHALL, Mn. — A former middle school principal in Minnesota who lost her job after displaying a Pride flag alleges in a federal lawsuit that the school system retaliated against her for supporting LGBTQ+ students.

Mary Kay Thomas filed the complaint against Marshall Public Schools in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota Tuesday after anti-LGBTQ+ middle school staff, parents, students and local clergy began efforts to remove the Pride flag that she put up in her middle school’s cafeteria in 2020 as a part of an inclusiveness effort.

According to the lawsuit, Thomas has been a teacher and principal for more than three decades with a long track record of success. She held the principal position at Marshall Middle School for 15 years, receiving contract renewals, pay raises and praise for her performance.

“But when Thomas decided to display an LGBTQ Pride Flag in the school cafeteria in early 2020, everything changed,” reads the complaint. 

Thomas refused to take down the Pride flag as critics ramped up attacks on the career educator. The lawsuit alleges that some even compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students. 

“Sadly, the Marshall School District has sided with these critics,” her lawyers wrote. 

What followed was an “escalating series of adverse actions” taken by the Marshall School District, said the lawsuit. She claims that the school targeted her by threatening her employment, conducting a “bad-faith” investigation, putting her on indefinite involuntary leave, suspending her without pay and putting a notice of deficiency in her personnel file. 

The complaint says that the deficiencies were “false, distorted, and/or related to Thomas’s association with members of the LGBTQ community.”

Thomas also claims that the District attempted to get her to quit by removing her as principal and assigning her to a “demeaning ‘special projects’ position.”

At one point, Marshall Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams, who is named as a defendant in the case, told Thomas he could “make this all go away” if she stepped down, according to the complaint. 

The school removed the Pride flag in August 2021 after settling a lawsuit brought by residents who opposed it. 

The Blade reached out to Williams for comment but did not receive a response. However, according to the Marshall Independent, Williams did release a statement on the matter. 

“Marshall Public Schools is committed to the education of every child and has strong policies and practices in place against discrimination, against both students and staff members. The school district is committed to creating a respectful, inclusive, and safe learning and working environment for students, staff and our families,” Williams said. “While the school cannot comment about the specific allegations made in the complaint, the school district strongly denies any allegation of discriminatory conduct. The school will vigorously defend itself against these allegations.”

In addition, Thomas alleges that she resisted unwanted sexual advancements from school board member Bill Swope. She claims she told Williams about the sexual harassment.

As of Thursday, the school has not filed a response, and no hearing has been scheduled yet. 

Thomas is seeking a jury trial, damages and reinstatement as principal of Marshall Middle School.

Continue Reading

National

Matthew Shepard honored at National Cathedral

Daylong services held to mark his 45th birthday

Published

on

Matthew Shepard, gay news, Washington Blade
Matthew Shepard Thanksgiving and Celebration at the National Cathedral in 2018. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The parents of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in a 1998 hate crime that drew international attention to anti-LGBTQ violence, were among those attending a day of religious services commemorating Shepard’s 45th birthday on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral.

The services, which the Cathedral organized in partnership with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, included tributes to Shepard at the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where his remains were interred in a ceremony in 2018.  

“Matthew Shepard’s death is an enduring tragedy affecting all people and should serve as an ongoing call to the nation to reject anti-LGBTQ bigotry and instead embrace each of our neighbors for who they are,” the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, said at the time of Shepard’s interment.

“In the years since Matthew’s death, the Shepard family has shown extraordinary courage and grace in keeping his spirit and memory alive, and the Cathedral is honored and humbled to serve as his final resting place,” Hollerith said.

The first of the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard began at 7 a.m. with prayers, scripture readings, and music led by the Cathedral’s Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan. The service was live streamed on YouTube.

An online, all-day service was also held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that Cathedral officials said was intended to “connect people around the world to honor Shepard and the LGBTQ community and pray for a more just world.”

The Shepard services concluded with a 5:30 p.m. in-person remembrance of Shepard in the Cathedral’s Nave, its main worship space. Among those attending were Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who have said they created the Matthew Shepard Foundation to continue their son’s support for equality for all.

A statement released by the Cathedral says a bronze plaque honoring Matthew Shepard was installed in St. Joseph’s Chapel to mark his final resting place at the time Shepard was interred there in 2018. 
Following the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard, the Adams Morgan gay bar Pitchers hosted a reception for Dennis and Judy Shepard, according to Pitchers’ owner David Perruzza.

One of the two men charged with Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to the charge after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty for him. The second of the two men charged, Aaron McKinney, was convicted of the murder following a lengthy jury trial.

Prosecutors said McKinney repeatedly and fatally struck Shepard in the head with the barrel of a handgun after he and Henderson tied Shepard to a wooden fence in a remote field outside Laramie, Wy., on Oct. 6, 1998. Police and prosecutors presented evidence at McKinney’s trial that McKinney and Henderson met Shepard at a bar in Laramie on that day and lured him into their car, where they drove him to the field where authorities said McKinney fatally assaulted him.

Shepard died six days later at a hospital in Ft. Collins, Colo., where he was taken after being found unconscious while still tied to the fence.

In a dramatic courtroom scene following the jury’s guilty verdict for McKinney, Dennis Shepard urged the judge to spare McKinney’s life by not handing down a death sentence. He said that out of compassion and in honor of his son’s life, McKinney should be allowed to live. The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole, the same sentence given to Henderson.

(VIDEO COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL VIA YOUTUBE)
Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular