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House Dems renew request for DOMA briefing

Lawmakers question arguments in favor of anti-gay law

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Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Democratic U.S. House members pushing for an end to the Defense of Marriage Act have renewed their request with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for a briefing on his defense of the anti-gay law in court.

In a letter dated Sept. 26, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the sponsor of DOMA repeal legislation, and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) as well as gay Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and David Ciciiline (D-R.I.) seek a meeting to address concerns about defending DOMA.

“As Members who believe that DOMA is unconstitutional and support the President’s decision to stop defending it, we believe that the law is not factually or legally justifiable and were interested in hearing what arguments might possibly be made in its defense,” the lawmakers write.

The letter states all interested House members should be able to attend the briefing and that it could be conducted by outside counsel undertaking defense of DOMA on behalf of the House.

In response to the letter, Boehner spokesperson Michael Steel said, “Following the Department of Justice decision to stop defending a law passed by strong bipartisan majorities in Congress, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group voted to retain counsel to defend the law.”

Nadler sponsors the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation pending before the House that would repeal DOMA. The other lawmakers who signed the letter are co-sponsors of the legislation.

Lawmakers had previously requested a briefing from Boehner’s office on the costs of defending DOMA in an April 4 letter. But according to Sept. 26 letter, despite this request, a briefing never took place.

The Obama administration in February declared that DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional and announced it would no longer defend the anti-gay law in court.

Following a party line 3-2 vote of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group in March, Boehner directed House General Counsel Kerry Kircher to take up defense of DOMA in the administration’s stead. The House has since hired private attorney Paul Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general, for assistance in defending the statute.

The lawmakers’ most recent letter to Boehner focuses on the arguments that House attorneys have made in defense of DOMA. Some have been challenged as factually incorrect or a distortion of research.

In one such example, Lisa Diamond, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, filed an affadavit in August stating that the House in a legal brief in defense of DOMA “completely misrepresented” her research findings on sexual orientation.

“The United States House of Representatives should not be making harmful and unreasonable arguments that demean its credibility, and that of the American people,” the lawmakers write. “It has been fifteen years since the Congress enacted DOMA, and the materials and arguments that BLAG is making on behalf of the House do not withstand the test of time or scrutiny.”

Numerous lawsuits are pending in federal court challenging the constitutionality and the House has undertaken defense of each of them. The case of Windsor v. United States, filed by ACLU, is pending before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.. The case of Pedersen v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management, while was filed Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, is before the U.S. District Court in Connecticut.

The cases of Gill v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management and Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health & Human Services are pending before the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Frank Cardinalli

    September 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    LGBT issues will be the undoing of the Republican Party, its a real problem for them, yet
    they seem blinded to the constitutional issues by their own obstinance and bigotry. Independent
    investors should find this repugnant.

  2. FlexSF

    September 26, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    These Republican, anti-gay, Christian industry zealots [edited for profanity]. I would like to see them personally, financially devastated. They are a bunch of [edited for profanity], and their families are [edited for profanity]!

  3. LiberalTexan

    September 27, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Religion and Govenment do not mix!!!!! That can be the only reason for defending that horrid DOMA. Congress really overstepped its authority in passing that. Do these bigots not even realize that they are imposing their bigoted views on the younger, more liberal generation who supports equal rights for LGBT people. The oposing bigots are a minority, I know not a lot of polls are accurate but I really do believe majority of Americans support equality. I hope those homophobic bigots have their name in textbooks labeled American Scum, along with George Bush.

  4. Stuck in the Netherlands...

    September 28, 2011 at 8:27 am

    Because of DOMA I cannot move back to the US with my Dutch partner, to help care for my sick Father. America is not the land of the free!

  5. Joseph Costa

    September 30, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    I am in a long term relationship with a Vietnamese male and have also found the USA government is run by a bunch of bigots that should be thrown out of office for not doing the peoples will but following their religious views. If they want to follow their personal beliefs then let them collect there salaries from the church not the taxpayers. The founding father separated church and state for a good reason. Religion has no place in politics just as the government has not right interfering with religion. I have asked the president for help and he has done nothing to help so making me believe he is not interested in doing as much for gay problems as he mouths off.

  6. David Sandidge

    October 8, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    If people want to practice homosexuality, then that’s their own business. Just don’t ask the rest of us to accept it, nor condone it. It has always been wrong; it will always be wrong. And there’s nothing you can do to change that. Get it back in the closet where it belongs and shut up about it.

  7. Mykelb

    October 19, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Instead of holding briefings, why don’t the Dems just do the talk show rounds every Sunday and refute the Republicans bullsh*t with facts and figures. Call them out on the public airwaves and continue to show how unConstutional DOMA is and that OUR TAXES are being wasted on this POS legislation and this POS House.

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National

Louisiana lawmakers fail to overturn Edwards veto of Trans sports bill

Edwards further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.”

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Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards (Photo Credit: Official state portrait)

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana lawmakers failed to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto last month of a bill that would have barred trans girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.

The measure, Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell titled the ‘the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ in the Governor’s eyes, “was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in his veto statement;

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue. 

The Republican majority state House chamber failed to override the Governor’s veto after voting 68-30 to override it, according to the state legislature’s website.

The vote narrowly missed the 70-vote threshold needed in the lower chamber to override the veto.

Two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote to override a governor’s veto, according to the local Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate.

The Governor reacted to the news that his veto withstood Republican efforts to overturn it in a press conference Wednesday.

Edwards noted that in his view he had “rejected a play” that had no place in Louisiana. 

“I would rather the headlines going out from today be that Louisiana did what was right and best. We rejected a play out of a national playbook that just had no place in Louisiana. That bill wasn’t crafted for our state, I mean go read it and look at the arguments that were made. None of that applies here,” Edwards said.

He further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.” 

“We have to be better than that,” Edwards said. “We have to be better than that.” 

 

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Federal court blocks West Virginia Law banning Trans youth sports

“It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

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Becky Pepper-Jackson (Photo credit: ACLU/Raymond Thompson)


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of West Virginia ruled Wednesday that 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson must be allowed to try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams at her school, blocking West Virginia from enforcing a law that bans transgender girls and women from participating in school sports. 

The ruling came in the lawsuit challenging the ban filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of West Virginia, and Cooley LLP.

“I am excited to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in the running shoes of my family,” said Becky Pepper-Jackson, the plaintiff in the lawsuit. “It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed H.B. 3293 into law at the end of April. It was one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2021. During legislative debate, it was not endorsed by any mainstream sporting or health organizations. A similar law in Idaho was blocked by a federal court in 2020, and a federal court in Connecticut recently dismissed a challenge to policies that allow all girls, including girls who are transgender, to participate on girls’ sports teams. Legal challenges are underway against similar laws passed in other states.

The Supreme Court recently refused to disturb Gavin Grimm’s victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where he prevailed in challenging his school’s anti-transgender discrimination against him. This decision — which is binding precedent in West Virginia federal court — said that federal law protects transgender students from discrimination in schools.

“This is great news for Becky, and while our work is not done yet, today’s ruling jibes with similar rulings in other courts across the country,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow, Lambda Legal. “It is our hope that courts recognize and address discrimination when they see it, and nowhere is it more visible than in these stark attacks against trans youth.”

“Becky — like all students — should have the opportunity to try out for a sports team and play with her peers,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We hope this also sends a message to other states to stop demonizing trans kids to score political points and to let these kids live their lives in peace.” 

“We’ve said all along this cruel legislation would not survive a legal challenge, and we’re encouraged by the court’s decision today,” said ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark. “We hope trans kids throughout West Virginia who felt attacked and wronged by the passage of this legislation are feeling empowered by today’s news.”

“We are extremely gratified — for Becky, and for all trans youth — at the court’s recognition that the law and the facts clearly support treating people who are transgender fairly and equally. Discrimination has no place in schools or anywhere else,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP.

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Conservative groups attack proposed Alabama capital city’s LGBTQ law

Allege law requires Christians to violate their religious beliefs

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Alabama State Capitol, HIV, gay news, Washington Blade
Alabama State Capitol (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama capital’s City Council is being urged to reject a proposed ordinance that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under the law.  Matthew Clark, the Executive Director of the conservative Alabama Center for Law and Liberty sent a letter on behalf of his group and six allied organizations asking the Council to abandon a vote implementing the ordnance.

According to the letter, the groups allege that the law would require Christians to violate their religious beliefs or face fines under certain circumstances. Prominent among the other signatures is Mathew D. Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group.

The SPLC, which has its headquarters in Montgomery, writes; “The Liberty Counsel has also been active in the battle against same-sex marriage and hate crimes legislation, which it claimed in a 2007 news release to be “’thought crimes’ laws that violate the right to freedom of speech and of conscience” and will “have a chilling effect on people who have moral or religious objections to homosexual behavior.” In that same release, the Liberty Counsel falsely claimed that the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo., had nothing to do with homosexuality, but instead was “a bungled robbery.”

In the letter Clark noted; ““As we read the ordinance, churches could be fined if they refuse to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, and they might be fined if they refused to let same-sex couples use their facilities for weddings,” Clark said. “They could also be fined if they declined to hire non-ministerial personnel, such as facility managers or secretaries, whose sexual orientation or gender identity contradicts the tenants of the church’s faith.”

“Christian schools, small business owners, and homeowners are also in the crosshairs. Schools could face liability if they decline to let transgender students use the locker rooms of their choice,” Clark said. “Small business owners like Jack Phillips [referring to Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission] could face liability. And homeowners who list their homes on Airbnb could be fined if they declined to let a same-sex couple engage in sexual activities in their home that violate the tenants of their faith.”

Clark then warned the City Council that if it passes the ordinance, litigation could result and the City would likely lose.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported last month that City Mayor Steven Reed said a council vote in favor of the LGTBQ nondiscrimination ordinance that’s now being drafted in Montgomery would send a message. 

“There are signals that communities can send, and this is an important signal not only to those residents that live here right now but people all over the country that have maybe one idea of Alabama and Montgomery, and we want to show them that there’s a different reality here,” he said. 

Reed and his team have been working with the Human Rights Campaign and other advocacy groups to draft an ordinance that would expand protections for LGBTQ residents in the state’s capital city. The proposed measure, which would specifically target discrimination in government, employment and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity the Advertiser reported.

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