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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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National

Bill to support LGBTQ seniors in rural areas reintroduced

Advocates praise Elder Pride Act

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(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.

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State Department

State Department travel advisory warns of potential anti-LGBTQ violence

FBI issued similar warning this week

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(Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

The State Department on Friday issued a worldwide travel advisory that warns of potential violence against LGBTQ people and LGBTQ-specific events.

“Due to the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations, or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution,” reads the advisory. “The Department of State is aware of the increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence against LGBTQI+ persons and events and advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution.”  

The advisory further urges U.S. citizens to:

  • Stay alert in locations frequented by tourists, including Pride celebrations and venues frequented by LGBTQI+ persons.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive information and alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency overseas.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Homeland Security Investigations earlier this week issued a similar advisory.

The advisory notes June 12 will mark eight years since the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

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The White House

White House acknowledges IDAHOBiT, reiterates support for global LGBTQ rights

WHO on May 17, 1990, declassified homosexuality as a mental illness

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Pride flags fly from an apartment's terrace in Warsaw, Poland, on April 11, 2024. The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia commemorates the World Health Organization's declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Biden-Harris administration on Friday used the annual International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia to reiterate its support of LGBTQ and intersex rights around the world.

“On the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, my administration stands in support and solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) people around the world as they seek to live full lives, free from violence and discrimination,” said President Joe Biden in a statement. “This is a matter of human rights, plain and simple.” 

“The United States applauds those individuals and groups worldwide working to defend the rights of LGBTQI+ people wherever they are under threat,” he added. “We are grateful for the contributions that LGBTQI+ people make every day across our nation.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed Biden.

“On this day, we reflect upon the violence and discrimination lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons worldwide suffer and re-commit ourselves to opposing these acts,” said Blinken in his own statement. “This year, like every year, we state unequivocally: LGBTQI+ persons deserve recognition of their universal human rights and human dignity.” 

IDAHOBiT commemorates the World Health Organization’s declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder on May 17, 1990.

Blinken in his statement notes LGBTQ and intersex people around the world “continue to face insidious forms of stigma and discrimination.”

Dominica last month became the latest country to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in May 2023 signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act that, among other things, contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

“Even as more countries make meaningful advancements towards full equality; LGBTQI+ persons continue to be sentenced to death for daring to live their sexual orientation or gender identity, subjected to coercive conversion ‘therapies’ and ‘normalization’ surgeries, discriminated against while receiving health services, restricted from exercising fundamental freedoms, and denied the dignity of same-sex partnership and fulfillment of family,” said Blinken. 

“As we reflect upon the injustices that LGBTQI+ persons and their allies endure, we must not forget that today is fundamentally a day of action,” he added. “On this day and every day, the United States stands with LGBTQI+ persons around the world. We will continue to advocate for the rights of LGBTQI+ persons not just because we have a moral imperative to do so, but because it helps to strengthen democracy, bolster national security, and promote global health and economic development.”

The Tonga Leitis Association is among the myriad LGBTQ and intersex rights groups around the world that acknowledged IDAHOBiT.

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