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Hopes ride on litigation, override after N.J. marriage veto

Gay groups come down on Christie for rejecting bill

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Gay rights groups are pinning their hopes on litigation and a possible override vote in the aftermath of Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage in New Jersey.

On Friday, Christie vetoed the marriage legislation after the State Assembly passed it by a vote of 42-33 and the State Senate approved it by a vote of 24-16 earlier in the week.

The governor’s veto of the marriage bill was expected. Christie had pledged to reject the bill and called for a referendum to decide the issue.

According to the Associated Press, Christie said in a statement accompanying his veto that he’s “adhering to what I’ve said since this bill was first introduced — an issue of this magnitude and importance, which requires a constitutional amendment, should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide.”

“I continue to encourage the legislature to trust the people of New Jersey and seek their input by allowing our citizens to vote on a question that represents a profoundly significant societal change,” Christie said. “This is the only path to amend our state constitution and the best way to resolve the issue of same-sex marriage in our state.”

LGBT groups condemned Christie in response to his veto and pledged to continue the fight to win marriage rights for gay couples.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said Christie “planted his feet firmly on the wrong side of history.”

“Fortunately, his ‘no’ will not be America’s – or New Jersey’s – last word,” Wolfson said. “It is simply an obstacle we overcome as we continue on the road to liberty and justice for all.”

Steven Goldstein, head of Garden State Equality, issued a statement just prior to Christie’s veto, saying he personally likes the governor, but suspects he vetoed the bill because of his national political ambitions.

“He won’t veto the bill because he’s anti-gay,” Goldstein said. “He’ll veto the bill because the 2016 South Carolina Republican Presidential primary electorate is anti-gay. And if I get flooded with letters now from Charleston, so be it.”

Goldstein also lambasted Christie’s call for a referedum, which he said “everyone knows will never happen in New Jersey.”

A poll published Tuesday by Rutgers-Eagelton found 54 percent of New Jersey residents favor legalizing same-sex marriage. At the same time, 53 percent say they back the idea of bringing marriage to a vote, while 40 percent said marriage is a civil rights issues that shouldn’t be decided by voters.

But Christie’s veto of the bill was conditional. It included the creation of what he called an ombudsman for civil unions that he said would “carry on New Jersey’s strong tradition of tolerance and fairness.”

Christie maintained in his statement that he’s been “adamant” that same-sex couples in civil unions, which are legal in New Jersey, deserve the same rights and benefits as married couples.

“Discrimination should not be tolerated and any complaint alleging a violation of a citizen’s right should be investigated and, if appropriate, remedied,” Christie said.

But Goldstein was critical of the idea that a civil unions ombudsman would strengthen the state’s civil union law, calling it “the very essence of the political theater” decried by Christie.

Goldstein raised questions about how a civil union ombudsman would enforce the civil union law. Among them are how the official would help same-sex couples living in New Jersey, but working in New York where same-sex marriage is legal, how it would deal with the children being raised by same-sex couples who feel stigmatized because their parents cannot marry, or how it would help couples in civil unions who aren’t treated fairly by employers and hospitals.

“A civil union ombudsman might well be the country’s first-ever Enforcer of Discrimination — and worse,” Goldstein said. “A civil union ombudsman is nothing more than the shameless dressing up of a veto of people’s dignity and equality — the equivalent of gold-plating a separate water fountain for a specific class of people.”

One option to get around Christie’s veto of the marriage bill is an override vote in the legislature. An override would require 12 additional votes to reach the 54 needed in the Assembly. In the Senate, three more votes are required to reach the necessary 27.

Goldstein said he’s put his organization “immediately to work to achieve an override” of Christie’s veto, noting advocates have nearly two years to do the job.

“The great news is, we have until the end of the legislative session, in January 2014, to do it,” Goldstein said.

Litigation is also underway in New Jersey state courts to win marriage rights for gay couples in New Jersey. In June, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit arguing that barring same-sex couples from marriage and relegating them to civil unions violates the New Jersey Constitution.

Hayley Gorenberg, Lambda’s deputy legal director, said her organization is “disappointed” with Christie, but will continue the fight to win marriage equality with the tools at hand.

“We’ll continue to make our case for equality with our plaintiffs in court,” Gorenberg said. “We also stand by our colleagues at Garden State Equality, working to gain support for a veto override in the legislature.”

In November, Lambda defeated defendants’ attempt to dismiss the case, and the judge ruled it could proceed. A trial is expected early in 2013.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. laurelboy2

    February 20, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    If I recall correctly, Christie recently nominated a gay, black man to the state’s supreme court (or the equivalent thereof). Kudos to Christie, and I don’t recall this achievement making The Blade – selective reporting I guess. BTW, if gay New Jerseyans want to get “married” bad enough, they can walk across the border to New York.

  2. Eyas

    February 25, 2012 at 9:03 am

    What Christie did was either opportunism or bigotry – and they’re not that far apart – pretty much like Trump and the birth certificate.

    And what about nominating minorities? You’re making the whole thing seems like a matter of “personal grace”, “I could’ve nominated a Christian white man married to a woman, but I chose not to”.

    It’s all about a candidate’s or a nominee’s competence, I don’t care if all elected officials were Christian, male, white and living with a member of the opposite sex as long as they’re not delusional, corrupt, theocratic and bigoted.

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National

Activists demand ICE release transgender, HIV-positive detainees

Protest took place outside agency’s D.C. headquarters on Wednesday

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Jessycka Ckatallea Letona, an indigenous transgender woman from Guatemala who spent nearly two years in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, participated in a protest in front of ICE's headquarters in Southwest D.C. on Oct. 27, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Jessycka Ckatallea Letona is an indigenous transgender woman from Guatemala who fled persecution in her homeland because of her gender identity.

She asked for asylum in the U.S. in 2016 when she entered the country in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Ckatallea on Wednesday told the Washington Blade that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials placed her in a pod with 70 men at a privately-run detention center in Florence, Ariz. She also said personnel at another ICE detention center in Santa Ana, Calif., ridiculed her because of her gender identity and forced her to strip naked before she attended hearings in her asylum case.

Ckatallea spent a year and eight months in ICE custody before her release. She won her asylum case and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“It was a very traumatic experience,” said Ckatallea as she spoke with the Blade in front of ICE’s headquarters in Southwest D.C. “I came to a country thinking that it would take care of me, that it would protect me because of my gender identity.”

Ckatallea is one of the more than a dozen immigrant rights activists who participated in a protest in front of ICE’s headquarters that Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Immigration Equality and the End Trans Detention campaign organized. Ckatallea, Immigration Equality Executive Director Aaron Morris and other protest participants demanded ICE immediately release trans people and people with HIV/AIDS from their custody.

The groups placed on the sidewalk in front of the building a Day of the Dead “ofrenda” to honor three trans women—Victoria Orellano, Roxsana Hernández and Johana “Joa” Medina León—who died in ICE custody or immediately after their release. The “ofrenda” also paid tribute to Pablo Sánchez Gotopo, a Venezuelan man with AIDS who died in ICE custody on Oct. 1.

Immigrant rights activists on Oct. 27, 2021, placed a Day of the Dead “ofrenda” outside U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in Southwest D.C. that honored three transgender women and a man with AIDS who died while in ICE custody or immediately upon their release. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Ckatallea, Morris and the other protesters approached the building’s entrance and presented security personnel with a petition that calls upon President Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to “immediately release all transgender people, people living with HIV, and people with medical conditions from ICE custody.”

ICE has repeatedly defended its treatment of trans people and people with HIV/AIDS who are in their custody.

The Blade in July 2020 interviewed a person with HIV who was in ICE custody at the Adams County Detention Center, the same privately-run facility in which Gotopo was held until his hospitalization. The person with whom the Blade spoke described conditions inside the detention center as “not safe” because personnel were not doing enough to protect them and other detainees from COVID-19.

Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) is among the dozens of lawmakers who have called for the release of all trans people and people with HIV/AIDS from ICE custody. The Illinois Democrat on Tuesday reiterated this call during a virtual briefing that Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Immigration Equality and the End Trans Detention Campaign organized.

“ICE’s clear inability to do better leads me to seek to end of ICE’s detention of all trans migrants,” said Quigley. “During both the Trump and Biden administration I led dozens of my colleagues to demand that ICE release transgender detainees and end its practice of holding trans migrants in custody. We had hoped that things would change with the new administration, so far I’m disappointed.”

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) also participated in the briefing alongside Immigration Equality Legal Director Bridget Crawford and Sharita Gruberg of the Center for American Progress and others.

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Texas

Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott signs anti-Trans youth sports bill

“Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids & adults- the emails to the Governor to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law”

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Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott (Blade file screenshot)

AUSTIN – Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Monday H.B. 25, an anti-Transgender youth sports bill banning Trans K-12 student-athletes from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. 

H.B. 25 is the 9th statewide bill signed into law this year banning transgender youth from participating in school sports and the 10th in the country. This bill also comes during a year when Texas lawmakers have proposed nearly 70 anti-LGBTQ bills, including more than 40 bills that specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth — far more than any other state.

“We are devastated at the passage of this bill. Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids and adults, families and advocates, and the many emails and calls our community placed to the Governor’s office to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law,” Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, said.

“Most immediately, our focus is our community and integrating concepts of healing justice to provide advocates who have already been harmed by this bill with spaces to refill their cup and unpack the acute trauma caused by these legislative sessions. Our organizations will also begin to shift focus to electing pro-equality lawmakers who understand our issues and prioritize representing the vast majority of Texans who firmly believe that discrimination against trans and LGB+ people is wrong,” he added.

Earlier this month, the Texas state government was criticized for removing web pages with resources for LGBTQ youth, including information about The Trevor Project’s crisis services. The Trevor Project the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people.

“Transgender and nonbinary youth are already at higher risk for poor mental health and suicide because of bullying, discrimination, and rejection. This misguided legislation will only make matters worse,” Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project said in a statement released Monday afternoon.

To every trans Texan who may be feeling hurt and attacked by this legislation and months of ugly political debate — please know that you are valid, and you are deserving of equal opportunity, dignity and respect. The Trevor Project is here for you 24/7 if you ever need support, and we will continue fighting alongside a broad coalition of advocates to challenge this law,” Paley said.

********************

Additional resources:

Research consistently demonstrates that transgender and nonbinary youth face unique mental health challenges and an elevated risk for bullying and suicide risk compared to their peers.  

  • The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. 94% of LGBTQ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health. 
  • A newly published research brief on “Bullying and Suicide Risk among LGBTQ Youth,” found that 61% of transgender and nonbinary (TGNB) students reported being bullied either in-person or electronically in the past year, compared to 45% of cisgender LGBQ students. TGNB students who were bullied in the past year reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who were not. And TGNB students who said their school was LGBTQ-affirming reported significantly lower rates of being bullied (55%) compared to those in schools that weren’t LGBTQ-affirming (65%).
  • A 2020 peer-reviewed study found that transgender and nonbinary youth who report experiencing discrimination based on their gender identity had more than double the odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not experience discrimination based on their gender identity.
  • Trevor’s research has also found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (68%) had never participated in sports for a school or community league or club — with many citing fear of bullying and discrimination as a key factor for not participating.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678678.

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National

Ohio high school cancels play with Gay character after Pastor complains

The School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month until the play was canceled

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Hillsboro High School (Screenshot via Cincinnati ABC affiliate WCPO-TV)

HILLSBORO, Oh. — A Southwest Ohio high school’s play was abruptly canceled after Jeff Lyle, a local pastor from Good News Gathering, complained of a gay character. 

Hillsboro High School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month, until students learned the play would be canceled last week, reports Cincinnati’s ABC affiliate WCPO

The story follows a high school senior as she learns about her late sister’s life. It is implied throughout the play that her sister is gay, according to the news station.

The play’s cancellation comes a week after Lyle, a long-time voice of the anti-LGBTQ+ religious-right in Ohio, and a group of parents confronted the production’s directors at a meeting, according to Cincinnati CBS affiliate Local 12. Lyle denies pressuring school officials, but tells WCPO he supports the decision.

“From a Biblical worldview this play is inappropriate for a number of reasons, e.g. sexual innuendo, implied sexual activity between unmarried persons, repeated use of foul language including taking the Lord’s name in vain,” Lyle said. 

Some families say they believe Lyle did influence the school’s decision. 

“I think that’s wrong,” Jon Polstra, a father of one of the actors, told WCPO. “All they would have had to do if they objected to something in the play was not go to the play.”

In a statement to Local 12, Hillsboro City Schools Superintendent Tim Davis said the play was canceled because it “was not appropriate for our K-12 audience.”

The Lexington Herald Leader reports that the school planned to perform a version intended for audiences as young as 11 years old. 

Students were “devastated” and “blindsided” by the news, according to WCPO. 

“It felt like we had just been told, ‘Screw off and your lives don’t matter,'” Christopher Cronan, a Hillsboro High student, said. “I am openly bisexual in that school and I have faced a lot of homophobia there, but I never expected them to cancel a play for a fictional character.”

Cronan’s father, Ryan, also voiced his frustration. 

“They want to say the town is just not ready, but how are you not ready? It’s 2021,” Ryan Cronan said.

Students have started a GoFundMe in hopes of putting on the production at a community theater in 2022.

“If we do raise enough money, I am going to be genuinely happy for a very long time, because that means people do care,” Cronan told WCPO.

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