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Effort to repeal marriage equality fails in N.H.

A tense, sometimes surreal debate



New Hampshire State House (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

UPDATE: According to sources at national Log Cabin Republicans, the vote split by party in New Hampshire was 119 Republicans voting not to repeal, while 92 Democrats voted against repeal, leaving 13 Democrats not willing to go on the record in favor of preserving same-sex marriage.

An effort to overturn marriage equality in New Hampshire appears to be dead for the year after a Republican-controlled state House of Representatives failed to pass a repeal measure, despite desperate last-minute attempts to make the bill more palatable to moderates by author Rep. David Bates.

In a 211-116 vote, the legislature gave same-sex marriage advocates something to cheer about when, after hours of procedural efforts to keep the bill alive, enough GOP lawmakers voted against the bill to rescind the right to marry from New Hampshire residents.

Several Republicans crossed the aisle to defeat the measure, including Reps. Mike Ball and Jennifer Coffey, who spoke out against the bill last week along with other advocates and Democratic lawmakers at a news conference organized by the marriage equality group Standing Up For New Hampshire Families.

During a long and contentious debate on the bill in which the same amendment was brought back for reconsideration twice, strong statements were made on all sides of the issue.

“God is my judge, this legislative body is not my judge,” Rep. Cameron DeJong proclaimed. “Allow me to have this discussion between my God and me about my decisions.”

Rep. Ball compared the bill to segregation in the South, “Let’s put this dog down, like it deserves to be.”

In a surreal moment during the debate, an amendment to the bill was introduced to also bar marriage between left-handed people. That amendment failed to be considered.

House bill 437, which would have prevented New Hampshire from recognizing any new same-sex marriages and revived the 2007 civil unions law in its place, was introduced last year by GOP Rep. Bates, along with 11 Republican co-sponsors. After the bill lost traction in the House last week, Bates introduced an amendment that would put a nonbinding question on the issue before voters in November, prior to the law’s official repeal date in March 2013, as well as have left intact the 2,000 existing same-sex marriages already recognized by the state, much like California’s post-Proposition 8 law that created, what advocates call 15,000 “limited edition” legally recognized same-sex marriages in that state.

The floor amendment, meant to give the law a better chance of surviving a veto, failed to be adopted after a vote of 162-188, leaving the bill less likely to become law in the long run.

After a failed first vote on returning to civil unions, the legislature voted to divide the combined civil unions-referendum amendment into separate issues, an effort that also failed on a vote of 128 to 222.

During that debate, Rep. David Welch — who at one time opposed same-sex marriage, but is now a vocal opponent of the measure to repeal it on constitutional grounds — called on his colleagues to vote against the amendment containing the call for referendum and for reinstating civil unions. “The legislature has given rights to certain members of our community, and we should not vote to take them away.”

The veteran lawmaker repeatedly called into question the constitutionality of HB 437 throughout the debate.

Also opposing the amendment was Republican Rep. Shawn Jasper, who urged the legislature to drop the bill and send a clean binding referendum to the people, rather than the planned non-binding ballot measure.

He was followed by pro-gay Republican Rep. Jennifer Coffey, who called for an end to the push against committed same-sex couples, saying if a voter opposes same-sex marriage, they’re not obligated to enter into such a marriage.

“This body has set in motion a ping-pong ball with people’s lives,” Coffey told her colleagues.

Countering the call for a ballot initiative, Rep. Steve Murphy (R- Bedford) declared, “The rights of the people are not subject to popular vote.”

Earlier, the initial vote on the civil unions amendment — prior to the multiple votes to reconsider — failed on a vote of 82 to 266.

During the debate of the first civil unions amendment on the floor, Rep. Dan McGuire said he has three lesbians in his life, including his “mother and sister,” but supports the amendment that will end marriage because he supports the “dictionary definition” of marriage, and says that this is an issue of “extreme political correctness.”

Also speaking in favor of the civil unions amendment was Rep. Marilinda Garcia, who argued that allowing couples who have no biological ability to create children would weaken marriage for those that do have that ability.

The bill could still be revived in the overwhelmingly Republican-controlled Senate, where its fate would be in the hands of the handful of moderate Republicans.

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch repeatedly vowed to veto House bill 437.

Recent polls show that respondents oppose ending same-sex marriage by up to 62 percent, however, no state electorate in the country has yet approved full marriage rights for same-sex couples via the ballot.

Five other states, and the District of Columbia, have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New York. Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law a gender neutral marriage bill that will take effect on January 1, pending the result of a likely November ballot measure. Likewise, Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire signed into law a bill extending marriage rights to same-sex couples going into effect also pending a voter initiative. In addition, the New Jersey legislature passed a same-sex marriage law in February, but will need to override Gov. Chris Christie’s veto by the end of the legislative session in 2014.

New Hampshire became the fifth state in the nation to expand marriage rights to include same-sex couples, the third to do so without being compelled to by a court, and the second to pass through the legislature with a governor’s signature — current Gov. John Lynch — following Maine’s Gov. John Baldacci earlier that year. The marriage law went into effect in early 2010, and thousands of same-sex couples have taken advantage of the rights.


U.S. Federal Courts

Lesbian mother from El Salvador released from ICE custody

Jessica Barahona-Martinez arrested on June 26, 2017



(Bigstock photo)

A federal judge last week ordered the release of a lesbian mother from El Salvador who had been in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody since June 2017.

Jessica Patricia Barahona-Martinez and her three children entered the U.S. on May 31, 2016. A court filing notes she fled “persecution she faced in El Salvador as a lesbian, and because the government had falsely identified her as a gang member.”

Barahona-Martinez lived with her sister and other relatives in Woodbridge, Va., until ICE arrested and detained her on June 26, 2017. She was housed at two ICE detention centers in Virginia until her transfer to the South Louisiana ICE Processing Center, a privately-run facility the GEO Group, a Florida-based company, operates in Basile, La., in October 2020. 

An immigration judge in November 2019 granted Barahona-Martinez asylum for the second time. The government appealed the decision and the Board of Immigration Appeals, which the Justice Department oversees, ruled in their favor.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana last month filed a writ for habeas corpus petition in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana’s Lafayette Division that asked for Barahona-Martinez’s release. U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty on Sept. 27 ruled in her favor.  

“Petitioner (Barahona-Martinez) ultimately argues that her prolonged detention violates due process; she moves that this court issues a temporary restraining order, requests release, a bond hearing, an expedited hearing and costs and attorney fees,” wrote Doughty.

“This court finds that petitioner has plausibly alleged her prolonged detention violates due process,” added Doughty.

An ACLU spokesperson on Monday told the Blade that ICE has released Barahona-Martinez and she is once again in Virginia with her children and sister. 

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State Department

State Department hosts intersex activists from around the world

Group met with policy makers, health officials, NGOs



The State Department last week hosted a group of intersex activists from around the world. (Courtesy photo)

The State Department last week hosted five intersex activists from around the world.

Kimberly Zieselman, a prominent intersex activist who advises Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad, brought the activists to D.C.

• Morgan Carpenter, co-founder and executive director of Intersex Human Rights Australia

• Natasha Jiménez, an intersex activist from Costa Rica who is the general coordinator of Mulabi, the Latin American Space for Sexualities and Rights

• Julius Kaggwa, founder of the Support Initiative for People with Atypical Sex Development Uganda

• Magda Rakita, co-founder and executive director of Fujdacja Interakcja in Poland and co-founder of Interconnected UK

• Esan Regmi, co-founder and executive director of the Campaign for Change in Nepal.

Special U.S. Envoy for Global Youth Issues Abby Finkenauer and Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine are among the officials with whom the activists met.

Zieselman told the Washington Blade on Sept. 21 the activists offered State Department officials an “intersex 101” overview during a virtual briefing.

More than 60 Save the Children staffers from around the world participated in another virtual briefing. Zieselman noted the activists also met with Stern, U.N. and Organization of American States officials, funders and NGO representatives while in D.C.

“The people we met were genuinely interested,” Rakita told the Blade.

Stern in an exclusive statement to the Blade said “the visiting intersex activists clearly had an impact here at State, sharing their expertise and lived experience highlighting the urgency to end human rights abuses, including those involving harmful medical practices against intersex persons globally.” Andrew Gleason, senior director for gender equality and social justice at Save the Children US, in a LinkedIn post he wrote after attending his organization’s meeting with the activists echoed Stern.

“There are many learnings to recount from today’s discussion, but one thing is clear, this is unequivocally a child rights issue, and one that demands attention and action at the intersection of LGBTQI+ rights, reproductive rights and justice, disability justice and more,” wrote Gleason. “Gratitude to the panelists for sharing such poignant testimonies and providing insights into what organizations like ours can do to contribute to the broader intersex movement; and thank you to Kimberly for your leadership and bringing this group together.”

The activists’ trip to D.C. coincided with efforts to end so-called sex “normalization” surgeries on intersex children.

Greek lawmakers in July passed a law that bans such procedures on children under 15 unless they offer their consent or a court allows them to happen. Doctors who violate the statute face fines and prison.

Germany Iceland, Malta, Portugal and Spain have also enacted laws that seek to protect intersex youth. 

A law that grants equal rights and legal recognition to intersex people in Kenya took effect in July 2022. Lawmakers in the Australian Capital Territory earlier this year passed the Variation in Sex Characteristics (Restricted Medical Treatment) Bill 2023.

Intersex Human Rights Australia notes the law implements “mechanisms to regulate non-urgent medical care to encourage child participation in medical decisions, establish groundbreaking oversight mechanisms and provide transparency on medical practices and decision making.” It further points out the statute “will criminalize some deferrable procedures that permanently alter the sex characteristics of children” and provides “funding for necessary psychosocial supports for families and children.”

“It’s amazing,” Carpenter told the Blade when discussing the law and resistance to it. “It’s not perfect. There was some big gaps, but physicians are resisting every step of the way.”

The State Department in April 2022 began to issue passports with an “X” gender marker.

Dana Zzyym, an intersex U.S. Navy veteran who identifies as non-binary, in 2015 filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department after it denied their application for a passport with an “X” gender marker. Zzyym in October 2021 received the first gender-neutral American passport.

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Federal Government

Federal government prepares for looming shutdown

White House warns of ‘damaging impacts across the country’



U.S. Capitol Building (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

However remote they were on Monday, odds of avoiding a government shutdown were narrowed by Thursday evening as House Republicans continued debate over their hyper-partisan appropriations bills that stand no chance of passage by the Upper Chamber.

As lawmakers in the Democratic controlled Senate forged ahead with a bipartisan stop-gap spending measure that House GOP leadership had vowed to reject, the federal government began bracing for operations to grind to a halt on October 1.

This would mean hundreds of thousands of workers are furloughed as more than 100 agencies from the State Department to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation roll out contingency plans maintained by the White House Office of Management and Budget. On Thursday the Office of Personnel Management sent out memos to all agencies instructing them to ready for a shutdown on Sunday.

Before 1980, operations would continue per usual in cases where Congress failed to break an impasse over spending, as lapses in funding tended to last only a few days before lawmakers brokered a deal.

Since then, the government has shut down more than a dozen times and the duration has tended to become longer and longer.

“Across the United States, local news outlets are reporting on the harmful impacts a potential government shutdown would have on American families,” the White House wrote in a release on Thursday featuring a roundup of reporting on how the public might be affected.

“With just days left before the end of the fiscal year, extreme House Republicans are playing partisan games with peoples’ lives and marching our country toward a government shutdown that would have damaging impacts across the country,” the White House said.

The nature and extent of that damage will depend on factors including how long the impasse lasts, but the Biden-Harris administration has warned of some consequences the American public is likely to face.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, for example, warned: “There is no good time for a government shutdown, but this is a particularly bad time for a government shutdown, especially when it comes to transportation.”

Amid the shortage of air traffic controllers and efforts to modernize aviation technology to mitigate flight delays and cancellations, a government shutdown threatens to “make air travel even worse,” as Business Insider wrote in a headline Thursday.

Democratic lawmakers including California Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, meanwhile, have sounded the alarm in recent weeks over the consequences for the global fight against AIDS amid the looming expiration, on Oct. 1, of funding for PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

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