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White House staying out of Prop 8 litigation

Carney won’t say if Obama wants nat’l ruling in favor of marriage equality

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White House Press Secretary Jay Carney answers questions at the White House daily briefing

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to directly answer a question about whether the Obama administration wants the U.S. Supreme Court to take up litigation challenging California’s Proposition 8 or allow a lower court ruling striking down the same-sex marriage ban to stand.

In response to a question from the Washington Blade, Carney deferred to the Justice Department on whether the White House wants the high court to take up the case as a way to obtain a national ruling on same-sex marriage, or, as the plaintiffs have asked, let the ruling from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stand to allow gay couples in California to marry immediately.

“That’s quite a question and I will ask you to direct it to the Justice Department,” Carney said. “I’m not going to make policy toward Supreme Court cases from here.

Carney also was mum in response to a follow-up question about whether Obama would generally support the idea of the Supreme Court taking up litigation that would institute marriage equality across the country.

Shaking his head “no,”  Carney replied, “I don’t have anything to say on that at this time.”

Nanda Chitre, a spokesperson for the Justice Department, responded to a follow-up inquiry on the Prop 8 lawsuit, saying, “We are not a party to this litigation and would decline further comment.”

Litigation challenging Proposition 8, now known as Hollingsworth v. Perry, has been docketed for the Supreme Court during its conference on Sept. 24. If justices decide to let the lower ruling stand, it would enable same-sex couples to marry in California.

Also docketed next week is one of the cases challenging DOMA, Windsor v. United States. The Justice Department has already asked the high court to take up the Windsor case — as well as other DOMA cases — to enable a national ruling on DOMA’s constitutionality. The Supreme Court may wait for a later conference when briefing for other DOMA cases is done to decide whether to take up cases challenging the constitutionality of the anti-gay law.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said in response to the exchange during the press briefing that he’s confident Obama believes in a constitutional right to marriage equality based on the “powerful and heartfelt case for the freedom to marry” that the president delivered in May.

“And I am sure that as president and as a constitutional law scholar, he well understands that the freedom to marry is a constitutional freedom, as recognized in cases such as Loving v. Virginia, which in 1967 ended different-race restrictions on marriage, just as we are today working to end same-sex restrictions on marriage,” Wolfson said. “As Justice Thurgood Marshall later wrote, ‘although Loving arose in the context of racial discrimination, prior and subsequent decisions of this Court confirm that the right to marry is of fundamental importance for all individuals.’ I am confident President Obama understands the Constitution’s clear command, and the work we all must do to pave what we at Freedom to Marry call on our website “the roadmap to victory” in the Supreme Court.”

The American Foundation for Equal Rights, the organization behind the Prop 8 litigation, declined to comment on the Blade’s exchange with Carney.

Washington Blade: There’s going to be a lot of attention on the Supreme Court next week because it will consider whether to take up several pending marriage cases related to both the Defense of Marriage and California’s Proposition 8. The Justice Department has already made its views known on the DOMA cases, but given the president’s previously stated opposition to Prop 8 and his support for marriage equality, does the administration want the Supreme Court to take up the Prop 8 case in hopes of making some national ruling on same-sex marriage, or, as plaintiffs in the case have requested, do you prefer that the court allow the lower court ruling to stand striking down the marriage ban ruling just in California?

Jay Carney: That’s quite a question and I will ask you to direct it to the Justice Department. I’m not going to make policy toward Supreme Court cases from here.

Washington Blade: Generally speaking, though, would the president welcome the Supreme Court taking a case in which they could rule in favor of same-sex marriage across the country?

Carney: Yeah. I don’t have anything to say on that at this time.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a response from Evan Wolfson and the response from the Justice Department.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. CarrotCakeMan

    September 19, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    I didn’t realize the Blade had a press pass to White House briefings and was able to ask questions of the press secretary. That’s good news in and of itself.

  2. customartist

    September 20, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Obama has already taken the necessary steps to place Equality on the correct trojectory, and I thank him.

  3. Eric Blitz

    September 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    This is why Governor Gary Johnson, who is running for President as a Libertarian, has a superior position on marriage equality to President Obama. President Obama’s position is shockingly, a state’s right’s position. Gary Johnson says it is a civil right protected by the equal protection clause of the US Constitution and that marriage equality should be mandated through the Supreme Court nationally. I trust that Governor Johnson’s administration would have his Justice Department take up this issue with vigor and get the job done right!

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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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Utah

VIDEO: Utah deal promoted as national model for LGBTQ rights, religious liberty

Data finds state has 2nd highest support for LGBTQ rights

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(Screen capture via YouTube)

A new video from the premier LGBTQ group in Utah, challenging the idea LGBTQ rights must be at odds with religious liberty, promotes an agreement reached in the state as a potential model to achieve a long sought-after update to civil rights law at the federal level.

The video, published Friday by Equality Utah, focuses on a 2015 agreement in Utah between the supporters of LGBTQ rights and the Mormon Church to enact a compromise acceptable to both sides. The agreement by those two sides led to an LGBTQ civil rights law in the state, which has Republican control of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, says in the video dialogue is key to achieving meaningful success, whether its among the people of Utah, a state legislature or lawmakers in Congress.

“When you are working with LGBT rights in a state like Utah, and you want to advance legal equality, you can’t do it without working with Republicans, with conservative, with people of faith,” Williams says.

Williams, speaking with the Washington Blade over a Zoom call, said the main audience for the video is people on “the center right and the center left” willing to listen to other side when it comes to LGBTQ rights and religious liberty.

“People that have the courage to reach out to each other, and sit down across from each other and say, ‘Hey look, let’s hammer this out,” Williams said. “That’s who my audience is.”

Not only did Utah enact non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, but the state under a Republican governor administratively banned widely discredited conversion therapy for youth. When lawmakers proposed legislation that would ban transgender youth from competing in school sports, the proposal was scuttled when Gov. Spencer Cox (whom Williams called a “super Mormon”) said he’d veto it after it came to his desk.

Marina Gomberg, a former board for Equality Utah, is another voice in the video seeking dispel the narrative religious liberty and LGBTQ rights are in conflict.

“in order to protect LGBTQ people, we don have to deny religious liberty, and in order to provide protections for religious liberties, we don’t have to deny LGBTQ people,” Gomberg says. “The idea that we do is a fallacy that Utah has dismantled.”

In July, new polling demonstrated the surprisingly the Utah, despite being a conservative state, has the second highest percentage of state population in support for non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The data Public Religion Research Institute from 77 percent of Utah residents support LGBTQ people, which is just behind New Hampshire at 81 percent.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the pro-LGBTQ American Unity Fund, said the Utah agreement demonstrates the possibility of reaching an agreement at the federal level once “second order” issues are put into perspective.

“The first order question has to be how are we winning the culture,” Deaton said. “Do people even want to pass the bill? And if they do, you then figure out the details.”

The American Unity Fund has helped promote as a path forward for LGBTQ non-discrimination at the federal level the Fairness for For All Act, legislation seeking to reach a middle ground on LGBTQ rights and religious freedom. Polling earlier this year found 57 percent of the American public back a bipartisan solution in Congress to advance LGBTQ civil rights.

Supporters of the Equality Act, the more established vehicle for LGBTQ rights before Congress, say the Fairness for For All Act would give too many carve-out for LGBTQ rights in the name of religious freedom. The Equality Act, however, is all but dead in Congress and has shown no movement in the U.S. Senate.

Skeptics of the Utah law would point out the law doesn’t address public accommodations, one of the more challenging aspects in the fight for LGBTQ rights and one or remaining gaps in civil rights protections for LGBTQ people in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County. As a result, it’s perfectly legal in Utah for a business owner to discriminate against LGBTQ coming as patrons.

Williams, however, shrugged off the idea the lack of public accommodations protections in Utah make the agreement in the state makes it any less of a model, making the case the spirit behind the deal is what matters.

“I think copying and pasting Utah’s law doesn’t work for lots of reasons,” Wililams said. “What’s most important is a model of collaboration because when you are sitting around the table with each other — Democrats and Republicans, LGBTQ people and people of faith — that’s when the transformation happens. That is when the mutual respect is really forged.”

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