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Nadler pushes DOMA repeal, despite recent court rulings

Says legislative action needed to fully fix inequities

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Rep. Jerrold Nadler

Rep. Jerrold Nadler is calling for legislative repeal of DOMA in the wake of court rulings against the law. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A New York Democrat leading the charge against the Defense of Marriage Act in Congress is stressing the need for legislative action against the anti-gay law despite a string of victories in the courts.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) told the Washington Blade on Monday that legislation to repeal DOMA — the Respect for Marriage Act, which he sponsors in the U.S. House — may offer married same-sex couples greater flexibility with federal benefits as opposed to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the statute.

“The recent series of affirmative rulings in federal court give us a clear indication of where DOMA is ultimately headed, but we don’t know if a Supreme Court decision would be enough to ensure federal recognition of same-sex marriages,” Nadler said. “We need to pass the Respect for Marriage Act because its certainty provision would enable legally married same-sex couples to receive federal recognition no matter which state they move.”

In addition to repealing DOMA, the Respect for Marriage Act, has a “certainty provision” that would allow married same-sex couples to retain federal benefits of marriage — including certain Social Security benefits, immunity from the estate tax and the ability to jointly file income taxes — even if these couples marry in one state and to move to another that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

Nadler added the need to pass the Respect for Marriage Act “is one of the many reasons” why LGBT rights supporters need to work to re-elect President Obama, who’s endorsed the legislation, and put Democrats back in control of the House. The latter will be a tall order to fill because political observers expect Democrats may make some gains, but will likely fall short of the 25 seats needed for them to regain a majority.

The New York lawmaker spoke to the Washington Blade following a New York City meeting at Gay Men’s Health Crisis with LGBT advocates — including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and lesbian New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn — in which participants discussed ways to advance marriage equality and federal benefits for gay couples.

That meeting took place just days after the U.S. Second Circuit of Appeals became the second federal appellate court to rule against DOMA in the case of Windsor v. United States and the first appellate court to apply heightened scrutiny in determining the law is unconstitutional. The Windsor lawsuit — along with three others — is pending review before the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices haven’t yet made an announcement on whether they’ll take up the lawsuits, but are expected to take up at least one of the cases to make a nationwide ruling on DOMA.

Jon Davidson, legal director at Lambda Legal, concurred that passage of the Respect for Marriage Act would afford greater certainty for married same-sex couples that wouldn’t necessarily be granted after a court ruling.

“Even if the court upholds one or more of the four holdings that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional in the four DOMA cases the court already has been asked to hear, Rep. Nadler is correct that the bill would help bring certainty to many same-sex couples that it may otherwise take years to sort out,” Davidson said.

Davidson said many federal laws aside from DOMA consider a couple legally married based on the state where the couple wed, but others such as tax law generally look to the state where the couple resides.

“The Respect for Marriage Act would solve this potentially confusing situation by making clear that the federal government would treat same-sex couples who got married in a jurisdiction that allowed it to be considered married for all federal purposes,” Davidson said.

Davidson, whose organization is responsible for one of the DOMA challenges called Golinksi v. Office of Personnel Management, added the legislation is also important in case the Supreme Court reaffirms DOMA because in that event, legislative repeal of the law would be “the only recourse” for opponents of the law.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said a Supreme Court ruling overturning DOMA would be “historic and huge,” but Nadler is right that Congress must move forward with the Respect for Marriage Act — largely because the law originated in Congress.

“The act will ensure that the federal government cannot treat same-sex couples as second-class citizens regardless of where they live in the country,” Sainz said. “It was Congress that enacted the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, and it is Congress that should take the step to guarantee that gay and lesbian families will no longer be denied recognition by the federal government.

Mary Bonauto, civil rights attorney for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, which is responsible for the Gill v. Office of Personnel Management case against DOMA, said via email she appreciates Nadler’s work to repeal DOMA in Congress, but litigation can afford more immediate relief.

“If we win in court, that would return us to the ordinary rules by which the federal government respects state determinations of marital status,” Bonauto said. “I would be happy to have Congress eliminate the problems it created in 1996, but in the meantime, the courts provide the most direct route to relief.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    October 24, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    Better hurry…..Romney will defend DOMA, solicit a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage (NOM Pledge) and amend the constitution to ban ALL abortions. Read the Republican Platform…it's all there.

  2. RVJ

    October 24, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Ironically, a Congressional repeal of DOMA before SCOTUS acts would moot the case and prevent SCOTUS from finding a fundamental right to same-sex marriage or that “heightened scrutiny” should apply to homosexual classifications. Either such finding will lead to marriage equality in every state. If the case were mooted before such a finding, then state marriage bans would remain in place. Might that fact lead some Republicans to support the Respect for Marriage Act? Probably not. Republicans aren’t that smart.

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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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