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House GOP agrees to $500K hike in cost cap to defend DOMA

Boehner pledges to continue defending anti-gay law in court



John Boehner, Speaker of the House, GOP, Republican, gay news, Washington Blade
John Boehner

House Speaker John Boehner has pledged to continue defending DOMA as litigation challenging the law has reached the Supreme Court (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has pledged to continue defending of the Defense of Marriage Act at the Supreme Court as a newly public contract reveals House Republicans secretly agreed to raise the cost cap for doing so to $2 million.

A copy of the agreement obtained on Thursday by the Washington Blade and other media outlets reveals that House Committee on Administration Chair Dan Lungren agreed to raise the cost cap by $500,000. The news was first reported by Roll Call.

The agreement indicates Lungren signed the contract on Sept. 28. But Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for Pelosi, said House Democrats had only obtained a copy of it on Thursday — nearly three months later and after Election Day.

Asked by the Washington Blade before the news broke during his weekly news conference whether he backs raising the cost cap beyond $1.5 million, Boehner replied, “If the Justice Department is not going to enforce the law of the land, then Congress will.”

Boehner didn’t answer a follow up question to clarify whether he supports raising the cost cap to pay for defending DOMA as he ended the news conference. His initial response is misleading because the Obama administration has in fact continued to enforce DOMA at the same time as it has declined to defend the statute in court.

In February 2011, the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend Section 3 of DOMA against litigation because the president and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder deemed the statute was unconstitutional. Following a party-line vote of the House Republican-led Bipartisan Legal Advisory Panel, Boehner directed House general counsel to take up defense of DOMA in the administration’s stead. The House Committee on Administration hired outside counsel to take the lead in defense of DOMA: Paul Clement, a U.S. solicitor general under former President George W. Bush.

Last week, the Supreme Court signaled it would take a case challenging the anti-gay law, Windsor v. United States, in addition to a lawsuit challenging California’s Proposition 8, Hollingsworth v. Perry.

Criticism against House Republicans for continued defense of DOMA came from both LGBT advocates and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

In a statement, Pelosi rebuked Republicans for raising the cost cap to defend the anti-gay law and agreeing to do so secretly without informing House Democrats just before Election Day.

“Hiding this contract from voters in the midst of an election season was a cynical move at best, and a betrayal of the public trust at worst,” Pelosi said. “With Americans focused on the creation of jobs and the growth of our economy, Republicans should not be spending $2 million to defend discrimination in our country. We should be embracing our tradition of equality, advancing our promise of opportunity, and securing justice and equal rights for every American.”

Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, criticized Boehner for his refusal to answer a question about the expenses of defending DOMA during his news conference.

“The speaker has shown he will stop at nothing in continuing to waste taxpayer money in defending discrimination,” Cole-Schwartz said. “It’s telling though that he refused to answer the question about the exorbitant fees associated with his crusade as he must realize Americans can’t comprehend this waste of resources.”

The new agreement means House Republicans have twice raised the cost cap to defend DOMA, which was originally set at $500,000. The first time the cap was raised was on Sept. 29, 2011, when the cap was trebled to reach $1.5 million, and the second raise was apparently agreed to a full year later.

Technically, the new contract initially raises the cost cap to $1.65 million, but says after Oct. 1, 2012, the $1.65 million cap may be raised “from time to time” up to $2 million.

Notably, the contract also opens the door to raise the cost cap beyond $2 million, but says that won’t happen “without a written agreement between the parties with the approval of the chair of the committee.”

In October, House Democrats made public a report indicating that the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group has reached expenses totaling out to $1,447,996.73 over the course of fiscal years 2011 and 2012. At the time, the agreement to raise the cost cap to $2 million wasn’t previously known, so the news was reported as House Republicans nearly reaching the $1.5 million cost cap under the previous agreement.

The House Committee on Administration didn’t immediately respond to the Blade’s request to comment on raising the cost cap. In the Roll Call article, Lungren is quoted as saying he doesn’t know if the Supreme Court’s review of DOMA would force Republicans to raise the cap yet once more.

“I don’t know whether that would require more expenditure of funds, but it is a serious argument that has to be seriously dealt with,” Lungren reportedly said.

Lungren reportedly added that Clement’s workload may be more significant in the coming months because — in addition to taking up the constitutionality of DOMA — the Supreme Court has hired Vicki Jackson, a Harvard law professor, to argue that neither the Obama administration nor House Republicans have standing to petition the court in the litigation.

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  1. Lanorexic

    December 14, 2012 at 7:51 am

    Now that this bigoted, mean-spirited straight white male has lost the election (AGAIN) he’s decided to go off the scale with his hatred of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. But we now know he planned this out right before the election which makes him even more hideous for hiding the fact from the American people.

    Would someone please show him the door.

  2. Anonymous

    December 14, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    That is the best news that I have read in a long time. We agree that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

    • Gay Marriage Worldwide

      December 15, 2012 at 10:23 pm

      Really? The country is about to fall off the fiscal cliff and Republicans are wasting money to discriminate against people's rights. WASTE OF MONEY! DOMA will be overturned by the Supreme Court and Republicans will be on the wrong side of history once again!

    • Lanorexic

      December 17, 2012 at 7:29 pm

      Sure! That’s why you were afraid to use your ID. Hah! Marriage is a Catholic institution created to make women the property of men.

      How dare any religious zealot defend marriage as if it’s a sacred institution reserved for the pious. That’s as much of a joke as the conservatives that defend that tired concept of one man, one woman..

  3. William

    December 14, 2012 at 11:55 am

    If the GOP wasn’t defending DOMA, the case would likely not have advanced to the Supreme Court; the appellate court rulings would have applied narrowly to the jurisdictions in which they were handed down, but nationally DOMA would remain in effect.

  4. Surely U Jest

    December 14, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    It has become crystal clear to everyone (except Log Cabin Republicans), that the biggest remaining obstacle to equality for gay Americans, are republican elected officials.

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NCAA adopts new policy amid fervor over transgender athletes

Sport-by-sport approach requires certain levels of testosterone



NCAA, gay news, Washington Blade
The NCAA has adopted new policy amid a fervor over transgender athletes.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has announced it has adopted new procedures on competition of transgender athletes, creating a “sport-by-sport” approach that also requires documentation of testosterone levels across the board amid a fervor of recently transitioned swimmers breaking records in women’s athletics.

The NCAA said in a statement its board of governors voted on Wednesday in support of the “sport-by-sport” approach, which the organization says “preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete.”

Although the policy defers to the national governing bodies for individual sports, it also requires transgender athletes to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections. The new policy, which consistent with rules for the U.S. Olympics, is effective 2022, although implementation is set to begin with the 2023-24 academic year, the organization says.

John DeGioia, chair of the NCAA board and Georgetown president, said in a statement the organization is “steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports.”

“It is important that NCAA member schools, conferences and college athletes compete in an inclusive, fair, safe and respectful environment and can move forward with a clear understanding of the new policy,” DeGioia said.

More specifically, starting with the 2022-23 academic year, transgender athletes will need to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections, the organizational. These athletes, according to the NCAA, are also required to document testosterone levels four weeks before championship selections.

In terms of jurisdiction, the national governing bodies for individual sports are charged determines policies, which would be under ongoing review and recommendation by the NCAA, the organizational says. If there is no policy for a sport, that sport’s international federation policy or previously established International Olympics Committee policy criteria would be followed.

The NCAA adopts the policy amid controversy over University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas smashing records in women’s swimming. Thomas, which once competed as a man, smashed two national records and in the 1,650-yard freestyle placed 38 seconds ahead of closest competition. The new NCAA policy appears effectively to sideline Thomas, who has recently transitioned and unable to show consistent levels of testosterone.

Prior to the NCAA announcement, a coalition of 16 LGBTQ groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and Athlete Ally, this week sent to a letter to the collegiate organization, urging the organizations strengthen non-discrimination protections as opposed to weakening them. The new policy, however, appears to head in other direction, which the LGBTQ groups rejected in the letter.

“While decentralizing the NCAA and giving power to conferences and schools has its benefits, we are concerned that leaving the enforcement of non-discrimination protections to schools will create a patchwork of protections rather than a comprehensive policy that would protect all athletes, no matter where they play,” the letter says. “This would be similar to the patchwork of non-discrimination policies in states, where marginalized groups in some states or cities are protected while others are left behind by localities that opt not to enact inclusive policies.”

JoDee Winterhof, vice president of policy and political affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement after the NCAA announcement the new policy was effectively passing the buck.

“If the NCAA is committed to ensuring an environment of competition that is safe, healthy, and free from discrimination, they cannot dodge the question of how to ensure transgender athletes can participate safely,” Winterhof said. “That is precisely why we and a number of organizations across a wide spectrum of advocates are urging them to readopt and strengthen non-discrimination language in their constitution to ensure the Association is committed to enforcing the level playing field and inclusive policies they say their values require. Any policy language is only as effective as it is enforceable, and with states passing anti-transgender sports bans, any inclusive policy is under immediate threat. We are still reviewing the NCAA’s new policy on transgender inclusion and how it will impact each and every transgender athlete.”

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Transgender rights group’s Los Angeles office receives bomb threat

[email protected] Coalition evacuated



(Public domain photo)

A bomb threat was phoned in Wednesday afternoon to the Wilshire Boulevard Koreatown offices of the [email protected] Coalition, Bamby Salcedo, the president and CEO of the non-profit organization told the Los Angeles Blade.

According to Salcedo, an unidentified male caller told the staff person who answered at approximately 3 p.m., while delivering the threat said; “You’re all going to die.” The staff immediately evacuated everyone from their offices and then contacted the Los Angeles Police Department for assistance.

Officers, specialists and detectives from the Rampart Division of the LAPD responded and swept the building. A spokesperson for the LAPD confirmed that the incident is under active investigation but would make no further comment.

On a Facebook post immediately after the incident the non-profit wrote; “To ensure the safety of our clients and staff members, we ask that you please NOT come to our office.”

In a follow-up post, Salcedo notified the organization and its clientele that the LAPD had given the all-clear and that their offices would resume normal operations Thursday at 9:00 a.m. PT.

“Thank you for your messages and concern for our staff and community,” Salcedo said.

“No amount of threats can stop us from our commitment to the TGI community,” she added.

The [email protected] Coalition was founded in 2009 by a group of transgender and gender non-conforming and intersex (TGI) immigrant women in Los Angeles as a grassroots response to address the specific needs of TGI Latino immigrants who live in the U.S.

Since then, the agency has become a nationally recognized organization with representation in 10 different states across the U.S. and provides direct services to TGI individuals in Los Angeles.

In 2015, the [email protected] Coalition identified the urgent need to provide direct services to empower TGI people in response to structural, institutional, and interpersonal violence, and the Center for Violence Prevention and Transgender Wellness was born.

Since then, the organization has secured funding from the state and local government sources as well as several private foundations and organizations to provide direct services to all TGI individuals in Los Angeles County.

The [email protected] Coalition’s primary focus is to change the landscape of access to services for TGI people and provide access to comprehensive resource and services that will improve the quality of life of TGI people.

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Jim Obergefell announces bid for seat in Ohio state legislature

Marriage plaintiff moves on to new endeavor



First Amendment Defense Act, gay news, Washington Blade
Jim Obergefell has announced he'd seek a seat in the Ohio state legislature.

Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the litigation that ensured same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide, announced on Tuesday he’d pursue a new endeavor and run for a seat in the state legislature in his home state of Ohio.

“You deserve a representative who does the right thing, no matter what. You deserve a representative who fights to make things better for everyone,” Obergefell said. “I’ve been part of a national civil rights case that made life better for millions of Americans. Simply put, I fight for what’s right and just.”

Obergefell, who claims residency in Sandusky, Ohio, is seeking a seat to represent 89th Ohio District, which comprises Erie and Ottawa Counties. A key portion of his announcement was devoted to vowing to protect the Great Lakes adjacent to Ohio.

“We need to invest in our Great Lake, protect our Great Lake, and make the nation envious that Ohio has smartly invested in one of the greatest freshwater assets in the world,” Obergefell said.

Obergefell was the named plaintiff in the consolidated litigation of plaintiffs seeking marriage rights that led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in 2015 for same-sex marriage nationwide. Obergefell was widower to John Arthur, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and was seeking the right to be recognized as his spouse on his death certificate. The ruling in the consolidated cases ensured same-sex couples would enjoy the full benefits and responsibilities of marriage.

“We should all be able to participate fully in society and the economy, living in strong communities with great public schools, access to quality healthcare, and with well-paying jobs that allow us to stay in the community we love, with the family we care about,” Obergefell said in a statement on his candidacy.

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