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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

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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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6 Comments

6 Comments

  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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National

Alarming numbers of Texas Trans kids in crisis over litany of anti-Trans bills

“Under the guise of protecting children- Texas legislators are directly harming thousands of transgender & nonbinary youth”

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LGBTQ youth protest anti-Trans bills at the Texas Capitol building (Photo Credit: Equality Texas)

NEW YORK – The Trevor Project received nearly 4,000 crisis contacts from transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas in 2021, with many directly stating that they are feeling stressed and considering suicide due to anti-trans laws being debated in their state.

This new data 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.

The Texas State Senate passed its anti-trans sports ban SB3 this week, and the companion bill HB10 is now moving forward in the Texas House. 

Republican Texas Governor Abbott has prioritized SB 3 and called for a third consecutive special session of the legislature to consider this bill, which would ban transgender student-athletes from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

“The Trevor Project’s crisis counselors have been hearing from transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas who are scared and worried about anti-trans laws being debated in their state — and some have even expressed suicidal thoughts. This is a crisis. We urge Texas lawmakers to consider the weight of their words and actions — and to reject HB10/SB3,” said Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project.

  • Between January 1 and August 30, 2021, The Trevor Project received more than 10,800 crisis contacts (calls, texts, and chats) from LGBTQ young people in Texas looking for support. More than 3,900 of those crisis contacts (36%) came from transgender or nonbinary youth.
  • Crisis contacts from LGBTQ young people in Texas seeking support have grown over 150% when compared to the same time period in 2020.
  • While this volume of crisis contacts can not be attributed to any one factor (or bill), a qualitative analysis of the crisis contacts found that:
  • Transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas have directly stated that they are feeling stressed, using self-harm, and considering suicide due to anti-LGBTQ laws being debated in their state.
  • Some transgender and nonbinary youth have expressed fear over losing access to sports that provide important acceptance in their lives.

“As a transgender young person in Texas, this new data from the Trevor Project is not surprising, but it’s nonetheless harrowing and alarming to see this representation of the detrimental impact Texas Lege is having on our community — especially our kids. Lawmakers and proponents of bills like SB3 and HB10 should be alarmed by these statistics, too,” Landon Richie a Trans youth activist and GenderCool Youth Leader from Houston told the Los Angeles Blade.

“Under the guise of protecting children and promoting fairness, Texas legislators are directly harming thousands of transgender and nonbinary youth, denying them the dignity, respect, and childhoods that they deserve. It’s never an exaggeration to say that the passage — and merely debate — of these bills will cost lives,”  Richie added.

National mental health organizations like The Trevor Project and state LGBTQ equality groups including Equality Texas and Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) are raising concerns about the impact of such legislation on the mental health and wellbeing of transgender and nonbinary youth.

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. Further, Trevor released a new research brief earlier this month on LGBTQ youth participation in sports, which found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (nearly 66%) do not actively participate in sports — 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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2nd largest school district in Utah bans Pride & BLM flags as ‘too political’

“We have to have a politically neutral classroom, and we’re going to educate the students in the best possible way that we can”

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Davis School District Offices in Farmington Utah (Photo Credit: Davis School District)

FARMINGTON, Ut. – Administrators this week in the Davis School District, which is Utah’s 2nd largest school district with 72,987 students, banned LGBTQ Pride and Black Lives Matter flags, saying they are ‘politically charged.’

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, Davis Schools spokesperson Chris Williams told the paper; “No flags fly in our schools except for the flag of the United States of America.” Williams later walked that statement back adding a clarification that some of the Districts schools have flags from sports team or international countries which are considered “unrelated to politics.”

“What we’re doing is we’re following state law,” said Williams. “State law says that we have to have a classroom that’s politically neutral.”

Amanda Darrow, Director of Youth, Family, and Education at the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City, told multiple media outlets the school district is “politicizing the rainbow flag” which doesn’t belong on a political list.

“That flag for us is so much more,” said Darrow. “It is just telling us we’re included in the schools, we are being seen in the schools, and we belong in these schools.”

KUTV CBS2 News in Salt Lake City checked with the Utah State Board of Education. In an email, spokesman Mark Peterson said, “There is nothing in code that specifically defines a rainbow flag as a political statement so it would be up to district or charter school policies to make that determination.”

The local Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also weighed in saying in a statement;

Whether or not a school district has the legal ability to ban inclusive and supportive symbols from classrooms, it is bad policy for them to do so,” the advocacy organization said in a statement. “Utah schools have an obligation to ensure that all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identify, feel welcome inside a classroom. We urge school administrators and teachers to adopt policies that make all students feel safe and included.”

Williams insisted the policy is not meant to exclude anyone and that all students are loved and welcomed – they just want to keep politics out of school he told the Tribune and KUTV.

“We have to have a politically neutral classroom, and we’re going to educate the students in the best possible way that we can,” said Williams.

A Utah based veteran freelance journalist, writer, editor, and food photographer weighed in on Twitter highlighting the negative impact of the Davis Schools decision on its LGBTQ youth.

Davis County School District bans LGTBQ and BLM flags as ‘too political’

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Non-binary person reports assault by Proud Boys near Portland

‘They nearly killed me’

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Juniper Simonis (Photo by Mariah Harris)

It was a typical day for Juniper Simonis. The freelance ecologist decided to break from work for lunch at about 3 p.m. to take their service dog, Wallace, to the local dog park and grab a bite to eat.  

But a planned peaceful afternoon quickly turned ugly. Simonis says they survived a gang assault of about 30 perpetrators in Gresham, Ore., a suburb outside of Portland. The Oregon resident encountered the group for only minutes but suffered a concussion, sprained jaw, extensive car damage and verbal assaults, they said. 

“They nearly killed me,” they said.

Simonis said they turned into a parking lot to pick up lunch in Gresham, Ore., and stumbled upon a rally that included several members of the Proud Boys — a far-right, ultra-nationalist organization known for its anti-LGBTQ, anti-feminism and neo-fascist ideologies. 

There was a “Flag Ride” right-wing rally in a parking lot earlier that day. Simonis was under the impression the event had ended after checking reports on Twitter. After pulling into the lot, originally to look for lunch options, Simonis saw a large gathering still in the lot. 

Simonis decided to take pictures of what was happening to post online to warn others and was intentional in keeping their distance, they said. As Simonis was preparing to leave the area, they yelled from inside the car, “Fuck you, fascists, go home.” 

“I did not expect this to escalate into violence,” they said. 

The attack itself only lasted about three minutes, Simonis said. Simonis was quickly surrounded by several people and physically blocked from leaving the lot. People stepped in front of the parking lot exit, then a car was moved to barricade Simonis. People began to shout homophobic slurs at Simonis, they said. 

“I’m in serious trouble now and I know it,” they said. 

Simonis was then punched while inside their vehicle and was briefly knocked out. They regained consciousness a few seconds later, and a cinder block was thrown at the car and shattered the back window of their car inches away from their service dog, Wallace. 

Simonis got out of the car to assess the damage and make sure their service dog was safe. They quickly got back in their car and was able to leave the lot by maneuvering around the blocked exit, Simonis said. 

Wallace, Juniper Simonis’ service dog. (Photo by Mariah Harris)

Looking back at the photos and videos Simonis took before the assault, Simonis said they saw people looking into the camera and acknowledging them taking photos. 

“I honestly don’t know if I hadn’t said anything, that … things would have gone any different,” they said. 

Last year, Simonis was targeted and arrested by federal police in Portland during the tumultuous Black Lives Matter protests in the city. They were denied medical attention, misgendered, jumped and aggressively handcuffed while taken into custody. 

Simonis is still working through legal proceedings in a multi-plaintiff lawsuit. 

A witness to the event called the Gresham Police Department, which was only a few blocks away from the incident. But the call went to voicemail and the witness did not leave a message, Simonis said. 

Another witness called 911, Simonis said, which led to an officer calling Simonis about 45 minutes after the accident to take a report.   

In the police report obtained by the Blade, Simonis is consistently misgendered. Simonis’ sex is also listed as “unknown” in the report. The incident was labeled as vehicle vandalism. 

Simonis said the conversation with the officer was filled with victim-blaming and the officer wrote in the report that Simonis should avoid “approaching groups of this nature.”  

“At no point in this conversation does he treat me as an actual victim of a crime,” Simonis said.

The Gresham Police Department did not respond to a request for comment. 

Weeks after the assault, Simonis is struggling mentally and physically, they said. 

The concussion makes working on a computer virtually impossible because of light sensitivity and trouble focusing, Simonis said. The pain caused by the sprained jaw makes it difficult to focus, as well. 

Simonis is not able to begin physical therapy for their jaw until November because of long medical wait times, they said. The cost to repair the car damages will be about $8,000, as well, they said.  

The times where Simonis is able to focus are usually taken up by piecing together what happened that day, they said. 

“The part of my brain that I use for work has been hijacked functionally by the part of the brain that needed to know what happened to me,” they said. “There is such a painful need to understand what happened to me.”

Because of past traumatic events, like the experience of being in federal custody last year, Simonis said processing and living with the trauma is a bit easier to handle. But their ability to work will be forever changed yet again, they said. 

“I’m not able to work at the pace that I used to work at before I was assaulted by DHS. I’ll never be,” they said. “And this is just a further knockdown.” 

The trauma of the event has increased Simonis’ hyper-vigilance, as well. 

“Every time I hear a car go by, I’m double-checking,” they said. 

Even though Simonis has the tools to process and live with the immense trauma, they will never be the same person, they said. 

“They fucking changed my life forever. Point blank,” they said. “Not just mentally, but physically and physiologically. I can’t go back to where I was before. I’m lucky that I survived.”

Simonis has reported the attack to the FBI and is pursuing legal action with two specific goals in mind: to heal and to prevent similar crimes from happening.

“I am somebody who believes in abolishing the carceral system and the justice system as it exists and policing,” Simonis said. “But also a 37-year-old trans and disabled person who somehow managed to survive this long. And so naturally has become pragmatic about the world.”

Because of the reaction of the Gresham Police Department, Simonis did not want to work with local officers and instead went to the federal level. But because of the alleged assault by agents in Portland last year, this decision wasn’t easy for them.

Perpetrators in the assault threatened to call the police on Simonis,  even though Simonis did not commit a crime. Reporting the crime to the federal level is also a layer of protection, they said. 

“All of this is forcing my hand,” they said. There is no easy decision in the situation, they added. 

“We all know that crimes are underreported. We hear about it all the time,” they said. And there are reasons why people don’t report crimes and they’re totally understandable. A lot of victims are very concerned about what will happen if they break anonymity. In my situation, I’ve already broken anonymity.”

With recent arrests and crackdowns on the Proud Boys and other hate groups in the United States, Simonis is bracing for a long process. 

“This isn’t just going to go on a shelf,” they said. 

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