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Windsor: Oral arguments ‘went beautifully’

Plaintiff in DOMA case said outcome is ‘going to be good’



Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Marriage
Edith Windsor, Edie Windsor, gay news, marriage equality, same sex marriage, gay marriage, Washington Blade

Edith Windsor on the steps of the Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The New York widow who challenged the Defense of Marriage Act said after she left the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday she feels the oral arguments in her case went “really well.”

“I think it went great,” Edith Windsor told reporters during a news conference after she and her attorneys left the court. “I think it went beautifully. I thought the justices were gentle… they were direct. They asked all the right questions. I didn’t feel any hostility or any sense of inferiority.”

Windsor, who married her partner of more than 40 years, Thea Spyer, in Canada in 2007, paid $363,000 in estate taxes after her 2009 death.

“In the midst of my grief I realized that the federal government was treating us as strangers,” Windsor said. “I paid a humongous estate tax. And it means selling a lot of stuff to do it, and it wasn’t easy.”

She also noted during the news conference that she did not wear a wedding ring when she and Spyer became engaged because she had not come out of the closet.

“I am today an out lesbian who just sued the United States of America, which is kind of overwhelming for me,” Windsor said.

She added she remains optimistic the justices will rule in her favor.

“I think it’s going to be good,” Windsor said.

Windsor’s lawyers also spoke outside the court.

“Today’s oral arguments tells the story and tells the lesson of why it is we have a constitution to bind us together as citizens of one nation, all of whom are guaranteed the equal protection of the law,” New York-based attorney Roberta Kaplan said. “There is no one individual who better personifies the concept of equal protection than my client Edie Windsor.”

James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project, pointed out DOMA treats the 130,000 married same-sex couples in the United States as unmarried within more than 1,100 different federal contexts.

“What’s caused what happened to Edie to happen that she was treated unmarried despite of her 44 years together with the woman who became her spouse,” he said. “So Edie and Thea spent four decades together in good times and bad, in sickness and in health just like any other married couple. And for the federal government to pretend that their marriage didn’t exist is unfair, it’s un-American and it’s unconstitutional.”

DOMA proponent: Law is ‘very shaky’ after oral arguments

Rev. Rob Schenck, chair of the Evangelical Church Alliance, which filed a brief on behalf of more than 200 military chaplains, told reporters outside the Supreme Court that he feels DOMA is “very shaky” after today’s proceedings.

“Of course we always to remain optimistic on our side of the argument, but I would say the questions particularly put to the justices by Justice Kennedy put that in doubt,” he said. “It will take an act of Congress to guarantee the religious freedoms of military chaplains. It may take an action by this court, but certainly whatever the decision they make is going to incite future litigation and we can guarantee them that because we’ll be back here.”

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  1. Velvet Michael

    March 28, 2013 at 12:40 am

    Facts are facts! We are ALL Americans and the we are guarenteed equal rights under the law. It's time to start practicing what we preach. Equality for ALL!

  2. Michael Barber

    March 27, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    “Reverand” Schenk. You’re religious bigotry has no place in the law. Especially in the law of the US Constitution which was crafted by Deists.

  3. joan zicchino

    March 27, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    The Govement taking $ 363,000 from that American Citizen is worse than a Thief robbing her in the middle of the night..

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Federal Government

Veterans can now identify as transgender, nonbinary on their VA medical records

About 80 percent of trans veterans have encountered a hurtful or rejecting experience in the military because of their gender identity



Graphic via U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced Wednesday that his department added the options of transgender male, transgender female, nonbinary and other, when veterans select their gender, in medical records and healthcare documentation.

“All veterans, all people, have a basic right to be identified as they define themselves,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “This is essential for their general well-being and overall health. Knowing the gender identity of transgender and gender-diverse veterans helps us better serve them.”

The statement also noted that the change allows health-care providers to better understand and meet the medical needs of their patients. The information also could help providers identify any stigma or discrimination that a veteran has faced that might be affecting their health.

McDonough speaking at a Pride Month event last June at the Orlando VA Healthcare System, emphasized his support for Trans and LGBQ+ vets.

McDonough said that he pledged to overcome a “dark history” of discrimination and take steps to expand access to care for transgender veterans.

With this commitment McDonough said he seeks to allow “transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side,” McDonough said. “We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do, but because they can save lives,” he added.

In a survey of transgender veterans and transgender active-duty service members, transgender veterans reported several mental health diagnoses, including depression (65%), anxiety (41%), PTSD (31%), and substance abuse (16%).  In a study examining VHA patient records from 2000 to 2011 (before the 2011 VHA directive), the rate of suicide-related events among veterans with a gender identity disorder (GID) diagnoses was found to be 20 times higher than that of the general VHA patient population.

McDonough acknowledged the VA research pointing out that in addition to psychological distress, trans veterans also may experience prejudice and stigma. About 80 percent of trans veterans have encountered a hurtful or rejecting experience in the military because of their gender identity.

“LGBTQ+ veterans experience mental illness and suicidal thoughts at far higher rates than those outside their community,” McDonough said. “But they are significantly less likely to seek routine care, largely because they fear discrimination.

“At VA, we’re doing everything in our power to show veterans of all sexual orientations and gender identities that they can talk openly, honestly and comfortably with their health care providers about any issues they may be experiencing,” he added.

All VA facilities have had a local LGBTQ Veteran Care Coordinator responsible for helping those veterans connect to available services since 2016.

“We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do but because they can save lives,” McDonough said. He added that the VA would also change the name of the Veterans Health Administration’s LGBT health program to the LGBTQ+ Health Program to reflect greater inclusiveness.

Much of the push for better access to healthcare and for recognition of the trans community is a result of the polices of President Joe Biden, who reversed the ban on Trans military enacted under former President Trump, expanding protections for transgender students and revived anti-bias safeguards in health care for transgender Americans.

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Prominent LGBTQ+ activist found dead in Florida landfill

Diaz-Johnston was the brother of former Miami mayor and Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz & he led the fight for marriage equality



Photo courtesy of Don Diaz Johnston

Police in Florida’s capital city confirmed that the body of Jorge Diaz-Johnston, 54, who had been reported missing was found in a Jackson County landfill Saturday morning.

Diaz-Johnston was last seen alive Jan. 3 in Tallahassee, more than an hour from where his body was found, according to a missing person notice released by police. Detectives are investigating his death as a homicide, a police spokesperson said.

Diaz-Johnston, was the brother of former Miami mayor and Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz. As an LGBTQ advocate he led the fight for marriage equality, he and his husband were plaintiffs in an historic 2014 lawsuit that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Miami-Dade County.

ABC News reported at the time that a South Florida circuit court judge sided with Diaz-Johnston and five couples suing the Miami-Dade County Clerk’s Office for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Florida dropped its ban on same-sex marriage in 2015.

His husband wrote in a poignant Facebook post; “There are just no words for the loss of my beloved husband Jorge Isaias Diaz-Johnston. I can’t stop crying as I try and write this. But he meant so much to all of you as he did to me. So I am fighting through the tears to share with you our loss of him.”

“We are heartbroken to learn of the death of Jorge. He and his husband Don were two of the brave plaintiffs who took on Florida’s anti-gay marriage ban and helped win marriage equality for all Floridians,” Equality Florida said adding, “Our deepest condolences to Don and Jorge’s extended family.”

Detectives urge anyone who may have information to call 850-891-4200, or make an anonymous tip to Big Bend Crime Stoppers at 850-574-TIPS.

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Bill prohibiting ‘gay panic defense’ clears New Hampshire House

New Hampshire could soon join over a dozen other states which ban the use of ‘gay panic’ as a defense



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

Legislation prohibiting defendants accused of manslaughter from using the victim’s gender, gender identity or sexual orientation as a defense, which had died in committee during the 2021 regular session of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, was reintroduced this session and passed with a 223-118 vote last week.

House Bill 238, stirred up controversary from opponents who claimed that state statues already covered murder and manslaughter. During a Criminal Justice committee hearing last Spring, Rep. Dick Marston, a Manchester Republican, voiced opposition, saying that the laws already cover murder and manslaughter and that “there’s no way in heck that you’re going to be able to say ‘Well because he or she was some deviant sexuality that I’m not–‘”

Marston was cut off by committee chairman Daryl Abbas, a Salem Republican, who gaveled him down and rebuked him for the derogatory language the Concord-Monitor reported

Later, the committee Republicans blocked an effort to move the bill out of committee alleging it needed more work and was not necessary because a jury could already strike down a similar attempted defense. The bill was then stalled in the committee, effectively killing it from being pushed further in last year’s session.

As the measure now heads to the state Senate, New Hampshire could soon join over a dozen other states which ban the use of the ‘gay panic’ as a defense.

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