The lesbian and gay couples that served as the main plaintiffs in Wednesday’s historic Supreme Court decision overturning California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage said the decision would have a profound positive impact on gay families in their home state and beyond.
California residents Kris Perry, after whom the case has been named, and her partner Sandy Stier told reporters and a crowd of onlookers outside the Supreme Court that the enormity of the legal ramifications of the case was for them overshadowed by its impact on their family, especially their four sons.
“Today is a great day for American children and families,” Perry told the gathering. “Sandy and I want to say how happy we are not only to be able to return to California and finally get married but to be able to say to the children in California, no matter where you live, no matter who your parents are, no matter what family you’re in, you are equal.”
Perry added, “And today we go back to California and say to our own children, all four of our boys – your family is just as good as everybody else’s family. We love you as much as anybody else’s parents love their kids. And now we’re going to be equal to every other family in California.”
Californians Jeff Zarrillo and his partner Paul Katami, the other couple that served as lead plaintiff’s in the Prop 8 case, told the gathering outside the Supreme Court that they, too, look forward to returning to their home state to get married.
“Prop 8 allowed us to turn our anger into action,” Katami told the gathering. “So although we celebrate today, we work to make sure that everyone like Jeff and I and Kris and Sandy can just get married because it’s the natural next step in our relationship,” he said.
“We want to join the institution of marriage not to take anything away but to strengthen it, to live up to its ideals.”
In a development that prompted both cheers and tears from onlookers, Katami turned to Zarrillo, his voice breaking, and said, “And today I finally get to look at the man I love and say, ‘Will you marry me?’”
With Zarrillo nodding in the affirmative, the two men kissed and embraced as news photographers TV camera crews recorded their action.
Following the two couples’ initial comments, which came at a news conference organized jointly by the Human Rights Campaign and the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which initiated the legal challenge to Prop 8 five years ago, the couples walked along the sidewalk outside the Supreme Court building speaking to individual television news outlets whose camera crews lined the sidewalk.
During one of those interviews, HRC President Chad Griffin, who accompanied the couples, excitedly informed them that President Obama just called Griffin’s cell phone from Air Force One, which was taking the president on a state visit to Africa.
Reporters and onlookers watched with interest as Griffin handed his cell phone to the couples, who spoke briefly with Obama.
“It’s incredible,” Griffin told reporters minutes later. “The president just called from Air Force One and he was thanking our team and the plaintiffs for their courage. And he said because of their courage thousands upon thousands of people will be able to join in the celebration of marriage very soon,” Griffin said.
Katami and Zarrillo told people standing near them that they thanked the president for calling them and invited him to their wedding.
“They’re quick,” observed attorney Theodore Boutrous, the law firm partner of lead plaintiff attorney Ted Olsen in the Prop 8 case. Olsen, who was in court on Wednesday in an unrelated case in Philadelphia, wasn’t able to attend the Supreme Court session announcing the Prop 8 decision.
“They get the president on the phone and they invite him to their wedding,” said Boutrous. “So it’s exciting. Not too many cases end with such a joyous thing, that people who want to get married can get married. This is a good one,” he said.
Perry told the Blade she, too, was excited to hear from Obama.
“When the leader of the free world tells a couple like Sandy and I that he respects our relationship and he hopes we can get married soon and show our kids that we’re a family, it says everything,” she said. “We couldn’t be prouder to have him call and tell us that.”
Fred Sainz, HRC’s vice president for communications, said Edith Windsor, 85, the lead plaintiff in the DOMA case, which bears her name, would be celebrating the decision in New York City. Windsor is a New York State resident who challenged DOMA in court following the death of her wife, whom she married in Canada, and the refusal of the IRS to waive her estate tax in the same way that tax is waived for opposite-sex married couples.
With DOMA overturned Wednesday by the Supreme Court, Windsor’s attorneys are expected to call on the IRS to retroactively refund the estate tax she was forced to pay.
Windsor was also scheduled to serve as a grand marshal in New York City’s LGBT Pride Parade this weekend.
CDC echoes call for MSM to limit sex partners in monkeypox guidance
Controversial guidance also issued by WHO
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention is now echoing the controversial call for men who have sex with men to limit their sexual partners amid the monkeypox outbreak.
The agency made the call as part of new comprehensive monkeypox guidance issued on Friday, which lists “limit your number of sex partners to reduce your likelihood of exposure” as among several ways to reduce risk, with vaccination at the top of the list.
“Vaccination is an important tool in preventing the spread of monkeypox,” the guidance says. “But given the current limited supply of vaccine, consider temporarily changing some behaviors that may increase your risk of being exposed. These temporary changes will help slow the spread of monkeypox until vaccine supply is adequate.”
The call to limit partners was previously made by the World Health Organization and has been controversial as observers say it may stigmatize sex among gay and bisexual men, who are disproportionately affected by monkeypox.
Demetre Daskalakis, deputy director of the White House task force on monkeypox, outlined the new guidance on Friday in a conference call with reporters.
Asked by the Washington Blade whether the Biden administration agrees with WHO about the need for men who have sex with men to limit their sexual partners, Daskalakis alluded to the multi-faceted aspects of the CDC guidance.
“It mentions that folks should consider reducing multiple partners and anonymous new partners as one strategy to prevent exposure to monkeypox,” Daskalakis said. “So I think really, there’s a broad range, and I think one of the things that’s really important about the CDC guidance is it’s designed to really meet people where they are and see what we can do to have individuals to create their own prevention plans, understanding that there’s not one answer for preventing monkeypox, that it requires a lot of domains to really achieve the goal of preventing new infections.”
Vaccinations for monkeypox are a key component of the CDC guidance, even though the limited availability has not kept up with the growing demand for the shots as the outbreak continues. Daskalakis conceded on the call there is “supply and demand mismatch” for vaccines, but maintained the Department of Health & Human Services announcement declaring monkeypox a public health crisis would be a tool to address the shortage.
A key concern among reporters on the call was the Biden administration not emphasizing the disease is almost exclusively at this point affecting gay and bisexual men, as well as concerns about stigma and misinformation about monkeypox.
Daskalakis, drawing on his experience as a medical expert during the HIV/AIDS crisis, emphasized stigma should play no part in messaging.
“I know from my own experience in public health and personally that stigma is actually what drives so much of infection and really creates false starts and false information that really gets people to go down paths that end up really vilifying people’s lives and behavior,” Daskalakis said. “And so, coming from the experience, both professionally and personally, it is my mission, to not allow stigma to be a part of this or any response that I work on.”
University of Alabama allows students to use “chosen names” on student ID
“Having something that accurately reflects who you are as a person and how you want to make sure that the world sees and respects you is obviously monumentally important, right?”
Students, faculty and campus members at University of Alabama are now able to put their preferred names on mobile Action Cards, which are the official campus ID cards, for free.
The university’s assistant director of communications Shane Dorrill wrote in email that this option, available on physical cards for several years, will be available online as well after a software update.
ACT Card communications specialist Courtney Petrizzi said the ACT Card office recognized the importance of having the feature, which was previously available on physical cards, on mobile ACT Cards.
“This change is an update that we created to reflect our campus community’s needs,” Petrizzi said.
The Action Card office announced this change on May 19. They updated the policy in partnership with UA Safe Zone, a resource center for LGBTQIA+ individuals and their allies on campus.
Eli Strong, one co-founder of UA Safe Zone said during an interview with AL, “Having something that accurately reflects who you are as a person and how you want to make sure that the world sees and respects you is obviously monumentally important, right?”
Strong is a transgender man who graduated from University of Alabama. He believed that this change is important because it’s a safety issue. It’s a way for the university to acknowledge people and a way for people to feel affirmed by the documentation they carry around each day.
“It’s an exploratory time where you should be focused on learning and not be focused on the fear of being misgendered or harassed because of who you are,” Will Thomas, one of the co-founders of the University of Alabama LGBTQ+ Alumni Association, claimed that affirming documentation can help students have a positive experience.
This policy change comes after a series of anti-gay lesigilations passed in Alabama, including the Don’t Say Gay amendment and transgender bathroom restrictions.
Campus members can use Action Cards for various daily needs, such as meal plans and dining dollars, building access, sporting and entertainment events and health center access.
U.S. declares monkeypox a public health emergency
Number of cases of disease among MSM climbs
The United States has designated monkeypox a public health emergency as the number of cases of the disease, which has primarily affected men who have sex with men, continues to climb.
The news was first reported by the New York Times. Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra announced he’d declare monkeypox a public health emergency in a conference call on Thursday with reporters.
“I will be declaring a public health emergency on monkeypox,” Becerra said. “We’re prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously and to take responsibility to help us tackle this virus.”
Robert Fenton, the recently appointed White House National Monkeypox Response Coordinator, said amid criticism the Biden administration has been too slow in responding to monkeypox the new declaration would open up opportunities in confronting the outbreak.
“The public health emergency will allow us to explore additional strategies to get vaccines and treatments more quickly out in the affected communities, and it will allow us to get more data from jurisdictions so we can effectively track the suffering,” Fenton said.
During the call, Becerra said an estimated 6,600 cases of monkeypox have been reported throughout the country, and more than 600,000 vaccines have been delivered to localities. The United States, Becerra said, now has the capacity to administer 60,000 tests for monkeypox each week.
The Biden administration has faced criticism for not moving quickly enough to collect and distribute and for not more explicitly naming gay and bisexual men as being primarily affected by the disease. The New York Times reported this week the Department of Health & Human Services failed to act early on bulk stocks of vaccine.
“The government is now distributing about 1.1 million doses, less than a third of the 3.5 million that health officials now estimate are needed to fight the outbreak,” the Times reported. “It does not expect the next delivery, of half a million doses, until October. Most of the other 5.5 million doses the United States has ordered are not scheduled to be delivered until next year, according to the federal health agency.”
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), top Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, has been among the critics of the Biden administration’s approach to the outbreak.
Although the Biden administration has issued a rudimentary plan on monkeypox, Burr said in a statement the Department of Health & Human Services hasn’t laid out an effective plan to Congress.
“I have asked HHS repeatedly for their strategic plan to combat monkeypox and have yet to receive an answer,” Burr said. “On July 13, I sent a letter to Secretary Becerra asking detailed questions about the outbreak and the Biden administration’s response. In the three weeks since that letter was sent, monkeypox cases have increased by more than 470 percent to 6,617 reported cases today. Still, the administration continues to stonewall Congress.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended the Biden administration’s early approach to the monkeypox Thursday under questioning from CNN during the regular briefing with reporters.
“Within two days of the first confirmed case of monkeypox in the U.S., we began deploying vaccine to states and jurisdictions and prepositioning tens of thousands of additional doses in the Strategic National Stockpile,” Jean-Pierre said. “The initial science led us to believe…based on recent past monkeypox outbreaks, that those doses would be sufficient to meet the needs of the country as what we knew at that time.”
Jean-Pierre added, however, infections diseases are dynamics and inherently predictable and the Biden administration “quickly moved” to order tens of thousands of new doses when officials saw that happening with monkeypox.
Asked by CNN whether President Biden think his administration acted urgently in its approach to monkeypox, Jean-Pierre replied, “What we’re saying to you is that I laid out how dynamic and how rapidly changing this virus has been.”
“So yes, the President has confidence in HHS, and let’s not forget, we just brought on the monkeypox coordinators, the response team, which is also going to make a difference,” Jean-Pierre added.
Jennifer Kates, director of global health & HIV policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation, was among those praising the announcement from the Biden administration.
“Monkeypox is quickly spreading throughout the United States, with significant health implications for those it impacts most – so far, primarily gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men – and limited supplies of treatments and vaccines,” Kates said. “This latest move by the federal government is an important one for providing new flexibilities and allowing federal, state, and local health officials to take additional actions to address the outbreak. “
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