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Obama admin to recognize Utah same-sex marriages

Holder says unions ‘will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits’

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Eric Holder, United States Department of Justice, gay news, Washington Blade, LGBT Pride
Eric Holder, United States Justice Department, Barack Obama Administration, Lincoln Memorial, the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, civil rights, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Friday the federal government will recognize Utah same-sex marriages (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key).

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Friday that the federal government will recognize the same-sex marriages performed in Utah despite the state’s decision not to recognize them in the aftermath of a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a video announcement, Holder says the federal government will recognize the marriages of the more than 1,300 couples estimated to have wed in the state, even though Utah Gov. Gary Herbert indicated a letter to staff earlier this week the state won’t recognize the unions pending appeal.

“In the meantime, I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages,” Holder says. “These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds.”

In the coming weeks, Holder pledges to coordinate with other branches of the federal government to ensure federal benefits are flowing to same-sex couples who wed in Utah.

“In the days ahead, we will continue to coordinate across the federal government to ensure the timely provision of every federal benefit to which Utah couples and couples throughout the country are entitled – regardless of whether they in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages,” Holder says. “And we will continue to provide additional information as soon as it becomes available.”

Same-sex couples began marrying in Utah starting on Dec. 20 after a ruling from U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriages, known as Amendment 3. After unsuccessful attempts with the district court and the U.S. Tenth Circuit, Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes obtained a stay on the marriages from the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.

The next day, Utah announced it wouldn’t recognize the same-sex marriages that were already performed in the state prior to the stay. However, there was still a question about whether the federal government would recognize the unions. In a letter to Holder on Thursday, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said there’s “no legal reason” why the marriages shouldn’t be recognized and Utah did so out of political reasons.

In a statement following the announcement, Griffin praised Holder for deciding the Utah same-sex marriages should be recognized.

“These 1,360 Utah couples are married, plain and simple, and they should be afforded every right and responsibility of marriage,” Griffin said. “Attorney General Eric Holder has once again shown the kind of leadership that earns you a spot in the history books. This is only the beginning of this fight, and this work continues until marriage equality returns to Utah for good, and full equality reaches every American in all 50 states.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during his routine news conference on Friday that President Obama “welcomes” the decision by the Justice Department.

“I can tell you the president welcomes the attorney general’s determination that the federal government, for purposes of federal law will recognize the same-sex marriages that were lawfully performed in Utah before a stay was issued,” Carney said.

Asked by the Blade about the extent to which Obama was involved in reaching the decision, Carney said he doesn’t believe the president spoke with Holder about the matter prior to the resolution.

“The president simply welcomes the decision,” Carney said. “This is action and determination taken by, and done by, the attorney general. The president obviously has expressed his views publicly about same-sex marriage, and the need for equal rights for all Americans, so I don’t know, but I don’t think they discussed this specific issue. This was a determination by the AG.”

But anti-gay advocates aren’t pleased the decision and are saying it’s an affront to Utah’s right to regulate marriage.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the decision is “an effort to make law in the breach and shows contempt for the states, the federal courts, and Congress.”

“It only adds to the administrative chaos by flouting Utah’s marriage law and is in contrast to the U.S. Supreme Court’s cautious approach in granting a stay in the case,” Perkins said. “The Department of Justice’s announcement is doing the very thing which the Supreme Court condemned in the U.S. vs. Windsor decision — ‘creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State.'”

The Utah attorney general isn’t expressing any dissatisfaction with the decision from the federal government. Ryan Bruckman, a Reyes spokesperson, said the state has no objections.

“The statement put forth by Attorney General Eric Holder is consistent with previous statements from the Utah Attorney General’s Office.” Bruckman said.

The Obama administration is able to recognize the same-sex marriages in Utah in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. Since ruling against the law, which prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriage, the Obama administration has been implementing federal benefits for same-sex unions.

Read Holder’s full remarks here:

Last June, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision – in United States v. Windsor – holding that Americans in same-sex marriages are entitled to equal protection and equal treatment under the law. This ruling marked a historic step toward equality for all American families. And since the day it was handed down, the Department of Justice has been working tirelessly to implement it in both letter and spirit – moving to extend — federal benefits to married same-sex couples as swiftly and smoothly as possible.

Recently, an administrative step by the Court has cast doubt on same-sex marriages that have been performed in the state of Utah. And the governor has announced that the state will not recognize these marriages pending additional Court action.

In the meantime, I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages. These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds. In the days ahead, we will continue to coordinate across the federal government to ensure the timely provision of every federal benefit to which Utah couples and couples throughout the country are entitled – regardless of whether they in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages. And we will continue to provide additional information as soon as it becomes available.

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Michael Marriott

    January 10, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Great!

  2. Chen Yi-chien

    January 10, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Let's put on a fight!!!

  3. Cori Wolvesbane

    January 10, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    if you dont like gay marriage than dont gay marry, no reason they cant, the country should be free, and people should be free to do whatever does not do harm to themselves or others and no harm comes out of gay marriage so far thats been proven, gay marriage exists in a few other states, the world has not ended.

  4. L. Christopher Bird

    January 10, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    Apparently, Utah;s Governor does not think his non-heterosexual constituants should get married, but he is more than willing to hold on to the money they generated by obtaining 1300 Marriage Licenses. Let's tell him to give it back until his state recognizes their unions.:

    https://www.change.org/petitions/utah-governor-gary-r-herbert-refund-all-license-fees-to-same-sex-couples-until-utah-recognizes-their-marriages#

  5. Dan H Kelly Jr

    January 11, 2014 at 5:43 am

    Agreed. As long as you're not hurting anybody else and it's consenting adults So when can I sign up my 6 ives for federal benefits?

    • Rodg

      January 11, 2014 at 6:25 am

      When the multiple wives people go after the right the same way gay and lesbian people have done. If they want it, they need to go after it, just like any/everyone else whose Rights are wrestles away from them.
      But with multiple wives…Just a friendly head’s-up; expect a Backlash of “Biblical” proportions.

  6. Rodg

    January 11, 2014 at 6:26 am

    Sorry for the type-o’s, the morning coffee hasn’t kicked in yet… ;-)

  7. Cori Wolvesbane

    January 11, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Dan H Kelly Jr
    thats fine
    polygamy is even considered biblical marriage so not even christians can dissagree with it since many people in the bible had more than one wife. so why not? as long as all your wives consent and you are not abusive to them so be it go for it I think it should be legal too.

  8. Dan H Kelly Jr

    January 11, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Cori Wolvesbane – Yes. But are they going to pay benefits to all of my wives?

  9. Cori Wolvesbane

    January 11, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    Dan H Kelly Jr
    heck if i know, I dont study law so I dont know how it would work for multiple spouses but I really dont care, its your choice who to spend your life with, as for benefits who knows, you have multiple children you get benefits for children… if all the wives worked they would all have to pay taxes… well whatever to me, if it ever becomes legal government would have to find a system for it no matter what it is.

  10. Cori Wolvesbane

    January 12, 2014 at 7:02 am

    Dan H Kelly Jr
    I dont know how it would work but politicians would find a way. Who knows… I just know you should be able to marry whoever you chose, it is a free country after all and if any amount of humans at whatever gender want to marry and are at age of consent they should… its the politicians job to figure out benefits and such and they would just have to sit and discuss what would be fair and best.

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World

Transgender, intersex activists participate in White House listening session

Alexus D’Marco from the Bahamas took part

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White House, gay news, Washington Blade
(Bigstock photo)

Sixteen transgender and intersex activists from around the world on Tuesday participated in a White House listening session.

A State Department spokesperson told the Washington Blade the meeting was one of “a series of listening sessions that State is organizing on the human rights of transgender individuals” through the Interagency Working Group on Safety, Inclusion and Opportunity for Transgender Americans, which the White House Domestic Policy and Gender Policy Councils created in June.

The Departments of Justice, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Education, Homeland Security, Labor, Interior and Veterans Affairs participate in the working group. The State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development are, according to the State Department spokesperson, “also participating to strengthen efforts to protect transgender individuals from violence and discrimination around the world.”

“These listening sessions will inform the working group’s review of policies that drive violence and poverty for transgender individuals at home and around the world, including homelessness, employment discrimination, violence and abuse, and bullying and rejection at school,” said the State Department spokesperson.

Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad who officially began her tenure on Monday, is among those who took part in the meeting, which is one of three that happened on Tuesday. Additional meetings are scheduled to take place later this week.

“She looks forward to learning from transgender and intersex human rights defenders what their most pressing priorities are for continued U.S. engagement,” said the State Department spokesperson.  

Alexus D’Marco, executive director of the D’Marco Organization in the Bahamas, is among those who the White House invited to participate in one of Tuesday’s sessions.

“It is timely and important that the Caribbean region is included in this discussion,” D’Marco told the Blade. “As a region, we are often left behind. LGB and trans citizens in the Caribbean are becoming more visible; their access to healthcare, housing, justice, education and a decent quality of life are often impeded and fuel by stigma and discriminations.”

“I am grateful to be apart of theses discussion to move the Caribbean region forward,” added D’Marco.

The White House earlier this year released a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad. State Department spokesperson Ned Price in May noted to the Blade that funding efforts “to protect human rights and to advance nondiscrimination around the world” are among the administration’s global LGBTQ rights priorities.

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D.C. ends funding for Casa Ruby LGBTQ homeless shelter

Group scrambles to raise private donations to prevent Oct. 1 shutdown

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Ruby Corado, gay news, Washington Blade
Ruby Corado is hoping to raise private donations to keep the shelter open. (Blade file photo)

The D.C. Department of Human Services on Sept. 24 informed the LGBTQ community services center Casa Ruby that it will not renew its annual $850,000 grant that, among other things, funds Casa Ruby’s emergency “low-barrier” shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth and adults.

Casa Ruby founder and CEO Ruby Corado said DHS informed her of its decision to discontinue the grant less than a week before the end of the current fiscal year when the funding is set to expire, which could result in the shutdown of the shelter on Oct. 1. 

Corado has since launched a GoFundMe appeal seeking help from the community so that the 50-bed shelter and 24-hour drop-in space located at the Casa Ruby headquarters at 7530 Georgia Ave., N.W. might continue to serve LGBTQ people in need of emergency housing. 

“After 9 years of serving thousands of homeless LGBTQ youth & adults, we are forced to close the doors to our most important program @Casa Ruby (Our Low Barrier Housing) on October 1st, 2021,” Corado states in her GoFundMe appeal. 

“This is also a terrible loss of 30 jobs that will impact the lives of Trans & Gender Non-Binary & other employees who now may face homelessness themselves – A HORRIBLE TRAGEDY,” the GoFundMe appeal states. 

Corado told the Washington Blade on Monday that she and the Casa Ruby staff were hopeful but uncertain whether emergency contributions from members of the community might be able to prevent a complete shutdown of the shelter. 

“We appreciate the work that Casa Ruby has done to serve homeless youth in the District of Columbia,” said DHS Interim Deputy Administrator Sheila Strain Clark in a Sept. 24 letter informing Corado of the decision to discontinue the funding. 

“Under Article VI. A. of Grant Agreement #DHS-FSA-HYRA-006-18 LGBTQ Homeless Youth Low-Barrier Beds (Grant Agreement), DHS at its discretion, and subject to the availability of funding, may extend the Grant Agreement for additional terms,” Strain Clark says in her letter. “At this time, DHS has decided not to extend the Grant Agreement for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022,” she wrote.

Strain Clark didn’t provide a specific reason for the DHS decision to discontinue the funds in her letter to Corado. In response to a request from the Blade for the reason why the grant was terminated, a DHS spokesperson sent the Blade a statement from DHS Director Laura Zeilinger commenting on the DHS decision, but that also did not provide a specific reason for the funding cutoff. 

“DHS is committed to the safety and well-being of youth, including LGBTQ+ youth, who we know disproportionately experience homelessness,” Zeilinger says in the statement. “We are not decreasing funding for LGBTQ+ youth services which will continue to be offered through the Continuum of Care,” the statement says.

“Covenant House Washington and True Colors will now provide LGBTQ+ specific services for youth in the Deanwood community of Ward 7. These are new services in this community,” the statement continues.

“Grant renewal decisions are based on ensuring accountability and continuity of quality services and the safety of our residents,” the statement says. “We value the community organizations who deliver these services and honor the contribution of Casa Ruby.”

The decision by DHS to discontinue the Casa Ruby homeless shelter grant came just under six months after Casa Ruby filed an administrative complaint against DHS, charging the D.C. government agency with ignoring and failing to stop one of its high-level officials from allegedly engaging in anti-transgender discrimination and retaliation against Casa Ruby.

The six-page complaint, which was prepared by Casa Ruby’s attorneys and signed by Corado, says the DHS official in question, whose name is redacted from the publicly released copy of the complaint, had acted in an abusive and discriminatory way toward Corado and other Casa Ruby employees. It says the targeted employees were overseeing three DHS grants awarded to Casa Ruby that funded shelters providing emergency housing for homeless LGBTQ people.

DHS has declined to comment on the complaint, saying it was investigating its allegation.

Corado told the Blade at the time Casa Ruby announced it had filed the complaint that the DHS official named in the complaint appeared to be retaliating against Casa Ruby, among other reasons, for a decision by Corado to decline a request by DHS that Casa Ruby move its main homeless shelter to a site on Division Avenue in Northeast D.C. Corado said she believed the location would be unsafe for Casa Ruby’s transgender clients. 

Corado points out that the location to which the DHS official wanted the Casa Ruby shelter to move was near the site on Division Avenue where transgender woman Deeniquia “Dee Dee” Dodds, 22, was shot to death during a July 4, 2006, armed robbery in which D.C. police said a group of male suspects were targeting transgender women. 

Corado said that as of Tuesday, members of the community and supporters had contributed about $75,000 through the GoFundMe appeal, raising hope that an immediate shutdown of the shelter could be averted.

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Africa reeling from scourge of gender-based violence

The pandemic, poverty has exacerbated problem

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(Social media photo from NASA)

The effects of gender-based violence in Africa are now being reverberated throughout the continent and have been exacerbated by the current COVID-19 pandemic.

A country like South Africa, according to Public Works and Administration Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, has the highest rate of gender-based violence in the world, a sentiment which was recently echoed by Police Minister Bheki Cele, who cited that over 1,000 cases of gender-based violence are recorded on a daily basis in South Africa.

However, regardless of South Africa being a hotspot of gender-based violence, it is not the only country on the continent that is witnessing a surge in the cases. Relatively all the countries in Africa are now seeing an increase in the number of gender-based violence cases.

Although cultural and religious norms have been seen as the major contributing facets to the issue of gender-based violence, unemployment and poverty have also been highlighted as among the major reasons of the scourge and as a matter of fact, Africa is regarded as the poorest continent by organizations such as the U.N., the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund with millions surviving on less than $1 per day.

As a result, the anger associated with hunger, unemployment and lack of financial stability is in most cases channeled towards the “weaker gender” as Nicola Rodda, a victim and gender-based violence activist from South Africa who I interviewed aptly states.

“My view of the cause of GBV is that the abuser feels a lack of power in some situation and regains the sense of power through abusing the weaker victim whether be it sexually, physically, emotionally or financially with male on female and male on child violence being the most common but they are not the only forms that occur but the two I have mentioned are the most prevalent,” said Nicola.

With that being said, I also took up the cause by interviewing Knowledge Chuma from Zambia, the founder and chairperson of the Zambia Wushu Kungfu Federation, a non-profit organization that focuses on the issues of gender-based violence and he also shared the same sentiment as Nicola citing poverty and cultural norms as the root cause of GBV in Africa.

“The causes of GBV are deeply rooted in discriminatory cultural beliefs and attitudes that perpetuate inequality and powerlessness, in particular of women and girls. Various actors such as poverty, lack of education, livelihood opportunities, impunity for crimes and abuse also tend to contribute and reinforce the culture of discrimination and violence based on the gender. Such factors are frequently aggravated in terms of conflict and displacement as the rule of law, as societies and families are torn apart,” said Knowledge.

So now that the root cause of gender-based violence has been established one would now ask how then can the continent rid itself from such a heinous act? Rest assured this is the follow-up question I also brought before Knowledge and Nicola which they tackled immaculately and not only that but they both came out with ways a victim of gender-based violence can be able to get assistance from law enforcement agents and how friends and family members can help in the journey to recovery.

“The best way for the continent to tackle gender-based violence is multifactorial. In Africa, we tend to have patriarchal societies in which men hold greater power than women so it is easy for a conflict to degenerate into a situation where a man exerts his power over the woman either physically or sexually. So the solution to that is not just changing patriarchal roles although education can play a large role of understanding gender equality and equal gender rights, however, in the broader context the sense of helplessness and powerlessness created in the abuser can often be the result of poverty, unemployment, feeling powerless in the face of economic or other social pressure so uplifting the continent as a whole in terms of job availability, quality of life, quality of services would help in bringing out gender-based violence in addition to a strong element of education on gender equality and the right of a female or child not to live in fear of their abuser.

Moreover, if one reports a case of gender-based violence to the police and no action is taken then the victim should approach the head of the police and if there is still no action then the victim has to approach the courts directly for perfection and the best way family members and friends can assist a victim of gender-based violence would be to help the victim, remove herself or himself from the circumstances because by and large it is true that an abuser who abuses once will abuse again so the best way is not to allow the victim near the abuser.

In addition, a victim can also approach trauma counsellors that can be accessed through the police or gender-based violence organizations free of charge and also to find further recourse of being able to defend herself or himself be it physically or financially through organizations like Legal Aid or religious organizations because that can protect the victim and provide support for the victim in the longer term from being re-abused either by the original abuser or another person who might perceive him or her vulnerable. Gender-based violence is one of the biggest scourges that is being faced on the African continent,” said Nicola.

Moreover, Knowledge cited that education is the most important factor and also shared some words of wisdom on how friends and family can be able to approach and engage with a victim of gender-based violence that does not show apathy.

“What the African continent must do to avert the issue of GBV is to educate youths and adults about this serious issue. We need to give the youths the arts, sports or academic skills that they might need in future to avoid lack of employment that leads to depression and anxiety because that also contributes to the causes of GBV.

If friends or family are approached by the victim the best way is by responding in a soothing manner such as, I believe you! I am here for you! You can tell me as much or as little as you want! It is not your fault! I am glad you told me! I am glad you came to me! So we need to support them because if we do not it becomes discriminatory,” said Knowledge.

The onus is now upon every African to do their best in lynching off gender-based violence as on a daily basis it leaves someone with a mental or physical challenge and catastrophic challenges for the bereaved.

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