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Mormons make case for Utah, Okla. marriage bans

LDS Church joins other religious groups in legal filing before Tenth Circuit

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The Mormon Church filed a brief before the Tenth Circuit in opposition to same-sex marriage (photo from wikimedia by Joe Ravi).

The Mormon Church filed a brief before the Tenth Circuit in opposition to same-sex marriage. (Photo from wikimedia by Joe Ravi)

The Mormon Church joined other major Christian groups on Monday in filing a legal brief supporting bans on same-sex marriage in Utah and Oklahoma, although they rely on a study that authors say shouldn’t be used as evidence against same-sex marriage.

The 53-page document urges the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold bans on same-sex marriage on the argument that children are better off when raised by opposite-sex parents.

“Every child has a father and a mother,” the brief states. “Procreation within a stable male-female marriage gives a child a uniquely full human context that accounts for both the child’s biology and the deeper intentions and commitments of the child’s parents. The male-female ideal in marriage and parenting provides children security and other irreplaceable benefits.”

To bolster this argument, the brief on page 24 relies on a 2002 study from the D.C.-based non-profit Child Trends, titled “Marriage from a Child’s Perspective: How Does Family Structure Affect Children and What Can We Do About It?” The study makes no explicit reference to same-sex marriage.

But anti-gay groups have cited this study before in separate briefs filed before the Supreme Court last year in favor of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act — much to the objection of its authors who say their research says nothing about same-sex marriage.

Frank Walter, a spokesperson for Child Trends, reiterated that objection Tuesday in an email to the Washington Blade.

“Child Trends has been diligent in noting that it is inaccurate to make conclusions about the well-being of children being raised in same-sex households based on our study on heterosexual households,” Walter said. “As noted, this was not part of the study. In fact, we made this case in parliamentary hearings on this issue in Ireland when we were alerted that our information was being misrepresented.”

The study was also cited in the legal brief that the state of Utah filed last week before the Tenth Circuit in favor of its ban on same-sex marriage. The research also comes up in at least one other friend-of-the-court brief that was signed by social scientists and Mark Regenrus, who produced a discredited study against same-sex parenting.

Major psychological and family groups have disputed the notion that gay parents aren’t as fit as straight parents in raising children. Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out in support of same-sex marriage.

Walter encouraged experts on the issue to research the issue of same-sex parenting because of the prevalence of LGBT families.

“We do not have data on children in same-sex families but hope research will be done in this area given the significant number of gay and lesbian families raising children,” Walter said.

The brief was filed in two separate cases related to same-sex marriage: one is the case filed against Utah’s ban, known as Kitchen v. Herbert, the other is the case filed against Oklahoma’s ban, known as Bishop v. Smith.

In addition to the LDS Church, other groups listed on the filing are the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; National Association of Evangelicals; the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; and Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

The LDS Church is joining others in filing the brief despite an earlier media report from local Salt Lake City affiliate FOX 13 saying the church wouldn’t issue a filing in the case. The church didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on why it was participating in filing despite this report.

Additionally, the brief cautions the court against striking down marriage bans on the basis that they adhere to the traditional concerns of morality, suggesting they should be upheld on the basis of freedom of religion.

“It follows that subjecting marriage laws and amendments to unusual constitutional scrutiny because they coincide with traditional morality would also raise grave First Amendment concerns,” the brief states. “Though differing religious groups may align on different sides of the marriage issue, judges cannot pronounce the religious beliefs of one set of voters progressive and another ignorant or hateful.”

The brief is along the lines of similar filings that the Mormon Church and other religious groups submitted before the U.S. Supreme Court last year when California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act were before the court.

But there’s a key difference: even though the earlier filing included other groups, the only law firm in that document was the Salt Lake City-based Kirton & McConkie, which handles legal matters for the LDS church. Now, Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has joined that firm in signing the document before the Tenth Circuit.

Furthermore, the brief disputes the assertion often made by LGBT advocates (and courts) that bans on same-sex marriage were motivated out of animus toward LGBT people — a key consideration in determining the measures are unconstitutional.

“The accusation is false and offensive,” the brief states. “It is intended to suppress rational dialogue and democratic conversation, to win by insult and intimidation rather than by reason, experience, and fact. In truth, we support the husband-wife definition of marriage because we believe it is right and good for children, families, and society.”

John Gustav-Wrathall, senior vice president of the LGBT Mormon group Affirmation, said he concurs with the view the church isn’t motivated by animus in its opposition to same-sex marriage.

“There may be animus within the Mormon population, just as there is in the population at large,” Gustav-Wrathall said. “Some of that animus may fuel fervor for political activism against same-sex marriage. But generally we’ve seen tremendous progress in the understanding of LGBT people and of same-sex relationships in the church within recent years.”

The Mormon Church has been a key opponent of same-sex marriage after taking a lead role in passing Prop 8 in 2008. Although the church, with a few exceptions, largely stayed out the ballot fights in 2012, it was vocal against the legalization of same-sex marriage in Hawaii and has participated in legal cases to defend bans on same-sex marriage.

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Comings & Goings

McCarty named director of partnerships at Universe

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Steven McCarty

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].

Congratulations to Steven McCarty on his new position with Universe, as Director of Partnerships. Universe supports movement organizations, labor unions, and Democratic campaigns, with the software they need to win. On accepting the new position he said, “I’m most excited to take my years of campaign and technology experience to down-ballot Democrats across the country as we fight to preserve our Democracy this election cycle.” 

Prior to this, McCarty was Business Development + Partnerships Lead, at STAC labs (State Technology Acceleration Collaborative), where he spearheaded strategic business development initiatives, expanding STAC labs’ partner network by 400% with the launch of the Progressive Tech Index and doubling DemLaunch user base from four to 11 states within a year. Prior to that he was president at The Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C.; Senior Customer Success Manager at Crowdskout; Vice President at Circle K International, Indianapolis, Ind.; and a summer fellow at Michigan State AFL-CIO, Lansing, Mich. 

He has done a lot of volunteer work, including being an elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for ANC 2G04, representing Blagden Alley, Naylor Court, and Shepherd Court. He received a Youth Champion Award for outstanding support to LGBTQ Youth, from SMYAL; and was named a Kiwanis Member of the Year, Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C.

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District of Columbia

Cherry Fund files lawsuit  against Republiq Hall

LGBTQ nonprofit says breach of contract led to $137,000 in lost revenue

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Cherry Fund claims Republiq Hall canceled a contract for one of its popular events. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Cherry Fund, the D.C.-based nonprofit organization that has raised money for HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ organizations for the past 27 years, filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court on May 31 charging Republiq Hall, a large entertainment venue in Northeast D.C, with abruptly and improperly cancelling Cherry Fund’s reservation to rent the hall for an April 6 event expected to draw 2,000 paid guests.

The event was to be one of several circuit dance parties that Cherry Fund produces as part of its annual Cherry weekend in April, which has raised several million dollars for LGBTQ related organizations since the Cherry weekend  events began in 1996.  

The lawsuit, which charges Republiq Hall with breach of contract, says the contract signed by the two parties in January called for Cherry Fund to pay Republiq Hall an initial deposit of $3,500 on Jan. 10, 2024, to be applied to a nonrefundable rental fee totaling $7,000 for the one-time use of the space on April 6.

Republiq Hall is located in a large former warehouse building at 2122 24th Place, N.E., near the intersection of Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue. 

According to the lawsuit, under the contract, Cherry Fund “was responsible for promoting the event, booking talent, and managing ticket sales,” with Cherry Fund to “retain all door fee revenues and a percentage of the net bar sales.”

The lawsuit states, “On February 28, after Plaintiff had already begun promoting the event and booking talent, the Defendant unilaterally and without just cause demanded an additional $9,000 from the Plaintiff. When the Plaintiff refused to pay the additional amount, the Defendant cancelled the reservation.”

 As a result of Republiq Hall’s action, the lawsuit states, Cherry Fund was “forced to book an alternative venue with significantly less capacity, resulting in substantial financial losses.” 

It says as a direct result of the alleged breach of contract, Cherry Fund “suffered financial damages in the amount of $130,000 in lost door fees and $7,000 in a lost percentage of the net bar sales that were estimated to be collected on the date of the event.”

A spokesperson for Republiq Hall did not respond to a phone message from the Washington Blade requesting a comment and a response to the lawsuit’s allegations.

Court records show that Superior Court Judge Juliet J. McKenna, who is presiding over the case, scheduled an initial hearing for the case on Sept. 6. McKenna issued an order providing guidance for how a civil litigation case should proceed that includes a requirement that Republiq Hall must file a response to the lawsuit within 21 days of being officially served a copy of the lawsuit complaint.

Sean Morris, the Cherry Fund president, issued a statement expressing disappointment over the developments leading to the lawsuit.

“Our organization, powered by volunteer efforts, relies on our annual event to fundraise for local non-profits,” he said. “This abrupt and unforeseen demand, and subsequent cancellation, has severely affected our ability to support vital community programs focused on HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ+ advocacy,” Morris says in his statement.

The lawsuit concludes by stating, “The Plaintiff, the Cherry Fund, respectfully requests the following relief: Direct compensatory damages for the lost benefits it was entitled to under the terms of the contract; Restitution for the benefits retained by the Defendant in unjust enrichment; Reasonable attorney fees and costs of this action; and Any other relief this court deems just and proper.”

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Maryland

Silver Spring Pride sign rebuilt in memory of beloved neighbor

GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $4,000

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Tony Brown's neighbors help repaint the Pride sign his late partner created in their Silver Spring, Md., neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Molly Chehak)

Residents of Silver Spring’s Rosemary Hills neighborhood have come together to rebuild a Pride sign. 

The sign was constructed in June 2020, and was meant to stay in place throughout Pride Month. Neighborhood residents, however, requested it stay up past its intended month-long display, and has remained in place for more than four years. 

The sign spelling LOVE is at the neighborhood’s entrance between Sundale and Richmond Streets. It was made from plywood and the O was painted in the colors of the Pride flag.

“We wanted to take it down, but we just felt it was not ours anymore and belonged to the neighborhood.” Tony Brown told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview. “It was a positive thing for the neighborhood and began to take on a life of its own.” 

Brown and his partner, Mike Heffner, designed the sign and said the Black Lives Matter movement inspired them to create it as a strong symbol of an accepting community.

The sign was vandalized numerous times last fall, resulting in neighborhood residents taking turns repairing it. Brown and his partner could not do the repairs themselves because Heffner was fighting Stage 4 lung cancer.

Heffner passed away on Oct. 6, 2023.

A GoFundMe page was set up to help raise funds for the replacement Pride sign, and it has raised more than $4,000. The replacement sign is more permanent and made of metal.

“I can’t speak for the neighborhood overall, but people who knew Mike I think are happy that we were able to honor his memory with this sign because this sign is so him,” Molly Chehak, a friend who lives next door to Brown, told the Blade. “He (Heffner) was an outgoing super social (person) who just made you feel good the way this sign does. It’s a perfect tribute to him.” 

Chehak and other neighbors created the GoFundMe account.

Heffner’s family and his neighbors are still working to rebuild the Pride sign. It has become a memorial to Heffner.

“We wanted to do one that was clearly a Pride reference,” said Brown, noting the L is a fully painted Pride flag that spirals across the entire letter. 

“For the O we wanted to do something reminiscent of times in the past, a throwback to the 60’s and 70’s so it’s a hippie montage of flowers and butterflies,” he said. 

Brown described the V as being colorful, nonbinary people hugging each other with the idea that love is more than what one may see. 

“During COVID, he had started painting rocks and putting kind and fun messages on them leaving them around places as sort of a pay it forward Karma and so the E is basically that stylized writing and to embrace a bunch of ways we embrace love,” he said. 

The final letter had the phrase “love is love” written repeatedly in various handwritings to pay homage to Heffner and what he did for his neighborhood during the pandemic. Brown’s four daughters — one of whom is a professional artist — and their friends designed it.

The landscape around the sign has also been transformed with rocks that honors Heffner’s love for Rosemary Hills and his passion for rocks.

Chehak also said Heffner always wanted a bench, and neighbors are looking to install one soon next to the Pride sign.

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