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Forgetting Washington and Moving on to Maryland July 28, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in legal, lgbt Issues, marriage equality.
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In a quasi-unusual move, the Washington Supreme Court justices have discussed why the decision against marriage equality took over a year to come down. It seems as if the diverse views on the case resulted in an elongated opinion writing process. Although I disagree with the opinion in the case, it seems as if the decision-making process was more about legal standing than popular opinion, which is good.

In other news… the Maryland high court has agreed to hear a case seeking to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Just when you think the flurry of court cases are over, more seem to come.


Changing Strategies After the Washington Supreme Court Denies Marriage Equality July 26, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in legal, lgbt Issues, marriage equality.
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After nearly 16 months of waiting for a decision on the marriage equality case in Washington state, the ruling has come down. In a 5-4 decision, the Washington Supreme Court ruled there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage and that a law banning marriage equality is constitutional.

Although the ruling did not come as a shock to LGBT advocates, it is a huge defeat which could have tremendous repercussions for those fighting for equal rights. After a month of legal defeats in New York, Georgia, Colorado and now Washington, it is time for the movement to reinvent itself and its strategies for achieving equal rights.

On Tuesday, a full-page advertisement affirming the movement’s dedication to marriage equality was printed in 50 papers throughout the country. Dozens of LGBT organizations, activists and allies signed on to this statement:

From coast to coast, millions of people and hundreds of organizations are working to protect gay and lesbian families by ending their exclusion from marriage, with all its protections, responsibilities and human significance. This is happening in state legislatures, in the media, in the courts, and around millions of kitchen tables. Along the way, there will be advances and setbacks, but we will not stop until every American family is treated fairly, with dignity and equality under the law.

The sentiment of the ad is much appreciated at a time when gay and lesbian families are feeling increasingly under attack from anti-gay organizations, religious leaders and Congress, but the ad also seems to overstate the movement’s focus on state legislatures and kitchen tables. LGBT advocates at the state and national level have placed a substantial portion of their resources into court battles, attempting to overturn laws instead of changing the hearts and minds of Americans. As has happened throughout history, the courts have failed to protect a marginalized group because of conservative and rigid religious beliefs. The justice system has failed to protect gay and lesbian people, so the movement needs to refocus its energies on the “hearts and minds”.

Marriage equality will have to be achieved through state legislatures and ballot initiatives, which requires using resources to ensure Americans understand the impact discriminatory laws have on LGBT people and the children living in their homes. Court battles can play a role, but most Americans will not change their view of gay and lesbian people simply because a few judges interpret the law one way or the other.


Also… check out the great work of GLAAD and The Task Force. Every year, GLAAD trains thousands of people how to talk to the media so our lives reach homes it otherwise would have missed. GLAAD plays the media watchdog role – establishing relationships with reporters it can pitch stories to and ask for help when unfair reporting occurs. The Task Force focuses on grassroots work, sending troops throughout the country to provide support for states and communities advocating for LGBT legislation.

Here is what others are saying:

Pandagon – Washington State Rules Against Marriage Equality

BlogNYC – Washington Joins Ranks of Federal Fag Bashers

Fair Wisconsin – Washington Court Rejects Challenge

The Tin Man – Andersen v King County

Washington Supreme Court Rules Against Marriage Equality July 26, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in legal, lgbt Issues, marriage equality.
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The Washington Supreme Court decision is out, and we lost. More to come…

Washington Supreme Court Case on Marriage Equality Expected Within Hours July 26, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in legal, lgbt Issues, marriage equality.
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The Washington Supreme Court is expected to release its decision in a marriage equality case that was argued over 15 months ago. Both supporters and opponents of marriage equality are optimistic about the upcoming ruling. Unlike in the New York case, I am not about to predict which way the court will rule… I believe it is too close to call.

The impact of this court case could be tremendous. A loss could push the LGBT movement away from relying on legal court battles and renew its focus on legislation. A win could rejuvenate LGBT legal rights groups that have been demoralized by a series of losses over the past month.

This is perhaps one of the most important legal decisions on marriage equality since the Goodridge ruling legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. The decision could come down in the next few hours (between 11am-1pm ET).

It’s Painful, But the ACLU Should Defend Fred Phelps July 23, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in anti-gay activists, legal, lgbt Issues, religion distorted.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, spokesman for anti-gay hate group Westboro Baptist “Church”:

I told the nation, as each state went after these laws, that if the day came that they got in our way, that we would sue them. At this hour, the wrath of God is pouring out on this country.

A true ideological dilemma. As Fred Phelps and his incestuous family began protesting outside military funerals with signs thanking God for dead American soldiers, lawmakers at both the local, state and federal level began passing laws banning protests at funerals. Phelps claims God is punishing America and its soldiers for the nation’s acceptance of gay and lesbian people.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which claims free speech rights as one of its main causes, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Fred Phelps. The lawsuit argues that a Missouri law banning protests for an hour before and after funerals is unconstitutional because it infringes on Fred Phelps’ freedom of speech. The ACLU has taken up the case despite Fred Phelps’ protests at the funerals of AIDS victims and gay hate crime victims such as Matthew Shepard.

Liberals and many LGBT advocates have harshly criticized the ACLU for the lawsuit, arguing that its defense of a group that wishes death on gay and lesbian people is contrary to progressive politics and the ACLU’s mission. As a gay man who works in the LGBT movement, it is hard to stomach the thought of the heroic ACLU using its resources to support a hate group like Westboro Baptist Church, but I believe the organization is doing the right thing.

It is important to forget the plaintiff in this case and instead analyze the law being challenged. Although protesting at the funerals of innocent and good people is a repulsive use of free speech, I believe this right must be upheld. If the courts allow free speech rights to be taken away during funerals, where else will lawmakers find a constitutional right to block protests or rallies? If gay rights advocates want to protest outside Westboro Baptist Church or another anti-gay religious institution, will conservative lawmakers pass a ban on protesting outside houses of worship? The precedent is a scary one and I commend the ACLU for looking past the plaintiff to realize free speech needs to be defended.

I would also argue that the ACLU is not harming the LGBT movement by allowing Fred Phelps to continue his “God Hates Fags” protests. Although it hurts to watch such a hateful man focus all his energy on condemning a particular community, I believe ordinary Americans are also turned off by such demonstrations. When mourners at a military funeral see Phelps with signs that say “God Loves Dead Soldiers” and “Fags Die, God Laughs”, there is the potential for an empathetic connection between two groups that are often times at odds: the gay and lesbian community and military families. These protests can help conservatives understand the viciousness behind anti-gay spokespeople and may result in changed hearts and minds.

Even Focus on the Family has denounced Fred Phelps and his entourage as “real haters within the church”. This condemnation was not done out of love for gay people, but because Focus on the Family realizes that this intense hatred backfires and creates sympathy for the gay and lesbian people who must cope with such vile rhetoric. Fred Phelps is too extreme… his protests help bridge an understanding between everyday Americans and the gay and lesbian community.

Where my frustration lies is not with the ACLU, which is acting appropriately, but with the lawmakers sitting in Congress and state legislatures throughout the country. I do not agree with laws banning funeral protests, but I wonder why such legislation is being proposed at this time. Why is it that lawmakers feel Phelps has crossed a moral line by protesting at military funerals, ignoring the fact that he has demonstrated outside the funerals of gay hate crime victims for years? Are dead soldiers on one-side of a moral line and gay hate crime victims on the other side? Why didn’t lawmakers who believe in this law stand up for gay and lesbian people who have faced years of Fred Phelps torture? There is a true political calculation in those supporting this flawed law banning the protests.

I hope the ACLU is successful in defending Fred Phelps’ right to free speech. A loss for the ACLU and Fred Phelps is a loss for all progressives who believe community organizing and demonstrations are vital parts of affecting policy in Washington. The ACLU has been a leader in standing up for LGBT rights and it has not turned its back on the community by defending Fred Phelps. A win for Phelps is a win for the gay community: our free speech rights remain intact and Phelps is able to continue his anti-gay crusade that turns moderates away from the anti-gay right.

Another benefit of overturning the ban on funeral protests: the LGBT community can show up in droves once Fred Phelps leaves this Earth for the fiery pit he claims gay people are heading to.

I can imagine that many disagree with my position. On this issue especially, I understand dissent. Here are some blogs with varying positions on the ACLU’s defense of Phelps:

From on High – Leave it to the ACLU

short-term memory loss – Goodbye ACLU

Calumet Chapter: ACLU of Indiana – An Example Of The ACLU Standing Up For Religious Freedom

Blue Crab Boulevard – Lie Down With Dogs

Reformed Chicks Blabbing – Free Speech and the ACLU

The Turner Report – ACLU Sues on Behalf of Funeral Picketers

Toadpond – ACLU Gets It Wrong … Again

Alternate Brain – Yo, Dickheads