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10 weeks ago @ Equality on Trial - Open thread · 0 replies · +4 points

Update: As of close of business Wednesday, one of the 16 seats gained by the Democrats has slipped away, as Delegate Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax) has regained the lead in his race. So the likely outcome at this point will be a 51-49 GOP House, a truly shocking change from the previous 66-34 Republican majority.

Along with the election of Danica Roem, we also elected our legislature's first out-lesbian, Dawn Adams, a nurse who unseated a GOP incumbent in the Richmond suburbs. And, of course, we re-elected our two incumbent gay Delegates, Mark Sickles and Mark Levine.

On a somewhat bittersweet note, among the Republicans who lost were our two staunch pro-LGBT allies, Joe Yost of Giles County and Ron Villanueva of Virginia Beach, who have consistently supported us and were endorsed by Equality Virginia.

14 weeks ago @ Equality on Trial - Open thread UPDATE · 1 reply · +5 points

Kim Davis Is Touring Romania To Encourage The Government To Ban Gay Rights

Disgraced Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, infamous for going to jail over her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, is taking her anti-gay sideshow on the road. The lawless government official is in Romania exhorting citizens to take away the civil rights of gay people.

Davis is touring the country with Harry Mihet, Vice President of Legal Affairs and Chief Litigation Counsel for her attorneys at the religious right legal organization Liberty Counsel. The group has been designated an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

American fundamentalist Christians have joined forces with the Orthodox Church to try to change Romania’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The country’s laws currently define marriage as between “two spouses” and the advocates want it changed to “man and woman.”

Under Romanian law, the constitution can be changed if at least 500,000 residents petition the government for a change. The Coalition for the Family, a religious right group backed by the church, collected over 3 million signatures on the petition.

The petition was certified by the country’s highest court and is awaiting approval by the Senate. Parliament must approve any revisions before it goes to a national referendum. Proponents hope to hold the vote this autumn, but Romania’s president, Klaus Iohannis, has opposed the change. The largest opposition party also opposes it.

Davis and Mihet are having meetings with high ranking officials with the Orthodox Church, are giving speeches across the country, meeting with members of Parliament, and blitzing the media with anti-gay rhetoric and untruths. The two are using Davis’ jail sentence to “warn” Romanians that allowing same-sex marriage will bring back communist-era bans on religion.

“I am so glad for this amazing opportunity to finally introduce Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis personally to my Romanian people,” said Mihet, who was born in the country. “Her story resonates loudly with them, and they are receiving her tearfully and very warmly, because they can still remember the not-so-long-ago days when they were themselves persecuted and imprisoned for their conscience. The freedom of conscience transcends national, cultural, religious and denominational lines, and Romanians are determined to prevent such injustice from ever happening again in their country.”

In 2015, the hate group breathlessly announced that Davis had met with Pope Francis during his visit to the United States to discuss religious freedom, a claim the Vatican quickly debunked. The Pope did not know who Davis was when an Archbishop snuck her into a private reception. The Archbishop was later replaced and the Vatican issued a strong response to clarify the meeting was not a show of support for the lawless government official.

15 weeks ago @ Equality on Trial - Open thread and Second... · 2 replies · +8 points

Rick, good to know that you have made it to the mainland and will be able to recuperate from your four-week ordeal.

Needless to say, we have all been greatly concerned about you as we have followed news of the hurricanes. And it certainly hasn't been the same here without you!

33 weeks ago @ Equality on Trial - Open thread · 0 replies · +3 points

You are correct that the California Supreme Court struck down the statutory provision enacted by Proposition 22. Furthermore, the legislature and the Governor deleted that now-inoperative language in 2014. Also, Proposition 8 essentially took Proposition 22 and moved it from the statute books into the state constitution, making 8 and 22 one and the same. So I think we can consider Proposition 22 itself dead and gone.

However, reviewing the history of Proposition 22 is important, as it illustrates how the issue of interjurisdictional recognition would be revived by a reversal of Obergefell. Throughout the 1990's, it became clear that eventually some jurisdiction -- perhaps the Netherlands, perhaps Hawaii -- was going to adopt marriage equality. While virtually no one in California thought that their state was ever going to offer same-sex couples the right to marry, they became concerned by the prospect that such couples married in another jurisdiction would seek to have their marriage recognized by California. This was an understandable concern, since California law at the time provided for recognition of any marriage validly contracted under the laws of any other state or country. The purpose of Proposition 22 was to modify the state's marriage statutes to limit any such recognition to opposite-sex couples only. It passed with 61% of the vote in 2000.

As efforts to adopt similar statutes in other states moved forward, state courts began to issue opinions which found that such statutes were in conflict with equal protection guarantees of state constitutions. Marriage opponents realized that the only way to hamstring their state courts was to adopt amendments to state constitutions which would tie the hands of judges and legislators alike in regard to same-sex marriage. That strategy paid off handsomely for them with 30 states adopting such amendments.

As for the single subject rule, I think you are on the right track in thinking that any and all provisions dealing with marriage equality can be dealt with in a single referendum question.

33 weeks ago @ Equality on Trial - Open thread · 2 replies · +5 points

You have raised good questions, Deeelaaach. If the U. S. Supreme Court should reverse the Obergefell decision and hold that states have the right to prohibit same-sex marriage, it would invalidate all of the many federal court decisions which provided couples with the right to marry in numerous states. The Constitution of California, because of the adoption of Proposition 8 in 2008, would have to be amended before marriage could be restored.

An amendment repealing Proposition 8's prohibition would have to be approved by California voters by referendum. There are two ways such an amendment could be put before the voters: (1) by a 2/3 affirmative vote in both the California Senate and Assembly, or (2) by an initiative petition bearing the signatures of a number of California voters equal to 8% of the votes cast in the most recent election for Governor. Democrats by themselves currently hold greater than 2/3 majorities in both houses, and at least some Republicans would likely also support such an amendment. So an expensive and time-consuming petition effort would most likely not be necessary.

Proposition 8 was approved 52% to 48% in 2008. Given the growth in support for marriage equality over the last ten years (64% nationally in the most recent poll), it would be hard to imagine that a majority of California voters would not approve such an amendment and restore marriage rights for all.

Bottom line: California would be the least of our worries, compared to the other 29 states with constitutional marriage bans. But we have to be prepared to work hard in every state should the unthinkable come to pass.

33 weeks ago @ Equality on Trial - Open thread · 0 replies · +2 points

Thank you, Rick, for your kind words. They are especially generous coming from our site's perennial MVP who has kept us informed on everything from comparative Finnish religion to the Mr. Gay World 2017 competition. (And to prove that I am not always correct, I must admit that I predicted a win by Mr. Austria or Mr. Switzerland in that competition, no doubt due to a subconscious Alpine bias.)

34 weeks ago @ Equality on Trial - Open thread · 10 replies · +4 points

It would be nice to count California, Nevada, and Oregon, but unfortunately they are among the thirty states whose Constitutions prohibit same-sex marriage. The overturning of Obergefell would bring marriage to a halt in those thirty states. In addition, revived state statutes would end marriage equality in four additional states: Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming. Legislatures in Indiana, Iowa, and West Virginia, which previously rejected anti-marriage amendments, would be virtually assured of approving them, as their membership has significantly changed for the worse.

The action taken by Oregon in 2016 was just to revise its marriage statute to be gender-neutral. While that is a welcome gesture, it isn't needed under Obergefell and wouldn't be valid without Obergefell. Nevada is the only state out of thirty taking meaningful action to repeal its constitutional anti-marriage provision.

We will have to hope that Justice Gorsuch means it when he says that Obergefell is "settled law."

41 weeks ago @ Equality on Trial - North Carolina legisla... · 10 replies · +6 points

Another encouraging feature of the decision was the composition of the eight judges joining in the favorable opinion. Four of them were Reagan appointees, two Clinton, one Bush 41, and one Obama. The three dissenters included one Reagan appointee, one Bush 43, and a 90-year-old Ford appointee on senior status.

Let's hope the majority Republican support we received in the 7th Circuit will be helpful when an appeal is considered by the Supreme Court.

48 weeks ago @ Equality on Trial - Open thread · 1 reply · +3 points

guitaristbl, I'm not sure why you have concluded that Rep. Elliott is "anti-gay" or "supports anti-LGBT legislation" or that "his political ideas in terms of LGBT rights are the same as his predecessor's." Aside from the fact that he has not cast a single vote on any legislation yet, you are relying on two sentences in an AP article and reading between the lines to reach these conclusions.

So he's for "equal rights, not special rights." Haven't we been making that point to our opponents for years when they make false allegations that we are seeking "special rights"? And he's for "respecting other people's viewpoints," which is a basic requirement for any elected official (who wants to stay elected). And he's for "protecting religious freedom," which all of us who believe in the Constitution are. And since South Carolina has no law restricting the right of any business owner to refuse service to customers based on sexual orientation, there would be no reason for consideration of a phony "religious freedom" law which would merely restate existing rights.

SC Equality, South Carolina's leading LGBT rights organization, in fact endorsed Jason Elliott's election. According to the "Free Times" on 9/28/16, "Elliott says he supports equal rights for the LGBTQ community and would oppose a bill like North Carolina's law that places limitations on bathroom use by transgender people." That doesn't sound very "anti-gay" or "self-loathing" to me.

The most important things Rep. Elliott can do in his first term are to work hard addressing the issues the voters in his district care most about (jobs, schools, and roads), provide top-notch service to his constituents, and build interpersonal relationships with his legislative colleagues. Yes, he could instead spend his time sponsoring legislation to force bakers to sell wedding cakes, but the likely result of that would be a legacy as a one-term-and-out representative.

Justice Anthony Kennedy acquired his understanding of gay rights growing up in San Francisco sharing backyard barbecues with gay neighbors. During the long struggle for marriage equality, every poll showed much higher support from people who had a gay family member or friend. Being in the room matters, and now Jason is in the room.

49 weeks ago @ Equality on Trial - Open thread · 1 reply · +3 points

guitaristbl, I think we all share the same goals in securing equal treatment for LGBT people. We need to use the best strategies we can to get the best results we can, and sometimes we will not agree on what those strategies should be.

I agree wholeheartedly with you: "Let's get practical." So, let's.

The South Carolina House of Representatives has 124 members, 80 Republicans and 44 Democrats. One needn't have a Ph.D. in political science to recognize who will determine everything that body will or won't do over the next two years: the majority party. Having an openly gay Republican member there is of far more value than you may realize. While electing an openly gay Democratic member would be a welcome development, he or she would have minimal influence.

None of us -- including Jason Elliott -- knows exactly what issues may be raised over the next two years. Suffice it to say that South Carolina is not likely to make great strides in LGBT rights. But progress sometimes must be incremental, and we have seen in state after state that having LGBT representation in a legislative body has improved the results we have obtained. And having that representation in the majority party has been even more helpful.

It appears you are inclined to automatically label Republicans as "dangerous for LGBT people", even one who has been in office for only a few days. I hope you would not say that about Republican Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has made enormous advances possible for us in the Lawrence, Windsor, and Obergefell cases.