World AIDS Day Service – December 1, 2014


Ted Olson: ‘Point of no return’ on gay marriage passed

Ted Olson was Solicitor General of the United States during the period 2001-2004. Photo: Jack Gruber, USA Today

Ted Olson was Solicitor General of the United States during the period 2001-2004. Photo: Jack Gruber, USA Today


WASHINGTON — Former solicitor general Theodore Olson, the Republican lawyer who argued Bush v. Gore and the challenge to California’s Proposition 8, says the Supreme Court through action and inaction this month passed “the point of no return” on same-sex marriage.

“I do not believe that the United States Supreme Court could rule that all of those laws prohibiting marriage are suddenly constitutional after all these individuals have gotten married and their rights have changed,” he said in an interview on Capital Download. “To have that snatched away, it seems to me, would be inhuman; it would be cruel; and it would be inconsistent with what the Supreme Court has said about these issues in the cases that it has rendered.”

This month, the high court let stand without explanation appeals court rulings permitting gay marriage in five states. In an interview with The New Yorker published last week, President Obama said he believes it is a constitutional right but endorsed the court’s incremental approach.

Olson disagrees with that, saying the Supreme Court should take a case and affirmatively endorse marriage as a constitutional right. “I think the thing he overlooks…(is) that there are people in 18 states of the United States that don’t have this fundamental right that he has just announced that he believes in.”

Waiting for the process in lower courts to open the door to gay marriage in all 50 states “would not be good enough because it’s not now,” Olson said on USA TODAY’s weekly video newsmaker series. “When will that happen? And how much misery and how much suffering do individuals in this country have to experience before that happens?”

Given his Republican credentials, Olson has been an unlikely champion in the gay-marriage movement. He served in the Justice Department as assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration and solicitor general in the George W. Bush administration. He was the lead attorney facing Democratic counterpart David Boies in the landmark Bush v. Gore case that finally settled the 2000 election and argued theCitizens United v. Federal Election Commission that changed campaign finance law.

In 2009, he and Boies joined forces to challenge California’s ban on same-sex marriage. Just five years later, the number of states permitting couples of the same gender to marry has exploded from three to 32. Two-thirds of Americans now live in states that allow gay marriage.

“We never thought it would move this fast,” Olson says, attributing the change in legal status and public opinion both to “the work of a lot of lawyers” and the actions by individuals in Hollywood and across the country who have “revealed their sexual identity and told their story.”

Last week, a U.S. District Court judge in Puerto Rico dismissed a challenge to a law there that limits marriage to one man and one woman, but Olson predicts that decision will be overturned by the Appeals Court. He notes that a closely watched case before a three-judge panel in the 6th Circuit of Ohio could go either way, with Judge Jeffrey Sutton as the apparent swing vote.

“He’s a conservative and it’s possible that he might rule in favor of sustaining the prohibition,” Olson says. But if that happens, “all of the judges on the Circuit, I think, would come out the other way.”

At age 74, Olson has argued 61 cases before the Supreme Court, on issues ranging from the First Amendment to the separation of powers. He says he doesn’t think about his legacy: “I hope that I will have a few more years left.” But he adds that his work on gay marriage “is the legal accomplishment that I think will always mean the most to me.”

Source: USA Today, “Ted Olson: ‘Point of no return’ on gay marriage passed,” by Susan Page, 6:42 a.m. EDT October 27, 2014

Federal government recognizes same-sex marriages in six more states

Lin Davis, of Juneau, Alaska, shown wearing an orange rain coat, holds signs supporting gay marriage during a news conference Friday, Oct. 10, 2014, outside the federal courthouse in Anchorage, Alaska.  AP

Lin Davis, of Juneau, Alaska, shown wearing an orange rain coat, holds signs supporting gay marriage during a news conference Friday, Oct. 10, 2014, outside the federal courthouse in Anchorage, Alaska. AP

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Saturday that the federal government would recognize the marriages of same-sex couples in six additional states – Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming – bringing the total number of states in which same-sex marriages are federally recognized to 32, plus the District of Columbia.

The announcement means that gay couples married in those states can now qualify for a variety of federal benefits, including Social Security and veterans’ benefits. Holder made a similar announcement last week with respect to seven other states.

“With each new state where same-sex marriages are legally recognized, our nation moves closer to achieving of full equality for all Americans,” the attorney general said in a statement. “We are acting as quickly as possible with agencies throughout the government to ensure that same-sex married couples in these states receive the fullest array of benefits allowable under federal law.”

The announcement comes after the Supreme Court decided earlier this month to decline to hear any cases involving same-sex marriage, allowing lower court rulings in favor of marriage equality to stand. The decision effectively cleared the way for same-sex marriages in eleven states.

In addition, Holder announced on Saturday that the Justice Department has determined it can recognize marriages performed in Indiana and Wisconsin this past June. Those marriages were performed after federal district courts struck down the states’ bans on same-sex marriage, but the status of those marriages was thrown into confusion when officials in those states quickly asked the courts to stay their decision pending an appeal. With Holder’s announcement on Saturday, the federal government acknowledged that it would recognize any same-sex marriages performed in those states after the bans were struck down.

It’s been a heady few years for proponents of same-sex marriage. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage at the federal level in exclusively heterosexual terms. And though the Supreme Court’s decision to not hear any same-sex marriage cases disappointed some advocates who hoped the justices would seize the opportunity to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, others viewed the relatively quiet extension of marriage rights as a victory.

In a CBS News poll released earlier this year, 56 percent of Americans spoke in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. In the spring of 2012, that number was only 42 percent.

Source:  CBS News, “Federal government recognizes same-sex marriages in six more states,” By JAKE MILLERCBS NEWS, October 25, 2014, 1:12 PM

10 Things You Should Know About the Beleaguered National Organization for Marriage

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has suffered a great many defeats recently.  The group was founded in 2007 to help pass Proposition 8, California’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. However, now that the issue of marriage appears to be on a one-way path toward nationwide equality in America, NOM has expanded its war against basic civil rights and human dignity to touch virtually all aspects of life for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

What’s more, NOM has begun exporting its personal brand of anti-LGBT advocacy abroad, working with governments around the world to pass legislation targeting LGBT people for unfair treatment under the law.  NOM’s mission and work have changed over the years; take a look at 10 things you might not have known about the organization:

1.     NOM uses racially motivated tactics as part of its official strategy. From the group’s internal memos: “The strategic goal of the project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks – two key Democratic constituencies.” They’ve also tried to make opposition to equality a “key badge” of Latino identity in yet another attempt to divide.

2.     NOM thinks businesses like grocery stores, restaurants and hotels should be able to deny service to LGBT customers if they believe LGBT people are immoral.

3.     NOM’s Brian Brown says LGBT advocates are “bullies” and has compared the “persecution” he faces to that of Jesus Christ.

4.     NOM pushes discredited and harmful “conversion therapy,” even though practices aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation have been condemned by every major medical and mental health organization in the country.

5.     NOM’s Brian Brown says families headed by gay and lesbian parents aren’t “normal,” and he even traveled to Russia to support a draconian bill banning adoption by same-sex couples.

6.     Though NOM tries to portray itself as a grassroots organization, they aren’t. In reality, NOM is primarily funded by a few large donors who hide behind a wall of secrecy.

7.     NOM is so hell-bent on operating secretly; the organization is willing to break the law to avoid exposing its deep pockets.  In May the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices voted to fine NOM to the tune of over $50,000 after a four-year investigation exposed “a significant violation of law” by the national anti-LGBT organization.

8.     This isn’t about partisan politics. In 2014, facing a string of legal defeats, NOM has decided that the best use of its remaining funds is to attack Republicans just for being pro-equality.

9.     NOM hosted a rally and invited speakers who likened the marriage equality movement to slavery, and other terrible comparisons.

10.  NOM is losing support and donors fast as more people stand up for civil rights and against discrimination. Maybe that’s why Brian Brown is travelling all over the world looking for countries more hostile to equality and more open to NOM’s outdated views.


Source: HRC Blog, “10 Things You Should Know About the Beleaguered National Organization for Marriage,” October 22, 2014 by HRC staff

Obama: ‘I Think The Equal Protection Clause Does Guarantee Same-Sex Marriage’ In All States

President Barack Obama seems to have changed his tune on gay marriage, telling The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin he believes same-sex couples in all 50 states should be allowed to marry under the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

Obama first publicly backed gay marriage in May 2012, but noted he thought the issue should be left to the states. Speaking with Toobin for the Oct. 27 issue of The New Yorker, Obama said the best Supreme Court decision since he took office was the recent rejection of gay marriage appeals from five states, a move the president said is “a consequential and powerful signal of the changes that have taken place in society and that the law is having to catch up.”

While Obama said the high court “was not quite ready” to “indicate an equal-protection right across the board,” he personally believes same-sex marriage is protected under that clause. From The New Yorker:

Obama opposed marriage equality until May of 2012. He told me that he now believes the Constitution requires all states to allow same-sex marriage, an argument that his Administration has not yet made before the Supreme Court. “Ultimately, I think the Equal Protection Clause does guarantee same-sex marriage in all fifty states,” he said. “But, as you know, courts have always been strategic. There have been times where the stars were aligned and the Court, like a thunderbolt, issues a ruling like Brown v. Board of Education, but that’s pretty rare. And, given the direction of society, for the Court to have allowed the process to play out the way it has may make the shift less controversial and more lasting.

“The bulk of my nominees, twenty years ago or even ten years ago, would have been considered very much centrists, well within the mainstream of American jurisprudence, not particularly fire-breathing or ideologically driven,” Obama went on. “So the fact that now Democratic appointees and Republican appointees tend to vote differently on issues really has more to do with the shift in the Republican Party and in the nature of Republican-appointed jurists … Democrats haven’t moved from where they were.”

The federal government has extended federal benefits to same-sex married couples in states where gay marriage has been legalized, most recently giving benefits to those in the five states where the gay marriage appeals were rejected.

Read Toobin’s entire piece on Obama at The New Yorker.

Source:  The Huffington Post, “Obama: ‘I Think The Equal Protection Clause Does Guarantee Same-Sex Marriage’ In All States,” By Posted: 10/20/2014 9:22 am EDT Updated: 4 hours ago