Minnesota House Passes Marriage Equality 75-59

The bill now goes to the Senate – We could see marriages starting this summer!!!

Congratulations Minnesota!

Minnesota Debating Marriage Equality Today!

Here is a great video form Minnesota for All Families

From HuffPost Politics:

The Democratic-led state Legislature in Minnesota is expected to begin a final push on Thursday toward making it the 12th U.S. state to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples and the third this month after Delaware and Rhode Island.

Leaders in Minnesota’s state House of Representatives have scheduled a vote for Thursday to advance a bill recognizing same-sex marriage, which would be followed by a vote in the state Senate on Monday, party spokesmen have said.

Democratic Governor Mark Dayton has indicated that he supports making same-sex marriage legal in the state and has been pressing lawmakers for their backing.

Watch: An Open Letter to SCOTUS from Same Sex Family

Watch/Read this beautifully written and moving letter from a gay dad to Justice Scalia and his fellow justices.  Powerful and moving.

Below is the text, but watch the video – what a beautiful family!

Published on Mar 30, 2013

Dear Justice Scalia as well as your distinguished peers serving on the Supreme Court,

First let me thank you for hearing the historic cases this week on California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). My husband, Kelly Vielmo, and I adopted three beautiful siblings from DC’s foster care system last year. Being an inter-racial, same-sex family we are used to being conspicuous and sometimes the center of attention on a local level depending on where we happen to be. With the cases being heard in the Supreme Court this week our family is now on debate at the national level. With that said I am following with interest your ruling on these cases. One comment that stuck with me was the speculation of potential “deleterious” effects of kids having same-sex parents. After I looked up deleterious (adj. causing harm or damage) I had to reflect on the harm and damage that has been done to my children. I know that you are listening to these cases from a nationally-scaled legal point of view, but the intent of this letter is to offer you the lens and point of view of one individual family your rulings will affect.

Children who are placed in the care of foster systems throughout this nation have suffered from either the neglect or the abuse of their biological families. For all intents and purposes, we will call this deleterious parenting. Sadly my children were born into these circumstances. They further had statistics against them. The adoption rates of both African American children and sibling pairs (not to mention trios) are greatly reduced. When my husband and I looked at our options for growing our family, DC’s Child and Family Services Administration seemed to be our natural choice. We knew we wanted siblings, had no racial preference for our children, and living in the District were able to help our local community at the same time.

I do not want to go into too much detail of my childrens’ history for the sake of their privacy. When our children arrived we welcomed a five-year-old who was not potty trained, a two-year-old who was withdrawn, and an almost two-year-old who never learned to walk. Please understand that there were no biological impediments to the development of these children. Their situation was entirely brought on by deleterious parenting. Since their arrival our children quickly graduated from the need of any additional services to include physical, speech, and play therapy. They are now happy and active members of their community.

I do not tell you these facts to paint ourselves as the saviors of these children. These children have done more for us than we have for them. Having the extraordinary privilege of watching these childrens’ souls grow and thrive despite the obstacles placed before them has been the lesson of our lives. I tell this story to establish myself as an expert witness to the effects of deleterious parenting. As you prepare your response on Proposition 8 and DOMA you now have the opportunity to decide what further obstacles will face these children. What are the deleterious effects your decision will have on my children? What states within our nation can these children live in and still declare their family legal? Next year during tax season will their parents have to hire a CPA to determine who and how to list the children as dependents? When the first of their parents passes away will their family’s assets and property be preserved and passed between parents as a married family or be treated as legal strangers?

I am not naive enough to think that any verdict of your court will change the opinions or hearts of the individuals we encounter on a daily basis. I accept that the stares our family receives walking down the street on a daily basis elicits both judgment and inspiration. What I do not accept is that the United States of America is willing to devalue my childrens’ family more than others and have a separate grouping of laws and benefits. I pray that as you rule on these cases that you keep Cardel (6), Raine (4), and Ravyn (3) in your hearts and do all in your power to keep deleterious obstacles from their lives.

Respectfully Yours,

Jack Montgomery

 

Supreme Court Hears Both Sides on Same-Sex Marriage

Breaking News! CNN brings us the latest update as the Supreme Court hears both sides on same-sex marriage. An excerpt of the CNN article is below.

Washington (CNN) — As partisans argued pointedly over same-sex marriage outside the U.S. Supreme Court building, either hoping for or dreading a landmark decision, justices inside seemed reluctant Tuesday to extend a sweeping constitutional right for gays and lesbian to wed in all 50 states.

In the first of two days of hearings on cases that have the potential to fundamentally alter how American law treats marriage, Justice Anthony Kennedy — considered the likely deciding vote on the divided court — questioned whether justices should even be hearing the issue.

“This was a deeply divided Supreme Court, and a court that seemed almost to be groping for an answer here,” said CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who watched the arguments over California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage.

Voters approved the proposal 52% to 48% in November 2008, less than six months after the state Supreme Court ruled that marriage is a fundamental right that must be extended to same-sex couples.

The court will listen to arguments Wednesday on a separate challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which — like the California law — defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The overriding legal question in the California case is whether the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law prevents states from defining marriage as that state has.

Regarding allowing same-sex couples to marry, Justice Elena Kagan, a liberal member of the court, asked, “What harm is there to the institution of marriage?”

But more conservative members of the court took a go-slow approach. Justice Samuel Alito said the law on same-sex marriage is too new.

“There isn’t a lot of data on its effect” on children and the institution of marriage, he said.

While the justices were clearly torn on the larger constitutional questions, they may be poised to dismiss the appeal on jurisdictional grounds.

A key question is whether the private citizens who put Proposition 8 on California’s ballot have standing to defend it in court when the state’s governor and attorney general have refused to do so.

If the court dismisses the appeal on those grounds, it might mean lower federal court rulings declaring the proposition unconstitutional would stand.

But it wouldn’t allow for a broader, final rule outlining the power of states to say who can or can’t get married.
Kennedy admitted the law’s supporters are “not just any citizens.”

But he later raised concerns about whether the possibility of same-sex marriage was enough to establish they had suffered harm, a key jurisdictional hurdle allowing them to appeal in the first place.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said it is the state’s responsibility — through its elected leaders — to defend laws in court, and that private individuals could not establish “how their injury was separate from everyone else.”

Attorneys who represented the two couples seeking to overturn Proposition 8 said they couldn’t tell how the court would rule.

“We are confident where the American people are going with this,” said Theodore Olson. “We don’t know for sure what the United States Supreme Court is going to do, but we’re very, very grateful they listened, they heard, they asked hard questions, and there’s no denying where the right is.”

Andrew Pugno, general counsel for the Protect Marriage Coalition, the group defending Proposition 8, said their attorney had “credibly presented the winning case for marriage.”

“We think the hearing went very well,” he told reporters.

Two of the key plaintiffs are Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, a Burbank, California, couple who want to marry but can’t because of Proposition 8. They say the state is discriminating against them for their sexuality.
“It’s as simple as that,” Katami said after the hearing. “It’s our constitutional right and I cannot wait to start my family with Jeff.”

The court is unlikely to announce its decision until June.

Read the full article from CNN here.

Poll: 58% of Americans Support Gay Marriage

2013-03-18 13.30.43

 

In a recent ABC/Washington Post poll, respondents were asked “Do you think it should legal or illegal for gay and lesbian couples to get married?”  I am blown away that the 58% responded that, yes, LGBT couples deserve the same rights as straight couples.  The trend has been going in that direction for some time, but the pace has sped up considerably in the last few years.

See all the analysis here.

I wonder if the Supreme Court, who many feel will make a narrow ruling on the right to marry, pays attention to polling, and if they do, will they want to be on the right side of history or not?  Oral arguments start next Monday.  I can’t wait to hear what gems Justice Scalia spew out!

 

 

 

 

Watch: Hillary Clinton for Marriage Equality

Hilary Clinton stands for Marriage Equality for LGBT Americans.

(from HRC)

DOMA Digest

I follow gay rights news.  I have to.  I am married to a man.  Because of that, there is so much denied to us as a couple.  There are over 1500 rights we don’t have that straight couples do.  Some are annoying, like hospital visitation.  For us, in our state, we need to sign a form requesting that our husband is our “relative” that can make decisions.  Some rights cost us more money than straight couples.  We cannot file taxes as a married couple.  I cannot claim my husband as a dependent, even though he is a student and I am funding his schooling (which is triple the cost of residence – more on that later).  I can’t add him to my insurance plan, so we need to pay for two separate policies.  If I die, he is not entitled to spousal benefits and inheritance laws.  Some laws affect us very deeply.  My husband Canadian, and because of our discriminatory laws, I cannot sponsor him for residency here – so when his student visa expires in a few years, we have some very tough decisions to make.

Most of our problems stem from a law named the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.  DOMA is on our minds very frequently, as it is a lot of gay couples in our situation.  But in talking with friends and family, I realize that not everyone is as aware of DOMA as we are.  Even some gay friends are either totally unaware or grossly uneducated about this horrid law. I thought I would go through and give an overview of DOMA and where it stands now.

What is DOMA

DOMA was a law passed with bitarisan support in 1996.  It was signed into law that year by President Bill Clinton.  DOMA states, in summary:

Defense of Marriage Act – Amends the Federal judicial code to provide that no State, territory, or possession of the United States or Indian tribe shall be required to give effect to any marriage between persons of the same sex under the laws of any other such jurisdiction or to any right or claim arising from such relationship. Establishes a Federal definition of: (1) “marriage” as only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife; and (2) “spouse” as only a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife. (source)

In effect, it means that even if you allowed to marry in your state, or in another country, that marriage does not need to be recognized by other states, and that there is no federal recognition of your marriage.

Same Sex Marriage

The first state to allow gay couples to get married was Massachusetts in 2004.  Since then the list has grown to include Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Maine, Maryland,  New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington.  California allowed gays to wed for a short time in 2008, after the CA Supreme Court ruled that a law barring same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.  That year, voters in the state approved Proposition 8, defining marriage as between one man and one woman.  The details and fate of Prop 8 is a long story, but in terms of state recognition of marriage, CA does recognize the more than 18,000 couples that were legally married there between May and Nov, 2008.

There are several state that offer civil unions – that is a marriage like status with most of the same rights married couples receive in those states (but again, no federal recognition).  They are New Jersey, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois and Rhode Island.  Domestic Partnerships are a third tier of state recognition, and they are recognized in California, Nevada and Wisconsin.  Other states, counties and cities offer a variety of registries for same sex couples that offer a handful of rights.

Repeal of DOMA

There is currently a bill, the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) being introduced in congress.  The bill repeals doma, and according to the Human Rights Campaign:

…restores the rights of all lawfully married couples—including same-sex couples—to receive the benefits of marriage under federal law.  The bill also provides same-sex couples with certainty that federal benefits and protections would flow from a valid marriage celebrated in a state where such marriages are legal, even if a couple moves or travels to another state.

In a Republican lead House of Representatives, the bill has little chance of passage.

Court Challenges

There have been numerous challenges to DOMA’s constitutionality.  Most recently, challenges have focused on section 3 of the law – the part stating that marriage must be between one man and one woman to be recognized federally.  Nine courts have found DOMA to be unconstitutional based on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Several of these cases have been appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.  The court has agreed to hear arguments on one of the cases so far.  In the case The United States vs. Windor, Edith Windsor filed a case in.  When her longtime partner (together 40 years) and wife (married in Canada in 2007), Thea died, Ms Windsor was forced to pay over $300,000 in inheritance tax.  In the state of New York, where they lived and where same sex marriage is now legal,  a straight widow would pay nothing.  Lower courts have ruled in Ms Windsor’s favor, and when her case was appealed to the SCOTUS, Attorney General Eric Holder refused to defend DOMA.  House Republicans decided to take up the fight and hired Attorney Paul Clement.

Most people agree, it is only a matter of time before gay couples are allowed the right to marry in this country.  For some of us, the clock is ticking.  Will the Supreme Court make a decision this year striking down all anti marriage equality laws and constitutional amendments?  Probably not – most experts agree their ruling, if in favor of gay Americans, will be narrow…. but their decision may be a huge catalyst to speed up the the inevitable.

Below is a huge list of supporters of equality – ones that took the time to make that support official by sending a message to the SCOTUS -

Amicus Briefs

Oral arguments are set to be heard in late March 2013.  Prior to that, friend of the court briefs, or amicus briefs, as allowed to be filed.  Here is a list of those filed in support of Ms Windsor:

  • 278 Employers And Organizations Representing Employers
  • 212 Members of Congress
  • 15 States and the District of Columbia
  • American Bar Association
  • American Humanist Association et. al.
  • American Jewish Committee
  • American Historical Association and Historians
  • American Psychological Association et. al.
  • American Sociological Association
  • Anti-Defamation League et. al.
  • Former Cabinet Secretaries and Administrative Officials
  • Center for Fair Administration of Taxes
  • Cato Institute and Constitutional Accountability Center
  • Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
  • Constitutional Law Scholars
  • Family and Child Welfare Professors
  • Family Equality Council et. al.
  • Family Law Professors and American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
  • Former Federal Election Commission Officials
  • Federalism Scholars
  • Former Federal Intelligence Officer
  • Former Senators Bill Bradley, Tom Daschle, Christopher J. Dodd and Alan K. Simplson
  • Gay and Lesbian Medical Association
  • Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and Lambda Legal
  • Gary J. Gates, Williams Distinguished Scholar at UCLA School of Law
  • Institute for Justice
  • Labor Organizations
  • Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Bar Associations and Public Interest and Legal Service Organizations
  • Los Angeles County Bar Association
  • Former Military Officials
  • NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • Honorable Judge John K. Olson
  • Organization of American Historians and the American Studies Association
  • Outserve-SLDN
  • Partnership for NYC
  • Professors Nan D. Hunter, Suzanne B. Goldgberg et. al.
  • Political Science Professors
  • Religious Organizations
  • Scholars of the Constitutional Rights of Children
  • Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders et. al.
  • Survivors of Sexual Orientation Change Therapies
  • Utah Pride Center, Campaign for Southern Equality, Equality Federation and Twenty-Five Statewide Equality Organizations
  • Women’s Law Center et. al. (you can read pdf’s of each brief here)

Watch: Laura Bush, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell on Marriage Equality

A great ad showing 3 prominent GOP figures supporting equality.  Our time is coming!

 

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton Calls For Marriage Equality in State of the State Address

Governor Mark Dayton

Governor Mark Dayton

In his annual State of the State address yesterday, Minnesota’s Governor Mark Dayton urged law makers to pass marriage equality legislation.  Minnesota voters rejected a ballot measure to add a discriminatory constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage last November.

“Let me mention one other cause, which is controversial, but consistent with my faith and my principles. And, more importantly, consistent with this country’s founding principles and its Constitution. I believe that every Minnesotan should have the freedom to marry legally the person she or he loves, whether of the same or other sex.

Last year, Minnesotans began a conversation about why marriage matters, and we found our common belief that it is about love, commitment, and responsibility. I want Minnesota to be a state, which affirms that freedom for one means freedom for everyone, and where no one is told it is illegal to marry the person you love.”

Adding Minnesota to the short but growing list of states where same sex marriage is legal would be especially significant.  So far, Iowa is the only Midwestern state to support marriage equality.

Marriage Equality and the Superbowl

Marriage News Watch

American Equal Rights brings us a video highlighting recent developments for marriage equality.

Marriage Equality and the Superbowl
Anti-gay comments overshadow the Superbowl, but they can’t stop progress in Arizona, Hawaii, and Rhode Island. We have new legislation and strong polling to carry marriage forward from coast to coast.

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