Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard Refuse Same-Sex Benefits

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional, allowing the possibility for married couples of the same-sex to finally be allowed the same federal benefits as other married couples. Primarily, the focus has been on the military and that ID cards can now be given to same-sex spouses, allowing them access to transferable benefits like the GI Bill. Despite individual opinions about the issue, the military follows orders and this ruling cleared the way for officials to follow the law.

However, when one is a member of the National Guard — part of the Army, but operated by the State — which laws is one to follow?

In Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, National Guard spokespeople announced that they would not be issuing ID cards or processing applications for benefits from their state-owned offices. These states only recognize heterosexual marriage as defined by law, placing the National Guard in a situation where federal and state law clash.

via Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard Refuse Same-Sex Benefits.

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U.S. gays face challenges serving abroad – Washington Post

Austin Watkins had reason to celebrate when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, marking a breakthrough in gay rights and making his husband eligible for federal benefits everywhere in the United States.

But as a civilian defense worker deployed in Japan, Watkins faces a unique barrier. It turns out that a “status of forces agreement,” signed 53 years ago by the United States and Japan, does not recognize same-sex marriage. That prevents him from living with his spouse in Okinawa.

For now, Joseph Marcey resides thousands of miles away in Washington. He would have to apply for a tourist visa every 90 days to live in Okinawa, and he wouldn’t be able to receive medical care at military clinics, shop at a commissary or obtain a dependent ID card from the Defense Dep

via U.S. gays face challenges serving abroad – Washington Post.

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Ginsburg officiates same-sex wedding | Gay News | Supreme Court | DOMA : Washington Blade – America’s Leading Gay News Source

WASHINGTON —Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Saturday presided over the Washington, D.C. wedding of her longtime friend and Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser and his partner, economist John Roberts.

Ginsburg is the first Supreme Court justice to officiate same-sex nuptials, according to the Washington Post, just short of four months after the court struck down key provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that prevented the United States government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states that have legalized them

via Ginsburg officiates same-sex wedding | Gay News | Supreme Court | DOMA : Washington Blade – America’s Leading Gay News Source.

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Cedar Point cancels wedding contest after gays protest | The Columbus Dispatch

SANDUSKY, Ohio — An amusement park here is canceling a wedding contest after a gay couple organized a protest against the promotion.

Cedar Point amusement park initially limited the contest to heterosexual couples because it said state law doesn’t allow gay couples to legally marry in Ohio. A spokesman says the park decided to cancel the event once it started to take on political undertones.

The amusement park that sits along Lake Erie in Sandusky had planned to select 13 couples to get married there on Friday the 13th in September.

via Cedar Point cancels wedding contest after gays protest | The Columbus Dispatch.

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Same-sex marriages begin in Minnesota, Rhode Island – Washington Post

Minnesota and Rhode Island became the 12th and 13th states to recognize gay marriage Thursday, with Rhode Island’s first same-sex weddings performed this morning and Minnesota’s just after midnight:

Dozens of Minnesota gay couples made last-minute preparations Wednesday for midnight marriages, determined to exchange vows at the earliest possible moment under a new state law legalizing same-sex marriage.

Weddings were scheduled to start at the stroke of midnight at Minneapolis City Hall, St. Paul’s Como Park, Mall of America’s Chapel of Love and at county courthouses sprinkled around the state. One group planned a cluster of weddings in a Duluth tavern.

“It feels historic. It’s an honor to be a part of it,” said Tim Roberts, the Stearns County court administrator, who planned to perform a 12:01 a.m. wedding at the courthouse in St. Cloud. . . .

via Same-sex marriages begin in Minnesota, Rhode Island – Washington Post.

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Betty Crocker toasts marriage equality with wedding cake tasting | San Diego Gay and Lesbian News

Three of the first same-sex couples who will legally marry in Minnesota on August 1st visited the Betty Crocker Kitchensat General Mills Headquarters in Golden Valley, Minnesota to taste-test wedding cakes for their ceremonies. The company has kindly donated the cakes to the couples for their celebrations, which will take place this Thursday at midnight. The couples will be wed at Minneapolis City Hall and the Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul.

via Betty Crocker toasts marriage equality with wedding cake tasting | San Diego Gay and Lesbian News.

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Local view: Same-sex marriage law heralds a great day for Minnesota | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

On Wednesday at midnight, when legal same-sex marriage goes into effect in Minnesota, we should start the celebration of us doing our part to help save the democracy called the United States.

It was just over a year ago that a small group of Minnesotans decided to fight extreme odds by opposing two proposed constitutional amendments. The first was a Jim Crow law with lipstick on it called voter ID. The second was a constitutional amendment to virtually eliminate any opportunity for Minnesotans of the same sex to ever be married.

Both constitutional amendments were brought forward by people of fundamentalist religious groups seeking to control how all of us practice our religion in our homes and places of worship. The book, “His Excellency: George Washington,” stated that our first president felt the biggest threat to the new democracy was fundamentalist religious groups. That being said, nobody wants to restrict their right to practice their religion in their homes and places of worship. The moment that happens is a threat to how the United States was formed and on what it is based.

A Duluth psychiatrist I know works with young people questioning their sexuality. He told me every time these young people saw a “vote no” sign, in opposition to the amendment against same-sex marriage, they saw there was one more person out there who believed in them.

I believe Minnesota’s demonstration of support has saved lives at a time when suicide is epidemic among our youth. I also believe the number of children thrown out of their homes and becoming homeless just because they told their parents they were gay can now go down

via Local view: Same-sex marriage law heralds a great day for Minnesota | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

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Marriage Equality Faces Challenges in Florida :: EDGE on the Net

After spending 45 years being engaged, William Baxter and Peter Rocchio, of Winter Park, Fla., recently married at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. But Mary Meeks, an Orlando civil rights attorney, says, “I hate to be the downer [but in Florida] your [out-of-state] marriage certificate doesn’t mean a whole lot.” 

Waternark Online reports even with the defeat of the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8, marriage equality in Florida still has some significant obstacles to overcome.

A forum held at The Abbey in Downtown Orlando on July 17, called “After DOMA: Now What,” which was made up of a panel of attorneys, certified public accountants and activists, discussed the challenges same-sex marriage faces in Florida. The experts attempted to answer a variety of questions about gay marriage and the legality of marriage licenses from other states as well as immigration visas, taxes, veteran benefits and estate planning.

Three positive changes came out of the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling, Meeks said: immigration rights, same-sex partner benefits for civilian and military employees of the Department of Defense, and same-sex partner benefits for federal employees. But while marriage provides couples with more than 1,000 legal federal benefits, Meeks says it is going to be awhile before federal agencies look over and fully apply the DOMA ruling in Florida. 

While Florida officials figure out how to apply these benefits towards same-sex couples, out political strategist Vanessa Brito of Miami will continue to fight for equal rights and started a petition to put same-sex marriage on the 2014 Florida ballot. Some activists, however, want a statewide referendum to change Florida’s marriage laws.

“It’s unlikely that Florida’s 2008 Amendment 2, which defined marriage as between a man and woman, could be overturned at this time in the state,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida’s executive director, in the Miami Herald.

via Marriage Equality Faces Challenges in Florida :: EDGE on the Net.

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After DOMA, 36 States Will Have Little Choice On Gay Marriage

Opponents of same-sex marriage are bracing themselves for a veritable tidal wave of new legal challenges to laws in 36 states that do not recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples. Emboldened by the Supreme Court’s decision striking down key parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — a federal law restricting government marriage benefits to heterosexual couples — lawyers for the LGBT community are citing the court’s majority opinion as a legal basis for throwing out similar laws on the state level.

Leading the charge is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has filed suits inPennsylvania and North Carolina, and has plans to file a suit in Virginia as well. Unlike previous marriage equality lawsuits alleging violations of an specific state’s constitution, and culminating in the supreme court of that state, these suits allege violations of the United States Constitution, meaning that they could eventually make their way to the Supreme Court of the United States. This is a big deal. By opening up the floodgates for federal litigation against state marriage laws, the DOMA decision puts considerable pressure on the states to enact legal reforms — or face the strong possibility that reforms would be imposed upon them by the Supreme Court itself — making the prospect of national marriage equality greater now than ever before.

Anyone who has followed the DOMA case has heard by now that the ruling will have far-reaching implications, but most of us aren’t quite why that is, legally speaking. The ruling, which mandates that all officially recognized marriages be treated equally under the law, has immediate legal ramifications for only the 12 states that already allow same-sex marriages. Then there’s this: The Supreme Court ruled part of DOMA unconstitutional for violating the Fifth Amendment, but the ACLU and others are citing the decision as grounds to do away with similar laws, in the states, for violating the Fourteenth Amendment. How does proving that a federal law violates one part of the constitution help prove that a state law violates a different part of the constitution?


via After DOMA, 36 States Will Have Little Choice On Gay Marriage.

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For most Americans, gay equality trumps religious objections

In the wake of two favorable Supreme Court decisions, gay rights proponents got another boost this month with the release of “State of the First Amendment: 2013,” a public opinion survey supported by the First Amendment Center.

According to the new poll, a majority of Americans (62 percent) now agrees that religiously affiliated groups receiving government funds can be required to provide health benefits to same-sex couples, even if the group has religious objections to same-sex marriage or partnerships.

Support for equal treatment of gay couples is highest among young people ages 18-30 (68 percent) and among Americans who identify as liberal (82 percent).

But a surprising number of evangelicals (41 percent) and conservatives (44 percent) – groups usually identified as opponents of same-sex marriage – also favor requiring religiously affiliated groups receiving tax dollars to provide health benefits to same-sex partners.

When government funds aren’t involved, public support for equal treatment of gay couples drops to a slim majority.

Fifty-two percent of Americans believe that businesses providing wedding services to the public can be required by government to provide services to same-sex couples, even if the business owner has religious objections to same-sex marriage.

Here again, support for nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is highest among people under 30 (62 percent) and liberals (70 percent) and lowest among conservatives (34 percent).

Non-religious (59 percent) and Catholic (61 percent) Americans are more likely than Protestants (39 percent) to support requiring businesses to serve gay couples on the same basis as other couples.These findings suggest that the gay civil rights movement has reached a tipping point in the United States. For a growing majority of Americans, sexual orientation is fast joining race and gender as a human trait that should not subject any person to discrimination..

via For most Americans, gay equality trumps religious objections.

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