But the issue remains politically thorny, and even in the relatively liberal House Democratic conference there are pockets of opposition to same-sex marriage.
The race to become the 10th marriage-equality state just got more interesting, as both the Illinois and Rhode Island legislatures are on track to take final votes this month.
In a surprise development, Rhode Island Senate President Teresa Weed acknowledged to a Providence Journal reporter that she would allow a floor vote on the marriage-equality bill by the end of the month. Weed, who is opposed to the bill, had previously promised only to allow a Senate committee vote if the bill passed the House. The marriage-equality bill passed the Rhode Island House in January on a 51 to 19 vote.
Weed press spokesman Greg Pare confirmed this week that Weed plans to bring the bill to a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee soon after the legislature returns from its spring break next week. He said Weed also committed to allow a floor vote a “couple of days after that,” before the end of this month.
Meanwhile, the Illinois House is also looking at the real possibility of taking its historic vote on marriage equality this month. The Senate passed the legislation in February on a 34-21 vote.
As of Tuesday, April 9, Equality Illinois leader Bernard Cherkasov said he didn’t have a timeline for when the House vote might happen, but added, “I do feel confident that the marriage bill will pass with strong bipartisan support.”
The Illinois House has 118 members, 71 Democrats and 47 Republicans. The bill needs 60 votes to pass. According to the Associated Press, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn told reporters Monday,
April 8, that supporters of the legislation are “very close” to getting the votes they need.
Florida Senator Bill Nelson, who said last week that “marriage is between a man and a woman,” said yesterday that he supports marriage equality. “If we are endowed by our creator with rights, then why shouldn’t those be attainable by gays and lesbians?” he wrote in a statement to The Tampa Bay Times. “Simply put, if the Lord made homosexuals as well as heterosexuals, why should I discriminate against their civil marriage? I shouldn’t, and I won’t. So I will add my name to the petition of senators asking the Supreme Court to declare the law that prohibits gay marriage unconstitutional.”
Some politicians evolve slowly; others make sudden leaps. It’s phyletic gradualism versus punctuated equilibrium.
Regardless, Mr. Nelson’s reversal makes him the eighth Democratic senator to come out in support of same-sex unions in the last two weeks, and the 51stsenator overall—a symbolic landmark. An outright majority of the Senate now endorses marriage equality, and it’s actually (just barely) bipartisan: The tally is 49 Democrats and 2 Republicans
The participation of the Church of Latter-Day Saints in a legal brief filed by religious groups in favor of California’s Proposition 8 is vexing an organization that advocates for LGBT Mormons.
In a 38-page friend-of-the-court brief, filed before the Supreme Court Jan. 29, religious groups — including the Mormon Church — emphasize that justices shouldn’t strike down Prop 8 on the basis of religious support for the anti-gay amendment. The brief is signed by Von Keech, a Utah-based private attorney who has previously assisted the Mormon Church, as well as other private attorneys with his firm Alexander Dushku, R. Shawn Gunnarson and Kirton McConkie.
“[O]ur members supported Proposition 8 based on sincere beliefs in the value of traditional marriage for children, families, society, and our republican form of government,” the brief states. “Only a demeaning view of religion and religious believers could dismiss our advocacy of Proposition 8 as ignorance, prejudice, or animus.”
In a statement on Monday, Affirmation, a national group for gay and lesbian Mormons, questioned why the Mormon Church would participate in a legal brief in favor of Prop 8 after backing off its support of anti-gay measures since the passage of the California’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in 2008.
“I agree that churches should have the freedom to petition the government and that Proposition 8 should not be invalidated due to religious support of the initiative,” said Affirmation President Randall Thacker, who’s gay. “However, we believe Proposition 8 should be invalidated on the grounds that it denies protections to same-sex couples who have committed to care and provide for each other and their children, a grouping that is clearly defined as a family by the majority of society.”
Spencer Clark, who’s straight and president of Mormons for Marriage Equality, said he agrees the law should provide a foundation for strong families, but said Prop 8 harms children being raised by same-sex parents.
“Unfortunately, Proposition 8 provides no additional benefits to straight couples while denying substantial benefits and legitimacy to gay and lesbian couples who are also raising children,” Clark said. “The brief argues for a conception of marriage that blatantly ignores the hundreds of thousands of children in the United States being raised by same-sex couples, pretending that these loving families don’t exist.”
Two top House Democrats are criticizing House Republicans for spending additional taxpayer funds to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.
On Jan. 4, Rep. Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., the new chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, approved a contract with the law firm Bancroft PLLC increasing the agreed-upon ceiling on fees for defense of the law from $2 million to $3 million.
In a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner Tuesday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland said they should have been consulted before the agreement was signed.
Both Democratic lawmakers are members of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which decides how the House acts in court. BLAG is comprised of three members of the majority party leadership in the House and two members of the minority party leadership.
The U.S. Supreme Court has announced the schedule for submitting legal briefs in pending DOMA litigation, making the deadline for the first round of such documents Jan. 22.
Here’s when each brief should be filed in case of Windsor v. United States, the lawsuit against DOMA the Supreme Court agreed to hear last week. The briefing schedule was announced in an orders list on Friday.
No announcement was made on the briefing schedule for Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case challenging California’s Proposition 8 the Supreme Court has also agreed to take up.
For the briefs on the merits of the lawsuit:
* the brief of the House Republican-led Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, not to exceed 15,000 words, must be filed by Jan. 22;
* the brief of the U.S. solicitor general, not to exceed 15,000 words, must be filed by Feb. 22;
* the brief of lesbian plaintiff Edith Windsor, not to exceed 15,000 words, must be filed by Feb. 26;
* and the reply brief of BLAG, not to exceed 6,000 words, must then be filed within the court’s established rules.
On the jurisdictional question on whether the U.S. Justice Department and BLAG have standing to petition the court in the case:
* the brief of Court-appointed friend-of-the-court Harvard law professor Vicki Jackson, not to exceed 10,000 words, must be filed by Jan. 22;
* the briefs of the U.S. solicitor general, BLAG and Windsor, not to exceed 10,000 words each, must be filed by Feb. 20;
* and reply briefs of the litigants and Jackson, not to exceed 4,000 words, will then be filed within established rules of the court.
The orders lists says other friend-of-the-court briefs must be filed under established rules of the court, except for briefs supporting the positions of Windsor and the solicitor general, which must be filed seven days after the brief of the solicitor general on the merits has been submitted.
Legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act is enjoying record support as the year comes to a close — and an LGBT group backing the bill is optimistic that strength will grow further as additional lawmakers who support marriage equality take their seats at the start of the next Congress.
Upon introduction in the U.S. House early last year, the bill — known as the Respect for Marriage Act — had 109 sponsors, but the total number of has now grown to 159. That’s short of the 218 needed for a majority vote needed for passage, but still a record number.
Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, said that number of sponsors was achieved after setting a goal upon the bill’s introduction of finding 50 more sponsors and undertaking a coordinated effort with additional groups to win more support.
“Freedom to Marry set out a goal of adding 50 more sponsors this Congress, and have had dozens and dozens of lobby visits with members and their staff,” Solomon said. “For lobbying members of the Congressional Black Caucus, we partnered up with the National Black Justice Coalition and the ACLU, and for GOP members, we worked with Log Cabin and our GOP lobbyist, Kathryn Lehman.”
The most recent addition to the list of co-sponsors is Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who signed as a co-sponsor to the bill on Nov. 16 after Election Day. In a statement to the Washington Blade, Waters said she decided to co-sponsor the bill to provide benefits to married same-sex couples that currently aren’t afforded to them because of DOMA.
“I was very pleased to support the Respect for Marriage Act, critical legislation that would ensure same-sex couples are afforded the same federal benefits as other married couples within states that recognize their unions,” Waters said. “Under current law, same-sex married couples are denied important protections such as Social Security survivor benefits, immigration rights, and family and medical leave.”
Waters’ support also builds on the number of co-sponsors to the bill who are also members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Her support means nine additional caucus members have signed on this year alone, and 34 out of 42 total caucus members are sponsors of the bill.
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) saw a steep decline in the amount of money it raised in 2011 – dropping to $6.2 million from the $9.1 million it raised the previous year, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Just two donors were responsible for funding 75 percent of the anti-gay group – the organization reported two donations of approximately $2.4 million each. The information is available in NOM’s 2011 990, which NOM made available this evening after HRC requested the documents in-person at their Washington, D.C. office earlier this morning.
“The National Organization for Marriage continues to push the notion that there is some sort of grassroots support for their discriminatory anti-gay agenda,” said HRC Vice President of Communications Fred Sainz.
As The Advocate pointed out, in a Friday tweet, Nate Silver called out the founder of a conspiratorial Unskewed Polls website, Dean Chambers, who wrote an op-ed that attacked Silver as “a man of very small stature” and “a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice.” Chambers’s website recasts all mainstream polls with Republican-leaning survey samples so they are truly “unskewed” — or shall we say “fair and balanced?”
Silver is our favorite self-described gay geek (who we honored in the 2010 Out100 you may recall). He is also the founder of FiveThirtyEight, which is now part of the New York Times. He’s often touted for having correctly predicted the popular vote in 2008