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News items affecting gays, lesbians, bisexuals & transsexuals

2011-JUL-01 to 15: Accelerating steps toward
equality etc., after DOMA decision in early 2011

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We use the acronym "SSM" throughout this section to represent "same-sex marriage"
We use the acronym "LGBT" to refer to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons
and transsexuals. The acronym "LGB" here refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

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See also the previous essay describing events during the second half of 2011-JUNE

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Background:

The Obama administration announced on 2011-FEB-23 that it would no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. They cited an earlier decision in a Massachusetts federal court that found multiple reasons why the federal DOMA legislation violates the U.S. Constitution and is thus invalid.

Some commentators predicted that this decision will generate a tipping point that will lead to a more rapid decline in discrimination against sexual minorities in the U.S.

This prediction may be coming true. We have noticed an increase in events -- some important, some minor, some merely symbolic -- that indicate a gradual evaporation of animosity and homophobia against sexual minorities.

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Developments toward marital equality and a lessening of discrimination against sexual minorities:

  • 2011-JUL-02: USA: Transcript published of President Obama's comments on SSM and LGBT equality: At a news conference, President Obama was asked about SSM and LGBT equality. He said:

    President Obama:  "Let me start by saying that this administration, under my direction, has consistently said we cannot discriminate as a country against people on the basis of sexual orientation.  And we have done more in the two and a half years that I’ve been in here than the previous 43 Presidents [combined] to uphold that principle, whether it’s ending 'don’t ask, don’t tell,' making sure that gay and lesbian partners can visit each other in hospitals, making sure that federal benefits can be provided to same-sex couples.  Across the board -- hate crimes  -- we have made sure that that is a central principle of this administration, because I think it’s a central principle of America.

    Now, what we’ve also done is we’ve said that DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, is unconstitutional.  And so we’ve said we cannot defend the federal government poking its nose into what states are doing and putting the thumb on the scale against same-sex couples.

    What I’ve seen happen over the last several years, and what happened in New York last week I think was a good thing, because what you saw was the people of New York having a debate, talking through these issues.  It was contentious; it was emotional; but, ultimately, they made a decision to recognize civil [same-sex] marriage.  And I think that’s exactly how things should work. 

    And so I think it is -- I think it is important for us to work through these issues -- because each community is going to be different and each state is going to be different -- to work through them.  In the meantime, we filed ... briefs before the Supreme Court that say we think that any discrimination against gays, lesbians, transgenders is subject to heightened scrutiny, and we don't think that DOMA is unconstitutional [sic].  And so I think the combination of what states are doing, what the courts are doing, the actions that we’re taking administratively, all are how the process should work."

    Reporter's follow up question: "Are you at all uncomfortable that there could be different rules in different states, you know, and for somebody to make the argument that's what we saw during segregation..."

    President Obama:  "Chuck, I think what you’re seeing is a profound recognition on the part of the American people that gays and lesbians and transgender persons are our brothers, our sisters, our children, our cousins, our friends, our co-workers, and that they’ve got to be treated like every other American.  And I think that principle will win out.  It’s not going to be perfectly smooth, and it turns out that the President -- I’ve discovered since I’ve been in this office -- can’t dictate precisely how this process moves.  But I think we’re moving in a direction of greater equality and I think that’s a good thing. ..."

    Another reporter's follow up question: "And I’d also like to follow up on one of your earlier answers about same-sex marriage.  You said that it’s a positive step that so many states, including New York, are moving towards that.  Does that mean that you personally now do support same-sex marriage, putting aside what individual states decide?  Is that your personal view?"

    President Obama:  "I’m not going to make news on that today.  (Laughter.)  Good try, though." 1

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  • 2011-JUL-04: ON: Premier says Catholic & public high schools to have gay support groups: Glen Murray MLA for Toronto Centre read a statement by Premier Dalton McGuinty at Pride Toronto’s international marshals’ reception. It said:

    "I am proud that effective this September, high school students who want their school to have a student support group for LGBT students will have one. This is not a matter of choice for school boards or principals. If students want it, they will have it. ... It’s one thing … to change a law, but it’s quite another to change an attitude. ... Attitudes are shaped by our life experiences and our understanding of the world. ... That should begin in the home and extend deep into our communities, including our schools." 2

    McGuinty's letter is on a collision course with the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote in a 1986 "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons" that:

    “No authentic pastoral program will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral. ... We wish to make it clear that departure from the Church’s teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church’s position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve." 2

    In Ontario Canada, Roman Catholic "Separate" schools are fully funded by the government. No other religious school system receives funding. More details about the church/government/LGBT controversy.

  • 2011-JUL-06: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals restored the District Court's injunction against the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy (DADT): A three judge panel of the federal Court of Appeals lifted the suspension of the District Court's injunction on DADT. Two days later, the Pentagon announced that the DADT policy was no longer being enforced, that lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members can openly serve and that lesbian, gay and bisexual recruits can join the military. However, there are at least three paths by which DADT could become active in the future, so service members cannot yet safely come out of the closet.

  • 2011-JUL-08: USA: Senate "Respect for Marriage Act" may proceed: The bill was introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in 2011-MAR to repeal the DOMA law. DOMA prevents same-sex couples who have been legally married from receiving over 1,100 federal benefits, obligations and protections that all opposite-sex married couples receive. Presumably, the name of the bill is taken from the fact that seven political jurisdictions (the District of Columbia and six states) have decided to allow same-sex couples to marry, but the federal DOMA bill does not respect that decision. The bill has accumulated 17 co-sponsors in the Senate; all are Democrats. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee has called for a hearing on the repeal. 3

  • 2011-JUL-08: NY: National Organization for Marriage (NOM) attacks Republicans: NOM is a advocacy group whose main goal is to prevent the marriage of loving, committed same-sex couples. NOM attacked the Republican Party in New York State, calling them "so-called new 'pro-equality Republicans'." NOM states that "... the entire Republican conference, under the leadership of Dean Skelos, helped to make that happen by voting to bring up the gay marriage bill." Presumably, NOM expected that the Republicans who control the Senate should have ignored the SSM bill that had passed with a large majority in the House and was passed by a Senate committee. They wanted the Senators to be unable to vote on the bill. NOM is planning "... a huge multi-city series of rallies and protest marches taking place across the state of New York to win a vote to protect marriage in New York's constitution!" The term "protect marriage" actually means "exclude same-sex couples from marriage." Having been unable to convince Republicans in New York to vote against SSM through logical arguments, they are now collect donations to mount a campaign to ruin the political fate of the four Republicans who voted in favor of the SSM bill. 4

  • 2011-JUL-12: MD: Renewed effort to pass SSM law in Maryland: Marylanders for Marriage Equality, a coalition of pro-LGBT state and nationals groups had a kick-off rally/news conference in front of Baltimore's city hall. Their goal is a state law, similar to the one recently passed by the New York legislature, to give same-sex couples access to the same rights, privileges and benefits routinely given to all opposite-sex couples. More details.

  • 2011-JUL-14: CA: Governor Brown signs FAIR act: Governor Jerry Brown signed SB-48, a.k.a. the FAIR Education Act. FAIR stands for "Fair, accurate, inclusive and respectful." It requires California schools to include the contributions of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender Americans as well as the disabled in its textbooks and teaching of history and social studies. State Senator Mark Leno, who wrote the bill, issued a statement saying:

    "Today we are making history in California by ensuring that our textbooks and instructional materials no longer exclude the contributions of LGBT Americans. Denying LGBT people their rightful place in history gives our young people an inaccurate and incomplete view of the world around them. I am pleased Governor Brown signed the FAIR Education Act and I thank him for recognizing that the LGBT community, its accomplishments and its ongoing efforts for first-​class citizenship are important components of California’s history." 5

    Carolyn Laub, Executive Director of Gay-​Straight Alliance Network said:

    "I am awed and humbled to be part of this historic moment. Today, we’ve written the latest chapter in the LGBT civil rights movement -- one that will now be presented fairly and accurately in California schools. By signing the FAIR Education Act and ending the exclusion of the LGBT community from instructional materials, Governor Brown has realized the hopes of youth who have been fighting for safe and inclusive schools, where all students learn about our history and gain respect for each other’s differences as a result. This is a part of the American story that we can be proud to know all students will learn." 6

  • 2011-JUL-15: MD: Governor Martin O'Malley gives support for SSM bill: Governor O'Malley is discussing a SSM bill with the Marylanders for Marriage Equality coalition. He promises to push harder for the bill if its wording is similar to that of the New York state bill passed in late June. It give extensive protections to faith groups and their affiliates who want to continue to discriminate against same-sex couples. More details.

  • 2011-JUL-15: World: Court of Appeals reinstates DADT but with a caveat: In the latest flip-flop by the federal court system in California, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that prohibits lesbians, gays and bisexuals from serving in the military. Ordinarily, this would be considered a negative move in terms of LGB equality. But there was an interesting wrinkle in the court's ruling: the military is prohibited from investigating, penalizing, or discharging suspected LGB service members. So, in terms of enforcement, DADT doesn't exist; but it is still on the books.

  • 2011-JUL-14 to 17: Canada: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) approves LGB clergy and same-sex wedding ceremonies: At their national convention in Saskatoon, SK, the ELCIC approved the ordination of lesbian and gay pastors, the blessing of same-sex unions, and the performance of same-sex marriages. By a vote of 213 to 134, the delegates approved a social statement on human sexuality which calls on the denomination to "... denounce discrimination, including sexual discrimination, in all its forms." A motion was defeated that would have required approval by two-thirds supermajority of the delegates. Same-sex marriages have been legal in Canada since mid-2005, but only a few denominations so far allow their pastors and ministers to perform them. Delegates also voted 204-133 to commit themselves to remain in dialogue and unity, and refrain from any actions that would divide the denomination. 7

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See also events during the second half of 2011-JULY

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
  1. Andrew Malcolm, "Obama news conference: 'A lot of people say a lot of things to satisfy their base',"  Top of the Ticket, 2011-JUL-02, at: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/
  2. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, "Our Next Marriage Equality Fight: Repealing DOMA," Pam's House Blend, at: http://www.pamshouseblend.com/
  3. Patrick Craine, "Ontario Premier: Catholic schools have no choice but to accept gay clubs," Life Site News, 2011-JUL-04, at: http://www.lifesitenews.com/
  4. "Let the people vote! NOM marriage news July 8, 2001," National Organization for Marriage, at: http://www.nomblog.com/
  5. "California governor signs bill requiring schools to teach gay history," CNN, 2011-JUL-14, at: http://articles.cnn.com/
  6. "California governor signs landmark education bill," National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 2011-JUL-14, at: http://thetaskforceblog.org/
  7. "Canadian Lutherans open doors to gay marriage and pastors," The Ltheran, 2011-JUL-21, at: http://www.thelutheran.org/

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Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-OCT-14
Author: B.A. Robinson
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