by David Cohen - Publisher

Today is a special day for the LGBT community in the USA. In a monumental decision today, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. I would like to share with you the readers,  few of the emails I received  today from some of the leaders in our community.

From: Bernard Cherkasov, Chief Executive Officer of Equality Illinois
The inexorable march to full marriage equality achieved a significant milestone with the historic ruling that Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution. The court’s gratifying decision makes a clear statement that marriage equality is a fundamental freedom. This victory, if upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, will restore full marriage equality in California, the nation’s largest state, and add to the pressure in Illinois and elsewhere in the country to end marriage discrimination. In addition to the dignity and respect marriage equality grants loving and committed couples, it ensures security and critical safety net protections for all married couples and their families.  

While we support the implementation of civil unions in Illinois in 2011, it still falls short of achieving full marriage equality on the state level and does little to guarantee the federal rights and privileges that marriage provides opposite-sex couples. With this ruling, political leaders who support full equality will have important arguments to share with state legislators who will inevitably be asked to vote on full marriage rights in the future.  

Lawmakers need not wait for the ultimate disposition of the California case and other legal rulings to do the right thing in Springfield and Washington, D.C. to end marriage discrimination. We will continue to fight for equality on every level and could not do it without YOU. Thank you!

From: NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq.
Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the August 2010 decision of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco striking down Proposition 8, the 2008 measure that stripped same-sex couples of the right to marry in California. The Court affirmed the ruling of former Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker that Prop 8 discriminates against same-sex couples in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The court also rejected Prop 8 supporters’ offensive argument that Judge Walker should have refused to preside over the case because he is gay and in a relationship with a man.

The court ruled that Proposition 8 violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution because it "serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples."

The supporters of Prop 8 have 15 days to ask the Ninth Circuit panel to reconsider its decision or to ask for reconsideration by a larger panel of judges on that court. Alternatively, they have 90 days to request that the Supreme Court of the United States review the case.

NCLR, Lambda Legal, ACLU of Northern California, and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders filed an amicus brief urging the court to affirm Judge Walker’s decision.

From: Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy.
Today’s decision by the 9th Circuit declaring that California’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution is good for marriage, it is good for religion and it is good for the people of California.  How the government defines marriage must be rooted in the Constitution – as is this decision.  Doing so in no way inhibits the right of a church or other house of worship to base its definition on religious doctrine. 

To the religious institutions that would attempt to redefine the inherent concept of religious freedom by arguing that today’s ruling somehow diminishes religious freedom, Interfaith Alliance holds that in fact, the ruling makes very clear that legalizing same sex marriage has no impact whatsoever on religious freedom.  A church that opposes same sex marriage is under no more legal pressure to perform such unions now than it was before the ruling.  In fact, no religion would ever be required to condone same-gender marriage, and no member of the clergy would ever be required to perform a wedding ceremony not in accordance with his or her religious beliefs.  While I hope that those who oppose same sex marriage will eventually change their position, they are under no legal requirement to do so, but neither should they stand in the way of those of us who embrace marriage equality.

While we are sure that supporters of Proposition 8 will appeal the ruling, we hope today’s decision will be upheld, enshrining marriage equality for same-sex couples in the State of California – and paving the way for the rest of the country to follow its lead.

From: Joe Solmonese, President Human Rights Campaign.
This monumental decision affirms what we all know to be true – our Constitution exists to protect the basic civil rights of all Americans – gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

Prop. 8 does nothing to strengthen or protect any marriage. Instead, it singles out thousands of loving California families for different treatment, simply because they are gay and lesbian couples. The Ninth Circuit ruled on the right side of history by recognizing that our Constitution cannot tolerate such egregious discrimination.

Their move upholds a lower court's decision that anti-gay bigotry was behind Prop. 8, the hateful law that denied gay and lesbian Californians the freedom to marry.

Here's what the Court said in its decision: Prop. 8 "served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationship and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples."

The path ahead may still be long, but this case has helped propel the fight for marriage equality forward. And as the struggle continues in courtrooms and statehouses, we'll all know the power behind it is driven by devoted supporters like you. The fight goes on, and I can't thank you enough for being a part of this extraordinary movement.
by David Cohen
As a gay man I believe that we should support our own especially in the courtroom. Gay candidate Brad Trowbridge is running for a judge in Cook County in the 8th judicial sub-circuit and he needs your vote and support. The real reason you should help and vote for Brad is because of who he is as a person, and for what he stands for, his qualifications and experience. I hope you will support Brad and vote for him on Tuesday, March 20, 2012.
Having two jobs one as a social worker, and the second as an attorney Brad is used to working hard. For many years Brad worked with disadvantaged people from all walks of life: minority teen mothers, people with HIV/AIDS, and seniors living in poverty, he made many visits to places like Cabrini-Green and the Lathrop Homes.  "I believe my experience makes me uniquely qualified to sit on the bench.  My life and professional experiences are far broader than just within the legal system."

As an attorney, in the last 11 years Brad focused on helping victims of domestic violence. He also help their children to escape abusive situations.  He spent thousands of hours at the courtroom and gained experience as he represented over 500 victims of domestic violence in obtaining orders of protection, dissolution of marriage, child support and custody of their children.

"I am running for judge because I believe we need more judges who understand the complexities of life and human relationships," said Brad in a recent interview with PINK. He wants to help people because "people are not treated fairly or with respect in the judicial system," and that's why we should vote for Brad who wants to change the bad experiences many people have at the courthouse. 

PINK: Where were you born and when did you come out?
Brad: I was born in central Illinois...Jacksonville, IL....a town of 19,000, and I'm the only child. I came out to my first friend when I was 22. I didn't come out to my family until much later. I was scared to death. I thought my friends and family would disown me. It was the mid-80s, a very different time for gay people. We were also dealing with the AIDS epidemic and the homophobia that was connected to that. 

PINK: Why did you choose to go to law school?
Brad: I worked for Horizons Community Services (now Center on Halsted) as an AIDS/HIV counselor from 1988-91. I counseled gay men who had just tested positive. It was a very demanding job because back then there was limited treatment available and many of my clients died within a few months of finding their test results or diagnosis. I was offered a job at Northwestern University's Counseling and Psychological Services office as a counselor for all undergraduate students, but particularly LGBT students. There had been two student suicides on campus, one by a known gay student and one suspected gay student. The school administration felt they needed an "out" gay counselor to send the message to the student population that they viewed gays in a positive manner and that LGBT students had a resource available to them.  Many of my clients were either abused as children or were "coming out" and dealing with the a lot of self-loathing and hostility from their families, churches, and society in general. After almost 5 years, I decided I wanted to be more of an advocate. I wanted to fight for things like equal rights for LGBT people and holding bullies and abusers accountable. That's not the role of a counselor. So I went to law school at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. It was a great law school but not very progressive at the time regarding LGBT issues. I became the president of the gay law student group because no one else would do it. I was in my mid-thirties at that point. I didn't really want to be the "student" president of anything. But I did it because I knew if I didn't, we were going to be even more isolated as a community. I made sure we brought in speakers about same-sex marriage and a representative from a transgender advocacy group speak to the whole law school. We were attacked by a conservative school newspaper for doing it but it educated a lot of future lawyers. 
PINK: Is being gay makes it more difficult for you to win this election as a judge?
Brad: No. The 8th sub-circuit encompasses Andersonville, Boystown, Lakeview and Lincoln Park. Gay candidates tend to do better in this sub-circuit than in county-wide races.

PINK: Would it make a difference if a gay person sitting on the bench and how?
Brad: Under the law, no. The law is sexual-orientation neutral for the most part. But I have seen and heard homophobic judges. Most of the time a judge's opinion about gays is often irrelevant, homophobia in family law cases can be devastating.   A few years ago, in a well-publicized case, a Cook County judge denied a lesbian couple the right to adopt and appointed an anti-gay group to represent the minor child. That judge is still on the bench.  

PINK: What are you going to do for the gay voters? 
As a judicial candidate I can't state how I would rule on a case or issue. I can tell you that I have been a gay rights advocate for many years and wrote a book chapter on civil unions and legal issues facing same-sex couples. That should give gay voters some idea about my issues I am personally passionate about. 

PINK: Can you change anything to benefit the gay community and how? 
Brad: As a judge, I can do several things to help the gay community. First, if elected I would be only the fifth openly gay male judge out of 420 in Cook County. We need more visibility and representation. And judges talk to each other. Gay judges can educate their colleagues on issues informally. With my professional and life experience I think I would be a good resource for other judges about sexual orientation and gender identity issues. Second, the bulk of my experience is in family law. With the passage of the Civil Unions Act, there are going to be many same-sex couples coming to court to dissolve those relationships at some point (ie, get divorced) and litigate custody of their children. There currently are no openly gay male judges who hear those cases. We have to have judges who will do what is fair and in the best interest of children and not be guided by homophobia or their notions of gender stereotypes in deciding cases. I think having more gay judges in those courtrooms will be very important to our community.  

I hope you will support Brad and vote for him on Tuesday, March 20, 2012. To learn more about Brad visit his website