Posted on July 9, 2010
by David Cohen

Today we all should praise the decision of Judge Joseph Tauro of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health and Human Services, declaring the denial of federal rights and benefits to lawfully married Massachusetts couples under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional. Judge Tauro, who was nominated to the bench by President Richard Nixon, held in Gill that DOMA violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws, concluding that “indeed, Congress undertook this classification for the one purpose that lies entirely outside of legislative bounds, to disadvantage a group of which it disapproves. And such a classification, the Constitution clearly will not permit.” These decisions are likely to be appealed by the Department of Justice to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

“Today’s decision is a confirmation of what every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender American knows to be a basic truth – we, and our families, are equal,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “This is an important step forward, but there is a long path ahead before we see this discriminatory law consigned to the dustbin of history. We thank our friends at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, their courageous plaintiffs and Attorney General Coakley for standing up on behalf of married same-sex couples across the country and for their continued commitment to equality as these cases move forward. Judge Tauro’s decisions make clear that there is no constitutional justification for DOMA, despite the Department of Justice’s contentions in defending the statute. While we expect the Department to continue to defend DOMA on appeal, we urge the Obama administration to push Congress to repeal a law that we know, and Judge Tauro recognized, serves no purpose but to denigrate our families.”

“Today’s decision is an important step forward for marriage for same-sex couples. There are thousands of same-sex couples lawfully married in the five states and Washington , DC that currently allow them the freedom to marry. Today’s ruling recognizes that the federal government has literally no justification for refusing to respect those marriages. To finish the job, Congress should pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which is pending in Congress and would completely repeal DOMA. We applaud this decision and congratulate GLAD and the Massachusetts attorney general for their work in bringing the cases.” said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project:

In March 2009, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) filed Gill v. OPM on behalf of eight married couples and three surviving spouses from Massachusetts who have been denied federal rights and benefits available to spouses, but denied to them because DOMA, a federal law adopted in 1996, defines marriage solely as the union of a man and a woman. In July 2009, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts filed its own suit challenging the federal government’s requirement that in operating federally-funded programs, including Medicaid and the administration of veterans’ cemeteries, the state must treat some of its married citizens differently than others. There over 1,000 rights, benefits and responsibilities tied to marriage under federal law, including Social Security survivors’ benefits, family and medical leave, equal compensation as federal employees, and immigration rights, among others.

Posted on July 9, 2010
by David Cohen

The Governor’s veto is a sad setback in the ongoing fight for equality.

On the other hand, last night Republican Governor Linda Lingle of Hawaii broke a promise of 2002 and dismissed the will of Hawaiian citizens as she vetoed HB 444, which would have allowed both same-sex and heterosexual couples to enter into civil unions with all the rights enjoyed by married couples.

Michael Sargeant, Executive Director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, issued the following statement in response to Governor Lingle’s veto of the civil union bill: ”We at the DLCC are disappointed in Governor Lingle for ignoring the will of Hawaiian citizens as expressed by the Hawaii legislature’s passage of this landmark legislation. Governor Lingle also broke her campaign promise not to veto a civil union bill if passed by the state legislature. She has denied Hawaii the opportunity to become the latest example of states leading the way on equality.”

Democratic legislators did their part and voted their conscience on “that legislation,” after a marathon 18 hours of earnest debate. But their work was undone by the Governor’s broken promise.

And in breaking her promise, Governor Lingle denied hundreds of thousands of her own citizens a right she probably takes for granted.

One day, America will look back on the struggle for equal rights and wonder why it was so difficult. Governor Lingle will be one of the reasons.

Posted on July 9, 2010
by David Cohen

From: GLAAD President Mr. Jarrett Barrios, and I would like to share it with you.

Dear Friend of GLAAD,

We’re writing today to thank you for speaking out about NBC Today Show’s “Modern Wedding Contest.” This afternoon after GLAAD met with NBC executives and shared our community’s concerns, the network agreed to open the contest to same-sex couples.

The announcement comes a week after GLAAD learned that the contest had excluded gay and lesbian people. Good As You blog first alerted us to the problem after discovering the contest’s application included only “bride” and “groom” as options for applicants to choose.

After we called the network with concerns, NBC argued that it was excluding same-sex couples because “the couple must be able to be legally married in New York, which is where the wedding will take place.”

GLAAD questioned the validity of that argument since New York State legally recognizes same-sex marriages licensed in other states. Same-sex couples can now legally obtain marriage licenses in Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Washington D.C. NBC mistakenly equated the marriage license with the wedding celebration. Same-sex weddings are entirely legal in New York State.

Our Call to Action prompted thousands of you to write to NBC and urge the network to give our community the same opportunity to share our stories of love and commitment and allow us the chance to participate in the contest.

This afternoon NBC and the Today Show did just that.  Following a meeting between GLAAD and NBC executives, NBC announced that after listening to community concerns it will open the contest to same-sex couples and extend the submission deadline until Monday, July 12. Couples now have until then to apply.  Finalists will be announced later this year and the wedding takes place live on the Today Show this October.

We’re thrilled that Today Show’s ‘Modern Wedding Contest’ now recognizes what most fair-minded Americans have already concluded – a wedding celebrates love and commitment, whether the spouses are straight or gay. NBC heard the thousands of viewers who contacted them and they have moved to make their contest a truly modern wedding where any couple can share their story. NBC is living up to its own high standard of fairness and for this, we applaud them.  We encourage qualified same-sex couples to submit their applications before Monday, July 12 and we look forward to next year when same-sex couples will have the ability to apply to the contest from the beginning.

Thanks to the thousands of people who sent emails to the Today Show, blogged about it, and shared the Call to Action on Twitter and Facebook.  We could not have done it without you!

Lastly, we encourage you to support GLAAD today with a donation, so we can continue launching successful campaigns that amplify the voice of our community.

Jarrett Barrios, GLAAD President