It’s been an exciting few days for supporters of LGBT equality. Following last night’s Senate cloture vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, today the Illinois House passed a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry, setting the stage for Illinois to become the 15th state in the nation with full marriage equality. One version of the bill has already been passed by the Illinois Senate, and Governor Pat Quinn has promised to sign it. When he does, thirty percent of our nation’s states will have marriage equality.
PFAW has been on the ground in Illinois, supporting the push for marriage equality in any way we can. In addition to providing lobbying training materials so Illinois voters could bring their support for equality directly to their elected officials through calls, emails, and in-person visits, PFAW members joined thousands of friends in the March on Springfield for Marriage Equality last month.
In what the CEO of Equality Illinois has called the “national march toward full recognition of the dignity of all gay and lesbian couples,” Illinois has brought us one state closer to full marriage equality nationwide. And while 15 states represents real momentum, we won’t stop until every committed couple in the country has access to the legal protections they need to take care of each other and their families.
On a cold, wet Tuesday this week, People For members joined an estimated 2,000 marriage equality supporters at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield for the March on Springfield for Marriage Equality. For two full hours prior to marching around the capitol complex, activists rallied for same-sex marriage, with major news cameras rolling. Scores of activists, entertainers, politicians, and faith leaders called on the Illinois House of Representatives to pass SB 10, a bill legalizing marriage for same-sex couples which was passed by the Illinois State Senate early in 2013.
Highlights from the rally included out gay country singer Steve Grand performing his hit “All American Boy,” the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus and Windy City Gay Choirs, and independent artist Sonia; along with a lineup of other performers and speakers demanding that House Speaker Michael Madigan hold a vote on SB 10. In the middle of the event, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn made an appearance. With a pen in hand, Quinn said he was ready to sign the bill into law as soon as the House passes it, evoking a roar from the 2,000 attendees. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (daughter of the Speaker), State Comptroller Judy Barr-Topinka, and Secretary of State Jesse White all voiced their endorsements of SB 10.
But the biggest reaction of the day came from keynote speaker Bishop Carlton D. Pearson of the Churches of God In Christ, who called on the Illinois Legislature to “pass the damn bill” and foster a society of fairness, social justice, and inclusion in Illinois. In the style of a sermon, Pearson delivered a powerful address, apologizing to the LGBT community on behalf of the evangelical Christian community for the lack of compassion previously given to them by some Christian leaders.
Following Pearson’s rousing speech, marchers funneled to the sidewalks surrounding the Capitol Building, at one point nearly completely encircling the complex with their numbers. Check out this gallery of photos from the rally, and the recorded livestream of the event.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett hasn’t been helping his own approval ratings lately.
A Corbett administration legal brief filed on August 28th regarding the state’s same-sex marriage ban seemed to argue that same-sex marriage is analogous to the marriage of two 12-year-olds. Corbett rejected that argument after the fact in a written statement, but then in a TV interview made an even worse analogy.
On WHY-TV’s ‘Ask The Governor” segment Friday morning, a smirking Corbett called his legal advisors’ analogy ‘inappropriate,’ but then asked the news anchor interviewing him ‘I think a much better analogy would have been brother and sister, don’t you?”
The shocked news anchor didn’t quite know what to say other than “I don’t know,” and attempted to move on to the next question after saying she was going to leave the comments to Corbett.
Things didn’t get much better from there, with Corbett saying Federal courts shouldn’t get involved in Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage cases because the U.S. Supreme Court left that decision up to the states, failing to specify what court case to which he was referring. Later Friday morning Corbett then was forced to apologize for his offensive comparison of same-sex marriage and sibling incest. Corbett’s approval ratings continue to drop after a stream of self-inflicted gaffes he has made, even when given questions in advance; leading Philadelphia Independent and Watchdog.org reporter Eric Boehm to label the Governor ‘Gaffe-tastic.’
If the bill passes, Hawaii would become the 14th state to allow same-sex couples to marry. Such a victory would not only give marriage rights to committed couples in Hawaii, it would also move our nation one step closer to full marriage equality.
Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett is proving once again that his priorities are out of line with the rest of the state: He just hired lawyer William H. Lamb for $400 an hour to defend a 1996 law banning same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania.
Even though the state’s attorney general declined to fight the case— and even though a majority of Pennsylvanians support marriage equality—Governor Corbett still thinks it’s worth spending $400 per hour of taxpayer money, plus $325 per hour for others in Lamb’s firm working on the case, to stop LGBT Pennsylvanians from being able to marry the person they love. It’s also worth noting that this law firm donated $39,500 to Corbett’s political campaigns between 2004 and 2012. Given the recent revelation that Governor Corbett’s former chief of staff is still being paid despite supposedly resigning, perhaps it shouldn’t be that surprising that Corbett is putting someone else on the government payroll unnecessarily.
Still, why fire your friends or let your discriminatory laws go undefended when you can just cut education funding? Why put your personal and ideological priorities aside, when the state’s children are there to take the hit? I’m sure school kids in Philadelphia won’t mind their ballooning class sizes or their after-school programs being cancelled when they know that money is being put to such good use, fighting a law to prevent people who love each other from being able to marry. Welcome to Tom Corbett’s Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett has been floundering recently, facing personnel problems and dire poll numbers. But his abysmal public approval ratings aren’t stopping the governor from charging full steam ahead on his extreme agenda. A brief filed by the Corbett administration today in its lawsuit to stop Montgomery County, PA from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples argues that gay marriage licenses have no “value or legitimacy,” and that issuing those licenses is just like issuing marriage licenses to 12-year-olds:
“Had the clerk issued marriage licenses to 12-year-olds in violation of state law, would anyone seriously contend that each 12-year-old . . . is entitled to a hearing on the validity of his ‘license’?”
Unfortunately, we’re all too used to this form of argument, where homosexuality’s legitimacy is dismissed or ridiculed by comparing it to any number of things, from bestiality to alcoholism or even murder. Now, we know that the governor of Pennsylvania is also struggling to understand the concept of consent, which is what makes gay marriage actually nothing at all like children getting married: children can’t consent, adults can. These actions show Corbett’s deep misunderstanding of marriage equality, and an inability (or refusal) to see it for what it is. They also show that, despite the great Supreme Court victories for gay rights this year, there’s still a lot of work to do.
It's been a week of mixed emotions for those of us who care about civil rights. There was the elation today when the Supreme Court overturned the so-called Defense of Marriage Act -- the discriminatory law that has hurt so many Americans in its nearly 17 years of existence -- and let marriage equality return to California. There was the anger when the Court twisted the law to make it harder for workers and consumers to take on big corporations. And there was the disbelief and outrage when the Court declared that a key part of the Voting Rights Act that was so important and had worked so well was now somehow no longer constitutional.
But throughout the week, I have been reminded of one thing: how grateful I am that Mitt Romney will not be picking the next Supreme Court justice.
It remains true that this Supreme Court is one of the most right-leaning in American history. The majority's head-in-the-sand decision on the Voting Rights Act -- declaring that the VRA isn't needed anymore because it's working so well -- was a stark reminder of why we need to elect presidents who will nominate Supreme Court justices who understand both the text and history of the Constitution and the way it affects real people's lives.
We were reminded of this again today when all the conservative justices except for Anthony Kennedy stood behind the clearly unconstitutional DOMA. Justice Antonin Scalia -- no stranger to anti-gay rhetoric -- wrote an apoplectic rant of a dissent denying the Court's clear role in preserving equal protection. If there had been one more far-right justice on the court, Scalia's dissent could have been the majority opinion.
Just think of how different this week would have been if Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were not on the court and if John McCain had picked two justices instead. We almost certainly wouldn't have a strong affirmation of LGBT equality. Efforts to strip people of color of their voting rights would likely have stood with fewer justices in dissent. And the rights of workers and consumers could be in even greater peril.
As the Republican party moves further and further to the right, it is trying to take the courts with it. This week, we saw what that means in practice. As we move forward to urge Congress to fix the Voting Rights Act and reinforce protections for workers and consumers, and work to make sure that marriage equality is recognized in all states, we must always remember the courts. Elections have real consequences. These Supreme Court decisions had less to do with evolving legal theory than with who appointed the justices. Whether historically good or disastrous, all these decisions were decided by just one vote. In 2016, let's not forget what happened this week.
The Supreme Court today ruled that the core section of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. DOMA’s Section 3, which the Court vacated, prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in the states, thereby hitting legally married gay and lesbian couples with extra taxes and depriving them of a slew of federal protections.
People For the American Way Foundation president Michael Keegan said of the Supreme Court’s ruling: “Today’s DOMA ruling is a profound step forward for loving, committed same-sex couples across the country. The decision is premised on the plain fact that there is no good reason for the government to recognize some legally married couples while discriminating against others.”
PFAW launched a campaign to “Dump DOMA” in 2008. Since then, our petition calling on Congress to repeal the discriminatory law has gathered 230,000 signatures.
But the effort to overturn DOMA is not over. While Section 3 was the law’s most damaging provision, DOMA’s Section 2, which says that states don’t have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, still stands. We will continue to work to overturn the remainder of DOMA and ensure that all gay and lesbian Americans have the right to marriage, no matter which state they make their home.
Thousands of Minnesotans streamed into St. Paul Tuesday afternoon to witness history in the making. Governor Mark Dayton welcomed an estimated crowd of 7,000 equality supporters to watch him sign marriage equality legislation into law, making Minnesota the twelfth state to legalize marriage for same-sex couples.
People For members helped make this historic event happen. In 2012 PFAW activists joined the fight to vote down an anti-gay ‘one-man, one-woman’ measure on the November ballot. Following that first step, they continued working hard, joining PFAW ally organizations Minnesotans United and OutFront Minnesota in organizing their neighbors, making phone calls, sending emails, and writing letters to their newspapers, demanding full marriage equality for same-sex couples.
In late April, even a massive Midwestern blizzard didn’t stop hundreds from waving rainbow flags while rallying for same-sex marriage on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol before heading inside to lobby their legislators. Last week the big moment finally arrived, as activists from across Minnesota trekked to St. Paul to witness the historic debate of HF 1054 in the MN House. After a contentious three-hour debate, the bill passed easily on a vote of 75-59, evidence of the measure’s broad bi-partisan support.
On Monday the action moved to the Minnesota Senate chamber. Once again, PFAW members in their bright red PFAW ‘Equality Now!’ t-shirts joined thousands of marriage equality supporters at noon in the capitol as the MN Senate took up the measure. A massive crowd packing the rotunda and hallways chanted ‘Vote Yes!’ and sang protest songs, letting Senators know where they stood. By a vote of 42-45, the Senate voted down a divisive amendment that would have allowed business owners to refuse goods and services to same-sex couples based on religious objections. The hours-long but respectful debate on the intact same-sex marriage bill resulted in another bipartisan vote; the measure passing 37-30, sending the bill to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature.
At 5:00 pm yesterday Gov. Dayton and supportive members of the Minnesota Legislature gathered in the 90-degree heat on the front steps to celebrate the historic bill signing. A deafening roar rose from the crowd as Dayton signed the bill into law. Following the ceremony, the thousands of equality revelers paraded to downtown St. Paul for a free party thrown by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. The celebration lasted late into the warm spring night.
PFAW congratulates all Minnesotans and our People For members in celebrating the state’s newly-minted status as the twelfth marriage equality state!
This afternoon the Minnesota House passed a bill allowing same-sex couples in Minnesota to marry. It is expected to be taken up by the Senate on Monday, and Gov. Mark Dayton has pledged to sign the legislation if it reaches him. If successful, Minnesota would be the twelfth state – and the third in one month – to pass marriage equality legislation.
“I personally want this to pass, but I also think it’s the right direction for Minnesota and where the future is headed,” said Minnesota House Speaker Paul Thissen on Tuesday, according to the Star Tribune.
Jake Loesch, communications director for Minnesotans United, shared a similar sentiment:
“Marriage is a simple freedom, it’s something that all Minnesotans deserve and it’s about the love, the commitment, the responsibility that two people share.”
Following closely on the heels of Rhode Island, Delaware is poised to become the eleventh state to allow same-sex couples to marry. Because the Delaware House passed a marriage equality bill last month and Governor Jack Markell has pledged to sign it, the only remaining step was passage in the state Senate – which happened this afternoon.
Recent polling data found that a clear majority of Delaware voters, like the majority of Americans in general, support marriage equality. In April Gov. Markell told the Huffington Post:
“…when the advocates came to me earlier this year, and said we think it's time…I said, you know what, it is time, and I'm happy to stand right there with you.”
We agree: it is time for loving, committed couples to be treated equally under the law – in Delaware and throughout the country.
Today the Rhode Island House passed and Governor Lincoln Chafee is expected to sign legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry, making it the tenth state in the country with full marriage equality. The state House passed a similar version of the bill earlier this year but held another vote following minor changes to the Senate version. Last week PFAW President Michael Keegan released a statement celebrating passage of the bill in the state Senate.
In The New York Times yesterday, Governor Lincoln Chafee called the nationwide push for marriage equality a “historic realignment”:
“A historic realignment is happening all around us, as Americans from all walks of life realize that this is the right thing to do. It is occurring both inside and outside of politics, through conversations at the office and over kitchen tables, and at different speeds in different parts of the country.”
Across dinner tables, in the pews, and in the halls of state legislatures, the momentum is indeed undeniable. Today’s victory will not only give equal marriage rights to committed, loving couples in Rhode Island, it will also strengthen the nationwide momentum towards marriage equality.