Back in July, I had the privilege of attending the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Respect for Marriage Act. Today brought me to another historic moment: the passage of that bill out of Committee.
Senator Feinstein, the bill’s chief sponsor, offered a perfect description of how times have changed.
“When DOMA passed 15 years ago, no state permitted same-sex marriage. Today, 6 states and the District of Columbia do: Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa, New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.
So, today there are 131,000-plus legally married same-sex couples in this country.
These changes reflect a firmly-established legal principle in this country: marriage is a legal preserve of the states.
DOMA infringes on this state authority by requiring the federal government to disregard state law, and deny more than 1,100 federal rights and benefits to which all other legally married couples are entitled.”
Here are a mere few of the many highlights from the other nine Democrats on the Committee, all nine among the bill’s thirty cosponsors.
“The Federal Government should not deny recognition and protection to the thousands of Americans who are lawfully married under their state law. We must repeal DOMA to ensure the freedom and equality of all of our citizens.”
“I voted for DOMA. I believe I was wrong.”
“If this is called to the floor and only the 30 cosponsors vote for it, it’s worth the effort.”
“But every year, when they fill out their federal tax return, Javen and Oby have to check the ‘single’ box. They have to sign that form—under penalty of perjury. Every year, DOMA forces Javen and Oby to lie under oath. Every year, Javen and Oby pay taxes to a government that says their marriage is a fiction, even though they are a married couple—in the eyes of the God that they worship, in the eyes of their friends and family, and in the eyes of the state of Connecticut.”
“And you know, when we do pass it, straight people aren’t suddenly going to become gay. Straight people aren’t going to stop getting married. No, we’re going to be just fine. What will happen is that millions upon millions of lesbian and gay Americans aren’t going to suffer the indignity of having their own government tell them that their marriages are no good. What will happen is that it will be easier for those people to start and protect their families.”
"This is a truly important day in our nation's journey toward equality," Senator Coons said. "We’ve made tremendous progress and I am proud of the committee's vote today. As more Americans join the cause of equality, the Senate is changing with it. Equality is never a special interest — it is a fundamental interest of this country. Whether the Respect for Marriage Act moves to the floor in this Congress or the next, we will eventually repeal DOMA. We must redouble our efforts to show that the love and commitment shared by same-sex couples is of equal value as that shared by heterosexual couples."
In 2002, upon completing eighth grade at MacDonald Middle School in East Lansing, MI, Matt Epling was the victim of a hazing assault by upperclassmen. Roughly forty days later, presumably still reeling from the aftermath of the incident, Matt committed suicide. In the years since, friends and family have honored his memory by fighting for the passage of Matt’s Safe School Law.
The latest iteration of this legislation passed the Michigan Senate on November 2. But instead of protecting students like Matt from bullying and harassment, SB 137 creates a potentially dangerous religious exemption.
This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil's parent or guardian.
The First Amendment and the fundamental constitutional rights and principles it encompasses deserve our utmost respect and a passionate defense. But to exempt religion in this way is not the answer.
Matt’s father, [Kevin Epling], expressed his dismay in a Facebook post after the state senate vote on Wednesday. “I am ashamed that this could be Michigan’s bill on anti-bullying,” wrote Epling. “For years the line [from Republicans] has been ‘no protected classes,’ and the first thing they throw in…was a very protected class, and limited them from repercussions of their own actions.”
Or as Dr. Eliza Byard, Executive Director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, once said:
This is an issue of behavior, not belief.
Fix SB 137 by removing the exemption clause, adding statewide reporting requirements, and adding enumerated protections for categories such as race, disability, and sexual orientation.
Yesterday we reported how eager Representative Darrell Issa was to override DC’s home rule when he introduced a bill to mandate new DC hiring practices. Just hours later, he pulled his bill off the markup schedule for his committee, where it had been fast-tracked. DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton:
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) called Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) today to thank him for pulling his bill on District of Columbia hiring practices, after D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown called and assured Issa that the city was moving forward with its own hiring reform legislation. During an affable phone conversation, Norton told Issa that she has long advised members of Congress who have concerns about local D.C. laws to speak directly with the mayor, council chair, or her regarding their concerns rather than to introduce legislation, and that she hopes that other Members will follow Issa’s example in this case of working directly with the city to address their concerns.
We must still remain vigilant in the House, because as Delegate Norton points out:
The current House Republican majority has been less open to working with the District and instead has moved aggressively on anti-home-rule legislation.
Last month, PFAW strongly encouraged the Senate Appropriations Committee to approve a clean DC appropriations bill. Now the fight continues in the Senate, where this week we expect the consideration of a “minibus” appropriations package including DC.
DC residents and their elected officials should be the ones who determine what is best for their city, without the meddling of a Congress in which they have no vote. For a party that claims to be focused on getting the federal government out of people’s lives, many Republicans have been astoundingly eager to override DC’s home rule.
On the House side, Representative Darrell Issa is showing how eager he is to do just that. Representative Issa has introduced a bill to mandate new DC hiring practices, and he’ll mark up that bill in his committee on Thursday morning.
Seriousness of recent DC scandals aside, Representative Issa fails to recognize that this is a DC problem, one that DC itself is already investigating through the city council, the Office of Campaign Finance, and the US Attorney. DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton:
The bill represents a significant escalation of Republicans’ relentless attacks this Congress on the District’s right to self-government . . . [It] will not pass the committee quietly, and if it makes it to the House floor, we will make it very clear that Republicans, who profess to support local control of local matters, are focused on partisan, ideological fights, not addressing Americans’ top priority: jobs.
Liberty Counsel head Mat Staver dedicated his speech at the Values Voter Summit to discussing how America's cultural values are under assault from the left, naming legal abortion, LGBT equality and secular government as ways progressives are undermining the country's moral fiber.
Staver: These values, these fundamental freedoms are literally at stake in the elections and also in our local communities. It is the future of American civilization that will be determined on our watch and I firmly believe that. The battles we face in America today are not about necessarily tangible borders but intangible ones, they involve the borders around life, liberty and family. And these borders like those physical borders in Israel are under intense attack. In America we are witnessing fierce battles to boot God out of the public schools and out of the public squares, to teach even the youngest of our children about sex and homosexuality, to make America a tax-supported right for any reason and to redefine the very definition of family and marriage. America is also being pushed to the verge of bankruptcy, we are about ready to hit a debt wall and if we don't stop now that will ultimately implode America and there are those who certainly want to do that very thing. Because they don't believe in American exceptionalism, they don't believe in these core values, in fact they hate these core values.
Last week, Pay Pal suspended the accounts of four anti-gay organizations and, as you can imagine, that development is not sitting well with other anti-gay groups, which is why Matt Barber and Shawn Akers of Liberty Counsel dedicated today's radio program to threatening an all-out Christian boycott of the service and even speculated about the prospect of launching a "pro-liberty" competitor to challenge it:
There are an estimated 36,000 gay and lesbian binational couples in the United States. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and other discriminatory federal policies, these Americans are unable to sponsor their foreign-born same-sex spouses.
Meet Frances Herbert and Takako Ueda – they need your help! With Takako’s student visa set to expire, the threat of Takako’s deportation looms large for a couple who is legally married in Vermont and has known each other for over 30 years.
Anthony Makk and Bradford Wells are a couple in San Francisco who have been married for seven years. However, because their marriage is not recognized by the federal government, Wells, an Austrialian, faces deportation later this month.
Earlier this year, Rep. Jerrold Nadler and Sen. Patrick Leahy introduced the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). It is a meaningful step toward providing equality to same-sex couples and keeping their families together. It would allow many same-sex partners to begin the immigration process more quickly, efficiently, and with fewer limitations. For many, it could very well be the only avenue available to keep their families together in the US.
Please join us in calling on President Obama and the Department of Homeland Security to keep couples like Frances and Takako and Anthony and Bradford together. Also, contact your senators and representative and urge them to cosponsor UAFA. All families deserve to stay together and have a chance at pursuing the American dream.
Today, the House Appropriations committee rejected an amendment to strike the abortion rider from the fiscal year 2012 D.C. Appropriations bill. Norton is pleased that with the critical help of a new coalition of national organizations, no new riders were added to bill, but she said the "city cannot be satisfied until we have returned to the clean D.C. appropriations we achieved when Democrats controlled the House."
Delegate Norton continues:
Norton said that the DC Vote rally is especially timely because the D.C. appropriations bill was passed by the full appropriations committee today and is headed to the House floor with a prohibition on city spending for abortions for low-income women, which must be removed.
"Saturday's rally will make history and serve notice that all branches of government are responsible for protecting the District's rights to local self-governance, particularly its right to spend local funds as it sees fit," said Norton. Saturday will mark the first time I have seen residents and national organizations alike, assemble at the White House to call on an administration to step up to help protect the city's home-rule, and Saturday may well be the first time that a rally has been designed not only for protest, but for fun for all ages, complete with musical performances, poster face-making, and the like. Our families are enthusiastic supporters of democracy for D.C., but those with kids have trouble coming to rallies. A Saturday of fun and protest will be perfect for kids, parents, and the rest of us."
Look for our signs and the PFAW and AAMIA logos!
The House Appropriations Committee convened this morning at 9:30 am to consider the DC appropriations bill that the DC subcommittee passed last week. We are currently waiting for word on whether any DC riders were added, in addition to those already included in the bill concerning reproductive freedom and public education.
Dear PFAW Activist,
Washington, DC residents, who already lack voting representation in Congress, have been treated even more like second-class citizens by this Republican Congress, adding insult to injury.
Republicans used the budget deal earlier this year to attack DC home rule and District women's access to healthcare. They banned the use of local funds (NOT federal tax dollars) from being used for reproductive healthcare for low-income women.
Now, Republicans are threatening a series of "policy riders" on the DC appropriations bill for 2012 that would micro-manage the lives of DC residents from our classrooms to our safety to our health, having already passed more attacks on women's health and public education.
So much for the "party of small government."
Please join us, along with DC residents and DC rights supporters from the greater metro area, THIS SATURDAY, at 11:00am at the White House to tell President Obama to stand up for DC.
Let the president know that this attack on DC residents' fundamental rights is a deal breaker. Both he and the Democratic leadership in the Senate need to stand up for the nearly 600,000 residents of our nation's capital -- come out this Saturday and let them know it.
When: Saturday June 25, 2011, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Where: Lafayette Square (outside White House), 16th & H St NW
Metro: Farragut West (Orange & Blue lines)
Click here to RSVP with our friends at DC Vote. We hope to see you there!
-- Jen Herrick, Senior Policy Analyst
PFAW and AAMIA continue to believe that enough is enough – the people of DC deserve a voice. For more information, please click here.