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News items affecting gays, lesbians, bisexuals & transsexuals

2011-JUN-11 to 30: 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.

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See also the previous essay describing events during the first third of 2011-JUN

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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:

  • Photo of cupcakes 2011-JUN-11: ON: LGBT rainbow flag censored; rainbow cupcakes OK: The Roman Catholic bishops in Ontario Canada have been suffering under a revised Golden Rule: "He who has the gold makes the rules." The Ontario Government funds the Catholic separate school system in the Province and has been pressuring the Catholic hierarchy to end discrimination against LGBT students and help fight homophobia in its schools. The hierarchy is also faced with the embarrassing results of a student poll which indicates their desire to receive more education on the diversity of human sexual orientation. The strongest polling response came from students in the schools run by the Toronto Catholic school board. This is distasteful to the church leadership because the church considers gays and lesbians to be disordered, and same-gender sexual behavior to be a very grave sin, irrespective of the nature of the same-sex relationship. The church officially promotes certain forms of discrimination against LGBT persons as necessary and moral. But money talks and so they are reluctantly cooperating ... within limits.

    Forced to allow student run anti-homophobia clubs in their schools, they don't allow them to be called "gay-straight alliances" or to have terms like gay or homosexual in their names, or to show the LGBT rainbow flag anywhere. They have to be called by obscure names, like "Open Arms" or "Equity" groups. But the school administration didn't expect how innovative and creative students would be. At an anti-homophobia event, since they couldn't show the rainbow flag, the students baked a gigantic tray of multi-colored cupcakes arranged to look like the rainbow flag.

    An article on the Toronto Star newspaper's editorial page said:

    "Had we known in time, we’d have bought a dozen. This latest pushback from students should be a lesson to all Catholic educators. Stop fighting your students and work with them to do what’s right. ... Catholic board officials routinely tie themselves into knots trying to sound like they want to be supportive of their gay students while actively restricting many student-driven attempts to actually increase understanding, tolerance and compassion. It’s time the Catholic education system caught up to its students " 1

    More info.

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  • 2011-JUN-13: CA: Bankruptcy court declares federal DOMA law unconstitutional: A third bankruptcy court has ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a case involving a same-sex married couple who were attempting to declare bankruptcy. DOMA states that the federal government will recognize legally married same-sex couples as mere roommates. One result is that the federal government does not represent these married couples when they try to file a joint bankruptcy. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California -- the largest in the country -- rejected attempts by the Obama administration to disallow married same-sex couples from declaring bankruptcy together. However, the California court took the most unusual further step of declaring the DOMA law to be unconstitutional! The ruling was signed by 20 of the court's 24 judges. This is the second time that a federal court has declared DOMA unconstitutional; the first was the "Gill" lawsuit a federal court in Massachusetts. More details

  • 2011-JUN-13: NJ: Assemblyman Reed Gusciora introduces SSM bill: Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, who is the New Jersey Legislature's only openly gay member, introduced Bill A4130 on JUN-13 that would extend marriage in the state to include same-sex couples.

In an interview with Piers Morgan on CNN, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) repeated his promise to veto any bill that would grant marriage equity to same-sex couples. More details

  • 2011-JUN-16: ON: Catholic school board receives critical report: The Catholic Student Leadership Impact Team in Ontario issued their "Voices that Challenge" report concerning homophobia in the Catholic separate school system. Some of the students' recommendations will be impossible for the School Boards to accept because they run counter to the Church's teachings. More details.

  • This is a big one! >>> 2011-JUN-17: World: The United Nations' Human Rights Council passed a declaration supporting the rights of LGBT persons: For the first time, the United Nations endorsed human rights for LGBT people. The resolution expressed:"... grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity." The resolution calls for a panel discussion during 2012-Spring "... to have constructive, informed and transparent dialogue on the issue of discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against" LGBT persons. 2 More details.

  • This is another big one! >>> 2011-JUN-24: NY: The New York Senate passed SSM bill: The Assembly passed the Marriage Equality Bill by a vote of 80 to 63 on 2011-JUN-15. The Senate passed the bill on the evening of 2011-JUN-24 by a vote of 33 to 29. Governor Cuomo signed the bill into law later that evening. Loving, committed same-sex couples will be able to marry in late July. This law doubles the number of same-sex couples able to marry in their home state. More details.

  • Still another big one! >>> 2011-JUN-27: NY: Allegations of a shift in Republican opposition to SSM and other LGBT issues: According to an article in the Huffington Post by Sam Stein, some Republican funding sources are now advocating for LGBT equality. He wrote:
    " 'I didn't come in there saying, 'Do this for me,' recalled Ken Mehlman, the openly gay former RNC chairman who persuaded Republican lawmakers in Albany that there was not only political support but ideological consistency in backing the [same-sex marriage] bill. 'I said, Do this for you. We didn't walk in there saying, Do this not only because it is the right thing from a policy perspective. We were saying, It is the right thing to build the party from a political perspective."

    The politics of gay rights have grown complex in a very short period of time. Once shunned by both parties, only to be picked up as a cause by more progressive-minded Democrats, LGBT issues no longer break down cleanly among the party lines.

    Increasingly, a cadre of deep-pocketed Republican donors is joining in the charge. And the enticements they are using to sway lawmakers are not just conservative arguments for civil liberties or public opinion polls that show a generational divide on gay rights, but the promise of contributions or other forms of political support."

    Looking at public opinion polls, it becomes obvious that if the Republican party continues to tie their political future to a policy of continuing to oppress the LGBT community, they will commit slow political suicide. One survey of New York voters showed that adults under the age of 34 were 74% in favor of SSM, and 22% opposed -- more than a 3 to 1 ratio. Meanwhile, those over 54 years-of-age were a statistical dead heat at 45% in favor and 46% opposed. If the Republican party continues to be anti-LGBT, then their voter support over the next decades will be seriously eroded.

  • 2011-JUN-29: RI: Rhode Island House and Senate passed a civil unions bill that would give registered couples, and their children, all the state rights, privileges and protections currently restricted to opposite-sex married couples. It would also give religious institutions and their affiliated hospitals, schools, cemeteries, etc. the freedom to ignore the bill if it becomes law. A group of agencies promoting marriage equality find this so offensive that they have asked the governor to veto the bill. More details: House activity. House and Senate approve bill.

  • 2011-JUN-29: NJ: Seven same-sex couples and some of their children are going to court in an attempt to prove that the state's civil union law has failed. They allege that it does not grant them the promised same rights, privileges, and protections as opposite-sex married couples receive that a 2006 ruling by the state Supreme Court requires. Their goal, of course, is to widen the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

  • 2011-JUN-29: USA: Statistician computes votes on hypothetical anti-SSM ballots: Nate Silver, statistician and webmaster of the FiveThirtyEight blog on the New York Times web site has estimated the percentage of support that an anti-SSM plebiscite would receive if placed before the voters in each of the 50 states on election day in 2012-NOV. He rates the chances of such a plebiscite passing. 3 This may be an effort to counter the claims of many religious and social conservatives that of the approximately 30 such plebiscites in the past, all have rejected marriage equality, and that new plebiscites in any state will also result in rejection for the foreseeable future. Using two models, he predicts that a plebiscite in Maine to ban SSM would receive from 39.6 to 43.9% "support. A plebiscite in California to ban SSM would receive from 41.8% to 45.8 support. Since any likely 2012 referendum in ME or CA would restore rather than banning SSM, both would thus be "favored" or "very likely" to receive a majority vote. More details.

  • 2011-JUN-30: ME: Effort announced to restore SSM in Maine by a voters' initiative on the 2012-NOV ballot. The drive will be led by EqualityMaine and the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), who will try to restore same-sex marriage (SSM) in Maine. SSM had been granted by the legislature in 2009 but had been vetoed by a citizen initiative later that year in a very close vote. More details.

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See also events during the first 1/3rd 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. "Catholic schools: Embrace the rainbow," The Toronto Star, 2011-JUN-11, at: http://www.thestar.com/ Photo by Meagan Smith
  2. "In first at UN, human rights body passes resolution against gay discrimination," Associated Press, 2011-JUN-17, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  3. Nate Silver, "The Future of Same-Sex Marriage Ballot Measures," FiveThirtyEight blog, 2011-JUN-29, at: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/
  4. Sam Stein, "Money Was The Key Ingredient In New York's Gay Marriage Bill," Huffington Post, 2011-JUN-27, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

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Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-JUL-10
Author: B.A. Robinson
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