News items affecting gays, lesbians, bisexuals & transsexuals
2011-JUL-16 to 31: Accelerating steps toward
equality etc., after DOMA decision in early 2011
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. The acronym "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.
See also the previous essay describing events during the first half of 2011-JULY
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.
Developments toward marital equality and a lessening of discrimination against sexual minorities:
- 2011-JUL-16: CA: About 200 troops marched in gay pride parade: Active-duty troops and veterans marched in San Diego's gay pride parade carrying American flags and rainbow banners. They wore T-shirts identifying their service branch. It is believed to be the first time that a significantly sized military contingent has taken part in an American gay pride parade. They exposed themselves to considerable risk because on the previous day, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had reinstated the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy of the military that bans LGBTs from serving. However, the court's ruling prevents the military from investigating, penalizing or discharging LGBT service members. Thus, the law is still on the books, but cannot be acted upon.
Nichole Herrera, 31, a member of the National Guard said that she is not worried that the DADT policy is still in place. She commented that she was choked up several times during the walk. She said:
"This is one of the proudest days in my life. It's time for it [the DADT policy] to be gone. I'm a soldier no matter what, regardless of my sexual orientation.
Miranda LeClair, 30, was a Navy military police officer until 2010-NOV. She was investigated under DADT but not discharged. She attended the march with her girlfriend who is also a former military police officer. Miranda carried a sign that read: "Proudly served in silence for nine years." She said:
"It's been a long time coming. This is really an emotional day for me."
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Derek Collins said:
"I'm so happy I'm here and I'm able to come out and support not only myself but those who can't be here today."
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network -- a national group of gay and lesbian active-duty service members -- informed parade organizer Sean Sala that they suggest that LGBs are still at risk if they come out of the closet while DADT is still on the books, even though it is inactivated at present. Sala, who was a Navy operations specialist, said it's time for the gay and lesbian community to stop hiding in fear. He said:
"This is not in any way a violation of military policy and it's time for the country to move on — plain and simple."
Webmaster's note: In reality, it is a "violation of military policy" because the DADT policy is still a law on the books. The current status is strange but should bring some degree of comfort to both sides in the conflict. Religious and social conservatives can take some solace in the fact that the policy is still law. Civil libertarians and LGBT service members can take some encouragement out of the fact that the military cannot investigate, penalize or discharge them from service. It can be argued that this is the best of both worlds. However, I don't expect many other to agree with this opinion because it is neither a clean nor a permanent solution. 1
- 2011-JUL-18: NY: First openly gay federal judge is confirmed, uneventfully: President Obama nominated J. Paul Oetken during 2011-JAN. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved his confirmation by voice vote during 2011-APR. The full Senate confirmed his appointment on 2011-JUL-18 by a vote of 80 to 13! He will sit on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Only a simple majority was required for confirmation. The only other known openly LGBT federal judge is U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts, also on the NY Southern District court. She was appointed during the Clinton administration.
In a fear-based article on the World Net Daily web site, an anonymous Washington DC lawyer who uses the pen name Frank Bleckwenn raised the alarm against Oetken's confirmation. He seems to believe that any lesbian or gay judge will automatically vote in favor of LGBT equality -- no matter what legal precedence requires -- as well as be able to sway a majority of the other judges in the court. Before the confirmation vote, he wrote:
"The New York legislature has voted to impose same-sex "marriage" in New York State. But did you know that the U.S. Senate is now preparing to make that imposition permanent?
True, there is no bill to accomplish this goal. Instead, the imposition will be by future court order. And the instrument chosen by Sen. Charles Schumer to do the deed is J. Paul Oetken, nominated for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. A vote to confirm this nominee is in effect a vote to subject New York by force of judicial fiat to the homosexual agenda, lock, stock, and barrel." 2
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign -- one of the leading groups promoting LGBT equality called the confirmation a“historic vote.” He said:
"Confirmation of Paul Oetken serves as a role model for all LGBT people interested in serving on the judiciary and shows LGBT youth that hard work pays off. ... The federal bench is greatly lacking LGBT diversity and with thousands of qualified LGBT attorneys in the [United States], there is no reason why the federal bench should not better reflect the composition of our country"
Denis Dison, spokesperson for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, said:
"It wasn’t even two decades ago that openly LGBT people had a hard time even being considered for a presidential appointment, and some who got nominated faced fierce opposition in the Senate. Today, more than 200 LGBT Americans have been appointed by President Obama, and more than 25 of those were nominated for Senate-confirmable positions." 4
50 Democrats voted in favor of the confirmation. All 50 would have done so, except that one was not able to be present for the vote because of a transportation delay, Among Republican Senators, 26 voted for the confirmation.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who recommended the nomination said:
"As the first openly gay man to be confirmed as a federal judge and to serve on the federal bench, he will be a symbol of how much we have achieved as a country in just the last few decades. And importantly, he will give hope to many talented young lawyers who, until now, thought their paths might be limited because of their sexual orientation. When Paul becomes Judge Oetken, he will be living proof to all those young lawyers that it really does get better." 4
Webmaster's note: Having 26 Republican Senators voting for an openly gay man as a Federal judge is truly remarkable. I would have expected all or essentially all to oppose confirmation. Yet none of the news sources that I found via Google pointed this out, until I noticed Marc Osgoode Smith's column in the Morton Report. He wrote:
"There were no floor objections, no apocalyptic warnings of the homosexual agenda, and perhaps most surprisingly, no accompanying fundraising drive by social conservatives to cash in on what has been lucrative red meat in the past. ... In all, 26 Senate Republicans did not bat an eye in providing a lifetime appointment to one of the most powerful benches in the country to an unabashed member of Lambda Legal, the ACLU LGBT Project, the Human Rights Campaign, GAYLAW, and the National LGBT Bar Association. Nine of them just voted no with nary a word of objection. There was a golden opportunity to make some serious hay and not a whimper or even morning after pushback." 5
- 2011-JUL-20: DC: Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on the Respect for Marriage bill: It is a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The name of the bill appears to have been derived from lack of respect by DOMA for same-sex marriages (SSMs) solemnized in states that allow SSMs or from DOMA's lack of respect for the decision by state legislatures to allow SSMs.
- This is a big one! >>> 2011-JUL-22: Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy on its last legs: On the morning of JUL-22, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were reported to be ready to certify that DADT can be ended without significant adverse affects on the military.
They met with President Obama. President Obama issued a statement saying:
"I have certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' will end, once and for all, in 60 days – on September 20, 2011." More details.
- 2011-JUL-31: NY: Opinion pages of the New York Times carries an editorial titled: "Its Getting Better." It starts: "It has been a very good few weeks in the fight for gay equality."
See also events during the first half of 2011-AUG
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the
above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Julie Watson, "Troops march in San Diego's gay pride parade," Associated Press, 2011-JUL-16, at: http://news.yahoo.com/
- Frank J. Bleckwenn, "Senate vote would cement 'gay' marriage in New York," World Net Daily, 2011-JUL-15, at:
- "List of current United States Senators," Wikipedia as at 2011-JUL-17, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
- Chris Johnson, "BREAKING: Senate confirms first out gay male to federal bench," Washington Blade, 2011-JUL-19, at: http://www.washingtonblade.com/
- Marc Osgoode Smith, "Letter from DC: The Declining Importance of Gay" The new mantra? “They’re queer, they’re here. Yawn…." The Morton Report, 2011-JUL-21, at: http://www.themortonreport.com
- Basil Katz and Neale Gulley, "New York begins marrying same-sex couples," IOL News, 2011-JUL-24, at: http://www.iol.co.za/
- "Most states likely to spurn gay-marriage bandwagon," ABC News, 2011-JUL-25, at: http://www.abc12.com/
- "It's Getting Better," New York Times, 2011-JUL-31, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-AUG-19
Author: B.A. Robinson