DOMA, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, has yet again been declared unconstitutional by a federal court, marking at least a half-dozen federal courts ruling the 1996 law unconstitutional.
In May,Â DOMA was declared unconstitutional by federal courts twice.
Both President Obama’s Department of Justice and John Boehner’s so-called “Bipartisan” Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) (which Democrats do not support) have petitioned the Supreme Court to rule on DOMA, after a string of seven rulings in a row shaming John Boehner’s hand-picked litigator, PaulÂ Clement. Clement is reportedly being paid up to $1.5 million — your tax dollars — to defend a law deemed unconstitutional every time it’s reached the federal courts. Barack Obama and Eric Holder have also deemed DOMA unconstitutional.
The New York Times in an editorial earlier this month encouraged the Supreme Court to strike down DOMA, which they called a â€œnoxious law.”
Read this (rather lengthy) portion of a press release via GLAD,Â Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders:
Today, a U.S. District Court Judge ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional as a violation of equal protection guarantees. Her ruling comes with respect to claims brought by six married same-sex couples and one widower from the states of Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont who were denied federal tax, social security, pension and family medical leave protections only because they are (or were) married to someone of the same sex. Under the ruling, the plaintiffsâ€™ marriages must be accorded the same federal protections and responsibilities as those of other married couples.
The ruling by Judge Vanessa L. Bryant, an appointee of President George W. Bush, stems from the lawsuit Pedersen et al v. Office of Personnel Management et al, filed by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) in November 2010 in the Federal District Court in Connecticut.
â€œSection 3 of DOMA obligates the federal government to single out a certain category of marriages as excluded from federal recognition,â€ Judge Bryant wrote, â€œthereby resulting in an inconsistent distribution of federal marriage benefits as all marriages authorized by certain states will receive recognition and marital benefits, whereas only a portion of marriages authorized by other states will receive federal recognition and benefits.â€
â€œJudge Bryantâ€™s ruling is very clear: married people are married and should be treated as such by the federal government. There is no legitimate basis for DOMAâ€™s broad disrespect of the marriages of same-sex couples,â€ said Mary L. Bonauto, GLADâ€™s Civil Rights Project Director. â€œWe are very pleased that the Court recognized that DOMAâ€™s creation of second-class marriages harms our clients who simply seek the same opportunities to care and provide for each other and for their children that other families enjoy.â€
â€œIâ€™m thrilled that the court ruled that our marriage commitment should be respected by the federal government just as it is in our home state of Connecticut,â€ said Joanne Pedersen, who is a plaintiff with her spouse, Ann Meitzen. â€œI loved working for the Navy for many years, and now that I am retired I now just want to care for my wife and make sure we can enjoy some happy and healthy years together. DOMA has prevented us from doing that.â€
Pedersen retired from a civilian position with the U.S. Department of the Navy after 30 years, the last 12 as a Special Security Officer for the Office of Naval Intelligence. Because of DOMA, she is unable to cover Ann on her health insurance planâ€”as other federal employees and retirees can. As a result, Ann and Joanne, who are living on fixed incomes, are forced to pay out of pocket for Annâ€™s insurance at significant cost.
The next step in the case is an inevitable appeal of the District Court ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from the interveners in the case â€“ the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) of the U.S. House of Representatives. BLAG intervened to defend DOMA from equal protection challenges after President Obama declared he would no longer defend the law in response to this case and Windsor v. United States. That appeal should come within the next 60 days.
The plaintiffs in the Pedersen case were all qualified for, and applied for, protections available to other married couples, but were denied on the grounds that Section 3 of DOMA requires the federal government not to recognize the existing marriages of same-sex couples. The specific harms include denials of Family Medical Leave Act benefits, federal laws for private pension plans, federal laws concerning state pension plans, federal income taxation, social security benefits, and employment benefits for federal employees and retirees.
Judge Bryantâ€™s ruling continues the momentum building in federal courts across the country â€“ including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which ruled against DOMA in our challenge, Gill v. OPM on May 31 â€“ finding Section 3 of the law unconstitutional. On June 6, a New York District Court judge ruled Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional in the Windsor case. Back in February, a California District Court judge declared DOMA Section 3 unconstitutional as applied to a federal judicial employee in the case Golinski v. OPM.
The Pedersen case could now be joined on appeal with Windsor, in which the ACLU and the law firm Paul Weiss represent Edie Windsor, a widow who had to pay a sizable tax after her spouseâ€™s death. Other cases are pending in other venues addressing health insurance coverage, long term care benefits for state employees, military benefits for active and retired military personnel, National Guard members and veterans.
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Republican Attempts to Create Special Religious Rights Fail as Bipartisan Historic Same-Sex Marriage Bill Passes Senate
Far right activists and organizations for months have been falsely claiming legislation to protect same-sex marriages would destroy different-sex marriages and take away religious rights from ordinary Americans, but early Tuesday evening on a bipartisan basis the Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act, 61-36.
61-36: Senate passes marriage equality legislation to protect same-sex and interracial marriages under federal law. 60 votes were needed. The Respect for Marriage Act now heads back to the House for final approval. pic.twitter.com/vKvliW5pIU
— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) November 29, 2022
The legislation itself is very simple. It essentially leaves in place the status quo on marriage from the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell ruling. Should right wing Supreme Court justices strike that ruling down, the Respect for Marriage Act would require the federal government and states to recognize any marriages that were legal when they were entered, now and in the future.
35 states currently still have same-sex marriage bans on the books. If the Supreme Court overturns Obergefell, many of those could become law immediately.
In order to overcome a Republican-led filibuster Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday agreed to allow three GOP Senators to offer amendments to the legislation, amendments that would have created special religious rights to discriminate.
An amendment from Senator James Lankford (R-OK) failed, as did one from Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT). 60 votes were needed for each.
Sen. Lee’s was seen by some as the most extreme, and was strongly supported by the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council and former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Heritage Foundation president Kevin Roberts, in a false claim, had said: “The ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ contains so many infringements and encroachments on religious freedoms and on conscience that Republicans should unite solidly against it. Instead, it should be called the ‘Destruction of Marriage Act.'”
Far right evangelical activist Franklin Graham falsely claimed the “bill strikes a blow at religious freedom for individuals & ministries & is really the ‘Destruction of Marriage Act.'”
The Pennsylvania Family Council called it “a bill that would redefine marriage and attack religious freedom & Christian social services.”
But despite GOP fear-mongering, the legislation has religious protections built in, protections so strong 20 faith-based organizations including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church, have supported its passage.
The bill now heads back to the House for a final vote, and then to President Joe Biden, who has said he will sign it into law.
‘Punditry, Not Leadership’: McConnell Slammed for Refusing to Say if He Would Support Trump in 2024
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is refusing to say if he would support Donald Trump if he becomes the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2024. McConnell spoke in broad terms about antisemitism and white supremacy Tuesday afternoon, a full week to the day after the former president had dinner with the antisemite Kanye West, and the white supremacist Nick Fuentes, but could not bring himself to disavow Trump by name.
NEW: McConnell begins his weekly presser unprompted, right off the bat by addressing the Trump/Ye/Fuentes meeting by saying anyone meeting with people who espouse anti-Semitic views will not likely be elected to the presidency. pic.twitter.com/xgAXzTn5oe
— Caitlin Huey-Burns (@CHueyBurns) November 29, 2022
“First, let me just say, there is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy,” McConnell said as he began a press conference, his first remarks about Trump’s dinner with West and Fuentes. “Anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected President of the United States.”
MCCONNELL: First, let me just say that there is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy. And anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States. pic.twitter.com/IbUrlmwXvD
— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) November 29, 2022
McConnell did not mention Trump, and moments later, when CNN’s Manu Raja specifically asked about the former president, McConnell would only repeat his previous statement.
“Look, let me just say again, there is simply no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy, and that would apply to all of the leaders in the party who will be seeking offices,” he told CNN’s Raju.
After saying there’s no room for antisemitism and white supremacy in the Republican Party, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t answer CNN’s @mkraju as to whether he’d support Donald Trump if he wins the GOP nomination for president in 2024. pic.twitter.com/cm3coNXAZl
— The Recount (@therecount) November 29, 2022
Many were critical of McConnell’s refusal to denounce Trump.
Boston Globe opinion writer Abdallah Fayyad said, “McConnell will absolutely back Trump if he wins the GOP nomination.”
Previously, McConnell had said he would support Trump if he is the GOP’s nominee.
“Notice how McConnell said such a person is ‘highly unlikely’ to be elected, rather than manifestly unfit. He needs to keep his rhetorical options open for Trump getting the nomination again,” observed Media Matters’ Eric Kleefeld.
Law professor and former president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), Sherrilyn Ifill says, “McConnell, Pence, McCarthy and the other folks clutching their pearls today stood beside this man. Distancing from Trump over ‘the dinner’ is way late.”
Political consultant and writer Jamison Foser criticized the Republican Minority Leader, saying: “‘Will not likely be elected’ is punditry, not leadership. McConnell will support Trump if Trump is the Republican nominee; everything else is his attempt to distract from that.”
Before McConnell’s remarks, Ifill had taken the media to task.
“The most dispiriting aspect of the discussion about Trump’s meal w/those two odious ppl is that I thought there was consensus that Trump is a white supremacist. In which case 3 white supremacists had dinner. Why is Trump getting portrayed as an innocent who was snookered?”
‘Beyond Horrific’: Tucker Carlson’s Fox News Producer Is an Out Gay Man Helping ‘Ramp Up’ Hate Says LGBTQ Journalist
Fox News propagandist Tucker Carlson, whose nightly show frequently has the largest reach of any on cable news, regularly attacks the LGBTQ community with fear-mongering and hate-filled segments about gay people, transgender people, “groomers” and the latest target: “drag queen story hours.”
His senior executive producer, who oversees Carlson’s media empire at Fox News, is a married, out, gay man named Justin Wells, according to veteran journalist and SiriusXM Progress host Michelangelo Signorile, who is calling it “beyond horrific to think a gay man has helped to shape and widely disseminate a message of hate against LGBTQ people.”
Last week, in the wake of the horrific anti-LGBTQ hate crime mass shooting Carlson hosted a guest, the head of the so-called “Gays Against Groomers,” who told Fox News viewers the attack on LGBTQ people at a gay bar in Colorado Springs was “predictable” and warned that these hate crime massacres will continue, “until we end this evil agenda” of gender-affirming care.
Tucker Carlson guest: Shootings like the Club Q shooting are going to keep happening “until we end this evil agenda” of gender-affirming care. pic.twitter.com/4ajSonqlug
— Kat Abu (@abughazalehkat) November 23, 2022
Carlson has repeatedly hosted Jaimee Mitchell, the Gays Against Groomers founder who fear mongers against LGBTQ people, with the apparent consent of Wells, who “helped promulgate the kind of hate that leads to violence,” says Signorile.
“It’s unlikely that any narrative would get broadcast by Tucker without significant buy-in from Justin,” Angelo Carusone, President and CEO of media watchdog Media Matters, told Signorile.
Indeed, referring to the Colorado Springs mass shooting massacre, Signorile noted it is “the same kind of nightclub at which Wells, in years past, danced the night away in Miami Beach and elsewhere, liberating himself from the world outside and surely never imagining he’d be shot dead.”
“Now he’s aided the extremists who deny that sense of safety and liberation to every future generation of queer people,” says Signorile, explaining that “Wells runs the entire Tucker Carlson operation, and is responsible for imprinting the Tucker Carlson brand, which is all about emboldening white heterosexual male grievance, furthering the racist conspiracy of ‘replacement theory’ and pushing an increasingly virulent anti-LGBTQ agenda.”
One of Carlson’s frequent LGBTQ targets is Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who he has called an “unqualified ‘kid’ who ‘breastfeeds,’ and has no business running the agency,” as Mediaite reported.
“And as Carlson further pushed white nationalism, attacked transgender people and embraced Hungary’s authoritarian leader Victor Orban,” Signorile reports, “Wells, in 2021, was named a Vice President at Fox News, in charge of all Carlson product that airs on Fox News TV as well as on Fox’s streaming network, Fox Nation.”
Signorile says, “it’s quite stunning that Wells would work for Carlson, who has a well-known history of visceral homophobia. That’s something that came to light again last year when it became known that Carlson had offered a tribute to Dan White, the assassin of San Francisco supervisor and gay civil rights leader Harvey Milk, in his college yearbook back in 1991, as well as to the late vociferously anti-gay Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who whipped up homophobia during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.”
“I wrote about those jarring revelations when they surfaced last year,” he continues, “as well as about what I dubbed Carlson’s ‘pathological obsession with homosexuality’ throughout his career. Carlson has expressed revulsion at homosexuality, and in one incident he reveled in a violent response. In a TV interview in 2007 he described having smashed a man’s head ‘against the stall’ in a public rest room, after the man ‘bothered’ him.”
“Wells, as a gay man, only emboldens Carlson further,” Signorile concludes. “He gives him permission to launch the ugly attacks and helps Carlson validate, for himself (and likely for executives at Fox News), the vitriol he espouses. That makes Justin Wells’ presence as the powerful gay man behind Tucker Carlson all the more newsworthy. And all the more dangerous.”
Signorile notes that his reporting is not an outing.
“This story is not, however, about a warped closet case, tormented by self-loathing, hiding his true self while bashing those like him. And thus, this story is not an outing, which involves exposing someone who covers up their sexual orientation while publicly presenting as heterosexual — though it certainly may be a startling revelation to a great many. It is, rather, about connecting the dots regarding a reality that seems to have been hiding in plain sight.”
You can read Signorile’s entire report on his Substack newsletter.
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