Americans for Marriage Equality

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Welcome to A.M. Equality - September 19, 2014


ESSEKS: “GAY PEOPLE RAISING KIDS HAS SHIFTED FROM DOWNFALL TO SALVATION”: Don’t miss ACLU LGBT Project Director James Esseks’s oped in today’s Advocate, which explores the dramatic shift in the way American society and our court system views gay couples and their families. In less than a decade,” writes Esseks, who has argued two cases at the Fourth and Seventh Circuits pending before the Supreme Court, “our families have gone from a tactic to block marriage equality to one of the best arguments for legal relationship recognition...“This stunning change — from losing marriage cases because of judges’ fears for the welfare of our children to winning them because of judges’ concerns for the welfare of those same kids — shows how deeply America’s view of gay people has changed.” Read the full piece here:

ALL IN THE FAMILY: The Census Bureau will now refer to same-sex couples as families from here on out in newly released census data. Same-sex couples were previously referred to as “unmarried partners” even if they were married in a state that recognized marriage equality. Regarding the move by the Bureau, Gary Gates, a UCLA expert in demographics of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, said: “It’s a very positive step that comports with the law and more closely (reflects) how society understands same-sex couples and their families.”

HIPAA PRIVACY RULE AFFECTED BY DOMA RULING: After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last summer, married same-sex couples saw immediate changes to the recognition of their marriages for tax and benefits purposes - now, the HIPAA Privacy Rule has caught up to the reality of a post-DOMA America, by allowing medical information about a same-sex partner to be freely shared with his or her spouse. The Privacy Rule states that “spouses” must be allowed to be informed about their partner’s medical condition, and without DOMA, the term “spouse” can now legally include married, same-sex couples. More here:

PORTLAND PRESS HERALD PRAISES BONAUTO: The Portland Press Herald editorial board has honored “Maine-based civil rights pioneer,” Mary Bonauto, who earlier this week was announced as a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Genius grant. The Herald profiles Bonauto’s journey from fighting marriage equality bans at the state level -- beginning in Massachusetts -- to helping craft the winning legal strategy used to argue against (and successfully strike down) DOMA at the U.S. Supreme Court. Read the full piece, here:


-LEGAL COUNSEL FOR HIRE: A new resolution was passed in Virginia yesterday allowing for the Republican controlled state house to hire attorneys to defend the state ban on marriage equality, given that Attorney General Mark Herring has declined to defend the ban. The newly expanded bill will allow Speaker of the House William Howell to hire legal counsel to defend the governing body in court in lieu of the AG’s “improper role in challenging Virginia’s marriage laws.” When asked about the move, Herring’s office said: “Every court that has reviewed Virginia’s marriage ban has agreed with Attorney General Herring’s analysis and the author of Virginia’s modern constitution has said the Attorney General acted within his authority and duty. This is just an anti-equality measure wrapped up in the guise of the law.” More here:

-INDIANA GOV WILL ‘UPHOLD THE LAW’ REGARDLESS, BUT STILL ANTI-EQUALITY: Indiana Governor Mike Pence has repeatedly stated that no matter the outcome of marriage equality in Indiana, he will faithfully execute the law as governor. However, as he told the Indiana Family Institute last night, he “will never waver in my belief in the importance of traditional marriage to our society and our community and the people of this great state.” According to the Indianapolis Star, “the majority” of Pence’s speech was focused on the “sanctity of marriage” and his views “against premarital sex.” The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently unanimously struck down Indiana’s ban on marriage equality after hearing Baskin v. Bogan, brought by Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and private attorneys. Indiana Attorney General Zoeller has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

...AND AT THE SAME EVENT: After Gov. Pence delivered his headlining speech at an Indiana Family Institute fundraiser last night, Republican Senator Mike Delph was recognized as the Institute’s “lawmaker of the year,” for his efforts to fight marriage equality in the Indiana legislature. Delph gained public notoriety after unsuccessfully spearheading an effort to place a constitutional ban on marriage equality on the ballot in Indiana earlier this year.

-PROFILES IN COURAGE: INDIANA COUPLE JIM SMITH AND JIM MAILLOUX: Their local pride office has unveiled an exhibit, “Our Journey,” chronicling the longtime couple’s lives over the course of legislation and cases challenging the state’s marriage ban. The profile poignantly observes that both men, who have worked in the floral industry, have helped plan several weddings for others but remain unable to plan their own. The vows they have made to each other personally wrap around the exhibit: “I know some people don’t understand our life together, but 30 years ago I knew how I felt and to this day that has never changed. And with our friends and family present, I need to tell you something I rarely say so that they may understand how important this is for me. It’s simple and short but very powerful. I just want to say, I love you.”

-ALABAMA RECYCLES OLD ARGUMENTS: Alabama currently has four marriage equality cases filed in courts throughout the state. In one of the cases, Hard v. Bentley, plaintiff Paul Hard, whose husband was recently killed in a car crash, argues that he is entitled to any proceeds that emerge from the settlement of the crash. Hard and his attorneys asked the state to “Identify every government interest that you contend is a rationale for the Sanctity Laws,” or, to justify in what way the marriage ban benefits the state. The arguments presented by the state, which can be found here, have been used in cases nationwide before and have been continuously discarded by courtrooms every time. The arguments range from preventing polygamy to the idea that “altering social norms undermines a ‘civil society.’”

-ON HOLD IN COLORADO: Yesterday, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals put the Colorado case Burns v. Hickenlooper, which challenges the state’s ban on marriage equality, on hold pending action from the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled that the Colorado case would be stayed pending action from the nation’s highest court in two other cases out of the Tenth Circuit: Kitchen v. Herbert out of Utah and Bishop v. Smith out of Oklahoma. You can check out the court’s ruling here:

-JMU STUDENTS DROWN OUT HATE: In a video that has gone viral from Harrisonburg, Virginia-based James Madison University, students came together to challenge a school minister's intolerance of the LGBT community. As a group of 150 students watched the preacher outside of the school library, JMU senior Ryan Gormley picked up his guitar and began playing a well known Christian song, How He Loves. The song drowns out the radical speaker’s hate speech and after its over, Gormley yells to the crowd, “Jesus loves you all.” Check out the video here:

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