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Nationwide DOMA protests scheduled for Jan. 10
Nationwide DOMA protests scheduled for Jan. 10
by Mike Andrew - SGN Contributing Writer

Marriage equality returns to political center stage this Jan. 10, as nationwide demonstrations will demand the repeal of DOMA, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages even if they are legal in the states where they take place, and allows individual states to refuse to recognize legal same-sex marriages performed in other states.

In Seattle, organizers plan for a noon rally at Westlake Plaza, 4th Avenue and Pine St,. lasting till 2 p.m. In Tacoma, demonstrators will gather at 10:30 a.m. at First United Methodist Church, 621 Tacoma Avenue S., for a rally and march to Tacoma's City Building. Spokane organizers plan a rally at City Hall at 10:30 a.m. In Olympia, demonstrators will also meet at their City Hall at 10:30 a.m. Details for these actions and others nationwide are available at the website www.jointheimpact.com.

A common feature of all the demonstrations will be collecting signatures on an "Open Letter to President Barack Obama." Organizers intend the letter to "remind President-Elect Barack Obama of the promises he made to us. It will also serve as a pledge from our community that we will hold him to his promises and help him achieve them." The letter can also be downloaded from jointheimpact.com.

In his "Open Letter to the LGBT Community" Obama said in part, "I support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) - a position I have held since before arriving in the US Senate&Federal law should not discriminate in any way against Gay and Lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does."

Obama also pledged to support an Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that includes Transgender workers; to work for the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rule that prohibits openly LGBT people from serving in the US military; to support the Matthew Shepard Act establishing federal hate crimes laws; to amend the Uniting American Families Act to include same-sex couples in US immigration law; and to confront the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the stigma surrounding it.

Jointheimpact.com was created as a vehicle to organize the successful Nov. 15 National Day of Action for marriage equality, in the wake of the passage of Prop 8 in California. Many of the organizers of the Jan.10 actions also helped pull together the Nov. 15 protests in this state.

Seattle organizer Joe Mirabella sees the actions as an opportunity for outreach. Activists "need to continue their education efforts to their families and friends. They need to bring them to their local rallies," he told SGN. "They also need to tell their representatives, both nationally and locally how important full equality is to us. We also need our straight friends, neighbors, and families, to tell their representatives that equality is important to them too. We can not do this without our allies."

"We also need to remember the basics," Mirabella continued. "Gays and Lesbians need to come out in all aspects of their lives. We need to be out to our families, friends, co-workers, neighbors and so on. Visibility is key."

Jessica Gavre, Director of the Micah Project at Tacoma's First United Methodist Church, says that "marriage equality is a priority for our congregation. We have a lot of LGBT members and our church works actively to move LGBT people into positions of leadership." Their Nov. 15 march drew 150 people "with almost no publicity," and Gavre says she "hopes for 250 on Jan.10."

"The Micah Project is a social justice ministry, so we're concerned about many issues," she said. "There was an urgency felt by our congregation that moved this issue to the forefront."

The federal DOMA was passed in 1996 by a vote of 85-14 in the U.S. Senate, and 342-67 in the House of Representatives. It was signed by Pres. Bill Clinton on Sept. 21, 1996. President-Elect Obama was not a member of the Senate when DOMA was passed. In the Washington state Congressional delegation, only four of the eleven who were serving in 1996 are still members of Congress. Of these, only Jim McDermott (D-7th Dist.) voted against DOMA. Sen. Patty Murray (D) and Reps. Norm Dicks (D-6th Dist.) and Doc Hastings (R-4th Dist.) voted in favor.

According to Mirabella, Sen. Murray was invited to the Seattle rally "to either show her support, or defend her position to her constituents." At press time she had not responded to the invitation. Her office also did not respond to a request by SGN for a comment.

Federal DOMA legislation was followed by the passage of similar bills in several states, including Washington. To date, twenty states have enacted DOMAs, twenty-eight have adopted amendments to their state constitutions prohibiting same-sex marriage, and twelve ban any form of same-sex union including civil unions. Only two states allow same-sex marriage, and five recognize some alternative form of same-sex union.

Washington's state legislature has passed a state DOMA, but also recognizes same-sex domestic partnerships with specifically enumerated rights. In a controversial 5-4 decision, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in July 2006 that LGBT couples do not have a constitutionally protected right to marry. The US Supreme Court has consistently declined to review cases on the constitutionality of the federal DOMA.

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