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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 29, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 30
National News
Section One
ALL STORIES
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National News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

California may see anti-Gay ballot measure
Californians may be voting on Gay matters again.

This time the target is the law Gov. Jerry Brown signed July 14 that requires public schools to teach about LGBT people's contributions to the state and nation.

Anti-Gay activists have submitted the paperwork to launch a voter repeal referendum and have hit the web with StopSB48.com. Its slogan: "Stop SB 48. It costs too much. It goes too far."

Their next task will be to collect signatures from 504,760 registered California voters before mid-October.

"It's disheartening but not surprising," said Equality California Executive Director Roland Palencia. "When we set out to ensure that California students learn fair and accurate information about the rich and diverse history of LGBT people and people with disabilities as well as their contributions to society, we knew we'd face opposition."

EQCA is seeking donations of $48 (the law was Senate Bill 48) to begin ramping up to fight the possible referendum.

"As with Proposition 8, opponents of equality are ready to amass a huge financial war chest to misrepresent the law, spread more lies about LGBT people and turn back the clock on equality," Palencia said. "To win, we'll have to match them dollar for dollar and educate the public about the importance of the FAIR Education Act."

Should the referendum make it to the ballot, it could be one of two Gay-related initiatives. California LGBT activists still have not made a final decision on whether to return to the ballot next year in an attempt to undo Proposition 8 - the voter-passed state constitutional amendment that re-banned same-sex marriage in 2008.

Prop 8 was later struck down as unconstitutional by a federal court but has remained in force throughout numerous twists and turns in a prolonged appeal of the decision. At the moment, at least three matters are unresolved:

o The appeal of the main ruling that struck down Prop 8.

o Pending decisions from both the California Supreme Court and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on whether the people who appealed had a right to appeal. (California state officials refused to defend Prop 8, so the sponsors of the ballot measure appealed the ruling that struck it down.)

o A pending determination by the 9th Circuit on whether the entire lower-court ruling should be tossed out because the judge who issued it is in a same-sex relationship and, supposedly, could have had a desire to get married himself at the moment he issued the decision.

This final issue is unlikely to go anywhere. But the question of whether the ballot-measure sponsors have legal "standing" to appeal is a real one. If they don't, then there will be no appeal and the ruling that struck down Prop 8 will take effect.

Should the appeal proceed on the actual merits of the decision, it would be heard first by the 9th Circuit and then likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could uphold Prop 8, strike it down in a way that applies only to California, or strike it down in a way that legalizes same-sex marriage nationwide.

Senate OKs out Gay man for federal district judge The U.S. Senate approved the nomination of openly Gay J. Paul Oetken as a federal District Court judge in the Southern District of New York on July 18. The vote was 80-13.

He will be first openly Gay male federal district judge. There is one out Lesbian federal judge: Deborah Batts in Manhattan.

"We commend the Senate for their historic vote today," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "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 U.S., there is no reason why the federal bench should not better reflect the composition of our country."

Senate holds hearing on repealing DOMA Congress' first-ever hearing on repealing the Defense of Marriage Act took place in the Senate Judiciary Committee July 20.

DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing states' same-sex marriages and purports to give states cover to refuse to recognize other states' same-sex marriages.

The bill to repeal DOMA was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

"Today's hearing proved that married same-sex couples share the same values and needs as other married couples but are constantly hamstrung in their ability to protect themselves," said HRC President Joe Solmonese, who testified at the hearing. "The federal government shouldn't be in the business of picking which marriages it likes and which it doesn't, but that's exactly what DOMA does."

DOMA prevents same-sex couples from accessing more than 1,100 federal rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage, including Social Security survivor benefits, federal employee spousal health coverage, protection against a spouse losing a shared home during a medical emergency, the right to sponsor a foreign partner for immigration, the guarantee of family and medical leave, and the ability to file joint tax returns.

"In 1996, DOMA was just hypothetical discrimination because every state excluded same-sex couples from marriage," Solmonese said. "Today we see it in much more concrete terms - as tangible, heart-wrenching, real-life discrimination."

At a Feinstein press conference July 19, staged with the Courage Campaign, Courage chair Rick Jacobs said: "We are tired of second-class, and in some cases, third-class citizenship in our own country. We pay taxes, we serve our communities and we work hard. We are entitled to the same rights, freedoms and benefits as other Americans. No more, no less."

With assistance from Bill Kelley

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top: Rick Jacobs
bottom: Roland Palencia
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