Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Prop. 8 Trial - Defense Witnesses and LGBT Political Power

The defense has tried to show that the LGBT community has immense political power and influence. But skillful cross-examination by plantiff attorney, David Boies, shows that despite the progress of the last four decades our community is still vulnerable to majority communities: politically, economically, and physically. Follow the trial on liveblogs from the Courage Campaign or Firedoglake. Shannon Minter from NCLR provides an informed summary each day on Pam's Houseblend. read on

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Around the States

Equality Florida discusses candidates in upcoming Attorney General race.

Empire State Pride Agenda's Morning Sweep highlights weekend NYT article on the work of the Transgender Legal and Education Fund.

Basic Rights Oregon mobilizes to prevent cuts to services crucial to LGBT communities.

Equality California crossposts NCLR attorney Shannon Minter's analysis of the Prop.8 trial.

Fair Wisconsin applauds marriage equality support from Meghan and Cindy McCain.

TransOhio publishes call for panelists for 2010 National Women's Studies Association Conference. The panel, "Gender Performance: Transgender Perspectives,” will address conference thematic areas - Complicating the Queer and “Outsider” Feminisms
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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Prop 8 Trial Observer Looks at LGBT Political Power

crossposted from Prop 8 Trail Tracker
By Rick Jacobs - Chair and Founder of the Courage Campaign

The essential question coming out of Day 7 of the Prop 8 trial is clear:

What is political power?

Today, Gary M. Segura, a Stanford Political Science professor, convincingly testified about the relative political power of the LGBT community as a class of citizens, as well as the level of vulnerability experienced by gays and lesbians in the political process.

Segura first defined the differences between political power and weaknesses. He then showed that gays and lesbians do not have that much power, which is surprising to some. Protect Marriage attorney David Thompson is trying to show that gays do have power because we give money, have access to public figures like Speaker Pelosi, have marriage in a few states and raised $43 million against Prop 8.But juxtapose this with the amazing revelation of documents earlier this afternoon that show how clearly the Mormon and Catholic Churches coordinated and ran the field campaign for Prop 8. We knew the churches were involved deeply, but now we see that they essentially made the campaign work.

The summary from both sides reduces to this: After 30 years, we have a hate crimes bill. And even though Mr. Thompson keeps touting the Human Rights Campaign’s own writings promoting HRC, we see that we have little real power.

Let’s look at the record:

1. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was a gift of the Clinton Administration; there is no sign that President Obama is going to move to repeal it anytime soon, especially after the Coakley defeat last night.

2. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was a gift of the Clinton Administration. We still have no commitment from President Obama or the Democratic leadership in Congress that this will be repealed and certainly not when.

3. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) languishes somewhere between the House and grey skies.

4. We have lost 33 out 34 ballot fights and 75% of the 200 or so initiatives that have been waged against us.

As Mr. Thompson for the defense inadvertently points out by having played excerpts from Obama’s speech, the gays get politicians to show up and get invited to parties. But nothing happens. We see that the hundreds of millions of dollars that the LGBT community has spent has not resulted in very little real power — the kind of power that can actually conjure fear in the minds of elected officials. As a friend and senior advisor to Obama remarked to me recently, not one federal office holder worries in the least about what the gay community says or does.

Professor Segura made clear that the foregoing is not necessarily true for Latinos or African Americans or women or evangelicals, as office holders appear to factor the votes of these specific constituencies into their decisions more often (recognizing, of course, that the the LGBT community is inclusive of all of these constituencies).

On this first anniversary of Barack Obama’s inauguration when Democrats are wringing their hands over the meaning of Martha Coakley’s defeat in Massachusetts, this trial shows us the clear path ahead.

First, progressives and the LGBT community itself must continue to support such breakthrough efforts as this trial. It is truly a groundbreaking event.

Second, we must build true political power. That means we have to show office holders that we will fight them, that we will run primaries against them and that we will reward them for good behavior. The idea that getting lots of stories in the newspaper is somehow going to change politics is ludicrous.

Third, we have to embrace and empower the grassroots communities that we see reading this blog and participating in any number of activities to advance equality, online and offline. An organization like the Courage Campaign Institute is more powerful with hundreds of thousands of small donors than this movement can ever be with a few donations from big corporations. And we are most powerful when we have hundreds of thousands of people across this country who will exercise political power.

Finally, we have to tell our stories. Let’s never forget how this trial began and of what this fight consists. It’s all about Jeff and Paul, Kris and Sandy. It’s about each and every family, straight and gay.

Those who possess power get results. If we have it, we don’t use it very well. It’s time to change all of that. And it’s starting right here in a Federal court in San Francisco
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Prop 8 Trial: Day 7 - On LGBT Politcal Power

Today's testimony contains an interesting analysis of LGBT political power by political scientist Dr. Segura. It's chilling. And it's why Federation groups are key to winning equality. read on

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Week Two of the Prop. 8 Trial

If you haven't been following the trial (especially since it won't be on YouTube, you should check out one of the many liveblog covering the trial.

  • The Prop. 8 Tracker comes from the Courage Campaign.

  • Progressive blog, Firedoglake has analysis, videos, and a Twitter feed.
  • Towleroad also has analysis of the issues, including background on the presiding judge.

  • Pam's House Blend hosts a Twitter feed and legal analyses from NCLR lawyer, Shannon Minter.

read on

Monday, January 11, 2010

Prop 8 Trial Starts in San Francisco, Unseen

The Federal Supreme Court has blocked video coverage of the trial on Prop. 8. Marriage equality opponents have argued that video coverage on YouTube would keep them from receiving a fair trial. Civil trails have been recorded and posted before, but the people who supported Prop. 8, who supported bigotry, want to stay anonymous and hidden.

The video is being streamed to other rooms in the courthouse. The stay on live streaming will expire on Wednesday.

read on

Thursday, January 7, 2010

No Marriage Equality for NJ, Garden State Equality Heads Back to Court

Garden State Equality Chair and CEO Steven Goldstein delivered the remarks below at a news conference in Trenton on Thursday, January 7, 2010, after the New Jersey Senate’s vote on the marriage equality bill.

With today’s vote in the state Senate, the New Jersey legislature defaulted on its constitutional obligation to provide same-sex couples in New Jersey equal protection, as unanimously mandated by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2006. That’s why we at Garden State Equality are here with our partner Lambda Legal, which has an extraordinary track record of advancing LGBT civil rights in the courts. Now our organizations will announce major news. Our side is going back to court to win marriage equality.

We’ll hear from Lambda Legal in a moment. Let’s be clear about what this news means. We are not waiting out the term of any new Administration to bring equality to same-sex couples in our state.

In 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court told the legislature it could enact marriage or another structure that provides the equal protection of marriage. But the civil union law failed to do that. Too often, civil union couples too often cannot visit loved ones in hospitals, make medical decisions for their partners or receive equal health benefits from employers. Hospitals and employers have treated civil union couples differently because they’ve been labeled differently. Children have been treated differently at school because their families are labeled differently.

In recent months, including today and at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in December, New Jersey legislators publicly recognized these failures. They publicly acknowledged that the civil union law has not provided equal protection. That’s important. New Jersey legislators themselves said it. Our opponents in the legislature said it.

In other words, though we didn’t achieve our final victory today, we’re better positioned than we were a few months ago to win marriage equality. So if you’re wondering how we feel, it’s complicated. On the one hand, we resent, more than you can imagine, remaining second-class citizens a bit longer. On the other hand, the ball has moved forward. The public record for the courts is mighty, and we’re closer than ever to winning.

In 2006, New Jersey enacted an experiment called civil union. In 2010, New Jersey has a mountain of proof that the experiment has failed.

Now let’s talk about what happened politically.

Things didn’t go our way in the legislature because of one factor: Governor Corzine lost reelection.

After his win in November, Governor-elect Christie persuaded a number of legislators to reverse their support of the bill. Before the election, nearly every neutral observer in New Jersey thought marriage equality was certain to become law in lame duck. It became the zeitgeist in Trenton, with good reason. In contrast to today’s outcome, before the election we had votes to spare in the Senate, including from a number of Republicans.

But the election changed everything and our national opponents changed nothing. They didn’t do much or spend much in New Jersey. As you saw from our thousands of members at the State House these past few weeks who symbolized the massiveness of our campaign, we overwhelmed our opponents on every front – but one. Our opponents had the Governor-elect on their side, and that’s all they needed to have. It’s ironic given that marriage equality wasn’t even an issue in the election, and that the candidates who favored marriage equality together won a majority.

All this said, we extend to Governor-elect Christie an outstretched hand. He will be the Governor of all of us. We ask him to continue the tradition of his Republican predecessors, Christie Whitman and Tom Kean, who always kept an open door to the LGBT community. And though we differ with the Governor-elect on marriage equality, we also seek to explore with him and his Administration the issues on which we may have agreement and can work together.

No political party should write off any constituency. And no party should take any constituency for granted either. Our fundamental right to equality should never have been left to sudden death overtime by the party to which the LGBT community and our allies have been unstintingly loyal and have given so much.

To be clear, we will continue to support those who support us. Over the past five-and-a-half years, the separate Garden State Equality political committee has provided thousands of campaign volunteers and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for supportive candidates through contributions to the organization, or through contributions from individuals directly to candidates.

Of course, when we exceed politicians’ expectations in ways they like, we never hear, you’re going too far, your fervor is too much. That double standard, which other minority communities have heard in their own fights for equality, hurts deeply. And it hurts everyone who stands for equality, including supporters in the majority.

Now there will be a sustained response not only from the LGBT community, but also from straight progressive voters who have been our equal partners. Marriage equality stopped being just a gay issue long ago.

To those who let us all down, here’s our policy: Don’t ask, don’t expect. You can’t take progressives’ money and volunteers with one hand, slap us in the face with the other, and then act astonished when we declare our independence. The marketplace of democracy runs along a two-way street.

Members and friends, today was not an outcome lost, but rather a juncture in an otherwise glorious road to justice. Since Garden State Equality’s founding in 2004, New Jersey has enacted 210 LGBT civil rights laws at the state, county and local levels, a national record. We have 64,000 members – LGBT and straight alike – who have improved the lives of millions. A watchdog organization, eQualityGiving.com, just ranked New Jersey #1 in America for LGBT rights, tied with three other states, and we haven’t even won marriage equality yet.

But we will soon. Cesar Chavez said it best. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the people who feel pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.

Before I introduce our colleagues from Lambda Legal, some thanks are in order. Thank you to all our Senate sponsors, including prime sponsors Loretta Weinberg and Raymond Lesniak. We appreciate Loretta and Raymond beyond measure for their indefatigable leadership, and extend to them our love. We thank Senators Bill Baroni and Nia Gill – unwavering voices for justice at our committee hearing. We thank all our Assembly sponsors, including prime sponsors Reed Gusciora, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, John McKeon and Mila Jasey. We thank our Governor Corzine and Speaker Roberts for their support. And let me say this about Governor Dick Codey: He’s been an extraordinary champion of equality who kept his word about a Senate vote. Every progressive in New Jersey should view Governor Codey as a hero.

We thank the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign, Gill Action, the Civil Marriage Collaborative, the Arcus Foundation and Freedom to Marry, which have given us resources and wisdom. We thank our partners at the state level, including the ACLU of New Jersey, BlueWave, Democracy for America, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey Stonewall Democrats and the state’s progressive voice on the web, Blue Jersey, to which we owe so much.

We thank our spectacular field staff who joined us from across the country. We thank our executive committee, board, staff and donors who make Garden State Equality possible. We thank the New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition for its decades of groundwork. We thank all the supportive staff in the legislature and executive branch. We especially thank our thousands of volunteers – the stars of Garden State Equality – who rallied at the State House and worked in our offices and in the field throughout the year. And if I may, I thank my partner Daniel and all the loved ones of our staff and volunteers who have supported us and sacrificed so much.

Most of all, we thank our colleagues at Lambda Legal, without whom our march toward equality would never have gotten this far. We’re thrilled to reunite with our partner Lambda Legal in the next stage of the battle. Please welcome Leslie Gabel-Brett, Lambda Legal’s director of education and public affairs.
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