Thursday, February 28, 2013

United States Files Brief Against Proposition 8

As Joe Biden would say, this is a "BFD."


WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder issued the following statement today on the U.S. government’s filing inHollingsworth v. Perry:

“In our filing today in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the government seeks to vindicate the defining constitutional ideal of equal treatment under the law.  Throughout history, we have seen the unjust consequences of decisions and policies rooted in discrimination. The issues before the Supreme Court in this case and the Defense of Marriage Act case are not just important to the tens of thousands Americans who are being denied equal benefits and rights under our laws, but to our Nation as a whole.”  
# # #  

The United States government has taken a position that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional and is urging the judicial branch to strike it down.

You can read the full brief here.

Black, Gay Mayoral Candidate Found Dead in Mississippi

Marco McMillian was the first openly gay candidate for political office in the history of the state of Mississippi. The 34-year-old Black gay Democrat was running for Mayor of Clarksdale, Mississippi but his body was found recently in the river!
The 34-year-old McMillian was running for mayor of Clarksdale, a Blues hub where actor and Mississippi native Morgan Freeman co-owns a music club with Howard Stovall, a Memphis entertainment executive, and Bill Luckett, who also is running for mayor.
Meredith said the body was found between Sherard and Rena Lara and was sent to Jackson for an autopsy. He declined to provide further details or speculate on the cause of death.
McMillian was a Democrat. Campaign spokesman Jarod Keith said McMillian’s campaign was noteworthy because he may have been the first openly gay man to be a viable candidate for public office in Mississippi. 
Clarksdale, a town of about 17,800 people, is well known to Blues fans as the home of the crossroads, where Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the devil for skills with a guitar. 
I know the South is not what it was in 1965, but as recently as yesterday there was an oral argument before the Supreme Court where lawyers for a southern county (Shelby County, Alabama) basically argued that the South was changed and that racism would not be an impediment to voting rights and the exercise of minority political power.


WATCH: Ad for Amazon Kindle Has Gay Surprise

This is a cute ad for Amazon's Kindle which features a surprise (with a gay twist) at the end. As more and more companies do this, the lies of heterosexual supremacists like the National Organization for Marriage will become even less believable (or palatable) and marriage equality will become more and more recognized as a simple fact of life, which of course it is in 10 states and counting.

Watch the ad, it's fun!

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

My Top 10 Favorite Films Seen in 2012

Below is a list of my Top 10 films that I saw in 2012. As it turns out, my favorite was actually released in 2011 and was honored with the 2012 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. I had thought about changing my list to include only films that were released in 2012, but that also seems artificial, since one can consume films in many different ways and often I may not have seen a film released in one year until much later (look at all the films I saw from the 1970s in 2012).

Anyway, here is my list of my favorite films seen in 2012
  1. A Separation. This was the best film I saw all year. Even though it was technically a 2011 release and elegible for the 2012 Oscars, I still think it should be on the list. What's so amazing about the film is that it is about such a simple subject: the problems of how to take care of an elderly family by a working couple. The twist is that the movie is set in Tehran, Iran so we see what seems like a typical domestic situation played out in a completely foreign (to American eyes) landscape. The differences in religion, social mores, legal system do not detract from the universal themes that A Separation depicts.
  2. Argo. Bizarrely, both of the top 2 films of 2012 that I saw are set in Iran. The 2013 Oscar for Best Picture deservedly went to Ben Affleck's third feature film, about the little-known true story set around the time of a foreign affairs crisis for the United States. It is an exceedingly well-directed and well-written movie. What comes to mind (and I have seen the film twice so far) is how suspenseful the film is despite the audience knowing how the story ends. I was on the edge of my seat both times I saw the film, which is a testament to the virtuouso level of film-making. And it is also quite funny, by the far the most enjoyable filmI watched all year long.
  3. Bully. Bully is decidedly not an enjoyable film, but it is an important one. I saw it on a plane, not in a movie theater, which is why it is the one movie on the list which does not have an official blog review. However, it still left quite an impression. Bully is about the epidemic of violence, both emotional and physical which kids face in schools every day and tells the story of how the adults and institutions which surround them fail to protect them, often leading to heartbreaking results. The most prominent reasons for bullying are usually around gender expression/sexual orientation but the film makes it clear that the seeds of bullying are really about punishing any deviations from what is perceived as "normal" by the majority and the marginalization of the Other. It is a powerful, emotionally draining experience to watch.
  4. Prometheus. This is a pre-quel to Aliens, one of the classic science fiction movies of all times, directed by the great Ridley Scott. It stars an incredible cast of Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, and Noomi Rapace and looks incredible (it was nominated for Best Visual Effects). Sadly, the emotional impact of the film is not as high as the other films in the Alien franchise, primarily due to a somewhat muddled and non-sensical script. Regardless, it is very watchable and the best sci-fi related visual entertainment of the year.
  5. Django Unchained. The second movie in Tarantino's "Unspeakable" series of films (following on the heels of Inglourious Basterds about the Holocaust) has the audacity to deal with not only slavery, a difficult subject for a white artist to address, but does so using Tarntino's signature humor and over-the-top violence. Django Unchained had a somewhat mixed critical reaction, but audiences loved it (94% on, especially black audiences. Even the Academy recognized the film with two Oscars in very important categories, Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay. And, hey, it features full-frontal nudity of Jamie Foxx, so what's not to like?
  6. Cloud Atlas. This is another film in which the critics and myself had very different reactions to a film. Cloud Atlas is the latest film from the controversial Wachowski Siblings, the creative team behind The Matrix, and based on an award-winning novel. It is definitely not without flaws, but there are visual sequences in this film that will stick with me for years and again it features a celebrated cast, helmed by Oscar-winners Tom Hanks and Halle Berry in multiple, gender-bending roles.
  7. Looper. It's always a delight when one goes to see a movie with low (or no) expectations and has them overwhelmingly exceeded. Looper is primarily the vision of one person, Rian Johnson, and is another one of those time-travelling brain twister. Most well-known for the curious make-up job inflicted upon Joseph Gordon-Levitt to make him believable look like Bruce Willis earlier self, Looper will definitely make you think and marvel how a creative and frugal director can tell a big story on a small budget.
  8. Lincoln. Now Steve Spielberg is known for the Oscar history it made as the biggest Oscar loser of the year, one of the biggest of all time (10 losses out of 12 nominations) and for the historic third Best Actor statuette picked up by it's star Daniel Day-Lewis. It is a good movie, and a memorable one, but it is not an overly enjoyable one. There's something oddly off-putting about the film, which is something one does not usually say about a film directed by Spielberg, whose ability to manipulate his audience's emotions is legendary.
  9. The Dark Knight Rises. My favorite filmmaker is Christopher Nolan, and I was very happy that he was able to follow one of the largest box-office successes of the last decade (The Dark Knight) with a sequel that completed the Batman trilogy on a high note. The main word that comes to mind with this film is "quality" or "top-notch." The cast is extraordinary: Marion Cotillard, Christin Bale, Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The opening sequence alone is worth the price of admission.
  10. Life of Pi. Ang Lee's masterful film adaptation of an impossible-to-adapt Booker prize-winning novel was the most celebrated film at the 2013 Oscars, winning 4 out of 11 nominations. It is one of the most visually stunning films of the year, and the only reason it is so low on my list is that the overall message of the film, which is a somewhat convoluted argument for the existence of God is disappointing, but I can still appreciate the film as a beautiful and impressive work of art.
2012 was a pretty good for movies. I hope that 2013 turns out to be just as good!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Phoenix (Finally) Enacts LGBT Rights Ordinance

Phoenix, AZ, the nation's 6th most populous city, has finally joined its fellow large municipalities and passed an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. The vote by the City Council was 5-3, at one of the most contentions city council meetings in recent memory.

KPHO reported on the measure's passage:
The city currently prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, genetic information and marital status. 
"This was the right thing to do for our city," Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said. "With 165 other cities, including Tucson and Flagstaff, adopting similar ordinances, some more than a decade ago, Phoenix had some catching up to do. We as a city value all our citizens, and consider diversity as our strength. It's good for business, it's good for our economy, and it's the right thing to do for Phoenix." 
More than 50 people spoke about the issue at a council hearing that lasted more than four hours and stretched into Tuesday night. 
The debate was over the Human Relations Ordinance. A conversative Christian group, the Center for Arizona Policy, has labeled the ordinance the Bathroom Bill.  
One man told the council he sees the changes as opening a door for sexual predators. He was followed by a local pastor who told the mayor that every Phoenician has the right to be treated equally. 
The Human Relations Ordinance revolves around adding three phrases to the city's anti-discrimination policies when it comes to employment, housing, city contracts and public accommodations: "sexual orientation," "gender identity" and "disability."   
Phoenix is one of the few major cities in the country that hadn't adopted a similar policy protecting civil rights of the LGBT community.
The article goes on to note that Tucson had passed a similar ordinance way back in 1999(!)

hat/tip to Joe.My.God

IL Marriage Bill Passes 6-5 To Reach House Floor

Hmmmm! By an uncomfortably close vote of 6-5 a marriage equality bill passed a the Illinois House Executive Committee and will next be heard on the House Floor. Although Democrats had a 7-5 majority on the committee, one Democrat, Eddie Lee Jackson, Sr. voted against the bill while every other Democratic member voted for the bill and every Republican bill voted against it.

Windy City Times reports:
Openly gay bill sponsor Rep. Greg Harris started off the hearing, discussing the many ways that civil unions have fallen short for LGBT couples. He noted that earlier in the day, top U.S. Republicans had signed onto a brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which bans the recognition of same-sex marriages. 
Harris drove home exemptions in the bill for religious institutions.

Testifying was Rev. B. Herbert Martin of the Progressive Community Church. He said the bill lived up to its name by protecting religious freedom.

The measure is expected to face its toughest challenge on the House floor, its last hurdle before it is sent to Gov. Pat Quinn's desk. Quinn strongly supports the measure.
It should be noted that Democrats have a 71-47 majority in the 118 member house, which needs 60 votes to pass. It is expected that there will be some Republicans voting in favor of the bill.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Edith Windsor Files Sup Ct Brief In Her DOMA Case

Edith Windsor, the named plaintiff in the historic federal lawsuit against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, United States v. Windsor has filed her official brief to the Supreme Court urging that it affirm her win in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lyle Denniston over at SCOTUSblog analyzes the brief:

Chronicling her own life of living in the shadows because she is a lesbian, an eighty-three-year-old woman urged the Supreme Court on Tuesday to recognize her as a constitutional equal in eligibility for federal benefits that go to married couples.   She had to pay an estate tax of $363,053 when her same-sex spouse died four years ago and left her an estate — a tax that she said would never have been due if she had married a man.

Ms. Edith Schlain Windsor filed her brief challenging the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, arguing that the measure was hastily passed by Congress in a mood of deep hostility to gays and lesbians and, in the process, denied homosexuals who have been allowed to marry each other of all of the benefits and programs that federal law has created for married couples.


Although the bulk of her sixty-two pages of history and legal argument is meant to be an answer to all of the arguments against same-sex marriage that have been put before the Court by the Republican leaders of the House, as defenders of DOMA, the opening of the Windsor brief is designed to show how she experienced years of living with a fear of revealing her sexual identity.

Those pages are part of the legal argument that homosexuals have long been, and remain, victims of widespread intolerance and are now entitled to have such bias judged by a tough standard.   But those pages also are intended to give a human face to the case and to the claim that it is time for the Court to recognize gays and lesbians as part of the American community.
It is an interesting tactic that Windsor's attorneys are using the brief as an exercise to try to educate the Justices about the true nature of the historical and ongoing nature of the myriad ways heteronormativity and homophobia negatively impact the lives and potential of LGBT citizens.

In order for the Court to issue a ruling which grants equal civil rights to LGBT Americans some kind of reckoning and acknowledgment of the past, current and future discrimination faced by LGBT people has to be understood and internalized before a decision can be made to ameliorate and eliminate it.

Oral arguments in the Windsor case are in exactly 4 weeks, on Wednesday March 27th.

Monday, February 25, 2013

2013 OSCARS: Analysis of the Winners and Losers

Wel, well, well! This year's Oscars were quite a revelation, although they went well over time, locking in well over 3-and-a-half hours, ending after midnight on the East Coast.

Here are some of my thoughts on the biggest surprises and most interesting results of the night:

1. They Really Don't Like Steven Very Much, Do They? Steven Spielberg's Lincoln was the big loser of the night, coming in with 12 nominations and only winning 2, for Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Best Production Design, which really must be considered something of a fluke. It was clear that there was no groundswell for Lincoln from the very first award of the night when a very shocked Christoph Walz won  his second Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Django Unchained, surprising almost everyone, denying Lincoln's Tommy Lee Jones. When Life of Pi (which came in with 11 nominations and went home with 4 Oscars) continued to pick up wins in the important technical categories like Best Cinematography and Best Score where it was competing against both Argo and Lincoln one really started to wonder about the message the Academy was sending to America's most talented filmmaker. Once Ang Lee won his 2nd Best Director Oscar instead of Spielberg, the message became clear: We Like Your Movies And The Profit You Generate, But Not You So Much! Spielberg's first nomination came in 1978 for Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind (he wasn't even nominated for Jaws, despite the fact that movie invented the notion of a summer blockbuster film). He has since been nominated for Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., The Color Purple, Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Munich and Lincoln. A total of 8 times with only two wins. And he has been snubbed (not nominated) for such classic films as Jaws, Empire of the Sun and Minority Report. Now Ang Lee, Clint Eastwood and Oliver Stone have as many Best Director Oscars as Spielberg! It should be noted that only one other person has been nominated more times for Best Director: William Wyler. And only Wyler (3), Frank Capra (3) and John Ford (4) have more wins. I think he is developing a Meryl Streep problem where in order for him to win, it is going to have to be something outstanding compared to his already excellent body of work.

2. Michelle Obama Announces Best Picture Oscar for Argo from the White House. This was a truly surreal moment when just a handful of minutes before midnight 3-time Oscar winner Jack Nicholson introduced First Lady Michelle  Obama who gave a (somewhat trite but inclusive) speech about the importance of the arts to all Americans and then cut back for the announcement of the nine Best Picture nominees. They then amazingly cut back to Obama holding an envelope who then opened it and announced Argo had won. Nicholson was also holding an envelope which he gave to the producers of the winning film: Affleck, George Clooney and Grant Heslov.

3. The Tarantino Effect. For the second time in as many films Quentin Tarantino wrote an amazing part for Christoph Walz and the multi-lingual actor won an Oscar for animating Tarantino's words. The surprising strength of Django Unchained in the big categories was one of the highlights of the night for me with wins in Best Original Screenplay for Tarantino (only his second after his 1995 win for Pulp Fiction) and the 2nd win for Walz. This was another example of the out-of-control Directors' branch snubs (of Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty, Ben Affleck for Argo and Tarantino for Django) resulted in surprising wins as the rest of the Academy tried to ameliorate the damage.

4. It's All About Editing) In the end with 3 wins Argo joins the dubious club of Rocky and Crash of winning Best Picture without a director's nomination and only three wins overall. Interestingly, the unbroken string that every Best Picture winner has always had a Best Editing nomination and that almost every film that has won Best Picture has won Best Editing (including Argo, Rocky and Crash) continues. (Quiz: Which Best Picture winner(s) did not win Best Film Editing?)

5. (Almost) Everybody Gets A Prize! The really big story of the night was the even distribution of the wins throughout the 24 categories. The totals were
4 Wins: Life of Pi (Director, Score, Cinematography and Visual Effects);
3 Wins: Argo (Picture, Editing, Adapted Screenplay), Les Miserables (Supporting Actress, Makeup, Sound Mixing)
2 Wins: Skyfall (Song, Sound Editing), Lincoln (Actor, Production Design), Django Unchained (Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay)
1 Win: Zero Drak Thirty (Sound Editing), Anna Karenina (Costume Design), Amour (Foreign Language), Silver Linings Playbook (Actress)
Films with multiple nominations that went home empty-handed (0 Wins) were Beasts of the Southern Wild (4), The Hobbit (3), The Master (3), Flight (2), Snow White and the Huntsman (2).

It will be interesting to see how the Academy reacts to the fact that it changed it's nomination deadline to before many of the Guilds had weighed in so that this led to surprising (some would say, uninformed) nominations that in turn led to surprising wins.

As for the show itself, I thought Seth McFarlane did a very good job, although there was too much singing for my taste, but it was part of the show's theme of a tribute to musicals. For the most part Seth's humor was on point, with some notable exceptions. (Making a joke about the assassination of a President is not edgy or funny, it's just dumb.) Openly gay producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron did an amazing job with the Obama surprise and Dame Shirley Bassey belting out Goldfinger at age 76 was breathtaking.

Other highlights of the show for me: Meryl Streep announcing the Best Actor winner instantly by opening the envelope off camera while the nominations video was playing; Jennifer Hudson and Adele (Adkins) singing; the Best Documentary Short Subject winners for Inocente and Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron (two of the most beautiful people in Hollywood) dancing with McFarlane to open the broadcast; for the first time since the Best Actress tie of 1968 (between Barbra Streisand and Kathleen Hepburn) there was another tie, this time in Sound Editing between Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall--Mark Wahlberg was the announcer and he handled the moment well.

Let the race for the 2014 Oscars begin! (August, Osage County anyone?)

Eye Candy: Marcus Patrick (3rd time)

Marcus Patrick has appeared as Eye Candy on this blog twice before (September 3, 2012 and November 26, 2012). He is a well-known model and actor whose mainstream television career ended after some risque images from a photo shoot came to light. 

He is clearly comfortable with his body and showing the world his physical assets, which I think is very admirable, don't you?

2013 OSCARS: The Winners

I only correctly predicted 5 of the Top 8 and 14 of 24, one of my lowest totals in years.

Best motion picture
  • Argo, Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, Producers
Achievement in directing
  • Life of Pi, Ang Lee
Performance by an actor in a leading role
  • Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln
Performance by an actress in a leading role
  • Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
  • Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
  • Anne Hathaway, in Les Misérables
Best animated feature film of the year
  • Brave, Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
Best foreign language film of the year
  • Amour, Austria
Adapted screenplay
  • Argo, Screenplay by Chris Terrio
Original screenplay
  • Django Unchained, Written by Quentin Tarantino
Achievement in cinematography
  • Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda
Achievement in film editing
  • Argo, William Goldenberg
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
  • Life of Pi, Mychael Danna
Achievement in costume design
  • Anna Karenina, Jacqueline Durran
Best documentary feature
  • Searching for Sugar Man, Malik Benjelloul, Simon Chinn
Best documentary short subject
  • Inocente, Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine
Achievement in makeup and hairstyling
  • Les Misérables, Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
  • Skyfall from Skyfall, Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
Achievement in production design
  • Lincoln, Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson
Best animated short film
  • Paperman, John Kahrs
Best live action short film
  • Curfew, Shawn Christensen
Achievement in sound editing (tie!)
  • Skyfall, Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
  • Zero Dark Thirty, Paul N.J. Ottosson
Achievement in sound mixing
  • Les Misérables, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
Achievement in visual effects
  • Life of Pi, Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott

Sunday, February 24, 2013

2013 OSCARS: Predictions, Mine and Nate Silver's

Sunday is the day of the Gay Super Bowl, i.e. the 85th Annual Academy Awards ceremony. I have previously made my predictions for this year's winners of the Top 8 categories, like I have done every year since 2007:

In 2011, I predicted 15 of 24 correctly (7 of the Top 8).
In 2010, I predicted 17 of 24 correctly (7 of the Top 8).
In 2009, I predicted 20 of 24 correctly (8 of the Top 8).
In 2008, I predicted 8 of the Top 8 categories correctly.
In 2007, I predicted 7 of the Top 8 categories correctly.

Here are my predictions for all 24 categories (with 2nd choices) for the 2013 Oscars:
Best Picture: Argo (2nd: Lincoln) 
Director: Steven Spielberg (2nd: David O. Russell) 
Original Screenplay: Django Unchained (2nd: Amour) 
Adapted Screenplay: Lincoln (2nd: Argo) 
Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis  (2nd: Bradley Cooper ) 
Actress: Jennifer Lawrence (2nd: Jessica Chastain) 
Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway (2nd: Amy Adams) 
Supporting Actor: Robert De Niro (2nd: Tommy Lee Jones) 
Editing: Argo (2nd: Zero Dark Thirty) 
Production Design: Anna Karenina (2nd: Life of Pi) 
Sound Mixing: Les Miserables (2nd: Life of Pi) 
Sound Editing: Life of Pi (2nd: Django Unchained) 
Cinematography: Life of Pi (2nd: Skyfall) 
Costume Design: Anna Karenina (2nd: Lincoln) 
Documentary: Searching for Sugarman  (2nd: How To Survive A Plague) 
Foreign Language: Amour (2nd: A Royal Affair) 
Animated Film: Frankenweenie (2nd: Brave) 
Makeup: The HobbitScore: Lincoln (2nd: Life of Pi) 
Song: "Skyfall" (from Skyfall) (2nd: "Pi's Lullaby") 
Visual Effects: Life of Pi (2nd: Prometheus) 
Animated Short: Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare (2nd: Paperman) 
Live Action Short: Buzkashi Boys (2nd: Asad)  
Documentary Short: Inocente (2nd: Redemption)

Predictions Guru Nate Silver has gotten into the game, somewhat, by predicting the Top 6 categories. His choices are Argo, Spielberg, Lawrence, Day-Lewis, Hathaway, Jones.

I generally agree with him on his predictions, but the hardest category to pick is Best Supporting Actor this year (usually the first acting award given out of the night) and I think De Niro is going to pull a surprise win. And really there are 8 top categories so it is a bit of a cop-out to not do the screenplay categories. The adapted screenplay category is particularly tough this year, basically a coin flip between Argo and Lincoln while Original Screenplay is basically anyone's game (except Beasts of the Southern Wild--they have zero chance of winning any Oscars).

We'll know within several hours how well I did this year. I suspect my results in the Top 8 will not be as high as I am accustomed.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

U.S. Files Brief in DOMA Case, Prop 8 Case Next?

'Tis the season for submission of legal briefs before the gay legal battle royale (gay götterdämmerung or Gaytterdämmerung) before the United States Supreme Court on March 24 and 25th that will settle some of the most important issues in sexual orientation legal jurisprudence for probably the next decade.

Thursday I blogged about the powerful brief in the Perry case (Proposition 8 federal lawsuit) submitted by the good guys, the plaintiffs represented by superlawyers David Boies and Ted Olson.

Now comes word that the briefs in the other huge case, Windsor (DOMA federal law suit) are starting to come in as well. On Friday afternoon the United States filed its brief urging that the Court strike down the odious statute, arguing that laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation are subject to heightened review by the courts. This is a consequence of the Obama Administration considering that LGBT people are a "suspect class" which means that government actions which impact their civil rights must have an exceeding persuasive reason for doing so linked to a legitimate government interest.

SCOTUS Blog reports and analyzes the DOJ brief:
First, among the factors that [Solicitor General] Verrilli cited in arguing for the standard were those that have led the Court, in cases involving other forms of discrimination, to adopt a “heightened scrutiny” standard: that is, whether the group seeking that kind of protection has been a target of discrimination and has been lacking in political power so that it has less or little chance of gaining protection.
Second, in finding that gays and lesbians have been, in the past and currently, the targets of discrimination and have been lacking in political power, Verrilli cited “the recent history of marriage initiatives” — the history of thirty-nine states, including California with Proposition 8, adopting bans on same-sex marriage, either by state laws or constitutional amendments.
Third, Verrilli pointed out that, at the time DOMA was passed in 1996, only three states had laws allowing only opposite-sex couples to marry.  Now, thirty-nine states do, with thirty of those coming from voter-approved state constitutional amendments.
Fourth, only six states have given same-sex couples marriage rights “through the political process,” while three more have done so through state court rulings.  “That is not a convincing record of political power rendering protection unnecessary,” Verrilli wrote.  And, at that point, the brief dropped in a footnote, which said that, “[b]y way of example, in May 2008, the California Supreme Court held that the state was constitutionally required to recognize same-sex marriages….In November 2008, California’s voters passed Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples.”
Thus, while this sequence was used by Verrilli explicitly to bolster his argument for applying “heightened scrutiny” to DOMA, it could not have been inadvertent that the experience with Proposition 8 itself demonstrated what the federal government deems ongoing bias.  [emphasis added]
The brief suggested that, if the Court will not embrace “heightened scrutiny,” it should not apply the easiest test — “rational basis” — but rather should go for something between “rational basis” and “heightened scrutiny.”  DOMA’s benefit bans, the brief said, cannot survive that, either.
Note the bolded sections. Although the administration has not (yet) taken a position in the Proposition 8 case, it's very string brief in Windsor which uses Proposition 8's passage as an example of ongoing bias against LGBT people is an indication of how the United States feels about the Perry case, which it is not a party to. But the United States can always file briefs to let the Judicial branch know what the Executive branch thinks about a certain issue before the court.

We'll know by next Thursday February 28th if the federal government ll be taking a side in both parts of the oncoming Gaytterdammerung!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Ex-Gov Jon Huntsman (R-UT) Supports Marriage Equality

Jon Huntsman is the former Governor of Utah and former U.S. Ambassador to China who ran for the Republican nomination for president in 2011. He was the person the Obama-Biden team feared the most but of course he was also considered absolutely unacceptable by theGOP base.

I don't know if Huntsman is thinking about running for President in 2016 but it is very interesting that he has become the first of the 2012 presidential contenders to come out publicly in favor of marriage equality.
While serving as governor of Utah, I pushed for civil unions and expanded reciprocal benefits for gay citizens. I did so not because of political pressure—indeed, at the time 70 percent of Utahns were opposed—but because as governor my role was to work for everybody, even those who didn’t have access to a powerful lobby. Civil unions, I believed, were a practical step that would bring all citizens more fully into the fabric of a state they already were—and always had been—a part of.

That was four years ago. Today we have an opportunity to do more: conservatives should start to lead again and push their states to join the nine others that allow all their citizens to marry. I’ve been married for 29 years. My marriage has been the greatest joy of my life. There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship with the person they love.

All Americans should be treated equally by the law, whether they marry in a church, another religious institution, or a town hall. This does not mean that any religious group would be forced by the state to recognize relationships that run counter to their conscience. Civil equality is compatible with, and indeed promotes, freedom of conscience.

Marriage is not an issue that people rationalize through the abstract lens of the law; rather it is something understood emotionally through one’s own experience with family, neighbors, and friends. The party of Lincoln should stand with our best tradition of equality and support full civil marriage for all Americans.
Huntsman makes the case for marriage equality from a conservative point of view, and is an important marker in the journey of this issue moving to a bipartisan cause, as the Respect for Marriage Coalition espouses.


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