A List of Witnesses Speaking at Tomorrow’s DOMA Repeal Hearing, and Some Information on Each of Them

Leahy As I mentioned last week, Senator Patrick Leahy, (D-VT), is holding the first hearing on the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act tomorrow morning.

The hearing entitled “S.598, The Respect for Marriage Act: Assessing the Impact of DOMA on American Families” scheduled before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary for Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. in room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building will now take place in room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building.

Here is the list of witnesses for the hearings tomorrow, and some information on each of them.

A live webcast will be available when the hearing begins at 10 am HERE.


The Honorable John Lewis, United States Congressman,State of Georgia.

The Honorable Jerrold Nadler, United States Congressman, State of New York.


Ron Wallen, Indio, CA.

Freedom to Marry writes: "Ron Wallen will … be testifying at the hearing this week about who DOMA has cost him his home after the death of his spouse and partner for 58 years, Tom Carrollo." Here is Ron’s story:


Thomas Minnery, Senior Vice President for Public Policy, Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO.

From Think Progress:

"FOTF maintains ties to many state-level anti-equality groups and is helping them raise over $6 million to fight marriage equality over the next year through the covert 'Ignite An Enduring Cultural Tradition' campaign. The group also inherited the 'Day of Dialogue' (formerly 'Day of Truth') from ADF, which encourages Christian youth to be vocal about their anti-gay beliefs to show 'love' to their LGBT peers who are 'hurting' and 'vulnerable.' Last April, Minnery clarified that FOTF would oppose an openly gay nominee to the Supreme Court because homosexuality is sinful."

Minnery is in the middle in the video below, created by FOTF's internal propaganda machine:


SorboAndrew Sorbo, Cheshire, CT

According to a notice from the committee:

"Andrew Sorbo (left), a Cheshire, Conn., resident who was married to Colin Atterbury (right). Before dying of pancreatic cancer in 2009, Atterbury was a retired Veterans Affairs hospital administrator and professor of medicine at Yale University. Sorbo, now retired, worked for 35 years as a history teacher and principal."

Read Sorbo's story from GLAD, here.


Murray Susan M. Murray, Ferrisburgh, VT

According to a notice from the committee

"Susan Murray, who lives in Ferrisburgh, Vt., with her spouse, Karen Murray. An attorney with the Burlington office of Langrock, Sperry & Wool, Murray was the co-counsel in the lawsuit Baker v. Vermont, which established civil unions in Vermont in 2000."



Joe Solmonese, President, The Human Rights Campaign, Washington, DC.

Solmonese is probably the most well-known witness to most of you. Here he is discussing Obama's announcement that the government would stop defending Section 3 of DOMA, in February:


NimocksDavid Austin R. Nimocks, Senior Legal Counsel, Alliance Defense Fund, Washington, DC

From Think Progress: "ADF is one of the chief legal cogs in the conservative Christian propaganda machine. The group regularly opposes LGBT equality through the spreading of falsehoods and has previously partnered with Exodus International, which administers harmful ex-gay ministries. (Exodus calls ADF a 'friend.') The organization is vigilant about putting same-sex 'marriage' in condescending mocking quotes (even using SS'M' for short-hand in tweets) to imply that the unions of same-sex couples will always be inferior to those of opposite-sex couples. Simultaneous with these bullying tactics, ADF promotes the idea that anti-gay Christians are the victims of 'bigotry' and 'intolerance' against 'religious freedom.'"


Edward Whelan, President, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, DC

Equality Matters writes: "National Review Online blogger Ed Whelan has spent the last sixteen months spearheading a campaign to overturn U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s 2010 decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger – the landmark case which found California’s Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional. Whelan has consistently asserted that – as a gay man in a long-term relationship – Walker was a “direct beneficiary” of his decision to strike down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. As a result, Whelanargues, Walker should have either recused himself from the case or disclosed his sexual orientation and relationship status before the trial started."

Here's Whelan testifying at the Constitution Subcommittee of the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee at a hearing titled “Defending Marriage" on April 15th:

UPDATE: Jeremy Hooper has an advance look at Minnery, Whelan and Nimocks' testimony.


Evan Wolfson, Founder and Executive Director, Freedom to Marry, New York, NY

Freedom to Marry writes: "Evan was co-counsel of the historic Hawaii marriage case, served as marriage project director for Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund, and was named one of TIME magazines '100 Most Influential People in the World.' He is also the author of “Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People’s Right to Marry”. As one of the most prominent voices in this movement and a person who has been personally affected by this discriminatory law, Evan’s testimony will no doubt win hearts and minds and educate the SJC on why marriage matters. 

Here's Wolfson facing off against hate group leader Peter Sprigg about the House's Defense of DOMA in March.


Dan_choiThe lack of diversity among the witnesses has angered some activists, most notably Lt. Dan Choi, who told the Washington Blade over the weekend:

“Marriage equality is a matter of civil rights, steeped in the language and moral lessons of the historic American struggle for inclusion and equality. That the panel of gay witnesses is exclusively white and privileged brings shameful discredit to the true character of our broad community and inclusive civil rights movement.”

Choi is pushing a petition online initiated by activist Ian Finkenbinder demanding that the Human Rights Campaign "Wake up from white privilege and diversify!"

According to the Blade, "HRC isn’t responsible the selection of witnesses for the DOMA hearing. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chair of the committee, decides in consultation with outside groups which witnesses will present testimony."


  1. says

    How about urging people who are not white and/or not privileged to get more involved in the struggle instead of assuming they’re being intentionally excluded?

    I don’t disagree with the notion of diversity, but it’s not always the product of laissez-faire racism and classism.

  2. K in VA says

    Methinks Dan Choi needs a little help in the anger management department. He does himself — to say nothing of our common cause — no good when he spouts off.

    Yes, our leaders are overwhelmingly white men, and that’s not a good thing. Over time, lesbians have been far less likely than gay men to get involved in politics; more need to step forward. Racial and ethnic minorities of either gender have sometimes been omitted from the discussion, but they too haven’t always pushed themselves forward. And, yes, gay white men have seldom gone out of their way to exert themselves to bring women and minorities into the leadership ranks.

    (Oh, speaking of exclusivity, I should point out that the sleazos who will be speaking against us are also white men. And so will be most members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s wrong, but it’s also politics in America. Alas.)

  3. Scott says

    Oh, SHUT UP, Choi! He is the Cindy Sheehan of gay activism — at first you admire his guts, but then he quickly devolves into a screeching, counterproductive attention-whore.

    There are only 3 witnesses. How do you find some vast Caucasian conspiracy in a sample size of 3? If the witness list were 50 and all white, then you’d have a point.

    If this is an “outrage” to you, may I suggest Xanax?

  4. Mike says

    We get it, Dan. You hate HRC. His anger would be better served if he pointed the finger at all the ethnic minorities within the gay community who won’t take an active role in the gay rights movement, or even come out. Down-low my ass. Or perhaps Dan is just upset that he wasn’t called to testify.

  5. TampaZeke says

    Joe Solomonese shouldn’t be allowed to testify on behalf of the gay community for ANYTHING, much less marriage equality. For the life of me I can’t figure out how he got, and continues to hold, that position. He’s an inarticulate, tone deaf to his own community, arrogant idiot with a speech impediment (not usually a trait one looks for in a spokesman). Other than that, he’s just swell.

  6. vernon says

    I disagree with Choi on most things (and I do think he needs anger management) but I do agree with him on the lack of diversity in gay leadership and media. But I think it even runs deeper than that. The gay culture exalts white males while minorities are relegated to fetishes for the appeasement of white males. Dating ads on Manhunt or Craigslist have the all too common “no femme, no black” descriptors. Or have the “looking for big black d*ck” or “submissive asian” fetish.

    As we continue to strive for more mainstream acceptance and civil rights, we also have to work on our own internalized homophobia and racism.

  7. Ted says

    Thank God for Dan Choi, telling it like it is. This movement is racially segregated, and it’s unacceptable. To all you folks railing about Dan Choi’s comments, consider this: He shouldn’t have to speak out – at this point in our movement, he should find a complete array of LGBT speakers – African-American, Hispanic, Asian, etc. White LGBT people need to do some soul-searching. Though it’s unrealistic to expect that from an organization like HRC – ever since it held its first fund-raiser at the Waldorf thirty years ago, it’s been about wealthy white gay people looking to court influence. There’s a real disconnect between that culture and the culture Dan Choi comes from – internal courage on the street. Keep speaking out Dan – you’re absolutely right. It’s shameful that your observations about raceclass still need to be made in 2011.

  8. candideinnc says

    The issue isn’t race, Dan! The issue is gay rights. Incidentally, I didn’t see a transgendered person in there or a lesbian or a bisexual. Why aren’t you bitching about that, too, Dan? For God’s sake, quit making mountains out of molehills.

  9. Tim NC says

    @Vernon… You write

    “The gay culture exalts white males”

    But, you only tell a part of the story. Gay culture actually exalts pretty, young, white males with no body fat who are straight-acting. There’s a lot more than just racism going on in gay culture.

  10. Matthew says

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who is tiring of Dan Choi. I used to hold him in high regard but all I hear from him lately is complaining about this, that, or the other. “*BE* the change you want to see in the world” rather than complaining about it.

  11. says

    I am thrilled Susan Murray is on the panel! She’s part of the trio of lesbians who brought us Civil Unions in VT — along with Beth Robinson and Mary Bonauto, and CUs were the first step towards marriage equality in any state. She’s brilliant and our guys will eat the opposition alive with one hand tied behind their backs.

  12. Jesus says

    I told myself I wouldn’t get into this, but for some reason I find myself diving head-first into what I know is already a pretty shallow pool.

    Dan Choi’s comments about waking up to privilege and diversifying is not only some real effin talk for a person who not only clearly self-identifies as a gay person, but is also of Asian heritage, but probably also stems from the fact that he is a member of at least two (and perhaps more) historically oppressed groups of people and he clearly sees the disconnect between who is representing a cause he clearly feels strongly about, and the faces he sees in the world around him.

    It’s funny (read: tragic) that we all talk about how this movement for “gay” rights is about inclusiveness and equality, but whenever we talk about other factors like race and class, whoever brings it up is shot down for it, as if those other factors don’t play an extremely large role in the lives of others. That, my friends, is Privilege™ telling someone when their opinion is necessary and when their feelings and their very life experiences are valid (or when they are not). Anyone who thinks otherwise is just fooling themselves (or enjoying Privilege™)

  13. Paul R says

    White men hold the most power in the LGBT rights movement because they hold the most power in US society. Twenty years ago, Urvashi Vaid—an Indian lesbian—was one of the most effective, inspiring speakers in the LGBT movement. Since then she’s done very little, for reasons no one has ever been able to explain to me. Maybe she got tired of being in the public eye.

    Despite the excess racist posts on this site, I don’t think there’s some overwhelming bias against allowing non-white or female voices to be leaders in the LGBT movement. For example, Kate Kendell has played a huge role in California’s fight for marriage equality.

    Demographics also plays a role. There are a lot more gay men than lesbians (and far more than transgenders). There are a lot more whites than all other ethnicities combined in every state except, I believe, CA. Whites are also the wealthiest group and so tend to be able to afford higher education more easily than all other groups save perhaps Asians. Hence they rise to positions of power and influence.

    Finally, people with power, education, and money tend to find that their homosexuality is accepted more readily than do those lacking these things. Am I saying these things are right? Of course not. But Leahy, though undoubtedly one of our top few Congressional allies, is an older straight man who knew a few people who should speak and relied on recommendations for the rest. If these hearings change hearts and minds on DOMA, it won’t matter one whit the color, ethnicity, or sex/gender of those testifying.

    Sure, it would be great to have a more diverse group. Start supplying some names. Better yet, go back in time and provide them to Leahy. There just aren’t enough available, for myriad reasons.

  14. BobN says

    Choi should go visit the HQs of the major gay organizations and look over the picture wall of their former executives. There’s plenty of diversity there. He could also look around their offices and find plenty of people of color.

    As for the “privileged” white folks testifying, go find a black or Asian person who lost his or her home under similar circumstances and convince them to testify. Until you do, support those “privileged” folks who lost everything.

  15. Jesus says

    @Paul R, those voices exist, but they just don’t get published on this site, since Andy prefers to keep it more about news and less about editorials. That’s fine, since I come here for the news, but people who don’t seek out these voices because they feel no need to cannot reasonably say that these voices do not exist or do not matter. They just get continuously looked over, but that’s Privilege™

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