Then enjoy this R&B anthem with a climax, AFTER THE JUMP...
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced a range of new Justice Department policies at tonight's Human Rights Campaign gala in New York City towards its effort to ensure same-sex married couples are recognized equally under the law.
Thank you, Chad [Griffin], for those kind words; for your visionary leadership of this organization; and for the indelible – and truly historic – role that you and your colleagues have played in advancing the fight for civil rights and LGBT equality – in our courts, on our city streets, and in the halls of Congress.
It’s a privilege to share the stage with you today. It’s a pleasure – as always – to be back home in New York City. And it’s a tremendous honor to be among so many dedicated leaders, passionate advocates, strong allies, and committed public servants – including state legislators, city officials, and members of New York’s outstanding Congressional delegation.
Since the founding of the Human Rights Campaign more than three decades ago, this organization has brought people together to make a profound, positive difference in the lives of millions of Americans. Especially in recent years, your committed efforts – and the hard work of countless allies across this country – have helped to bring about remarkable, once-unimaginable progress. Thanks to leaders and activists in, and far beyond, this room, our nation has made great strides on the road to LGBT equality – a cause that, I believe, is a defining civil rights challenge of our time.
CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...
You’ve stepped to the forefront of our national discourse, helping to mobilize millions to raise awareness about issues of concern to the LGBT community. You’ve spoken out for the rights and opportunities that have too often been denied to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. You’re calling for policies that stabilize families and expand individual liberty. And you’re doing it all in a manner that is enduring; that is predicated on an understanding of our common humanity; and that is founded on the singular ideal that has defined this country since its earliest days: the notion that all are created equal – and that all are entitled to opportunity and equal justice under law.
For President Obama, for me, and for our colleagues at every level of the Administration, this work is a top priority. And I’m pleased to note that – together – we have brought about historic, meaningful, lasting change.
We can all be proud that, today, those who courageously serve their country in uniform – those who sacrifice so that we can all enjoy the freedoms we cherish – need no longer hide their sexual orientation. With the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law in 2010 – an achievement that the Human Rights Campaign helped make possible – we celebrated the beginning of a new era for many brave servicemen and women. And we ensured that, here at home and around the world, lesbian, gay, and bisexual Americans can serve proudly, honestly, and openly – without fear of being fired for who they are.
We also can be encouraged that the newly-reauthorized Violence Against Women Act includes robust new provisions that ensure LGBT survivors of domestic abuse can access the same services as other survivors of partner violence. This will empower them to seek the help that they desperately need. And it will enable more and more Americans to find hope and healing in moments of great difficulty.
And we can be invigorated by the Justice Department’s efforts to enforce critical civil rights protections – including the landmark Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act – which the Human Rights Campaign helped to pass, and which President Obama signed in 2009. Under this important law, we are strengthening the Department’s ability to achieve justice on behalf of those who are victimized simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Today, we are more prepared – and better equipped – than ever before to pursue allegations of federal hate crimes wherever they arise; to bring charges whenever they are warranted; and to support our state and local law enforcement partners in enforcing their own hate crimes laws. And I pledge to you tonight that we will never stop working to ensure that equality under the law is protected by the law.
After all, this is the principle that drove the President and me to decide – in early 2011 – that Justice Department attorneys would no longer defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. We shared a strong belief that all measures that distinguish among people based on their sexual orientation must be subjected to a higher standard of scrutiny – and therefore that this measure was unconstitutional discrimination. And as a result, last summer – on an extraordinary day that was made possible by so many of this organization’s members – the Supreme Court issued a historic decision striking down the federal government’s ban on recognizing gay and lesbian couples who are legally married.
This marked a critical step forward. And it constituted a resounding victory for committed and loving couples throughout the country who fought for equal treatment under the law; for children whose parents had been denied the recognition that they deserved; and for millions of family, friends, and supporters who wanted to see their loved ones treated fairly, and who worked tirelessly to make that a reality.
Thanks to the opinions handed down on that day – and the efforts of this organization and many others – there’s no question that this country stands at a new frontier in the fight for civil rights. And I am pleased to report that the dedicated men and women of the Justice Department – under the outstanding leadership of Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Stuart Delery, who is here with us tonight – are leading national efforts to implement, and make real, the full promise of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Windsor case.
Already, my colleagues and I have announced the extension of significant benefits to Americans in same-sex marriages – including health insurance and other key benefits for federal employees and their families; a uniform policy ensuring that all same-sex married couples are recognized for federal tax purposes; and a policy dictating that – for purposes of immigration law – same-sex and opposite-sex marriages are treated exactly the same.
We also worked with the Department of Defense to determine that members of the military who are in same-sex marriages will receive the same benefits available to opposite-sex married couples. Just last month, the Justice Department affirmed that – for purposes of federal law – same-sex marriages performed in the State of Utah will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits. These marriages were valid when they were celebrated, and the federal government will acknowledge them as such. And we will continue to coordinate with others across the government to ensure that those in lawful same-sex marriages across the country will receive every benefit to which they are entitled.
These initial changes will positively impact the lives of so many throughout the nation. All of these steps forward are worth celebrating. But I also want to make one thing very clear: for my colleagues, for me – and I know for all of you – they are only the beginning.
This is no time to rest on our laurels. This is no time to back down, to give up, or to give in to the unjust and unequal status quo. Neither tradition nor fear of change can absolve us of the obligation we share to combat discrimination in all its forms. And, despite everything that’s been achieved, each of us has much more work to do.
We come together this evening at an exciting moment in history – one that is defined by challenge as well as opportunity. As President Obama has said, “The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts: that when all Americans are treated as equal…we are all more free.”
Tonight, I am proud to announce that the Justice Department is taking additional steps to further advance this “fundamental truth” – and to give real meaning to the Windsor decision. On Monday, I will issue a new policy memorandum that will – for the first time in history – formally instruct all Justice Department employees to give lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law.
This means that, in every courthouse, in every proceeding, and in every place where a member of the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States – they will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections, and rights as opposite-sex marriages under federal law. And this policy has important, real-world implications for same-sex married couples that interact with the criminal justice system. For instance, as a result of this policy:
• The Department will recognize that same-sex spouses of individuals involved in civil and criminal cases should have the same legal rights as all other married couples – including the right to decline to give testimony that might violate the marital privilege. Under this policy, even in states where same-sex marriages are not recognized, the federal government will not use state views as a basis to object to someone in a same-sex marriage invoking this right.
• In bankruptcy cases, the United States Trustee Program will take the position that same-sex married couples should be treated in the same manner as opposite-sex married couples. This means that, among other things, same-sex married couples should be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly, that certain debts to same-sex spouses or former spouses should be excepted from discharge, and that domestic support obligations should include debts, such as alimony, owed to a former same-sex spouse.
• Federal inmates in same-sex marriages will also be entitled to the same rights and privileges as inmates in opposite-sex marriages. This includes visitation by a spouse, inmate furloughs to be present during a crisis involving a spouse, escorted trips to attend a spouse’s funeral, correspondence with a spouse, and compassionate release or reduction in sentence based on the incapacitation of an inmate’s spouse.
Beyond this, the Department will equally recognize same-sex couples for the purposes of a number of key benefits programs it administers, such as the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
Another key program is the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program. It provides death benefits and educational benefits to surviving spouses of public safety officers, such as law enforcement officers and firefighters, who suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries in the line-of-duty. This program is one way that we, as a country, stand by the families of those who put themselves in harm’s way to keep our communities safe, and we must never do so selectively. When any law enforcement officer falls in the line of duty or is gravely injured, the federal government should stand by that hero’s spouse – no matter whether that spouse is straight or gay. Our policy memo on Monday will reflect this principle.
After all, this nation was built – and it continues to be improved – by patriotic men and women with abiding faith in the bedrock principle of equality. From the suffragettes to the Freedom Riders – from Birmingham to Stonewall – America’s course has been determined, and our future defined, by those who act on the recognition that all are created equal. By those who understand that this country’s diversity has always been one of its greatest strengths. And by those who prove every day that we – as a people – are made greater, and wiser, and stronger when we value the contributions of every citizen – gay and straight, bisexual and transgender. Black and white. Young and old – whether they live in Washington or Wyoming; Massachusetts or Missouri. Whether they work in schools or restaurants – on Wall Street or Main Street. And whether they contribute to our nation as doctors or service members; as businesspeople or public servants; as scientists or as Olympic athletes
In this great country, we move faster, we reach farther, and we climb higher whenever we stand together as one. That’s why this Administration, this Department of Justice – and this Attorney General – will never stop fighting to ensure equal protection. We will never rest in our efforts to safeguard the civil rights to which everyone in this country is entitled. And we will never waver in our determination to build on the progress we’ve seen – and bring about the changes our citizens deserve. But you must be our partners in this effort. Everyone in this room, and everyone in the LGBT community, must be committed to ending all discrimination – discrimination based not only on sexual orientation, but also on race, gender, ethnicity, and national origin. You must be active in those areas of the struggle as well.
We are, right now, in the middle of marking a number of 50-year anniversaries of key milestones in the Civil Rights Movement – from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, in 1963, to this summer’s anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The gains made during that period continue to be a source of great pride – not just for our country, but also for the building where I work. At critical points along the way, the Justice Department played a leadership role in advancing that historic movement. This was never more evident than when Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy sent his top deputy, Nick Katzenbach – whose portrait hangs in my personal office – to literally stare down racial discrimination in the schoolhouse door in order to enforce the integration of the University of Alabama. It was my late sister-in-law, Vivian Malone, who walked through that University’s doors that day. Without the bravery shown by her – and so many others like her – during the Civil Rights movement, I would not be standing before you today as the nation’s first African-American Attorney General.
And yet, as all-important as the fight against racial discrimination was then, and remains today, know this: my commitment to confronting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity runs just as deep. Just as was true during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the stakes involved in this generation’s struggle for LGBT equality could not be higher. Then, as now, nothing less than our country’s founding commitment to the notion of equal protection under the law was at stake. And so the Justice Department’s role in confronting discrimination must be as aggressive today as it was in Robert Kennedy’s time. As Attorney General, I will never let this Department be simply a bystander during this important moment in history. We will act.
As we keep moving forward together, we will continue to rely on the passion, the expertise, and the steadfast commitment of groups like this one – and dedicated advocates like all of you. Important, life-changing work remains before us, and we know from our history that the road ahead will be anything but easy. Always remember that progress is not inevitable and that positive change occurs only through commitment and through struggle.
But as I look around this crowd tonight – at so many leaders who are helping to build, and taking part in, a movement that is truly historic – I cannot help but feel confident in our ability to keep moving forward together. And I am profoundly optimistic about the country – and the world – that we will imagine; that we will plan for; and that each of us will surely help to create. I welcome the opportunity to work with you in this endeavor.
'If you build it, they will come.' They'll come in droves. It's 2014 and at this point, it's safe to say that Hollywood has mastered the art of pandering to the masses. They deliver exactly what we are pre-conditioned to want. The box office charts each year are now completely filled by franchises and pre-branded efforts. Frozen, for example, isn't a true original, but the 12th episode of the Disney Princess franchise that's been breaking box office records since (gulp) 1937. It's now extremely rare for a non-sequel non-pre-branded film to ever become a mammoth hit; only one "original" per year even cracks the annual top ten now (Gravity in 2013, Ted in 2012, none in 2011) which is a big downturn from the Aughts which themselves weren't as original as the Nineties.
All of which brings us to this weekend's chart topper,THE LEGO MOVIE. With its built-in nostalgia for childhood as well as a huge swath of pre-licensed characters to dangle in front of your 3D glasses (Gandalf, Batman, Han Solo, Wonder Woman, and dozens more), it's easy to approach the new hit expecting the worst. But there's no need! I'll use Bad Cop / Good Cop (voiced by Liam Neeson) to illustrate the situation and my own immediate mood swing as the movie built its case.
MORE AFTER THE JUMP...
[BAD COP] The LEGO Movie would be a massive hit even if it were terrible.
[GOOD COP] Who cares? It's wonderful!
Bad Cop/Good Cop isn't the only bipolar character in The LEGO Movie. There's also Unikitty who is 'half unicorn, half anime kitten and non stop dance party'. She's absolutely militant about happy thoughts until she gives up and Rage Kitty surfaces. Neither of them are the first animated character to change moods as quick as a head spin. No paternity tests required but I suspect both characters are descendants of The Mayor from The Nightmare Before Christmas who was probably a second cousin himself to Regan/Pazuzu, though unfortunately for her the head spinning didn't help her change moods back.
(Where was I going with this? Blame the movie's abundance of characters from other movies for the sidebar!)
Family trees aside, Bad Cop/Good Cop and Unikitty/Rage Kitty are perfect embodiments of The LEGO Movies quick-change pacing and comic flexibility. It strikes the near perfect balance between witty adult self-awareness and silly childlike imaginative abandon. It frantically mixes our perceptions and nostalgia for iconic characters and tropes with genuinely hilarious lines and good sight gags. It's a bit like watching a less soulful Toy Story movie while on a sugar binge. I mean this as mostly a compliment.
Though it doesn't have the visual flexibility of many animated greats -- those blocky LEGO figures arent known for their moving parts and the fight scenes are sometimes just explosions of bright color -- it overcompensates with a rich understanding of the haphazard logic of how people actually play with LEGOs. One of the sweetest comic beats is a hilarious cut from close-up to long shot as the top of a tower comes off like an independently powered space ship. The action flips instantly from looking like top of the line animated visual f/x to clunky amateur playtime, complete with the faint "whoosh" like noises of a child providing the sound effects as the top awkwardly floats away.
The story, memorably reduced to slow motion "blah blah blahs" in one early excellent joke, is about an everday construction worker Emmett (Chris Pratt) who finds the magical "Piece of Resistance" (haha) with which he must become a "Master Builder" and defeat Lord Business' (Will Ferrel) and his evil plans to destroy the world with a weapon called "The Kragle". There are many other characters, but best-in-show honors is a two man battle between Vitruvius and Batman. Morgan Freeman, voicing the prophet Vitruvius, scores big deadpan laughs when he's spouting incomplete prophecies or surveying the insides of Emmett's brain which he describes as "prodigiously empty". But then there's Batman, with Will Arnett deftly mocking and celebrating the world's longstanding love affair with the pompous brooding hero. His theme song is absolutely priceless and Arnett does a better Christian Bale impersonation than the one Christian Bale was doing in The Dark Knight Rises.
I tried to resist the movie. I know it's a crassly commercial ploy to sell more LEGO sets, and video games, and dozens more LEGO movies. But by the time it's brainwashy musical anthem "Everything is awesome" hit, I was sold and wanted to see the movie again and own it at home. And that was in the first ten minutes. The writer/directors Christopher Miller and Phil Lord previously directed the surprisingly worthwhile 21 Jump Street (reviewed), which was itself sprung from a dubious source. If they're not yet quite the new Kings of Movie Comedy they're definitely Master Builders of the art of pre-packaged high concept brand movies. Since they built it, you should come.
ALSO PLAYING / RECOMMENDED
Leaving childhood well behind now. i went to see The Lego Movie as a distraction for the awful Farrow/Allen saga of the past week that's been devouring my brain. It worked... for a few hours at least. But there's a bunch of other good options in theaters providing beautiful escape. Most of the Best Picture nominees are still playing. Three of the best foreign films in a long time are also available: GLORIA, from Chile, is a wonderful comedy about a woman of a certain age looking for love that would snap the "Best Actress" trophy right up if some Hollywood star did a remake; STRANGER BY THE LAKE (previously reviewed), the gay erotic French thriller, is a must-see. Finally, you can preorder 2013's most critically acclaimed LGBT film BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (previously reviewed) which hits BluRay at the end of the month and see why GALECA (The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association) and other awards bodies kept handing it their Best Foreign Film prizes.
The International Committee appears to be absolutely fine with the detention and beating of LGBT activists that occurred yesterday as the Games opened, Buzzfeed reports:
“We understand that the protesters were quickly released,” Emmanuelle Moreau, the IOC’s head of media relations, said in an email to BuzzFeed. “As in many countries in the world, in Russia, you need permission before staging a protest. We understand this was the reason that they were temporarily detained.”
Watch Rachel Maddow's report on the arrests here.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will announce a range of new Justice Department policies at tonight's Human Rights Campaign gala in New York City tonight, towards its effort to do all it can to ensure same-sex married couples are recognized equally under the law, the Washington Blade reports.
Among the policy changes, via the Blade:
• The Justice Department will recognize that same-sex spouses of individuals involved in civil and criminal cases have the same legal rights as straight married couples, including the right to decline to give testimony that might incriminate a spouse.
This new rule applies in non-marriage equality states. The government won't object to couples in same-sex marriages invoking this right if they marry in another state, but their current jurisdiction doesn't recognize their union.
• In bankruptcy cases, the U.S. Trustee Program will take the position that same-sex married couples should be treated in the same manner as opposite-sex married couples. Consequently, same-sex married couples will be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly; certain debts to same-sex spouses or former spouses will be excepted from discharge; and domestic support obligations should include debts, including alimony, owed to a former same-sex spouse.
• Federal inmates in same-sex marriages will be entitled to the same rights and privileges as inmates in opposite-sex marriages. These rights include spousal visitation; inmate furloughs to be present during a crisis involving a spouse; escorted trips to attend a spouse’s funeral; correspondence with a spouse; and compassionate release or reduction in sentence if an inmate’s spouse is incapacitated.
• The Justice Department will recognize same-sex couples for the purposes of a number of benefits programs it administers, such as the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
Also among these programs is the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program, which provides death benefits to surviving spouses of public safety officers, such as law enforcement officers and firefighters, who suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries while on duty.
Speaking before Sweden’s Parliament a few days ago, Mr. Holder called fighting for gay and lesbian rights one of “the defining civil rights challenges of our time.”
The remarks on Saturday by Mr. Holder, the first black attorney general, cast the gay-rights movement as a continuation of the civil rights efforts of the 1960s.
“As all-important as the fight against racial discrimination was then, and remains today, know this: My commitment to confronting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity runs just as deep,” his speech said.
The government estimates that more than 1,100 federal regulations, rights and laws touch on, or are affected by, marital status. With a memo on Monday, Mr. Holder plans to make several of those provisions apply equally to gay and straight couples.
The phrase "gay icon" gets tossed around a lot, but why is it that some figures amass more of a gay audience? Welcome to Gay Iconography, a feature where we present a proposed iconic figure or character and then ask you to weigh in with your thoughts.
While one could call many (or even most) of the gay icons we've discussed "divisive," few inspire the same kind of love or hate response as Kathy Griffin. The sitcom, reality and stand-up comedy star has been a vocal supporter of LGBT issues and her outspoken, celebrity-heavy routine has been embraced by (many in) the gay community.
Though bawdy and brassy is right up some folks' alleys, Griffins' loudmouth persona rubs some folks the wrong way. Her caustic Hollywood takedowns may be beloved by the Bravo-set, it's earned her a fair share of detractors, as well.
Have a laugh with some classic Kathy moments (or proceed directly to the comment to vent your disdain), AFTER THE JUMP …
Most people were first introduced to Griffin as the character Vickie on Suddenly Susan in 1996. She amassed television credits on shows like Seinfeld and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Her gay audience, however, was growing in her club performances. She told HuffPo Live last year: "I started doing the gay clubs and getting a better response [to my act]. I find that gay audiences are more raucous, somewhat political and knowledgable."
After working in the industry for years, Griffin found success with Bravo's My Life On the D-List. Named after one of her comedy specials, the show chronicled Griffin's life as a self-described sub-C-List celeb. Her self-deprecating humor only further endeared her to gay audiences. "Certainly what that show was about was being in the Hollywood community but still being an outsider … " she said in an interivew with MetroWeekly in 2012. "So I feel that's something the LGBT community and I have in common."
My Life On the D-List was a ratings and critical success. All six seasons were nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality Program. The show won the award in 2007 and 2008. In true Griffin fashion, her acceptance speech, above, ruffled feathers with its infamous "Suck it, Jesus!" line. Griffin has also earned six Grammy nominations (including one win) for her comedy albums.
Griffin holds the record for the most comedy specials for one network with 2013's Calm Down Gurrl marking her sixteenth for Bravo. She's also the first comedian to have four television specials in a year. Paula Abdul, Justin Bieber and (especially) Ryan Seacrest have all been skewered in her act.
Griffin doesn't only use "her gays" as a punchline. She's spoken out for marriage equality, supported Aid for AIDS and organized a rally in 2010 to encourage the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (which drew criticism from some). "As a woman and a feminist, I very much admire the way the LGBT community sticks together," she said.
Where do you land? Are you on Team Griffin, or do you wish not to be counted among her gays? Let us know in the comments.