Lesbian Widow Sues FedEx For Refusing To Pay Survivor Benefits: READ



The widow of a FedEx employee is suing the company for refusing to provide her with federally required pension benefits, reports NCLR.

Lesly Frances TABOADA-HALLThe company’s decision to deny Stacey Schuett (pictured above left) benefits is solely because both spouses are women.

Schuett and Lesly Taboada-Hall (pictured right and above with their two children) were together for 30 years before they married in 2013. After being diagnosed with cancer in 2010, Taboada-Hall and Schuett married from a hospital bed in their California home in front of their two children and close family members and friends.

At the time of Taboada-Hall’s death, she had been a FedEx employee for more than 26 years.

FedEx has refused to provide the benefits because its pension plan incorporates the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), even though that law was struck down as unconstitutional in 2013.

Representing Schuett, attorney Nina Wasow said:

“Federal pension law protects same-sex spouses just as it does opposite-sex spouses. Employees who have same-sex spouses deserve the same certainty as others that their hard-earned retirement benefits will be there to protect their families.”

Also representing Schuett, NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter added:

“FedEx cannot hide behind DOMA to justify its discrimination against Ms. Schuett and her family. The Supreme Court’s decision striking down DOMA made clear that employers must recognize the spouses of their gay and lesbian employees.”

Read details of Schuett's complaint, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Happy Ending for Binational Gay Couple Kept Apart By DOMA: WATCH

Jamie and Tim

Just when you needed a break from the relentless bad news, we've received word of a happy outcome for binational couple Tim and Jamie who back in 2013 were prevented from being together in the United States because of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.

Tim and Scottish native Jamie have been together since August 2006 and married in Canada in June 2012. However, Jamie was detained in SeaTac Airport, Seattle in June 2009 due to visa problems and the couple had been prevented from being together ever since.

Last week Jamie had an interview at the US Embassy in London, England and was approved for a green card.

Together for eight years and five months, the couple hopes that Jamie will be in the US before Valentine’s Day “and soon we will finally be able to spend the rest of our lives together.”

Watch a heartbreaking video about the couple’s struggle and an update following Jamie’s green card application, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Happy Ending for Binational Gay Couple Kept Apart By DOMA: WATCH" »

DOMA-Repealing 'Respect for Marriage Act' Reintroduced in Congress


Yesterday Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) reintroduced the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would fully repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act and ensure all federal government agencies recognize legal same-sex marriages.

Writes HRC:

“From social security benefits to veterans benefits, DOMA continues to harm families across the country,” said David Stacy, HRC’s Government Affairs Director. “Every legally married couple - no matter where they live - should have access to the full federal benefits and protections they deserve. It’s far past time for DOMA to be completely repealed once and for all. We applaud Senator Feinstein and Representatives Nadler and Ros-Lehtinen for their tireless commitment to fully repealing this discriminatory and antiquated statute.”

Prior to the June 2013 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Windsor v. United States, DOMA singled out lawfully married same-sex couples for unequal treatment. This law discriminates in two important ways. First, Section 2 of DOMA purports to allow states to refuse to recognize valid legal marriages of same-sex couples. Second, Section 3 of the law carves all legally married same-sex couples out of all federal statutes, regulations and rulings applicable to all other married people.

The Supreme Court held Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional in Windsor v. United States.  However, steps must still be taken to fully repeal this discriminatory law.  First, Section 2 of DOMA was not part of the Windsor case and remains unaddressed by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Second, there is no uniform standard across the federal government for determining when a couple’s marriage is valid for federal purposes.  

The reintroduction of the bill includes three new Senate sponsors: Harry Reid (D-NV), Gary Peters (D-MI) and Bill Nelson (D-FL).

Head here for the full, bipartisan list of cosponsors to the House bill. 

Lincoln, Nebraska Mayor Extends City Benefits to Gay Married Couples

Same-sex spouses of city employees are set to receive medical, dental, life and vision insurance and the same retirement benefits that straight couples receive, the Lincoln Journal Star reports.

BeutlerMayor Chris Beutler approved the changes in light of new Blue Cross and Blue Shield policies prompted by the SCOTUS Windsor ruling.

The Journal Star:

Beutler’s decision to accept Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s definition of marriage, which includes same-sex marriages, opens the door to city benefits being extended to same-sex spouses of city employees. The city’s insurance carrier changed its definition of marriage following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The high court’s ruling in U.S. v. Windsor invalidated the portion of the federal act that defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prohibited federal benefits from being denied to legally married same-sex couples.

“The city accepted the new definition because it doesn't make sense to deny legally married same-sex couples the same insurance benefits that we grant to other legally married couples,” said Rick Hoppe, Beutler's chief of staff.

The change became effective on November 1. Nebraska has its own Defense of Marriage Act which county officials cited last month in refusing to extend pension benefits to same-sex spouses of employees, but the county must adhere to some new federal rules following the SCOTUS ruling. The ACLU filed suit in November challenging Nebraska's ban on gay marriage.

Gay Texas Couple Was First To Obtain Marriage License 42 Years Ago, But Did They Help Or Hurt The Movement?


Forty-two years ago, two men obtained a marriage license in Wharton County, Texas — in what was one of the nation's first government-recognized same-sex marriages. 

The Houston Chronicle reported Friday on the marriage of Antonio Molina and William "Billie" Ert (above), which took place on Oct. 5, 1972. 

Ert, who performed as a drag queen named Mr. Vicki Carr, wore a wig, make-up and a dress to the clerk's office — tricking officials into issuing the couple a license. 

Two days later, Molina and Ert held a ceremony in Houston, with the minister who founded Dallas' Metropolitan Community Church officiating. But by then their same-sex marriage made national headlines, and the clerk declined to record the couple's license.

Molina and Ert obtained their marriage license just months before the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a federal lawsuit challenging Minnesota's same-sex marriage ban, Baker v. Nelson. The high court wouldn't take up the issue again until it struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in Windsor v. United States last year.

Based on the Baker decision, Molina and Ert ultimately lost a legal fight to have the license recorded, and the next year the Texas Legislature passed the state's first ban on same-sex marriage.  

The Houston Chronicle reports that Molina and Ert's case "set back the Texas gay marriage movement 40 years while also helping to inspire a generation of civil rights advocates": 

Much of the general public's discomfort with the idea was directly attributable to the movement's early characters, said State University of New York-Buffalo Law Professor Michael Boucai.

"In the Texas case, you have a drag queen. That's not how gay marriage advocates like to represent their current constituency," said Boucai. In Kentucky, one half of a lesbian couple who sued for marriage operated a questionable massage service. Two men in Washington State did not actually believe in the institution of marriage, but still thought they should be able to partake. "They're just not convenient."

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, told the Chronicle: 

"These early marriage cases really were reflective of the fact that gay people have always wanted it. But they also remind us it's not just about filing the case in court. You also have to make the case in the court of public opinion."

But Melissa Murray, a law professor at UC-Berkeley, said:

"What these cases did was to bring gay couples, loving couples to the forefront, out of the closet and out of the shadows. I don't think you could have a contemporary marriage movement without them."

After losing their legal fight, Molina and Ert eventually split up. Ert attempted suicide but survived. However, the Chronicle was unable to determine whether he's still alive. Molina died in 1991. 

Forty-two years after Ert and Molina obtained a marriage license, Texas same-sex couples eagerly await a federal district judge's decision on a motion that could allow it to happen again. 

Read the Houston Chronicle story about Ert and Molina here

DOMA Lawyer Mary Bonauto, Cartoonist Alison Bechdel Win MacArthur 'Genius Grants': VIDEOS


Mary Bonauto, the Civil Rights Project Director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) since 1990 and a civil rights lawyer who has been battling for equality for LGBT people for decades and scored one of the first victories against DOMA, has been awarded a $625,000 'Genius Grant' from the Macarthur Foundation, offered annually and paid in quarterly installments to a select group of artists, scholars, and professionals. See the Class of 2014 here.

According to the Foundation:

Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or those in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations. They may use their fellowship to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers.

3_bonautoBonauto could not be more deserving. From Macarthur's announcement:

Bonauto and Vermont colleagues formed a critical partnership in 1997, which is widely acknowledged as a pivotal time and place to challenge a state’s exclusion of gay and lesbian couples from marriage. The Vermont Supreme Court’s ruling in Baker v. Vermont (1999) was the first to hold that same-sex couples must be provided all of the same protections and obligations provided to married couples, and the state legislature established the first civil union law in the nation in 2000 to comply with that ruling. GLAD’s subsequent filing of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health in Massachusetts, relying again on state constitutional guarantees of equality and liberty, resulted in the 2003 landmark decision that made that state the first to extend marriage equality to same-sex couples. Bonauto’s constitutional arguments in Goodridge articulated the breadth of the practical and social harms imposed by the state’s exclusion on real families and their children. In defending the marriage ruling from attempts to substitute civil unions, she drew on painful lessons from our nation’s past, most notably the history of unjust “separate but equal” doctrines as substitutes for racial and gender equality, and the Massachusetts high court was the first to reject civil unions as a substitute for marriage. The Goodridge ruling, the transformative effect of same-sex couples marrying on the public’s views, and subsequent legal (in Connecticut), legislative (in Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire), and ballot-based (in Maine) victories all provided a solid foundation and roadmap for future strategies across the nation, including at the federal level.

In 2009, Bonauto led a team from GLAD and private law firms in the first strategic challenge to section three of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and argued that the federal government’s non-recognition of the lawful and rapidly growing number of marriages unconstitutionally denied same-sex couples more than 1,000 federal protections and obligations usually available to married persons. Her case—Gill v. Office of Personnel Management—provided the first federal court wins in challenges to DOMA (in 2010 and 2012 rulings), and served as an important model for United States v. Windsor, the landmark case that ultimately resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court striking down DOMA in 2013 and on which she served as a strategist and external coordinator of friend-of-the-court briefs. In the name of equal treatment and dignity for all people, and in concert with other litigators and advocates across the country, Bonauto is breaking down legal barriers based on sexual orientation and influencing debates about the relationship between the law and momentous social change more broadly.

Most recently Bonauto joined the fight against Utah's same-sex marriage ban.

Check out the MacArthur video on Bonauto, AFTER THE JUMP...

Also winning the grant, out cartoonist Alison Bechdel.


Again, from Macarthur:

Bechdel’s command of sequential narrative and her aesthetic as a visual artist was established in her long-running comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For (1983–2008), which realistically captured the lives of women in the lesbian community as they influenced and were influenced by the important cultural and political events of the day.

Garnering a devoted and diverse following, this pioneering work was a precursor to her book-length graphic memoirs. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006) is a nuanced depiction of a childhood spent in an artistic family in a small Pennsylvania town and of her relationship with her father, a high school English teacher and funeral home director. An impeccable observer and record keeper, Bechdel incorporates drawings of archival materials, such as diaries, letters, photographs, and news clippings, as well as a variety of literary references in deep reflections into her own past.

Check out the Macarthur videos on these wonderful women, AFTER THE JUMP...

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