DOMA Drama 'I Do' Gets a Full Trailer: WATCH


Last year we posted about an upcoming film about the struggle faced by a gay binational couple under DOMA, starring Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Alicia Witt, Maurice Compte, David W. Ross, Grant Bowler, Patricia Belcher, Jessica Tyler Brown and The Real World's Mike Manning. At the time it was seeking post-production funding but it's now headed for a release on DVD.

Watch the full trailer, AFTER THE JUMP...

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With You Always: A Powerful Story of Love, Courage and Quiet Advocacy


In the wake of the Supreme Court's June decision invalidating Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, thousands of same-sex couples across the United States have gained access to the full panoply of federal marriage benefits.  Tragically, though, for some couples, that relief came just a little too late.  Linda Campbell and Nancy Lynchild of Portland, Oregon were one of those couples.

Nancy passed away in December 2012 after a 12-year fight against metastatic breast cancer, and although she and her wife Linda had wed in Canada in 2010, they were considered unmarried by the federal government.  That meant that despite the lifetime of service Linda had given to the U.S. Air Force, Nancy was ineligible for the medical care that different-sex spouses of veterans are able to access.  Even more importantly for Linda, it meant that her wife would not be allowed a burial in Willamette National Cemetery, the same cemetery where her father--an Army veteran--and mother had been laid to rest.

But thanks to Linda's tenacity and sense of justice, Nancy now holds a small but significant place in history of LGBT rights in the United States.  During the course of Nancy's battle against cancer, Campbell requested a waiver to the prohibition on burying same-sex spouses in military cemeteries from Eric Shinseki, the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Brad Avakian, the commissioner of Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries, whose office handles civil rights discrimination claims, told the Oregonian last February that he had prepared a civil rights complaint against Shinseki and the cemetery, in case the request was denied.  "I never wanted to have to pull the trigger," Avakian told the newspaper.  "But I was ready to use every possible tool I had to make it happen."

4aceec5016b885180a_6im6bnjrkBut Shinseki was granted the waiver in late January, and a VA mortuary official called Linda to schedule the burial.  Last week, Linda and several friends--including Avakian, his wife and Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, held a stone-setting ceremony for Nancy at Willamette.  Nancy's space in the cemetery is just two plots away from Linda's parents' spot.

To mark the stone-setting ceremony, Freedom to Marry has published a beautiful tribute to Linda and Nancy's relationship on their blog.  The post--well worth reading in full--tells the moving story of the women's life together, and Linda's experience watching the Supreme Court strike down DOMA after Nancy's passing.  In one very touching anecdote, Linda describes the way she came to know Edie Windsor:

Until December 2012, Linda wasn't that familiar with Edie Windsor's story - the story of how Edie fell in love with a woman, Thea Spyer, married her in Canada after over 40 years together, helped her through a years-long battle with multiple sclerosis, mourned her passing, and was then forced to pay $363,000 in estate taxes that she would not have had to pay if Thea were a man.

But in December 2012, Linda became very connected with Edie's story. That's when she and Nancy watched Edie and Thea: A Very Long Engagement, the 2009 documentary that chronicled Edie and Thea's life together.

"Edie and Thea reminded me so much of Nancy and me," Linda said. "The way they looked at each other. The way they loved each other. I could see in Edie's face the way she looked at Thea - I recognized the look that had surely been on my face when I looked at Nancy."

Nancy passed away just a few days after she and Linda watched A Very Long Engagement.

"It was the last movie we ever watched together," Linda said. "And after I lost Nancy, I watched that movie every night. That movie was the story of Edie and Thea - but in so many ways, it was the story of me and Nancy, too."

According to Freedom to Marry, Linda had the opportunity to watch a short segment of the oral arguments in Edie's case against the Defense of Marriage Act and watched Edie's speech outside the court.  Linda will meet her in a few months, on a cruise for which Edie is an honored guest.  "She is, to me, the hero of our time," Linda said of the New York octogenarian. "She had the courage to stand up, and she wouldn't let it go. And she won. She won for all of us. To shake her hand will be one of the great highlights of my life."

5a10678ea1da5a912d_qdm6bxfalIn 1995, Linda lived in Washington, D.C. for a month's time for a job tryout while Nancy remained at home in Oregon.  Every night, Linda would return home to a letter from Nancy--two on Monday, since the mail wasn't delivered on Sunday.  Linda shared a selection from Nancy's letters with Freedom to Marry for the organization's blog post.  Here are some of Nancy's words.

"My heart is warm today.  Wrapped in a thick, soft tapestry.  Blended from the sight of you, the sound of you, the touch of you."

"Come share this moment with me.  Close your eyes.  Feel the warm, friendly sun gently kiss your cheek. Breathe in slowly the dancing air.  Feel your body respond to the relaxing rightness of the day.  Now there are no boundaries of distance between us.  We are sharing a moment--in a perfect day.  A perfect day."

"You are the woman of my dreams.  Please hurry back to my reality as well."

"There are no boundaries.  There is no distance."

"I am with you always."

(all images courtesy of Freedom to Marry)

Obama Administration Says It Will No Longer Defend Law Barring Gay Veterans from Spousal Benefits

HolderThe Department of Justice won't enforce Title 38, a law barring gay veterans from spousal benefits, the Washington Blade reports:

In a letter dated Sept. 4, U.S. Attorney Eric Holder notifies U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) of the change in the way the Justice Department will enforce Title 38 of the U.S. code.

“[I]n light of subsequent developments and my recommendation, the President has directed the Executive Branch to cease enforcement of Sections 101(3) and 101(31) of Title 38,” Holder writes. “Decisions by the Executive Branch not to enforce federal laws are appropriately rare. Nonetheless, for the reasons described below, the unique circumstances here warrant non-enforcement.”

The HuffPost adds:

Holder said last year that the Justice Department would no longer defend Title 38 in court. But Wednesday’s announcement went even further, with DOJ finding that the legal basis laid out by the Supreme Court in the DOMA decision should nullify the marriage definition in the provision. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki said just last week that the spouses of gay veterans weren’t eligible for benefits because no court had found Title 38’s definitions to be unconstitutional.

Writes the White House in a press release:

The new policy means that the administration will no longer enforce statutory language governing the Veterans Administration (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) that restricts the awarding of spousal benefits to opposite-sex marriages only. The language, contained within Title 38 of the U.S. Code, has, until now, prevented the Executive Branch from providing spousal benefits to veterans—and in some instances active-duty service members and reservists—who are in same-sex marriages recognized under state law.

In a letter to Congressional leaders, Holder stated that the President’s decision was consistent with the Court’s decision in Windsor in June.

“Although the Supreme Court did not directly address the constitutionality of the Title 38 provisions in Windsor, the reasoning of the opinion strongly supports the conclusion that those provisions are unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment,” Holder wrote.

The decision not to enforce Title 38 aligns with the Obama administration’s determination last year that two provisions of Title 38 that govern benefits for veterans and their families were unconstitutional as applied to legally married same-sex couples. At that time, the Attorney General informed Congress that the Department would no longer defend the Title 38 provisions, but that the Executive Branch would continue to enforce them. Today’s announcement makes clear that enforcement of the provision in Title 38 defining marriage as between a man and a woman will now cease.

The announcement comes after the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) recently decided to stop defending the Title 38 provisions in pending cases. In addition, last week, a federal district court in California held the Title 38 provisions unconstitutional on equal protection grounds. After consideration of these developments and a recommendation by the Attorney General, the President directed the Executive Branch to cease enforcement of the Title 38 provisions.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Law Barring Same-Sex Veteran Benefits [tlrd]

Mississippi Joins Texas in Refusing to Process Spousal Benefits for Gay Troops

Yesterday, Towleroad reported that Texas was refusing to comply with orders from the Pentagon to begin offering partner benefits to troops with same-sex spouses based on the state's law banning same-sex marriage.

MississippiNow Mississippi has joined them, saying it won't issue applications from state-owned offices, the AP reports:

Texas and Mississippi appeared to be the only two states limiting how and where same-sex spouses of National Guard members could register for identification cards and benefits, according to an Associated Press tally. Officials in 13 other states that also ban gay marriage — including Arizona, Oklahoma, Florida, Michigan and Georgia — said Tuesday that they will follow federal law and process all couples applying for benefits the same.

Texas said it would not deny the benefits, they just needed to be collected from a federal office, an inconvenience of several hours travel for some service members and their families.

As far as Mississippi goes:

Mississippi National Guard spokesman Tim Powell said the main factor in determining where same-sex spouses could apply for benefits came down to the property owner. Powell said only National Guard offices on federal property would accept the applications in Mississippi, which also constitutionally bans gay marriage.

“It is our intent to provide benefits and services to our men and women in uniform and at the same time abide by federal and state statutes,” Powell said.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Law Barring Same-Sex Veteran Benefits

Tracey and Maggie Cooper-Harris

A little over two weeks ago we told you about the Pentagon extending social security benefits to same-sex couples, even if they were just couples in states where their marriage was legal. Last week, we told you about the Alaska State Personnel Board changing the definition of 'family' to include same-sex couples, and early this week we informed you that the Texas Supreme Court will be hearing a case this November to determine if the state will recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages as legal. Today is California's turn.

Plaintiffs Tracey and Maggie Cooper-Harris brought their case before the California Supreme Court in February 2012, alleging that DOMA and the resulting denial of veteran benefits to same-sex couples were discriminatory and unconstitutional. On Thursday Judge Consuelo B. Marshall ruled that the definitions in Title 38 of the U.S. Code that limit provision of veterans’ benefits to opposite-sex couples have no rational basis. This is a major step forward for members of the armed forces in legal same-sex marriages as their husbands and wives are now entitled to all of the VA benefits and protections that are normally given to the spouses of heterosexual spouses. According to the Defense Department, same-sex couples can start receiving these benefits this Tuesday on September 3rd.

And the dominoes keep falling.

NOM Blasts IRS Policy Giving Federal Tax Recognition to Gay Married Couples Regardless of State Laws

Brian BrownYesterday, we reported on the U.S. Department of Treasury's decision to recognize gay married couples for tax purposes regardless of the state laws regarding marriage in which they reside. Prompted by the recent SCOTUS ruling on DOMA, this new policy will provide tax filing uniformity for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide.

As if on cue, National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown issued a statement denouncing the change in policy, claiming it is yet another government attempt to force gay marriage on an "unwilling public."

"The Treasury Department is grossly overstepping its authority," said Brown. "This is a nation of laws. Only Congress has the authority to change the law....[the] Obama administration is intent on forcing same-sex 'marriage' on an unwilling public."



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