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Thursday Speed Read: Wisconsin, Eric Holder, Lambda Legal, DOJ Pride, Heather Mizeur, LGBT Cities

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

WISCONSIN ROLLER-COASTER:

VanhollenTuesday, the Wisconsin Vital Records office said it was not processing the records of marriage licenses obtained by same-sex couples; Wednesday, it said it is. According to media reports in the state, Vital Records got its marching orders from the state attorney general J.B. Van Hollen. Van Hollen is still fighting federal Judge Barbara Crabb’s June 6 decision declaring the state ban on marriage licenses for same-sex couples to be unconstitutional. He has asked the Seventh Circuit federal appeals court for an emergency stay of the decision.

HOLDER SPEAKS AT LAMBDA EVENT:

HolderSpeaking at a Lambda Legal reception in Washington, D.C., Tuesday night, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder noted all the victories and accomplishments of the LGBT civil rights movement since the 1969 Stonewall riots, but added, “fully 60 years after the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the LGBT community is still waiting for its own unequivocal declaration that separate is inherently unequal.” He reiterated President Obama’s call for Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. He criticized the Boy Scouts of America policy that continues to bar gay adult scout leaders, saying it “preserves and perpetuates the worst kind of stereotypes.”

DOJ PRIDE EVENT HONORS HOLDER:

LevyDOJ Pride, the LGBT group at the U.S. Department of Justice, presented U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder with its Gerald B. Roemer Award Tuesday. Holder used the opportunity to commend the work of openly gay Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery whose Civil Division is helping with implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Windsor, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. The group also honored lesbian Judge Judith Levy (pictured)who was confirmed to the U.S. District Court in Detroit last March, and heard from openly gay Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pam Karlan, who took over enforcement of voting rights laws last December, and Roberta Kaplan, the openly gay attorney who headed up the successful legal challenge by Edith Windsor to the Defense of Marriage Act.

COMMENTARY COMMENDS MIZEUR:

MizeurIn Tuesday’s Baltimore Sun, a local political commentator, Thomas Schaller, had this to say about lesbian state Delegate Heather Mizeur’s long-shot campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor: “Ms. Mizeur has acquitted herself quite well. Indeed, insofar as it is possible to win a campaign but lose an election, she may have already achieved that bittersweet distinction. For even if she fails to upset Mr. Brown by converting undecided, late defectors from the Gansler camp or other anti-Brown Democrats, she has proved to be an assertive, confident and unapologetically liberal candidate with a bright future in state and maybe even national politics.” The latest polls suggest the current lieutenant governor, Anthony Brown, is ahead with 41 percent of the vote, followed by Attorney General Doug Gansler with 20 percent, and Mizeur with 15 percent. The primary is June 24.

BEST LGBT CITY: LOS ANGELES OR SEATTLE?

A website called vocative has crunched 32 “data sets,” measuring 16 different factors, on 100 of the U.S.’s most populous cities to rank them in order of “Most LGBT friendly.” Los Angeles made the top of the list, followed by New York, San Francisco, Des Moines (sic), and Chicago. Just last week, a website called NerdWallet.com declared Seattle to be the most LGBT friendly city in America, followed by San Francisco, Atlanta, Oakland, and Long Beach. Back in January, the Advocate magazine declared Washington, D.C. to be the “most LGBT-friendly” place in America, followed by Pasadena, Seattle, Cambridge, MA, and Atlanta.

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


Attorney General Eric Holder Blasts Boy Scouts Over Discriminatory Ban on Gay Leaders

In remarks delivered to Lambda Legal on Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder slammed the Boy Scouts of America’s refusal to allow gay adults in the organization, saying the ban “perpetuates the worst kind of stereotypes.”

HolderNBC News reports:

"If these men and women are fit for military service, then surely they are fit to mentor, to teach, and to serve as role models for the leaders of future generations."

Holder said the Boy Scouts of America is "an iconic American institution." But he said its policy is "a relic of an age of prejudice and insufficient understanding."

Last month, BSA President Robert Gates, who oversaw the end of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 2011, said that while he personally supports gay scoutmasters, he opposes any further attempts to address the policy now.  


Rep. Louie Gohmert And Attorney General Holder Fight Over Contempt, Gay Rights, And Other Issues: VIDEO

Louie Gohmert

The gay rights arguments come in at the 4:00 mark, but the argument between Gohmert and Holder gets contentious well before then on topics such as contempt, Fast and Furious, Holy Land Foundation Documents, and the delivery of documents to lawyers for terrorists.

You can watch the bickering AFTER THE JUMP...

From a House Judiciary Oversight Hearing on the Department of Justice.

Continue reading "Rep. Louie Gohmert And Attorney General Holder Fight Over Contempt, Gay Rights, And Other Issues: VIDEO" »


Pat Robertson: Impeach Eric Holder for ‘Elevating’ Sodomy Above Religious Freedom - VIDEO

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In response to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s declaration that state attorney generals are not obligated to defend state laws banning same-sex marriage, televangelist Pat Robertson called for Holder's impeachment and resignation.

Said Robertson:

“What we’re seeing now more and more is the rights of homosexuals, the practice of homosexuality, sodomy, consensual sodomy, is being raised and elevated above the rights of religious believers and that is terrible,”

Right Wing Watch reports that Robertson also defended state bans on same-sex marriage, saying the issue "has nothing to do with limiting homosexuals, it has to do with giving religious people the right to practice their religious freedom freely."

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

A similar "gay discrimination isn't discrimination" argument has been the go-to talking point among right-wingers in Arizona and Kansas in regards to legislation that would allow religious-based discrimination against gays. Supporters say these bills are simply meant to protect religious liberties and even help protect the rights of LGBT citizens.  

Continue reading "Pat Robertson: Impeach Eric Holder for ‘Elevating’ Sodomy Above Religious Freedom - VIDEO" »


Eric Holder Tells State Attorneys General: You Can Refuse to Defend Anti-Gay Marriage Laws

In a speech today to the National Association of Attorneys General in Washington, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told state attorneys general that they are not compelled to defend state laws banning same-sex marriage.

HolderVia the transcript of Holder's remarks as prepared for delivery, provided to Towleroad from the Justice Dept:

[Attorneys general must decide] not merely to use our legal system to settle disputes and punish those who have done wrong, but to answer the kinds of fundamental questions – about fairness and equality – that have always determined who we are and who we aspire to be, both as a nation and as a people.

These are the questions that drove President Obama 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. As I’ve said before, this decision was not taken lightly. Our actions were motivated by the strong belief that all measures that distinguish among people based on their sexual orientation must be subjected to a heightened standard of scrutiny – and, therefore, that this measure was unconstitutional discrimination. Last summer, the Supreme Court issued a historic decision – United States v. Windsor – striking down the federal government’s ban on recognizing gay and lesbian couples who are legally married. This marked a critical step forward, and a resounding victory for equal treatment and equal protection under the law.

More recently – and partly in response to the Windsor decision – a number of state attorneys general, including those in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Virginia – and, just last week, Oregon – have reached similar determinations after applying heightened scrutiny to laws in their states concerning same-sex marriage.

Any decisions – at any level – not to defend individual laws must be exceedingly rare. They must be reserved only for exceptional circumstances. And they must never stem merely from policy or political disagreements – hinging instead on firm constitutional grounds. But in general, I believe we must be suspicious of legal classifications based solely on sexual orientation. And we must endeavor – in all of our efforts – to uphold and advance the values that once led our forebears to declare unequivocally that all are created equal and entitled to equal opportunity.

This bedrock principle is immutable. It is timeless. And it goes to the very heart of what this country has always stood for – even though, as centuries of advancement in the cause of civil rights have shown, our understanding of it evolves over time. As I said just after the Administration’s decision on DOMA was announced, America’s most treasured ideals were not put into action or given the full force of law in a single instant. On the contrary: our ideals are continually advanced as our justice systems – and our Union – are strengthened; and as social science, human experience, legislation, and judicial decisions expand the circle of those who are entitled to the protections and rights enumerated by the Constitution.

As we gather here in Washington today, I believe that our highest ideals – realized in the form of landmark Supreme Court rulings, from Brown to Zablocki, from Romer to Lawrence, from Loving to Windsor – light a clear path forward. They have impelled us, in some instances, to extraordinary action. And the progress we’ve seen has been consistent with the finest traditions of our legal system, the central tenets of our Constitution, and the “fundamental truth” that, as President Obama once said, “when all Americans are treated as equal . . . we are all more free.”

In an interview yesterday with the NYT, Holder said, in advance of the speech: “Engaging in that process and making that determination is something that’s appropriate for an attorney general to do."

Some Republicans, of course, are not happy with Holder's remarks:

“It really isn’t his job to give us advice on defending our constitutions any more than it’s our role to give him advice on how to do his job,” said Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen of Wisconsin, a Republican. “We are the ultimate defenders of our state constitutions.”


Attorney General Eric Holder to Announce Range of New DOJ Policies for Gay Married Couples

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.

HolderAmong 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.

The NYT adds:

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.


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