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Texas Teen With Two Moms Delivers Rousing Speech In Support Of Marriage Equality: VIDEO

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Freedom To Marry President Evan Wolfson was joined by Texas same-sex plaintiff couples for a marriage town hall at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin on Monday night.  

But Mason Marriott-Voss, a 16-year-old from Austin with two moms, stole the show with a rousing two-minute speech about the importance of bringing marriage equality to the Lone Star State.  

Marriott-Voss (shown with his family above) said when his two moms had him, same-sex marriage wasn't legal anywhere in the US, adding that a lot has changed, "but not here in Texas." 

"There are still people who stubbornly refuse to recognize family even when it's right in front of them," he said. "Some people are still genuinely concerned that my parents' love could harm tradition or erode society, maybe even threaten existing marriages."

Marriott-Voss talked about how ordinary his family is — his stepsister is a straight-A student who likes Harry Potter and his younger brother is wearing a Yoda-Santa hat every day in December in hopes that it will bring a white Christmas to Austin.  

"We share the same values and beliefs as everyone else, the same normal struggles and triumphs, except we are denied the basic dignity of being officially respected as the family that we are," Marriott-Voss said. "These anti-family laws create a raw deal for kids like me. Marriage is supposed to be a very important issue, but these laws cause children to be raised across the country in homes without it. The most important thing I want you to take away from me today, is that it's not our families that need to change, it's Texas." 

Freedom To Marry's Wolfson said people like Marriott-Voss continuing to tell their families' stories will be key to bringing same-sex marriage to Texas and the other 14 states where it's still banned.

A federal district judge struck down Texas' marriage bans in February, but Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott has appealed the decision to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court. The 5th Circuit will hear oral arguments in the Texas case Jan. 9 — around the same time the U.S. Supreme Court meets to decide whether to hear appeals of a 6th Circuit ruling upholding marriage bans in four states.

But Wolfson's message to the more than 100 who attended Monday's town hall was that it's critical for people in Texas to remain engaged rather than sitting back and watching because they think victory is inevitable. 

"Clearly we are winning and there's tremendous reason for hope and optimism and excitement, but winning is not won, and the way we're winning is by getting out there and talking and telling our stories and building support, and showing the country and courts that America is ready and they (the courts) can do this, and that there's real urgency and they need to do it," Wolfson said. "So why would we stop doing what's working when we're on the verge of winning?" 

Watch Marriott-Voss' speech, and check out a few more photos from the event, AFTER THE JUMP... 

Continue reading "Texas Teen With Two Moms Delivers Rousing Speech In Support Of Marriage Equality: VIDEO" »


Evan Wolfson and Brian Brown Face Off On Gay Marriage and the Growing Public Support for Equality: VIDEO

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During an hour-long call-in on CSPAN this weekend, Freedom to Marry president Evan Wolfson faced off against NOM's Brian Brown in a discussion about the Supreme Court's gay marriage decision earlier this month, the growing public support for LGBT equality, and Brown's anti-gay activism abroad (which was detailed in HRC's new "Export of Hate" report).

Watch the debate, AFTER THE JUMP...

[h/t joe.my.god]

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Freedom to Marry Launches National Ad Highlighting Anti-Gay Marriage Discrimination: VIDEO

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A new national ad from Freedom to Marry will air during Sunday morning network news in D.C. and on cable news next week. The ad, called "It's Time" highlights the states which still discriminate against gay couples and is timed to air as the Supreme Court begins its new term and plans to consider a number of marriage equality cases from various states.

Said Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson:

"The ad underscores the human costs of prolonging marriage discrimination. Every day of denial is a day of real and needless injury, indignity, and injustice for too many families across the country -- and time matters. America is ready for the freedom to marry, 40 lower court rulings have affirmed the freedom to marry, even opponents are saying it's time to bring the country to national resolution -- and it is, indeed, time."


Watch the ad, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Which Marriage Equality Case Will the Supreme Court Take, If Any?

BY LISA KEEN

SupremesThe U.S. Supreme Court could announce as early as Tuesday (September 30) which marriage equality case –or cases— it will accept for review this session. But, while the Court has seven marriage equality cases to choose from during its private working conference Monday (September 29), it may not choose any of those seven for review.

“If there’s no disagreement [among the circuits], then the Supreme Court has the option of not taking any case for a period of time,” said Roberta Kaplan, who represented plaintiff Edith Windsor in landmark Supreme Court case that struck down the key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act last year.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made just that point in remarks September 16 at a University of Minnesota Law School forum. Her host asked Ginsburg to comment generally on marriage equality cases before the high court and discuss whether she thinks the court will and should take a case “as soon as possible.”

Ginsburg“So far, the federal courts of appeal have answered the question the same way – holding unconstitutional the ban on same-sex marriage,” said Ginsburg. “There is a case now pending before the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Now, if that court should disagree with the others, then there will be some urgency in the courts for taking the case. But when all the courts of appeal are in agreement, there’s no need for us to rush to step in. It remains to be seen what the Sixth Circuit would rule, when it will rule. Sooner or later, yes, the question will come to the court....”

Her comments attracted attention from Supreme Court observers because the court had been rather quick to put the seven cases on its list for discussion at its first big “long” conference. But Ginsburg was basically voicing what many such observers already know: The Supreme Court is more keen on taking appeals when there’s a disagreement among the circuits.

So far, four appeals courts have ruled such marriage bans unconstitutional: the Ninth (in last year’s Proposition 8 case), the Tenth (Utah and Oklahoma), the Fourth (Virginia), and the Seventh (Wisconsin and Indiana). Another Ninth Circuit panel heard oral arguments September 8, in cases challenging bans in Hawaii, Nevada, Idaho, and Oregon, but it widely expected to find once again that the bans are unconstitutional.

But a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals heard arguments August 6 in cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, and it seemed to signal it was prepared to uphold state bans on marriage for same-sex couples. That would create a conflict, but the panel has not yet released its opinion. If there was anything unusual about Ginsburg’s comments last week, it was that she expressed, very diplomatically, the widespread impression that the Sixth Circuit is likely to uphold the bans.

KaplanKaplan (right) thinks Ginsburg’s remarks are a strong indication that the Court is more likely to accept a case from a circuit that disagrees with the others – either the Sixth or the Fifth circuit. The Sixth Circuit decision could be released any day now; the Fifth, which covers Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, recently gave the state of Texas an extension of time (until October 10) to file its final brief in Perry v. DeLeon.

If the Supreme Court declines to review one of the pending marriage cases this session, said Kaplan, it would have to lift the stays currently in place. “Then marriages between gay couples could happen in a whole bunch of new states,” she said. That would enable same-sex couples to get married in 12 additional states: Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma in the Tenth Circuit; Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia in the Fourth Circuit; and Wisconsin and Indiana, in the Seventh Circuit. Added to the 19 states that already enable same-sex couples to marry, and the count will stand at 31 and the District of Columbia.

That seems unlikely.

So, if and when it takes a case, does it matter which marriage equality case the Supreme Court accepts? Does it change the prospects for the decision if it takes a case where the ban has been upheld? Does it matter whether the attorneys arguing the case are seasoned veterans before the Supreme Court?

TribeConstitutional law legend Laurence Tribe (right), the Harvard law professor who argued against state bans on same-sex sexual activity in the 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick case, says, “It could matter in a large number of ways” but he was “disinclined to speculate about (it) at this point.”

Lambda senior attorney Jenny Pizer offered some ideas. Though she and others agree the “core arguments will be very similar regardless of which case or cases the Supreme Court takes,” Pizer noted that there can be interesting and important ancillary arguments.

“For example, if the Ninth Circuit rules as many anticipate and invalidates the marriage bans ...the Supreme Court would have the heightened scrutiny for sexual orientation classifications question presented more squarely because that is currently the law of the circuit,” said Pizer. “If they take the Baskin [case] out of [Indiana in] the Seventh, there are issues of emergency relief in the context of serious illness that might influence the Court's analysis and timing. If they take Bostic out of Virginia, there could be a strong temptation to talk more about the historical parallel [with the ban on interracial marriage, in Loving v. Virginia]. And I have to wonder if the same would be true if they were to take [the] Kitchen [case] out of Utah, given the unique history of that state's marriage laws [and polygamy].”

MinterShannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, noted that state officials are “vigorously” defending the ban in the Utah case, in which NCLR and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders are helping represent plaintiff couples. The Supreme Court might favor such a case to avoid any procedural snag like it faced in the California Proposition 8 case, which was appealed by a third party which lacked legal standing to file the appeal.

Lambda Legal’s national Legal Director Jon Davidson said attorneys for all the cases think their case is a particularly good vehicle for review, but said, “The questions presented for review are essentially the same in all these cases.”

As for whether it matters if seasoned Supreme Court attorneys present the arguments for plaintiff couples, Tribe and others said it probably doesn’t matter.

“As long as they’re sufficiently ‘seasoned’ not to make any ridiculous concessions or to overreach in any foolish ways,” said Tribe, “this is not the kind of case in which counsel’s arguments are likely to make much difference.”

“There are slight issues in terms of whether a state’s attorney general is defending the law, but other than that,” said Kaplan, “the legal arguments and the plaintiff facts are virtually identical” in all seven cases.

Evan Wolfson, head of the national Freedom to Marry group and a participant in the early marriage cases, agreed.

“All of the cases that have reached the Court present compelling stories from the plaintiffs, and all are in good hands with strong lawyer teams. Each lawyer, of course, would like to be the one who gets to stand before the Court, but the reality is that, whichever case the Court chooses and whichever lawyers are the lead, it is the strong collective presentation we will make together -- on top of the friend-of-court briefs, the rulings from the more than 30 wins below, and the records and arguments the justices have already considered last year -- that will matter.”

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


Evan Wolfson Dodges Questions About Jo Becker Book in Gay Marriage Segment with Ronan Farrow: VIDEO

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After a discussion about the recent string of marriage equality wins in Oregon, Pennsylvania, and other states and another approaching showdown at the Supreme Court, MSNBC host Ronan Farrow decided to ask Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson about the controversial Jo Becker book Forcing the Spring, which painted a picture of the gay marriage battle as one which began with Chad Griffin and the Prop 8. case, to the exclusion of many activists (Wolfson included) who have been working on the effort for years.

"What did you think of that book?" Farrow asks.

Wolfson wisely offers an answer that prompts New Yorker writer and former Clinton aide Richard Socarides to respond, "I'd say that was a very diplomatic answer showing a lot of leadership."

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

If you recall, Farrow gave Beck a grilling about her book in an interview last month.

Continue reading "Evan Wolfson Dodges Questions About Jo Becker Book in Gay Marriage Segment with Ronan Farrow: VIDEO" »


Join Us LIVE This Thursday for an 'ENDA Situation Room'

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This Thursday at 2 pm, Towleroad will be webcasting the first-ever ENDA Situation Room at New York Law School, hosted by Freedom to Work, the leading advocacy organization for the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

The event, moderated by Towleroad legal editor Ari Ezra Waldman, will consist of a bipartisan discussion of ENDA and the path to victory.

Towleroad readers can tweet questions they would like answered at the forum to @freedomtowork.

Speakers at the event will include Tico Almeida, President of Freedom to Work; Evan Wolfson, President of Freedom to Marry; Brad Sears, Executive Director of the Williams Institute at UCLA Law; Gregory T. Angelo, Executive Director of the Log Cabin Republicans; Melissa Sklarz, Executive Director of Stonewall Democrats and Professor Ari Ezra Waldman of New York Law School, and legal editor for Towleroad. More additions may be announced in the coming days...

Join us here LIVE this Thursday for the webcast, from 2 to 4 pm ET.

Enda_obamaOver the weekend, President Obama tweeted the sad facts: "In 29 states, no state law protects you from being fired for being gay. Let's fix that."

Here's a report on the event from Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade, who spoke with Freedom to Marry's Evan Wolfson about this week's ENDA Situation Room:

Wolfson told the Washington Blade he envisions that his participation will facilitate a discussion on the ways successes from the marriage equality movement can be applied to ENDA.

“It’s going to really be more of a conversation about what are some of the lessons that we applied from history and from other movements in the shaping our strategy and campaign to bring the freedom to marry to the United States, and how can we apply some of those in the work to end employment discrimination,” Wolfson said.

The cross-pollination of the marriage equality strategy to other movements isn’t new for Wolfson, who said he’s been asked by other campaigns — ranging from the environment to voting rights efforts — to talk about the ways in which marriage equality achievements can be applied to these initiatives.


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