John Berry Hub




Defying Judge's Order, White House Instructs Personnel Agency to Obstruct Health Benefits to Spouse of Lesbian Employee

Back in February I posted about a ruling by a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judge regarding the offering of health benefits to the spouse of a lesbian employee in a decision it appeared would directly challenge DOMA.

Berry Michelangelo Signorile points out some troubling activity on this case which was just written up in TIME:

"...it was actually going to happen until the White House, through the Office of Personnel Management -- headed by openly gay appointee, John Berry -- refused to comply and directed the health insurance carrier of the employee not to proceed [all bold below is mine]:

The order was not published, and garnered little or no notice at the time. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts moved to comply with the judge's ruling, submitting [federal employee] Golinski's insurance form to Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the case would have probably gone away — had the Obama Administration not stepped in. "After the AO submitted Ms. Golinski's form, I thought this matter had concluded," [Judge] Kozinski wrote. "The Executive Branch, acting through the Office of Personnel Management, thought otherwise. It directed the insurance carrier not to process Ms. Golinski's form 2809, thwarting the relief I had ordered. I must now decide what further steps are necessary to protect Ms. Golinski and the integrity of the Judiciary's EDR [employee dispute resolution] plans."

Now Judge Kozinkski has ordered that OPM stop interfering, demanding last week that the Obama administration comply with his order.

The White House has a month to respond: "[Judge Kozinski's] order last week demanded that the executive branch reverse course, and gave the Administration 30 days to enroll Golinski's wife as her health-insurance beneficiary. He made clear that if it doesn't, he's ready to use the powers of his court to enforce his decree."

And the sadder "personnel" irony here, Signorile notes, is that the OPM is headed by John Berry, the highest-ranking gay official in the Obama administration:

"...the Office of Personnel Management was ordered by the White House to refuse to give a lesbian federal employees her court-ordered rights. John Berry, as head of that office, was thus apparently forced as an openly gay man to deny another gay person, and the LGBT movement itself, of rights, even in the face or a court order. Is this how openly gay appointees must operate within the Obama administration -- not as advocates on behalf of civil rights but rather as lackeys charged with blocking equal rights for their own kind?"

California Judge Challenging Obama on Gay Rights [time]
Did Highest-Ranking Gay Official Thwart Equal Rights? [signorile]


House Panel Advances Domestic Partners Act for Federal Employees

The Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act, authored by Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) advanced yesterday in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Washington Post reports:

Baldwin "After sometimes heated debate, the 23 to 12 vote in the Oversight and Government Reform Committee broke down along party lines, with the victorious Democrats arguing that the measure is a matter of fairness and equality. Republicans opposed it because, among other things, they said it would undermine the concept that marriage should be between a man and a woman...Under the legislation, same-sex partners would be able to share the workers' benefits, including those covering health insurance, retirement and disability. The employee would have to sign an affidavit certifying that the relationship meets certain standards in the measure that define domestic partnership."

Said Baldwin: “Today’s actions mark another significant step in our march toward LGBT equality. Our movement is gaining momentum around the country and Congress is following the will of the people.  Today is a day to celebrate yet another milestone and recognize anew that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’”

U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry also lauded the bill's passage: “I want to commend the Committee for approving the Domestic Partnership Benefits Act. This is an essential recruitment tool as we seek the best and the brightest to tackle the many challenges America faces. This is a positive step that helps the federal government to better compete with other employers for top talent.  President Obama has stated clearly that this is an issue of equality.  But just as important, youth today, LGBT or not, see this benefit as a litmus test for determining high quality employers. The Administration looks forward to continuing its work with lawmakers as the House and the Senate move toward enactment of this bill.”


News: Maine, Carmen Rupe, Poison, Scott Fujita, Algae, Lady Gaga

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Maine feels isolated in marriage equality battle. Help them out here.

Algae

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Bio-fuel algae high-rise ascends in Boston.

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Bitch-slapped over wood: bring this gay interior design duo to America!

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Tom Ford's A Single Man to open in limited release on December 11.

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The NYT profiles AIDS activist Sean Strub.

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Gay divorce case: Right-wing Texans valiantly try to preserve a same-sex marriage. "As Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry says, 'the irony is that the antigay forces are so opposed to gay relationships they won’t even let us out of them.’'"

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T.R. Knight talks about Parade and life after Grey's Anatomy: "I just want to be lucky enough to work, and to work with people I admire. I love acting. I love doing work that is challenging -- and slightly terrifying."

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Zac Efron twinks out on Nylon Guys magazine.

Carmen

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Carmen Rupe, New Zealand's top drag queen, turns 74: "She opened a string of businesses throughout Wellington - coffee lounges, nightclubs and brothels. But for the first time, they were places that were openly gay and indiscriminating. 'Treated everyone the same, no one was better than the other, whether you were socialite society or down the gutter you know you're all the same to me,' says Carmen."

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U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry talks to Out & Equal Workplace Advocates in Florida.

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Viggo Mortensen steps out with his murse.

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Taylor Lautner gets wet and shirtless for Rolling Stone.

Gaga

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Lady Gaga gets an eye job.

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More on Cheyenne Jackson and 30 Rock.

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New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Fujita is not only a friend to the gays, he's also a shirtless stud.

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How gay PR man Howard Bragman helps actors say, "I'm gay."

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Poison plot in the UK: "A gay man tried to poison his lesbian neighbours by putting slug pellets into their curry after he was accused of kidnapping their three-legged cat. Gary Stewart, 37, had been at loggerheads with Marie Walton and Beverley Sales for months. But things looked brighter when he made a peace offering of some curry, claiming he had ordered too much from the Indian takeaway. When the women started to eat, they found the curry studded with slug pellets. They called the police and Stewart was arrested."

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Maine education commissioner asks Attorney General to settle whether the state's marriage equality law will affect schools: “The commissioner felt it would be helpful to put this issue to rest."


News: Roman Polanski, Frog, Angela Merkel, ENDA, Graham Norton

RoadBlake Hayes, the gay man at the center of the NYC gay bashing over the weekend, asks that you stop calling McCoy's Bar, in front of which the incident occurred, because the owner is cooperating.

Equalitytexas

RoadEquality Texas offices vandalized in possible hate crime.

RoadReport: Madonna to marry Jesus in "lavish ceremony".

RoadConservative columnist and Nixon speechwriter William Safire dies.

RoadU.S. Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry: Make ENDA top priority. "I believe that if we all concentrate our efforts where it needs to be concentrated, which is on the House of Representatives and the United States Senate, we can get the job done. If we can get ENDA enacted and signed into law, it is only a matter of time before all the rest happens. It is the keystone that holds up the whole bunch, and so we need to focus our energies and attention there."

RoadGraham Norton criticized for calling model a lesbian: "I don't know why they've got some strange lesbian to be the model." The BBC asks: is it ok for gay men to joke about lesbians?

RoadIf you're wondering why Hugh Jackman has a topless mermaid tattoo on his arm, click here.

Polanski

RoadFugitive director Roman Polanski arrested in Switzerland. (video) Men's art prioritized over women's safety?

RoadMale model fix: Holden Nowell.

RoadObservers: Mormon church regressing on gay issues. "The church has a long way to go to get into the 21st century. They're making incremental movements. What Hafen has done is take them back 25 years."

RoadA few major How I Met Your Mother spoilers...

RoadFriends: the movie?

RoadErotic festival in Buenos Aires opens to gay groups for first time: "Over 30 exhibitors include TV channels for adults, toys and erotic clothing, aphrodisiac dolls, new technologies, DVDs, piercings and tattoos, cosmetics, anime, books and magazines."

RoadSimon Cowell turns 50, pens lengthy birthday card to himself.

RoadBlogger Pam Spaulding delivers keynote address at NC Pride 2009.

Frog

RoadFanged frog discovered in remote Thailand hungry for birds.

RoadA day in the life of the Approve Referendum 71 campaign.

RoadAngela Merkel claims victory; Germany to get openly gay foreign minister: "The 47-year old from Bonn will become Germany’s first openly homosexual vice-chancellor and could win more than the normal three cabinet positions traditionally reserved for the junior partner in a coalition government."

RoadBradley Cooper house hunts in L.A.

RoadBoston College Law School defends right of Professor Scott Fitzgibbons to participate in anti-gay "Yes on 1" Maine marriage ad: "Professor Fitzgibbon, as a member of our faculty, is free to express his views … we also have faculty members who hold a contrary view, which they too are free to express publicly. As I think any of our faculty might have done, he stated his views without prior notice to or clearance from the Law School."


Gay Rights Activist Frank Kameny Gets Apology from U.S. Govt

Yesterday, gay rights activist Frank Kameny received an official apology from White House Office of Personnel Management head, openly gay John Berry, for firing Kameny in 1957 because he was gay, the Washington Blade reports.

Kameny Said the letter, in part: “In what we know today was a shameful action, the United States Civil Service Commission in 1957 upheld your dismissal from your job solely on the basis of your sexual orientation,” the letter states. “… And by virtue of the authority vested in me as Director of the Office Of Personnel Management, it is my duty and great pleasure to inform you that I am adding my support … for the repudiation of the reasoning of the 1957 finding by the United States Civil Service Commission to dismiss you from your job solely on the basis of your sexual orientation. Please accept our apology for the consequences of the previous policy of the United States government.”

Read the full letter at the Blade.

Said Kameny: "Apology accepted."

In February, Kameny's home in Washington D.C. was declared an historic landmark:

"...not because of its gabled roof or side-hall plan, but because, for 13 fiery years, it was the epicenter of the gay rights movement in the nation's capital."

In 2007, Kameny donated more than 70,000 papers related to gay rights to the Library of Congress, inspiring a hate campaign by wingnuts. A few of his artifacts are now in the Smithsonian as well:

"[Protest signs], plus three campaign buttons, are now in the same case as Joe Louis's boxing gloves, near the glass closet that holds Jackie Kennedy's inaugural gown and in the same shrinelike exhibit...that also has Thomas Jefferson's writing desk and the ruby-red slippers that Dorothy wore on her way to meet the Wizard."


John Berry Offers Disappointing Forecast of Obama's LGBT Agenda

John Berry, the White House director of the Office of Personnel Management and the highest ranking gay official in the Obama administration, offered The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld a relatively bleak look at the action that has thus far been taken and the road ahead for LGBT issues, attempting to cloak his words in a veil of assurance that, given the President's actions thus far, may very well fall on deaf ears.

Berry Eleveld's exchange took place backstage at Capital Pride where Berry, who gave an impassioned speech at the Justice Department last week on the importance that the federal government do more to ensure civil rights for LGBT Americans, told Eleveld he'd "been authorized [by the administration] today to say everything that I’m going to be saying."

First, a bit of positive news: "...the Obama administration hopes to secure passage of Hate Crimes this coming week and that President Obama is soon to announce an initiative pertaining to providing federal LGBT employees with benefits equivalent to those provided to their heterosexual counterparts."

On a backroom deal with LGBT groups: "One of the first things I want to be clear about is that there are a lot of charges that there’s been some secret deal or backroom deal, there isn’t one. There isn’t one, there is no secret deal. We are working in partnership with all LGBT groups, and all groups are doing what they should be doing, which is passionately representing their unique interests."

Obama And on the DOMA brief: "Finally, I want to talk to you about the DOMA brief. Our strongest argument against “don’t ask, don’t tell” is that we stand with the truth. And that we, more than anyone, know the cost of lying and the terrible pain it invokes. This president took a solemn oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and he does not get to decide and choose which laws he enforces. He has to enforce the laws that have been enacted appropriately and that he has inherited. It would be wrong for me or any of our community to advise him to lie or to shirk his responsibility. He’s doing his job. He has made clear that he stands for the repeal of DOMA. It will be part of this administration’s agenda to accomplish that act. We ought not waste energy and angst attacking him when we should be focusing the energy and effort on getting 218 votes in the house and 60 votes in the Senate, and that’s where we ought to target the energy and the strength of this community and this president is with us, this is our agenda and it’s his agenda."

Richard Socarides actually says just the opposite in his Americablog piece.

Berry said the administrations goals are hate crimes, ENDA, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", and DOMA, in that order.

With this clarification: "Now, I’m not going to pledge -- and nor is the president -- that this is going to be done by some certain date. The pledge and the promise is that, this will be done before the sun sets on this administration – our goal is to have this entire agenda accomplished and enacted into law so that it is secure." Asked repeatedly, Berry refused to say whether these agenda items may be scheduled for Obama's second term. Just this: "We hope we get eight years, but if we’re limited to four, we’re still going to try to pursue this agenda."


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