Editorial: Benefits for Same-Sex Partners

The New York Times
June 17, 2009
President Obama’s decision to extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees is a victory for fairness in the workplace. It is a serious omission, however, that his new policy does not include health and retirement benefits, which heterosexual married employees receive. Since benefits are an important part of employment compensation, gay people are effectively being paid less than their heterosexual peers for doing the same work. The strong symbolism of the president’s move cannot be denied. Still, it is impossible to ignore how much of the glass is not full. The Defense of Marriage Act — which prohibits the federal government from treating same-sex relationships as marriages, and allows states not to recognize same-sex marriages from other states — needs to be repealed. [Link]

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The Obama Administration Defends the Defense of Marriage Act

FindLaw
June 17, 2009
During the Presidential election campaign, Barack Obama announced his intention to sign legislation repealing DOMA. Yet in Smelt, his Justice Department vigorously defended DOMA last week, prompting LGBT rights groups to denounce the seeming change of heart. Did the government's brief in Smelt betray the President's campaign promise? The President arguably has a duty to defend the constitutionality of duly-enacted statutes. Still, the executive branch's defense of a federal statute invariably has a substantial policy element to it. The problem was not so much that the government defended DOMA, as it was the way in which the government did so. Although the government's Smelt brief does not flatly violate candidate Obama's promise to seek DOMA's repeal, the LGBT community is right to view it as a betrayal of the spirit of that promise. [Link]

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Same-sex couples win change in US passport rules

The Boston Globe
June 17, 2009
The Obama administration has changed course and will now allow same-sex couples to use their spouse’s surname when they apply for passports with the US State Department. A gay married couple, Al and Keith Toney, joined the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) in challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was passed during the Clinton administration, in federal court in Boston. In a letter dated June 15, the US Justice Department notified GLAD and the Toneys that the prohibition has been stricken from federal rules. “Denying married same-sex couples the ability to have their married names on their passports not only puts them at risk in traveling with two identities, it demeans their marriages,” Mary L. Bonauto, lead counsel on the case, said in a statement issued by GLAD. The Toneys were among nine same-sex couples who are suing the federal government in US District Court in Boston seeking to have their rights as married couples recognized by all federal agencies, such as the Social Security Administration. The lawsuit remains active on those other issues. [Link]

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Barney Frank rips prez’s ‘big mistake’

Boston Herald
June 17, 2009
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, one of the nation’s leading gay rights champions, blasted President Obama yesterday over a controversial anti-marriage equality court filing and is calling on the commander in chief to explain himself. “I think the administration made a big mistake. The wording they used was inappropriate,” Frank (D-Newton) said of a brief filed by Obama’s Department of Justice that supported the Defense of Marriage Act. “I’ve been in touch with the White House and I’m hoping the president will make clear these were not his views,” Frank said. [Link]

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Representative Tammy Baldwin Comments on DOJ DOMA Brief

Towleroad
June 16, 2009
Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) released a statement today with regard to the brief. Said Baldwin, as part of longer remarks at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in observation and celebration of LGBT Pride Month:
Last week the Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of DOMA. I was profoundly disappointed by this action, particularly coming from this administration. I still take President Obama at his word that he is committed to the repeal of DOMA. I also recognize that he cannot do it alone. Congress has the responsibility on its shoulders to pass legislation that would give the opportunity to the President to keep his word and ensure that all married people, including those in same-sex marriages, enjoy the same rights under federal law.
[Link]

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The Gay Guide to Obama’s Remarks Today

Huffington Post
June 17, 2009

Lane Hudson highlights President Obama's promise to repeal the so-called 'Defense of Marriage Act' during his campaign and poses possible positive steps President Obama could make with his signing of a memorandum regarding domestic partner benefits for federal employees and expected remarks later today. (Link)

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US Rep. Polis Statement on DOMA

Office of Congressman Jared Polis
June 16, 2009

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) issued the following statement in response to the Obama Administration’s decision to defend the so-called 'Defense of Marriage Act' (DOMA) in a recent court filing.

“I was shocked and disappointed to learn that President Obama chose to defend DOMA in federal court, especially given his campaign promise to call for a full repeal of DOMA. My sadness turned to outrage when I read the Justice Department’s brief that not only defended this hurtful law but seemed to embrace it. Comparing my loving relationship with my partner, Marlon, to incest was unconscionable coming from a president who has called for change.

Since this filing, I have called on the President to issue a statement or give any sign that would clarify his position and am disappointed in his lack of reply.

I am a proud Democrat, as are many in the GLBT community, and I believe we must hold our leaders accountable. The Obama Administration made a HUGE mistake in the DOMA brief. If they keep making mistakes like this, they risk losing the support of the GLBT community forever, although I do not believe we are at that point yet.

President Obama needs to honor his promise to repeal this law and end its needlessly divisive and harmful impact on our nation. I again call on him to work with us in Congress to help pass legislation, ending this hateful and divisive law.

As the New York Times editorialized yesterday, “busy calendars and political expediency are no excuse for making one group of Americans wait any longer for equal rights.”

(Link)

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HRC criticizes Obama over DOMA brief

Washington Blade
June 15, 2009
The Human Rights Campaign took President Obama to task following the release of a controversial Justice Department brief last week that defended the Defense of Marriage Act. In a letter sent to Obama on Monday, HRC President Joe Solmonese contests certain arguments made in the brief and urges the president to move to repeal DOMA, which prevents federal recognition of same-sex unions:

When a woman must choose between her job and caring for her spouse because they are not covered by the [Family Medical Leave Act], DOMA is not 'netural.' DOMA is not a 'neutral' policy to the thousands of bi-national same-sex couples who have to choose between family and country because they are considered strangers under our immigration laws. It is not a 'neutral' policy toward the minor child of a same-sex couple, who is denied thousands of dollars of surviving mother's or father's benefits because his parents are not 'spouses' under Social Security law. Exclusion is not neutrality. If we are equals, if you recognize that our families live the same, love the same, and contribute as much as yours, then ... we call on you to put your principles into action and send legislation repealing DOMA to Congress.

[Link]

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Outraged By Obama Legal Brief, Gay Democratic Donors Boycotting DNC Bash

ABC News
June 16, 2009
Last week, President Obama's Justice Department filed a legal brief against marriage equality in which it compared gay unions to incestuous ones and that of an underage girl – in the sense that states have the right to not recognize marriages that are legal in other states or countries. The timing of the brief is awkward, given that next Thursday, June 25, the Democratic National Committee is hitting up the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community for cash in a fundraiser featuring Vice President Biden. As John Aravosis at AmericaBlog reports, gay donors, outraged at the legal brief, are withdrawing their support from the event. [Link]

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Gay Group Slams Policies of President

The Wall Street Journal
June 16, 2009
A prominent gay-rights organization, long supportive of President Barack Obama, sent him a scathing letter Monday to protest the administration's recent legal backing of the Defense of Marriage Act. The letter from Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese included a detailed critique of the administration's filing. "This brief would not have seen the light of day if someone in your administration who truly recognized our humanity and equality had weighed in with you," he wrote. [Link]

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