National News: May 2014
Judge Ends Ohio Gay Marriage Ban
Federal Judge Timothy Black ruled that refusing to recognize gay marriage violates constitutional rights and is “unenforceable in all circumstances.” An appeal by the state is already in the works, arguing that Ohio has sovereign right to ban gay marriage. In 2004 voters overwhelmingly said yes to ban gay marriage in the state.
The order set forth by Judge Black doesn’t force Ohio to allow marriages to be performed in the state. If he decides to stay his broader ruling it would allow gay couples in Ohio to get the same benefits as any other married couple. These benefits would include property rights and the right to make medical decisions for their partner.
Attorney General Mike DeWine declined to comment on possible outcomes of the states appeal but told The Associated Press that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman and Ohio voters decided the same when they passed the statewide gay marriage ban.
Michigan Married Couples to Receive Federal Benefits
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder vowed that the federal government would recognize gay and lesbian marriages in Michigan even though the state won’t. More than 300 couples were wed after a US district judge declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The Michigan Attorney General, Bill Schuette, put the kibosh on gay marriages shortly after and Governor Rick Snyder said the state would not recognize the newlyweds’ marriage.
Tennessee to Recognize a Few Same-Sex Marriages
A federal judge in Tennessee issued an injunction ordering the state of Tennessee to recognize the marriages of three same-sex couples.
In the order, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger wrote, “all signs indicate that, in the eyes of the United States Constitution, the plaintiffs’ marriages will be placed on an equal footing with those of heterosexual couples and that proscriptions against same-sex marriage will soon become a footnote in the annals of American history.”
Westboro Baptist Church Founder Dies
Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church died at 84-years-old. His anti-gay demonstrations began in 1991 and gained infamy in the late ’90s when he and his followers picketed Matthew Shepherd’s funeral. The church has picketed over 53,000 events, including Mepham High School in 2003, brandishing signs that say “God Hates Fags.”
Under his leadership, the congregation has advocated for gays and lesbians to be put to death. Phelps was frequently called “the most hated man in America” and The Washington Post noted that even the Ku Klux Klan found Phelps’ “bigotry” distasteful. The Southern Poverty Law Center called the WBC “arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America.”
Beer Companies Dump NYC, Boston Parades
A married lesbian couple can’t get divorced because they live in a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.
AL.com reported that a Madison County Circuit judge dismissed the divorce request, citing state law that does not recognize same-sex marriage, or same-sex marriages performed in other states. The couple lives in Hunstsville, but was legally married in Iowa. The lawyers plan to appeal.
Illinois Attorney General Says Gays Can Marry
Sam Adams, Heineken, and Guinness declined to sponsor Saint Patrick’s Day parades in New York and Boston in protest of anti-gay policies. Lesbian and gay organizations were banned from participating in the events, including MassEquality, one of Massachusetts’ largest gay activist groups.
Parade organizers justified their decision to exclude openly gay participants because it would “conflict with their Roman Catholic heritage.” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh also declined to march in their cities respective parades.
Teen Couple Denied Prom Entry Together
Two New York City high school students are allegedly being blocked from attending their prom together because one of them is transgender. Anais Celeni, a senior at Martin Luther High School in Queens, NY, claims she was told by school officials that her boyfriend’s “transition was unconventional” and “not beneficial.”
Her boyfriend, Nathaniel Baez, says that he intends to plan a private prom event for his girlfriend if authorities do not change their minds by the day of the prom, May 22. School officials have so far declined to comment.
Supreme Court Rejects Gay Wedding Appeals Case
The U.S. Supreme Court announced that it wouldn’t hear a case involving a New Mexico photography business that refused to photograph the commitment ceremony of a lesbian couple in 2006. The company was seeking an appeal, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the lawsuit based on First Amendment protections. The husband-and-wife photographers refused to work for the lesbian couple stating, “they did not want to create images expressing messages about marriage that conflict with their religious beliefs.”
The New Mexico Supreme Court had already ruled that Elane Photography violated the state’s nondiscrimination protections. The photographers violated New Mexico’s Human Rights Act by refusing services “in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of difference races.” The company was ordered to pay over seven thousand dollars in attorneys’ fees.
Trans “Pioneer” Dead at 51-Years-Old
Christie Lee Van De Putte, a transgender woman considered to be a pioneer after she challenged a Texas court ruling which invalidated her marriage to her late husband, passed away at age 51. A cause of death was not announced.
She was a lifelong resident on San Antonio, Texas where she was a hairstylist who owned her own salon. Van De Putte made history as the plaintiff of a wrongful death lawsuit in 1999. Several courts verified that she was ineligible to receive survivor benefits because she had male chromosomes and was “male” at the time of her marriage. While Van De Putte was ultimately unsuccessful in her legal efforts, Texas law now allows a person, who has physically and legally transitioned, to enter into a legally binding marriage with someone of the opposite sex.
Texas School Rejects Child with Two Moms
A lesbian couple in Texas alleges that their child was denied admittance to a school because of their sexual orientation. After touring the New Beginnings Montessori School in Bedford, Tracy and Dawn Keller said they were promised a spot for their 3-year-old son.
According to WFAA-TV (Dallas-Fort Worth), that offer was rescinded shortly after. Shamain Webster, the school’s director, reportedly told the women that their son wouldn’t be enrolled in the school because their lifestyle is “against [her] religion, and we don’t live that way.”
The school later backed away from its decision and announced that it would allow the couple to submit an application. The mothers declined the offer saying that they “just want some place that’ll welcome [them] just like everybody else.”
SSA Updates Transgender Policies
The Social Security Administration has issued updated guidelines regarding transgender individuals’ eligibility for survivor benefits. This change – which will make it easier for trans people to receive benefits – resulted from a case involving a 92-year old transgender widow. A pilot and veteran of World War II, Robina Asti has lived as a woman for more than 30 years but was denied benefits for two years because she was born a man.
Under its old policy, all cases that involved transgender individuals’ marriage-based claims were sent to the SSA’s regional chief counsel for further review and scrutiny. Since the administration determined that Asti was “legally male” at the time of her marriage she was initially denied the benefits she was entitled to. In the new guidelines, the SSA expressed its core position that gender transition doesn’t affect the legal validity of marriage. The change means it no longer matters whether one was married prior to gender transition or after and transgender individuals will no longer be subjected to the heightened review process.
Openly Gay Bishop Leads Prayer at White House Easter Gathering
After the fifth annual Easter program ended President Obama gave an impromptu invitation to Bishop Gene Robinson to close the gathering with a prayer. Robinson is the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop. While his remarks weren’t caught on camera, he told MSNBC it was a very moving moment. His prayer included blessings for the nation, President, the poor and the oppressed.
When asked about the Catholic Church and how close they were to truly opening their doors to the GLBT community, Robinson replied, “I think we will see even the most conservative religious groups understand that the love that two people share…and the gender of those people is not the important thing, it’s the love and the relationship.”
by Rachel Roth