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June 20, 2009

Senate Judiciary to hold hearing on hate crimes prevention act

This Thursday the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.  Attorney General Eric Holder will testify.  More information on the hearing is available here

Gay-inclusive federal hate crimes legislation has been a longtime but elusive goal for LGBT advocates.  The legislation passed the House last month 249-175, and has the support of the Obama administration.  A backgrounder on the legislation is available from HRC.


June 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 16, 2009

Principle or penance? Obama to extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees

Under growing criticism for his administration's defense of DOMA and DADT and its lack of positive action on gay issues, President Obama will sign an order Wednesday extending benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees, the AP is reporting.  The move follows Secretary of State Clinton's decision last month to grant such benefits to State Department employees.  (We asked at the time, "If the State Department can do this based solely on a policy decision by Secretary Clinton, why not the rest of the federal government based on a policy decision by President Obama?")


June 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

PBS Independent Lens tackles Don't Ask, Don't Tell

http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/asknot/.  Check local listings.


June 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tied Up with Avery Quinn

If you have wondered why I haven't been posting in quite some time, it is due to the birth of my daughter, Avery Quinn.  We are adjusting to life with a newborn ...  Many thanks to Steve for keeping up with the blogging in my absence.


June 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 15, 2009

Obama administration vigorously defends DOMA in court: it is anti-gay or just politically tone-deaf?

Art Leonard at New York Law School, one of the fairest and most astute observers of gay legal developments, has generally counseled patience to those who are growing restless at the Obama administration's missteps and lack of action on gay issues.  And so it means something when Art asks, in this extended and thoughtful analysis of the administration's motion to dismiss in a lawsuit against DOMA, "Has Obama Administration Gone Over to the Dark Side in LGBT Issues?"

Art points out that the executive branch has an obligation to defend federal laws.

In a stand-off between the legislative branch and the executive branch about the constitutionality of a law, I'm not sure I would feel good about the executive branch being free to decide which validly enacted laws it is going to enforce.  That sounds too much to me like George W. Bush's position that as commander in chief he could ignore any law that gets in his way in carrying out his strategy for preserving national security.  Demanding that the President or the Attorney General refuse to enforce a law with which they disagree as a matter of policy because they believe it may be unconstitutional or because they advocate its repeal is a dangerous demand to make, and arguing that they should refuse to defend an existing federal statute in court comes dangerously close to that.

But it's the tone and arguments the administration has chosen to offer that have provoked serious anger among Obama's LGBT supporters, and for good reason.  Art characterizes the brief as an " aggressive, and in some respects homphobic-sounding" defense of DOMA.

In the brief, the Justice Department argues that DOMA, a statute that candidate Barack Obama ran pledging to repeal, is constitutional and -- get this -- does not discriminate against gay people, even though it says that our marriages are a nullity in the eyes of the federal government and need not be recognized by any state.  Furthermore, and absurdly, they argue that DOMA manifests "neutrality" by the federal government on the issue of same-sex marriage.

Our colleague Ruthann Robson has additional analysis of the filing at Con Law Blog.  The full brief can be found here.  The case arises out of California, and the LA Times reports that the mayors of San Francisco and Los Angeles joined on Sunday in expressing concern about the brief.


June 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack