Supreme Court nearing more Gay Briefs than Andrew Christian

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As the date for the mother-of-all marriage equality showdowns draws closer, there’s been a flurry of “friend of the court” briefs filed this week.

Those wishing to be seen as standing on the right side of history when it comes to asking the court to overturn California’s Prop 8 and DOMA, include over 60 major corporations, including Apple, Facebook and Morgan Stanley, the thirteen states that now offer marriage equality, including Washington and Oregon, PFLAG and the Utah Pride Center.

The Salt Lake City Tribune reports, Utah Pride’s “…filing comes amid recent declarations of support for same-sex marriage from more than two dozen prominent Republicans, such as former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. Last month, the LDS Church and other evangelical churches and groups submitted their legal arguments for traditional marriage.”

“The brief from the center — a nonprofit based in Salt Lake City to serve Utah’s LGBT community — also addresses LGBT service members coming to the Beehive State,” reports the paper.

President Obama, who has already given his support for an overturn of DOMA is also weighing in on Prop 8, “The Obama administration will throw its support behind a broad claim for marriage equality, urging the Supreme Court to rule that voters in California were not entitled to ban same-sex marriage there,”  reported the New York Times on Wednesday.

NFL players the Vikings’ Chris Kluwe and the Baltimore Ravens’ Brendon Ayanbadejo have also filed a joint brief.  According to the HRC,”The brief argues the importance of professional athletes – along with other traditionally “hidebound field like rap and R &B” — to stand on the right side of history as role models for American youth.”

“When we advance the idea that some people should be treated differently because of who they are, demeaned in public as lesser beings, not worthy of the same rights and benefits as others despite their actions as good citizens and neighbors, then we deny them equal protection under the laws. America has walked this path before, and courageous people and the Court brought us to the right result. We urge the Court to repeat those actions here,” Kluwe and Ayanbadejo write.

The first case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, is a direct challenge to California’s discriminatory Prop 8 law forbidding same-sex marriages. It was filed on behalf of two couples by attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies in May 2009. Last February, the Ninth Circuit court of Appeals upheld U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s 2010 ruling declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case on March 26th.

The second case, United States v. Windsor, challenges the federal government’s denial of benefits to legally married gay and lesbian couples under a law known as the Defense of Marriage Act.

According to the Kent College of Law, “The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), enacted in 1996, states that, for the purposes of federal law, the words “marriage” and “spouse” refer to legal unions between one man and one woman. Since that time, some states have authorized same-sex marriage. In other cases regarding the DOMA, federal courts have ruled it unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment, but the courts have disagreed on the rationale.”

Scotusblog reports that the judges will be deciding,”(1) Whether Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws as applied to persons of the same sex who are legally married under the laws of their State; (2) whether the Executive Branch’s agreement with the court below that DOMA is unconstitutional deprives this Court of jurisdiction to decide this case; and (3) whether the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the United States House of Representatives has Article III standing in this case.”

They’ll hear that case on March 27th.

The Justices will question lawyers for each side at hearings scheduled to last an hour each.

LGBT groups across the country are planning marches, or similar actions, during the pivotal week to show their support. (Click HERE to learn more.)

Mormon-Owned Marriott joins DOMA repeal effort

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Marriott International Inc. has joined a coalition of companies calling for the repeal of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act.”

According to the L.A. Times,”David Rodriguez, an executive vice president at Marriott and its chief human resources officer, was quoted by the HRC as saying, “We are proud of our longstanding commitment to diversity, inclusion and equal treatment of all our employees within our benefits programs. Joining the business coalition for DOMA repeal affirms that commitment.”

The company’s support for the repeal may or may not raise eyebrows depending on the circles you swim in. On one hand current CEO Bill Marriott as well as several other controlling parties are devout members of the LDS church. On the other hand, “Marriott has explained that he personally believed that marriage was between a man and a woman. But he said he does not mix his views on the subject with operation of the business.”

“We have to take care of our people, regardless of their sexual orientation or anything else,” Bill Marriott told the Business Insider last year .”We have all the American values: the values of hard work, the values of integrity, the values of fairness and respect.”

According to the HRC,”The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) singles out lawfully married same-sex couples for unequal treatment under federal law.  This law discriminates in two important ways.  First, Section 2 of DOMA purports to allow states to refuse to recognize valid civil marriages of same-sex couples.  Second, Section 3 of the law carves all same-sex couples, regardless of their marital status, out of all federal statutes, regulations, and rulings applicable to all other married people—thereby denying them over 1,100 federal benefits and protections. ”

The Times article goes on to point out that,”The official stance of the Mormon church is against gay marriage, and Mormons poured a lot of money and other resources into backing Proposition 8, the 2008 California measure that banned gay marriages in the state.”

Interestingly, according to The Christian Post, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney rejoined the board of directors of Marriott International in December. “Marriott International, known as the Marriott Corporation until 1993, was founded in 1927 by John Willard Marriott, a close friend of Romney’s father,” the Post reports.

Click HERE to learn more about the coalition.

From Seattle to D.C.: Alan Bounville nears end of Equality Walk

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A 6,000 mile cross country walk for equality will come to a close with a press conference in D.C. next month. Alan Bounville started his trek on May 31, 2011 in Seattle. Along the way he’s made new friends, helped to educate thousands with his one man shows and workshops on LGBT equality and spent more than one cold and lonely night camped out in the middle of nowhere.

Accompanied by a push cart with two rainbow-colored signs that read, “Full Equality NOW!”, he’s walked every step of the way, zigzagging from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, often over harsh terrain and in even harsher weather.

Despite the hardships he’s encountered, the New York native never lost site of  his reason for undertaking such a monumental task, “The overarching mission of the walk is to end gender discrimination in all its forms. All people are typed in our society based on how they look. And much of the violence hurled upon people is based on these images. I feel if we open up spaces where we can learn to be better reflectors of our own thoughts and feelings, we can begin to understand what is meant by a pluralistic society where all are treated equally both in law and socially,” Bounville told a reporter in 2011.

It’s a message that he’s been able to share with tens of thousands of Americans, “People stop me all the time to ask what I’m doing and why I’m walking. Many people are supportive. Some are downright discriminatory. I keep walking because I know that the more I share my truth, the more I humanize to others my demand to be treated equally by my government and my neighbors. When people who don’t support my demand look me in the eye, they walk away from me changed. Something always seems to shift in unsupportive people after I tell them why I’m walking and that I’m gay or queer.”

While walking, Bounville has held numerous candlelight vigils remembering people who were murdered or who have taken their own lives due to discrimination based on the victim’s perceived or actual gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Bounville has also talked at religious services about his mission, facilitated social movement and art as activism workshops, and performed a solo interview theatre-based play inspiring people to walk into their own light and true potential.

The final 3 mile leg of the walk will start in Arlington, Virginia on Saturday, February 23 at 3 PM. From there Bounville and those who are interested in joining him will walk across the Potomac River and arrive outside of the White House for a vigil and  the press conference.

“For nearly two years I’ve been invited as an equal into hundreds of homes across this great land. The walk ends at the People’s House, where transgender, bisexual, queer, lesbian, two spirit, intersex, and gay Americans are still not welcome as equals. The time for full equality is now”, says Bounville in a press release.

Earlier this month, Alan’s name was added to Wikipedia’s list of 62 individuals who have completed their walks across the country since 1980.

Participants who are interested in walking those last three miles can join the facebook event page HERE.

You can find out more about Alan and his entire journey on his website at www.intothelightwalk.com or on the walk’s facebook page found HERE.

You can make a donation to  Into the Light Walk by clicking HERE. 10% of every dollar raised through the Into the Light Walk goes to the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, an organization whose mission is aligned with the purpose of this walk.

LDS Leaders refuse to meet with Soulforce Equality Riders

Despite numerous requests for a meeting with high ranking church officials this week, a group of gay activists were instead forced to discuss their concerns with members of the church’s public relations and public policy teams.

According to Q Salt Lake,”Members of the Soulforce 2012 Equality Ride reached out to Church leaders to ask them to cut ties with to Evergreen International, a group that promotes so-called reparative therapy, to stop funding and promoting groups that are fighting marriage equality, to encourage LDS Business College to bring its policies on gays current with Mormon teachings and to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the faith’s policies for church employees.”

The Salt Lake City Tribune reports,”Equality Ride had sought a meeting with Mormon higher-ups, including apostles or members of the church’s governing First Presidency. Instead, the advocates huddled with LDS legislative lobbyist Bill Evans, public-affairs representative John Taylor, former TV reporter Ruth Todd and LDS attorney Alexander Dushku, who helped write briefs defending the church’s position on California’s Proposition 8.”

Equality Rider Robert Moore, tells Q Salt Lake, “I am a member of this church, and because I am gay my leaders apparently find me so revolting they refuse to be in the same room as me. It just makes me realize how important it is to have this dialogue.”

Jason Conner, Equality Ride’s co-director, described the meeting to the Tribune as “overall positive,” noting that Evans in particular was “very gracious and hospitable.”

The Equality Ride, launched in 2006, targets its tour at college campuses and those communities in which religious oppression and prejudice have major strongholds, most often at the expense of those who are part of sexual orientation or gender identity minorities.

The riders will pull into Boise this afternoon for a 4:00 pm press conference on the State House steps. The stop in Boise will include a potluck dinner, screening of the award-winning documentary film”Love Free or Die” and an informal discussion with the riders themselves.

“An Evening with the Soulforce Equality Riders” will be held tonight from 5:30-9:30 p.m. at The Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship located at 6200 North Garrett Street in Boise. The event is free and open to the public.

You are encouraged to bring a dish to share during the dinner.

Watch: Straight LDS Family Members say,”It Gets Better.”

The same openly gay BYU professor who recently produced a video telling BYU students that ”It Gets Better’ has produced another video. This one features LDS family members that have come to terms with their faith and acceptance for their gay loved ones.

Emmy-winning filmmaker, Kendall Wilcox, is a lifelong member of the LDS church and founder of the website empathyfirstinitiative.org. He told The Salt Lake City Tribune, last year, that he doesn’t consider being gay,”a handicap or an impediment God imposed on some unlucky mortals, but yet another attribute for engaging with the gospel of Jesus Christ, he says. “I am happy to be engaged in this way.”

Since reconciling his faith with his sexuality, Wilcox has been working on a documentary film exploring the experience of being homosexual and Mormon.

His newest ‘It Gets Better’ clip made its premiere over the weekend at the national Circling the Wagons conference in Washington, D.C., which featured several high profile speakers like Mitch Mayne, who was called to serve in a LDS leadership position last year.

While the church has made amazing strides regarding its attitudes and beliefs toward the LGBT community, critics point out that it still has a long way to go.  Members, for example, may identity themselves as homosexual but any sexual relations as well as the struggle for marriage equality are still considered by many to be taboo, if not downright sinful.

Still, films like Wilcox’s will go along way in not only creating dialog but in fostering a understanding between LGBT members and their straight counterparts as well.

According to the filmmaker, Wilcox hopes his films, “create safety and peace for all who choose to engage in… important conversations and in-turn heal hearts, homes, and communities.”

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