German President Joachim Gauck will boycott the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, according to a report Sunday.
The announcement would make Gauck, a former pastor, the first major political figure to boycott the Games, which will be held at the Black Sea resort in February.
According to a report in the German publication Der Spiegel, Gauck made the decision in protest against human rights violations and the harassment of Russian opposition political figures. The magazine said the Russian government was informed of his decision last week.
The German presidential office could not be reached for comment Sunday. Russia’s Presidential Press Service said there was no immediate official reaction to the report.
Germany’s presidency is largely ceremonial; Chancellor Angela Merkel oversees the government.
Some athletes have spoken out against Russia’s new “propaganda” law that bans even discussion of homosexuality anywhere that children might hear it.
The legislation, which President Vladimir Putin signed in June, gives authorities the power to impose fines as well as detain and deport foreigners who are deemed to have breached the law.
Some artists and activists have called for a boycott of the Sochi games, which run from February 7 to 23.
“I don’t think that we should be going to the Olympics at all,” Lady Gaga said last week during an interview on the British television show “Alan Carr: Chatty Man.” “I just think it is absolutely wrong for so many countries to send money and economy in the way of a country that doesn’t support gays.”
In August, British actor and writer Stephen Fry wrote an open letter to the International Olympic Committee and British Prime Minister David Cameron saying: “An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential.
“Stage them elsewhere in Utah, Lillehammer, anywhere you like. At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilized world,” he wrote in the letter posted on his website.
Putin said in an interview on state television in September that gay people would not be discriminated against at the Sochi games. But that appeared at odds with statements made by government officials that the anti-gay propaganda law would be enforced.
Putin also later said everyone would be welcomed to the Winter Olympics in Russia, regardless of sexual orientation, state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported.
The IOC in August said it received assurances “from the highest level of government in Russia” that the law would not affect people attending or taking part in the Games. The next month, the IOC said the law did not violate the Olympic Charter.
U.S. President Barack Obama rejected calls for the United States to boycott the Games, saying such a move would hurt American athletes who trained and sacrificed to qualify.
Earlier this year, Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested a possible boycott of the Olympics if Putin allowed NSA leaker Edward Snowden to remain in his country and if Putin continued supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Archive for the ‘Gay Politics’ Category
German President Joachim Gauck will boycott the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, according to a report Sunday.
A Republican congressman is under fire from LGBT groups following a report that he has been pushing to block campaign donations to gay GOP congressional candidates.
According to a report published Wednesday evening by Politico, Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes has been actively seeking to convince colleagues on Capitol Hill as well as the National Republican Congressional Committee, which donates to GOP congressional campaigns, to end their support for Republican candidates who are gay.
Forbes’s anti-gay campaign comes as Carl DeMaio, an out gay Republican who served on the San Diego City Council, is seeking to unseat Democratic Rep. Scott Peters. In Massachusetts, many suspect Richard Tisei, another out Republican, will again challenge Democratic Rep. John Tierny after narrowly losing to Tierny in 2012 by 47.1 percent to 48.3 percent. Tisei announced in October that he was creating a committee to explore another run.
“You either want Republicans to win, or you don’t — it’s as simple as that,” said Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director Gregory T. Angelo in a statement. “Apparently, Congressman Forbes does not. Thankfully, the real GOP leaders in the House know how to pick winners, and their money is on Richard Tisei and Carl DeMaio.”
Although Forbes has been pushing back against candidates like DeMaio and Tisei, the majority of Republican leadership, from House Speaker John Boehner to Majority Leader Eric Cantory and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, have been supportive of their campaigns.
Asked during a press conference on Capitol Hill Thursday whether he believes his party should support gay candidates, Boehner responded, “I do.” Boehner helped fundraise for Tisei last year.
Forbes’s actions come as the political landscape continues to shift rapidly on LGBT rights and as the GOP has sought to make inroads into the gay community following the 2012 presidential election. In March, the Republican National Committee released an expansive “autopsy” report providing a path forward for the party, with gay inclusion cited specifically.
Three Senate Republicans — Rob Portman (Ohio), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — have endorsed same-sex marriage in the past year. Last month, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would outlaw anti-LGBT workplace discrimination, passed the Senate with the support of 10 Republicans – the most Republican senators to have ever voted for a piece of gay-rights legislation. Despite those advances, much of the party remains opposed to key LGBT issues such as marriage equality.
With the Democratic Party firmly entrenched in its support for LGBT rights, activists have turned their focus to softening the GOP’s opposition to LGBT issues. Among the ways they have sought to do that is by electing out Republican candidates.
Declaring Forbes’s rhetoric an “embarrassment to Republicans everywhere,” the organization GOProud said in a statement, “This type of rhetoric is symptomatic of someone who does not understand the importance of being a team player. Our Party cannot win elections by appealing to the lowest common denominator amongst the minority of American voters.”
Although gay Republicans have come out while serving in Congress in the past, DeMaio or Tisei would be the first out gay Republican candidate ever elected to Congress should they win.
from Metro Weekly
Wyoming Senate candidate Liz Cheney touched off a family feud by speaking out against gay marriage — even though her sister Mary is married to a woman.
Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, believes marriage should be reserved for heterosexual couples only, despite the fact that her sister Mary married Heather Poe in 2012.
“I love Mary very much, I love her family very much,” Cheney said on Fox News Sunday. “This is just an issue on which we disagree.”
The would-be senator’s sister fired back with a Facebook post Sunday night. “Liz — this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree — you’re just wrong — and on the wrong side of history,” wrote Mary Cheney.
Poe ripped the wannabe senator on her own Facebook post, saying her position is “offensive to say the least.”
from The New York Daily News
BRUSSELS – Refugees facing imprisonment in their home country because they are gay may have grounds to be granted asylum in the European Union, the 28-nation bloc’s top court ruled Thursday.
The existence of laws imprisoning homosexuals “may constitute an act of persecution per se” if they are routinely enforced, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice ruled.
A homosexual cannot be expected to conceal his sexual orientation in his home country to avoid persecution, since it would amount to renouncing a “characteristic fundamental to a person’s identity,” the court added.
International treaties say people must prove they have a “well-founded fear” of persecution for reasons of race, religion, ethnicity or political opinion if they are to obtain asylum.
The European court ruled on the cases of three people from Sierra Leone, Uganda and Senegal seeking asylum in the Netherlands.
Worldwide, more than 70 countries have laws that are used to criminalize people on the basis of sexual orientation, according to the International Commission of Jurists, an advocacy group. The laws typically prohibit either certain types of sexual activity or contain a blanket ban on intimacy and sexual activity between members of the same sex.
The human rights group Amnesty International says homosexuality is “increasingly criminalized across Africa,” with 36 nations there having laws against same-sex conduct. In addition, many predominantly Muslim nations like Iran, Kuwait or Afghanistan outlaw homosexuality.
In some nations, however, the laws are rarely enforced. The court said it will be up to Europe’s national authorities to determine whether the situation in an applicant’s home country amounts to persecution.
Some European Union member states already accept sexual orientation as a reason for granting asylum under certain circumstances, but the ECJ’s ruling clarifies that policy and makes it binding for all 28 EU nations.
It still remains unclear how national authorities should check a person’s claim of being homosexual. The European Court of Justice isn’t expected to rule on that issue before next year.
from The Associated Press
HOUSTON, TEXAS – Houston Mayor Annise Parker staged what may seem like a political coup Tuesday, winning a third term in a red state during a year in which female candidates lost mayoral bids in Los Angeles and New York.
To top it off, Parker, 57, is a Democrat—and openly gay.
Parker won 57% of the vote election night compared with Republican challenger Ben Hall’s 27%.
That’s after Hall, an African American former city attorney, spent millions on his campaign in an effort to win over conservative and African American voters dissatisfied with Parker.
Big Texas cities tend to lean Democratic, islands of blue in a red state that has elected Democrats San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, Dallas County Dist. Atty. Craig Watkins (the first African American DA in state history) and Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, a Latina lesbian.
But Hall’s main problem in Houston, experts said, was that Parker’s appeal reached beyond her Democratic base.
“The mayor has an image as a technocrat, a policy wonk, not an in-your-face left-wing activist. She’s not someone who really alienates conservatives,” said Mark Jones, chair of the political science department at Rice University in Houston.
While Hall lived in a mansion just outside Houston until last year, Parker graduated from Rice, worked in the oil and gas industry and lived with her domestic partner, Kathy Hubbard, and three children in an older home in the city’s historic Heights neighborhood.
Parker started out as a gay activist in college, was president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus and has been open about her family, attending black-tie events with Hubbard. But, Jones said, “she doesn’t make a political issue out of it.”
“She’s first and foremost a mayor who focuses on policy,” he said. “Her life is one that people in Houston can really identify with.”
Before she was first elected mayor in 2009, Parker served on the City Council and as Houston controller. During her first mayoral term, she handled budget cuts without raising taxes, which Jones said earned her respect from conservative and centrist voters.
“Unless they can’t get past the sexual orientation, there are a substantial number of Republicans who are happy with her, or at least won’t go out and vote against her,” Jones said.
But what plays well in Houston has yet to translate to the suburbs or statewide races.
Republicans dominate the suburbs surrounding Houston. Texas Democrats haven’t won a statewide office since 1994. The last serious campaign was in 2002, when Tony Sanchez Jr. ran for governor, spending more than $60 million. All the Democrats lost, and the party has not fielded a competitive statewide slate since.
“The Democrats in Texas are clearly now an urban party,” said Jim Henson, who directs the Texas Politics project at the University of Texas at Austin. “The thing that people have to remember is that Houston is not Harris County and the surrounding suburbs. Once you get out of the city, the equation becomes much more complicated.”
Henson recalled how former Houston Mayor Bill White, another three-term Democrat, ran for governor in 2010. He lost to Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who garnered about 55% of the vote.
That does not bode well for the gubernatorial campaign of Fort Worth Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, who drew national attention this summer when she staged a daylong filibuster to block restrictive abortion legislation.
“Urban Democrats are not enough to get Democrats over the line statewide,” Henson said.
from The Los Angeles Times
PORTLAND, MAINE – A six-term congressman and former paper mill worker hoping to unseat Maine Gov. Paul LePage next year announced that he’s gay – a response to what he called a “whisper campaign” by political opponents hoping to weaken his gubernatorial bid.
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, 58, wrote in an op-ed provided to The Associated Press, the Portland Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News that “whisper campaigns, insinuations and push-polls” attempted to get voters to question whether he’s gay.
“Allow me to save them the trouble with a simple, honest answer: `Yes I am. But why should it matter?’” he wrote in the op-ed published Monday by the two newspapers.
The Democrat’s announcement adds intrigue to a tight three-way race with LePage, the Republican incumbent, and wealthy independent Eliot Cutler.
A poll released in October suggested that Michaud is about even with LePage. Cutler, who finished second to LePage in the 2010 election, is touting himself as a better alternative in a state where unenrolled voters comprise the largest voting bloc.
Michaud didn’t identify who he thinks is behind the alleged whisper campaign against him. His campaign has not previously raised the issue.
It’s unknown what impact, if any, Michaud’s disclosure might have in the race. Maine voters approved a gay marriage law a year ago; Michaud supported the measure.
Michaud’s announcement could help him among liberals who may be giving Cutler a look, but more importantly, it diffuses the topic of his sexuality, said Sandy Maisel, a political science professor at Colby College. “He’s demonstrated his intent to be open and to take the high road,” he said.
Across the country, gay and lesbian candidates are making strides.
There are currently 538 non-straight men and women holding political office in the U.S., and those include a U.S. senator and a half-dozen members of the U.S. House, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which aims to increase the number of openly gay leaders at all levels of government. Currently, there are no gay governors.
For his part, Michaud downplayed the significance of his announcement.
“That may seem like a big announcement to some people. For me, it’s just a part of who I am, as much as being a third-generation mill worker or a lifelong Mainer. One thing I do know is that it has nothing to do with my ability to lead the state of Maine,” Michaud wrote.
Born in Millinocket, he worked in the Great Northern Paper Mill in East Millinocket when he launched his career in the Legislature. In Washington, he has focused on veterans’ issues and is considered a moderate Democrat, part of the “Blue Dog” caucus.
The son and grandson of mill workers, Michaud said he’s never forgotten where he came from.
“Most of all, I was brought up believing you should judge a person based on the content of his or her character, not by their race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. That’s a value I know most Mainers share,” he said.
Michaud, who never has married, said he never liked to talk about himself but wants people “to know that I am not ashamed of who I am.” A spokesman declined to say if he’s in a relationship.
“And if seeing someone from my background, in my position openly acknowledge the fact that he’s gay makes it a little bit easier for future generations to live their lives openly and without fear, all the better,” Michaud wrote.
If elected, he wouldn’t be the first gay governor. New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey announced in 2004 that he was gay, making him the first openly gay governor. Nor is Michaud the first gay candidate. In Maryland, an openly gay candidate, Democrat Heather Mizeur, is running for governor.
from The Associated Press
WEST UNION, SOUTH CAROLINA – An outspoken small-town mayor in South Carolina is facing a recall petition after incendiary comments she made about the gay community sparked widespread outrage.
West Union, S.C., Mayor Linda Oliver took to Facebook last week to criticize a nearby town’s decision to accept marriage license applications from same-sex couples.
“What’s it gonna take to get these queers to realize they don’t need a piece of paper. God will not bless their union because he plainly speaks against queers in the Bible. Want to cover your queer with insurance? Buy a policy. Want your queer to get your stuff when you die? Make a will,” Oliver reportedly wrote on Facebook, according to LGBT news blog Towleroad.com.
The post, which has since been deleted, triggered a backlash, prompting offended residents to form their own Facebook petition, “Recall West Union S.C. Mayor Linda Oliver,” to demand her ouster.
But Oliver, in an interview, stood by her comments.
“I don’t want it rammed down my throat,” she told Fox Carolina. “All I can say is if people want to crucify me, that’s fine. I know that following Jesus, I’m going to be crucified,” Oliver said.
“And I got lambasted because I quoted the Bible and stuff like that on Facebook, and that’s the way I feel,” she added. “The way I feel toward homosexuals is how I’ve been brought up.”
Oliver was responding to news out of Buncombe County, N.C. – about 100 miles away – which last week accepted 11 marriage applications from same-sex couples.
Same-sex marriages are illegal under North Carolina state law, but the county’s Register of Deeds said he has decided to seek a current legal opinion from the state’s attorney general on the matter.
from The New York Daily News
Gov. Chris Christie dropped his legal challenge to same-sex marriages on Monday, removing the possibility that the vows of couples who began getting married hours earlier could be undone by a court.
New Jersey became the 14th state to allow gay marriages Monday, three days after the state Supreme Court unanimously rejected Christie’s request to delay the start of the nuptials. He has said residents, not a court or legislators, should decide on the issue.
“Although the governor strongly disagrees with the court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people, the court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law,” Christie’s spokesman Michael Drewniak said in a statement. “The governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court.”
The announcement was unexpected from a Republican governor who is a possible 2016 presidential candidate and has for years opposed gay marriage while supporting the state’s previous civil union law.
It was met with jubilation from gay rights advocates including Steven Goldstein, the founder and former leader of Garden State Equality, who asked “How much happiness can I stand?” Conversely, the legalization of gay weddings was scorned by conservatives like National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown.
“This is just another example of the courts making law out of thin air,” he said. “Obviously, Christie should have continued the lawsuit.”
Brown said his group could look into whether it could continue the legal fight that Christie dropped but said he doubts the courts would allow anyone to intervene.
Even so, Goldstein said, advocates of same-sex marriage still have work to do. He said lawmakers must adopt a law codifying same-sex marriage to clarify three points that are left unaddressed in court decisions. The court rulings do not say whether civil unions should be converted to marriages, does not say whether religious organizations such as the Knights of Columbus can reject hosting weddings on their property and does not spell out whether legal out-of-state marriages of gay couples are automatically recognized in New Jersey.
Last year, the state Legislature passed a law to allow gay marriage and deal with those issues, but Christie vetoed it.
Advocates have been making a major push to override the veto before a Jan. 14 deadline. Before Christie’s announcement Monday, they were expecting a vote by lawmakers sometime after the Nov. 5 election.
New Jersey’s courts and politicians have been deliberating over whether to allow gay marriage for more than a decade. The answer has changed quickly in the past month.
In September, a state judge ruled that New Jersey must allow the nuptials in light of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made the federal government recognize same-sex marriage.
The state’s top court ruled Friday afternoon that it would not delay Monday’s implantation date.
And at 12:01 a.m., couples in a handful of communities wed.
In Newark, Mayor Cory Booker, in one of his last acts before joining the U.S. Senate in coming weeks, led a ceremony for seven gay couples and two heterosexual couples.
“Tonight we have crossed a barrier, and now, while you all have fallen into love, I want to say that the truth is, that the state of New Jersey has risen to love,” he said. “This state now is resonant now with the core values of our county, with the idea that there is no second class citizenship in America, that we’re all equal under the law.”
In Lambertville, Joanne Shcailey and Beth Asaro were wed in a municipal courtroom packed with friends, family and journalists.
“We’re floating on air,” Asaro, in a salmon pink suit, said afterward. “It’s like winning the Super Bowl,” said Schailey, who wore a black suit.
from The Associated Press
Kuwait will conduct medical screening tests to “detect” homosexuals who attempt to get into the Gulf kingdom, according to a senior official.
Yousouf Mindkar, director of public health at the Kuwaiti health ministry, said that the routine clinical screening of expatriates coming into the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) will include tests to identify LGBT people who will then be banned from entering the country.
“Health centres conduct the routine medical check to assess the health of the expatriates when they come into the GCC countries,” he told local daily Al Rai. “However, we will take stricter measures that will help us detect gays who will be then barred from entering Kuwait or any of the GCC member states.”
Homosexuals acts are banned in all the GCC member countries, which include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In Kuwait, people involved in a homosexual acts can receive up to 10 years in jail if they are under 21. In 2010 the conservative Gulf country banned the screening of Egyptian film Beddon Rakaba (Out of Control or Uncensored) saying that it “encouraged debauchery”. The film focused on youth people using drugs and having homosexual relationships.
A member of the censorship board said that some of the scenes were “too hot” and that the lesbianism theme was “too bold.”
In 2012, Kuwaiti police officers arrested two men for allegedly having homosexual acts in a car at a café’s parking lot in Kuwait city. Police also found the men had a four-year-old “marriage contract” and were planning to travel abroad to obtain a legal marriage certificate.
According to many Arab LGBT organisations, it is common practice among Arabian Gulf gay couples to sign a marriage contact as a sign of love and commitment.
from International Business Times
WASHINGTON – Vice President Joe Biden is canceling a speech to an influential gay rights group because of the government shutdown.
Biden was scheduled to deliver the keynote address to about 3,400 people at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual dinner on Saturday. It’s the nation’s biggest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights group, and gay and lesbian activists were among President Barack Obama’s most loyal supporters during his re-election campaign.
But the partial shutdown of the federal government has led Obama and now Biden to cancel a number of events. Obama canceled an appearance at a glitzy Congressional Hispanic Caucus event Wednesday and has scaled back his upcoming trip to Asia.
The shutdown has forced hundreds of thousands of federal workers on furlough.
from The Associated Press
The Senate voted 98 to 0 on Tuesday to confirm the appointment of a Justice Department lawyer as the nation’s first openly gay judge on a federal appeals court.
Todd M. Hughes, who has served as deputy director of the commercial litigation branch of Justice’s Civil Division since 2007, will join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Hughes has specialized in the kinds of issues that come before the court, which focuses on a handful of designated topics including international trade, government contracts, patents, trademarks, and police and veterans’ benefits.
Hughes could not be reached for comment.
Geovette Washington, who is the Office of Management and Budget’s general counsel and has been friends with Hughes since they attended law school together, described him as “a problem solver” who “can do very complicated constitutional issues” but also brings a degree of pragmatism to cases.
White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler published a blog post celebrating the confirmation as “yet another ‘first’ among President Obama’s judges” and added: “We look forward to the ‘seconds’ and ‘thirds’ who will come after Todd Hughes and his fellow ‘firsts’ currently serving on our courts.”
Seven openly gay judges have already been confirmed to serve on district courts, which rank one level below the circuit courts. The first, Deborah Batts in the Southern District of New York, took senior status in April 2012, and the remaining six were all appointed by Obama.
“Judge Hughes is an eminently qualified nominee who will happen to shatter a barrier as the first openly gay federal appellate court judge,” said Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group. “It’s a testament to how far we have come as a country that his sexual orientation is irrelevant to his ability to serve on our nation’s courts.”
Hughes, a native of Delaware, Ohio, received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and both a law degree and a master’s degree in English from Duke University.
The Obama administration has won Senate approval for six openly gay nominees so far this term, five of them on July 30. The group included four ambassadors: Dan Baer to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, John Berry to Australia, Rufus Gifford to Denmark, and James Costos to Spain. The other two were Stuart Delery, assistant attorney general for the Civil Division at Justice, and Elaine Kaplan as a judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
The president has also appointed 13 openly gay officials this year who did not require Senate confirmation, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.
Thirteen judicial nominees remain pending on the Senate floor: two at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and 11 for district courts. The nominees include nine women and four African Americans.
One openly gay nominee, Miami judge William Thomas, ran into trouble this week when Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) withdrew his support for Thomas’s judicial appointment in the Southern District of Florida, saying he had issues with two of his decisions in criminal cases. Without the support of both of his home-state senators, Thomas — who would have been the first openly gay black judge on the federal bench — will not move forward.
from The Washington Post
SAN FRANCISCO – A multimillion dollar case between two giant pharmaceutical companies grappling over arcane antitrust issues has unexpectedly turned into a gay rights legal imbroglio that raises questions over whether lawyers can bounce potential jurors solely based on their sexual orientation.
The case before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Wednesday centers on whether Abbott Laboratories broke antitrust laws when it increased the price of its popular and vital AIDS drug Norvir by 400 percent in 2007. But broader public attention likely will be given to the three-judge panel’s look at whether Abbott wrongfully removed a juror in the case brought by competitor SmithKlineBeecham. The court is expected to take up the issue sometime after 10 a.m. local time Wednesday.
The cost increase angered many in the gay community. SmithKlineBeecham, meanwhile, claims it was meant to harm the launch of its new AIDS treatment, which requires the use of Norvir. And the company contends “Juror B” was removed simply because he was gay.
“It’s a big deal,” said Vik Amar, University of California, Davis professor. “The headlines from this case are not going to be about antitrust law – it will be about sexual orientation in the jury pool.”
Before trials, lawyers for both sides are allowed to use several “preemptory challenges” each to remove someone from the jury pool without legal justification.
For its part, Abbott argued, it bounced “Juror B” for three reasons, none having anything to do with his sexual orientation. Lawyers said they felt the juror’s impartiality was compromised because he was the only potential juror who had heard of the SmithKline treatment in question, that he was also the only prospective juror who had lost a friend to AIDS and that he worked for courts.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 1986 prohibited lawyers from using their challenges to bounce a potential juror from a case because of race.
Eight years later, the high court added gender to the prohibition of potential jurors lawyers can remove from a trial without a legal reason.
But the high court has never ruled on sexual orientation. The California Supreme Court has barred the removal of gays from jury pools without justification since 2000, but its rulings aren’t binding on federal courts.
In July, the three appeals court judges asked the drug companies what effect the U.S. Supreme Court’s striking down of the federal ban on same-sex marriage benefits had on the antitrust case. It’s the latest high-profile gay-rights issue the court has heard. The 9th Circuit had earlier struck down California’s ban on same-sex marriages and ordered the same-sex partner of a court employee to receive the same benefits as married colleagues.
Unsurprisingly, Abbott lawyers argued that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act had no effect on its legal fight with SmithKline.
Abbott argues that the high court’s DOMA ruling doesn’t mean anything in the antitrust case because it didn’t put gays in the same class as minorities and women who need special protection during jury selection. The company’s lawyers urged the judges to stay focused on the antitrust laws and procedural issues at the center of the appeal.
SmithKline is joined by gay rights activists Lambda Legal and other public interest groups who filed their own legal argument urging the court to protect gays from getting bounced from juries for no reason.
“The discrimination at issue here is particularly harmful, because it reinforces historical invidious discrimination within the court system and undermines the integrity of the judicial system,” Lambda wrote the court.
from The Associated Press
Hoping to shine a light on Russia’s new anti-gay law, President Obama met with civil rights activists during his final official function in St. Petersburg at the G-20 economic summit.
The president sat down with nine activists in a hotel meeting room, along with national security adviser Susan Rice and U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. In brief remarks before the meeting, Obama called their work “critically important” in creating an open society.
“I’m very proud of their work,” the president said. “Part of good government is making sure we’re creating a space for civil society.”
Russia’s law bans the distribution of materials to minors that suggest that homosexual relationships are normal or attractive. That law was among a list of reasons that White House officials cited last month when they canceled Obama’s scheduled bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow this week. The two leaders spoke briefly in St. Petersburg, but reporters noted tension between them.
Obama criticized the law in a news conference last month but said he does not think the U.S. should boycott the Winter Olympics in Sochi early next year.
“We’ve got a bunch of Americans out there who are training hard, who are doing everything they can to succeed,” Obama said last month. “Nobody’s more offended than me about some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation that you’ve been seeing in Russia. But as I said just this week, I’ve spoken out about that, not just with respect to Russia but with a number of other countries, where we continue to do work with them but we have a strong disagreement on this issue.”
from The Washington Post
Mary Cheney, the younger daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney who married her long-time partner Heather Poe last year, chastised her older sister, a Republican who is running for the Senate, for her opposition to same-sex marriage in a posting on Facebook.
Liz Cheney, who is seeking a Senate seat in Wyoming, said on Friday that she was “not pro-gay marriage.”
“For the record, I love my sister, but she is dead wrong on the issue of marriage,” Mary Cheney wrote on Facebook, according to the New York Times.
“Freedom means freedom for everyone,” she wrote, repeating a phrase once used by her father when he was asked about gay marriage. “That means all families – regardless of how they look or how they are made – all families are entitled to the same rights, privileges and protections as every other.”
Both Mary Cheney and Liz Cheney could not be reached on Sunday for comment.
Liz Cheney on Friday clarified her position on same-sex marriage in response to what she said was a “dishonest push poll” in which callers were asked whether they were aware that she supports abortion and aggressively promotes gay marriage.
“I am strongly pro-life and I am not pro-gay marriage,” Liz Cheney said in her statement on Friday. “I believe the issue of marriage must be decided by the states, and by the people in the states, not by judges and not even by legislators, but by the people themselves.”
Mary Cheney responded by saying that the issue was “not something to be decided by a show of hands.”
Dick Cheney, who served as vice president under President George W. Bush, has long indicated he was supportive of gay marriage, saying that “people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into.” But he has said states should regulate the matter, not the federal government.
Same-sex marriage is a divisive issue for Republicans. An ABC News/Washington Post poll in the spring found that a slim majority of Republican or Republican-leaning independents under age 50 supported gay marriage. In July, the Republican National Committee’s chairman, Reince Priebus, reiterated the party’s stand that marriage was between one man and one woman.
from The New York Daily News
Liz Cheney: ‘I Am Not Pro-Gay Marriage’
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will become the first Supreme Court member to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony Saturday when she officiates at the Washington wedding of Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser.
The gala wedding of Kaiser and economist John Roberts at the performing arts center brings together the nation’s highest court and the capital’s high society and will mark a new milepost in the recognition of same-sex unions.
Such marriages were virtually unheard of a little more than a decade ago but now are legal in the nation’s capital, 13 states and in all or part of 17 other countries. After victories at the Supreme Court earlier this summer, a wave of litigation is challenging bans on same-sex marriages in states where they remain prohibited.
During a recent interview, Ginsburg seemed excited about being the first member of the court to conduct such a ceremony and said it was only a logical next step.
“I think it will be one more statement that people who love each other and want to live together should be able to enjoy the blessings and the strife in the marriage relationship,” Ginsburg said.
She added: “It won’t be long before there will be another” performed by a justice. Indeed, she has another planned for September.
Ginsburg and Kaiser are close friends. She is perhaps the Supreme Court’s most ardent supporter of the fine arts, especially opera. Kaiser, 59, has been at the helm of the Kennedy Center since 2001 and is an internationally recognized expert in arts management and one of Washington’s most influential civic leaders.
“I can’t imagine someone I’d rather be married by” than Ginsburg, Kaiser said in an interview.
Roberts, 32, who works at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, is not related to Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. When save-the-date cards were sent out this spring, there were jokes involving the coincidence of the names.
Earlier this summer, Ginsburg was in the majority in a pair of major gay rights victories at the Supreme Court. The court said the federal government may not refuse to recognize legally married gay couples and reinstated a lower-court ruling that found California’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional.
The chief justice was in the minority that would have upheld the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which said the federal government would recognize marriages only between a man and woman.
The Supreme Court’s decisions in June had no effect on the marriage plans of Kaiser and Roberts because same-sex unions have been legal in the District of Columbia since 2010.
Kaiser and Roberts are scheduled to be married in the Kennedy Center atrium Saturday night before 220 guests. Invited are stars of opera (Renee Fleming, Harolyn Blackwell), from Broadway (Ron Raines, Barbara Cook) and an array of some of Washington’s most influential philanthropic and arts patrons, such as Richard and Betsy DeVos, Catherine and Wayne Reynolds and Jacqueline Mars.
It is not uncommon for Supreme Court justices to officiate at weddings, most often for former law clerks or close friends or relatives. Ginsburg tied the knot for her son, for instance. Justice Clarence Thomas performed a ceremony for radio host Rush Limbaugh.
Ginsburg said she thought she and her colleagues had not been asked previously to conduct a same-sex ceremony for fear it might compromise their ability to hear the issue when it came before the court. But once the cases had been decided, Ginsburg seemed eager for the opportunity.
David Hagedorn read Ginsburg’s comments about not having been asked this spring and sent her a letter asking her to officiate at his Sept. 22 wedding to Michael Widomski, director of communications and executive affairs for the National Weather Service.
Hagedorn, a food writer and contributor to The Washington Post, had met Ginsburg at a social event but said he did not know her.
Ginsburg said she could not answer until after the term ended. He received a letter agreeing to conduct the ceremony that was dated June 26, the day the court announced its decision in the DOMA case. “You can imagine what that meant to Michael and me,” Hagedorn wrote in an e-mail.
Her prominent role in the debate about same-sex marriage will be another high-profile moment for Ginsburg, who turned 80 this year and last month marked her 20th year on the court.
With the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens in 2010, Ginsburg became the senior justice among the court’s four liberals and has embraced the role. When they are in the minority on important decisions, Ginsburg has urged fellow Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to unite behind a single dissenting opinion.
And despite her more prominent role on the court, the question she has been asked most frequently this summer is when she plans to leave. Several liberal commentators have suggested she retire in time for President Obama to nominate her successor.
But Ginsburg said she has no plans to leave anytime soon.
“All I can say is what I’ve already said: At my age, you take it year by year,” she said.
from The Washington Post