Category Archives: Civil Rights

Judge to Clerk: “Stop Issuing Same-Sex Couples Marriage Licenses”

Saints Sergius and Bacchus. 7th Century icon. ...

Saints Sergius and Bacchus. 7th Century icon. Officers of the Roman Army in Syria who were tortured to death for their refusal to worship Roman gods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Thursday, a Pennsylvania judge ordered a suburban Philadelphia court clerk to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini said Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes did not have the power to decide whether Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage ban violates the state constitution.

Hanes said he was disappointed.

It was not immediately clear what the decision will mean for the 174 couples who obtained licenses.

A 1996 state law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Via Huffington Post.

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Filed under Civil Rights, If You Were Gay, Law

NAACP President to Step Down at the End of 2013

English: NAACP President Benjamin Jealous

English: NAACP President Benjamin Jealous (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Sunday, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous said that he plans to step down at the end of the year.

The Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said that its rosters of online activists and donors have grown tremendously during his five-year tenure. Jealous was the group’s youngest-ever leader when he was hired as its president at age thirty-five.

In a written statement Sunday, Jealous said he plans to pursue teaching at a university and wants to spend time with his young family.

“The NAACP has always been the largest civil rights organization in the streets, and today it is also the largest civil rights organization online, on mobile and at the ballot box too,” Jealous said. “I am proud to leave the association financially sound, sustainable, focused, and more powerful than ever.”

Jealous told the newspaper he also plans to start a political action committee to raise money to elect diverse progressive candidates, not necessarily only Democrats

Jealous is credited with improving the NAACP’s finances and donor base over the past five years. The group said its donors have increased from 16,000 people giving each year to more than 132,000 under his leadership.

During Jealous’s tenure, the NAACP also has embraced gay rights in a historic vote to endorse same-sex marriage in May 2012. “Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law,” the group said, citing the 14th Amendment‘s equal protection clause.

Via AP.

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Ginsburg: Marriage Equality Shows the “Genius” of the Constitution

English: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justic...

English: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Friday, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who recently officiated at a friend’s same-sex wedding, told a Philadelphia audience that growing acceptance of gay marriage reflects the “genius” of the U.S. Constitution.

Justice Ginsburg said equality has always been central to the Constitution, even if society has only applied it to minorities over time.

Justice Ginsburg, the second woman named to the high court, has now served for 20 years and leads the court’s liberal minority. Her increasingly candid and forceful writing, has attracted ardent fans.

Justice Ginsburg gave no hint she would wind down her judicial career anytime soon.

Via HuffPo.

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Obama to Meet with LGBT Rights Groups at G20 in St. Petersburg

Barack Obama

Barack Obama (Photo credit: jamesomalley)

President Barack Obama will meet with Russian LGBT rights groups as well as several other Russian human rights activists at this week’s G20 summit in St. PetersburgBuzzFeed reported Monday.

Obama cancelled a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in August amid tension over the country’s offer of asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

From BuzzFeed:

Four Russian non-governmental organizations told BuzzFeed Monday they had been invited to the meeting, scheduled for this Thursday at St. Petersburg’s Crowne Plaza Hotel. The groups include veteran human rights activists Lev Ponomarev and Lyudmila Alexeyeva, legal aid NGO director Pavel Chikov, and Coming Out, a St. Petersburg-based LGBT organization. Another local LGBT group, the LGBT Network, is believed to be attending, though director Igor Kochetkov declined to comment to BuzzFeed, saying that he had been “asked not to say anything.”

Via TPM.


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Justice Ginsburg to Officiate Over Gay Wedding

English: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justic...

English: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Saturday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will become the first Supreme Court member to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony when she officiates at the wedding of Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser.

The wedding of Kaiser and John Roberts (No relation, but the couple recognized the coincidence on their save-the-date cards.) at the performing arts center will mark a new milepost in the recognition of same-sex unions.

Justice Ginsburg seemed excited about being the first member of the court to conduct such a ceremony. “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,” she said.

Justice Ginsburg and Kaiser are close friends. “I can’t imagine someone I’d rather be married by” than Justice Ginsburg, Kaiser said in an interview.

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 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.

It is not uncommon for Supreme Court justices to officiate at weddings. Ginsburg tied the knot for her son. Justice Clarence Thomas performed one of the many marriage ceremonies for Rush Limbaugh.

Via The Washington Post.

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Civil Rights Groups Appeal Michigan’s Debtor Prisons

English: The inscription Equal Justice Under L...

English: The inscription Equal Justice Under Law as seen on the frieze of the United States Supreme Court building (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Friday, the Brennan Center for Justice, the ACLU of Michigan, and the Michigan State Planning Body filed an amicus brief appealing the prison sentence of Joseph Bailey, who was jailed because of his inability to pay court-ordered restitution. The brief argues that jailing Bailey for being poor is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause and the Michigan constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that indigent people may not be incarcerated based on their inability to pay criminal justice-related debt.

“Imprisoning defendants who are too poor to pay court-related fees is more than just a violation of their constitutional rights,” said Jessica Eaglin, counsel at the Brennan Center. “It perpetuates an endless cycle of poverty and punishment that worsens the growing costs of unnecessary incarceration. The court needs to create a system that imposes suitable penalties for criminal action while protecting defendants, their families and the economy.”

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Filed under Civil Rights, Crime and Punishment, Law, Sick Sad World, The Supremes

Why the Vodka Boycott Won’t Actually Help Russia’s Gays

Stolichnaya vodka

Stolichnaya vodka (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

America’s “only advice columnist,” Dan Savage, has called for a boycott of Russian vodka to protest attacks on gays by anti-gay legislation backed by President Vladimir Putin. Over at The New York Times, Mark Lawrence Schrad has written about why the boycott might backfire.

First, boycotting vodka does nothing for Russia’s LGBT population. It’s totally symbolic . Symbolic boycotts are important, but so is knowing the effects of your actions.

Second, a boycott allows Pres. Putin to portray America as a specter intent on violating Russian sovereignty and morals. Polls show that two-thirds of Russians consider homosexuality unacceptable. This conservative context, Schrad argues, allows Pres. Putin to portray himself as the defender of traditional Orthodox Christian values fighting off a threat from the liberal West.

Third, the Kremlin’s reliance on vodka is largely over, making efforts to enforce the boycott ineffective. (For example, Stolichnaya, which is distilled in Latvia and owned by the SPI Group in Luxembourg, has been the primary target. In fact, the owners of SPI fled Russia years ago.)

Have you participated in the boycott of Russian vodka?

Via NYT.

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Military Plans to Ignore Manning’s Request for Medical Treatment

English: Protest against the imprisonment of B...

English: Protest against the imprisonment of Bradley Manning, Fort Snelling, Minnesota, March 2011 Deutsch: Protest gegen die Inhaftierung Bradley Mannings, Fort Snelling, Minnesota im März 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Private First Class Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) announced today that she identifies as transgender. PFC Manning, who was sentenced yesterday to thirty-five years, will be serving her time at Fort Leavenworth, which released a statement clarifying that it “does not offer sex reassignment or hormone therapy for the inmates housed at the facility.”

Even after the era of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, identifying as transgender disqualifies an individual from military service, as military regulations consider a transgender identity as a medical disorder. Psychiatrists do not use the word “disorder” to describe transgender identity.

Pfc. Manning was convicted by a military court and was sentenced to serve time in a military prison, so her fate is bound to the military, even though her identity would otherwise disqualify her from active service. This situation  is likely unprecedented.

The military could learn a lot by looking to the Veteran’s Administration, which has extended benefits to transgender veterans. The same standard should apply to Pfc. Manning.

Pentagon official George Wright echoed the prison’s statement that inmates cannot receive surgery or hormone therapy, but proclaimed that they “are treated equally regardless of race, rank, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.” To be treated “equally,” Manning would have to receive all prescribed healthcare just as other prisoners do. If she is selectively prevented from that right, it would be pure anti-transgender discrimination on the military’s part.

Via ThinkProgress.

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Horrible Conservative “Activist” Says He’s “a Transgender” to Try to Get into Women’s Shower

Some California conservatives are freaking out over a new law allowing transgender students use bathroom facilities consistent with their identified gender.

Dan Joseph of the right-wing Media Research Center is out to prove that straight men are now going to pretend to be trans to see women naked. He went to an “open-minded” college – George Mason University, which is actually one of the country’s most conservative campuses, as well as one of Princeton Review‘s “Least Happy” campuses – to . . . see if others are as transphobic as he is, apparently.

Joseph then reveals himself to be a complete asshat (see 2:25). He uses a lispy, simpering “gay voice” like the one favored by insecure teenage boys and wears men’s clothing (and keeps his facial hair) while trying to convince a passing woman that he is, in his words, “a transgender:”

JOSEPH: Excuse me. Are you going into the locker room?


JOSEPH: My name is Dan. I’m a transgender. So that means I have the man parts but inside I feel more like a woman. I was just wondering, is it okay if I go in there with you in there and change and shower and stuff? Just because I don’t really feel, like, comfortable in the men’s area. It’s just weird. Is that okay with you?

To her credit, the woman he asks doesn’t really appear to care.

I have yet to see one single transgender person walking around in clothes and facial hair reflecting their biological sex or saying “I’m a transgender.”

It is unbelievably offensive to suggest that it is all a nefarious plot to see boobs. Hypothetical transgender fakers don’t exist, and the “bathroom panic” these conservatives so worried about is not real. It would be sad if it weren’t so disgusting.

There may be people who feel “uncomfortable” with the idea of sharing space with transgender persons. However, they’re just going to have to suck it up and deal. When you are a member of a privileged group, this is something you have to do sometimes. Your “comfort” does not outweigh the rights of others.

Via Death and Taxes.

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Filed under Civil Rights, If You Were Gay, Sick Sad World, Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Cooch Reiterates: LGBT People are “Soulless” and “Self-Destructive”

English: Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cucc...

English: Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ken “Cooch” Cuccinelli, the candidate for Governor of Virginia, recently said that LGBT people are soulless and “self-destructive.”

If Cooch wins, he’d be leading one of our nation’s most critical swing states. Even worse, a Cooch victory would send a message to both parties for the 2014 elections that voters don’t care that much about equality. We can’t let that happen.

That’s why the Human Rights Campaign is putting organizers on the ground in crucial Virginia districts and mobilizing tens of thousands of HRC supporters in the state.  We need to make a statement at the ballot box. Join HRC to help expand equality across the country.

Here’s the thing about Cooch: he’s not alone. Elected officials across the country share his views, and they’re working every day to end or gut hard-fought protections for LGBT Americans.

Laws can be undone in a heartbeat. It took years to win thirteen states with marriage equality and a DOMA-free country. We can’t afford to turn back the clock.

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Filed under Activism, Civil Rights, If You Were Gay, Politics, Stupid Is As Stupid Does