December 2010 Archives

December 20, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repealed

On Saturday, the United States Congress finally voted to repeal the 17-year-old Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that has barred LGBT servicemembers from being open about their sexual orientation. The final vote was 65-31, with eight Republicans voting in favor of repeal. The bill next goes to President Obama for signature--a given, as the President has clearly stated his support of repeal.

The discriminatory policy technically remains in effect until 60 days after the President and Joint Chiefs of Staff declare the military ready for repeal. Implementation will take place over time, according to the New York Times

While this is welcome news, DADT was hardly "the last bastion of legal discrimination based on sexual orientation," as claimed by the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday. Unless I slept through the establishment of full marriage equality, the end of employment discrimination, and the hundreds of other events that would need to occur to create full equality for LGBT citizens in this country.
December 16, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell on the Block in Lame Duck Session?

This week the House voted to pass a stand-alone bill to repeal the discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy that has kept LGBT soldiers closeted since 1994. The bill has moved on to the Senate, where four Republican senators have pledged to support it, bringing the apparent total number of votes to 61.Finally, it seems possible that after a bunch of procedural wrangling, the lame duck Congress might finally put this terrible policy to rest. 
December 6, 2010

Prop 8 Oral Argument In the Books

Today, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the appeal of federal district court judge Vaughn Walker's decision in the case challenging Proposition 8, which added an amendment to California's constitution limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. 

The Ninth Circuit panel questioned the attorneys on two issues: First, whether either the Prop 8 proponents and the County of Imperial have standing to bring the appeal in the first place, and second, whether Judge Walker's decision was correct on the merits--in other words, whether Prop 8 was valid under the United States Constitution. The judges clearly had prepared carefully, and asked probing questions of both sides; it's very difficult to predict what the outcome will be, but the possibilities include:

  • The Ninth Circuit could ask the California Supreme Court to weigh in on the standing issue, delaying the case until that issue is resolved.
  • The Ninth Circuit could rule the proponents don't have standing and not reach the merits of the Constitutional argument, in which case the proponents would probably appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on the standing issue.
  • The Ninth Circuit could rule that the proponents do have standing, and then rule on the merits, in which case the losing party would undoubtedly appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. 
There's interesting analysis of the oral argument at Nan Hunter's blog and some details in this SF Chronicle article

December 2, 2010

Illinois Civil Union Bill Passes

Yesterday, the Illinois legislature passed a civil union bill establishing a separate-but-equal relationship in the form of civil unions that come with all the rights and obligations of marriage, for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has promised to sign the bill, which would become effective on July 1, 2011.

To enter a civil union, both partners must both be over 18, not married or in a civil union with someone else, and not closely related. There's no residency requirement. And like California, Illinois provides that the civil union comes with continuing jurisdiction in the event of a divorce--in other words, even if the partners don't live in Illinois any more when they separate, they still can ask the state to grant their divorce. Illinois will recognize marriages, domestic partnerships, and civil unions entered into in other states--by deeming them all civil unions under Illinois law. 

With this change, Illinois joins California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington state in providing for marriage-equivalent relationships for same-sex couples.