Recently in People Category

March 24, 2011

Discrimination by Complication: Same-Sex Parents Must Do More

Opposite-sex couples with children don't think much about what would happen if one of them were unable to care for the kids--obviously, the other parent would step in. Likewise, married couples should make wills, but even if they don't, a surviving spouse gets most or all of the deceased spouse's property.

For same-sex couples living in states where neither marriage equality nor relationship recognition (in the form of domestic partnerships or civil unions) has arrived, none of the above is necessarily true. This New York Times article describes the reality for one lesbian couple raising their children in Michigan.
June 3, 2009

Same-Sex Marriage Legal in New Hampshire

It's official: New Hampshire is the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage. The bill was signed into law by Gov. John Lynch earlier today. Gov. Lynch does not personally support same-sex marriage, and his signing of the bill was predicated on lawmakers' adding a provision which guaranteed that religious groups and churches would not be forced to perform wedding ceremonies or recognize same-sex marriages. He says he would have vetoed any bill without this added language.

Today's ratification of the bill leaves Rhode Island as the only state in New England without legal same-sex marriage. So, Rhode Island, what's the holdup?
April 27, 2009

Same-Sex Weddings Begin in Iowa

Beginning this morning, same-sex wedding bells are ringing in Iowa. A number of couples obtained waivers of Iowa's three-day waiting period and were legally married on the day the recent state Supreme Court decision became effective.

A related MSNBC story describes Iowa's history as a state in the "forefront on social issues," including segregation, slavery, and women's rights. Apparently we should not be surprised that Iowa is now one of only four states offering full marriage equality to its lesbian and gay citizens.

November 20, 2008

Prop 8 Opponents Get Day in Court

The California Supreme Court has agreed to consider multiple lawsuits challenging Proposition 8, the ballot initiative limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. The lawsuits, described in this post, will be considered by the court on an expedited schedule, with briefing completed in January of 2009 and oral argument possible as early as March. (I know, that doesn't seem so expedited, but for the state high court, it's lightning-fast.)

As described in its order of November 19, the court will consider three questions: (1) whether Prop 8 is invalid because it constitutes a revision of, rather than an amendment to, the California Constitution; (2) whether Prop 8 violates the separation of powers doctrine under the California Constitution; and (3) if Prop 8 is upheld, what is its effect on the marriages of same-sex couples performed before the election?

Six out of seven justices voted to consider the lawsuits. The sole dissenter was Justice Joyce Kennard, whose decision not to join the majority here is somewhat troubling because she was one of the justices who joined the majority opinion in the marriage cases that resulted in the Supreme Court's May 15th ruling making same-sex marriage legal in California. But the questions being considered here are very different from those considered in the marriage cases, so it's difficult to predict where the justices will come down on this one. All of the filings in the Prop 8 case are available on the Supreme Court's "high profile case" page.   

October 15, 2008

Pioneering Gay Lawmaker Dies in Minnesota

Allen H. Spear died in Minnesota on October 15th of complications after heart surgery. You may not have heard of Spear, but he was ahead of his time as one of the nation's first openly gay lawmakers -- he came out in 1974 while serving as a State Senator, a post he held until 2000. At the time he was one of only two openly gay legislators in the country.

Spear served as Senate President from 1993 to 2000. He was instrumental in amending Minnesota's Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation -- an amendment completed in 1993, also somewhat ahead of the times. As is the case with Del Martin, we owe a debt of gratitude to Allen Spear as a pioneering force for LGBT rights.


October 2, 2008

Transgender Veteran Wins Suit Against Library of Congress

In a landmark victory for transgender rights, Diane Schroer won her lawsuit against the Library of Congress for sex discrimination last month. Schroer, a former Army commander with action-hero credentials and precisely the experience needed for the job was offered a position as a senior terrorism research analyst at the Library of Congress. Then presenting as a man named David, Schroer went to lunch with her future boss and outlined her plans to finish her gender transition and her intention to present as female when she began working at the Library of Congress.

The next day, she received a call rescinding the job offer. She filed suit, and on September 19 a federal judge ruled that the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment, Title VII, applies to transgendered people, and that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is sex discrimination. The ACLU, which represented Schroer, has a case summary and legal documents, including a link to the judge's opinion, on its website. The decision is the first to hold that gender identity is covered under Title VII, and thus is a giant step forward for transgender rights.

See a video of Diane Schroer telling her own story here.

September 1, 2008

Lesbian Pioneer Del Martin Dies

Del Martin died yesterday in a San Francisco hospice, with her partner of 55 years, Phyllis Lyon, by her side. The two were married just last month in the first same-sex wedding in San Francisco. 

I don't have much to add to the many eloquent tributes and obituaries that have already been published (for example, at the website of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and in the San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times). They describe a woman of enormous courage and principle, who stood up for the rights of all people to live their lives with respect and dignity. She was the first open lesbian to serve on the board of directors of the National Organization for Women, and was a driving force behind the campaign to convince the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.

Along with Phyllis Lyon, Del Martin may have done more to improve the lives of lesbians in the 20th century than anyone else. From the NCLR obituary: "Del Martin identified her own legacy in 1984 when she said that her most important contribution was 'being able to help make changes in the way lesbians and gay men view themselves and how the larger society views lesbians and gay men.'" That legacy will never die.