Think Progress LGBT – Catholic Bishops to SCOTUS: Deny Marriage Equality Because Being Gay

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has filed amicus briefs in the two marriage equality cases before the Supreme Court, encouraging the Justices to rule in favor of discrimination. At the foundation of the Conference’s argument is the claim that gays don’t deserve any legal protections because the only thing that defines them is their “voluntary actions,” just like polygamists:
In contrast to the classes for which this Court has applied heightened scrutiny, what lower courts have understood to be a homosexual “orientation” is not a trait attributable from conception or birth. Rather, particularly as framed by Respondents here, it involves a species of conduct. Indeed, with this distinction in mind, this Court has recognized that a finding of a suspect or quasi-suspect class for equal protection purposes is simply inappropriate when the distinguishing characteristic is a product of “voluntary action.”
Disregarding the “voluntary action” limit on “distinguishing traits” would yield absurd results, as it would threaten to expand dramatically the range of legislative categories triggering heightened scrutiny. In particular, any “voluntary action” that is now or has ever been illegal would readily satisfy the factor of having suffered government disfavor or a history of discrimination based on the distinguishing trait. Where the conduct is still illegal, those with the trait could just as readily claim political powerlessness or the inability to attract the attention of lawmakers. Finally, if the current or former illegality of the “voluntary action” can be discounted as reflecting mere disapproval or discrimination, then it is a small step (if any) to conclude that the “voluntary action” bears no relation to the ability to perform or contribute to society.
The example of polygamists—a class that is defined in part by conduct—illustrates the point. One can substitute “polygamists” for “homosexuals” as that term is used in the Windsor opinion and arrive at the same conclusion for the former as the Second Circuit did with respect to the latter. Our point, of course, is not that the two are morally equivalent, but simply that the Second Circuit’s logic leads to absurd results, and that the absurdity originates with the decision to ignore this Court’s “voluntary action” limitation on “distinguishing traits” that may trigger heightened scrutiny.
Unsurprisingly, the word “gay” is not to be found in the brief except when citing case law. It’s telling that the brief even uses scare-quotes around the term “orientation,” implying that the concept of a sexual orientation doesn’t even exist. Indeed, British Archbishop Vincent Nichols admitted earlier this month that the Catholic Church refuses to identify anybody by their sexual orientation. All the Church sees is sex — no identities.
The goal of completely erasing the lives of gays and lesbians is obviously apparent. Despite claims of protecting children’s well-being, the Church refuses to acknowledge that the many children raised by same-sex couples would benefit if their parents could marry. In the brief, the Bishops admit these families exist, but nothing more. Instead, they cite the problematic Mark Regnerus study and irrelevant “fatherless” studies to suggest that same-sex parents are inferior, when none of the data actually indicate that. In the name of protecting children, families, and society, they are doing the exact opposite.

MSN MONEY – Big companies take up gay rights cause

Big companies take up gay rights cause
Corporate backers make a business decision to take on the Defense of Marriage Act and the Boy Scouts’ ban.
By Jason Notte 5 hours ago

When marches, petitions and ballot initiatives don’t make those in power listen, money usually does the trick.

Supporters of gay marriage reached this conclusion recently and have lined up some deep-pocketed corporate friends to help them repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that states marriage can only occur between a man and a woman. The Human Rights Campaign launched its Business Coalition for DOMA Repeal earlier this week and has been able to recruit 13 businesses to join its cause.

The coalition’s bigger backers include Aetna (AET -1.53%), Biogen Idec (BIIB +0.75%), Bristol-Meyers Squibb (BMY +0.22%), Diageo (DEO -0.66%), EBay (EBAY +0.22%), Electronic Arts (ERTS), Sun Life Financial (SLF +0.24%) and Marriott (MAR -0.17%). That last company is perhaps the biggest coup, as the Los Angeles Times points out that it was founded by Mormons. The Mormon church is officially against gay marriage and went to great lengths to support California’s Proposition 8 banning gay marriage back in 2008.

Though CEO Bill Marriott, son of founder John William Marriott, told Bloomberg Businessweek last year that he’s personally against gay marriage, but is reluctant to impose those views on his business. As a result, Marriott stayed out of the Proposition 8 debate and continued to invite gay couples to use its hotels for weddings and commitment ceremonies. Marriott reconciled his personal and business views on gay marriage as follows:

“Our church is very much opposed to alcohol and we’re probably one of the biggest sales engines of liquor in the United States. I don’t drink. We serve a lot of liquor. You’re in business. You’ve got to make money. We have to appeal to the masses out there, no matter what their beliefs are.”

Loosely translated, money from gay customers and straight customers is equal in value. While fast-food chain Chick-fil-A vocally disagreed with this stance last year, other companies are quickly taking the Marriott approach to the gay rights movement. Back in September, Intel (INTC +0.42%) told ThinkProgress that it would no longer donate to Boy Scouts of America troops that discriminated against gay scouts. That’s no small deal, considering the $700,000 it gave scout troops in 2010 made the company one of the Boy Scouts’ biggest donors.

In November, UPS (UPS -1.19%) took Intel’s lead and responded to a petition by withdrawing its support from the Boy Scouts, which the company says is in violation of its charitable wing’s anti-discrimination policies. UPS gave the scouts $150,000 in 2010, which is a fraction of Intel’s contribution but still sorely missed when it’s reduced to $0. Not surprisingly, The New York Times announced Tuesday that the Boy Scouts were seriously rethinking their ban on openly gay scouts and scout leaders.

It’s still uncertain whether any of this will influence the Supreme Court’s upcoming review of the Defense of Marriage Act or the continued push for the alternate Respect For Marriage Act and extend more than 1,000 federal benefits to married same-sex couples. However, whenever companies like Google (GOOG +0.02%), Hyatt (H -0.72%), Exelon (EXC -0.26%) and Orbitz (OWW -4.11%) put their cash behind gay rights — as they did by signing an open letter to Illinois lawmakers voicing their support for gay marriage in that state — revenue-minded politicians and voters tend to listen.

LGBTQNation – Poll: Support for marriage equality in Ireland increases to 75 percent

Poll: Support for marriage equality in Ireland increases to 75 percent

By Brody Levesque

DUBLIN, Ireland — As the Constitutional Convention met in Dublin to discuss reforms to the Irish Republic’s constitution this past weekend, a 2012 year end poll showed increased support for the issue of same-sex marriage, one of the legal reforms being discussed by delegates.

The poll, carried out by Millward Brown Lansdowne for the Irish LGBT Equality Rights advocacy group Marriage Equality, found that 75 percent of Irish voters in this predominantly Roman Catholic nation would vote yes in a referendum to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples – an increase of 12 percent from previous research in 2008.

Marriage equality has been placed on the official agenda for Ireland’s Constitutional Convention discussions scheduled for mid-April.

“Public support for marriage equality has increased year on year,” said Moninne Griffith, Director of Marriage Equality Ireland, in a statement Monday. “When we began our work in 2006, 51 percent of people believed same sex couples should be allowed to marry. That figure has grown 25 percent in just 6 years, to a full three quarters of the population today.”

“People all over Ireland know that marriage equality is about truly Irish values like justice, equality, fairness, and respect for each other. This is our chance to do the right thing, and be leaders in the movement for marriage equality. The polling shows Irish people want this. Ireland is ready, with a strong majority of Irish people who think same sex couples should have the right to marry the person they love,” Griffith said.
According to the poll, 2 out of 3 people agree Ireland’s reputation as a modern society will be strengthened by allowing same sex couples to have civil marriages, and 3 out of 5 people agreed that allowing same sex couples to have civil marriages will promote a more tolerant environment in Ireland.

CNN Opinion – Hillary Clinton’s global legacy on gay rights

Hillary Clinton’s global legacy on gay rights

By Frida Ghitis, Special to CNN
updated 10:25 AM EST, Wed January 30, 2013
Watch this video

Hillary Clinton promotes gay rights

(CNN) — As Hillary Clinton makes a whirlwind round of appearances in her last days as secretary of state, one groundbreaking aspect of her work deserves a moment in the spotlight: In a bold departure with tradition, Clinton made the promotion of equality for gay people a core value of U.S. foreign policy.

That is a transformative change, one that advances the cause of human rights around the world — not just for gays and lesbians, but for everyone.

Frida Ghitis

Frida Ghitis

The way governments treat their LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) citizens can tell us much about their overall approach to human rights and democracy. Mistreatment of sexual minorities is a microcosm of greater repression.

Take a look at the gruesome spectacle of young gay men executed by the government of Iran in the streets, for all to see. Or, look at the new anti-gay laws coming into effect in Russia’s increasingly authoritarian regime. It is no accident that the growing repression of LGBT Russians coincides with a dramatic deterioration of political freedom and what the nonpartisan Freedom House called “the return of the iron fist in Russia.”

It is clear that gays and lesbians are the canaries in the coal mine of human rights. When gays live under pressure, everyone should worry.

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That, however, is not how Clinton explained it 14 months ago, when she stood before the Human Rights Council in Geneva, in front of an audience filled with representatives from Arab and African countries, from places where homosexuality is a crime, even one punishable by death, and declared that gay rights and human rights “are one and the same.” Gay people, she explained, deserve equality simply because everyone does.

It was Human Rights Day, the commemoration of the signing of the 1948 U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, and she used the occasion to send a message to the world on behalf of the United States. She declared unequivocally that there is no exception for gay people when it comes to human rights.

Opinion: President Hillary Clinton? If she wants it

She admitted that the U.S. record on human rights for gays and lesbians “is far from perfect.” But by proclaiming, without caveat or qualification, the American stance on the issue, she sent a signal to the rest of the world that, while equality for gay people is far from reached, the rightness of the goal is beyond debate, much like it is with equal rights for women or for racial minorities.

In doing this, she announced it was now the official policy of the U.S. government to promote the rights of LGBT people everywhere. Clinton has always been a couple of steps ahead of President Barack Obama when it comes to gay rights. It’s a safe bet she persuaded him to jump on board and put the full force of the administration behind this new policy.

In Geneva that day, she announced that the president had instructed all U.S. government agencies working in other countries to “combat the criminalization of LGBT status and conduct” to help protect vulnerable LGBT, helping refugees and asylum seekers and responding to abuses.

Clinton: We practiced different diplomacy

Clinton: Egypt doesn’t have an easy task

Today, American diplomats, as part of their official mandate and as an explicit tenet of U.S. values, must speak up for the rights of individuals experiencing persecution on the basis of their sexual orientation, as when a couple were sentenced in Cameroon for “looking” gay.

News: Hillary Clinton talks future ‘adventures’

America may be not as influential as it once was, but no country carries more weight; there’s not even a close second. America’s opinion matters if you want foreign aid or political assistance.

But it matters even more to people on the ground, eager, perhaps desperate to make their case before the authorities, their boss or their family. In the latter case, that it was the popular and respected Hillary Clinton making the argument undoubtedly made a difference on a personal level, even if dictators did not relent.

Clinton also noted that “being gay is not a Western invention; it is a human reality,” and noted nations that have enacted protections for their gay citizens, including South Africa, Colombia and Argentina.

It was a rebuke to that tragicomic moment in 2007, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told an audience in New York, “In Iran, we do not have homosexuals like you do in your country,” prompting an explosion of laughter from the crowd. Of course, gay people live in Iran, where homosexuality is punishable by death.

America’s stance, promoted so passionately by Clinton, is gradually becoming the global standard for human rights.

Under intense lobbying from America, the usually feckless and frequently counterproductive U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a measured entitled “Ending Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” and another supporting equality, important symbols that this is a standard for the entire world.

Clinton moved the issue of equality for members of the LGBT community to the front of America’s diplomatic agenda; in the process, she gave a boost to human rights for all and a considerable nudge to the inexorable progress of freedom. Let’s hope her successor doesn’t let up.