Edge On The Net – Prop 8 Judge: Time for Marriage Equality Has Come

Prop 8 Judge: Time for Marriage Equality Has Come
by Roger Brigham
EDGE Contributor
Friday Apr 20, 2012

Retired U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker speaks at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Thursday. (Source:Roger Brigham)
Such a California moment. When Vaughn Walker, retired chief U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of California spoke at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Thursday about the changing nature of the legal profession, it was natural that the bulk of the questions tossed his way after the prepared lecture would concern the federal Proposition 8 challenge he adjudicated in 2010.

The first Prop 8 question?

How did the judge feel about being portrayed by Hollywood hunk Brad Pitt in the stage recreation of the same-sex marriage case based on court transcripts?

Walker, who retired last year and returned to private practice, responded with a laugh.

“I can think of people I’d rather not be portrayed by,” he said. But he then tied the question back to the underlying theme of his speech-how emerging information technology is changing the way people interact with the legal system-and why the U.S. Supreme Court was wrong to block the public broadcast of the case.

The court’s banning of the trial’s telecast, Walker said, “prompted a number of people to recreate the case in a variety of forms.” The 90-minute Los Angeles production created by “Milk” screenwriter Dustin Lance Black in which Pitt appeared used verbatim transcripts from the trial.

“The irony of the court ruling,” said Walker, “is that probably far more people have seen that than those who would have sat through the actual trial.”

Walker noted that technological tools have changed the legal profession, with more and more laypersons doing routine legal tasks such as the creation of wills without the use of legal counsel. He said these litigants remain disconnected from the process is in cases such as class action suits, where litigants are seldom consulted on selection of attorneys, legal fees or how to evaluate settlements.

Walker said he predicts that technology will chip away at that disconnect. Electronic filing can now make it possible for people to access documents throughout a case, and streaming video could eventually enable people to remain connected throughout legal proceedings. And that is where he said the U.S. Supreme Court is lagging behind the times.

“The early stages of the advancement of these technologies have been frustrated by the Supreme Court’s country’s refusal to accept cameras in the courtroom,” said Walker.

Walker was asked if he ever thought about disclosing his sexual orientation before the Prop 8 trial to ward off the criticism he later received from referendum supporters who said he should have disqualified himself.

“I didn’t anticipate criticism because the word was already out and had been published in a number of sources, and they were not going to raise the issue,” he said. “I had thought at some point or other in my career I would have to deal with the criticism.”

Walker noted he had earlier faced “critics from the gay community, particularly in San Francisco,” because he had represented the U.S. Olympic Committee in its lawsuit to stop San Francisco Arts and Athletics from using the word “Olympics” in the first Gay Olympic Games. The suit was successful and organizers instead launched the event as the Gay Games.

“Much of that criticism was because they assumed I took it and it was litigated the way because I was trying to cover up my sexual orientation,” he said.

“That is really a very dangerous road to start going down,” added Walker of the calls for his ruling to be disallowed because he had not disclosed his sexual orientation. “Black judge, female judge, Asian judge-judges have to be given the credit to have decisions accepted for what they are.”

Walker said President Barack Obama’s comment that the court did not have the precedence to overturn his health care reform law “was a blunder.” He said if the court upholds the package, it will look like it caved to political pressure. If it overturns the law, it will seem as though someone had leaked the decision to him.

“That comment was a very very serious mistake on his part,” said Walker.

At the end of the appearance, Walker was asked about the fate of his Prop 8 decision that declared the state ban on marriage for same-sex couples unconstitutional.

“As you know, my decision was affirmed on narrower grounds than I took,” said Walker. “Like any judge who has been affirmed, I’m happy to take it. The Supreme Court could conceivably choose not to review it. But there’s no way they can avoid the Defense of Marriage case. The notion of people deciding to get married without regard to gender is an idea whose time has come.”

Edge On The Net – New Proposition for Gays Tying the Knot

New Proposition for Gays Tying the Knot
by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Contributor
Tuesday Apr 17, 2012

When New York passed marriage equality last summer, New York couple Sam Street and Jonathan Tack had been together for 13 years. Encountering difficulties in finding appropriate wedding bands, the men founded Proposition Love, an online jewelry site that offers a wide selection of rings and other accessories and donates a percentage of profits to the marriage equality movement.

“The tradition of going to Tiffany’s or a mainstream jeweler just wasn’t appropriate for us,” said Tack. “I had a jewelry background and there was a need in the LGBT community for this. So we formed Proposition Love, which is a double entendre on a proposal, as well as a nod to Prop 8. We also decided to be proactive in the marriage equality movement by giving a portion of proceeds back to gay marriage.”

The two men had traveled to California to get married, and were one of the 18,000 couples whose union was grandfathered in before Proposition 8 voter initiative took effect.

“It was before the Presidential election, and John McCain and Sarah Palin had said that if elected, they would do away with gay marriage. So we didn’t know whether we would ever see it in our lifetime,” said Tack.

“It was a bittersweet experience for us,” added Street.

Their business has been in the works for a couple of years. The men exhibited at this year’s New York LGBT Expo at the Javits Center, and their website will go live this month. It features a blog from Street with the latest marriage equality news and events in the U.S. and around the world.

It was Street who came up with the idea of using the triangle symbol in the design of some of the jewelry, noting the history and importance behind the symbol.

“We also have a classic collection,” said Tack. “There is something for everyone. Our Countdown Collection features a ring for each of the states that passed marriage equality, with the date when the legislation was passed. As each state passes marriage equality, we will honor them and dedicate a ring for their state as a callout and reminder. We’re not going to stop until we have all 50 states!”

Street and Tack said that they wanted to target the higher-end market and make a better quality product than they had seen in their search for wedding bands. The price points range from $95-$2,000 retail, and rings can be ordered in 14 carat gold, white gold, yellow gold, and a cobalt alloy that is white in appearance, and all can be inlaid with diamonds. The Proposition Love logo is engraved on the inside of all of the jewelry.

“This isn’t just about rainbow flag jewelry,” said Tack. “We’re not doing that. We’re making quality pieces…and the reaction we’re getting is tremendous.”

Proposition Love has a gay Pride ring ready to launch for the upcoming Pride festivities, and will also carry pendants for straight allies, “reminiscent of the Lance Armstrong Livestrong bracelet.” People have also scooped up the company’s T-shirts featuring the Prop Love logo and pink triangle.

Tack and Street have partnered with a factory in the U.S. to make their jewelry, and offer engraving on all pieces. Their headquarters are in New York, and their business partner, Julie Hartstein, runs the California office.

“There is a whole worldwide movement supporting marriage equality, and we want to be a part of it,” said Street. “You think things are changing, but they don’t sometimes if you become complacent about what’s happening. It is important for us to be active for our rights.”

For more info, visit www.propositionlove.com

Winnie McCroy is a freelance writer based in New York City. She has written for publications including The Village Voice, The Advocate, Curve Magazine, Gay City News, and Chelsea Now.

Related Topics: Marriage | Marriage equality | marriage recognition | same-sex marriage | gay marriage | New York City Council | Marriage Equality New York | New York City | New York | fashion designers | fashion | jewelry



Mormons Working To Overturn Maryland Gay Marriage Bill – Huffington Post DC

Mormons Working To Overturn Maryland Gay Marriage Bill
Posted: 04/12/2012 4:17 pm Updated: 04/12/2012 4:23 pm

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley hands a pen to a supporter after signing the Civil Marriage Protection Act in Annapolis, Md., Thursday, March 1, 2012. Maryland is the eighth state to legalize gay marriage.
WASHINGTON — Mormons are gathering signatures to bring a referendum on Maryland’s marriage equality law to the ballot in November, as the state’s pro-gay marriage coalition hires a new leader and a recent poll shows more support in Maryland for the law.

The Washington Blade reports that Mormon Church members are actively working to overturn the law legalizing same-sex marriage that was signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley in March, making Maryland the eighth state to legalize gay marriage. Maryland’s law will go into effect in January 2013, if the state’s voters don’t repeal the law in November.

The Blade published an email sent to Mormons in D.C. and southern Maryland, asking for help gathering 200,000 signatures to bring a referendum on the law to Maryland voters in November — here is an excerpt from the email:

As you have probably heard, the Maryland legislature passed a same sex marriage bill last February. A coalition of inter-denominational churches throughout Maryland has joined together to try to get a referendum on the November ballot that would allow the residents of Maryland to vote on this bill before it becomes law. Martha Schaerr, who is a member of the LDS Church, is organizing signature collection within Montgomery County and within the LDS Church.
We need to collect approximately 200,000 signatures by the end of May. We are looking for people to gather signatures within the LDS community. If you are willing to help with this important effort please contact Martha Schaerr as soon as possible at martha.schaerr@gmail.com or Teressa Wallace at wallacemail@juno.com.

Mormon Church officials told The Blade that it is not involved with the referendum effort — but The Blade finds parallels between the Maryland effort and the Church of Latter-day Saints’ efforts in California:

Dale Jones, an LDS spokesperson, said the church has no direct involvement in the effort to overturn the marriage law in Maryland.
“While the Church’s position in support of traditional marriage is well established, the effort in Maryland is not being organized through the Church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City,” Jones said. “Members, of course, will make their own decisions regarding their involvement in local issues.”

But the message recalls the Mormon Church’s lead role in passage of Proposition 8 in California in 2008. The First Presidency of the Church, or its governing body, publicly backed the initiative and reportedly encouraged members during church services to take an active role in contributing money and get-out-the-vote efforts to support the ban’s passage.

Meanwhile Marylanders for Marriage Equality, a coalition that helped pass and is now working to uphold Maryland’s gay marriage law, appointed a new campaign manager on Wednesday — The Baltimore Sun finds the hiring to be evidence that opponents of the law are very likely to collect the required 55,736 valid signatures needed to put the measure on the November ballot.

Josh Levin, a veteran political strategist is taking the job as the most recent poll numbers show growing support for the law among Maryland voters, according to The Sun:

The announcement of the appointment came as same-sex marriage proponents were touting the results of a poll by Hart Research suggesting that Maryland voters favor the new law by 51 percent to 43 perecent. That is a wider margin than suggested in most previous polls.
The Washington Post’s latest poll reporting, at the end of March, showed Maryland voters nearly split, with opponents feeling more strongly opposed to same-sex marriage than supporters feel in favor.

Newsmax – Couples Challenge Nevada Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

Couples Challenge Nevada Ban on Same-Sex Marriage
Wednesday, 11 Apr 2012 09:15 AM
By Sandy Fitzgerald

Eight couples are suing Nevada in an effort to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriages, claiming the law contradicts a domestic partnership act passed in 2009.

According to the Las Vegas Sun, the eight same-sex couples, backed by a gay rights legal fund, say the law should be declared unconstitutional because it violates Nevada’s Domestic Partnership law, which gives registered domestic partners the same family, parenting, and relationship rights as straight male-female couples.

The plaintiffs in the federal case include couples who could not be married in Nevada because they were the same sex, as well as gay couples who married elsewhere but faced discrimination after moving to Nevada.

The couples are hoping for a decision similar to one handed down in February by a federal appeals court in California. The court struck down the state’s voter-approved ban on gay marriages.