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Who’ll decide the future of marriage in California?

I and my colleague Howard Mintz wrote an article today about how four other states’ votes in favor of gay marriage this week might or might not affect California’s situation on that issue. Here’s a tidbit that didn’t make it into the story:

Even if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds both California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, it might not fall to activists alone to make a renewed electoral push for same-sex marriage in California, suggested Rick Jacobs, chairman of the Courage Campaign, a Los Angeles-based progressive activist network claiming more than 750,000 members nationwide.

Thanks to this week’s elections, Democrats now hold supermajorities in both chambers of California’s Legislature as well as the governor’s office, Jacobs noted. Should the courts fail the movement, he said, “I can imagine a scenario … wherein we wouldn’t even have to pay the money to put it on the ballot: The Legislature and the governor could do it.”

Gil Duran, spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, responded that “it is premature to speculate on these matters while the case is pending before the United States Supreme Court.”

Similarly, John Vigna, spokesman for Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said “the Speaker believes this discussion is premature because the case is still before the courts, and the Speaker is very confident that the courts will invalidate Proposition 8 because of the eloquent and powerful case made by the plaintiffs and cited by Judge Walker in his decision ruling Proposition 8 as unconstitutional.”

But state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, seemed to embrace Jacobs’ idea: “I’m open to any and all ways to promote the cause of marriage equality and civil rights for all people.”

Posted on Thursday, November 8th, 2012
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Jerry Brown, John Perez, same-sex marriage | 3 Comments »

Stark targets Medicare glitch for same-sex couples

A bill introduced today by Rep. Pete Stark aims to close a loophole deep in Medicare’s rules that has been costing seniors who are in same-sex marriages.

Medicare’s secondary payer rules generally let someone maintain employer-sponsored coverage after they’ve obtained Medicare eligibility. They don’t have to join Medicare Part B (covering certain doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical supplies and preventive services) and pay its monthly premium as long as they maintain that workplace insurance as their primary coverage and Medicare Part A (covering inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care and some home health care) as their secondary coverage.

The law also protects people in this situation who later transition to Medicare Part B when they lose that employer-sponsored coverage: They don’t have to pay a late enrollment penalty, as would someone who simply waited to obtain Part B coverage until they got sick.

But Stark, D-Fremont, said constituent Joseph Goleman of Newark was told he would have to pay that late-enrollment penalty because he disclosed that he was in a same-sex marriage.

“The practical effect of my legislation is to provide people over age 65 in same-sex marriages the choice to remain on their spouse’s employer health coverage as their primary insurance, without facing significant financial penalties from Medicare in the future,” he said. “Regardless of one’s position on same-sex marriage, this small change in law makes financial sense for Medicare and will ensure consistent treatment of people regardless of their age.”

Current law has different definitions for family depending on whether one becoming eligible for Medicare through disability or through age. The definition is “family member” for people with disabilities includes legally-recognized same-sex marriages, but for those turning 65, the term is “spouse” – and the federal Defense of Marriage Act prohibits that term from including state-recognized same-sex marriages.

“Joseph knew what happened to him when he visited the local Social Security office didn’t feel right. Thankfully, he immediately reached out to my office and we were able get him the benefits he was due,” Stark said in a news release. “The confusion in current law is likely denying eligible beneficiaries the benefits they are due today – as it would have Mr. Goleman if he’d not reached out to me.”

Stark is the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee that oversees Medicare.

Posted on Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
Under: Pete Stark, same-sex marriage, U.S. House | No Comments »

Prop. 8 committee fined $49,000 for violations

California’s political watchdog agency today slapped the committee behind 2008’s Proposition 8 – the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage – with a $49,000 fine for campaign finance reporting violations involving more than $1.3 million in contributions.

According to the Fair Political Practices Commission, ProtectMarriage.com-Yes on 8 and its treasurer, David Bauer, “failed to file late contribution reports in a timely manner; failed to file in a timely manner, contributions of $1,000 or more received during the 90-day election cycle ending on November 4, 2008; failed to file contributions of $5,000 or more in a timely manner, in an online campaign report within ten business days of receipt; failed to properly dispose of an anonymous $10,000 contribution received on or about October 28, 2008; and failed to disclose occupation and/or employer information regarding persons who contributed $100 or more” – 18 distinct violations in all.

“The total amount of contributions not timely reported on these reports is approximately $654,424, which is approximately 2% of the total contributions received by Respondent Committee during the audit period,” commission staffers wrote of the late contribution reports, in an exhibit to the stipulation agreed to by ProtectMarriage.com. Staffers noted “there are no cases that are similar in size and amount of contributions received that have been considered by the Commission in the recent past.”

ProtectMarriage.com also “failed to disclose 188 contributions of $1,000 or more totaling $582,306 during 90-day period before the November 4, 2008 General Election within 24 hours of receipt in online campaign reports,” the exhibit said. It also failed to disclose contributions of $5,000 or more on or about July 21, 2008 and August 5, 2008, totaling $95,000.

Posted on Thursday, August 16th, 2012
Under: 2008 November election, ballot measures, campaign finance, same-sex marriage | 2 Comments »

‘The Great Castro Valley Marriage Debate’

The Great Castro Valley Marriage Debate” is scheduled for 6 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, July 17, in the Castro Valley Public Library at 3600 Norbridge Ave. The debate resolution reads: “Same-sex couples should have the same legal right to civil marriage as opposite-sex couples.”

Arguing in the affirmative will be local activist Billy Bradford of Marriage Equality USA and GetEQUAL; the Rev. Dr. Arlene Nehring from Eden United Church of Christ; and Dr. Irene Landaw, a local Kaiser pediatrician. Arguing against the resolution will be Castro Valley residents Stacy Spink, Peter Hauer and Trinity Bustria. The debate will be moderated by Reema Kakaday from the Castro Valley High School JSA/Debate Team.

This is open to the public, and there will be an opportunity to ask questions.

I like this a lot: People of differing viewpoints getting together in a local, public forum to civilly discuss and debate one of the pressing social issues of our time.

Posted on Monday, July 16th, 2012
Under: same-sex marriage | No Comments »

Reactions to Obama’s same-sex marriage stance

Here’s what some of California’s state and federal elected officials are saying about President Obama’s statement today affirming support for same-sex marriage rights:

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

Barbara Boxer “This is a historic day and another step in our country’s long march toward equal rights and justice for all. The President’s statement is a milestone and so important for the millions of American families who deserve full equality. None of us can rest until marriage equality is a reality for all Americans.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi “Today marks progress for the civil rights of LGBT Americans and all Americans. With President Obama’s support, we look forward to the day when all American families are treated equally in the eyes of the law.

“Republicans are standing on the wrong side of history. Just yesterday, a Republican-backed amendment to ban same-sex marriage passed in North Carolina. Here in the House, Republican leaders refuse to bring up a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act that includes critical domestic violence protections for the LGBT community, and they are using taxpayer funds to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act in court. These actions only serve to advance fundamental unfairness in our society.

“Throughout American history, we have worked to live up to our values of liberty and freedom, and to end discrimination in all of its forms. Today, we took another step forward in our march toward equality.”

From state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“I have never been more proud of our President than I am today. His journey to acceptance is an example of the one value we honor most in America, freedom; freedom to choose who we love, freedom to choose who we marry, freedom to choose who we partner with to raise a family. Denying the right for any two people to marry is discrimination. I can only hope the President’s personal position will swell the tide of public opinion to end prejudice against the LGBT community.”

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

John Perez “I am very proud of the President for today’s eloquent and bold announcement that he supports marriage equality for every person in this country. As with many Americans, his views on this issue have evolved towards an embrace of dignity, respect and justice for every American. Like the President’s successful effort to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, I believe today will be remembered as a major milestone in the LGBT movement, and one that gives credence to Dr. Martin Luther King’s observation that ‘the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.’ I am deeply grateful for the President’s leadership on this fundamental issue of civil rights.”

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“Equality before the law is a pillar of American democracy. I applaud President Obama’s support for the right of same-sex couples to marry.”

For counterpoint, here’s Alliance Defense Fund litigation staff counsel Jim Campbell:

“This shows that the Obama administration doesn’t understand the public purpose of marriage. Marriage – the lifelong, faithful union of one man and one woman – is the building block of a thriving society. It’s not something that politicians should attempt to redefine for political purposes. The president has spoken eloquently about how fatherless homes often hurt children and society. Today’s statement is a tragic contradiction that promotes the creation of even more fatherless and motherless homes.”

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, May 9th, 2012
Under: Assembly, Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Gavin Newsom, Jerry Brown, John Perez, Kamala Harris, Leland Yee, Lynn Woolsey, Mark Leno, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, Rich Gordon, same-sex marriage, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 50 Comments »

Local House members pose for NOH8 Campaign

As the federal court drama over Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage continues, three Bay Area members of Congress have loaned their likenesses to a national campaign for same-sex marriage rights.

The NOH8 Campaign, now in its fourth year, is “a photographic silent protest created by celebrity photographer Adam Bouska and partner Jeff Parshley in direct response to the passage of Proposition 8,” according to its website. “Photos feature subjects with duct tape over their mouths, symbolizing their voices being silenced by Prop 8 and similar legislation around the world, with ‘NOH8’ painted on one cheek in protest.”

The campaign went to Capitol Hill last week to ask members of Congress to pose; 10 members, all Democrats, did so.

Jackie Speier

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough: “NOH8 because we are a country of equality and inclusion, not hate and segregation. NOH8 because the state should not dictate love or marriage. I proudly join with the NOH8 campaign to stand up for marriage equality and oppose laws that suppress it.”

Lynn Woolsey

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma: “I’m proud to participate in this extraordinary campaign, to make this statement of protest against the treatment of LGBT Americans as second-class citizens. I believe this is the defining civil rights struggle of our time — where you stand today on marriage equality will determine how you are judged by history. What’s at stake is the human dignity of LGBT people. To deny equal rights and freedoms based on sexual orientation does violence to American values.”

Barbara Lee

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland: “Hate does not belong in our communities, families, schools, or the workplace, and certainly not in our government.”

Posted on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012
Under: Barbara Lee, Jackie Speier, Lynn Woolsey, same-sex marriage, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

What they’re saying about the Prop. 8 ruling

My esteemed colleague Howard Mintz has the full story on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, and you can read the opinion yourself (assuming the court’s website doesn’t get overloaded again) by clicking here.

Meanwhile, here’s a treasury of quotes from elected officials.

From House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“Today’s decision is a victory for civil rights and for progress for the LGBT community and for all Californians.

“By declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional, the Ninth Circuit made a strong statement that laws must not target the LGBT community for discrimination and all of our state’s families deserve to enjoy fair and equal treatment under the law.

“As this battle moves through the appeals process, we must, and will, continue the fight for the fundamental rights of LGBT couples and every American. We will keep up the charge for change and equality in state legislatures and in the courts, and work in Congress to repeal and overturn the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Together, we will make every discriminatory marriage amendment and law a thing of the past.”

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“The court has rendered a powerful affirmation of the right of same-sex couples to marry. I applaud the wisdom and courage of this decision.”

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:

“Today’s decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stands as a victory for the fundamental American principle that all people are equal, and deserve equal rights and treatment under the law. This is the biggest step that the American judicial system has taken to end the grievous discrimination against men and women in same-sex relationships and should be highly praised.

“Proposition 8 has done nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that same-sex couples are inferior to heterosexual couples. These men and women are our firefighters, our paramedics, our law enforcement, our service-members, and to treat their relationships differently is unfair, unlawful, and violates the basic principle of who we are as a nation.

“Today however, it has been made clear that this type of discrimination will not be tolerated—there is no state power or law that can claim one type of love is more deserving of status and benefits than another. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has fulfilled its obligation to all Americans by protecting the fundamental right of all people to marry those whom they love. It has upheld the overall integrity of the American judicial system by placing individual characteristics of judges and justices secondary to their duty and commitment to true justice and equality.

“Although countless people have worked tirelessly to achieve this ruling, I would like to recognize the inspiring dedication demonstrated by the American Foundation for Equal Rights. They have never relented in their mission for equal marriage rights and should be highly commended for these efforts.

“While today marks a historic milestone towards equality for all Americans, our journey is not over until the highest court in the United States reaches the same decision that the Court of Appeals did today. It is on that day that the struggle for equality will be over and the dream on which this great nation was founded will become a reality.”

From state Attorney General Kamala Harris:

“Today’s ruling is a victory for fairness, a victory for equality and a victory for justice. Proposition 8 denied to gay and lesbian couples the equal protection to which all Americans are entitled. By striking this unconstitutional law from our books, the court has restored dignity, equality and respect to all Californians.”

For some counterpoint (although he’s not an elected official), here’s SaveCalifornia.com President Randy Thomasson:

“God created a man and a woman to fit together in marriage. The People of California have twice affirmed this beautiful, natural, and exclusive pro-family institution between a husband and wife, a man and a woman. The Ninth Circuit ruling to strike down man-woman marriage, by a Carter judge and a Clinton judge, is unfair to the voters, against our republic, against our democratic system, against the United States Constitution, against Nature, and against God and His beneficial design of family.

“It’s illogical and unconstitutional to claim that natural, unchangeable race and ethnicity is the same as sexual behavior. That’s not fair or true. Race and ethnicity are inherited, but science has never found homosexuality, bisexuality, or transsexuality to be inherited or unchangeable. Neither is this about commitment. As the divorce of leading anti-Prop. 8 lesbians Robin Tyler and Diane Olson demonstrates, the notion of homosexual ‘marriage’ is not really about ‘commitment,’ but is a political agenda forcing acceptance of homosexuality upon the children of America. Yet nothing is equal to marriage between a man and a woman. If you don’t have a man and a woman, you don’t have marriage.

‘Judicial activists like Stephen Reinhardt and Michael Daly Hawkins need to be reined in like Newt Gingrich has been saying about judicial activists. Marriage is not in the United States Constitution, so this case should never have gone to federal court. Now it will be appealed to the nation’s high court, with Anthony Kennedy being the deciding vote. Fortunately, in past rulings favoring homosexuality, Kennedy has written against redefining marriage, making it likely that he will affirm California’s right to reserve marriage licenses for ‘a man and a woman.’”

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, February 7th, 2012
Under: Anna Eshoo, Assembly, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Gavin Newsom, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jackie Speier, Jerry Brown, Kamala Harris, Leland Yee, Mark Leno, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Nancy Skinner, same-sex marriage, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

Occupy, taxes and Prop. 8 on ‘TWINC’

Last night on KQED’s “This Week in Northern California,” we talked about the Occupy movement’s status and future; new evidence of income disparities in California; and whether the movement has helped spur new moves toward tax increases here and around the world. Also, Scott Shafer led the discussion on this week’s Prop. 8 action before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Posted on Sunday, December 11th, 2011
Under: same-sex marriage, taxes, TWINC | No Comments »

State Supreme Court to rule on Prop. 8 standing

The California Supreme Court has just announced it will file a written opinion at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday, Nov. 17, in Perry v. Brown, the same-sex marriage case.

The case involves whether an initiative measure’s official proponents have standing to defend that measure’s constitutionality when the public officials charged with that duty decline to do so. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – which is considering the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that amended the state constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman – had asked the state Supreme Court to rule on this particular issue; the court heard oral arguments on it Sept. 6 in San Francisco.

The ruling will be publicly available online.

UPDATE @ 12:37 P.M. THURSDAY: Read the full story on today’s ruling here, and read the ruling itself here.

Posted on Wednesday, November 16th, 2011
Under: ballot measures, same-sex marriage | 2 Comments »

Committee OK’s Defense of Marriage Act’s repeal

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 along party lines Thursday to approve Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bill to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law defining marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman.

“DOMA was wrong when it passed in 1996 and it is wrong now,” Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement issued after the vote. “There are 131,000 legally married, same-sex couples in this country who are denied more than 1,100 federal rights and protections because of this discriminatory law. I don’t know how long the battle for full equality will take, but we are on the cusp of change, and today’s historic vote in the committee is an important step forward.”

Among other inequalities, married same-sex couples can’t file joint federal income taxes and claim certain deductions; receive Social Security spousal benefits; take unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act; get protection from the estate tax when one spouse tries to leave property or assets to the other.

Feinstein’s S.598 has 30 co-sponsors, all Democrats.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the committee’s ranking Republican, said at the hearing that the vote was a waste of time given the bill lacks enough votes to pass the Senate floor. “This Orwellian bill does not restore anything,” he said. “Restoring marriage would mean restoring marriage as it has existed for thousands of years. The rights that the bill would create for same-sex couples are not a restoration of any rights. They are new rights that same-sex couples have never had under federal law.”

Same-sex marriage equality advocates disagreed.

“For the first time in history, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to make gays and lesbians whole people,” Courage Campaign founder and chairman Rick Jacobs said Thursday. “This truly historic vote today should never have been necessary because this absurd law should never have been on the books. Thanks to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, we have a bill that can move to the Senate floor where fair-minded people who believe in a nation united, not divided, can end federal discrimination against gay and lesbian couples legally married in six states and the District of Columbia. Sadly, the Republicans think this is a partisan issue, but then some thought the same about the other great civil rights issues of this nation. Eventually, America is just.”

Posted on Thursday, November 10th, 2011
Under: Dianne Feinstein, same-sex marriage, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »