Marriage Equality on Hold in Utah But Progress is Inevitable


January 6, 2014; Washington Post

On December 20, lesbian and gay Utahans got a surprise holiday gift from U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby, who ruled that the state’s ban on same-gender unions was unconstitutional. Hundreds of couples rushed to get marriage licenses, resulting in what Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker called a “thrilling pandemonium.” Within a week, close to 1,000 marriage licenses were issued to gay couples, easily shattering records and providing counties with thousands of dollars in revenue.

The ruling caught conservative Utah by surprise, and state lawyers scrambled to halt marriages, asking both Shelby and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency stay as Shelby’s decision was being appealed. The requests were not granted, prompting the state’s Attorney General’s office to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to step in.

On Monday, the nation’s highest court took away the gift of legal unions from same-sex couples who were about to get licenses and left those who got married during the past two weeks in legal limbo. The justices gave no indication which argument convinced them to halt marriage equality in Utah or who among them dissented.

Opponents of the freedom to marry may count this as a victory, but the tide has long turned. Not counting Utah, 17 states and the District of Columbia have sanctioned unions for couples who happen to be of the same gender. A majority of Americans view marriage equality favorably. Moreover, in states all across the union, lesbian and gay couples are fighting in the courts for their right to marry. However the U.S. Supreme Court rules in Utah, there are many cases in the pipeline. It can only get messier. In time, though, all couples will be recognized, not by their biology but by their love and commitment.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly.

DOMA and the States: What are the Next Strategic Steps for LGBT Groups?


June 26, 2013; ABC News

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organizations are celebrating Wednesday’s Supreme Court rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, major victories in the fight for civil rights. The Court overturned DOMA’s Article 3, which prohibited the U.S. government from recognizing legal marriages of gay women and men and denied gay married couples over 1,100 benefits enjoyed by their straight counterparts. The Supreme Court justices also let stand a lower court ruling that struck down Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that defined marriage as between one woman and one man.

Because of DOMA, gay U.S. citizens were not able to petition for green cards for their foreign-born spouses. Rachel B. Tiven, Executive Director of Immigration Equality, said, “Many of our families have waited years, and in some cases decades, for the green card they need to keep their families together. Couples forced into exile will be coming home soon. Americans separated from their spouses are now able to prepare for their reunion. Today’s ruling is literally a life-changing one for those who have suffered under DOMA and our discriminatory immigration laws.”

“Antiquated laws like Proposition 8 and DOMA disproportionately harm LGBT people of color, and ultimately our nation,” said Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Black Justice Coalition, in a statement released after the rulings were announced. “Today is a victorious day for our community, our families, and our love.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, also applauded the development, but pointed out “there’s much work ahead of us to ensure that every couple can fully enjoy the recognition Justice Kennedy so eloquently wrote about in the majority opinion in Windsor.”

Although gay married couples are now entitled to federal benefits, access can be an issue in states that do not have marriage equality. As NPR’s Liz Halloran explains, “Some federal agencies adhere to what is known as a ‘place of celebration’ standard. That means no matter where a couple is legally married anywhere in the world, the union is recognized for the purpose of federal benefits. But other agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration, hew to a ‘place of residence’ standard. Marriage has to be recognized in the place the couple is living for them to be eligible for those federal spousal benefits.”

“We have an obligation to ensure every same-sex couple—whether they live in Arkansas or New York, Kansas or California, can share in today’s emotional and deserved victory,” said Griffin. “We have momentum on our side, and it’s only a matter of time until the remaining parts of DOMA are entirely repealed.”

LGBT groups are already looking ahead at what remains to be done. Aside from fully getting rid of DOMA and establishing marriage equality in all states, advocacy groups are also working at addressing the many other issues faced by the LGBT community, such as workplace discrimination, violence, and the marginalization of queer people of color.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly

NAACP Board Backs Gay Marriage


Featureflash /

May 21, 2012; Source: New York Times

The board of directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) voted in favor of a resolution supporting marriage equality on Saturday. Of the group’s 64 board members, many of which are religious leaders, 62 backed the historic decision.

The resolution reiterates the 103-year-old civil rights group’s mission of ensuring the equal treatment of all people and articulates NAACP’s opposition to “any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens.”

In a statement, Roslyn M. Brock, chairperson of the NAACP’s board of directors, said, “The mission of the NAACP has always been to ensure the political, social and economic equality of all people. We have and will oppose efforts to codify discrimination into law.”

Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, said, “Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP’s support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people.”

Julian Bond, former chairman of the NAACP, told the New York Times that President Obama’s recent endorsement of gay marriage rights was “a tipping point” for many of the board members. He added that this challenges the prevailing notion that the African American community is against same-gender marriage. “This proves that conventional wisdom is not true.”

Is the African American community at a tipping point on LGBT rights? African Americans tend to be more religious and socially conservative. The president’s—and now the NAACP’s—exhortation for the equal treatment of lesbian and gay couples may change more than a few hearts and minds, but the full impact of these developments within the African American community remains to be seen.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, May 22, 2012.

N.C. Catholic Parish Fires Music Director for Gay Marriage

February 12, 2011; Source: The Charlotte Observer | Steav Bates-Congdon, the popular music director at St. Gabriel Catholic Church in Charlotte was fired last month for getting married.

Bates-Congdon is gay and had been out to the pastor and his congregation. He gave Rev. Frank O’Rourke a heads up that he and his long-time partner were going to New York to wed. He said the good pastor even congratulated him.

In a reaffirmation of the Catholic Church’s condemnation of gay marriage,  the pope recently proclaimed that legalizing and recognizing committed gay relationships  threatens “the future of humanity itself.” And U.S. Catholic bishops have been vociferous opponents of marriage equality, calling for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Moreover, North Carolina, where Bates-Congdon and his husband reside, does not recognize gay marriage and in May the state’s voters will decide whether to add a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously last January that, due to “ministerial exception,” churches can pretty much hire and fire whomever they please.

So should Bates-Congdon be surprised?

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, February 14, 2012.

The Michael Eric Dyson Show Interview: Immigrants and Gay Marriage

New York’s Gay Pride Parade last weekend was a bit more festive than usual, as participants also celebrated the legalization of same-sex marriage. The reaction was a bit more muted, however, for gay immigrants, who will still face some of the same hurdles when it comes to getting permanent residency for their partners. Erwin de Leon, columnist on immigrant and LGBT issues for Feet in 2 Worlds, an immigration news website, discusses the passage of same-sex marriage in New York and what it means for gay immigrants.

Click here to listen to the audio.