SLDN scoffs at DOD’s “14 benefits”

Just one day after being served notice that a federal lawsuit has been launched against it, the Department of Defense issued a press release saying it has “now identified a total of 14 benefits” available to the “beneficiaries” of all service members “regardless of sexual orientation.”

Just one day after being served notice that a federal lawsuit has been launched against it, the Department of Defense issued a press release saying it has “now identified a total of 14 benefits” available to the “beneficiaries” of all service members “regardless of sexual orientation.”

DOD spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said, in the October 28 state, saying the department identified eight benefits on September 20, just before repeal of the federal law banning openly gay servicemembers went into effect. She said DOD has now identified six more.

“Finally,” said Lainez, “in connection with the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ the Defense Department is engaged in a careful and deliberate review of the possibility of revising the eligibility for additional benefits, if legally permitted.”

Zeke Stokes, communications director for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which filed a lawsuit October 27, seeking equal benefits for gay servicemembers, said, “This does nothing to change our lawsuit.”

SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said, “The benefits outlined today were, in fact, available even before repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The 14 benefits identified by the DOD press release include the right to “designate beneficiaries of their choosing” for: casualty notification, survivor benefit for retirees, group life insurance, veterans group life insurance, travel and transportation allowance for attendance at “yellow ribbon reintegration” events, receipt of effects of deceased servicemember, post-Vietnam-era Veterans Assistance, active duty death benefit, death gratuity, final settlement of accounts, wounded warrior caregiver, thrift savings plan,  escorts when servicemember is deceased or missing, and the right to be identified as a person having interest in the status of a missing servicemember.

SLDN’s Sarvis reiterated, as he said Thursday, that his organization is “not advocating any special treatment” for gay servicemembers, “but we want to underscore that all military families should be treated the same when it comes to recognition, benefits and family support.”

 

DOD’s press release said service members “are encouraged” to contact their personnel offices for more information.

Anti-bullying measures left out of education bill

In a blow to activists seeking to stop anti-gay bullying, two proposals to address bullying in schools were left out of an education reform bill approved by a U.S. Senate committee October 20.

Tom Harkin

In a blow to activists seeking to stop anti-gay bullying, two proposals to address bullying in schools were left out of an education reform bill approved by a U.S. Senate committee October 20. And a proposal to explicitly prohibit anti-LGBT bullying was stripped out. But senators who support the efforts have promised to try to insert language once the full education bill reaches the floor.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions approved revisions to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the key federal statute governing primary and secondary education, in a 15 to 7 vote. The version of the Act implemented by Congress at the behest of President George W. Bush was better known as “No Child Left Behind.” President Obama has said reform of the Act is one of his highest priorities.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a statement that the annual reauthorization of the Act “was the best opportunity the Senate will have in this Congress to address the problem of bullying faced by LGBT students” and that he was “disappointed” the Committee did not do so.

The two primary anti-bullying measures that LGBT advocates have hoped would be part of that bill are the Student Nondiscrimination Act (SNDA) and the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA).

SNDA would prohibit elementary and secondary schools from discriminating against students on the basis of real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in any program or activity receiving federal funds. “Discrimination” would include harassment, bullying, intimidation, and violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Safe Schools bill (SSIA) would require schools and districts receiving federal funds to implement and report on anti-bullying programs. It would require that anti-bullying programs specifically address bullying and harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, among other attributes.

A 2009 survey of students by GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) found that students are more likely to report problems and staffers are more likely to help them, where school policies explicitly prohibit bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

During the committee hearing, U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) introduced but then withdrew SNDA as an amendment. In withdrawing it, Franken said there were some members who felt that including the language at this point would take bipartisan support away from the whole reauthorization bill.

Franken, in an eight-minute statement before the committee, explained that SNDA would protect students like Justin Aaberg, Seth Walsh, and Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, who each died by suicide after suffering relentless anti-gay bullying.

He placed SNDA in the context of previous civil rights bills that addressed discrimination on the basis of race and gender. SNDA, he said, “follows a long precedent of Congress stepping to protect the most vulnerable members of American society when they face pervasive discrimination.”

Franken said committee Chairman Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has promised to help him get a vote on an SNDA amendment when the education bill goes to the Senate floor. And he said Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) agreed to work with him to “find compromise language that he can support as a co-sponsor before we bring this vote to the floor.” Kirk is the lone Republican co-sponsor of SSIA.

Like Franken did for SNDA, Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) introduced but then withdrew the Safe Schools language.

A third measure that was incorporated into the original education bill was “Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students,” which Harkin himself had introduced as a standalone bill last May. It seeks to give states grants to develop programs that support student health, prevent bullying, violence, and drug use, and promote “safe and supportive schools.”

Local education agencies applying for the grants would, among other things, have to establish policies prohibiting conduct that creates “a hostile or abusive educational environment.”

But the version of that program that was approved as part of the education bill Thursday stripped out language that would have required participating schools specifically to prohibit bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

A Harkin spokesperson said that, if the SNDA provisions are approved as an amendment, they would require all schools receiving federal funds, including those receiving Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students grants, to establish enumerated, LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying policies.

The spokesperson said Harkin is hopeful the full Senate will approve the SNDA provisions as a floor amendment. She confirmed that “Chairman Harkin is committed to working with Senator Franken to ensure that happens” and that Harkin will also work with Senator Casey so that “all students are given the opportunity to succeed free from harassment or discrimination.”

Senator Casey also issued a statement saying that he would work “to see enumerated protections added to [the education bill] when it comes to the Senate floor.”

But passage of such amendments through the floor vote will be more difficult.

All 12 of the Democrats (and one Independent, Bernard Sanders of Vermont) on the 22-member committee are co-sponsors of SNDA, which would have given it enough votes for passage in committee.

Ten Democrats, plus one Republican, are co-sponsors of Safe Schools—one shy of a majority.

Overall, SNDA has 35 sponsors. None are Republicans. Safe Schools has 33 sponsors in total, including Kirk.

Neither the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee spokesperson nor Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office could confirm when the full Senate might hear the education bill.

SLDN challenges use of DOMA against gay service members

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund filed suit in a federal district court Thursday (October 27) challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act and its use in denying to gay service members spousal benefits equal to that given to their straight counterparts.

Aubrey Sarvis

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund filed suit in a federal district court Thursday (October 27) challenging the federal Defesne of Marriage Act and its use in denying to gay service members spousal benefits equal to that given to their straight counterparts.

SLDN filed the lawsuit, McLaughlin v. U.S., in the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts, in Boston, one month after the federal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law was repealed. DADT prohibited openly gay people from serving in the military.

There are eight plaintiff couples named in the lawsuit, including Major Shannon McLaughlin, a 13-veteran and active duty member of the Army National Guard in Massachusetts, who is married to her same-sex spouse, Casey McLaughlin, who is also a named plaintiff. The lawsuit notes that while the two children McLaughlin and her spouse are raising together are eligible for benefits from the military, McLaughlin’s spouse is not. Weeks after the enactment of DADT repeal, the Army told McLaughlin her same-sex spouse was not eligible for benefits.

Plaintiffs also include U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Colonel Victoria Hudson, a 32-year veteran of the service, and her spouse Monika Poxon of Alameda County, California. Hudson and Poxon were married in California in 2008, before voters amended the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

Plaintiffs also include Vietnam War veteran Colonel Stewart Bornhoft and his spouse Stephen McNabb. Bornhoft entered military service in 1965 when he entered the U.S. Military Academy. In 2008, Bornhoft and McNabb were married in San Diego, and this month, a few weeks after repeal of DADT was enacted, Bornhoft applied in San Diego to include McNabb as his spouse to receive military benefits and was denied.

Best known among the plaintiffs is active duty Army Captain Steve Hill, who is serving in Iraq and who posed a question about DADT repeal to Republican presidential candidates via youtube during a recent national television debate. Hill married his spouse, Joshua Snyder, in Washington, D.C., in May. The Army denied Hill’s request for spousal benefits for Snyder.

The lawsuit argues that DOMA violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection to the plaintiffs and the 10th Amendment rights that empower the states to regulate and define marriage for their citizens.

“We are not advocating any special treatment for the families of gay and lesbian service members or veterans,” said SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis, in a statement released Thursday, “but we want to underscore that all military families should be treated the same when it comes to recognition, benefits and family support.”

NH marriage equality faces repeal effort

New Hampshire Republicans are taking advantage of their supermajorities in the state house to push for repeal of the state’s marriage equality law.

New Hampshire Republicans are taking advantage of their supermajorities in the state house to push for repeal of the state’s marriage equality law.

It wasn’t easy passing a marriage equality bill in the New Hampshire legislature –it took two votes by the House to pass it with a seven-vote margin—and the Senate passed it with only a two-vote margin. That was two years ago and Democrats were in the majority then.

Now, Republicans hold a supermajority in both chambers and they’re pushing through a bill to repeal the law that allows same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses.  The House Judiciary Committee voted 11 to 6 on Tuesday (October 25) to recommend passage of the repeal measure, a bill that would also return New Hampshire to its previous status of allowing only civil unions for same-sex couples. There was a small silver lining: The committee rejected a bill that would have simply repealed the marriage equality bill and left nothing in its place.

Democratic Governor John Lynch has promised to veto the repeal measure should it pass, but Republicans –if they stick together—have far more than the two-thirds vote necessary to override a veto in both chambers.  A floor vote in either chamber is not likely to take place until early next year.

Nov. 3 set for DOMA repeal vote in committee

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will debate and vote on a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on Wednesday, November 3. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced the scheduling Tuesday, October 25.

Patrick Leahy

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will debate and vote on a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on Wednesday, November 3.

Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced the scheduling Tuesday, October 25.

The Committee will also vote on whether to recommend advancing the nomination of openly gay attorney Michael Fitzgerald of California to serve on the federal district court bench in Los Angeles.

The DOMA repeal bill is known as the Respect for Marriage Act (S. 598). It was introduced in March by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and has 29 co-sponsors. As Leahy’s press release points out, all 10 Democrats on the 18-member Committee support the legislation, virtually ensuring its passage November 3. But the debate in the Committee will provide a preview of how the full Senate debate is likely to go, should the bill reach the floor.

Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Committee, mounted opposition to the bill during last July’s hearing.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said in July that President Obama “is proud to support” the bill.

Among the 30 supporters in the Senate, 29 are Democrats, one is an Independent.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced the companion repeal measure in the House in March, as well as the original version of the legislation in 2009. When Nadler introduced the bill in 2009, openly gay Rep. Barney Frank and the Democratic House leadership did not co-sponsor it, saying it had no chance of passage. This year, HR 116 has 128 co-sponsors, including all four openly gay representatives.

But there is little expectation of a hearing on the House bill, which is chaired by Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas. Smith has spoken against the Department of Justice’s position that DOMA is unconstitutional and should not be defended in federal courts.

The debate can be viewed live on the Committee’s website, judiciary.senate.gov beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Gingrich one-ups Santorum at Iowa forum

It was one of only four questions posed to each Republican presidential hopeful Saturday (October 22) at a conservative forum in Des Moines: “What, specifically, would you do to prevent abortion-on-demand and protect traditional marriage?”

Newt Gingrich (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

It was one of only four questions posed to each Republican presidential hopeful Saturday (October 22) at a conservative forum in Des Moines: “What, specifically, would you do to prevent abortion-on-demand and protect traditional marriage?”

Some of the specifics offered came across like last-hand poker bets: Rick Santorum would go to “every single state” to wage campaigns against judges who strike down same-sex marriage bans. Ron Paul would push for a bill to remove such issues from the jurisdiction of the courts. And Newt Gingrich said he would “abolish” or “ignore” courts with which he did not agree and said Congress should have written language into the Defense of Marriage Act to make it not appealable.

The fact that all six candidates at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition forum in Des Moines were eager to wear their opposition to same-sex marriage so boldly was not a surprise. The Coalition, formerly known as the Iowa Christian Alliance, is headed by Steve Scheffler, and Scheffler has been an active opponent of same-sex marriage in Iowa. Some media speculate he can sway a significant number of right-wing conservative caucus-goers into a candidate’s camp.

What was surprising, however, is that none of the six –which also included Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Rick Perry (Mitt Romney declined to participate)—brought up the issue on their own. Each delivered a 10 to 15-minute speech prior to taking on the questions, and it appeared that many of the candidates were in the room (Knapp Animal Learning Center in Des Moines) while questions were asked of other candidates.

In her 15-minute speech, Bachmann did tout “standing against Barney Frank on the Financial Services Committee–I have done that.” But she made no mention of her leadership against same-sex marriage until she was asked the question by Scheffler.

Ron Paul, introduced as the champion of civil liberties and the constitution, also eschewed any mention of same-sex marriage in his prepared remarks, while walking a political tightrope. He said the family has been “diminished” in recent years but hinted it was because the government had grown too big. He also expressed his concern that the law has “accommodated to the moral standards of the people” and urged that Americans take their civil liberties as seriously as they do their religious freedoms.

“We are careless with our constitution. We have a weak understanding of civil liberties,” said Paul. “We have to think about our civil liberties as we think about our religious freedom….If we understand our civil liberties, protecting all the liberties of an individual, as well as obeying the constitution, I really don’t think it will be that difficult to get back on our feet again.”

Rick Perry said nothing about same-sex marriage, even when asked for specifics. He said only that he would put “strict constructionists on the court” that would “overthrow Roe v. Wade.”

Herman Cain, who has begun to punch his speeches up with such catchy zingers as “Stupid people are ruining America,” responded to the question by supporting a “constitutional guarantee for traditional marriage” and judges to enforce that.

Even Santorum, who has carved out a niche for himself as the anti-abortion, pro-family, anti-gay marriage candidate, stuck to his anti-abortion theme, with only a fleeting reference to his desire to “strengthen the American family, strengthen marriage.”

When asked for specifics, he complained that other candidates “say they support traditional marriage and support a constitutional ban on gay marriage” but “they don’t support getting involved in the states to make sure the states don’t pass … marriage different from one man and one woman.”

“Will they go to the states and fight it where the fight is?” asked Santorum. “I did.” He reminded the audience that, last year, he was part of the successful campaign in Iowa to oust three state supreme court justices who ruled the state constitution requires same-sex couples be treated the same as straight couples in the issuance of marriage licenses.

Evoking the memory of President Abraham Lincoln and the fight to abolish slavery, Santorum promised to “come back and make sure we not only defeat those justices…but go to every single state…Then, one by one, the judicial opinions will come down.”

Gingrich, in a rambling answer that mashed both abortion and same-sex marriage issues together, expressed his belief that he could, as president, simply abolish a court with which he disagreed. He pointed to President Thomas Jefferson as his role model and, with a wildly expressionist interpretation of federal court history, cavalierly suggested that Jefferson waltzed into the presidency and “abolished” half the federal judge positions.

He then demured, saying, “I am not as bold as Jefferson,” but said he would “recommend” that the court of a federal judge in San Antonio –who ruled against prayer at a high school graduation ceremony– “should be abolished now.”

“Presidents, on occasion, ignore the court,” said Gingrich. He noted that a few instances in which presidents ignored a Supreme Court ruling.

“As president,” said Gingrich, “I would instruct the national security apparatus to ignore the three most recent Supreme Court decisions on terrorism and I would say, ‘Those are null and void and have no binding effect on the United States, and as commander in chief I will not a federal judge risking the safety of the United States with some misguided interpretation’.” Then he said he would “serve notice” to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals –a circuit where a number of important LGBT civil rights rulings have emerged—“that they are on sufferance and if they decide to continue being radical, they will become unemployed.”

And on his first day as president, said Gingrich, he would sign four executive orders –one of which would reinstate the President George W. Bush’s “Conscience Rule” to authorize any health care worker, hospital, or insurance company to refuse, in Gingrich’s words, “any activity against their religious beliefs.”

The crowd loved it.

GOP Nevada debate: No marriage fight

Openly gay Democratic activist and political commentator Hilary Rosen predicted social issues, including those involving gays, would be a focus of the Nevada debate.

There was reason to expect so –Herman Cain, on Sunday’s Meet the Press, said he would not seek a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage but would leave the issue to the states.

Openly gay Democratic activist and political commentator Hilary Rosen predicted social issues, including those involving gays, would be a focus of the Nevada debate.

There was reason to expect so –Herman Cain, on Sunday’s Meet the Press, said he would not seek a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage but would leave the issue to the states. Mitt Romney was pressed on the issue of same-sex marriage repeatedly in New Hampshire and finally said he would support allowing same-sex partners to form “partnership agreements.” And several of the Republican presidential hopefuls reassured a conservative forum in Washington this month that they oppose legal recognition for same-sex marriages.

But gay social issues were not part of the discussion during Tuesday night’s debate in Nevada. Instead, seven Republican presidential candidates went after each other on the economy, immigration, health care, and religion.

CNN moderator Anderson Cooper did surprisingly little to control the debate and, as candidates pointedly attacked each other, the debate often became heated and caustic, with candidates trying to talk over each other.

Texas Governor Rick Perry repeatedly accused former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney of knowingly hiring people who were not legally in this country. (In fact, Romney hired a lawn care company and that company employed people who were not in this country legally.)

Rep. Ron Paul urged that the party not view people as groups, but rather as individuals with liberties. But former Senator Rick Santorum disagreed, saying the basic building block of society is not the individual but the family. He patted himself on the back for being the “one candidate” on the stage that stands up for and fights for “traditional values.”

The latest debate was sponsored by CNN in Las Vegas. Nevada’s Republican Party is contemplating moving its caucus date to January 14, making it one of the earliest in the nation and putting it ahead of New Hampshire, which is currently scheduled for January 10. The Iowa caucuses are slated for January 3.

Only seven Republican candidates participated: Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and Michele Bachmann. Jon Huntsman boycotted the Nevada debate because the state party might reschedule its caucuses to compete with New Hampshire.

Robinson named to Vermont high court

Lesbian attorney and civil rights activist Beth Robinson has been nominated to serve on the Vermont Supreme Court.
Robinson, one of the key attorneys to lead the case for civil unions and then marriage equality in Vermont, was nominated Tuesday (October 18) by Democratic Governor Pete Shumlin.

Lesbian attorney and civil rights activist Beth Robinson has been nominated to serve on the Vermont Supreme Court.

Robinson, one of the key attorneys to lead the case for civil unions and then marriage equality in Vermont, was nominated Tuesday (October 18) by Democratic Governor Pete Shumlin.

“It’s a huge privilege and honor for me,” said Shumlin, in a press conference, “to be able to announce I’ve selected Beth Robinson to serve on the Vermont Supreme Court.”

“Beth has extraordinary integrity,” said Shumlin. “She is one of the most decent, fair, hard-working and bright people in this great state…. There is no one I know in Vermont who is more able to carry out justice for Vermonters, to be fair and clear, and promote the greatness of this state than Beth Robinson.”

Robinson has been serving as Shumlin’s chief legal counsel since he took office in January. Prior to that, she was a lawyer in private practice.

Though she keeps a relatively low profile when it comes to publicity, Robinson has played a key role in the litigation and organization surrounding the historic achievement of the nation’s first civil unions law in Vermont in 2000, and the legislature’s passage of marriage equality nine years later.

The Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) presented her with its 2009 Spirit of Justice Award, for her work in promoting passage of Vermont’s marriage equality law in 2009.

“Without Beth, it simply would not have come together,” said Mary Bonauto, GLAD civil rights director in presenting the award to Robinson.

Robinson graduated from Dartmouth College and the University of Chicago Law School before beginning private practice in Middlebury and Burlington, Vermont, with the law firm of Langrock Sperry & Wool, focusing on family and employment law.

The Human Rights Campaign issued a congratulatory press release on the appointment, calling Robinson “a pioneer for justice and equality under the law.”

Robinson, if confirmed by the state Senate, will be one of five justices on the state supreme court.

Supreme worries: drawing the line on religious bias

The ACLU called it “one of the most important religious liberty cases in years” and said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the matter would determine whether religious organizations have “the right to discriminate based on non-religious grounds.”

The ACLU called it “one of the most important religious liberty cases in years” and said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the matter would determine whether religious organizations have “the right to discriminate based on non-religious grounds.”

The case is Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and it was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on October 5. Hosanna-Tabor school, in Redford, Michigan, describes itself as a “Christian day school” with grades Kindergarten through 8. Their appeal is the latest clash between the free exercise and Establishment clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and federal statutes seeking to bar discrimination.

Heretofore, that clash has had mixed results for LGBT people. The most notorious of losses came in 2000 with Boy Scouts of America v. Dale. In that decision, a majority ruled the Boy Scouts had a First Amendment right to expect its belief that homosexuality is not “morally straight” trumps the state of New Jersey’s human rights law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination. But just last year, the high court, in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, ruled that a public school’s non-discrimination policy, which prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation, was “a reasonable, viewpoint-neutral condition” for use of the school’s facilities by student groups, including religious-oriented student groups that discriminated against gay students.

In Hosanna-Tabor, the court is deliberating over “where to draw the line” between religious exercise and federal employment laws prohibiting discrimination.

“The courts of appeals agree that there is a ministerial exception to employment-law litigation,” argued attorneys for Hosanna-Tabor, in their petition to the high court. “They agree that it extends beyond pastors, priests, and rabbis, but not as far as janitors or secretaries. The question is where to draw the line.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which pressed a discrimination case against Hosanna-Tabor on behalf of a female employee of the school, agrees that courts “have held that clergy members generally cannot bring claims under the federal employment discrimination laws, including Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Equal Pay Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

“This ‘ministerial exception,’” says EEOC, “comes not from the text of the statutes, but from the First Amendment principle that governmental regulation of church administration, including the appointment of clergy, impedes the free exercise of religion and constitutes impermissible government entanglement with church authority.” But the exception, says EEOC, “applies only to employees who perform essentially religious functions, namely those whose primary duties consist of engaging in church governance, supervising a religious order, or conducting religious ritual, worship, or instruction.”

And in this discrimination case, says EEOC, the female employee, Cheryl Perich, was a teacher of math, language arts, social studies, science, gym, art, and music “using secular textbooks” and “seldom introduc[ing] religion during secular discussions.”

Conservative attorney Ed Whelan has called the Obama administration’s “hostility to the ministerial exemption in the Hosanna-Tabor case is part and parcel of a broader ideological agenda that would have gay causes trump religious liberty.”

Interestingly, Lambda Legal Defense, the preeminent national LGBT legal group in the country, did not see the case as important to its going concerns and did not file a brief.

“We did not file a brief in this case, as it largely presents a matter of statutory interpretation regarding statutes that do not protect against sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination,” said Jon Davidson, Lambda’s national legal director.  Davidson acknowledged that a expanded reading of “ministerial exception” could help religious institutions discriminated based on sexual orientation and gender identity, should those categories of discrimination ever be prohibited by federal law. But the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill proposing to outlaw employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, “likely will have its own language” with religious exemptions, said Davidson.

The ACLU, which did file a brief, agreed with the EEOC, saying the “ministerial exception should not apply to discriminatory decisions that have nothing to do with religious doctrine.” It complained that courts “have extended the [ministerial] exception far beyond what is required by the Religion Clauses.”

“They have converted the ministerial exception into a shield for all forms of discrimination and retaliation, regardless of motivation,” said the ACLU brief. “And they have prevented judicial redress of even the most flagrant racial or sexual harassment, even when motivated by naked animus unrelated to any religious belief.”

Senate confirms lesbian court nominee

The U.S. Senate voted Thursday (October 13) to confirm the nomination of lesbian attorney Alison Nathan to serve as a federal district court judge.

The roll call vote was 48 to 44, thus securing Nathan’s appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, in Manhattan.

The U.S. Senate voted Thursday (October 13) to confirm the nomination of lesbian attorney Alison Nathan to serve as a federal district court judge.

The roll call vote was 48 to 44, thus securing Nathan’s appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, in Manhattan.

Nathan’s was one of three judicial nominations considered by the Senate Thursday and one of two “non-consensus nominees.”

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke in opposition to Nathan’s confirmation, saying she is too supportive of examining foreign law and not supportive enough of the death penalty. He said her willingness to review the values behind foreign law is Nathan’s strategy for finding law to reach a result that U.S. law would not support.

“Her record,” said Sessions, “evidences an activist viewpoint…. She has the real potential to be an activist judge.”

During her confirmation hearing, Nathan said foreign law would have “no relevance to my interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.” But she acknowledged that there is “an important debate” on “what role the Supreme Court’s reference to foreign law is playing in the Court’s decision….” She has also written that the three-drug protocol for implementing the death penalty inflicts “severe pain,” violating the 8th Amendment’s guarantee that the federal government will not inflict “cruel or unusual punishment.”

Republican Senators Charles Grassley of Iowa and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma hinted strongly in July that they would likely oppose Nathan’s confirmation on the floor of the Senate. Both cited what they saw as Nathan’s lack of experience with litigation, and Coburn suggested she would been an “activist judge.”

On the floor of the Senate Thursday, Coburn did not speak. But Grassely, ranking minority member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, reiterated Republican criticism of Nathan, noting the American Bar Association suggests “at least 12 years’ experience in the practice of law” and “substantial courtroom and trial experience” for judicial nominees.

Nathan “graduated only 11 years ago,” said Grassley, and has been practicing law for only eight years.

The ABA standards also note that there is merit in “experience that is similar to in-court trial work—such as appearing before or serving on administrative agencies or arbitration boards, or teaching trial advocacy or other clinical law school courses….” This similar experience, say the ABA guidelines, “may compensate for a prospective nominee’s lack of substantial courtroom experience.”

But Grassley said he had other concerns about Nathan, including her position on the 2nd Amendment (right to “keep and bear arms”), the death penalty, the reference to foreign law in examining U.S. law, and what measures may be used in the war on terror.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) noted that, while the ABA’s committee on judicial nominations did not vote unanimously that Nathan is well-qualified to serve as a federal judge, the majority did. And Nathan’s rating, he said, “is equal to or better than the rating received by 33 of President Bush’s confirmed judicial nominees.”

Nathan is counselor to the New York State Solicitor General and, prior to that, served as a special assistant to President Obama. Nathan clerked for now retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, as well as 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Betty Fletcher.

She is a former assistant professor of law at Fordham University, a former associate of the Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr law firm, and a former fellow at New York University Law School.

So far, the Senate has cleared two of President Obama’s four openly gay judicial nominees. In addition to Nathan, the Senate has confirmed Paul Oetken, also to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

President Obama’s most recent openly gay nominee, Michael Fitzpatrick, a nominee for the federal district court in Los Angeles, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee October 4. A committee vote on his nomination is expected in the coming weeks.

But federal appeals court nominee Edward DuMont has still not received even a committee hearing. A Committee staffer said Republicans are still “reviewing” his qualifications.

With her confirmation, Nathan becomes the third openly gay judge in that federal district –along with Deborah Batts and Oetken. She becomes the fourth openly gay federal judge in the country —along with Emily Hewitt of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Batts and Hewitt were both appointed by President Clinton.

“Significant” hiring discrimination, study shows

Openly gay men face “significant” hiring discrimination in several parts of the country, but there are wide differences from state to state. That’s the finding of a new, large-scale study—a study that also found that employers in areas where antidiscrimination laws prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation are less likely to discriminate. Additionally, the study found that employers are more likely to discriminate when job descriptions emphasize “stereotypically male heterosexual traits.”

Openly gay men face “significant” hiring discrimination in several parts of the country, but there are wide differences from state to state. That’s the finding of a new, large-scale study—a study that also found that employers in areas where antidiscrimination laws prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation are less likely to discriminate. Additionally, the study found that employers are more likely to discriminate when job descriptions emphasize “stereotypically male heterosexual traits.”

The findings come from “Pride and Prejudice: Employment Discrimination against Openly Gay Men in the United States,” published in the September 2011 issue of the American Journal of Sociology.

The study was conducted by András Tilcsik, a researcher at Harvard University, who sent out 1,769 pairs of fictitious résumés in response to online job postings by private employers. The job advertisements were for recent college graduates and covered five occupations (Administrative Assistant, Analyst, Customer Service Representative, Manager, Sales Representative) across seven states (California, Florida, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas).

The résumés in each pair were of similar quality, differing only enough to “avoid raising suspicion” that they were fictitious.

One résumé in each pair stated that the candidate was treasurer of a college gay and lesbian organization. He was given a leadership role, rather than simple membership in the group, because the role required financial and managerial skills, and justified mention on a résumé. It would thus be clear the candidate was gay—but employers would not see him as “lacking business savvy” for including information about “irrelevant” activities.

The other résumé stated that the applicant was treasurer of a college progressive and socialist organization. Tilcsik explained that because many people perceive LGBT organizations to have a liberal slant, if both résumés implied liberal organizations, any difference in the responses would not be because of an employer’s political bias.

Overall, 11.5 percent of heterosexual “applicants” received a callback for an interview, versus 7.2 percent of gay men, meaning heterosexual men received over one-and-a-half times as many callbacks. Heterosexual applicants would have to apply for fewer than nine jobs to get an interview, whereas gay men would have to apply to almost 14.

“Until now,” said Tilcsik, “the extent and patterns of this kind of discrimination have not been systematically documented on a large scale, across geographic areas.”

Previous studies looked at less objective, self-reported instances of hiring discrimination, were limited to a small sample, or were conducted outside the United States. And some focused on wage differences, which skeptics could attribute to differences in productivity rather than discrimination.

M. V. Lee Badgett, director of the Center for Public Policy & Administration, University of Massachusetts Amherst and research director of the Williams Institute of UCLA, who has authored several previous studies of employment discrimination against lesbians and gay men, said the most important aspect of Tilcsik’s study is that “it rules out differences in the gay and heterosexual applicants’ skills and experience by design, so the fact that gay applicants are much less likely to be invited for an interview is hard to explain by anything other than discrimination.”

But the overall finding by Tilcsik was significantly different from his findings in various states.

In New York, Pennsylvania, and California, the gap between callbacks for gay and heterosexual “applicants” was insignificant.

But in Texas, résumés of heterosexual men received more than three times as many callbacks as those of gay men. Heterosexual men would need to apply for only eight jobs to get an interview, versus 27 for gay men.

In Ohio, résumés of heterosexual men received over two-and-a-half times as many callbacks, and in Florida, almost twice as many.

The number of job postings in Nevada during the study period was too small to draw definite conclusions there, according to the report.

When employers were in cities, counties, or states without laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, gay men received fewer than half the number of callbacks of heterosexual men. In areas with such antidiscrimination laws, the gap was smaller but still significant—gay men received three-quarters as many callbacks.

California, Nevada, and New York have statewide protections against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas do not, although they have some cities and counties with such protections.

Tilcsik cautioned that it is hard to determine whether the lower levels of discrimination were because of the antidiscrimination laws themselves or because people in areas likely to adopt such laws had more positive opinions about gay people to begin with.

Tilcsik did not look at whether specific employers had corporate anti-discrimination policies. He explained in an interview that getting accurate information on such policies can be difficult, especially for small companies. And, he said, “previous research suggests that such policies often have little effect.”

Another key finding was that the discrimination was based partly on “the personality traits that employers seek” and stereotypical beliefs about gay men.

When job postings used traditional “masculine” traits like “aggressive or assertive, decisive, or ambitious” to describe an ideal candidate, heterosexual applicants received almost three times as many callbacks as gay ones. When such traits were not part of the job posting, heterosexual applicants received only about one-and-a-half times as many callbacks.

“The discrimination documented in this study is partly rooted in specific stereotypes and cannot be completely reduced to a general antipathy against gay employees,” said Tilcsik. It demonstrates the “potentially powerful effect” of stereotypes on hiring decisions.

The Williams Institute’s Badgett said Tilcsik’s several findings are consistent with previous research in showing “clear evidence of discrimination.”

Tilcsik’s study, she said, is also “good evidence” that employers “are taking sexual orientation into account at an early stage of the [hiring] process.”

But Tilcsik noted that much more research remains to be done on other parts of the LGBT spectrum, other stages of hiring and employment, and “specific factors that might reduce the likelihood of discrimination” such as anti-discrimination laws, public attitudes, and organizational policies.

Tilcsik’s is the first large-scale study to use the objective paired résumé approach to explore discrimination against any part of the LGBT spectrum in the United States. Smaller and/or more subjective studies have indicated that such discrimination exists for lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people as well.

GOProud touts ‘any one’ of Republicans

Tuesday night’s Republican debate was devoted exclusively to economic issues, so LGBT issues did not arise. But Rick Santorum did manage to put in a plug for heterosexual marriage and families (as his best bet for fixing the economy).

Tuesday night’s Republican debate was devoted exclusively to economic issues, so LGBT issues did not arise. But Rick Santorum did manage to put in a plug for heterosexual marriage and families (as his best bet for fixing the economy).

Focus on economic issues is exactly what the gay conservative group GOProud said it wants.

“We need to hear specifics on what candidates will do to improve retirement security, expand affordable healthcare, reduce the tax burden and create jobs for all Americans – including gay and lesbian Americans,” said Jimmy LaSalvia, GOProud executive director.

LaSalvia said he believes “any one of the Republicans on stage tonight would do a vastly superior job than the one that has been done by President Barack Obama.” He declined to say whether he would, in fact, support “any one of the Republicans.”

GOProud, like most of the Republican candidates, supports repeal of the Affordable Care Act, even though a large coalition of groups serving people with HIV says repeal would do “irreparable harm” to people with HIV.

GOProud agrees with candidate Rick Perry’s characterization of Social Security as a “ponzi scheme.”

“Under the current discriminatory social security system supported by President Obama and liberals in Congress,” said GOProud, in a press release, “gay people are prohibited from leaving their Social Security benefits to their partner. GOProud strongly supports the creation of optional personal savings accounts. Personal savings accounts would allow all Americans, including gay Americans, to control and invest a portion of their Social Security benefits. These optional, private, inheritable, individual accounts could be left to anyone.”

Tuesday night’s debate was hosted by Bloomberg TV and the Washington Post and was staged on the Dartmouth College campus in New Hampshire. It included eight announced candidates, but did not include openly gay announced candidate Fred Karger.

Most of the announced Republican presidential candidates also appeared over the weekend at the “Values Voters” conference of the anti-gay Family Research Council.

Herman Cain told the cheering audience: “I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. And I would not have asked the Department of Justice to not enforce it. I would have asked the Department of Justice to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act.”

Santorum and Mitt Romney also used the Values Voters conference to attack President Obama over the decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in federal courts. Santorum called that decision was an “abomination.”

“And worse than that, just recently, he has instructed his military chaplains to marry people, in direct contravention …  to the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage in federal law as between a man and a woman. So not only did the president not defend the law, he has now instructed people in the military to break the law.”

Romney said “marriage is more than a personally rewarding social custom.”

“It is also critical for the well-being of a civilization,” said Romney. “That is why it’s so important to preserve traditional marriage – the joining together of one man and one woman. And that’s why I will appoint an Attorney General who will defend the bipartisan law passed by Congress and signed by Bill Clinton – the Defense of Marriage Act.”

Republican rival Michelle Bachmann bragged on pushing for passage of a ban on same-sex marriage in Minnesota.

“You won’t find me equivocating or hemming or hawing when I’m asked to define marriage as between one man and one woman.”

The latest polls show Romney leading, followed by Cain in most polls.

Supreme Court refuses couple’s plea

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday (October 11) refused to hear a case that challenged a sort of “back door discrimination” against a gay couple by a Louisiana state official.

Jon Davidson

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday (October 11) refused to hear a case that challenged a sort of “back door discrimination” against a gay couple by a Louisiana state official.

The case, Adar v. Darlene Smith, was filed by Lambda Legal Defense on behalf of a gay couple who sought an amended birth certificate for a Louisiana boy they adopted in New York. Couples who adopt children routinely seek amended birth certificates to establish the legal relationship between the parents and the child. Louisiana’s Registrar, Darlene Smith, routinely grants them to heterosexual married couples. But Smith refused to provide Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith (no relation to the registrar) with an amended certificate, saying she was barred from doing so by a Louisiana law prohibiting unmarried couples from adopting.

Given that most states do not allow gay couples to marry, the Louisiana law discriminates against same-sex couples and their children in an indirect way. (Adar and Smith lived in New York before that state allowed same-sex couples to marry; they now live in California, which does not currently enable them to marry.) But the inability to obtain an amended birth certificate can have direct consequences, making it more difficult for the parents to verify their family relationship to schools, medical providers, insurers, and even law enforcement and customs officials.

Jon Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal, said he believes Louisiana’s Registrar would have refused the amended birth certificate even if the gay couple had been able to marry in New York. He notes Louisiana also has a constitutional amendment that bars recognition of same-sex relationships.

“I believe they would say that Louisiana does not recognize their marriage… so that the couple, for purposes of Louisiana law, is still unmarried,” said Davidson. “Their position likely would be that they do not provide amended birth certificates reflecting the names of two unmarried parents and they consider this couple unmarried.”

Lambda had argued that the state official’s refusal to grant the amended birth certificate violated the couple’s right to equal protection of the law, as well as the “full faith and credit” clause of the U.S. Constitution. The “full faith and credit” clause requires that, “Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.” Lambda said that covers the state’s Registrar; but, Louisiana argued that it covers only courts and judges, not non-judicial officers. And, in an 11 to 5 vote, the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals agreed.

By refusing to hear Lambda’s appeal of the 5th Circuit ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court allows that ruling to stand for the three states of the 5th Circuit—Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. But Jenny Pizer, legal scholar for the Williams Institute, said the implications are “potentially very substantial.”

“As states continue to diverge—with some offering full equality to LGBT people and others still moving firmly in the other direction,” said Pizer, “interstate questions are likely to proliferate, especially with respect to family issues involving same-sex couples, transgender people, and their children.”

Pizer noted that the U.S. Supreme Court takes only a “tiny fraction” of the cases brought to it each year and that it is also possible the high court will wait until a different circuit court rules differently from the 5th Circuit to take an LGBT-related full faith and credit case.

“But it’s difficult for those affected during that process,” said Pizer, “especially when a new limiting principle newly closes courthouse doors and the needs of parents and children are ignored and, in most instances, ultimately denied.”

GOP: ‘Going to the mat’ to stop weddings

It’s a big threat –shut down the budget for the entire Defense Department because a few same-sex couples might want to rent military base facilities to host their weddings.

It’s a big threat –shut down the budget for the entire Defense Department because a few same-sex couples might want to rent military base facilities to host their weddings.
But that’s what Buck McKeon, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, claims he’s prepared to do.
The comment came in response to a question during an interview Sunday on C-SPAN’s Newsmakers program. A reporter noted that, unlike the House committee, its Senate counterpart was unlikely to include a provision to ban same-sex couples from using base facilities.
The reporter asked, “Is that something you’re really willing to go to the mat over?”
Naturally, McKeon said “sure, I feel very strongly about that.”
Truth be told, McKeon had to say that because all party leaders are compelled to say they’ll go to the mat for the things their committees pass. But McKeon’s expanded answer provides a bigger clue to what’s going on. He noted, “DOMA is the law of the land.” And that’s likely what is driving McKeon’s willingness to threaten passage of a critical defense spending bill. It’s not just sour grapes over the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell; it’s also drawing the line to protect another Republican favorite –the Defense of Marriage Act.

Gay nominee politely labeled an ‘activist’ by GOP

A fourth openly gay nominee–one who has been fairly heavily involved in both gay and non-gay legal and political issues and who spent “hundreds of hours” doing pro bono work that led to the elimination of a gay ban on FBI agents–has gone before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

Michael Fitzgerald

A fourth openly gay nominee—one who has been fairly heavily involved in both gay and non-gay legal and political issues and who spent “hundreds of hours” doing pro bono work that led to the elimination of a gay ban on FBI agents—has gone before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. The nominee’s gay-related history prompted the only Republican in attendance on his confirmation hearing to label the nominee an “activist.”

President Obama nominated Michael W. Fitzgerald in July to sit on the U.S. District Court for Central California. The office of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who recommended him for the position, sent out a press release,“If confirmed by the Senate,” said the press release, “Fitzgerald would make history by becoming the first openly gay federal judge confirmed to serve in California.”

Fitzgerald, 52, was one of five nominees considered during the hearing Tuesday. Senator Barbara Boxer introduced him to the committee, noting that he had served as a federal prosecutor on the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, “where prosecuted international drug rings and money-laundering—including what was at that time the second largest cocaine seizure in California history.”

The American Bar Association, noted Boxer, had given Fitzgerald a rating of “well qualified” on a unanimous vote.

Durbin noted that Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) had also submitted a “blue slip” in favor of Fitzgerald’s appointment.

Fitzgerald is a partner in Corbin, Fitzgerald & Athey, which bills itself as a “boutique litigation firm” specializing in white-collar crime and civil cases in his native Los Angeles.

The biographical information he sent to the committee lists his membership in four gay-related organizations: the Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association of Los Angeles (no years of membership are identified), the Harvard-Radcliffe Gay and Lesbian Caucus (from 2006 to present), the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center Leadership Task Force (from 2007-2008), and the Stonewall Democratic Club (“late-1990s”). The biographical information also indicates Fitzgerald participated in the campaign to defeat California’s same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8,

He also notes that he spoke at a press conference about a settlement in the case of Buttino v. FBI, in which—in 1993—the Federal Bureau of Investigation agreed to stop banning openly gay people from serving as FBI agents.

Fitzgerald’s summary of the Buttino case, in response to the requisite Senate questionnaire, noted that Frank Buttino was an agent with the FBI who was “outed” by an anonymous source to Buttino’s supervisor. The supervisor stripped Buttino of his security clearance and, therefore, his ability to serve as an agent.

“At my request,” wrote Fitzgerald, one of his earlier law firms “Heller Ehrman decided to represent Mr. Buttino at trial on a pro bono basis. I obtained class certification and then represented Mr. Buttino and the class [of all gay and lesbian FBI employees] at trial.” After several days of trial, noted Fitzgerald, the FBI agreed to settle the case out of court. In doing so, the FBI, he said, “renounced its prior policy of viewing homosexuality as a ‘negative factor’ in regard to security clearance,” agreed to hire an openly gay agent, and restored Buttino’s pension.

Acting committee chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked Fitzgerald about the Buttino case. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) described Fitzgerald as a “activist” but then quickly added that he does not “subscribe to the view that having been an activist in one area or another disqualifies anyone from ascending to the bench .…” But Lee said it was the committee’s duty to make sure nominees “know the difference between advocacy and jurisprudence” and will “not engage in any kind of political activism while on the bench.” He asked how Fitzgerald’s prior advocacy would affect him on the bench.

“Sir, I don’t believe that it would have any influence on my service as a federal judge,” said Fitzgerald. “…I would not bring any personal or political views to bear on any of the cases that I determined as a United States district judge.” He also said he is aware of the necessity to recuse himself not only when he personally believed there might be a conflict of interest but also when a “reasonable onlooker” might think so.

He indicates that he did not serve in the military “because men born between March 29, 1957, and December 31, 1959, were not required to register.”

He earned an A.B. magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1981 and graduated from the Berkeley School of Law in 1985. He clerked for 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Irving Kaufman and worked three years in the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking members, including the ranking member Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), were not present. Nor was ranking majority member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Republican Senator Lee noted 85 percent of President Obama’s judicial nominees have been approved and that “comparatively generous treatment” treatment of nominees by the Republican side.

Acting Chairman Durbin quickly noted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had needed to call for a forced vote (cloture) to try and put the nominations of 25 of those nominees on the floor.

Senators on the committee have a week to submit additional questions to the nominees in writing. The committee could vote on Fitzgerald’s nomination within a few weeks.

Obama to HRC: Promises kept and promises to fight for

President Obama dropped by the Human Rights Campaign’s annual national dinner to vow that he will “keep up the fight” to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and to stop bullying against LGBT youth.

President Obama

Before going out to dinner with the First Lady to celebrate their 19th wedding anniversary, President Obama dropped by the Human Rights Campaign’s annual national dinner to vow that he will “keep up the fight” to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and to stop bullying against LGBT youth.

The 17-minute appearance on Saturday, October 1, in Washington, D.C., was greeted by the standing-room-only crowd of about 3,000 with frequent applause and standing ovations—none bigger than when he reminded the audience that his administration helped repeal the federal law banning openly gay people from the military. Another 1,500 appeared to be viewing HRC’s live webstream of the speech.

He identified six things in all that his administration has accomplished for the LGBT community—repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, passing expanded hate crimes legislation, instituting a policy requiring hospitals receiving federal support allow visitation by same-sex partners, lifting the ban on travel by people with HIV to this country, adopting the “first comprehensive national strategy to fight HIV,” and “no longer defending DOMA in the courts.”

“I believe the law runs counter to the Constitution, and it’s time for it to end once and for all,” said the president.  “It should join ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the history books.”

He promised to do several more things, with the community’s help, including to support a bill in Congress to repeal DOMA, as well as “an inclusive employment non-discrimination bill,” to help young people who are being bullied, and to ensure that Congress does not “turn the clock back” on DADT repeal.

Without being specific, the president gave high praise for the Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese, who will leave his position in March.

“What he has accomplished at the helm of this organization has been remarkable,” said President Obama.

Solmonese delivered what will almost certainly be his last speech before a national LGBT audience Saturday night. And both he and President Obama termed the movement’s responsibility now as “standing by” the administration in its fight to repair the economy by helping pass his American Jobs Act, and only a subtle hint at the help with re-election.

President Obama said he would “continue to fight alongside you–and I don’t just mean in your role, by the way, as advocates for equality.”

“You’re also moms and dads who care about the schools your children go to. You’re also students figuring out how to pay for college. You’re also folks who are worried about the economy and whether or not your partner or husband or wife will be able to find a job. And you’re Americans who want this country to succeed and prosper, and who are tired of the gridlock and the vicious partisanship, and are sick of the Washington games.  Those are your fights, too, HRC.”

Without naming them as his potential Republican rivals in the 2012 presidential race, Obama chastised “a stage full of political leaders—one of whom could end up being the President of the United Statesvbeing silent when an American soldier is booed.” That was a reference to an incident during the nationally televised debate on Fox News September 22, when several audience members loudly booed after an active duty soldier in Iraq identified himself as gay and—via a youtube.com video—asked whether the candidates would defend the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

“We don’t believe in that,” said Obama. “We don’t believe in standing silent when that happens. We don’t believe in them being silent since. You want to be Commander-in-Chief? You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient.”