Speed Read: Gay court nominee dropped

BENCH NOMINEE PULLED: President Obama did not re-nominate openly gay Judge William Thomas for a U.S. district court seat in Miami. He re-nominated 52 other candidates for federal district and circuit court seats on January 6, but he left off Thomas and two others whose nominations had stalled. On background, a White House official said simply that Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) “made clear” his objection to Thomas’ nomination, “so the President chose not to renominate him.” The head of Miami’s largest association for black lawyers told the New York Times in September she thought Rubio’s block was based on Thomas being “an openly gay black male.” Thomas, whom a majority of the American Bar Association’s judicial assessment committee considered “well qualified,” was poised to become the first openly gay black man to serve on the federal bench.

TEXAS LAWSUITS ADVANCE: A federal judge in Texas rejected an effort Thursday by the state’s attorney general to consolidate three separate lawsuits challenging the state’s ban on allowing same-sex couples to marry, according to Lone Star Q, a Dallas-based LGBT news site. All three cases –two in Austin and one in San Antonio– are being pressed by couples represented by private attorneys. The San Antonio case will have a hearing February 12 on a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the state from enforcing the ban.

WARNER PUSHES V.A. ON HOME LOAN REGS: One of Virginia’s U.S. senators, Democrat Mark Warner, sent a letter to President Obama January 3, noting that the Department of Veterans Affairs still has not updated its regulations concerning the eligibility of veterans for home loans to reflect the striking of the Defense of Marriage Act last June. The result, said Warner, is that a Navy veteran in Virginia who married his same-sex spouse in Maryland was denied the VA’s assistance in securing a home loan. Warner urged the president to direct the VA to stop enforcing a pre-DOMA regulation that requires a couple’s marriage license be valid in their state of residence. The White House declined comment on the letter and directed a reporter’s query to the VA.

VA DEFENDS POSITION: The Department of Veterans Affairs issued a statement January 8, saying that the VA “is working closely with the Department of Justice to develop guidance to process cases involving same-sex spousal benefits, and to implement necessary changes swiftly and smoothly in order to deliver the best services to all our nation’s Veterans.” The statement added that the department has “ceased enforcement of the definitions of “spouse” and “surviving spouse” in Title 38 to the extent that they limit Veterans’ benefits to couples of the opposite sex,” since September 4, “pursuant to the President’s direction.” But it also stated that Title 38, as it stands now, still requires that the department prove a marriage is valid “according to the law of the place where the parties resided at the time of the marriage or the law of the place where the parties resided when the right to benefits accrued.”

BOOKNOTE: Sean Strub’s memoir, due for formal release January 14, is a fascinating read. The focus is on AIDS and how the community and the government responded, but Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS and Survival, is a riveting tale of a young man’s journey from Iowa City into the political morass of the U.S. Congress, coming out and diving into the gay community. It’s not a unique trajectory, but Strub is a uniquely dedicated activists and his recollections are intensely interesting and detailed, delivering the sort of behind-the-scenes glimpses and insights that other books over-promise.

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