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House Republicans vote to continue DOMA defense
Washington, D.C.--The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group will continue to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, after a 228-196 vote on January 3.
The five-member BLAG voted along strict party lines in 2011 to authorize a defense of DOMA after the Justice Department and the White House both said they would not. The administration cited what they view as the unconstitutionality of the third clause, which limits federal recognition of marriage to those between one man and one woman.
It is the first time, however, that the entire House of Representatives has voted on the matter.
Minority leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi released a statement criticizing the move.
“Today, House Republicans will send a clear message to LGBT families: their fiscal responsibility mantra does not extend to their efforts to stand firmly on the wrong side of the future. Republicans will take the extraordinary measure of including an authorization of their efforts to defend DOMA in the Rules of the House of Representatives and by doing so, continue to spend taxpayer funds, already adding up to $1.7 million, in their attempts to defend this shameful law in federal courts and the Supreme Court,” her statement says.
The Supreme Court has asked for the first filings in the Edie Windsor case challenging DOMA to be filed by January 22. Those will be BLAG’s defense of the constitutionality of the law, and a court-appointed attorney arguing that the Supreme Court actually lacks jurisdiction to hear the case.
Responses to that filing from the Obama administration, BLAG and Edie Windsor’s attorney will be due on February 20, followed in two days by the Obama administration’s brief on the merits of the case, then Windsor’s on February 26.
The final batch of briefs will be due 30 days later, but at least one week before the oral arguments begin on March 27. That is one day after the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in another case, challenging the constitutionality of California’s Prop. 8, which rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry.
Transgender woman drops bid for state representative
Nashua, N.H.--The most complicated political story of the past election cycle appears to be over once again.
Trans woman Stacie Laughton won election for the state House of Representatives in November. But shortly afterward it was revealed that, before she had begun transitioning, she was convicted of fraud. She served four months in jail and was released in 2008, but is still on probation.
New Hampshire law prohibits felons from running for office until their final discharge, which could be interpreted to mean that Laughton will not be a legal candidate for office until her probation is over.
She resigned, and a special election was called to determine her replacement. However, Laughton then decided to enter the race to replace herself. She filed paperwork at the end of December to enter the special election before being informed by the New Hampshire secretary of state’s office that the state attorney general concluded that her sentence, which was two concurrent ten-year suspended terms, had not been fully discharged.
She said she will take a few years off before she makes another attempt to run for office.
Illinois marriage bill left hanging
Springfield, Ill.--After passing through a Senate committee, an Illinois full marriage bill died when the legislative session ended on January 4.
However, with a new legislative session beginning on January 9 and ending on May 31, the bill will likely emerge for a new round of hearings and votes.
The new bill was expected to come in the first weeks of the new session.
Illinois has a civil union law, which went into effect a year and a half ago. The marriage bill was endorsed by President Barack Obama and many key political players in the state, including Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn.
Rhode Island marriage bill introduced
Providence, R.I.--Determined to shed the dubious distinction of being the only New England state that does not allow full same-sex marriage, lawmakers in Rhode Island have introduced identical bills in the House and Senate on January 3.
Rep. Arthur Handy and Sen. Donna Nesselbush introduced the marriage legislation, which would change the legal definition of marriage to refer to “two people.”
Over half of the state House of Representatives have signed on as cosponsors, 42 of 75 members, while in the senate, 11 of 38 members had signed on as of 5 pm on January 3.
Pentagon blocks LGBT sites
Washington, D.C.--Military computers seem to be blocking access to some LGBT and left-leaning news sites and blogs while allowing access to right-wing ones, although the Pentagon says that it is not intentional.
One of the filters used by the Defense Department on some of its computers targets “LGBT” sites, another “political” and “activist.” The LGBT filter was around before “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed, but has not been removed.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little sent a letter to John Aravosis’ Americablog saying that the slight is not intentional.
“The Department of Defense does not block websites based on LGBT content. The Department of Defense strongly supports the rights of gay and lesbian men and women in uniform to serve proudly and openly,” he wrote. “With Internet technology constantly evolving, the Department of Defense is working to ensure that service members have access to an open Internet while preserving information and operational security.”
“In order to help maintain adequate levels of information security in support of DoD policy, some components employ commercial tools that may allow users to visit ‘news’ sites while disallowing pages categorized as ‘personal sites and blogs.’ No filter is perfect and some sites may have unnecessarily been blocked. The Department Chief Information Officer will work with relevant components to address these situations,” he concluded.
Aravosis saw good and bad in the statement; he thought it meaningful that it came in the name of the department’s press secretary himself, and not an underling, but thought the rationalizations at the end were weak. However, he added, “I do believe that they got the message.”
Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.