Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Maine Pride

Several representatives from GLAD attended the Southern Maine Pride festival in Portland, Maine on June 16th. We distributed information and fliers, and spoke with members of the Maine LGBT community who were interested to learn more about GLAD and our work.

The festival was a really wonderful event, featuring performances, tables with information and educational presentations. Many people were excited about the results of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention, as well as the recent inclusion of LGBT domestic partnerships in the Family Medical Leave Act in Maine, and many had questions about GLAD recent legal developments.

This year, Southern Maine Pride had the largest attendance in the history of the event, and it was really encouraging and exciting to see people from around the state coming together to learn and celebrate.

Monday, June 18, 2007

One Step Closer

Janet Jenkins last Friday came one step closer to seeing her daughter again.

In dissolving the Vermont civil union between Janet and her ex-spouse, Lisa Miller, a Vermont Family Court judge ordered regular parent-child contact between Janet and her daughter, Isabella. Her first visit could be as soon as June 30.

The court's order is the latest development in GLAD's case Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins, which you can read about here.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Equality Prevails!

The Massachusetts legislature voted just moments ago to defeat an anti-gay, anti-marriage equality amendment, 151 - 45.

Equality prevails in Massachusetts!

It is so nice when people do the right thing. Thank you.

You Should Be At the State House

If you're in Massachusetts, you should be at the State House today, demonstrating your support for equality.

That's where we are.

If you're not in Massachusetts, check back later for news on what happened, or watch the proceedings online, starting at 1pm.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Support Equality June 14

Tomorrow, June 14, the Massachusetts legislature meets to vote on an anti-gay marriage ballot amendment. Despite the fact that a vast majority of legislators oppose the amendment (which would define marriage as being between a man and a woman exclusively, thus stripping rights from lesbian and gay citizens), the amendment needs only 50 yes votes tomorrow to move onto the general ballot in November, 2008.

GLAD will be at the MA State House tomorrow (and has been working for months, along with many other committed, pro-equality organizations, legislators, and citizens) to encourage the legislature to do the the right thing and oppose the amendment. It's wrong to vote on anyone's civil rights.

If you're in Massachusetts and can get to the State House, please join us there. People will be gathering as early as 7am, and the Constitutional Convention starts at 1pm. We need a strong turnout throughout the day to demonstrate Massachusetts' overwhelming commitment to equality.

If you can't make it, visit MassEquality's website to find out what you can do. You can also watch the proceedings online.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

New Hampshire Civil Unions: Feedback, Workshop, Radio

When the New Hampshire legislature recently passed a civil union law, they created an opportunity for lesbian and gay couples in the state to receive some of the rights and protections available to heterosexual married couples. However, in not granting full marriage equality, they created some complicated and potentially confusing legal issues for lesbian and gay couples to navigate.

To help New Hampshire couples understand the legal considerations facing them when civil unions become available on January 1, 2008, GLAD is offering a publication, New Hampshire Civil Unions, and, on July 12, a workshop, Civil Union Tips and Traps.

We'd love to hear from New Hampshire citizens on the specific questions you have about the new civil union law.

You can also tune in to New Hampshire Public Radio today at 6:30pm to hear GLAD Attorney Michele Granda discuss civil unions on "The Front Porch."

Monday, June 11, 2007

Pride 2007

The GLAD contingent marches by the State House during Saturday's Pride Parade. We'll be back at the State House on Thursday to show our support for equal marriage. Join us!

See more photos.

Friday, June 8, 2007

It's that time of year again

It's Pride week in Boston. Many activities are taking place across the city, and it's exciting to see some real diversity in the events. The nature of Pride - particularly in large American cities - has changed over the years. What were once political marches demanding equal rights are now parades, celebrating our community. But we must remember that the fight for full equality is not over, and the visibility that Pride affords is still crucial.

GLAD congratulates this year's Parade Marshals: Representative Liz Malia, SpeakOut, and Jacob Smith Yang (who once worked at GLAD!) - all have done great things in, and for, our community.

This year's theme - Ask. Tell. Proud to Serve. - has generated some controversy. While there is no doubt that LGBT people serve our communities in many capacities and in every part of society (including the military, when allowed) - and that we should be proud to speak out about who we are and what we do - the military reference is complicated in the midst of an ongoing war that continues to take the lives of US soldiers and Iraqi civilians alike.

Because we believe that visibility is important, and because part of our mission is to ensure that LGBT citizens know the legal rights they have - and those we are still fighting for - GLAD will be marching in the parade tomorrow. Look for us behind the big purple banner, and visit our table at the Festival on City Hall Plaza, where you can pick up important information about your legal rights in Massachusetts and across New England. Or just say hi - we'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Loving Equality

June 12th marks the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the landmark Supreme Court decision that advanced racial equality and the freedom to marry in America.

In 1967, Virginia residents Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter, an interracial couple, married in Washington DC. When they returned home, they were arrested for violating Virginia's Racial Integrity Act, which prohibited their marriage. The couple challenged the arrest all the way to the US Supreme Court. Writing in a unanimous decision, Chief Justice Earl Warren stated that banning interracial marriages constituted "invidious racial discrimination," thus violating the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

Committed, loving couples whose relationships had previously been treated with legal disregard and societal disrespect were finally able to marry.

Is the Loving decision relevant to today's struggle for marriage equality?

Writing in an op-ed piece in this Sunday's Washington Post, University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Kermit Roosevelt makes an insightful argument that, indeed, it is. Roosevelt makes the case that court decisions based on the constitution's Equal Protection Clause, such as Loving, reflect evolving societal understanding of what constitutes invidious discrimination - "discrimination designed to oppress a particular group or to brand its members as inferior."

"Restricting the benefits of marriage to opposite-sex couples," Roosevelt points out, "is increasingly seen as invidious, an inequality inflicted for no good reason."

We couldn't agree more.

GLAD is joining a coalition of organizations led by Freedom to Marry in launching an ad campaign this week to commemorate the Loving decision and celebrate its importance:
  • as a milestone in the fight against racial inequality,
  • for its importance in securing the freedom to marry as a civil right,
  • for its embodiment of the importance of social justice activism and independent courts, and
  • for its relevance to today's ongoing battles against unfair exclusion from marriage.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Civil Unions Come to New Hampshire

Last week New Hampshire Governor John Lynch signed into law a civil union bill that had passed the legislature back in April. When the bill goes into effect next January, New Hampshire will be the third state in New England and the fifth in the US to offer lesbian and gay couples a legal union that - while not marriage - purports to offer the same rights, responsibilities, and benefits. Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey also offer civil unions, and California offers a registered domestic partnership. (Oregon will start offering a similar domestic partnership option in January, 2008).

This is a big step toward equality in New Hampshire, where same-sex couples and their children currently live in a painful legal void. New Hampshire Freedom to Marry, gay and lesbian legislators and allies in the state should be congratulated on this victory.

But, for all the benefits they may provide, civil unions are not equal to marriage. Marriage provides better protection, allows entry into a universally recognized and respected institution, and avoids the inequities fostered by creating separate laws just for a minority group.

GLAD has created a guide to New Hampshire civil unions (pdf). The publication explains the process for obtaining a civil union (once they become available in January, 2008), the rights and protections civil unions will - and will not - convey, and information to help New Hampshire same-sex couples determine whether or not a civil union is the right step for them.

Take a look, and let us hear your feedback. Do you have further questions? What will civil unions mean for New Hampshire?

Let's keep moving forward toward full equality!

The GLAD Team at the AIDS Walk

Over 18,000 people participated in the Boston AIDS Walk on Sunday to raise $1.2 million in support of AIDS Action Committee. We were proud to be among them!

Friday, June 1, 2007

The AIDS Walk: It Still Matters

The annual AIDS Walk fundraiser for Boston's AIDS Action Committee is coming up this Sunday. Securing legal equality for people living with HIV/AIDS is a key part of GLAD’s mission, and supporting AAC's community-based education, prevention, advocacy and health service work is important to us.

And so we have a team walking, as we do each year. In fact, this year we’re proud to be the nonprofit organization that has raised the most money for the cause.

A large part of that money was raised by one dedicated staffer, who set a personal goal to ask 200 people to give just $5 each. Sure, some people weren't able to give, and then many people gave more than $5. The point was that lots of people never get asked to give at all, and if you ask, you may be surprised by who will.

More importantly, though, the effect of asking 200 people to support the AIDS walk, whether they gave money or not, is that 200 people were reminded that HIV and AIDS are still with us, and that AAC's mission - to provide support services for people living with AIDS and HIV; to educate the public and health professionals about prevention; and to advocate for fair, effective AIDS policy - is still vitally important.

AIDS is not over - neither is the fight.