Monday, February 28, 2011

Something on Which GLAD & NOM Agree! Courts Have a Role to Play in the Real World

On the heels of the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) announcement last week that it would no longer defend DOMA against legal challenges by GLAD and other organizations, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) issued an action alert urging members to immediately call their congressional reps to demand they defend the odious law.

“It’s a constitutional outrage,” NOM President Brian Brown wrote in the alert. “Why do we even have courts if the President himself gets to decide which laws are constitutional?” (Emphasis added).

Interesting question from an organization that seems to believe that the only reason courts exist is to give “activist judges” a place to while away their weekday afternoons. Google “National Organization for Marriage” and “activist judges” and 71,800 hits later, you’ll get the picture. Nowhere was NOM’s disdain for the judiciary more apparent than in their successful multi-million dollar effort to oust three of the Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of same-sex couples who sought access to civil marriage rights in that state – complete with a campaign ad that begins, “Activist judges on the Iowa Supreme Court have become political, ignoring the will of the voters.”

And that’s really what it comes down to for NOM – judges that don’t rule their way are activist, and the people should always be able to vote on whether same-sex couples should be able to access the institution of civil marriage. Occasionally they toss their talking points when it suits their ends, like when it’s time to rally their supporters to cajole Congress into taking on the DOMA defense. But it’s telling that while Brown was slamming Obama’s decision to stop defending DOMA in an email to his constituency, NOM board chair Maggie Gallagher was on Fox News saying that Obama’s decision would be beneficial because the president “wasn’t really defending this law at all -- his justice department was trying to throw this case.”

Friday, February 25, 2011

Know Your Rights: An Introduction to GLAD's Legal InfoLine

Hi, I’m Bruce Bell, GLAD’s Legal InfoLine Manager. I’ve been at GLAD for 6½ years and before that spent 33 years at Cape Cod Community College as a math teacher and associate academic dean. I really enjoy working with the wonderful volunteers who work on the Infoline.

The InfoLine is a free, confidential service that GLAD provides to the public so that LGBTQ/HIV+ residents of the six New England states can learn about their legal rights. Many of these have been won by GLAD in the courts. The GLAD attorneys take on precedent setting cases that lead to the establishment of new protections for LGBTQ and HIV+ people.

The InfoLine is staffed by highly trained volunteers who are there to listen to your needs and then provide you with a custom tailored package of information, resources and, if you need legal advice, referrals to members of GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service. For more information about the InfoLine go to:

I will be writing a weekly blog here about some of the issues we are seeing on the InfoLine that may affect members of New England’s LGBTQ/HIV+ communities. Please contact the InfoLine, 800-455-GLAD (4523), or me, concerning any legal questions or issues you may be having. I hope that you will check back each week to read and comment on this InfoLine blog.