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February 6, 2009


Queers United reported yesterday that Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has declared the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.

The case stems from a suit brought by Deputy Federal Public Defender Brad Levenson, who married Tony Sears last July 12, and 9th Circuit staff lawyer Karen Golinski, who married Amy Cunninghis last year.

According to an article by Pam Spaulding at Pam's House Blend,

Both orders are internal employee grievance decisions. Both found in favor of the gay employees, directing court administrators to give health insurance benefits to their spouses. The orders also represent direct challenges to DOMA, the 1996 act that forbids the federal government from treating same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose.

A lawyer for the staff attorney said this is believed to be the first time federal employees will get benefits covering a same-sex spouse.

Judge Reinhardt said in his ruling:

"The denial of federal benefits to same-sex spouses cannot be justified simply by a distaste for or disapproval of same-sex marriage or a desire to deprive same-sex spouses benefits available to other spouses in order to discourage exercising a legal right afforded them by the state."

In A Related Story...

At a town hall meeting at the Dean Acheson Auditorium in Washington, DC this past Wednesday, our new Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, told participants that equalizing the treatment of the State Department's LGBT employees and their partners is being reviewed and "is on a fast timeline" to be remedied.

Clinton was responding to a question posed by Ralan Hill, a foreign service officer with a same-sex partner, who noted that in an emergency situation abroad, the State Department would be responsible for evacuating him but would have no such obligation to his partner. The department does, however, provide evacuation assistance to heterosexual spouses of officers stationed overseas. She went on to say:

"We are reviewing what would need to be changed, what we can legally change," Secretary Clinton said. "A lot of things we cannot legally change by a decision in the State Department. But let's see what we can determine is within our realm of responsibility, and we are moving on that expeditiously."

"This is an issue of real concern to me. And even though, as you pointed out, all of our personnel share the same service requirements, the partners in same-sex relationships are not offered the same training, the same benefits, and the same protections that other family members receive when you serve abroad. So I view this as an issue of workplace fairness, employee retention, and the safety and effectiveness of our embassy communities worldwide."

This is why we need to keep reminding President Obama that the repeal of DOMA (as promised in his campaign) is of the utmost importance.

You can express your feelings about this by going to the White House E-Contact Form.

Or you can call the White House directly to express your opinion personally at either of these numbers...

Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414

February 5, 2009


On Monday, NPR's All Things Considered reported that attorney Leslie Hagen was finally rehired after being wrongfully fired under the Gonzales regime.

Her dismissal was over an unsubstantiated rumor that Ms. Hagen was a lesbian. It was carried out in violation of an executive order issued by President Clinton, and left in place by President Bush, that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation.

However, using the sleazy tactics that the Gonzales Justice Department has become famous for, the firing was never directly attributed to Hagen's supposed lesbianism. But since then, the Justice Department's own inspector general corroborated that she was, indeed, fired because of that rumor. And based on her glowing performance reviews, there could have been no other reason.

According to the NPR report:

Last year, the Justice Department posted Hagen's old job again. The department conducted a national search. Applications came in from around the country. After several rounds of interviews, Hagen eventually won the job.

The paperwork makes it official as of Monday, Feb. 2. Hagen now has her old position back, but this time it's a little different. Her contract no longer comes up for renewal every year. Now, the job is permanent.

Unfortunately, nobody from the DOJ has ever officially apologized for what happened to her. She also still owes thousands of dollars in attorney fees which, so far, the Justice Department has refused to pay. But Hagen and her attorney are hopeful that the new attorney general will take a different view.

Let's hope they do.

February 4, 2009


Though the issue has been off the public radar for awhile now, the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policies have apparently been having a severe impact on their finances. This has caused them to turn to solutions that would have been unthinkable before they took their hard and discriminatory stand against gay scouts.

In a desperate attempt to find new ways to generate income and dollar-value privileges they've lost because of those anti-gay policies, they have turned to wholesale logging in previously pristine forests on lands that they own throughout the country. These are tens of thousands of acres that they once vigorously and adamantly protected for exclusive use as camps and environmental learning grounds for young scouts.

Eugene Grant, president of the Portland, Ore., Cascade Pacific Council's board of directors, said to the San Francisco Chronicle, "There's no question that the Scouts' anti-gay, anti-atheist stance has cost the organization money. As a result every council has looked at ways to generate funds ... and logging is one of them."

The Chronicle went on to report:

The scouts insist they manage the wild lands they own with sensitivity and care.

But the investigation - a nationwide review by five newspapers of more than 400 timber harvests, court papers, property records, tax filings and other documents since 1990 - also found that:

-- Scout councils have ordered the logging of more than 34,000 acres of forests - perhaps far more, as forestry records nationwide are incomplete.

-- More than 100 scout groups - one-third of all Boy Scouts councils nationwide - have conducted timber harvests.

-- Councils logged in or near protected wildlife habitat at least 53 times.

-- Councils have authorized at least 60 clear-cutting operations and 35 salvage harvests, logging practices that some experts say harm the environment but maximize profits.

I was, as were most of my childhood friends, a boy scout. I loved the camping trips and jamborees. They were a lot of fun and provided a lifetime of good memories.

Unfortunately, the actions of today's scout leadership is a tragedy and a travesty of the core fundamentals that scouts are taught to believe in. But then, I'm not really surprised by the duplicity and hypocrisy they've demonstrated since today's Boy Scouts are so heavily financed by the Mormon church.

If you want to read the full, in-depth story, go to: SFGate.com

February 3, 2009


Faced with an ongoing investigation by California's Fair Political Practices Commission, mormon church officials reluctantly admitted that they failed to report almost $200,000 in campaign contributions to the Yes On 8 campaign.

According to San Francisco Chronicle's SFGate:

The report, filed with the secretary of state's office, listed a variety of California travel expenses for high-ranking members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and included $20,575 for use of facilities and equipment at the church's Salt Lake City headquarters and a $96,849 charge for "compensated staff time" for church employees who worked on matters pertaining to Prop. 8.

The Commission's investigation was prompted by a lawsuit filed by Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate, which is a group opposed to the same-sex marriage ban.

Karger's suit, filed on Nov. 13, 2008, alleged that the Mormon church had produced radio and television commercials, set up Web sites, conducted simulcasts and sent church leaders to California to support Prop 8 and never reported any of these contributions as required by law.

SFGate reported that all the way up until their recent admission last Friday, the Mormon church consistently denied any direct financial support for the campaign beyond a reported $2,078 spent for bringing church Elder L. Whitney Clayton to California.

In fact, when notified of the investigation, Mormon church officials grumbled that Karger's complaint was full of errors and that the church had "fully complied" with California law. Clearly, they knew they were lying. But then, that's nothing new for the Mormon church. Their dishonesty throughout the Prop 8 campaign was staggering.

I wouldn't be surprised if the real amount that the church itself spent on that campaign turned out to be much, much more than the $190,000 they were forced to report last Friday. And that's not even counting the millions of dollars that were donated by individual mormons who were "encouraged" by their revered leaders to send their hard-earned money to the Yes On 8 campaign - even though many of them couldn't really afford it.

I really hope the commission does a lot more than just give them a half-hearted little slap on the wrist.

My thanks also to Queers United and Box Turtle Bulletin for information in this story.

February 1, 2009


The web blog Queers United reported Sunday that the global shipping giant FedEx refused to provide equal family benefits to a legally married, same-sex couple.

According to HRC Back Story FedEx actually invoked the Defense of Marriage Act to justify why it wouldn’t provide benefits to the Massachusetts couple. As Back Story reported, FedEx’s tortured legal argument goes something like this:

We have a federally regulated health insurance plan and since the federal government defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman we are free to ignore your marriage in the provision of employee benefits.

What makes this an even more frustrating story is the fact that FedEx apparently lied to Fortune magazine in order to get a spot on Fortune's coveted "100 Best Companies to Work For In 2009." This listing is highly coveted by corporate recruiters who frequently use it to entice top talent to join their company.

To help determine company rankings, Fortune sent out a questionnaire that included questions about benefits, work-life and diversity, among other categories.

FedEx answered the question about offering domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples with a "Yes" and won the 90th position in the listing. But, according to HRC Back Story,

FedEx has never offered domestic partner benefits firm-wide. The only unit of the company that provides benefits to gay employees’ families is FedEx Office, formerly known as Kinko’s.


Kinko’s was already providing domestic partner benefits when FedEx acquired it in 2004. FedEx actually refused to extend the benefits to its other units. The fact that FedEx did not flat out cancel the benefits at Kinko’s is certainly no consolation to its thousands of other employees.

Many other top US companies of FedEx's size and stature have had no problem offering domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples throughout the country so why is FedEx trying so hard to deny those benefits to the rest of their gay employees?

The answer to that seems to be money. They simply don't want to pay for the additional coverages. They obviously calculated that since they already have the Fortune Magazine listing, why spend the additional funds when they can still reap the benefits of Fortune's prestigious listing?

If you want to express your feelings directly to FedEx, click here to go to their customer service form.

When the form opens just fill-in your name and email address and then skip the other boxes and scroll down to the comments section and enter what you want to say there. Then just click "Send Request" at the bottom and that's it.

I sent one saying, among other things, that I would never use FedEx again.