Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 40 / 2 October 2014
 

Breaking: High court delay ‘not unusual,’ Prop 8 attorney says

Marriage equality supporters on the West Coast were up early this morning, awaiting a possible decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on whether to accept for argument the federal Proposition 8 case, but when the court posted its list of cases at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time, there was no mention of that case or several others involving the Defense of Marriage Act.

One of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case said that the delay was “not unusual.”
The U.S. Supreme Court once again delayed indicating whether it will hear one or more of 10 petitions before it concerning same-sex marriage.

Attorney Theodore Olson (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)

Many legal observers expected to learn Monday that the court refused to hear an appeal concerning Prop 8 and an appeal concerning Arizona’s law banning equal benefits for the domestic partners of gay state employees. Both a federal district court and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled that Prop 8, passed by California voters four years ago, is unconstitutional. The appeals court put a stay on its decision pending review by the Supreme Court.

But when Monday’s orders list appeared, neither those cases nor any of the eight petitions concerning the Defense of Marriage Act were on it.

[Updated: Later in the morning, the Supreme Court website indicated the justices have rescheduled – or re-listed – all 10 petitions for its next scheduled conference meeting, Friday, December 7.]

Veteran Supreme Court reporter Lyle Denniston speculated recently that the announcement of a decision not to take up the Prop 8 case could take longer than usual because some justices might be writing dissents from the court’s decision not to review the lower court decision.

Four justices must agree to hear a case in order for it to be taken up for review by the Supreme Court.
A decision not to take up the Prop 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, will mean that same-sex couples will again be able to obtain marriage licenses in California within just a few days – a major development legally and politically. Officials in San Francisco and Los Angeles have been actively preparing for what they expect to be thousands of same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses, since November 2008 when a voter approved initiative amended the state constitution to stop allowing same-sex marriages in the state.

It would also mean that California, the most populous state in the nation, would become the 10th state, plus the District of Columbia, to enable same-sex couples to marry. That adds up to 28 percent of the U.S. population living in a jurisdiction where same-sex couples can marry.

Of equal concern is how the court will eventually decide to take up the appeals of decisions from three U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal that have struck down DOMA as unconstitutional. The high court could potentially take none, but most legal experts say it is almost certain to accept one or more of the five cases.

In a less visible case, the court has also been asked to hear a case from Arizona, Brewer v. Diaz, challenging a state law that bans equal benefits for gay state employees and their domestic partners.

Gay legal activists are studiously resisting the temptation to speculate about the amount of time the court is taking to decide whether to take any of the cases.

The justices were first scheduled to discuss the cases in conference in late September. That conference was re-scheduled for mid-November and then re-scheduled again for November 30.

Theodore Olson, part of the high-profile legal team that has been successfully challenging Prop 8, said Monday that it’s “not unusual for complex cases to be re-listed,” or be discussed by the justices in more than one of their private conferences.

[Updated: The court could conceivably issue an orders list on any of these cases Friday, following its conference meeting, or next Monday as part of its routine orders list issuance.]

The court could conceivably issue another orders list any day now. It is next scheduled to discuss cases Friday, December 7, and, if it takes one or more of the marriage-related cases, it would likely issue an orders list on Friday. The court’s calendar suggests that, if one or more of the cases is accepted for review, it will likely be argued in late March but could be argued as late as April 24.

- Reported by Lisa Keen

— Cynthia Laird, December 3, 2012 @ 8:36 am PST
Filed under: News,Politics


Come out for Kaplan Saturday

Out at-large Oakland City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan is having a fundraiser for her re-election campaign this Saturday, October 27 at the Bench and Bar in the city’s Uptown neighborhood. The event, dubbed “Coming Out for Kaplan” is a happy hour reception with LGBTQ and allied supporters.

Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)

Kaplan is in a tough battle for a second term on the Oakland City Council, as District 5 Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente is also running for the at-large seat, having decided to forgo what would have been an easy re-election in his Fruitvale district.

Several notable LGBT community leaders have signed on as hosts for the event, which takes place from 4 to 6 p.m. at 510 17th Street (at Telegraph). They include former California state Senator Sheila Kuehl, Berkeley City Councilman Darryl Moore, United Democratic Campaign co-director Michael Colbruno, and retired Navy Commander Zoe Dunning, who is an elected member of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee. The East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club, which endorsed Kaplan, is also a host for the event and several of its members are expected to attend.

The happy hour party will include entertainment by comedian Karinda Dobbins and DJ Luna will be spinning. Christiana Remington will serve as emcee.

Tickets range from $16 for one ticket or $50 for two tickets to a maximum of $700 for six tickets. To purchase tickets online, visit http://tinyurl.com/8sd7plf. To RSVP email alicia_at_kaplanforoakland.org or call (510) 463-4WIN.

— Cynthia Laird, October 25, 2012 @ 3:21 pm PST
Filed under: Politics


School board candidate lands big endorsements

Richard Fuentes, an openly gay Oakland resident who’s running for a seat on the city’s school board, this week announced three big endorsements for his campaign.

At a fundraising brunch Sunday, August 26, at La Borinquene Mexican Delicatessen, Fuentes told the crowd that he has been endorsed by Oakland Teachers Association. He also introduced the president of the Oakland Police Officers Association, Barry Donelan, who said that his group has endorsed Fuentes.

Candidate Richard Fuentes (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)

On his Facebook page today, Fuentes posted that he received the endorsement of the East Bay Young Democrats.

Fuentes, 30, works as a legislative aide for Oakland City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, who was at the event and praised him as the type of leader the financially strapped school district needs.

“He’s committed to education, in this case obviously, schoolchildren,” De La Fuente said. “I’m 100 percent behind Richard.”

He added that Fuentes, who was 26 when he interviewed for the council staff job four years ago, has grown while working at City Hall and that the school district faces many challenges with which Fuentes can help.

“He’s running to move them forward,” the councilman added.

For his part, Fuentes told the audience that as the president of the Hoover Elementary School Site Council and a leader in the school’s PTA group, he has worked to transform the school. Wanting to get students off the street and into classrooms, Hoover now has a truancy center, Fuentes said. He also has a science and technology initiative and is “very focused on teacher retention.”

“We laid off no teachers” at Hoover, he said, referencing the school board’s decision earlier this year to close five campuses.

During his remarks, Donelan said that the police officers union does not usually get involved in school board races.

“What we’re looking for here is leadership. The OPOA unequivocally endorses Richard for school board,” Donelan said.

Fuentes is challenging incumbent Jumoke Hinton-Hodge in District 3, which includes the West Oakland neighborhood. His platform includes reducing the drop-out rate and increasing classroom funding.

Fuentes’s boyfriend is Sean Sullivan, who is running for the District 3 City Council seat. De La Fuente is locked in a race for the council’s at-large seat against lesbian incumbent Rebecca Kaplan.

— Cynthia Laird, August 30, 2012 @ 10:58 am PST
Filed under: News,Politics


De La Fuente to challenge Kaplan for Oakland council seat

Seeking to “put to rest” rumors and speculation, Oakland City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente announced this afternoon that he will challenge incumbent councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, an out lesbian, for the city’s at-large seat.

De La Fuente has represented District 5, which includes the Fruitvale and Glenview neighborhoods, for 20 years. At a news conference on the steps of City Hall called to make his announcement, De La Fuente suggested that with three new members set to be elected in November, the City Council could be reinvigorated. And he could continue to represent Oakland by winning the citywide council seat.

City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente announces his candidacy for the at-large seat. (photo:Elliot Owen)

“Three new councilmembers will be elected in November and I can tell you we need that change,” he said.

There are open seats in Districts 1, 3, and, with De La Fuente’s announcement, District 5. Two gay men, Sean Sullivan and Alex Miller-Cole, are running among several candidates in District 3, which includes Jack London Square and West Oakland.

Kaplan, the council’s only gay member, was thought to have a smooth path to re-election in November. But that was upended this month when rumors started swirling that De La Fuente would give up his seat and seek the at-large position.

Taking questions from reporters after his prepared remarks, De La Fuente insisted he was not running against Kaplan, and was not seeking to oust her because she is gay.

“I hope people go back to my record,” he said. “I was the first to support domestic partners. I’m not running against anybody.”

De La Fuente said the top issue is public safety. Oakland’s police force has shrunk in recent years as the city has struggled with budget deficits. De La Fuente said that the council should authorize new tools. Those include gang injunctions, which have been obtained in parts of the city but which remain very controversial; curfews; and anti-loitering ordinances.

“Crime and violence are major issues,” he said. He said that the current City Council has been “stuck on philosophical debates” while murder and violent crime continue rising all over the city. As of Monday 63 people have been killed in Oakland, according to his statement.

De La Fuente was joined at his news conference by City Councilwoman Desley Brooks and former at-large councilman Henry Chang. Oakland school board member Noel Gallo, who is running for De La Fuente’s Fruitvale seat, was also in attendance. De La Fuente said he endorses Gallo in that race.

Kaplan fired off her own news release Thursday morning touting the endorsements of Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, the California Nurses Association, and the Sierra Club.

“Oakland is on the rise,” she said in the statement. “And I’m looking forward to continuing our work to get illegal guns off the streets, create jobs in our city, and revitalize our neighborhoods.”

Kaplan will host a breakfast fundraiser with local business leaders Wednesday, August 1 from 8 to 10 a.m. at Miss Pearl’s, 1 Broadway in Jack London Square. Tickets start at $75. For more information, visit www.kaplanforoakland.org.

— Cynthia Laird, July 26, 2012 @ 3:04 pm PST
Filed under: News,Politics


Obama, Pelosi issue Pride statements

President Barack Obama today issued his annual proclamation declaring June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month just as Pride parades and festivals get under way in cities across the country.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) also issued a Pride Month video (http://tinyurl.com/6m8wypg) in which she recounts the “dark days” of the Stonewall riots and other setbacks, noting that progress has been made since then.

In his proclamation, Obama starts out by noting that ordinary Americans “have led a proud and inexorable march toward freedom, fairness, and full equality under the law.”

President Barack Obama, shown in Redwood City last month, issued a Pride Month proclamation Friday. (Photo: Lydia Gonzales)

“The LGBT community has written a proud chapter in the fundamentally American story. From brave men and women who came out and spoke out to union and faith leaders who rallied for equality to activists and advocates who challenged unjust laws and marched on Washington, LGBT Americans and allies have achieved what once seemed inconceivable. This month, we reflect on their enduring legacy, celebrate the movement that has made progress possible, and recommit to securing the fullest blessings of freedom for all Americans,” the proclamation reads.

Obama also describes how his administration has worked to broaden opportunity, advance equality, and level the playing field for LGBT people and communities. That includes passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act; action to end housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and expanding hospital visitation rights for LGBT patients and their loved ones. And of course, Obama mentions the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the policy that had prevented gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

The proclamation also makes note of Obama’s historic statement last month that he supports marriage equality for same-sex couples.

“And because we must treat others the way we want to be treated, I personally believe in marriage equality for same-sex couples,” the proclamation states.

The proclamation calls upon the country to “eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.”

In her video message, Pelosi also mentions recent achievements such as the repeal of DADT, which “took its rightful place in the dustbin of history.”

“President Obama made it the policy of his administration to no longer defend the shameful Defense of Marriage Act,” Pelosi added.

Pelosi noted that more needs to be done, including ending workplace discrimination.

“We must protect and preserve the rights of all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation,” she said.

— Cynthia Laird, June 1, 2012 @ 3:41 pm PST
Filed under: News,Politics


Romney rushes to contain damaging story of anti-gay ‘prank’

Just one day after President Barack Obama’s big announcement that he supports the legal right of gay couples to marry, Republican nominee-apparent Mitt Romney is scrambling to contain an unexpected revelation.

A close friend of Romney’s, when the two were attending a private boarding school outside Detroit during their high school years, says Romney forcibly held down and cut the hair of a fellow student despite the student’s screams for help.

Mitt Romney

The Romney friend, Matthew Friedemann, told the Washington Post, in a story published May 10, that the victim of the attack had tears in his eyes and was screaming for help when he, Romney, and several other students tackled the non-conforming student whom many presumed to be gay.

The Post said four of the other students who participated in the attack confirmed it. One recalled it as “vicious.” Friedemann said Romney organized and led the attack.

Asked about the Post story, Romney told Fox News Radio Thursday that he didn’t recall the incident but added, “I certainly don’t believe that I … thought the fellow was homosexual.”

Although he didn’t remember the incident, he characterized the attack as a prank, acknowledged that it might have gone “too far,” but said he considers himself to be “a very different person” now.

The victim of the 1965 attack, according to the Post, was John Lauber, who died in 2004. In high school, Lauber had grown his hair long, bleached it, and wore it in a style that it draped over one eye. That, according to Friedemann, led many students to presume Lauber was gay.

Friedemann said Romney saw Lauber’s hairstyle and said, “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong!” A few days later, said Friedemann, he found Romney leading a group of students into a room where Lauber was. Friedemann said Romney and the group grabbed Lauber, pinned him to the floor, and enabled Romney to cut his hair.

The Post got confirmation of the attack from five of the students who participated in it.

Alex Shriver, a Romney campaign spokesman, on MSNBC Thursday afternoon, blew off a question about the incident, calling it a “temporary media distraction, with sort of questionable timing.”

But the Post found another fellow student of Romney’s, Gary Hummel, who was gay at the time and recalled Romney mocking him with “Atta girl!” whenever we spoke out in class.

- Lisa Keen

— Cynthia Laird, May 10, 2012 @ 11:27 am PST
Filed under: News,Politics


SF DA: Won’t seek death penalty in cases

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon told reporters today that he would not seek the death penalty “in any case.”

The issue was raised by the Bay Area Reporter during a Q&A with reporters at a biannual press breakfast Gascon hosted at Delancey Street Restaurant.

SF DA George Gascon (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Earlier this month, defendant William Payne pleaded not guilty to the 1983 murder of Nikolaus Crumbley. During a court appearance February 2, Assistant District Attorney Michael Swart said that the murder charge against Payne could be altered to reflect that it occurred during the course of sodomy, which would make Payne a candidate for the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

At the time, Swart said he did not know if the DA’s office would alter the charge but said that if it became a capital case it would go before a committee in the DA’s office. The decision to seek the death penalty would ultimately be made by Gascon.

Thursday, Gascon was asked about the Payne case.

“We’re not going to be seeking the death penalty,” Gascon said.

Asked to clarify if he was just referring to the Payne case, Gascon said his office would not seek the death penalty “in any case.”

“It would be life without parole,” he said of the severest penalty his office would seek in applicable felony cases.

During his 2011 election campaign, Gascon said that he’s “not a believer” in the death penalty but did not specifically rule out applying it in cases.

The B.A.R. will have more on the Payne case in next week’s edition.

— Cynthia Laird, February 16, 2012 @ 3:53 pm PST
Filed under: News,Politics


Christina Olague tapped as D5 supe

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee this morning named Christina Olague as the new supervisor for District 5. Olague, who had served as president of the Planning Commission, was sworn in around 10:30 a.m.

An out bisexual Latina, Olague was an early member of the “Run Ed Run” campaign to encourage Lee to seek a full four-year term.

“Christina Olague is my appointment for District 5 supervisor,” Lee said in a statement. “As a low-income tenant and immigration advocate, she shares my values in making government more fair and responsive for San Francisco residents. She has been a voice for our neighborhoods and has proven through her voting record on the Planning Commission that what San Francisco needs most right now is job creation and revitalizing our local economy.”

District 5 covers the Haight Ashbury, Lower Haight, Fillmore, Western Addition, Parnassus Heights, North Panhandle, Anza Vista, Lower Pacific Heights, Japantown, part of Hayes Valley, part of Ashbury Heights, and part of UCSF Parnassus Heights.

Olague will fill the term of former Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who was sworn in Sunday as sheriff. She is expected to run for a full term when the odd-numbered districts are up this November.

The Bay Area Reporter will have more on Olague in Thursday’s edition.

— Cynthia Laird, January 9, 2012 @ 12:49 pm PST
Filed under: News,Politics


DOMA repeal leaves Senate panel but faces hurdles

The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday voted to recommend passage of a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

The bill is the Respect for Marriage Act (S. 598). Thursday’s 10-8 vote along partisan lines had been originally scheduled for November 3 but was postponed a week at the request of Republicans on the committee.

Republican Charles Grassley (Iowa) criticized Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) for putting the bill on the committee’s agenda, saying the committee should, instead, be taking up “bills that can pass” and which address the country’s financial problems. Grassley said S. 598 “lacks the votes to pass the Senate” and that, even if it does pass the Senate, “it will not be taken up in the House,” which is controlled by Republicans.

Grassley repeatedly referred to the measure as the “Restoration of Marriage Act,” instead of Respect for Marriage, and said it would not accomplish “restoration of any rights,” but rather create “new rights that same-sex couples have never had under federal law.”

He also said there is a “universal religious view” that marriage is “about procreation and child-bearing.”

“To me, this debate is about stable families, good environments for raising children, and religious belief,” said Grassley. “It is not about discriminating against anyone. No society has limited marriage to heterosexual couples because of a desire to create second-class families.”

He rebuffed the arguments of many, including the bill’s chief sponsor, California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) (shown at right), that the fight to repeal DOMA is reminiscent of the fight to repeal laws that barred interracial marriages. Quoting Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Grassley said such comparisons can be “deeply offensive” to African Americans.

Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper offered some support for Grassley’s concerns about “priorities” but also spoke about “what marriage means in America today.”

“Today’s hearing was a principled discussion about the meaning of federalism, the priorities of our nation in a challenging time, and what marriage means in America today,” said Cooper.

Feinstein noted, in her remarks Thursday, that a large group of corporations filed a legal brief recently highlighting the ways DOMA burdens them with red tape and requires they treat employees differently if they are gay.

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesman, issued a statement saying, “President Obama applauds today’s vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee to approve the Respect for Marriage Act, which would provide a legislative repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. The president has long believed that DOMA is discriminatory and has called for its repeal. We should all work toward taking this law off the books. The federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections afforded to straight couples.”

Evan Wolfson, head of the national Freedom to Marry group, noted that support for the Respect for Marriage Act has grown to 31 co-sponsors in the Senate and 133 in the House.

“The historic growth in support among lawmakers for repealing DOMA mirrors the growth in public support for the freedom to marry to what is now a solid majority nationwide,” said Wolfson.

Recent polling has begun to show a consistent trend in public opinion supporting the right of same-sex couples to get married. A survey of 1,001 adults nationwide by ABC and the Washington Post in July found 51 percent “think it should be legal for gay and lesbians couples to get married.”

Supporters of the legislation will need 60 votes to overcome will almost certainly be a filibuster of the legislation should Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nevada) bring it to the floor. Politico.com noted that Feinstein acknowledged to reporters after the hearing that the bill does not have those 60 votes and that she has not spoken to Reid about the bill.

– Reported by Lisa Keen

— Cynthia Laird, November 10, 2011 @ 11:17 am PST
Filed under: News,Politics


Senate panel OKs gay judicial nominee; puts off DOMA repeal vote

On a voice vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee today recommended the confirmation of openly gay attorney Michael Fitzgerald (pictured at right) to serve on the federal bench in Los Angeles. But, at the request of Republicans, the committee postponed its vote on a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

Committee Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) announced during the November 3 business meeting that Senator Charles Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the committee, had asked that the vote on the Respect for Marriage Act (S. 598) be held over until next week.

Leahy granted the bill’s chief sponsor, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), an opportunity to speak for the bill. Feinstein noted that the Defense of Marriage Act had been passed “five years ago,” in 1996, when no state had yet made it possible for same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses. (She later corrected her remarks to note that it had been passed 15 years ago.) Today, said Feinstein, six states and the District of Columbia issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“Now,” she said, “there are 131,000 same-sex couples in the United States. They are real people.” And DOMA, she said, “is the pernicious denial” of equal rights to that class of legally married couples.
Leahy himself compared DOMA to laws that once prohibited interracial marriages.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) quoted the 19th century French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville as having marveled at the United States’ “march to equality.” The repeal of DOMA, said Schumer, “will be a large step in that direction.”

“It will happen,” said Schumer. “It will happen. Let’s just hope it happens sooner rather than later.”

The Respect for Marriage vote is now scheduled for Thursday, November 10.

President Barack Obama’s nomination of Fitzgerald advanced with minimal opposition expressed by Republicans. Fitzgerald, 52, has been fairly heavily involved in both gay and non-gay legal and political issues. He noted himself that he spent “hundreds of hours” doing pro bono work that led to the elimination of a ban on gay people from service as FBI agents. That history prompted the only Republican in attendance at his confirmation hearing last month to label him an “activist.”

– Written by Lisa Keen

— Cynthia Laird, November 3, 2011 @ 11:03 am PST
Filed under: News,Politics


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