Online Extra: Wedding Bell Blues: HRC releases report on support for gay unions
by Seth Hemmelgarn
The national Human Rights Campaign has released survey results detailing the stances members of Congress have on same-sex marriage.
The information, made available Thursday, August 2, combines members' marriage positions with their record on other LGBT issues in one database.
The data show that while support for same-marriage in California is strong among many of the state's elected officials, some representatives appear to be on the fence or are against gay couples.
"As a majority of Americans have come to support the ability of loving and committed gay and lesbian couples to marry, they rightfully want to know whether their elected officials share that fair-minded view," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a news release. "Many members of Congress are commendably with the public, but Congress is always a lagging indicator. It's time for more of our leaders to get on the right side of history."
California's Democratic senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, are both listed as supporting marriage equality.
HRC indicates that the two San Francisco-based senators both agreed with the statement, "Gay and lesbian couples should not be denied the ability to pledge their love and commitment through the civil institution of marriage. I believe that two committed adults of the same sex should be able to receive a government-issued marriage license, while religious institutions retrain their right to determine which marriages they will perform."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Representative Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) were among several others who also have expressed their support.
But the profile of Representative Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton) in the HRC report says his position is "Unknown, unclear or no response."
The organization points to a story from San Francisco's ABC7 TV station in November 2008 in which McNerney was quoted as saying, "I'm against Proposition 8 because I'm against discrimination of Americans in the country, period." The story ran just before California voters passed the Prop 8 same-sex marriage ban.
A McNerney spokeswoman didn't respond to emailed questions Monday afternoon, August 6.
HRC notes McNerney didn't co-sponsor two pieces of legislation designed to help same-sex couples: the Respect for Marriage Act, HR 1116, and the Uniting American Families Act of 2011, HR 1537.
The bills would, respectively, repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex unions, and protect binational same-sex couples.
According to HRC, among both the House and Senate, 34 percent of members support marriage equality. However, more – 44 percent – have made statements against same-sex couples. Those whose positions are unclear or unknown account for 23 percent.
To view the HRC survey results, visit http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/your-elected-officials.
Pelosi, Honda, other local reps push DHS on uniting families
Pelosi made her support of same-sex couples even more clear when she joined Representatives Mike Honda (D-Campbell), Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) and many others in writing Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to protect same-sex binational couples where one partner is facing deportation.
Nadler is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and lead sponsor of the United American Families Act. Honda is chair emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and lead sponsor of the Reuniting Families Act.
In August 2011, the Obama administration and DHS announced a new effort to focus immigration enforcement on the priorities established in June of that year by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton.
During the August announcement, DHS and White House officials said that for purposes of exercising prosecutorial discretion, ICE would include LGBT relationships in the definition of "family relationships," a news release from Pelosi's office noted.
In September 2011, 69 members of Congress signed a letter to Napolitano asking for LGBT immigration policy to be put in writing, but that language has never been written, according to Pelosi's staff.
"Keeping loving families together, particularly in cases in which one partner or spouse is a U.S. citizen, should be a priority for immigration enforcement," Pelosi said in the most recent letter to Napolitano, which was sent Wednesday, August 1. "The Department of Homeland Security has stated that their policy will positively factor in family ties, including those of LGBT couples, but we have now asked them to put this in writing to provide a measure of clarity to those enforcing our laws and confidence to families facing separation."
An ICE spokeswoman wasn't available for comment late Monday afternoon.
Wedding Bell Blues is an online column looking at various issues related to the marriage equality fight in California and elsewhere. Please send column ideas or tips to Seth Hemmelgarn at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (415) 861-5019. Wedding Bell Blues appears every other Tuesday.