Entries in Gay Rights (14)


Gay Rights Push Could Endanger Immigration Bill

Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A push to include gay couples in a bipartisan immigration reform bill threatens to upset the delicate coalition backing the proposal in the Senate, Politico reports.

Under current law, Americans in a heterosexual relationship can sponsor their foreign-born spouses for green cards. But gay and lesbian couples cannot do so, since federal law does not recognize same-sex marriages. As written, the "Gang of Eight" bill leaves same-sex couples out.

But now, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), is strongly considering offering an amendment to the bill during a markup session next week that would extend the ability to sponsor a spouse to gay and lesbian couples. That provision could affect as many as 40,000 binational same-sex couples.

That could complicate efforts to pass the bill, because Senate Republicans who backed the immigration bill have already taken a significant political risk in supporting a proposal that would legalize millions of undocumented immigrants. Tacking on an expansion of rights for same-sex couples, another fractious debate within the GOP, might be enough to break apart the bipartisan coalition.

Republican negotiators on immigration have long said that including same-sex couples in the immigration bill would be a deal breaker. And if a large number of GOP senators decide to vote no, that may prevent sponsors from attracting the 70-vote majority they hope to achieve in order to force the House to act.

"Immigration is hard enough. Let's not go down the road of redefining marriage," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters last month, adding that the language "is not going to be in the bill."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) echoed that point to Politico.

"It will virtually guarantee that it won't pass," he said. "This issue is a difficult enough issue as it is. I respect everyone's views on it. But ultimately, if that issue is injected into this bill, the bill will fail and the coalition that helped put it together will fall apart."

And as Politico's Carrie Budoff-Brown points out, the provision might also provoke a host of evangelical and Catholic leaders who have endorsed the "Gang of Eight" effort. Support from religious groups has been viewed by advocates as crucial to winning the backing of GOP lawmakers and approval from conservative voters.

But for many Democrats, the political calculus is different.

Immigrant-rights and gay-rights advocacy groups have been prodding Democratic lawmakers for months to include same-sex couples in the bill. And they were reportedly frustrated that the "Gang of Eight" bill left out that language after Republicans threw up a red flag.

"Our total focus is on making sure that we have the votes in committee to ensure that the bill, when it reaches the full Senate, does include our families," Steve Ralls, spokesman for Immigration Equality, told ABC/Univision last month.

Some advocates believe that if the Supreme Court decided to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act this summer, the ruling would give same-sex couples rights equal to heterosexual couples under immigration law. But they also appear to be wary of depending on a court ruling to decide the issue.

Democrats who back same-sex protections also believe they are negotiating from a position of strength, coming off an election in which President Obama won seven in ten Latino voters. Democrats also hold a majority on the Judiciary Committee and the amendment would pass if all Democratic senators on the panel vote for it. They don't believe that including the language will sink the bill.

"It's not going to kill the bill," Leahy said, according to Politico.

All of this could put sponsors of the bill in a tough position, making this issue one of the top ones to watch at next week's markup.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Marriage Equality: Too Much, Too Soon?

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- This week, gay rights advocates will head to the Supreme Court to hear Theodore Olson, a lawyer opposing Prop 8, argue for marriage equality at the Supreme Court. Olson’s argument is as broad as can be, asking the court to recognize a right to gay marriage.

But many gay rights advocates, who have worked behind the scenes for years, initially disagreed with Olson’s strategy to take a challenge to a state ban (Prop 8, California) on gay marriage to the Supreme Court. They thought he was asking for too much too soon.

Last week Linda Greenhouse, who won a Pulitzer prize for her New York Times coverage of the Court, said Olson was right, that his lawsuit has in fact had the effect of “speeding and enhancing public understanding” and support for marriage equality. She says this is due in part to the fact that the lower court held a trial on the issue and gave people the time to think through the issues.

When asked about the early schism between gay rights advocates on a conference call last week, Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign said the disagreement “is really water under the bridge.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


How Politicians Have Shifted with Polls on Gay Rights

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Like America, politicians have evolved on gay rights since the 1990s.

Some -- like Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who as a college student in 1992 admitted to how he once "hated gays" -- did their evolving earlier than others.

And some -- like Chuck Hagel, who will have to answer questions about his late-1990s comments about gays in the military -- had a lot more evolving to do.

But both men have moved with their country.

Acceptance of lesbians and gays has changed a lot in the past quarter of a century and the pace has quickened in recent years.

They can serve openly in the military and get married in 9 states and the District of Columbia, and a majority of Americans now supports the right of same-sex couples to marry.

A column Cory Booker wrote at the Stanford Daily while he was a student has brought headlines this week because of how it says he originally "hated gays." In the piece, which the paper re-posted this week, Booker described a gay counselor who shared with him his struggles. Booker wrote of how it struck him as similar to his black grandparents' fight for tolerance. The experience, he said, changed his attitudes on homosexuality.

The column is now 20 years old, and Booker says his attitudes are very different now. A year ago he gave a strongly-worded defense of same-sex marriage in a press conference in Newark, telling reporters, "We've created a second-class citizenship in our state." He has just announced a run for U.S. Senate.

"We have two types of citizens right now in our state: citizens like me, who, if I choose to marry somebody, I can marry somebody from a different country and they have a right to United States citizenship. I talked to somebody last night, his spouse is looking to be deported," Booker said in January 2012, according to video of the press conference. "I will be fundamentally in the fiber of my being supportive of equal citizenship for all people in this country because I know, at the end of the day, I would not be here, my family would not be able to put food on the table for me, if it wasn't for that ideal in America."

Booker's change of heart mimics those of numerous high-profile politicians and other Americans on the topic of gay rights and same-sex marriage. Recent polling shows just how much the country has changed on the topic. An ABC News-Washington Post poll in November showed that 51 percent of Americans support gay marriage, up sharply from 32 percent in mid-2004.

Brian Ellner led the successful campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in New York and said, "This is a movement about changing hearts and minds."

"We've seen incredibly swift movement in polling in terms of support for equality for lesbian and gay families in every demographic: younger Americans, older Americans, rural, urban, every ethnic group and across all religions," Ellner said. "It's been dramatic and every possible trend line goes into the right direction, which is for full equality."

President Obama's choice for defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, got into some hot water for past statements he made when it was revealed he called James Hormel, who was trying to win confirmation as the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg in 1998, "openly, aggressively gay." It's language that raises eyebrows now, but then it was accepted. Only in 2012 has Hagel, eager to be confirmed himself, apologized and said his views had changed on the issue of gay rights.

Rev. Louie Giglio of Passion City Church in Georgia ran into a similar issue this week when he announced he would be pulling out of the presidential inauguration after being chosen by the inaugural committee to give the benediction later this month. He made the decision after it was revealed by ThinkProgress that he had given a sermon in the mid-1990s in which he said homosexuality is a sin and advocated "gay conversion" therapy. When he announced he was pulling out of the event, Giglio did not apologize outright as Hagel did; instead, he said that "speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years."

Ellner said the dramatic and swift change is because "more and more gay Americans have had the courage to come out and live open lives."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Paul Ryan on Social Issues: Where Does He Stand?

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Mitt Romney's pick of Paul Ryan as his running mate set off weekend-long debates about the young Wisconsin rep's fiscal policies, but less was said about his stance on social issues. Where does Romney's running mate stand on such issues as abortion and gun rights?

ABORTION:  Ryan is firmly against abortion rights. He has a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee, the nation's largest anti-abortion rights organization. He co-sponsored the Sanctity of Human Life Act, a bill that would define human life as beginning at conception.

President Obama tweeted earlier today: "Make sure the women in your life know: Paul Ryan supports banning all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest."

Ryan, however, has said that he was willing to disagree, "with mutual respect," with others on the issue.

GAY RIGHTS:  Ryan's record on gay rights is mixed, and gay rights is one issue on which Ryan and Romney disagree somewhat. Ryan's said he's anti-same-sex marriage, and he's voted against adoption rights for same-sex couples. Romney has said he believes same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt.

But Ryan did break with his party to vote for the Sexual Orientation Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination in hiring on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Romney has said that he would not support that legislation at the federal level, saying those decisions should be made by the states.

GUNS: An avid outdoorsman who hunts, Ryan has received an "A" record from the National Rifle Association for his stance and voting record on gun rights. In the past, Ryan has voted "yes" on the Firearms Manufacturers Protection Bill, which would prohibit "misuse" lawsuits against gun manufacturers, and "no" on the 72 Background Check Amendment, which would increase the required background check time period for purchasing a gun from 24 hours to 72 hours.

IMMIGRATION:  Ryan voted against the Dream Act, legislation that would offer a route to citizenship to illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and had gone to college here. On his congressional website, Ryan said that the legislation "attempts to treat a symptom, rather than the root cause, of our current problem." Ryan favors placing a priority on securing the border, "developing a more secure employee verification system" and working on creating "an enforceable guest worker program."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


A 'Proud' Obama Makes Appeal to Gay Donors

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages(LOS ANGELES) -- President Obama claimed the mantle of champion for the LGBT community Wednesday night, telling a group of 600 gay and lesbian donors at a star-studded fundraiser that he “could not be prouder” of his administration’s work to advance fairness and equality. 

From the effort to lift an HIV/AIDS travel ban, to the passage of a hate crimes law and the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell,” Obama credited his friends and family, staff and military service members as the inspiration behind his advocacy for gay rights in the White House.

“It’s something that I’m personally very proud of,” he said of the accomplishments.

One of those sources of inspiration introduced Obama -- Dr. Vito Imbasciani, a urological surgeon and colonel in the U.S. Army National Guard who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Imabasciani, who is gay, explained that it was his commander-in-chief who allowed him to finally “be himself” after serving for 26 years.

“Until last year, the price of my service was to live a lie,” Imbasciani said.  “But not anymore.”

“Thanks to the unyielding efforts of President Obama I can serve my country openly with my family by my side,” he added, referring to the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.”  Imbasciani said he and his partner have two adopted children of Mexican descent.  

Citing “Vito’s story,” Obama said that his administration’s record of progress for gays and lesbians over the past three years is “just one more step” in a broader movement for greater equality for all Americans."

“It’s part of our history of trying to make this union a little bit more perfect,” the president said.  “In successive ways, the history, the scope of this country has always been to further broaden the meaning of citizenship, to include more and more people.  To give better and better expression to our highest aspirations, to make the country more fair, and more just and more equal.”

While the president did not specifically address his rival Mitt Romney’s record on gay rights, he did suggest the former Republican governor would be much less supportive.

There is a “fundamentally different vision about what’s going on,” Obama said of his opponent’s campaign.  “And a lot of this debate’s going to be about the economy, but also obviously there’s a different vision about how we create an inclusive America."

“I refuse to let anybody re-impose a law that would force Vito back into the shadows when he’s serving on our behalf and our safety and our security,” he continued to resounding applause.  “That’s not something I will tolerate.”

Romney, it should be noted, has not publicly called for re-imposing a ban on gays serving openly in the military.  During a November 2011 primary debate, Romney suggested that he would allow the repeal to stand, saying, “That’s already occurred and I’m not planning on reversing that at this stage.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Pride: Jane Lynch Stars in Appeal to LGBT Voters

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama is marking Gay Pride Month with a concerted push to mobilize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender voters, who his re-election campaign believes are a key constituency in hotly contested swing states.

In a new five-minute, documentary-style campaign video, Obama appeals to his supporters by casting himself as the most progressive U.S. president on gay rights issues in American history.  He also reflects personally on how he was inspired to become an advocate through relationships with LGBT friends and family, U.S. military service members, and the mother of anti-gay hate crime victim Matthew Shepard.

“Meeting people like Judy Shepard, and not only hearing the heartbreaking tragedy of Matthew but also the strength and determination she brought to making sure that never happens to young people anywhere in the country again,” is what he says moved him.

Obama also said the stories of gay and lesbian service members who have fought and died for the country also “made me passionate.”

“I don’t think there was a single moment LGBT issues became important to me. It was an accumulation of a lifetime of friends, family and people I’ve met who have helped me understand how the fight for LGBT rights is consistent” with America, he said.

The film is narrated by actress Jane Lynch, who stars in the hit show Glee and is openly gay.

“That passion drove him to make more significant advances for LGBT Americans than any other president who came before him,” Lynch says.

Earlier Wednesday, the Obama campaign also kicked off a grassroots organizing campaign specifically targeting gay voters. “LGBT Americans for Obama” will focus on enlisting volunteers and turning out votes in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Nevada and Michigan, the campaign said.

Obama campaign strategists believe the president’s achievements in gay rights, coupled with his newfound support for same-sex marriage, is one of the strongest selling points of his first term.

They regularly declaim the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” signing the Hate Crime Prevention Act into law, ceasing a defense of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and executive actions to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in the federal government.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney 'Glittered' at Minnesota Rally

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(EAGAN, Minn.) -- The protesters known for throwing glitter on former presidential candidates Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty succeeded Wednesday in covering Mitt Romney with the colorful confetti right as he entered a warehouse where he was scheduled to hold a campaign rally.

After his son, Josh Romney, helped brush off some of the confetti from his blue blazer, Romney turned to the crowd and declared the incident a “celebration.”

“I’m happy for a little celebration, this is confetti. We just won Florida, we’re just going to win the White House next. This is confetti,” Romney told the crowd.

Romney’s wife, Ann, also helped brush glitter off Romney and gave him a quick kiss on the lips before he took off his blazer.

“Oh, I’ve got glitter in my hair,” he added, making light of the incident. “That’s not all that’s in my hair, I’ll tell you that. I glue it on every morning, whether I need to or not.”

The protesters who threw the glitter on Romney are suspected to be a part of Glitterati and Occupy Minneapolis, who have used the confetti to call attention to candidates who they believe do not support gay rights.

“Thank you, here’s a guy – wave your hand over there who threw the glitter. Hi there. How are you? Hi there. How are you? Good to see you, there you go,” Romney said as he took the microphone and security guards removed the glitter bomber.

At least one protester was not removed by security, however, because Romney was hit by another batch of glitter as he exited the event.

Romney’s private security was with him Wednesday, the last day before Secret Service will start offering the candidate and his family protection.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


SC Flyer Campaign Focuses on Romney's Position on Gay Rights

ABC News(CHARLESTON, S.C.) -- If a Democratic-allied super PAC has its way, Mitt Romney's past statements on gay rights issues will come back to haunt him in South Carolina this week.

The group, American Bridge 21st Century, has produced an anti-Romney flyer designed to expose a series of Romney's more sympathetic comments about the gay and lesbian community.

"We thought you'd like to see how much common ground there is between Mitt Romney and some of the great voices of the LGBT rights movement," the top of the flyer reads.

What follows are four Romney quotes paired with similar comments by gay rights leaders Harvey Milk, Audre Lorde, Lt. Dan Choi and the gay Massachusetts congressman, Barney Frank.

"The gay community needs more support from the Republican Party," reads one of Romney's quotes on the flyer, which is printed on pink paper.

The group began distributing the fliers on car windshields in Charleston, S.C. on Saturday outside a forum moderated by Mike Huckabee and S.C. Congressman Tim Scott. They plan to continue handing them out all week long at selected venues throughout the state, including in church parking lots on Sunday morning.

American Bridge's goal is to chip away at Romney's support among conservative voters in the state, especially evangelical Christians.

"This isn't about painting Romney as a liberal to voters in South Carolina," the group's president, Rodell Mollineau, said in an interview with ABC News. "It really is about showing voters that this man has no core and he will say anything to get elected."

Mollineau's group, which has dispatched trackers to follow the GOP candidates over the course of the primary season, plans other attacks on Romney this week ahead of the state's Jan. 21 primary. American Bridge will use video, social media and possibly newspaper ads to exploit what they see as the former Massachusetts governor's vulnerabilities in at least two other areas: his position on abortion and his evolution as a conservative.

The hand-outs are meant to mirror fliers that were reportedly distributed by Romney during his 2002 gubernatorial campaign in Massachusetts that included a statement by Romney and his running mate, Kerry Healy that read: "All citizens deserve equal rights regardless of their sexual preference."

Romney campaign strategist Eric Fehrnstrom, who served as communications director for the candidate's 2002 bid, recently told the Huffington Post that he never saw or approved the decade-old fliers.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Newt’s Gay Sister ‘Cordial,' But Backing Obama

Stephen Rose/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Ask Candace Gingrich-Jones what people don’t know about her older brother, and she’ll tell you about his lighter side.

“Like a lot of folks, Newt has a public and a private persona,” she said in an interview with ABC News. “He can be a pretty fun person with a fun sense of humor, and the ability to be irreverent.”

But when it comes to politics, Gingrich-Jones -- a gay rights activist -- isn’t laughing.

“We’re not that different from most families in that we have widely different opinions on a variety of topics,” Gingrich-Jones, 45, said. “But I don’t support my brother’s qualities when it comes to LGBT equality issues. I could not support the campaign of somebody who doesn’t think I deserve the same rights as other people.”

Gingrich, who is 23 years his sister’s senior, opposes same-sex marriage and gay adoption, favors the reinstatement of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” for the military, and supports the federal Defense of Marriage Act. They’re all positions his sister finds surprising, particularly in light of their longstanding personal relationship, which she characterized as “uncle-niece-like.”

“People talk about the LGBT rights movement and they talk about what’s had the biggest impact on its progress being more people coming out, and most people who know somebody gay ‘get it,’” said Gingrich-Jones. “But no one has asked him about why he doesn’t ‘get it.’”

The two, who never lived in the same house together, have had regular encounters over the years, joining the extended family at holiday gatherings or on summer trips to the beach or amusement parks with the kids. While they are technically “half” brother and sister sharing the same mother, Gingrich-Jones said the family never uses the word.

They were most recently together several weeks ago in Washington when the family gathered to hear Gingrich’s wife Calista sing in the choir at the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. “We exchanged some chit chat. It was cordial,” Gingrich-Jones said.

The elephant in the living room at most of the gatherings, according to Gingrich-Jones, is the fact that she is married to her wife, Rebecca Jones, contrary to the views of her brother.

“He said, ‘It’s your life and you live the way you want to,’” said Gingrich-Jones, describing Newt’s reaction to her coming out at age 21 in 1987. But she soon learned there were caveats.

“Watching his rise as Speaker and learning more about his views and anti-gay opinions, I became much more disappointed,” Gingrich-Jones said.

When she wed Jones in 2009 at a ceremony to which her brother was invited, he did not attend because he was traveling abroad.

“I don’t know whether the trip was planned before or after the invitation,” she said. “But I’ve known since the 1990s, he’s said if I ever had a wedding and married a woman he wouldn’t come.”  She said he did send a card and shower gift, however.

Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond told ABC News,  “Newt loves his sister very much. They have a good relationship.”

“A brother and sister bond can handle a difference in political views,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean Gingrich-Jones is going to spend the 2012 campaign sitting on the sidelines. She is planning to take an active role campaigning for President Obama.

“The things we saw happen in the last four years of the Obama administration would all, or many of them, go away under a President Gingrich. It would be a huge setback,” she said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Boy Tells Bachmann His Gay Mom Doesn’t Need to Be ‘Fixed’

AFP/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- An 8-year-old boy was prompted by his gay mother to confront GOP contender Michele Bachmann about homosexuality at a book-signing event in South Carolina.

Rep. Bachmann, who supports a Constitutional amendment defining marriage between a man and a woman, initially coaxed the seemingly shy child to speak to her during the weekend event, only to be left virtually speechless when she realized what the boy said.

After repeated prompting from his mother to approach the congresswoman and urged  to, "say it louder" when he couldn't be heard, the boy, identified only as Elijah, whispered to Bachmann, “My mom is gay and she doesn’t need fixing.” The woman who captured the video,  posted it to YouTube with the title, "Activist Elijah With Michele Bachmann."

Bachmann, who crouched low to hear him, initially says nothing to the boy, but as he walks away she responds: “Ok. Bye-bye.”

[Click here to watch the video]

According to Chicago Now, a woman who identified herself as the shooter of the clip said the boy’s mother planned to confront Bachmann but got nervous. Elijah insisted they stay at the event to talk to the Congresswoman.

“I was standing in line with Elijah and his mom.  His mom was going to say something to her, but she got nervous and told me she wanted to leave.  We were about to step out of the line but Elijah cried out, ‘Nooo!’  He grabbed onto her coat and pulled her back in the line, saying he wanted to talk to her,” the woman told Chicago Now.

Bachmann was confronted by a high school student at an event in Iowa last week, also asking about gay rights in a video that went viral.

“Why can’t same sex couples get married?” 16-year-old Jane Schmidt asked Bachmann.

“They can get married, [if] they abide by the same laws as everyone else.  They can marry a man, if they’re a woman, and can marry a woman if they’re man,” Bachmann responded.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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