Blog Posts from March 2011
On Monday, I testified before the Connecticut Legislature’s Judiciary Committee in favor H.B. 6599, “An Act Concerning Discrimination,” which would add the phrase gender identity and expression in Connecticut’s non-discrimination laws. My prepared testimony was just about two minutes, but I spent the next hour on the hot seat, fielding questions from committee members about the bill and how, when adopted as law, it would be enforced. That is as it should be. It’s important to let those who are just learning about transgender people’s lives ask of all their questions and have them answered in a reasoned, thoughtful way.
It’s everyone’s favorite time of year. At least there is some good news for transgender tax payers this year. But still the same bad news for married same sex couples.
Yesterday I had the honor of accompanying Nancy Gill and Marcelle Letourneau, the lead plaintiffs in Gill v. OPM, GLAD’s First Circuit DOMA challenge, along with attorney Mary Bonauto, to Washington, D.C. The three were invited to speak at a press conference hosted by Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York, who re-introduced the Respect for Marriage Act, his bill to repeal DOMA. Rep. Nadler’s history of active support for advancing LGBT rights on Capitol Hill is as long as his congressional career, which began in the early 1990s.
Does the political theater of Supreme Court confirmation hearings push justices to the right on issues involving a free press? Dahlia Lithwick, Supreme Court writer for Slate, made this argument yesterday at a panel discussion on “The Court, the Closet, and the Press” at Suffolk University Law School.
Last month’s marriage equality hearing in Rhode Island left me feeling a little like Congressman Joe “You Lie!” Wilson. Wilson, you’ll recall, shouted his infamous exclamation at President Obama after the president stated in a speech to Congress that his health care legislation would not provide free health coverage for illegal immigrants, despite what vocal opponents of the healthcare bill were saying. As I watched Austin Nimocks of the anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund testify without blinking that marriage equality in Massachusetts “forced” Catholic Charities of Boston out of the adoption business, it was all I could do not to let loose a “You Lie!” right there in the marbled halls of the Rhode Island State House.
Courts have found that laws that discriminate against certain groups of people are more likely to reflect prejudice against that group than they are good public policy. Rather than being assumed to be constitutional, such laws need to be justified with exceptionally good reasons. This is called “heightened scrutiny” and has, for example, been used in cases where a racial group is being discriminated against. GLAD has consistently argued in the courts that sexual orientation deserves “heightened scrutiny.” So it was an enormous breakthrough last week when the President and the Department of Justice (DOJ) agreed with GLAD on that point- and because of that also agreed that DOMA is unconstitutional.