Showing posts with label Massachusetts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Massachusetts. Show all posts

November 15, 2017

ExUS Ambassador to Denmark Running for Congress from Massachusetts

Rufus Gifford, an openly gay man who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Denmark under the Obama administration, launched a bid to represent Massachusetts in Congress.
Gifford, who also worked as Barack Obama’s re-election campaign finance director in 2012, announced his candidacy in a video posted to YouTube on Monday.
“Like so many of you, I woke up a year ago shocked and heartbroken by the election of Donald Trump,” Gifford, 43, said in the video. “As someone who worked for President Obama for 10 years, helping elect him twice and implement his policies, the idea that that profound legacy was at risk on health care, on climate, on equality, that was devastating for me.”  
Gifford will be running in Massachusetts’ Third Congressional District, where six-term Democratic Rep. Niki Tsongas declared she would not be seeking re-election. He is the seventh Democrat to join the crowded race; two Republicans have also announced bids for the seat, which covers the northeastern part of the state.
Gifford — who married his husband, Stephen DeVincent, in 2015 while serving in Denmark — is not the only LGBTQ candidate vying to represent the district. Openly gay Steve Kerrigan, the 2014 Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, is also in the race.
by John Paul Brammer

November 6, 2014

Mass.1st State to Elect Gay AG yet Gay Candidate in Maine Lost Narrowly


Massachusetts became the first state to elect an openly gay attorney general, while the gay candidate in Maine's gubernatorial race narrowly lost his chance to make history. Nationally, gay-rights activists worried that conservative gains in Congress would hamper their bid for federal anti-bias legislation.
In all, it was a sobering election for the gay-rights movement, contrasting with its recent court victories that have nearly doubled the number of states allowing same-sex marriage. In U.S. Senate races, for example, several Democrats who supported gay marriage — including Mark Udall of Colorado and Kay Hagan of North Carolina — lost to Republicans who oppose it.
Among the highlights for gay-rights activists was Democrat Maura Healey's election as Massachusetts attorney general. Healey, a former chief of the civil rights division in the attorney general's office, was captain of the women's basketball team at Harvard and played pro basketball in Austria before launching her law career.
In Maine, Democrat Mike Michaud fell short in his bid to become the first openly gay candidate in the U.S. to be elected governor. The 59-year-old former mill worker and six-term congressman, who made his sexual orientation public last year, had said it would be a boost for the gay community to have a voice in discussions among governors on equality issues. 
In near-complete returns in a three-way race, Michaud had about 44 percent of the votes, while incumbent Republican Paul LePage was re-elected with 48 percent. An independent candidate, who may have undercut Michaud's chances, got 8 percent.
All five of the openly gay members of the U.S. House of Representatives won re-election, as did Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who is bisexual.
But several gay candidates seeking to join their ranks were defeated — including Democrat Sean Eldridge, husband of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, in eastern New York, and Republican Richard Tisei in a hard-fought race against Democrat Seth Moulton, an Iraq War veteran, in Massachusetts.
Another gay Republican, Carl DeMaio, was in a virtual dead with Democratic Rep. Scott Petersin a House district in San Diego. DeMaio confronted allegations from a former staffer of sexual harassment in the campaign's final weeks.
There have been gay GOP congressmen previously, but none who was out of the closet at the time they first won their seat.
Looking ahead, gay-rights leaders acknowledged that the new Congress, with an infusion of conservative Republicans, would be unlikely to support a federal bill outlawing a broad range of discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. That has become a top priority for activists now that same-sex marriage seems on the path to nationwide legalization.
"The road will be hard and rocky," said Heather Cronk of the LGBT-rights group GetEQUAL. "We must offer up forward-thinking legislation to secure much-needed legal protections, rather than wallowing in self-loathing pity."
Fred Sainz, a vice president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the short-term goal would be "to change the hearts and minds of those not yet there with us."
"We'll be putting on our walking shoes and walking the halls of Congress — a lot — over the next few years to make sure that the new members become allies," Sainz said in an email.
He noted that the Republican caucus in the Senate — which will become the majority party in January — includes several supporters of same-sex marriage as well as several outspoken opponents.
Sainz also noted that nearly two-thirds of Americans now live in states where gay marriage is allowed, including several states which still do not ban discrimination by employers or public accommodations based on sexual orientation.
"It's incomprehensible that you can get married at 10 a.m. and be legally fired, thrown out of your apartment or denied a hotel room at 2 p.m., simply because you got married," Sainz said. "It's not something that Republicans will be able to ignore."
Rea Carey, executive director the National LGBTQ Task Force, said that Congress, even it took a more conservative turn, would be unable to stop the advances of same-sex marriage.
"As much as the results in Congress are challenging, our work continues at the state and local level," she said.
Some activists took heart from the fact that several Republicans who won election as governor either support the same-sex marriage laws in their state or accept the laws as reality. Among them are governors-elect Bruce Rauner in Illinois, Charlie Baker in Massachusetts and Larry Hogan in Maryland.
"Things that would have been hot button issues before have become less hot button," said Kevin Cathcart, executive director of the LGBT-rights group Lambda Legal. "We're still going to make progress this year and make progress next year, even if not on Capitol Hill."
A different tone was sounded in Idaho, where Republican Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter won a third term and vowed to continue fighting the legalization of same-sex marriage even though the state's ban has been overturned in federal court.
"I believe we are the last chance to stand up and fight for traditional marriage," Otter said in his victory speech. "If they want to change the rest of the 49 states, go ahead. Why should we change? That’s not what our voters want, that's not what our creator wants, and that's not what Idaho wants."

May 16, 2014

Where it all started, Gay marriage 10 Years ago

Bonauto with Edward Balmelli and Michael Horgan, plaintiffs in the landmark case that legalized gay marriage in Massachusetts.i
Bonauto with Edward Balmelli and Michael Horgan, plaintiffs in the landmark case that legalized gay marriage in Massachusetts.
Courtesy of

Ten years ago this week, attorney Mary Bonauto woke up with more than just your average case of pre-wedding jitters. It had been six months since her arguments had persuaded Massachusetts' highest court to allow the nation's first legal gay marriages, but opponents were still trying to stop the weddings before they started.

"I had been so scared, so many times, during really what had been really a ferocious onslaught to try to keep marriages from ever happening, so I continued to worry," Bonauto recalls.

The last of the legal challenges was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court only about 48 hours before the first "I do's" were set to begin. Now, Bonauto was faced with one more challenge: figuring out how many of her clients' weddings she could attend in one day.

Sharpshooters were on the roof of Boston City Hall as Bonauto escorted three couples to get marriage licenses on May 17, 2004. Police led her to their weddings through the throngs of well-wishers and protesters.

At the Arlington Street Church, Bonauto witnessed Rob Compton and Dave Wilson, wearing classic black tuxes and matching red-striped ties, saying their vows, as they all fought back tears.

"I was sitting in the church, and I just didn't realize I was gonna fall apart to see, 'OK, there are Dave and Rob, and they are finally getting married,' " she says. "I was sitting next to Rob's mother, and she kept handing me tissues. It was her son, and I was the one who was a total mess."

Hearing the minister say, "By the power vested in me by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts" was profound, Bonauto says. "Hearing those words and knowing it was true just changed everything. ... That had never happened before legally in this country. It felt like the cage had been lifted off, and it was just a different world from that point forward.” 

Barney Frank, an openly gay former congressman, calls Bonauto "the LGBT community's equivalent of Thurgood Marshall" — a brilliant political strategist for the way she methodically built the case for gay marriage, one state at a time.

"Some people said, 'Oh, this state-by-state strategy, that's wimpy — let's do it all at once,' " Frank says. "Well, we would have lost if we tried it all at once, and Mary was restrained and disciplined and strategic in saying, 'No, the best way to achieve the national right was not all at once, in a big burst of glory, but in a very systematic chunk' — which is what she did."

Indeed, soft-spoken, petite and prone to dressing in plain pantsuits and sensible shoes, there's nothing about Bonauto that says "rabble-rouser" or "fiery litigator." She went to law school, she says, because her own struggle coming out as a lesbian made her want to help others.

Almost immediately after she began working in 1990 for the gay advocacy group GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) in Boston, clients started asking Bonauto to sue for gay marriage. But she refused. "It was extremely difficult. I mean, I myself found someone I was committed to, and I wanted to marry,” she says. 

But Bonauto believed a lawsuit was still too risky. A loss — which she felt was far too likely — could have set a precedent that would stymie efforts for years to come. Those were the days when it was a struggle, Bonauto says, to win even an obvious case of discrimination. She recalls a client who was fired the day after his boss saw him get picked up after work by his male partner and called him a "fag."

"People were incredulous that they could be sued for that," Bonauto says. "There was a way that we were viewed as impostors, when we said, 'This was an issue of equality and civil rights.' You couldn't use 'gay people' and 'civil rights' in the same sentence."

In that context, Bonauto says, gay marriage was a pipe dream. "It was as if a man was asking for the right to get pregnant," she says.

But slowly, Bonauto and others began to nudge the conversation from one about equality to one about equal access to the perks of marriage, to one about marriage itself.

By the late 1990s, after seeing an almost-win for gay marriage in Hawaii and getting her own almost-win in Vermont (that ended in civil unions instead of marriage), Bonauto was ready to go for it in Massachusetts.

Now, she was the one pushing, despite warnings from others that it was still too soon. "We had never won anywhere. You could understand their concerns," she says. "At the same time, I felt that simply allowing gay people to continue to suffer was not acceptable. We had to try."

Bonauto lost in the trial court, but in a 4-3 split decision in November 2003, Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court ruled there was "no legitimate reason to exclude same-sex couples from marriage."

"At that point, believe me, I wanted to weep, but I went into alert — high alert. I knew the opposition would set in and, of course, it did," Bonauto says.

Perhaps nowhere more so than at the Massachusetts Statehouse, where opponents were pushing for a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

As lawmakers debated, thousands of demonstrators clashed in the hallways and out on the street, jostling their competing placards, trying to out-shout each other's chants and, often, insults.

"There were times I felt despairing," Bonauto recalls, "knowing the vile, vile things that people said. I just felt like, this is gonna be such a slog. Getting to state No. 2 was so difficult."

That happened in 2008, in another case Bonauto worked on in Connecticut. But setbacks continued as well, like when voters nixed gay marriage in Maine, where Bonauto was living with her wife and young twin girls.

"I felt dashed into the rocks because it was so personal, to know that your neighbors voted against you, voted against your family. It was an incredibly painful time," she says.

A Federal Case

To her opponents, it was only fair that the voters had spoken. They'd been railing against Massachusetts High Court — and Bonauto — for tactics they said trampled the will of the people.

"She pressed forward on obviously a soft spot in the Massachusetts court and exploited it," says Kris Mineau, president emeritus of the Massachusetts Family Institute.

Mineau says it's wrong for Bonauto to cast marriage as a civil right, and opposition to it as akin to racism. He calls Bonauto astute and professional, but says her legal arguments, which he considers faulty, laid the foundation for what he calls today's "intolerance for anyone who dares oppose gay marriage."

"With her creative genius, she was the catalyst that began this process and now it's running willy-nilly through our nation, and I believe it's un-American," Mineau says. “This is not the way that we live in a pluralistic society, where one side is absolutely shut down and marginalized.” 

For her part, Bonauto dismisses suggestions that a new orthodoxy on gay marriage leaves no room for dissent. Rather, she says, opponents simply lost steam once gay marriages started to happen. As she puts it, gay marriage, it turned out, is actually the best case for gay marriage.

"I think the temperature came down dramatically, once people could see for themselves that the sky did not fall and the milk didn't curdle," Bonauto says. "I have come to feel that everyone is persuadable — with enough time. There are not people who are really off-limits in this discussion."

'Mad As A Hornet'

When Bonauto and her longtime partner Jenny Wriggens married in 2008 in Massachusetts, they knew their marriage would not be recognized back home in Maine or by the federal government.

But Bonauto was working on that, building a case against the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Wriggens says Bonauto had been stewing over it since 1996.

"I remember when DOMA passed, and Mary said, 'This is unconstitutional. I'm going to try to take it down,' " Wriggens says.

"Yeah, I was mad as a hornet," Bonauto says.

Ultimately, Bonauto's case stopped short of the U.S. Supreme Court, and it was a different one that brought the historic ruling against DOMA. It was a little disappointing, Bonauto shrugs, but all that matters, she says, is the win.

Recently, some within the gay community have been tussling over who are the movement's true heroes. But Bonauto cringes at any suggestion of her historic role.

"Yeah, let's not go there," she says. "Let's skip that. Like, what good does that do?"

Bonauto is more interested in plugging away at the work still left to be done. Same-sex couples can marry in 17 states plus the District of Columbia, but still, there are more states where gay couples are not allowed to marry than where they are.

Meanwhile, lawsuits pending in a dozen states could ultimately bring the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, no matter what state they're from.

"I am concerned that people are going to just clap their hands and say, 'OK, we're finished with marriage,' " Bonauto says. “But I think that is far from the truth."

November 17, 2013

10 years After Mass. Ruling Gay Marriage on Track

 In the decade since the highest court in Massachusetts issued its landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, 14 other states and the District of Columbia have legalized it, with Illinois poised to become the 16th in a few days.
Such gains were considered almost impossible before Massachusetts opened the door on Nov. 18, 2003, with a Supreme Judicial Court ruling that declared a ban on gay marriages unconstitutional. Opponents made doomsday predictions about how gay marriage would damage traditional marriage and lead to problems with children raised in same-sex households.
But as the years have passed, public opinion has shifted. Supporters have won in the courts, in state legislatures and on state ballots amid intense lobbying, activism and advertising campaigns filled with gay couples' personal stories.
"With more same-sex marriages, you saw more people changing their minds," said Mary Bonauto, civil rights project director at Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and the lead attorney on the lawsuit that resulted in the gay marriage ruling in Massachusetts.
"Seeing gay people with their extended families, seeing the commitment, that's what has turned this around."
Opponents have shifted tactics as more and more states have legalized gay marriage. Initially, opposition focused on the predicted erosion of traditional marriage, but in recent years have pushed concerns about school curriculums and religious objections.
In New Mexico, the state Supreme Court ruled in August that an Albuquerque business owned by gay marriage opponents violated a state anti-discrimination law when it refused to photograph a same-sex couple's commitment ceremony. A law firm representing the business has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal.
Opponents say they plan to do a better job of telling similar stories of people who believe their religious freedoms have been infringed upon by the legalization of same-sex marriage.
"I think we still have to do litigation, we still have to do legislation, but we also have to do education as well," said Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of the Christian legal group Liberty Counsel.
Since same-sex marriages began in Massachusetts in 2004, approximately 100,000 gay couples have gotten married across the U.S., said Lee Badgett, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. At least 16,000 of the marriages have taken place in Massachusetts.
Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, said 38 percent of Americans will live in states where same-sex marriage is legal once Illinois's governor signs the bill on Wednesday. The group has a goal of bringing that up to more than 50 percent by the end of 2016.
"What we have to do — like other civil rights movements and social justice causes — is win a critical mass of states and a critical mass of public support, which together creates the climate for the Supreme Court to bring the country to national resolution," Wolfson said.
Wolfson said Oregon is expected to be a key battleground in 2014 as supporters hope to repeal a constitutional ban on gay marriage passed in 2004 during a rush of similar amendments in other states after the Massachusetts' ruling.
But Staver said he believes the momentum of the gay marriage movement will slow.
"Same-sex marriage represents a classic conflict with religious freedom," he said. “I think there will come a tipping point where the pendulum will swing the other way as people begin to see the impact of same-sex marriage."

Featured Posts

Coronavirus Makes The Rich and Well-off Disappear From 5th Ave.

  An empty street in Manhattan on Thursday.   Photographer: Debra L Rothenberg/Getty Images By  Amanda L Gordon Bloomberg        ...