Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 42 / 19 October 2017
 

Online Extra: Wedding Bells Ring: Advocates say work for equality must continue

NEWS


s.hemmelgarn@ebar.com

Plaintiff Jim Obergefell speaks at a June 10 press event in City Hall with from left, Mayor Ed Lee; Roberta Achtenberg, co-founder of the National Center for Lesbian Rights; Supervisors Scott Wiener and David Campos; City Attorney Dennis Herrera; and Chad Griffin from the Human Rights Campaign. Photo: Rick Gerharter 
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San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, other city officials, and the leaders of the country's largest LGBT rights organization gathered at City Hall to commend Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the same-sex marriage case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lee and others also pledged that even if, as is expected, the court announces this month that gay marriage will be legal in all 50 states, more work needs to be done to protect LGBTs across the country against discrimination in employment, housing, and other areas.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said at the Wednesday, June 10 event that his nonprofit is working on legislation that would prohibit discrimination of LGBTs in housing, employment, and other areas.

Obergefell, the plaintiff at the heart of the case Obergefell v. Hodges, married John Arthur in July 2013. Arthur died about three months later from ALS. The couple's home state of Ohio has refused to recognize their marriage.

"I never thought I would have to fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to defend our marriage," Obergefell said at the mayor's event. "I promised to love, honor, and protect my partner, John."

Lee told Obergefell, "Your bravery, your courage, and your willingness to take a stand are an example" to everyone who values equality and fairness.

Many speakers said Wednesday that even if the justices rule in favor of marriage equality, there is still much work to be done.

Griffin said that HRC and its "coalition partners in this session will lead the way for a fully comprehensive non-discrimination bill" to protect LGBTs. He said it would be "the largest fight in our movement's history, but it's a fight we must win."

In many states, Griffin noted, LGBTs can still be fired from their jobs or evicted from their homes based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, because there are "still no explicit non-discrimination protections in federal law."

He didn't know when a bill would be introduced, but HRC is working with a group of legislators in the House and Senate, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), gay Congressman David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island), and Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley (D).

In an email, Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, confirmed she's involved with the legislation, and that it's "too early to say precisely" when the bill would be introduced.

"It will be a comprehensive LGBT civil rights bill," Hammill said.

A call to Cicilline's office wasn't returned.

Before Griffin took over at HRC, the group was criticized for backing a version of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act that excluded protections for transgender people.

Asked Wednesday if the new bill would include transgender people, Griffin said, "There will be no such legislation that is not inclusive."

Griffin told the City Hall crowd that even with marriage equality in all 50 states, "If we just stop there, I think we would be missing another incredible point."

He noted the nearby bust of slain gay civil rights leader and former Supervisor Harvey Milk and said that when victory comes, people should take "a very brief moment to celebrate," but "it's all of our jobs to look at what's next" and "beyond marriage."

Others at the mayor's event also spoke of the need to keep pushing for full rights even if the Supreme Court justices rule in favor of same-sex marriages.

"Marriage isn't the end of our battle for equality," Obergefell said. "... I promise to keep up the fight for the LGBT community until full equality is truly a reality."

Lee said, "San Francisco has always been proud to be leading the nation to foster equality, tolerance, and acceptance for all our people.

"We're making this city a city for the 100 percent, where nobody is left behind," he added. That includes ensuring services for the city's "most vulnerable people," including those living with HIV and AIDS.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who for more than a decade has pushed for marriage equality, said people should not "stand idly by."

"Let the marriage equality fight be a lesson to all," Herrera said, adding he hoped a Supreme Court victory would serve "as a platform to move the ball forward."

Gay Supervisor Scott Wiener, who was also at the mayor's marriage event, quipped, "I would probably be a very challenging spouse," but said that even with a marriage victory, more needed to be done.

Wiener cited LGBT seniors as a group that needs more help. He also said the San Francisco should "continue to be a refuge for LGBT youth," and the city aims to be "the first city in the United States to eliminate new HIV infections."

"Our work is cut out for us," Wiener said.

Like Griffin, gay Supervisor David Campos also invoked Milk, saying his predecessor would feel the work that needs to be done is "not just about legal equality."

Campos said he's met with "a coalition of transgender women," and "we really need to focus more on what's happening to the transgender community," especially trans people of color. Transgender women are often targeted for violence and discrimination in housing, employment, and other areas.

After Wednesday's event, the Bay Area Reporter emailed Campos to ask him if there were any policies or projects he's been working on with the transgender community that he was interested in talking about. He declined to provide further details.

 

Survey: 55 percent in US support legalizing same-sex marriages

As people on both sides of same-sex marriage wait for the Supreme Court to issue its ruling, survey released Thursday, June 11 found that, overall, 55 percent of Americans support allowing same-sex couples to marry, while 37 percent of respondents are opposed.

Additionally, according to the data from the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute, 65 percent think the country's top court will rule in favor of marriage equality. Only 25 percent think the justices will let states' anti-gay marriage bans stand.

Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the San Francisco-based nonprofit that's been representing several of the couples in the Supreme Court case, said in an emailed statement, "To see public support for our freedom to marry at an all-time high is a vindication of the courage of countless LGBT people and allies who stood up and lived openly and pushed hard conversations. We are on the brink of winning marriage nationwide, an unthinkable notion even 10 years ago. Every person who lived their truth and fought for their values of justice and equality is a hero. This will be a win we all made happen."

For the survey, telephone interviews in English and Spanish were conducted between June 3 and June 7 among a random sample of 1,009 adults 18 years or older. Cellphone interviews were conducted with 504 of the respondents. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

While support for marriage equality is strong, the survey indicate that people are less aware of discrimination against LGBTs.

The data show that 62 percent of Americans say that transgender people, as well as gays and lesbians, "face a lot of discrimination in American society," according to a news release announcing the survey results.

Those numbers represent a decline from February 2014, when 71 percent said transgender people face "a lot of discrimination" and 68 percent said the same thing about gays and lesbians.

Views on discrimination also vary by political party, the data show.

Among Democrats, 75 percent say there's "a lot of discrimination against transgender people in American society," the news release says. The figure for independents is 61 percent. "By contrast," though, only 50 percent of Republicans agree with that notion, "and 39 percent say that transgender people do not face a lot of discrimination."

Daniel Cox, PRRI's research director, stated, "Republicans see the world faced by gay, lesbian and transgender Americans quite differently than Democrats and independents do. Republicans are far more likely to doubt that LGBT Americans face a lot of discrimination in the United States and are much less likely to support efforts to address it."

 

Wedding Bells Ring is an online column looking at various issues related to marriage equality in California and elsewhere. Please send column ideas or tips to Seth Hemmelgarn at s.hemmelgarn@ebar.com or call (415) 875-9986. The column is taking a few weeks off and will return Tuesday, July 14.






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