Tuesday, February 28, 2012

OUTlaw Meeting This Thursday at Noon!

Image courtesy of Flickr

The next OUTlaw meeting will be held this Thursday, March 1st, at noon in room 1. Hope to see you all there!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Maryland Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Image courtesy of LezGetReal

In yet another victory for marriage equality, Maryland is now the 8th state to have made same-sex marriage legal. The same-sex marriage bill was approved by the Maryland Senate on Thursday evening, and has now been signed by MD Gov. Martin O'Malley. It should also be noted that former Vice President Dick Cheney was among a handful of influential Republicans who lobbied Maryland legislators in favor of the bill. In 2009, Cheney, whose daughter is openly lesbian, told the National Press Club, "I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish."

DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional by Federal Judge

Image courtesy of Daily Kos

A second federal judge ruled Wednesday that the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA"), a law which denies hundreds of federal marital benefits to same-sex married couples, is unconstitutional. According to U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, the law "treats gay men and lesbians differently on the basis of their sexual orientation" and the "imposition of subjective moral beliefs of a majority on a minority cannot provide a justification" for it. Although defenders of the law, appointed by House Republican leaders, claimed that DOMA was justified by "tradition", Judge White noted that the same reasoning was used to defend bans on interracial marriages decades ago. Furthermore, he wrote, excluding same-sex couples from the federal definition of marriage "does nothing to encourage or strengthen opposite-sex marriage." The Republican-dominated House of Representatives announced today that they will appeal the decision.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

OUTlaw presents: Intersectional Identities

Please join OUTlaw at Western New England School of Law as we present Intersectional Identities, a two-day event focused on the legal landscape surrounding the intersection of gender and other identity categories such as race, religion, and sexual orientation.

Monday, February 20:
-10-11am: Exhibition Viewing, Law School Commons
 Bagels & Cream Cheese breakfast

-12-1pm: Panel #1, Law School Commons
 Lunch provided

-4-6pm: Meet & Greet with panelists
 Hors D'oeuvres

Tuesday, February 21:
-12-1pm: Panel #2, Law School Commons

Friday, February 17, 2012

Gov. Christie Vetoes Same-Sex Marriage Bill

NJ Gov. Chris Christie, courtesy of NYTimes.com

While marriage equality supporters have had recent victories in California and Washington, recent news from New Jersey is not as optimistic. On Monday the New Jersey state senate approved a bill which would legalize same-sex marriage in the state, and on Thursday this bill was approved by the state assembly. Today, however, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill as promised, saying that "an issue of this magnitude and importance, which requires a constitutional amendment, should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide." New Jersey lawmakers have until January 2014 to override the veto.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Trans People Suffer Abuses at the Hands of the NYPD

Image courtesy of thetakeaway.org
A recent article from Jezebel.com details the harsh, humiliating way trans persons are treated by the New York Police Department while in custody. In one particularly egregious example, a trans woman named Temmie Breslauer was painfully chained to a fence for 28 hours by police officers who referred to her as a "faggot" and "he-she" (among other epithets). As the article notes, this treatment is not unheard of, and transgender advocates have been working for years in an attempt to end this abuse.

Thanks to OUTlaw President Erika Scibelli for the link.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Washington Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

WA Gov. Christine Gregoire, photo courtesy of Reuters

On Feb. 1st, 2012, the Washington State Senate voted 28-21 in favor of a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in their state. On Feb. 8th, the bill made its way to the House and was approved 55-43. And today, Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire signed the bill into law, officially making Washington the seventh state which supports marriage equality. The law officially takes effect on June 7th.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals: Proposition 8 Unconstitutional

Same-sex couple kisses as they celebrate the ruling. Photo from SFGate.com.

In a historic ruling, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that Proposition 8, a voter-approved statewide ban on same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional. As stated in the majority opinion by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, "Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples." The full text of the court decision may be read here, courtesy of Lambda Legal.

LA Times: Implications of Prop 8 Decision

Maura Dolan of the LA Times explains the "far-reaching implications" of the Prop 8 decision set to come down from the 9th Circuit around 1p.m. EST today.
"Court ruling on Prop 8 has far-reaching implications"

Please stop by the Law School Commons at 1p.m. to watch the decision live.

Monday, February 6, 2012

NCLR's Chris Stoll on Cynthia Nixon's "Choice"

Chris Stoll, senior staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, has a great story on Huffington Post about Cynthia Nixon's recent comment that she is gay by choice.  The piece does an excellent job of explaining why this does not affect the legal landscape going forward as well as setting out some basics of Consitutional law with regard to LGBTQ rights. Read Chris' full story here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Panel at WNE: MA's Transgender Rights Law


Strategies for Compliance and Advocacy

Tuesday, February 14 2012 at noon in the Western New England University School of Law Commons. Free and open to the public.

On November 23, 2011, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law "An Act Relative to Transgender Equal Rights." The new law effective July 1, 2012, prohibits discrimination on the basis of "gender identity" in employment, education, housing, credit, and lending and makes violence against transgender individuals a hate crime.  The employment and housing provisions of the new law are to be enforced by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).

Join us as an expert panel addresses the definition of gender identity, how the law will be enforced, and the steps employers, landlords, lenders, and others should take to ensure their compliance with the law.

Panelists include:
  • Julian Tynes L'97, Chair, Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
  • Susan Fentin L'96, Partner, Skoler, Abbott, and Presser, P.C
  • Whitney Holovach L'11, Civil Rights Specialist, Massachusetts Fair Housing Center
  • Jennifer Levi, Professor, Western New England University School of Law and Director of GLAD's Transgender Rights Project

SPLC Suit Challenges DOMA

"Tracy Cooper-Harris served for 12 years in the U.S. Army and received multiple commendations.  But because she's in a marriage with a person of the same sex, the government refuses to grant her the same disability benefits as heterosexual veterans.

In a federal lawsuit filed today, the SPLC challenged the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as well as the law that governs the Department of Veterans Affairs policy...

... The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, charges that DOMA is unconstitutional because it discriminates on the basis of gender and sexual orientation.  It also challenges the VA's definition of "spouse" as discriminatory."

Read the SPLC's full article here.