Friday, March 1, 2013

President Obama Says There Was No Way Administration Could Avoid Articulating Supreme Court Should Strike Down California Same Sex Marriage Ban, After Adopting Anti-Discrimination Ordinance That Includes Protections For Gays Vicco Kentucky Receives Offers For Reality-Based TV Show, South Boston State Senate Candidates Calls For Traditional St Patrick’s Day Parades To Include Gay And Lesbian Groups, Train Will Not Perform At Boy Scouts Of America Jamboree Unless Group Drop Policy Prohibiting Gay Members, Jim Parsons And Taylor Kitsch Join Ryan Murphy’s The Normal Heart

Citing the principle of equality that drove the nation's founding, President Barack Obama spoke out Friday against California's ban on gay marriage and said the Supreme Court should strike it down. A day after his administration filed a friend-of-the-court brief unequivocally calling on the justices to strike down California's Proposition 8 ballot measure, Obama said he felt there was no way for his administration to avoid the case. "I felt it was important for us to articulate what I believe and what this administration stands for," the president said. The nation has gone through the same evolution he has gone through about how gay couples should be treated under the law, said Obama, who once opposed same sex marriage but changed his position last year during his re-election campaign. "I think this is a profoundly positive thing," Obama said in a White House news conference. According to the Associated Press, the administration's brief outlined a broad legal argument that could ultimately be applied to other state prohibitions across the country, but stops short of the soaring rhetoric on marriage equality Obama expressed in his inaugural address in January. Still, it marks the first time a U.S. president has urged the high court to expand the right of gays and lesbians to wed. Obama said the brief didn't explicitly argue that same sex marriage should be made legal in every state because the case before the court deals specifically with California. "That's an argument that I make, personally," Obama said. "The court may decide that if it doesn't apply in this case, it probably can't apply in any case. There no good reason for it." The brief is not legally binding, though the government's opinion could carry weight with the Supreme Court when it hears oral arguments on Proposition 8 in late March. California is one of eight states that give gay couples all the benefits of marriage through civil unions or domestic partnership but don't allow them to wed. The brief argues that in granting same-sex couples those rights, California has already acknowledged that gay relationships bear the same hallmarks as straight ones. "They establish homes and lives together, support each other financially, share the joys and burdens of raising children, and provide care through illness and comfort at the moment of death," the administration wrote. The brief marks the president's most expansive view of gay marriage and signals that he is moving away from his previous assertion that states should determine their own marriage laws. Obama, a former constitutional law professor, signed off on the administration's legal argument last week following lengthy discussions with Attorney General Eric Holder and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. In a statement following the filing, Holder said "the government seeks to vindicate the defining constitutional ideal of equal treatment under the law." Obama's position, if adopted by the court, would likely result in gay marriage becoming legal in the seven other states: Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Rhode Island. In the longer term, the administration urges the justices to subject laws that discriminate on sexual orientation to more rigorous review than usual, as is the case for claims that laws discriminate on the basis of race, sex and other factors. The Supreme Court has never given gay Americans the special protection it has afforded women and minorities. If it endorses such an approach in the gay marriage cases, same sex marriage bans around the country could be imperiled. Despite the potentially wide-ranging implications of the administration's brief, it still falls short of what gay rights advocates and the attorneys who will argue against Proposition 8 had hoped for. Those parties had pressed the president to urge the Supreme Court to not only overturn California's ban, but also declare all gay marriage bans unconstitutional. Still, marriage equality advocates publicly welcomed the president's legal positioning. "Obama again asserted a bold claim of full equality for gay Americans, this time in a legal brief," said Richard Socarides, an attorney and advocate. "If its full weight and reasoning are accepted by the Supreme Court, all anti-gay marriage state constitutional amendments will fall, and quickly." Predictably, t he National Organization for Marriage, a leading supporter of the California ban, rejected Obama's arguments. Spokesman Thomas Peters said he expects the Supreme Court to uphold the votes of more than 7 million Californians to protect marriage, spokesman Thomas Peters said. The president raised expectations that he would back a broad brief during his inaugural address on Jan. 21. He said the nation's journey "is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” adding, "For if we are truly created equal, than surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” Obama has a complicated history on gay marriage. As a presidential candidate in 2008, he opposed the California ban but didn't endorse gay marriage. He later said his personal views on gay marriage were "evolving." When he ran for re-election last year, Obama announced his personal support for same sex marriage but said marriage was an issue that states, not the federal government, should decide. Public opinion has also shifted in support of gay marriage in recent years. In May 2008, Gallup found that 56-percent of Americans felt same-sex marriages should not be recognized by the law as valid. By last November, 53-percent felt they should be legally recognized. Gay marriage supporters see the Supreme Court's hearing of Proposition 8, as well as a related case on the Defense of Marriage Act, as a potential watershed moment for same sex unions. In a well-coordinated effort, opponents of the California ban flooded the justices with friend-of-the-court briefs in recent days. Among those filing briefs were 13 states, including four that do not now permit gay couples to wed, and more than 100 prominent Republicans, including GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman and Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Two professional football players who have been outspoken gay rights advocates also filed a brief in the California case. Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo urged the court to rule in favor of same sex marriage. The Supreme Court has several options to decide the case that would be narrower than what the administration is asking. The justices also could uphold the California provision, as opponents of gay marriage are urging. One day after the Supreme Court hears the California case, the justices will hear arguments on provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman for the purpose of deciding who can receive a range of federal benefits. The administration abandoned its defense of the act in 2011, but the measure will continue to be federal law unless it is struck down or repealed. In a brief filed last week, the government said Section 3 of the act "violates the fundamental constitutional guarantee of equal protection" because it denies legally married same sex couples many federal benefits that are available only to legally married heterosexual couples.

Also from the AP, a reports that a southeastern Kentucky town that attracted national attention when it adopted a gay-rights ordinance is getting offers for a reality-based television show. Vicco City Attorney Eric Ashley says talks over a TV show are in the early stages. The city council met on Monday and gave Ashley the authority to speak with production companies who have expressed interest in filming a show in the Appalachian town. Ashley says, however, he is wary of any offers that would "perpetuate a particular stereotype." Ashley says there have been several pitches, including one from ABC News. He also says Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" was filming a segment in Vicco earlier this week. The tiny town of 300 residents enacted an anti-discrimination ordinance that includes protections for gays on January 14.

Maureen Dahill, a state Senate candidate from South Boston, on Friday called for the traditional St. Patrick’s Day parade in her neighborhood to include gay and lesbian groups. The candidate from Dorchester, state Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, agreed, saying in a statement she will march on March 17 with supporters from the gay and lesbian community if the groups are included. According to the Dorchester Reporter, allowing gay and lesbian groups to march in the parade is an issue that has cropped up repeatedly in Boston politics after a 1995 Supreme Court ruling said parade’s organizers are allowed to choose the groups that can march. The Allied War Veterans Council puts together the annual parade. “St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner and I think it’s time we move past what happened in the 90s,” said Dahill, a South Boston native running for former state Sen. Jack Hart’s First Suffolk District seat. The district includes Dorchester, Mattapan, South Boston and a portion of Hyde Park. “This is a perfect time to show how inclusive South Boston actually is,” she said. “There are two sets of parades and why not include the gay and lesbian community in this parade?” she added, pointing to a separate parade organized by peace activists. In a campaign release sent Friday afternoon, Dahill also encouraged her fellow candidates and South Boston politicians to join in her call, including state Reps. Forry and Nick Collins, who are also running for Hart’s seat, and Congressman Stephen Lynch, District 2 Councillor Bill Linehan. Rep. Forry is the wife of Reporter editor and publisher Bill Forry. Rep. Forry, who was endorsed last week by MassEquality, a gay rights advocacy group, sent out her own statement on Friday. “I am pleased to join fellow candidate Maureen Dahill in calling upon parade organizers to accept the application of gay and lesbian groups to have an opportunity to march in this year's Evacuation Day/St. Patrick's Day parade in South Boston,” she said. “For too long, our sisters and brothers and friends in the LGBT community have been told they are not welcome to join in the celebration.” Rep. Forry, who has not participated in past parades because they didn’t include gay and lesbian groups, called South Boston a “welcoming and vibrant community,” with a majority of residents who would support the inclusion of the groups. Her camp said she would be marching in the parade, later clarifying and saying she will march only if the parade committee includes the groups. The state Senate primary is set for April 30, with the general election scheduled for May 28. Former state Sen. Hart resigned last month, taking a job at a Boston law firm. While Republican Joseph Ureneck has pulled nomination papers, the Democratic primary will likely be determinative in the deeply blue district.

GLAAD is calling on Carly Rae Jepsen and Train to stand up for equality. The gay-rights advocacy group has urged both to denounce the Boy Scouts of America's ban on gay members and scout leaders following an announcement earlier this week that the musicians will be performing at the National Scout Jamboree in Mount Hope, W.Va., in July. GLAAD posted an open message to both Jepsen and Train on its website Friday, encouraging them to advocate for "a national policy of non-discrimination." The group added that "both artists have also shown support for the LGBT community in the past, making their agreement to play a show for this anti-LGBT organization a surprise." GLAAD also said that it was working with former Boy Scout camp leader Derek Nance, who left his post in January after coming out as a gay man in a video that went viral, in its push to get the artists to help overturn BSA's policy. On Tuesday, a blog for BSA adult leaders posted videos of both Jepsen and Train inviting scouts to the Jamboree. The Call Me Maybe songbird is reportedly scheduled to open the event, while the Hey Soul Sister rockers will close it out. In a statement to E! News, Train said that they were "not aware of any policy barring openly gay people from participation within the organization" when they booked the show. "Train strongly opposes any kind of policy that questions the equality of any American citizen," the band said. "We have always seen the BSA as a great and noble organization. We look forward to participating in the Jamboree this summer, as long as they make the right decision before then." Jepsen's camp has not yet returned a request for comment.

Deadline.com reports exclusively that The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons and Friday Night Lights alum Taylor Kitsch will co-star opposite Julia Roberts, Mark Ruffalo and Matt Bomer in The Normal Heart, HBO‘s original movie adaptation of the Tony-winning Larry Kramer play, which is being written by Kramer and directed by Ryan Murphy. The project tells the story of the onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City in the early 1980s. Parsons plays gay activist Tommy Boatwright, reprising his role from the 2011 Broadway revival. He was previously attached to Murphy’s adaptation when it was eyed as a theatrical feature. Kitsch plays Bruce Niles, a closeted investment banker who becomes a prominent AIDS activist. Roberts plays physician Dr. Emma Brookner, a survivor of childhood polio who treats several of the earliest victims of HIV-AIDS. Ruffalo plays Ned Weeks, who witnesses first-hand the mysterious disease that has begun to claim the lives of many in his gay community and starts to seek answers. Bomer plays Felix Turner, a reporter who becomes Ned’s lover. Murphy executive produces with Jason Blum, Dede Gardner and Dante Di Loreto. Production is slated to begin later this year in New York for a 2014 debut.

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