Lambda Legal yesterday filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) on behalf of a 65-year-old gay man seeking spousal survivor’s benefits based on his 43-year relationship with his husband. For decades they were refused the right the wed. His husband died seven months after Arizona began allowing same-sex couples to marry.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Michael Ely in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona and argues that SSA’s imposition of a nine-month marriage requirement for social security survivor’s benefits is unconstitutional where same-sex couples were not able to be married for nine months because of discriminatory marriage laws.
“My husband was the love of my life,” Ely said. “We met in 1971, and we were inseparable for the next 43 years. Like other committed couples, we built a life together and cared for each other in sickness and in health. When Arizona’s ban on marriage by same-sex couples was struck down in 2014, we got married as soon as we could, quickly gathering our loved ones together in less than three weeks. But we were only able to be married for six months before I lost him to cancer. Even though we’d been together for 43 years, I’m barred from receiving the same benefits as other widowers, even though my husband had worked hard for 40-plus years and paid into the social security system with every paycheck.”
in 2007. When Taylor got sick, Ely was his caregiver. Social Security generally requires that couples be married for at least nine months before a spouse dies in order for the surviving spouse to qualify for survivor’s benefits, but for many same-sex couples, that was impossible.
“Same-sex couples who weren’t able to marry for most of their relationship faced discrimination throughout their lives, and now surviving spouses like Michael face it all over again, after their loved one has died. It’s like pouring salt in a wound. Denied equality in life, they are denied equality once again in death,” said Lambda Legal Counsel Peter Renn. “These benefits are as essential to the financial security of surviving same-sex spouses in their retirement years as they are to heterosexual surviving spouses. But the government is holding their benefits hostage and imposing impossible-to-satisfy terms for their release.”
Lambda Legal’s attorneys working on the case are: Peter Renn, Tara Borelli, and Karen Loewy. They are joined by Tucson attorneys Brian Clymer and Autumn Menard.
The U.S. Supreme Court left intact a Mississippi law that lets businesses and government workers refuse on religious grounds to provide services to gay and transgender people. The justices turned away two appeals by state residents and organizations that contended the measure violates the Constitution. A federal appeals court said the opponents hadn’t suffered any injury that would let them press their claims in court.
The Mississippi fight in some ways represented the flip side of a Colorado case the high court is currently considering; the question in that instance is whether the state can require a baker who sells wedding cakes to make one for a same-sex couple’s wedding. The Mississippi law, by contrast, gives priority to religious rights. The state enacted its law less than a year after the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
Let the negative Mississippi business and tourism-destroying Yelp reviews commence!
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will not review the Lambda Legal case on behalf of Jameka Evans, a Savannah security guard who was harassed at work and forced from her job because she is a lesbian.
“By declining to hear this case, the Supreme Court is delaying the inevitable and leaving a split in the circuits that will cause confusion across the country,” said Greg Nevins, Employment Fairness Project Director for Lambda Legal. “But this was not a “no” but a “not yet,” and rest assured that Lambda Legal will continue the fight, circuit by circuit as necessary, to establish that the Civil Rights Act prohibits sexual orientation discrimination. The vast majority of Americans believe that LGBT people should be treated equally in the workplace. The public is on the right side of history; it’s unfortunate that the Supreme Court has refused to join us today, but we will continue to invite them to do the right thing and end this hurtful balkanization of the right of LGBT people to be out at work.”
“This term will not see the Supreme Court provide a national remedy to stop the pervasive discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace. But don’t despair; if you have experienced discrimination in the workplace, please contact Lambda Legal’s Help Desk,” said Nevins. “We urge Congress to pass a federal law explicitly banning discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Several federal courts have affirmed the argument that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, when properly understood, protects LGBT employees. Most notably, the full Seventh Circuit overruled four of its precedents and ruled in April that Lambda Legal client Kimberly Hively could proceed under the Civil Rights Act with her claim that Indiana-based Ivy Tech Community College discriminated against her because she is a lesbian. In September, Lambda Legal argued before the full Second Circuit, which is reexamining two of its precedents in Zarda v. Altitude Express, the case of a New York skydiving instructor who was fired from his job because he was gay. No ruling has been issued yet in Zarda.
It could be that SCOTUS rejected the case because the details don’t speak to the specific issues that need to be addressed. Or it could be the court is signalling how they plan to rule on the bakery case.
President Donald Trump may be on a 17-day vacation but his White House has been scrambling to hand him a “win” by the time he returns. Trump’s tweets last week announcing a ban on transgender individuals serving openly in the U.S. military was turned into a “guidance” policy for implementation that passed muster with the White House Counsel’s office Friday night.
Approved by Trump, the new policy is expected to be now delivered into the hands of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who has been quiet on the issue with approximately 15,000 trans service members under his command. After his review, Mattis is expected to order a deliberate implementation by the Pentagon, which could take a period of time.
Though the policy—called “A Guidance Policy for Open Transgender Service Phase Out”—has not yet been made public, sources familiar with the planning said it would encourage early retirement, usher out any enlisted personnel after their contract is up, and would fire trans officers up for promotion. Basically, said a source, “the administration wants to get rid of transgender service members as fast as they can.”
No one yet knows what will happen to the service members currently fighting in combat. The new policy does allow trans service members to continue serving but apparently does not offer any protection from harassment or other efforts to get them to quit. – via the Washington Blade
Lambda Legal intends to file a lawsuit against the trans-military ban.
So far other than a press release the Human Rights Campaign has done nothing except sent out junk mail solicitations for donations and applications for the HRC credit card .
Jameka Evans said that she was harassed, and effectively fired from her job at Georgia Regional Hospital, for being a lesbian. But the three-judge panel on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals which included notoriously anti-gay Judge William Pryor who was on President Donald Trump’s short list for the Supreme Court, ruled 2-1 that Title VII does not cover anti-LGBT discrimination. And while the panel allowed the complainant to amend her case to alleged discrimination based on sex stereotyping, it ultimately found that “she did not provide enough factual matter to plausibly suggest that her decision to present herself in a masculine manner led to the alleged adverse employment actions.”
Pryor surprisingly previously joined in a 2011 opinion finding that Title VII applies to transgender people. But he also wrote in support of upholding a ban on gay sex in 2003.
“But just as a woman cannot recover under Title VII when she is fired because of her heterosexuality, neither can a gay woman sue for discrimination based on her sexual orientation,” Pryor wrote. “Deviation from a particular gender stereotype may correlate disproportionately with a particular sexual orientation, and plaintiffs who allege discrimination on the basis of gender nonconformity will often also have experienced discrimination because of sexual orientation. But under Title VII, we ask only whether the individual experienced discrimination for deviating from a gender stereotype.”
Lambda Legal who argued on Evans her behalf that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in a statement that it will seek redress before the Supreme Court.
“This is not the end of the road for us and certainly not for Jameka,” said Greg Nevins, Lambda’s employment fairness project director. “Keeping your job shouldn’t depend on whether or not you pass for straight. There is no way to draw a line between sexual orientation discrimination and discrimination based on gender nonconformity because not being straight is gender-nonconforming, period.”
You may have caught a Chick-fil-A commercial during the Grammys, which uses Starship’s (the band that formed from Jefferson Starship, which formed from Jefferson Airplane) “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” as the musical backdrop for a series of clips in which oddly placed cows advocate for people to “eat more chicken.” Grace Slick — the former vocalist for all of the above bands — published a piece in Forbes explainingwhy: she’s taking the money from the commercial and donating it all to an LGBT rights group Lambda Legal. (The ONLY LGBT rights group that this website will actually endorse at this moment. Divest from HRC and give to Lambda Legal)
Well conman grifter Franklin Graham has a few crazed words to say about Slick and her donation to Lambda Legal.
“Jefferson Airplane band’s now 77 year-old lead singer Grace Slick has announced that the money she receives from the use of her song in a Chick-fil-A ad (bought by an ad agency) will go to fund LGBTQ causes. What I want Grace and others to know is that Almighty God created and defined marriage in His Word. Any sexual relationship outside of marriage between a man and a woman is sin, and all sin carries a death sentence.
“But God loves mankind so much that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to save us from the death penalty of sin. He is willing to forgive the sin in our lives if we will call on Him in faith. He is the only one who can bring the healing and transformation our hearts need. Grace, it’s my hope and prayer that you will put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ because He loves you very much.” – Franklin Graham, spouting more religious extremist bullshit on his Facebook page.
Copying the worthless Utah LGBT Discrimination Bill that passed erlier this year with major criticism from the LGBT community. , Indiana Senate Republicans introduced legislation Tuesday that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s civil rights laws while carving out large exemptions for those with radical religious objections.
The bill explicitly protects religious leaders such as pastors, priests and rabbis from being required to perform marriages for same-sex couples. But it also includes exceptions for churches and religious-affiliated institutions such as charities, private universities, hospitals, colleges, adoption agencies and day care providers to still be able to discriminate against the LGBT community. The very offenders which the bill is needed to protect against.
Other exemptions would allow schools, employers and others to determine their own restroom policies for transgender people; businesses with fewer than four employees to refuse wedding services to same-sex couples; and religious-affiliated adoption agencies to reject prospective same-sex parents.
Also Transgender individuals would be required to live as their preferred gender for a year or receive a medical opinion before able to file a discrimination complaint. And the measure would also create a $1,000 penalty for “frivolous” discrimination complaints and prohibit local governments from enacting stricter non-discrimination ordinances.
“This bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, This doesn’t protect LGBT people — it is a road map for discrimination against LGBT people It aims to guarantee the right of some medical, social services and other institutions to discriminate against married same-sex couples, and to do so with taxpayer dollars. It aims to write separate, lesser protections for LGBT people into state law.” said Jennifer Pizer, law and policy project director at Lambda Legal.
The sham Bill would also prohibit local municipalities from passing any protections that extend beyond the state’s limitations. Specifically, “an ordinance may not establish requirements that are more stringent or otherwise are in conflict” with the bill, and any such regulation is “preempted”.
In an open letter to the governor and legislative leaders, Lambda Legal explained that it could not support legislation that:
leaves any segment of the LGBT community behind by not offering full, explicit protections;
treats discrimination against LGBT people differently from other forms of discrimination prohibited under Indiana law, including by the addition of hurtful carve-outs for service providers who wish to refuse to serve LGBT people for religious reasons;
lessens or waters down protections in existing law for other groups that face discrimination;
leave out full employment, housing, and public accommodations protections for LGBT people.
The Republicans’ bill blatantly violates all four tenets, sending a clear signal that LGBT people are not meant to enjoy equal protection under the law, in Indiana and are nothing more than hated second-class citizens.
Governor Pence continues to deceive the public about this deeply flawed law. Let’s clarify a few things.
Gov. Pence myth: SB 101 is just like Illinois law that then-State Senator Obama voted to support.
Truth: Gov. Pence fails to point out that Illinois has robust nondiscrimination clauses in its state Human Rights Act that specifically protect LGBT people. Indiana does not. This matters because those seeking to discriminate in Indiana may claim that the lack of a statewide law barring sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination means that there is no compelling state interest in enforcing local ordinances providing such protections.
Gov. Pence myth: This law only reinforces established law in Indiana.
Truth: The language in SB 101 is so broadly written that someone can sue even without their religious beliefs having actually been burdened simply by claiming that is ‘likely’ to happen.
Gov. Pence myth: SB101 is just like federal law that President Clinton signed 20 years ago.
Truth: SB 101 is substantially broader than the federal law. The federal RFRA can only be invoked against government action. SB 101 goes much further, inviting discrimination by allowing religious beliefs to be raised as a defense in lawsuits and administrative proceedings brought by workers, tenants and customers who have suffered discrimination. In addition, SB 101 makes it easier to claim a burden on religious freedom than the federal RFRA by defining the ‘exercise of religion’ as ‘any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.’
“If Governor Pence meant it when he said that SB101 isn’t intended to allow discrimination against LGBT people, then why were amendments designed to make that explicit repeatedly rejected during the legislative process? If he truly means what he says, then he and the legislature should work together to add this language: ‘This chapter does not establish or eliminate a defense to a claim under any federal, state or local law protecting civil rights or preventing discrimination.’ And the Indiana government should include gay and transgender people within Indiana’s protections from discrimination.”
One other very important point is that almost all of those state laws were enacted before gay marriage became legal in a majority of the states. The Indiana law is a direct result of bigotry and opposition to gay marriage.
Too bad this all won’t fit on a bilboard.
BRAVO to Lambda Legal for a job well done. (Chad Griffin and HRC please take note.)
The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it will review the constitutionality of bans on same-sex marriage in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. The Court’s ruling is expected in June 2015 and will likely impact not only the same-sex couples in these four states but also the nearly 160,000 same-sex couples and their 60,000 children who live in the 14 states and Puerto Rico where same-sex marriage bans are currently being enforced, as well as more than 200,000 same-sex couples and their 65,000 children who live in the 19 states where courts struck down same-sex marriage bans under the federal constitution in 2014.
Statistics via The Williams Institure:
• As of today, more than three-quarters (75.8%) of same-sex couples across the country are living in the 36 states where they can marry and more than seven-in-ten (70.4%) Americans are living in states that allow marriage for same-sex couples. • Williams Institute research suggests that there were 690,000 same-sex couples in the US in 2013 raising an estimated 200,000 children. As many as 30,000 of those children are being raised by married parents. • Recent Williams Institute analyses suggest that the number of married same-sex couples, estimated to be as high as 130,000 in 2013, has increased by more than 50% over the last 3 years. • Fourteen states, home to nearly 30% of the US population, (AL, AR, GA, KY, LA, MI, MO, MS, ND, NE, OH, SD, TN, TX) and Puerto Rico continue to enforce bans on same-sex marriage. • In 2014, courts prohibited nineteen states, home to 32% of the US population, from enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage on federal constitutional grounds (AZ, AK, CO, ID, IN, FL, KS, OK, OR, PA, NC, NV, MT, SC, UT, VA, WI, WV, WY).
Center For American Progress:
Executive Vice President for External Affairs, Winnie Stachelberg, issued the following statement today after the announcement that the U.S. Supreme Court will make a decision on marriage equality in the coming term.
The Supreme Court’s decision to again take up the issue of marriage equality is welcome news to the thousands of loving and committed same-sex couples who seek a resolution to the cruel legal limbo that currently denies them the dignity and respect that all families deserve. We are confident that when arguments are heard, the Supreme Court will affirm that the fundamental right to marry is the right of all Americans, regardless of the person they love or where they live.
The U.S. Supreme Court today announced it has granted review of all six marriage equality cases decided by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, including two Ohio cases litigated by Lambda Legal, the ACLU and Gerhardstein & Branch. The two cases are Henry v. Hodges, where Lambda Legal joined Gerhardstein & Branch, and Obergefell v. Hodges, where the ACLU joined Gerhardstein & Branch. Oral argument is expected to take place later this year. “After years of struggle and the dedicated work of thousands across the movement, we are finally within sight of the day when same-sex couples across the country will be able to share equally in the joys, protections and responsibilities of marriage,” said Jon W. Davidson, Legal Director and Eden/Rushing Chair at Lambda Legal. “While these cases will carry the marriage standard before the Supreme Court, they represent literally dozens of cases in state and federal courts nationwide and the collective effort of Lambda Legal, NCLR, the ACLU, GLAD, and other sister LGBT groups and private (often pro-bono) counsel dating back years.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic are co-counsel in the two Kentucky cases, Bourke v. Beshear and Love v. Beshear, brought by lawyers at Clay Daniel Walton & Adams and the Fauver Law Office. These cases challenge Kentucky’s anti-marriage laws on the ground that they violate due process and equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution. The ACLU along with Lambda Legal and Gerhardstein & Branch are also co-counsel in the Ohio case, Obergefell, et al v. Hodges. “We are thrilled the court will finally decide this issue,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project. “The country is ready for a national solution that treats lesbian and gay couples fairly. Every single day we wait means more people die before they have a chance to marry, more children are born without proper protections, more people face medical emergencies without being able to count on recognition of their spouses. It is time for the American values of freedom and equality to apply to all couples.”
Just a quick note to people because no other site is reporting this part. But don’t be too overjoyed yet.
Remember, if SCOTUS decide against us, we lose all the other wins in federal court. Only state laws which were changed to stop blocking our right to marry would stand.
Any declarations of victory now could turn into the equivalent of “Dewey Defeats Truman” in 1948.